Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Big Fat Turkey

Disclaimer: This is not a Thanksgiving post.

You know how the "Diet Experts" will advise you to use a smaller plate, such as a salad plate, for your meals because it will mentally trick you into not thinking you are eating smaller portions? (Yeah, cause fat people are dumb.)

And, you know how "plate" is often used as a metaphor for life? Such as "I have a lot on my plate right now"? (Well, I do.)

Right now.

It feels like my life is one of those "tricky" smaller salad plates and my "life" that is piled on top of it is an oversized, steroid-injected turkey that you buy your first year on your own without realizing it will never thaw so Thanksgiving morning is spent sodomizing it with a hair dryer (or at least, that's how my first Thanksgiving on my own began). (Neither the Butterball hotline nor I recommend this method of defrosting poultry.)

First, I just have to pause and take a moment to mourn the passing of summer. Many joke that the top three reasons teachers teach are: June, July, and August. That is certainly not the case with me. I love my job - my career and my school. Even when those particularly stressful years end, I am anxious to get back and start all over again.

This abbreviated summer though made me realize the importance of those months away, to renew and rebuild. Even though I spend many a summer day floating on a raft at the water park mentally plotting out a new lesson plan, I am still physically away from the daily grind.

This summer though after teaching summer school and then doing remediation, and then coming back early to work on curriculum in my new role as Department Head, and then starting in-services before most in my new role as a Mentor to new a new teacher, my actual summer seemed only about two weeks. I know, I know! The "average" person only gets a two week vacation anyway (and you already have off every weekend and holiday, you spoiled teacher). Perhaps had I known it was going to be such an abbreviated summer, I would have planned a better use of my time... but probably not, as it was far too much of those two weeks was spent watching TV court shows. (Love me some Judge Alex.)

I am thankful for the monetary gain that some summer activities brought and thankful for the workplace recognition the other opportunities brought. The main effect was that this school year didn't have that "Kick Off" feeling that punctuates the end of summer and begins the school year. It feels like I never left... because basically, I didn't. There is, of course, nothing that I can do about that now. I just want to make note of it, so when reflecting back on this summer in planning for the next, I am more inspired to take advantage of the days away from school.

I have also made a weak-hearted pledge to myself that I will not bring home any school work for Thanksgiving or Christmas Break and make the most of those times to unplug and reconnect... but we'll see how that resolution goes.

I loathe when people complain to me about how busy they are. Well really, it's the people that always do it... and who I don't see doing very much at all. They are just "too busy" surviving life and thriving on the attention from being overwhelmed. I try so hard not to be that person, not to complain about how busy I am. I know there are times I fail at that. I know there are times when I am a hypocrite for doing the very thing I loathe so much. I know there are ridiculously egotistical times when I want to compare my "busy" to someone else's "busy."

All that being said... I am really damn busy! And, I don't mean my normal busy (see, there's that egotistical slant). I mean busy to the brink of insanity (literally, I will explain in a second). Having come into school earlier than most this year, I could have been in a position to start the year off ahead of the game, but then a new twist made that impossible. I was honored to ask to be English Department Chairperson (even if by default) and the duties of that role were manageable. I was so very happy to finally get the chance to Mentor a new teacher. I strive to keep a positive helpful attitude about the kids we teach and the school we teach in, and that is the attitude a new teacher should be greeted with. It helps that our new English teacher comes in with experience, a wealth of knowledge on differentiated styles, and a student-focused attitude. It has been many years since I had that kind of shared philosophy and peer-connection with another teacher.

The stickler to that smooth transition into my tenth (10th!) year of teaching was taking on a fourth class. This is not uncommon in our budget-compromised school. However, it wasn't a traditional English class and needed some curriculum development from the ground up. So that has been consuming, and I have had to stay several steps ahead of myself to feed the needed material to another teacher working with this "Freshman Success" program. Thankfully, it's only a quarter class so I get a whole new batch of students next week and know the tweaks to make to the program after the first run-through. So, I feel like I am over the hurdle on that one... but it was a painful, mud-drenched, final leg of the race kind of hurdle.

I am serving as Chairperson for the School Leadership Team this year. It speaks to how big of a dork I am when I wanted so much to do it in an atmosphere where everyone calmly avoids eye contact not to be nominated. That considered, I am also picking up the secretarial duties of the team. Not to continue my questionably-over-reiterated-cheerful attitude about school though, I would really like to see this team grow and lift the school's culture of success with it. Many roles I take on knowing the actual duties are not time-consuming or frankly, that important in the wider scheme of operations. This is one case though that I would like to hold the spotlight myself down on the group and work with them to achieve great things in our school.

If I can find time.

In my new role as Department Head, I am back on Staff Council, which is good because I am intrinsically nosey and like to know what's going on. This year our school is undergoing evaluation for continued accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS). I was asked to chair the committee on our school's Purpose & Direction. Even though this is potentially one of those positions that involves extra time and stress, I am honored to be "voluntold"  as a representative for our staff in this manner. For all those days that I question if I am doing too much, acknowledgement in this manner is invaluable to me.

I stepped up to the role of Sophomore Sponsor, but that is one of those rare times that I know it is more title than work, with my primary duty thus far having been writing receipts for Class Dues. Key Club, of course, is quite the opposite. We are going into this year with 87 members, more than 10% of the school. We are pretty much booked solid through Christmas Break (and several events afterwards). There are many weeks during which we have events every single day, often several on the same day. I think this role is enough to define my life as "busy" if none of the others existed. I have been worried about this graduating class. Although many developed Senioritis before the school year even began, I will be graduating my last strong wave of leadership. I am latching onto a few younger ones and trying to pull them up in the ranks. Thus far, things are looking more promising than I had thought.

Outside of school, the new Relay Year is starting to boil. I was dreading the added stress of it at first, but after just one meeting with Rochelle and Billie I am ready to get things rolling (especially if measured by proportion of Pinterest time spent pinning Relay ideas!). Thankfully, so very thankfully, Billie who pretty much did serve as a Co-Chair last year, although she refused the title, has embraced it this year so I will be able to narrow my focus more and hopefully feel less stressed and more involved hands-on, than behind-curtain, on Relay Day.

Busy and all this seems, it is only shades of grey (heh!) from my "Normal." The biggest life adjustment right now is in relation to Jason's health. He has had to medically withdraw from college this semester, maybe year, due to the painful and unmanageable cocktail his life has become of competing medical issues. There is a teetering scale in our lives measuring the lessened stress of Jason not being in school on our day-to-day schedule with the added stress of health concerns and the life-hold caused by him not being in school.

We are slapped in the face with the news that we need to improve our health. It is so wrong to even refer to that as "news." We know this. We've known this. I have purposely avoided writing about anything weight-related during this blog's resurrection because in the past writing about it, and then failing at whatever trail to success had inspired me to write, was too hard to look back to. This is where praising my busyness fails. I can't take the time to plan a meal or cook a meal or take a walk because I am so overwhelmed by all that I have to do. All that I always have to do. Always. "Nutrition" is about the quick & easy. "Health" is about the dealing with it only when I have to.

Obviously, I have to.

I'm not dealing with the medical crises that Jason is, but I am constantly lethargic. It takes a great deal of effort to do anything. Anything. I used to rely on my brief spurts of energy through the day and night to tackle the waiting tasks. They don't come any more.

I went to the doctor this week. I have been having issues with half of my face going numb for a while. Of course, I just shrugged it off. Mainly I contributed it to my overdue dental needs or ever-present eye issues, maybe coupled with sinuses. Well last Friday, the numbness moved to the other side of my face completely, and that left me a little freaked. I didn't even Dr. Google it and I could only wonder if it was the precursor to having a stroke.

The doc wants me to see a neurologist, and suggested that it might be a response to stress. I replied ... wait for it... that I don't get stressed. I don't have time in my life to be stressed, nothing would get done. Logically, I know this is not true. I just try to bottle my stress and sit it tucked away on a shelf behind the counter for none to see... as I volunteer to take on more work, and more work. Following the doctor appointment, as I have monitored when the numbness is happening, I think it very well may be a response to stress. My body rejecting what my mind is denying. Ultimately, and I know wrongly... I know... I'm just going to shrug it off, for now, with other medical concerns I don't have time to worry about.

So, perhaps that is the genesis for this ridiculously long self-serving, self-reflecting blog post. I am, and always will be, very reserved about what I post on "Them Internets" but maybe I need to reconnect to the therapy of writing it out. I feel a bit less weighted just putting these labels on all the bricks weighing down on my shoulders right now.

And, should any of our family manage to read through all these ramblings, perhaps they will understand why last year's Christmas gifts are still sitting in our Dining Room.

In closing, I will share my new phone lock screen image.