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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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There’s nothing good on tonight

Looked through the rental apartment ads today, thought I might just want a room of my own for a few months while the student apartments are available, since I can’t find breathing room at home, and it looks like the planned purchase of a larger home is again unlikely. The two places I go to get away are my bathroom, which isn’t much of a retreat, since someone is always wanting to use it, or my greenhouse. I put a patio recliner in there, and it’s nice in the mornings and evenings and on rainy days. No one looks for me there–just enough opacity to obscure the interior view.

I also bought a stand up paddle board, which I hope to take out, once I master the tie down. The two mornings I spent running around the local lake this week fed that desire to launch something I could dip, dip and swing, and maybe try out my new wet suit with a swim. I feel shy about that, like the way I felt when I wanted to start biking around my college town, feeling like maybe I didn’t look like a “real” cyclist. Insecurities never die completely, but I plan to fake it ’till I make it, yaw!

You might think I’m hard hearted, and not a very good mom because of this tendency to creep away. I am hard hearted, at least as much as I have managed to be–one step beyond making an appointment with grief. Now I put it on hold until I forget which line it was and the light stops flashing. And I have not made myself indispensable; they can all get along without me just fine, and in emergencies it’s better to have just one parent on hand–my husband works from home and can be roused by a serious yell. Plus when I’m not puttering around, there’s more freedom for them to cook with white flour and snack on graham crackers, leave mugs on the hearth, lights on, apple cuttings on the counter. If a kid needs something signed or a drive somewhere, they can holler and I’ll probably come out of hiding. No sense of loneliness or need for a human connection arises where the internet is a swipe away.

A student told me today I sure don’t get my feelings hurt easily. This was after a less than subtle criticism by another student of what I had to offer that day. I told them I could be induced to get offended at the end of a long day, once I got home. No, all those comments, criticisms and suggestions for improvement are water off a duck’s back in my professional life. Or, rather, something to consider and learn from, while taking with a grain of salt. I thank them for putting it all out there, iron sharpening iron and all that. I make it my goal to teach in a way that those comments come less and less and are replaced more and more by wonder, interest, engagement, but since it’s only my first year back, and this school is uniquely challenging, I can be patient with myself and try to work on a few things at a time. I’m not expecting these students all to be models of diplomacy or always to have a clear view of the higher ground anyway, so I take much of it with a grain of sea salt. But I want to be handled with care at home, though everyone else is tired, too, I suppose. I’m trying to remember that, and sad that I don’t have more to give, wondering if it might be best to cut down on work hours so I can keep my cup a little fuller to pour out at home. The challenge of modern life, eh?

When I was wiping the stove I struck my head on the corner of the metal vent hood, and by the eruption of emotion in response to the pain, realized it’s not so easy to hold it all in. But still feeling that my sadness would be misunderstood, I sneaked back out to the greenhouse and let down in my chaise there.. Time to add a box of tissues to the decor, and see if those new hammocks can be strung up in a place this size. At least until the tomatoes and peppers are in.

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Places & Experiences

 

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