Louder and More Demanding, But Not More Important

Yikes. I think I added three meetings to my schedule just last night…and the weekends are full already I think. And grades! Deep breaths again. It’s funny (not funny) how in just 24 hours I can go from feeling like I might have things under control to kind of a crazy feeling of impending doom. I have too much to do. Next week is no different. The meetings, the list of things that need to be done, the pile of grading (it’s a real pile at school…a notional one here at home, with so much on the computer)…and two different things going on this weekend. I can see why I let exercise slip for a while last year. I’m back on that horse…but it’s time. Time is always the issue.

So I have a plan for the day. Get as much done at school as I can. Come home and walk the dogs. They wanted me to yesterday, but I wanted to go to the gym…so I did. They got their yard time at the other house, so they were fine. They just are so funny…following me around, looking for dog-walk-prep hints. Is she changing her clothes? Is she carrying socks? Which shoes does she have? It must be a walk. And then it’s just the gym and they are sad. They really should be able to tell from the socks and shoes.

Then after I walk them today (because it’s something I need just as much as they do), I can grade an assignment…and then I’m going to sort the Wonder Under, because I did finish cutting yesterday. It took an extra two hours…

So that’s a little over 6 hours total. Not bad. Sorting will take about an hour, and then I’ll check existing fabrics in my stash for a background…most of this quilt is covered with pieces, so there’s no need to worry about a fancy background. It will mostly be hidden. If I need fabric, I can get it tomorrow. I have a friend thing to do tomorrow, plus I need to pick up that lost quilt (that I found). And grade some more…and hopefully start picking out fabrics. That’s a lot to do in a day. Plus we might need to do grocery shopping Saturday, because we have a thing on Sunday. Yikes. I’m realizing how much I need to get done tonight…if I lose Sunday. Stress.

But first, a meeting this morning, a lab all day (oh dear), plus as much grading as I can get done during the day. I didn’t grade last night…I took a night off. I always feel bad when I do that, because it makes me feel more behind. But I”m going to be behind no matter what. I need to find a way to be at peace with my crazy overwhelming life. If I stop going to the gym and hiking and making art, I’ll have time for my job. But my job isn’t more important than those things. It’s louder and more demanding, but it’s not more important.

I’ll Be At Least Two People Today*

It’s dark out. The birds are chirping. The cats are awake because they’re freakin’ nocturnal. The dogs? Not so much…looking for a soft place to land, preferably with their head on someone’s leg. Or foot. Or whatever. Yes, another morning meeting. This week is kicking my butt. Although…I’m kicking its butt too…it’s the third night I’ve finished grading a new assignment (yes, they’re relatively small). I have the one huge one at school, which I’m slogging through, and then about 3 more that need doing. I’m catching up! It’s an illusion. I never catch up. Like there’s no homework to grade this week, but that’s because I will have to grade all the bits and pieces of their projects after next Friday. So I need to be done with the big project by then. Ugh. I remember this now. I had blocked it out for a reason. It’s a great idea, an awesome project, but a pain in the ass to grade. Yup. Totally.

Plus I need a solution for two kids who are really low, English is hard, one reads but only if I stand over him (in a class of 33 with about 12 other needy kids, that doesn’t count the kids who COULD do it but are wasting time and refusing to work so they need constant attention). So that’s not happening. And this project CAN be a group project, if the kids choose, but no one wants to work with these two boys, because they are annoying. Sigh. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have a plan for the lab days, but not the design/video days. I’m already frustrated with the two of them and trying very hard not to be, because it’s not totally their fault. They don’t understand learned helplessness yet. Well, I guess they DO, because it gets them results. Sometimes this job is so exhausting because of stuff like that. I left school trying to solve that problem, I took a break from it for a little while last night, but I woke up this morning with it still in my head, unsolved. It never stops. The solution is more help in the class. We don’t get that in public schools.

I had a meeting last night and got nothing done in it…strange…I can usually get something done. I won movie tickets though! I’m going to make someone come to the theater with me.

Then I came home and graded for a while, and then back to the task at hand…

Cutting out pieces. The quilt that needs the binding is still sitting over there, undone. I’m on a mission with this other quilt. It has a deadline. The other one can wait if it needs to. I had furry assistance on all sides.

In fact, I felt bad getting up to warm up my tea. Dislodging the dog. Except you need to stand up occasionally. I cut stuff out for about an hour and a half…I’m getting closer to done.

Those scissors are really nice. Birthday gift. They’re serrated, but not noticeably. We’ll see how they do on the fabric/Wonder Under combo. I have that little bit of that yard and one more yard to do…so probably another hour and a half maximum. Tonight is the gym, though, so who knows how much energy I will have after that. Probably I’m not grading anything tonight and that’s OK. Although there’s a kid who’s blaming me for her grade because she turned something in late and I didn’t immediately jump off the couch from my artmaking activities and grade it for her. When I asked why she didn’t turn stuff in on time, she told me that she “had a life.” Ah. Well I do too. Not as much as a 12-year-old apparently. But she can wait until the weekend.

So I’m hoping to finish tonight anyway. It’s probably OK if I don’t grade every night.

It’s not OK if I don’t make art every night. Sanity is important. Happiness is important. Feeling artistically content is a very good thing. So is exercise and reading books and eating healthy and trying to be a calm teacher even when your brain is tired and not controlling things very well. A good thing to remember this week, because the kids are tired too. And I’m the adult in the room.

*Gnarls Barkley, Who Cares?

I Smelt the Last Ten Seconds of Life*

Think about all the ways you try to control stress. How many of them increase it? What actually helps? I know I hike, read, draw, make art, and go to the gym…to start. I try to stop working on my day job in enough time each night so that I can let art brain wander around for a bit, but I’ve been carrying a small drawing around in my head for a few days now with no time to get her out. Or I just forget because the to-do list is clamoring for my attention. That to-do list never shuts up though. I did get one thing off the list last night that has been on there for a good two weeks. I hadn’t done it just because I needed one piece of information and kept forgetting to find it out, and finally said fuck it. It’s not important. I think of myself as fairly efficient, although yes, phones and social media have negatively affected that…but I try to see the positives in that too. There’s a connection to the larger world (and the art world) that I didn’t have before…even though it’s totally distracting and sometimes a total time suck.

Part of the stress factor, though, is our reaction to it. And I suck at that. I mean, I’m great at it if there’s a sabre-tooth tiger running at me on a constant basis…I can react really quickly and efficiently, but since that’s not what’s happening, it’s not a particularly useful skill. And the stress levels are already too high. My job doesn’t help with that, but I could be more chill about it. Always. But if I stress about being more chill, it’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? Laugh more. Goof off more. Draw more. Make more art. There’s 4 1/2 weeks until Spring Break. It will be OK.

So I finished grading two assignments yesterday. Five more to go. One is huge. I’m getting there. I’m always getting there. This week is exhausting. Already.

After grading, I get to cut things out though…

Uber crazy closeup. I have about 2 1/2 yards left…so maybe halfway through? So another 2 1/2 hours is what I’m guessing. I have time tonight…and tomorrow night I should be done? Maybe? We’ll see. I’d like to iron to fabric this weekend. That would be nice. So I should think about background fabric…see if I have enough. I’m still trying to use things up that I’ve already bought.

I finished watching The Passage. I can’t decide if they’ve set it up for a second season or not. I read the books…and really liked them. I guess we’ll wait and see.

The top box is almost full. I might need to pull a bigger box to finish. Probably yes. Tonight I’ll do that. Along with other stress-relieving stuff.

*The Smiths, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

I’m the Master of My Sea*

Still adjusting. I think I manage school fairly well, until I get to four days before grades are due and now the cat has to go to the vet even though she’s fine because they won’t give her the meds unless she goes once a year and the doc office is calling three times in 30 minutes while I’m teaching and one assignment has to be ingested and slurped (seriously) by three different apps before I can grade it and I’m so incredibly not ready for next week, but this week isn’t even over yet and somehow I just ordered 5 limes in my produce box and I don’t use limes for anything and I have to remember to pay for the girlchild’s college which changed due dates and Whythehell did I end up being the point person on all the college/kid stuff in the world heaven only knows and I think there’s something else I’m forgetting because there aren’t enough post-it notes in the world.

I can deal with all of that. What I really want is more time to work on this quilt, because there was plenty of time when I started it and there is not now.

That said, I’m closer. I finished cutting everything out last night…

It only took me 22 1/2 hours. It doesn’t usually take that long. I’m not even halfway through, I think. Probably not. I might not get this done in time. Oh well. It will get done. And the next one is a giant blank space in my head, so there’s that. Aack.

Although now that I think about it, last night’s drawing is a step in the right direction. Seriously. I just figured that out.

Yeah, last night, after doing some of this…

(can you see the girlchild?) at a gym I never go to, because mine is being remodeled…

I came home, cooked my own dinner, graded a bit, and then sat down to cut stuff out, but reached for the sketchbook instead. Because. I should. And I like it. And why not (here’s why that quilt is not getting done, eh?). And I drew this…

And I just now realized this is the start of the next piece…I just need it bigger. And more of it. OK. This is good. I love it when I have these incredible insights in the morning, when I don’t even have tea in my brain yet, but it’s wandering off and figuring all the shit out without my conscious help. Yes!

OK, and then I cut stuff out, but it was 11:30 PM when I got to this…

And that’s one to two hours right there. So I didn’t start. Because (a) I had to be up early today for a parent meeting and (b) I knew if I started, I’d come home to a cat butt in one of those boxes with a bunch of tiny pieces all over that furry butt, and I didn’t want that. So tonight. This is on the bill. There might be other things too. But this for sure.

I finally finished my cover page for the new unit…took me long enough.

I think I did a pretty good job on Iron Man.

All the rest of the stuff in my head is some existential crisis of people and interactions and who’s here and who’s leaving and how long the ones are here will be here and whether there will be others to take their place and some of them will be far away for a long time and some need to at least get out of the house and some said they’d be around and then argue about what that means and and and. I’m in a mood. I’m tired. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and that’s my own fault plus a job that just does that to you no matter what, so you have to get control of it and make the world your own. Working on it. It’s like when I’m trying to get 24 7th graders to meditation breathe, and they’re wiggly as hell and you’re like, just CLOSE YOUR EYES for the 17th time and then they all do (except one, because there’s always one) and you’re even sitting right in front of one, knee to knee, because he can’t do this without that, and you breathe in the nose for one two three four and out through the mouth one two three four and you only get three breaths in, but that’s enough, because all of a sudden it’s quiet except for that one girl who wouldn’t close her eyes and now she’s flipping her hair all over the place in that way that only a teenaged girl can and the rush of her hair through the cloistered air in the room makes a sound that disturbs the peace.

That’s my brain for today.

*Imagine Dragons, Believer

Time Is Squished

The electricity is supposed to go off in 46 minutes. Or so. The local electric company warned us, so we could save our delicate electronics, which apparently includes this computer. It’s OK. Really, I’m supposed to be leaving for work around then anyway. Someone asked why I write every day before work anyway. I didn’t used to write every day…I wrote every three days, mostly on a schedule. Before that, I wrote whenever I remembered, which wasn’t often. That’s before I kept a weekly art journal too, so things change. I wrote every night before I went to bed for about a year, getting very little sleep, because it actually helped me fall asleep to get it all out of my head and typed out onto a screen. Now I find it helps me set the scene for the day. Clears the crazy from whatever was in my head overnight (last night? sleep. That was what was in my head). It also lets me make a plan for the day for how to get art done. What to do, when and how to do it, what else I need to get out of the way to do it. There’s purpose then. I don’t always get done what I say I will get done, but the intent helps me to do.

I still need to get my cover page colored for work, by the way. I got through this part of it yesterday…

The rest won’t take long, but today and tomorrow are still high-energy teacher days. I came home last night and graded some more, because grades. Always grades. Looking back, although I finished an assignment, I guess I thought the girlchild would still be up when I was done, but she had gone to bed. Sigh. Really I should hang with her instead of grading.

So I cut things out for a few hours…with the dog…

Everybody else had gone to bed or disappeared into their rooms, doors closed.

I was so close. I don’t have very much left. I really wanted to just stay up and finish it, but it was already almost 12:30 and I teach middle school. And they require mental energy. I need to be awake to handle their crazy and even their not crazy. So I went to bed. I was sort of a responsible adult (a real responsible adult gets 8 hours of sleep a night, and I almost never get that…certainly not on a school night.). And I will finish tonight and hopefully get it all sorted. Then start ironing it together sometime this weekend. In between grading stuff. And hanging out with people. And planning for next week’s lessons. Yeah. Time is squished.

But first, I’m going to go around and unplug all my sensitive electronics, so the power surge when everything goes back on (hopefully before I get back home) does not kill everything I own.

I miss drawing every night by the way. But grading took its place. Sad but true…will try to get it back…at least partway.


Well. OK. Over break, the amount of room in my head that I allow for school issues, not grading stuff or prepping lessons, but the role we teachers play as counselors, motivators, substitute parents, besties (not really), motivators, disciplinarians, doctors, psychiatrists (without any training, of course), and all the other jobs we do…I reduce that amount in my head over break. It’s nice to walk away from it and not go to bed worrying about what this kid said or how they behaved or what they did or what you know is going on at home or how their behavior means probably this is what break was like for them. It’s nice to not wake up in the morning to emails that are huge red flags for mental illness or a mental break or something significant that you will have to persuade someone else to take action on, because you are just the teacher, one of the many teachers, for this kid who is obviously (to you) on the brink of something possibly really bad, or another kid who you think has reasons for what they’re doing, but sometimes other people don’t agree and you watch the kid continue with who and what they are and hope that by adulthood they have figured it out. Because I can’t fix all of it. And that’s one of the hardest things about being a teacher. Wanting to fix it and not being able to…and sometimes not even having enough extra space in your head to help that one over there, because they mostly seem OK and no one else thinks there’s a problem.

All that. After one day with the kids. Oh yeah. Why I don’t sleep well.

But what did I do yesterday? I drew this…

I still need to color it. I’m behind. I was grading all the late stuff that showed up yesterday. Getting things into the gradebook. Like a responsible teacher. I tutored after school. It uses up all of my mental energy usually, but I needed to deal with some grading stuff at home, so I did. For an hour. But I popped out the backyard to get this.

It’s usually hard to get the sunset on my side of the hill. I did notice the dead branch the tree trimmers behind my house dumped on my hedge. Great.

I made a huge pile of vegetables for dinner. Good stuff. Note: roasted persimmons are tasty. And I cut this stuff out. More of it.

Two or three hours more of it…

What’s left to be cut out? Those fleshy bits in the top box.

Getting there. Maybe tonight? Hard to say. I really need to grade another assignment tonight…but it’s hard to come home after all the energy gets used up and find more energy to stare at assignments. I know I should. I just don’t know if I can.

This week is always an adjustment…with sleep, talking, standing, energy, emotional energy, food, peeing! (teachers understand this). I should remember that and give myself a break for not solving everyone’s problems today. (ha! or anyone’s…really…)

Art Tonight. Long Day First.

Back to work is a whole different world. Luckily, we started yesterday with no kids…professional development (I use that phrase lightly) in the morning and time to “plan” in the afternoon (aka get my room under control). That part was nice, because usually we have to either come in really early on Monday or come in the weekend before to set up and make sure we have everything. For instance, I forgot that I needed more folders because I misordered back in summer and got some with no metal prongs, and that ain’t gonna fly. I think I thought it MIGHT fly back in the summer? But no. So I have one class that will feel all left out because their new folders won’t arrive until Thursday. Well, Friday for them. They will survive.

Our district has this focus on healthy and happy kids, and although I don’t think that’s a bad idea in general, I know that for some people, happy isn’t really a thing. Being told to be healthy and happy can be really frustrating, like if we just tried a little harder, we could be those things, but when you know people who don’t have happy in their vocabulary, but they are content or passionate about something specific, then you balk at that word. And healthy is another issue…I have multiple students with health issues that are out of their control, and to force this concept of healthy without qualifying it…it’s not something I agree with. I’m more into being the best person you can be, wherever that is in the spectrum. Contribute positively to the world, whether it’s person by person or worldwide. Take care of yourself and your people, whether friends or family. Because some people’s families suck too. Anyway. I drew yesterday, but it wasn’t fun or interesting…I kind of think of this as teacher busywork, because I think the district already has decided what our best practices etc are, and they just want us to feel like we’re part of the process.

But I’m pretty cynical about school districts too. Maybe it really is meant to be collaborative. At some point, though, when the groups are made up of 30 people…I don’t think we’re doing anything productive with that. Others disagree with me. That’s OK.

So focus on the afternoon, when I got shit done. That was good. And it means I am more prepared (well, my room is) for today. My brain is still not on fleek. (wrong use. Totally.)

I booked out of school as fast as possible and headed out with the dogs and the boy to try to get an hour in. We failed to do all three miles (light fading and coyote incursion imminent), but we did close. We could have gone further probably. Plus we almost got the car stuck…even better.

Insert interesting pods…

And ferns I’ve never noticed before…

We were standing up slope with the dogs as people went by…I’m sure they’re there all the time.

When I got home, I graded for a while…trying to get caught up. Always trying, never succeeding, until June, when the final grades are due.

Then I cut out stuff for four hours straight. Because I couldn’t deal with anything else.

Definitely progress showing here. The box in the middle is all that’s left. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a lot of little pieces in there. It will take a while. I’m honestly having a hard time getting my head into this. So that will change when I start ironing, I’m sure. And maybe once I get back into the routine of school. Maybe. Right now I’m not feeling it. But feel it or not, the work day starts in 42 minutes, so I’ve got to get going. Art tonight. Long day first.