Friday, October 28, 2011


Alrighty then. Week(end) two of school on tap, and we've got a winter storm warning pending for parts of the state. For real? It's not even Halloween yet!

Tonight's trip up and back to the captial city shouldn't be too bad. Tomorrow's the commute that will likely have many of my classmates on edge. Some of them commute from as far away as Greenwich and Stonington. If the weather is as lousy as predicted for Saturday afternoon, those classmates' long rides home are going to be a whole lot longer. Most of them already have a plan to stay over in Hartford on Friday nights, since the commute home Friday at 9PM and back up to Hartford for Saturday's 8AM class is really unappealing, even unreasonable, if you're more than 45 minutes away. This weekend's storm exercise will likely have some of them planning an extra night in the city, just in case. It's something most of us have already planned for the winter, one way or the other. For now, I should be fine with Sparky, my "spark-silver" AWD Subaru. Love that car.

But before I get in the car and drive, I hope to once again squeeze in a fast walk with the dog. I can't just sit all day at work, then sit for the drive up to Hartford, then sit in class until 9PM, and then sit on the drive home afterward. I'm squirrely by nature. I need to expend some energy every day, otherwise I'm irritable and do not sleep well. (In fact, I cannot wait to teach so I can be on my feet all day. That will help me justify a couple of new pairs of Danskos when I land my first teaching job, too. Ha! Can I write them off? Hmmm...) I CANNOT STAND SITTING AT A DESK ALL DAY. Humans were not made for that kind of work. So I'll work it out with the dog. The daily two-mile trek with the pooch will be faster than usual tonight, just like last Friday. And then I'll have to dig through the garage to find the ice scraper for my car. Sigh.

Snow in October. Hilarious. I can't remember the last time this happened. The BFF and I went downtown for some Indian last night to celebrate her recent engagement (!!!!!!!!YAY!!!!!!!!), and on the ride home we were both squealing like little girls totally in awe of--and mystified by--the snow that was falling. We clearly have not grown much since we first became friends in sixth grade.

Her: "It's just sleet!"
Me: "No, that's snow!"
Her: "It CANNOT be snow. It's not even Halloween!"
Me: "Um, that's snow, girlfriend."
Her: "OH MY GOD!"

So now there is even more escapism to be had in planning a seaside mid-summer wedding. And even more walking to do, too. I need to rock the wedding party attire next July!


Friday, October 21, 2011


I like harmony. I like bass lines. I like the elements of music that aren't always noticeable, unless they're absent. I love singing in the car, and I'll harmonize anything. Not that I can sing. Well, I'm not very good at carrying a melody, anyway. But I like to think my harmony ain't all that bad. And tonight, while cruising up to class for teacher-school, I'll be singing loudly in my car to the likes of the Chili Peppers' "By the Way" or something, anything, from the Animals or the Kinks.

I had a moment of panic last week when I realized--like, actually admitted to myself--that my cherished "free" Friday nights and Saturdays are a thing of the past until next spring. But, feeling my stomach tighten while looking that far ahead, I told Ian that I have only one way of looking at it if I want to stay sane: "My class time is still my time. And my downtime will be...well...Wednesday nights." Or Sundays. Or whenever I can squeeze it in. I'll still get in my requisite quiet time for nail polish, magazines and card games with the kids. I'll still get my walks and time to do yoga and hula hoop. I may even get some sewing or other craftiness done. I just won't be doing as much of those things, and that will take some getting used to--no matter how happy I am to be in school.

And am I ever happy. Last week's experience shadowing one of New Haven's magnet high schools was one of the best days I've ever had. It also made coming back to the office on Monday very, very hard. The kids I met last Friday were a riot. They were sassy, smart and dying to be heard. The rapport my friend, the teacher I shadowed, has with them is admirable and inspirational. It's also essential if she wants to get through to some of these kids, many of whom had some rough experiences and/or stories from their neighborhoods to relate to some of the moral themes found in Ethan Frome, which they had just begun reading.

I like middle schoolers, too. But I think I'm leaning towards high school as my preferred teaching gig. Really, I just want a job when I'm done with my certification. But if I had to choose, high school--preferrably one in New Haven--would be it.

Until then, I've got a lot of driving to do up to Hartford and back every weekend. Up and back, up and back, Friday nights and Saturdays. I have friends I can stay with in the area if the weather is bad, but most of the time I'd rather make the 45 minute drive home on Friday nights, to my own warm bed and snuggly dogs, for a short sleep before being back up and sitting in class by 8AM Saturdays. My biggest challenge on Friday nights will be to drive at a reasonable speed to get home and go to bed. I can be a leadfoot on the highway, especially on stretches of 91 that are wide open and mostly empty. But in the interest of getting home to my children (and to my life) in one piece, I think I'll keep it around 75. I guess there are reasons beyond gas mileage and car taxes why Ian doesn't encourage me to ever get an A6, 5 series or C-class. Those aren't teacher cars anyway. Subarus, though? Yeah, I fit right in with one of those.

I'm so psyched for this chapter of my life. I'm so grateful that Ian is so supportive and willing to pick up an awful lot of slack while I commit to this program for the next seven months. And I'm extra grateful for my children, who always inspire me to think outside of myself.

Case in point: Sean has struggled in the past year or so with acceptance of his food allergies. He has had several crying jags over the fact that they suck, and who can blame him? They do suck. But they are still manageable. Then, this past week at bedtime--the time of day when the kids always slay me with their insight and sweetness--Sean said, "I've decided my food allergies aren't really a problem. As long as I'm careful, it's like they're not even there. Some people aren't as lucky as that with stuff they have to deal with."


My little almost-10-year-old! So wise! So empathetic! And so addicted, like I am, to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. There is very little "reality" TV that we watch in our house (unless baseball, AFV and Antiques Roadshow count), but that show is one me and the boys love. "Oh, no! Mommy's gonna cry again!" they say when we sit down to every episode. While watching that show, I think Sean has seen so many families facing real challenges that it put his allergies into perspective for him. Whatever the inspiration, I am grateful for it. I am grateful to him. And to Nolan. For being them. For always reminding me to slow down, savor, notice and change perspective--or even change course--in order to find my way, our way, and maybe even help others along the way.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happiness / hit her / like a bullet in the ba-ck

The Yankees are done until Spring. Detroit is hanging on for dear life. And Sean has decided that Tinie Tempah's "Written in the Stars", which TBS uses for its MLB Playoffs promos, is his new favorite song. Pretty funny for a kid who considers the Clash his favorite band.

So today, while pushing papers for Corporate America, I put together a new mix for the kids. They both have a soft spot for punk rock, but they sure do loves them some hip-hop. I shouldn't be surprised. They're Cove kids, after all. They prefer BMX riding to skateboarding, baseball to soccer, and athletic pants to anything remotely khaki, unless camo is invovled. At least they keep their baseball hats on right (read: not sideways) and prefer rounded brims to flat ones. Otherwise, I'd have to start taking away privileges for violating basic sensibilities.

Anyway, the mix was fun to put together. From the McCoys to the Chili Peppers and Gorillaz to Jay-Z & Alicia Keys (who doesn't love "Empire State of Mind"? I mean, come on. Get over yourself and get outta your chair and dance a little!), with some Green Day, Tinie Tempah and Florence and the Machine, the kids have a nice new little mix of Top 40 hits and deeper cuts to rock out to. In athletic pants. With headphones on. While Mommy writes her papers for school.

So far, I've managed to get through three and a half of the five assignments due next week, including three papers. One of them was a monster. No matter how much I've written here, in this space, it had been a long time since I had been assigned a topic and instructed to write a few thousand words on it. And forget my days as a journalist--that was easy. Those stories practically wrote themselves with quotes, stats and other data. Writing a paper comparing six differing philosophies of education? It was a crash-course in what it means to be back in school again. It's work. It's staring a blank screen and rewriting lead sentences for 15 minutes. It's highlighters and scribbled margins and three-ring binders that try to catch my fingers.

It's all so worth it, too, as one of my assignments has reminded me (as if I had forgotten). As part of the pre-program assignments, I have to shadow two classes--one in junior high and one in high school--in my subject area. Fortunately, I'm blessed to have several friends who teach, and many of those friends go way back to my plaid skirt-wearin' days of all-girls Catholic high school. Through the power of social networking, we've all managed to stay in touch after 20 years. (!) I'm happy, because so many of those girls grew up to be some pretty awesome and dynamic women, and I'm proud to know them.

And so it was with great happiness that I recently shadowed one of these friends at a local junior high just north of the New Haven border. The school is enormous, holding just under 1,000 seventh and eighth graders. And if these young kids were daunted by learning about figurative language by way of a Ray Bradbury short story, they sure didn't show it. It was so much fun to be around young teens, watching them interact and figure out their place in the world. It was even more fun to be allowed to assist the students in their lessons on metaphor and simile. And it was most fun to be told by one student, after helping him, "You're going to be a great teacher". Sniff! Sob! I could have hugged him.

This week I'll be shadowing again, this time at a New Haven high school where another good friend teaches English. The experience should be somewhat of a 180 from the middle school. While the population of the school is huge, there are fewer, but longer periods during the day (much like the college-prep model I had in high school, with only four periods a day). And unlike the middle school classes I shadowed, all of the classes I'll be visiting this week are honors classes, so theoretically the students will be more motivated as a whole. Theoretically. They are teenagers, and I'll be shadowing their classes on a Friday. Do the math.

I'm grateful to my friends for helping to make this part of the pre-program requirements an easy one. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll even be working alongside them one day in the near future. Until then, it's crunch time. Just when I had exhaled after plowing through several hundred pages of pre-program reading, the program director emailed all of her students documents to be printed and read by the end of next week. Enough to fill a three-inch binder. Really, the picture doesn't do it any justice. This baby is big.

So if you're looking for me between now and the 21st, you can find me on my couch, porch rocker or bed, orange highligher in hand, busily reading and preparing for The Next Great Phase in my life, while the kids (and me) rock out.

To this.

I love this song. If it had been around during my divorce, I probably would have played it non-stop. It still resonates with me on that level. Especially since just this week I plucked the diamond out of my old engagement ring, so I can get some cash for the platinum bands. I had not counted on how emotional that would make me, despite being "so over" the marriage. Selling the bands is sad, because that marriage, like any other, didn't begin with the intention of blowing up. But it did, for so many reasons. And we both lived to tell about it. And even laugh about it. And even hang out with each other together with our significant others from time to time. It's not always easy, but it's always okay.

Mommy's all right. Daddy's all right.

Anyway, the diamond I'll keep to make a solitare necklace. I mean, I had two beautiful children as a result of that marriage, so the diamond means something. A lot of something. But the platinum? It's just metal. I've got a guy who is going to get me the best price for it, and that may mean waiting a bit for the market to improve before I sell it. The guy is our office electrician, a coin dealer, dirty old man and retired New Haven firefighter. There is great irony in the fact that he's hawking my old wedding ring for me.

Besides, I need the money. I have a plan for it: It will buy me a small, antique china hutch for the dining room, since I gave up all that furniture when I ran screaming, practically on fire, from my first marriage. I need a place to put Great Grandma's china, which Grandma gave me when I married Ian a whopping two and a half years ago. It's a small, blue and white lustreware set from 1927. Back when Great Grandma gave up her teaching career so she could get married, since women couldn't do both back then. Uh-huh. Full circle.

The dog days are over, Great Grandma!