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Landing at the landing – a room of my own

Here I am in my own little office, which the Master of the Universe has seen fit to provide me on such short notice. That is, when I was willing to do my part in a serious way, instead of just whining. It was a minimal part, if I don’t count all the mental and emotional preparation. All I did was look on Craigslist for something under a certain price of a certain size, and found a little artist studio on the wharf, to be vacated the next day by the local writer for the summer, terms casual and by trust, furnished and with a view of boats and a bit of harbor. I got the keys the next day from a man who reminded me of a slightly younger version of my father, also a writer of folk history.

I’m looking out at the forested hills of my town, university at ten o’clock, downtown seven o’clock, and a 360 degree foreground of dry docked boats, cranes, and shipping containers, with the demolished pulp and paper plant, a sliver of bay, and islands behind that. Seagulls and the clinking of cables against masts penetrate the silence of my nest. Out in the hall a little old tea table has been set on the worn carpet, where young artists have lined the walls with their work. All for under $200 a month, and I am told it is safe but just keep the front door locked so the homeless won’t camp in the downstairs lounge, because we can’t always tell them from the tenants.

I didn’t even know the place was here–just another dead end off the main, but now I have a key and a parking space. The regular tenant has placed a recliner on a pedestal behind the desk for better viewing of the scenery. I took a nap there yesterday.

I didn’t get the job that opened up at my school for next year. Full time, at least four preps biology, a second science, and two electives–a very heavy load, but that’s how it is at a small school, especially for new teachers.

At first I took it well. The principal was kind and affirming in telling me, and I had prepared myself with the understanding that they really wanted a more technical person, who could teach robotics and programming–that’s the drive now, where the money is, and does interest most students more than biology and environmental science. So that was best for the students, after all. I also was concerned about the many preps–two being a lot of work, let alone four or five. I would probably have taught health/nutrition, and offered a number of others as possibilities–a course of real life living skills that used to be known as home economics, a marine biology, horticulture, animal physiology.I was prepared to work several hours a day all summer to lay out the plans. I love that kind of work, truly energizing and a good use of my background and talents.

But they found just the person they needed, with career and technical (CTE) certification and robotics experience, and so I am free. I’m happy to have most of a year’s extra experience in the classroom, at this school in particular, with all the training in project based learning (PBL) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

The next day our offer on a house we, I especially, had hoped to buy, fell through. The owner is still over valuing it for its condition, so we let it go. “Just be patient,” said our realtor, “The right house will come along.” She felt it was a wise decision, which really is a credit to her, who has been on this journey with us for over a year without any sign of impatience herself at no commission.

So I’m grieving both losses, even as I am glad to have my new office, eat fresh spinach from my garden and see the apples swell on my young trees, see the kids all getting along reasonable well though cramped in our little house without enough beds or dressers. And we all have our health.

I warned my husband, half jokingly, that if we weren’t buying a house yet, I would have to take steps to improve the space we are in now, treat it as if it were long term, because it was always turning out that way, though we were still using hand me down and second hand furniture. He felt for me, knowing I have wanted to either add on or move for years, and something always prevents that. I’m trying to embrace the opportunity to grow from it, and grow closer to him rather than the “dream.” I also choose acknowledge my need to switch things up, though in more subtle ways—a color update for the living room, perhaps, or on the more ambitious side, an addition of a bike garage so I can get a commuter and keep it out of the weather.

I feel superfluous. From my education system, from my home, from the decision making framework about my home. I know it’s just a way of thinking, and could lead me into actually being superfluous. Mindset and vision and positive action being the thing, as I try to teach my life-weary students. Yes, you can make a difference! You must, the alternative, as I said before, being to horrible to contemplate. And so the teacher must learn to be the free agent she urges her students to be, master of my fate, in charge of my choices, informed by feelings and circumstances, not controlled. Don’t you think?

 

 

 

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No deal

I get the call while I’m tutoring a student in geometry, tell him I’d have to take it, as it’s about a teaching job. The principal thanks me for applying and says they’ve chosen another candidate; she has a stronger knowledge of content. Assuming that would be earth and space science, as I had unwisely confessed that those were not my best areas, compared to biology and chemistry. Not that 6th grade geology and astronomy is rocket science anyway–simpler than biology and ecology at least at that level–all gravity, heat and tectonic plate movement and barely a mention of dark matter and neutrinos–nothing I can’t teach very well, thank you very much. Which is more like what I’ll say next time. As I hang up I feel a heaviness somewhere in my gut, but it helps to keep on going through the geometry screens with my student, let it go for now. Make an appointment with your grief, the counselor said, that time.

Driving home, I am feeling small, past my prime, and a little angry. Consoling myself that surely they really have found someone better, knowing there are lots, after all. Suspecting that I got Googled and found out about my expressed opinions about the Smarter Balances standardized tests. Wanting to accept the stated reason, still. Also reminding myself that I wouldn’t have to commute or move to another county just yet, that the property we were looking at was looking like an even better prospect. I role play in my mind as I drive, requesting a followup chat, asking what in particular made them decide I was not a good fit…anything in particular, anything at all? And then going to the HR department of my own district and asking the same question, about not being selected for an interview for any of the science or math positions for which I had applied. Had the vetting process been impartial and fair? And if so, I’d appreciate some insights, please, some suggestions as to how I could improve my qualifications, besides more experience and references from administrators.

But I’m not very good at maintaining a fighting spirit, for myself, anyway.

I pick up my library holds and head over to the track to watch my youngest son do his shot put. He’s little, feels he’s not good at anything, but keeps up a cheerful banter with his friend in the lineup and does his best. Seems at the moment unfazed that his less developed arms can only put fourteen feet, while the girls and older boys are putting balls out to the twenties. On the way home I encourage him to enter more events, maybe running too, and as usual we get into an argument because he says he’s no good at it, and I say you can’t improve without the work, adding Grandpa’s comment that he has good running form. But he won’t listen, and I’m not really listening either. I know that he’s likely to become a big, strong guy in not very many years, and want him to keep his hand in the game, learn all he can, keep his options open, get used to the discipline and effort and all that, build character.

Can I really be a teacher? I can’t even influence my own kids, get them to learn a can-do attitude, to pick up after themselves, and grasp what goes into the compost and what’s garbage. But then family’s like that. Some things take a generation. I can do this. If I can just master the art of the interview, in its current form.

I forget to get milk from the corner gas station, drive on autopilot along the bay, across the bridge and home. Pulling into the driveway, I think at least my house looks sleek and professional, in its new dark paint with cream trim. The yellow was cheerful, but outdated. My boy has scampered into the house. I sigh, maneuver out of the seat, shouldering my teacher tote, laptop bag, purse, and travel mug, head into the house. The house I’m tired of fixing up, keeping up, having nowhere to escape the T.V. or do any sewing, and where everyone just leaves their breakfast mess and takes off in the morning. Laundry piling up, dog fur on the couch, broken oven… Realize I’d better have some down time, or someone was going to get chewed out. Not in a good frame of mind to tackle home management problems and assign chore duties. Still, I remember that my daughter has asked me to extend a dress for homecoming, and it has to be done that night. I set up the serger, do the first part, but she’d not home to try it on–out at a game with a friend.

Dinner is a salad from the garden and oven chicken strips from the frozen food section—I had to call home an hour ahead to have someone pre-heat the failing oven. I growl at everyone that this is a sit down meal, so they’d better come, and wait until everyone is there. I’m not very good at making family meals happen any more. As we dish up, my husband tries to console me about not getting the job, reminds me that it takes more than one interview, that it’s probably for the best, thanks me for the wonderful dinner. But I feel prickly still. The fact that everyone bolts after eating, one to do homework, one to watch the game, one to take a shower, doesn’t help. For some reason no one wants to linger to help clear the table.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Places & Experiences

 

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Expansion and contraction of the universe of our domestic hopes

It seemed so right–house at a foreclosure price, out in the country, price dropped twice. Five bedrooms–one for each kid as well as a nice one for the masters of the house; enough room to finally have the family at our house for holidays; ten acres for the barn and horses the daughters longed for and for my sheep dairying trial; several decent-looking neighbor houses within strolling distance for egg-borrowing and possible deep friendships; a good commuting base for my husband (saving him fifteen minutes each way); good light for gardening, and no silly, expensive landscaping or fancy driveway added into the price. Finished within an inch of its life before the money ran out, so we’d get a break from sweat equity. Lots of trees, but not the kind that it would break my heart to clear for pasture;¬† same schools for the children. All the top requirements that were so hard to meet in one property.

Downsides seemed acceptable–ugly from the back, driveway that occupied the best gardening location, and an overly domineering garage door. Land that needed work, no outbuildings or fence. Drives to town activities ten minutes longer each way. But that would only be for a few more years, we told ourselves. Okay, maybe ten, but there would be sibling drivers to pitch in very soon, and college would be happening, and it wouldn’t matter as much.

The day before the viewing, our agent emailed us saying that the listing agent was wrong, and that the school demarcation put the household children in the next county’s district. Possibly negotiable, we thought. But when the agent met us at the house, she showed us the lot map, and my hopes dimmed. The developer had given the house its building site and a narrow strip heading down the valley, over the stream, and up the other side practically to the freeway. Not much hope of space for pasture before meeting wetland, and a weird shape for a homestead. For me that was it. Still, in we went, the younger children eager, unaware of any new reservations we had, dutifully removing their shoes.

It was clean, neutral, with a nice kitchen and lots of space, though with several of the soaring ceilings I tend to mentally split horizontally in order to create cool little lofts. I half-heartedly tried the closet doors, sketched the layout, looked out the windows, and listened to the agent answering my husband’s questions. My oldest son had already sunk to a seat on one of the two staircases and started fooling around with his smart phone¬† to escape the dread he felt at being so far from his friends, work, and school. And the hurt at my not wanting to hear him express it again.The other three were scurrying around upstairs, eager for me to come see the bedrooms they had already staked out for each family member. It had been a while since we’d viewed the inside of a house for sale, and they had become utterly captivated by the thought of living there. I warned them that there were problems, and that there were many lovely houses they would like as well (if we could compromise on certain requirements).

We left with the plan of double checking the property lines and land use restrictions as well as contacting our school district to see what could be worked out. I felt exhausted on the way home, not wanting to talk or listen. I felt stuck–here we are again, in a 1260 square foot house, unwilling to add on when we might find the right home, unable to settle as a family on what we do find. My husband was still mourning the last chance on a rare in-town house with acreage we looked at over a year before, which we couldn’t afford anyway at the time. I was wishing we could look further north where we knew all the good, affordable acreage properties were. All of us dreamed of the day that yellow farmhouse on the hill above the south end of town would go up for sale.

That evening I drove up past the yellow house on the hill, and back again to supper. I had written down the number on the mailbox that looked right, again. It couldn’t hurt to write a letter of inquiry, after all–something I’d meant to do for a long time. Perhaps the long-time owners are only waiting for the right type of people–people who will love the classic house, use the pasture for grazing, not sub-divide in their lifetime. People tell me no one thinks that way any more, that everyone just wants top dollar and will subdivide if the option is there. Still, no harm in trying. I’ll start the letter tomorrow morning.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Places & Experiences

 

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