Thursday, April 29, 2010

Complaint: There's a Hole in the Bucket

Okay, so I'm all fired up right now because I've spent the last hour on the phone and the Web trying to sign up for a basic college-level math class.

Why? I want to transfer my Clear California Teaching Credential to this fine, draconian state. And they need me to take two college-level math classes for the permission to teach in their crumbling school system.

It turns out I've got to take a placement test, which I will probably fail, since I haven't taken any math since the 80s. Then I'll have to take intro math courses, which won't count towards the requirement.

THEN I'll need to take the required math classes. And I will need to pass those.

But wait, there's more!

I may have mentioned I also need to prove that my earlier college education in Canada was more than alcohol-based. (It won't be easy.)

And the damn Praxis dog and pony show tests are coming up next month.

It shouldn't be this hard to get a teaching job when you're already a teacher in two states.

Why am I doing this again?

So I can teach English at the high school level?

Is that even what I want to do anymore?

Honestly? Not really.

I'm really close to just saying, Suck it, DOE, and staying in the private school system. I'm more likely to be able to do what I want there, anyway.

Isn't life too short to be wasting so much time on bullshit?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Complaint First, then a Comment: Waiting Places and Tribes

If you've ever read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss, you'll know what I'm referring to; I feel like somehow my life has become a big pause in the waiting room of the proverbial Waiting Place.

Waiting for something to begin. Waiting for activities to start. Waiting for life.

But life is now, yes, I know. I am aware.

However for some reason I'm in a bit of a stall mode at the moment.

Or maybe I'm just impatient.

I've spent nearly seven years not working outside the home and I'm dying to get out there and work. But at some point, the whole work-life balancing act will topple over, and I don't know yet what the set point is.

And I realize the ridiculousness of having the luxury of a CHOICE about working part or full time.

So I guess I suck right now, in terms of attitude.

But I feel like I'm hovering around the fringes of everybody else's lives: my husband's, my kids', my sometimes colleagues. (When you sub, you're not really on faculty, but you're not really NOT on the faculty. And when you're a parent at said school, the lines get reaaaally blurry.)

I don't really fully hang out with most of the moms at the school (except for one extra cool mum I know) and I don't really fully hang out with the teachers, since I'm not part of the full time employee pool.

So maybe part of the waiting place feeling has to do with a shifting identity. Where do I belong? As humans, we are inherently tribal, and I guess maybe all I'm really saying is I'm looking for my tribe.

I was telling my best friend some of this today on the phone (Hi Hayn!) and we were wondering, since we are DEFINITELY of the same tribe: how do we manage day to day without the support and comfort of one another when we're immersed in all these other tribes to which we don't feel we really belong?

What IS a sense of belonging, anyway? I think it has to do with being accepted, understood, validated. This is why I can honestly say that my family is one of my tribes. But we all have more than one tribe. And I'm just kind of dancing around the edges of a lot of other people's cozy tribes.

And I feel distinctly uncozy.

Like I am waiting for something to happen.

What, I don't know.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Comment: All Lost in the Supermarket

There are some days when you just can't do anything right in the eyes of your child. Or maybe it goes both ways. There are just some days when you're at cross purposes, and you aren't able to do anything to the satisfaction of the other.

Or maybe it's an ear infection.

Or maybe I have an ear infection.

I've just been in this blah mood all day, in spite of sunshine, running, even Target.

In fact, that's partly what's troubling me: I didn't enjoy Target.

This is newsworthy. But really, I feel like I've been trying to fill a void with shopping for years, if I'm honest with myself. There is that constant, gnawing need to fill the insatiable hole within. (Don't be gross, you know what I mean.)

We have become a nation of rabid consumers, and it's killing us. We're fat and depressed and isolated, as well as socially and educationally behind much of the developed world.

Feeling a little grim today, sorry. A little like Morrissey's fabulous song, "Something is Squeezing My Skull."

But really, I just notice that I'm gritting my teeth a lot, and my jaw really does ache.

When I was in the grocery store today, I was amazed at the proliferation of fake food. There is so little real food left in conventional grocery stores. I mean, there's food-like product: infused with vitamins and minerals, devoid of natural fat, replete with high fructose corn syrup and scary dyes that make your skin break out. But it isn't FOOD.

I felt like just abandoning my cart and leaving, but I needed to hunt and forage for the few real food items hidden in the store.

Just call me Melancholy. (Head like a melon, face like a colllie, hyuk.)

How can I be so gloomy on such a sunny day?

Maybe I'm just tired.

And of course there's the whole ear infection hypothesis.

Just call me Eeyore today. Hopefully tomorrow will be more Tigger-like. Or at the least, Rabbity or Pooh-ish.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Comment: Getting Personal

So I'm wrestling with some insecurity these days surrounding someone I work with. She used to be really nice and gung ho towards me but now I feel like I'm getting the cold shoulder.

It is taking a lot of my energy to keep from taking this personally.

Because that is what I HAVE to do.

There was some new agey book called "The Four Agreements" which I bought but haven't read 97% of, but in the intro or somewhere really early on, one of the four big pieces of wisdom is that very advice: don't take ANYTHING personally.

I don't know what the rest of the book is like; I don't even know where it is in my house.

But I like that advice. I, if you will, agree with it.

Don't take anything personally. All it can do is cause unnecessary suffering. And don't we have enough of that going on in our pinball machine hyperactively neurotic minds as it is?

In other book news, I'm reading "King Dork" by Frank Portman. Freaking. Hilarious.

Apparently he also has a punk band called The Mr. T. Experience.

Check him out.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Comment: Chirp Chirp

So apparently there's some big Twitter conference going on.

Do you think anyone actually talks to each other, or do they just tweet?

I'm just sayin'.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Complaint: Fear of a Blank Page

How is it that I am one of the more loquacious people I know, and yet when it comes time to write my blog these days, I'm out of ideas?

Is it because I'm working more, and am thus more tired? Wouldn't there be MORE to kvetch about with my relatively recent exposure to way more people after being in semi-hiding raising small children lo these many years?

You'd think yes, but actually, no.

I'm a lot happier overall now that I'm working more and looking for yet more work. I do have a challenge, though; I don't want to say no to anything. I promised I'd help my friend with a big project that is mostly over my head: two days ago, I had a hormonal meltdown that included (but was not limited to) feeling like I had too much to do and didn't know what the hell I was doing.

I believe that's called "Impostor Syndrome."

You know what I'm talking about, don't you? That feeling that somehow, in some way, everyone will figure out that you're a total fraud, and that in spite of any competent and pleasant facade you wear, underneath, you are a seething mass of need, insecurity and incompetence.

Or maybe that's just me.

So I'm kind of needing to tread lightly; I want to do lots and lots of things, now that my kids are in school full time and I'm back on the market, so to speak. But I can't do everything. And I'm a little shaky at the moment.

This crisis of confidence will eventually fade, I hope. I think it will.

But when you've been out of the game for six plus years, it's understandable that when you step back in, you might have forgotten some of the rules.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comment: Not a Complaint

I forgot how draining teaching is.

Don't get me wrong; I love it.

But, damn.

Yesterday in the course of one school day I had FOUR children (all over the age of nine) in tears, ranging from the fighting them back stages to full on hysteria.

Then I came home and had a very special meltdown. (If I were starting a band, that would be the name of it: AVSM.)

You see, I forgot about the emotional part of the job. And let's not forget those fabulous hormones!

Add all of that to parenting and you can get a little overloaded on the whole nurturing scene.

I'm needing a lot more sleep now.

Which is where I'm headed shortly.

There's a reason teachers have very little social life: we go to bed early, because the day starts early, and the kids have needs the second they wake up in your house if they belong to you, or walk into your classroom if they don't.

Best be in top shape for all of this.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Question: WHERE Have I Been?

I've been out of town, busy wallowing in debauchery (of a relatively sinless kind; is that an oxymoron?) Anyway, I've been out of town with my best friend (Hi Hayn!) doing what, as I explained to my son, grown ups call playing.

We eat, drink, and talk. A lot.

Oh, and shop.

Then we talk some more.

I'm just coming off the high of being with my dearest chum and comparing notes on our lives as we always do. There were many conclusions drawn from our weekend, most of which go something like this, with apologies to Nike:


IT could be a job, a class, a project, an exercise, a vow, a behavior, whatever it is, it's an ACTION.

Because we are squarely middle-aged now (gasp!) and it's time to stop postponing life.

(As a side note, as a middle-aged woman in a college-heavy town, I would just like to say that I am invisible to all men of all ages. And most women, at least ALL of those younger than me. But more on that another time.)

So in the spirit of just doing it, I am taking on more projects, saying yes to more things, and getting on with the show.

So if I don't post every day, it's because I'm busy living life as loudly as I can.

Get your earplugs ready.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comment: Taking the Weekend Off!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Complaint: Standardized Testing Blows

So I'm preparing for two more Praxis tests that make up several of the hoops through which I must jump for the privilege of subbing in decaying local urban public schools. The tests aren't until June.

But I'm already irritated.

I studied Drama, and took the Drama test back in the day. But THIS state wants the Communication test. There is indeed a Drama part on this test, but there is so much more. I didn't study rhetoric. Or forensics. (Aren't there some TV shows about that? Hyuk.)

So I need to learn this stuff; to that, I have no objection. I like to learn. But I had to BUY flashcards from one of the many test-mongering profiteers who leech off hungry, underemployed teachers who will pay money to study for these damn tests. So this MASSIVE package arrives two days ago; flashcard after flashcard, on rhetoric, interpersonal communication, and yes, forensics.

So much of this stuff is common sense that you'd think nobody would need to study for this test.

Oh, but you do. When I got to the procedures during which you can adjudicate an interventional timeout during a debate, I was all, What the WHAT?! There are rules in debating. Lots and lots of annoying rules. It's all parliamentary and shit.


I don't know any of this.

So I'm taking a long train trip in a few days, and guess what I'm bringing?


Then I challenge anyone to a proper forensicky debate, by jove. I'll get it yet!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Complaint: No Glee No Lost Make Emi Something Something

Right about now, much of the world is watching Lost as it attempts to unravel itself with some dignity. In about one hour, the entire world will be watching Glee. I, alas, will not. I must languish in mystery and suspense until the episode is posted tomorrow. (Such a rough life I lead.)

Seriously, I am super excited about seeing more Glee. Love the show. (Have I mentioned that?)

Looking forward to this, the Madonna episode. Most downloaded show ever, my prediction. Or certainly it will be the most downloaded Glee episode. I'm just sayin'. Because people can jump into Glee much more easily than Lost. If you haven't already watched the first zillion wacky seasons of the latter, or you don't have a PhD in Paranormal Activities from UCLA Extension, forget it.

But wow, way to be cheeky, FOX TV, and put Glee up against Lost. I'm sure I'm not the only person who double dips in that pool. But thanks to the wonders of those crazy high tech gizmos the kids today call DVRs, and the good folks at Hulu, all is not, no, I'm not going to say it. Too lame, even for me.

So move, clock, come on, hurry! Closer, closer. Almost tomorrow.

Bonus Points: Both the title and the last sentence are variations on something what beloved TV character says?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comment: Not So Bilious

Okay, so I just wrote and then deleted a post I wrote that was chock full o' vitriol, but when I reread it, I didn't have the heart to post it.

I was getting my knickers in a knot over something other people were doing that was bugging me because I don't do it and frankly, it's none of my damn business.

It all comes down to the same conclusion: as Pema Chodron (Buddhist nun and genius) says, "all we want is for other people to agree with us."

She believes that this is the root of all conflict. ALL CONFLICT.

And I think she's right.

We all want to be agreed with; we want to be validated.

So when I see something going on with other people that I don't like, I get high on my self-righteous horse and trot around casting stones at every house I see.

But that isn't fair. And it isn't right.

So sorry, Solipsist, but the vitriol's been neutralized by Buddhism tonight.

Thanks, Pema Chodron! ;)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Comment: A Really Short One.

If we could all just realize that we're all different, but at heart, we're all trying our best as human beings, the world would be a much better and less judgmental place.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Question: What, No Vitriol?

So I took the four-part Praxis teacher preparation exam this morning. (This is my third state teacher preparation exam.)

And I have to say, it was...not bad.

It wasn't insultingly easy, and it definitely wasn't too hard.

It actually asked us to correct grammar, clarify points, and think through mathematics problems that really do come up in everyday life.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, I have no rant today.

Wow, how about that?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Complaint: A Series, Actually.

So tomorrow I go and take one (of three) Praxis tests, the teacher tests deemed appropriate for my current state of residence.

But wait, there's more! I'm getting a threefer: yes, that's right, THREE tests in one sitting.

How numb my ass will be by the end.

I won't be allowed to leave the room without permission, so if I need to take a whiz, I need to show ID upon leaving and returning. (It's true, I watched the video on ETS!) I'm sure there will be other ridiculous anti-cheating hoops to jump through. For one thing, I have to be at the test site at 7:30 am, even though it doesn't start until 8:00. Do they need that time to frisk me? (Probably.)

It's a necessary evil, this testing nonsense.

I can teach (in public schools) in two states, but not the one I'm in.

Money, time, college-level math classes (gah!) are all in store.

That and verifying that my earlier undergraduate education in Canada was appropriately academic. Just need to prove we weren't all just getting drunk in our igloos while we watched hockey and said "eh."

Um, actually...

So stay tuned tomorrow for more vitriol surrounding the draconian and prehistoric testing requirements in the land in which we live!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Comment: Not So Zen Momma

Okay, I'm really needing an infusion of loving-kindness toward all beings right about now.

Actually, I'm okay NOW, but I really needed one a few hours ago.

Better yet, I needed DETACHMENT. Which I did not have, at all, during a minor incident today.

I have a neighbor, whom as a person I generally like, but as a parent am not so impressed by. And her daughter and my daughter get along 90% of the time. 10% of the time, her daughter is a tad, say, manipulative, and upsets my daughter.

I see this as a problem.

I don't actively dislike the mom, and I don't actively dislike the kid.

But I feel like the mom's a disciplinary pushover, and her daughter can be mean sometimes.

And today, I over-reacted, and had to back pedal a bit. But here's the thing: I had to stand by my principle: if people aren't being nice to you, LEAVE. Walk away, say buzz off, take a break. So I had to (temporarily) remove my daughter from the the offending child for a few minutes.

Damn, parenting is fucking hard. It's so much easier teaching other people's children, because the intensity of being a parent clouds one's ability to be zen in the face of adversity. At work, I can be impartial. At home? Not so much. Not at ALL.

So I have some more reflecting to do. Because I don't like what I see next door. And I didn't like what I saw in myself today. Somehow, I have to learn to tone down my knee-jerk reactions and stay calmer in the face of conflict.

Because five minutes after the little incident we had today between the girls, they were FINE. It was the mom and I who were shivering wrecks.

We are so emotionally invested in our children's actions and reactions.

We need to learn to chill out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comment: Zen Momma is in the House

No, not me. Although I consider myself as aspiring Buddhist, (albeit a lazy one who likes wine), I am no match for Karen Maezen Miller.

She is sort of the ultimate modern Buddhist. She has a family, a career, keeps her hair short and her sentences dense and rich in her new book, "Hand Wash Cold." (and is it just me, or is that sentence book jacket cheesy or what?)

Anyway, I'm barely into it and I can tell it's going to be another one like her first, "Zen Momma", one I will go back to over and over for inspiration.

Her writing is more swirly and fancy shmancy (that's the industry term) and lyrical.

But I like it. And I like what she says.

This book is really a memoir, but the most interesting parts to me are when she zooms out and gets to the big picture. She has a great image of us as a species who walk around with six foot flames over our heads, and we don't get how we can extinguish this burning nuisance. (Short answer: meditation, self-awareness, cutting through the bullshit).

I'll have more to say, without a doubt, as I read it.

So I'm off now to read more, since I can always use some perspective. I still have a flame over my head. But it's not blazing at the moment.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Complaint: Oh, this is gonna be GOOD.

Okay, so I'm working hard subbing for kids aged three to 14, and I'm enjoying it.

But I'm subbing.

And subbing is, by its very nature, exhausting and ephemeral.

Sure, the kids know me now, since I've been at the same school since last September, but I'm not the classroom teacher. And classroom teachers have what I don't have: routines.

By virtue of my ever-changing role, I don't get to have routines. Plus, I don't get to decide what to teach. It's (hopefully) decided for me.

Every time I walk into a class, I have to immediately don the mantle of the expert, whether I know anything or not. Good thing I have a background in theatre, that's all I can say.

Today I had to do points, rays and line segments. This, I could handle.

But tomorrow? Word problems.

I don't DO word problems.

I don't LIKE word problems.

I used to regurarly hurl my GRE test prep manual at the wall when I had to do word problems in anticipation of the dreaded analytical section. (Don't get me started on the analytical section. I. had. a. bad. experience.)

So I'm going to need some tutoring tonight in order to do my job tomorrow.

This is actually a good thing, though, because in addition to learning be fun, and all that crap, I NEED to learn this stuff.

Why? Because I have to take more tests in order to prove that I'm a teacher. Apparently my credentials from two other states in this country are not sufficient for my current state of residence.

So I am going to have to take math tests. And math classes. And, according to the letter I just got today from the state department of education, subject matter tests in my areas of expertise, since, again, two states' worth of credentials and testing don't mean squat here.

I'm feeling rather bilious at the moment. I wonder if THAT word will be on my test.

Why am I doing this?

To keep my options open.

I want to get my credential so I can have the option of searching fruitlessly for a teaching job in a state with a teacher shortage and draconian as well as prehistoric job regulations.

Why can't I teach, dammit?

Oh wait. I am teaching. It's just something different every day.

I shouldn't complain. (But oh, how I love to, sometimes.)

I'm with kids, I'm teaching, but I have no control.

And that's what's irritating me.

Because, after all, aren't we all searching for at minimum the illusion of control? I know we don't have it, but humor me, would you please?

All I want is a little control. And she wouldn't give to me. Just a little control, and she wouldn't give it to me.

The life of a sub is always intense.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Comment: Gone Fishin'.

I'll be back next week.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Complaint: It's Finally Started.

Yes, the day has come at long last at my house, the land of no network TV: the kids are singing jingles.

They're singing jingles. Like from TV.

Probably most kids the same age have seen hundreds, nay, thousands of commercials by this time, but not us.

Do I think we're better than people who watch TV?


Do I think we're better OFF?


Commercials just make you want stuff. I should know, I grew up on them. And still, to this day, I am seduced by the latest flawless-face-making-beauty product from Maybelline, or L'Oreal. I am. I'm a sucker for the false promises, bullshit claims and fantasy outcomes that advertising dangles in front of me. Some days, I really do want to look fabulous and feel fresh, and if that deodorant will do it, I'm buying. I told you, I'm a sucker.

So maybe that's why I'm a little bit horrified that my kids were singing some shampoo commercial set to the tune of "These are a Few of My Favorite Things". (Blasphemy! Julie Andrews cries every time they play that ad.)

I don't mind them singing. I quite like it, most of the time. But singing a stupid exactly what my sister and I used to do. I remember basking in the foam of the ocean, pretending we were in a Fa foam bath, complete with aria-like soundtrack back in the 70s.

So what's my problem?

The kids are seeing ads on Hulu because I LET them watch Hulu. And they're seeing a lot less ads than they would if we had regular cable TV.

But I do hate being manipulated. And I hate for my kids to be manipulated.

But really, couldn't the suits at Madison Avenue come up with something better than that damn shampoo jingle? I mean, please.