State of Things July

Wow, what a month!! It is hard to believe that in five days it will be over. And then it will be back to my day job and the stresses and pressures of being an American educator.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This summer, I have taken more steps to eventually leaving teaching to write and create full time. It is a slow process but I am working on it. Even if I never make a complete transition, I am happier when I am creating.

Most of my writing this month focused on editing, journaling and blogging. The outlines for my non-fiction projects haven’t really gotten off the ground. (Meaning, I’ve thought about them but not put time into the research.) I was hoping to squeeze in another trip to Richmond to write and research but alas I need to attend to more mundane things.

I did get to spend a wonderful day at the lake yesterday celebrating a good friends birthday and making some new acquaintances. It was the day of rest and relaxation that I didn’t know that I needed. Thank you to S for not only being my friend, but making me feel like family.

Family is important to me. In recent years, I’ve spent more time with my chosen family than my biological family. It hasn’t been something that I’ve done consciously. I tend to get lost in the day and when my spoons are gone, I am done. I am horrible at communicating with people I don’t come in regular contact with due in part to my anxiety. I want to, but… well anxiety is not a nice person, to say the least.

Momma and Me Many Years Ago.

This month, I got to see Momma and my sister and her wonderful kids in Florida. I won’t lie and say the visit was great. We all have issues that we need to work on as well as how we communicate with each other. Sissy, if you are reading this, I do love you.

The visit has prompted me to return to therapy sooner rather than later. I have a list of things that I want to work on so I can improve my communication skills, establish better boundaries and be a better me. Therapy has been helpful to me in the past, however, I never actively worked on communication skills. My doctor wants to see how I am feeling after a couple of therapy sessions how I am dealing with things on a mental health front. Did I mention that I love my doctor? Cause I love my doctor.

She did ask if the summer had been restful and I hesitated. It has been good to work on other things without the stresses of work. I’ve gotten to travel, hugged my Mom and good friends, saw new things and breathe the fresh air and sunshine into my soul. I’m lucky to have this time. Time to recoup.

The time is never enough. My gratitude for things I have is not comparable to the things I have lost, the things that have hurt me and the things I still need to heal from. The things I love lots, the things that have hurt me, and the things I need to heal from don’t compare to the things I am grateful for. I could rest for a thousand days and still not be ready to return to my work as an educator. I will, however, return, because I both love my job and need that sweet sweet health insurance.

State of Things May

Oh, lord, it is May and I’m a teacher. That alone would be enough to describe how I am doing this month. May is the time that all of the good little children begin to earn for freer days and all the rotten little children (the few that actually rotten) begin to fight against all authority. Schools struggle to keep children contained within the school walls and ground. This week, I had to get a child out of a tree twice. Same kiddo, he needed to climb and he did.

So professionally, the state of things is more chaotic than on average. State testing ends soon and then the days of waste. Days where learning had been dictated to continue by administration but everyone is so exhausted that the lessons are light and fun by design.

My tutoring gig ended abruptly. I’ll miss the kiddo and my interactions with his family. Our weekly tutoring sessions were a bright spot in my week. I have another side gig starting soon which won’t be as fun. It will however get my closer to my goals.

Writing has mostly been happening here on the blog. My other projects are either in research mode or caught in the Bermuda triangle of editing.

Mentally and Physically, I am on survival mode. Grief has a funny way of doing that to you. The only way I know to get through what I am feeling now is to keep moving forward that way I can get out before the devil knows I am here. I don’t think that I am moving fast enough.

It isn’t a perfect plan but it the one I’ve got. When Papi died, one of the people I hold most dear in the world, I poured my feelings into a blog and it touched people. Papi and I had a complicated relationship with good and bad moments, caring and cruelty- but at the end we had reached a better place because of all of that. My naked feelings touched someone in a way I hadn’t intended and a bridge was broken. Written words like spoken ones can’t be taken back.

I can’t undo the unintentional damage I caused and that bothers me. There is a part of me that just wants to find the perfect words to make it all better to explain myself and rebuild that bridge. And that is the part that has been waking me up in the middle of the night and draining my wine supply. It is also responsible for me putting a pen in the sink to be washed.

Did I see him as a villain? No, but there were times in our relationship when I held on to the hurt to the point when it was unhealthy.

Did I paint him as villain? Probably. Was it my intention? No, but intentions and results are often two different things. I can’t take back those words. The only thing I can do is honor the man I love.

In that light, let me tell you a story. Once a upon a time, I had lunch with Momma at the mall near where I worked. Things had been difficult between us for a couple of months so the lunch was a step in repairing our relationship. We talked about my paternal grandmother and that’s when Momma told me that my grandmother wasn’t part indigenous but that her father had been black. Suddenly a whole bunch of things in my life made sense. My sister’s comments about my body among other things and why we were discouraged from looking into genealogy.

Sometime soon after I told a friend who told another friend and that’s when the trouble started. I was excited about finding out more about my family’s history. The friend she told, unknown to me had feelings for me and the idea that I wasn’t white was too much for him. He ended our friendship with a nasty gram. My heart was crushed; nothing about me had changed beyond knowing more about my family. Papi called that day and when he found out he came right away and held me.

He didn’t try and console me by telling me that my friend had never really been my friend. He just held me in my grief and let me feel what I needed to feel. I will never forget that day or him.

I love you, Papi. And I always will.

Sick Lu

The Lost Writer

For the last four weeks, I have been the type of sick that people dread.  The kind that makes your whole life slow to a crawl. There is nothing you can do but rest, drink lots and lots of fluids and hope that people don’t get tired of you asking for help. Help getting groceries, driving and  doing laundry.   My body didn’t have the energy to stand or sit long enough to fold my own laundry.  I had to ask for a lot of help.  Bronchitis turned into pnenomina.  My body forced me to rest.  It is still forcing me to rest.  While drafting this post, I took an hour nap.

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My view from the last couple of weeks.  I did finally watch “The Desk Set” with Spencer Tracy and Kathern Hepburn.  Turns out my dream career was replaced years ago by a computer.

I am on the mend.  I am off the antibodies and codiene laced cough syrup and back to my morning coffee.  I’m  back writing in my office under the watchful eye of my Ghostbuster figures.  All good things.

If I take things slowly, I can get back to a normal pace of life.

The problem is I am not sure I want to go back to the way things were.  To be blunt, my life is comfortable and there are a lot of awesome things in it,but it isn’t working.  I am not happy.   I am lost.  I’ve been this way for a while.

It is the combination of a lot of things.  Things I am willing to talk about and things that I am not sure how to talk about.

Twleve years into teaching and I am not inspired to be creative anymore.  What is the point when I am never going to be really recognized for the work I do or paid fairly for it? It isn’t about being Teacher of the Year or anything life that.  It is about not having to worry constantly about money or what deeming thing is going to said to myself or collegues next.

I tried unsuccessfully to exit teaching this year. I figured that it was time.  My resume was met with an understandable silence.  I didn’t have on paper what they were looking for.  I would have loved the job, been good at the job but I have no one but myself to blame for not landing an interview.  I didn’t do everything I needed with my resume to show them.

I have tried and failed to develop a consistent writing routine.  I have also failed to complete any of the projects that I have going.   The list of unfinished work gets longers and longer.

The sequel to Blood Child remains unfinished as does my first novel.  Everything in my life is in the works.

I have craft and art projects that are collecting dust.

I am lost. Lost in my work life, in my personal life and pretty much everywhere.  I feel like if I really let someone know what is going on then I am going to break down the cry. And the tears won’t stop.

Because not only am I a mess, I am also deemed to be broken one.  Broken because I am over weight and depressed.  Lossing weight isn’t going to cure my mental health issues.  And curing my curing my mental health issues isn’t going to fix my weight.

I am lost because I want to move and at the same time I am terrified of it.

Leaving teaching means leaving job security and my health insurance.  It means abandonning the known.

My folks are fine with me moving if it is for a better position and place in life, but I don’t know that it will be.   I can’t guarantee that I will be making a move that is going to make everything better.

If I roll the dice and pack up my life, I fear that went the dice land they are going to come up snake eyes.

There is more.

I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. I feel like I am a huge fraud.

I am a poet who can’t snap her fingers.

I am lost.

Here is the point in writing that I would normally write something hopeful and inspiring. It is tempting to end that way once again.  We all like stories of redemption.  Stories where the underdog makes it to the end, finds their ray of sunshine and lives their dream.  I think in always trying to be the protagonist in that kind of story, by forcing life into that mold, I have lost myself.  I have lost the ability to admit mistakes, short comings and given into the notion that I must always put a positive face forward.

I crave being seen yet, I have been trained to hide myself and not be trouble.  Not to worry others.

When I talk about depression some well meaning friends are always concerned that I have gone to that dark place again.  The one where sucide is the only exit to freedrom.  I am not there, trust me.  I was never really there.  I saw the other exits can clawed my way to them, sometimes figuratively some times literally.

I am in a different place, where there are a thousand doors and the reality of happily ever after has forever been shattered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writer and the Day Job.

Last week I had some out-patient surgery.  (No worries, I am fine and back at work.) The same day, it was announced that the BETA Center would be closing its doors in June. I have been a teacher there since 2009.

My day job for the last ten years as been as a teacher of exceptional students in Orlando. No, I don’t teach at the gifted program. My first assignment was at a mental health facility.  I was there for ten years.  And my students, all young woman, were there as a result of trauma.  I loved them and they loved me.  They learned and so did I, but it wasn’t until BETA that I really began to develop as a teacher and a writer.

Teaching me
Take in 2006 when I first started teaching.

BETA, my current assignment,is part of a private public partnership that provides for the needs of teen mothers.  There is a day care on site run by the agency (BETA). They also provide counselors for the students and help with everything from diapers and food to career counseling.   BETA also houses a residential program.

Combined with the school, we have one of the highest graduation rates in the county.

My students aren’t statistics. They are real human beings who are working for a better future for themselves and their children.  They don’t need to “close their legs” as one commentor to the Orlando Sentinel article on the closing responded.   They need compassion and the one and one attention that BETA gives them.  They need to be seen a real  whole people not “breeders”.

My first year there one of my students was a victim of abuse.   She was nineteen.  A mom working her way to graduation.   When she was eighteen, she came home to find her apartment vacant.  Her parents had left her and her baby. They moved without telling her.   She didn’t let that stop her.  She continued to come to school.

The next year she had moved in with her boyfriend trying to finish school when things turned violent.  He didn’t care if the bruises showed or not.  He didn’t care.  She was his and he could do anything he wanted with her and to her.   BETA helped her get out.  She is alive today because of BETA.   She wants more for her life because of BETA.

Her daughter is in the second grade because of BETA.

She wasn’t the first and she wasn’t the last teen mom to face emotional and physical abused.  Every year students come into my classroom having faced horrors that no teen should ever have to face.   It isn’t just bullying that these young woman face.  Any parent can tell you how hard being a new parent is.  No image being a teen mom without the ability to provide the basics for your child.   Many of the students work and go to school at night.  One young woman, I taught for two years was worked until two in the morning at cleaning service.   She came to school and fought everyday  to stay awake.  She didn’t graduate with honors, but she did graduate.

BETA helped make that happen. My day job does this. Helps young woman find their voice and direction and beat the odds.  It is more than just a job. More than a career.  It is part of what makes me a good writer. My students aren’t one dimensional people.  They are amazing. They inspire me. And they all have stories.

My classroom for the last seven years.
My classroom for the last seven years.

Yes, there are other places that can serve the needs of the community but none of them are like BETA.  BETA is a place that saves lives and gives hope.  I have had students who have survived domestic violence and homelessness.  The BETA  serves as an emergency shelter and is currently the only local shelter that can provide shelter to  a minor with a child. My heart breaks for my students and their children. It is also breaking for the community as well.

There are efforts underway to try and keep the doors open.  If you can, I encourage you to donate by following the link.  Every bit helps.  It really does.

P.S.  BETA also helped make me the writer that I am today. It was working with my students that pushed me from just talking about writing to actually writing.  My students overcome so much just to get to school some days to reach their goals, how  could I complain that I didn’t have enough time to write? So I did and I keep doing it.

Back to the Work

When I posted the Work, I didn’t mean to come across as complaining and I wasn’t really in a bad place.  I was attempting to express what that one moment was screaming at me. I was just tired of feeling like I am trapped on the giant cosmic hamster wheel of tedium.

Things never seeming to get better. Just one day after another and no visible end in sight to the dilemmas and conundrums.

Things undone and needing to attention. Things that need to be seen.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I am being seen.  Like my problems and issues are too mundane. Too first world to count.

I know I am lucky. I know that I have been blessed with more than two decades of continuous employment. I have been everything from a model to a legal secretary.  Since 2006, I have been a teacher.

It was my dream job.  The dream that I let myself have.

The one that was acceptable.  Honorable.

But for the last thirty years of my life, there has been another dream.  The writing dream.

Many of us have it.  Many of us give it up to find things that pay the bills. Dreams are pretty good at not paying the bills.

Life shouldn’t just be about paying bills. It should be about living. It is easy to get caught up in the things that we do to make the money to live.  It is even understandable.  The electric company won’t take a free copy of my last book as payment for next months electricity.

Paying the bills is a necessity.  But, the life you choose to live doesn’t have to all the bells and whistles.  It just has to have the ones that matter to you.  Not to everyone will understand.

And they don’t need to do .

You just have to get to the work that makes you happy.  That work that feeds more than the bills.

 

A Break From

Sweet Spring Break.   You will mostly be a break from my day job although I have work to do there for which I will be sneaking into school and completing later this week.  Not that I really want to, but lesson plans have to be written and prep.  Such is the life of a teacher.

The life of a writer is also similarly never ending cycle of work.  This week, I make no promises on what I will be accomplishing on various writing projects.  I will be writing, but school breaks tend to be horrible times for me to write as everything I put off during the school year gets shoved into a break.  I do promise to do a lot of reading.

Recently, I finished the “Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer.  I own both the book and the audio book.  I can’t recommend the audio book by enough.  It is like having Amanda Palmer speak directly to you.

Currently, I am listening to the audio book of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and narrated by Scott Brick.  And reading the Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead by Heather Pringle which is an invigorating look into the lives of the preserved dead.

After that, I am not sure. I have a lovely stack of to be read books waiting for my attention.  Although, I expect to be distracted by the latest offering by Edward Medina. Bones, Crowns and Gaman is the second novella in the Adventures of the X Pirates series.  The first book is the Demise of Foxy Jack which is available on Amazon Kindle. There is also a prolog entitled a Murder of Crows.

Alethea Kontis will be releasing the next book in her Arilland series on the 28th.  Sadly, this is the day that I go back to work so I will have to wait to dig into it.

If you need something for your reading list, check out my book, Blood Child, on Amazon.

The Good with the Bad

The day began with insomnia

drifted into lateness

and fell into despair

One found dead, the news feed reads

the reaper’s  prize

at last

sorrows grips friends

still other silent cheer the end of the road

two kids in a doctor’s office sick with the flu

 

two strangers cling to life

victims of happenstance

attended by the best

No news is good news or so the fellows say

No news is bad news worries the friends

beloved ones

Victory arrives late

lesson learned, acceptance obtained

a child born

new shoes,  credit extended ,

then end of an abusive relationship

 

No clever words need

or cliques expressed

Just another day

the good with the bad

the bad with good

perspective the only means of definition

 

 

Aftermath

 

Professional and fun.
Thank goodness, I wasn’t wearing this.

Friday, seventh period, screams ring out and I go running into a classroom.  Not my own.

Not a minute later, it is over and it is time to clean up the chaos.

There are lots of things to say about the forty-five seconds or so of fighting that took place that it is hard to describe the aftermath.  Shoes, earrings and weave scattered about the classroom, way too many people looking at us like were were exhibits at the zoo and the expectation that I automatically knew what to do next. I wanted to stay and comfort the senior who might have tossed her education out the door.

Instead, I gave my seventh period a quiz.

The two combatants were largely unhurt. I came out of Room 130 with a few scratches and a kick to the stomach.  One of the student’s who intervened ended up dealing with the aftereffects of a punch to the face. It was  a turbulent end to a largely uneventfully week.

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A peaceful classroom

The weekend was beginning to look like I needed a stiff drink and some quality time with my friend, Jim Bean. I ended up getting a nice long shower, an hour and a half drive to Lake Wales and a down home Southern dinner. There my problems didn’t have any traction and I was forced just to relax and let myself experience the here and now.

Bad things happen everyday.  Friday, two students had their emotions erupted and the lava flow took over the science classroom.  It could have been the start to a very bad weekend.  I had already burnt my hand; the fight at the end of the day just seemed like the icing on a very dry cake.

Then I was given the gift of time. Time to decompress and not think. Not think about the papers that need to be graded or the repercussions for the students involved. There was time for me to take a deep breath. There was nothing I could do for the students after I gave my statement.  Their fate is in the hands of administration.

I could be still recounting the fight, instead I am living my life.

I think I made the right choice.

Manic Monday ~ Why I Am Staying?

There are brighter days on the horizon.
There are brighter days on the horizon.

Last Monday, I spoke about why I am going to be leaving my current teaching position and seeking something new and healthier.  Today, I want to talk about the good things in my life and why I am not leaving everything behind and heading for the hills.

The work stress has been counter-balanced by a great deal of happy.  Ironically, it was the happy that made me realize that I didn’t want to be unhappy and stressed so much at work.  I worked for over a year to earn a promotion that I am not even being considered for and at the end of the day, I am not longer sure I want it. I want time to experience life; to actually living it.

And you know what?

I have been.  In the last year, I have been to out and about more than I was in the past couple of years. In February, I went to see Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman in Tampa. In March,  I escaped the gravity well of Florida and made it to Virginia for a wedding.  And April, I was overjoyed to be able to reconnect with a dear friend. I have been out to the movies and chilling with friends and family more. I love being able to hang out with my nieces and nephews.

My sister and I are closer than ever and it is awesome.

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Writing and letting my muse guide me…

I have three different book projects going and am taking some classes on Coursea. Two of which are really research for future books.

There are good things and great people in my world.

So I am staying here on this blog, writing, loving and learning.

Thanks for listening.

Love,

Lu

 

Manic Mondays or Why I am Leaving….

Lately all my days are have been intensely crazy as I try and navigate from the life I have to the life I want. A life where there is more time to write and enjoy with my family and friends. So after eight years in the classroom, I have decided to leave.  It isn’t that I don’t love teaching or my students. I love my profession and my students have keep me going day after day through the stress of being a teacher in the era of Common Core and accountability. It has kept me going through the politics that invaded my school.

Still after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I am burnt out.

I am fried beyond belief. I can’t do it anymore and be effective in the classroom.  My days as a teacher have never ended at 3:31 in the afternoon, but this year they don’t end on Friday and the weeks of preparing and working through the weekends. Even my “breaks” have been filled with either on lesson plans or other school related projects or working a second and third jobs. It has been exhausting. Financially, I am doing better.  I am at least gripping solid ground. But, mentally, I am so exhausted that I find myself dragging every day.

I know I am burnt out on the constant pile of work and never ending feeling like I am not doing my job right.

So what to do.

Find a new job or position in education.

Yes, teaching is a calling, but after eight years in the classroom. I am tired of being dumped on. Tired of being praised for my work on one hand, but criticized for how well I am juggling everything.  Observations are dog and pony shows where you trot out what the administrator wants to see and hope they like you and don’t have something to prove. I once got a low score because I didn’t say “this is important” during a lesson on critical thinking.  Another time, I was criticized for misspelling something even though I turned it into a teaching moment for my students. Friends have been given needs improvement scores even when their students aced the state tests.

The quest for data on everything has been particular hard on me. There is no time to really teach my students. No time to teach them to love my English or learning. Just time to go from one test to the next or in my case one meeting to another.

And this year, I was tossed backwards in a fight. This year, I woke up in the middle of the night by a panic attack after dreaming about school. I don’t trust my administration to have my back and work with me to help my students. I feel like the county that I work for doesn’t care about my health just their numbers.

I am tired of being told you will do this and this in your classroom and you are a great teacher, but why aren’t you doing this? And surely you can do this as well. I work and work and my administration praises me, but does not promote me. They talk about it. Even say they are training me for it.  And then give the job to someone else.  I was never even spoken to about the latest opening (or given an interviewed)  even after expressing an interest and told on more than one occasion that I had it.  It was a slap in the face to learn that someone else would be assuming the position and becoming my boss. (If I make it to the next school year, I won’t take on additional duties.)

I am tired of working three jobs to pay bills and still failing to build something for my future. When countries slash budgets, teachers make up for it out of their wallet. I don’t need to work harder which is what I have been doing. I need less work. Ironically, with the start of summer school I will be working longer days.

I have lost the spark that I had when I first started teaching  and I feel like there isn’t enough time or energy to recover it.

So, I am working my resume, looking at teaching other subjects (English is a beast) and working on graduate school. It is time for me to go and when I do I know I will be crying because I love my students. I love them enough not to do this to them any more. I can’t give them my best. I haven’t been giving them my best for a while.

They deserve better and so do I.