I have always struggled with my identity as a writing teacher. I love teaching writing; I was just telling my husband today how much I love teaching AP Language because I love that I get to teach writing as the focus of the course. It’s fun. I’m not teaching AP Language this year, but writing is still at the center of my classroom. I love seeing students find their voices and find their perspectives on the world. It’s a rewarding gig.
But here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself a writer. I never have. I’m a reader, for sure. But I wouldn’t say I’m a writer. Somewhere in my 31 years of life I got the reputation as a “writer,” and that’s stuck with me. But if you asked me about the myriad hats I wear, the chapeau of a writer would not be one of them.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe that teachers–all teachers–should be writers. Science teachers should write about science. Math teachers should write about math. Art teachers should write about art. We should practice what we preach. And I do that with my students; I write what they write. But I don’t write for myself. I write for gradschool, and I write with them. That’s it.
So I challenged myself to try on the kicky beret of a writer this month. And I accomplished that goal. I wrote every day for 31 days, and I read lots of wonderful writing. My husband asked me today if I’d stick with blogging after the month was over. Truthfully? I don’t know.
I found this month that I like writing, but I’m not sure I love it. I also found that that’s OK. I have the ability to express myself in writing, and I do sometimes get joy from it if I’m writing about something I care about. That’s what I hope to impart to my students. I didn’t enjoy every Slice I wrote. Some days were a struggle, for sure. But when I connected with one of my topics, I did enjoy myself. And I worked through some important ideas this month. I am adjusting to my new role as mother and teacher and wife all at the same time, and it was helpful to put words to the ideas that were floating around inside. Plus I like the idea of having something to look back on as I think about my daughter’s babyhood. (Today was our first trip to the zoo–she’s growing up so fast!)
So I might continue blogging. If I do it will probably be more about reading and teaching than about my every day life. I’ll definitely continue journaling. I’ll try to pop in on Tuesdays for the Slice of Life posts, if I’ve got something that week. But even if this is my final post until next March I’m glad I participated. I wrote for 31 days–I don’t think I’ve done anything for 31 days before! Thanks to the teachers at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Challenge! And thanks to the other participants who inspired me daily!
I am a creature of habit. I like to have structure to my days and order to my plans. I realized today that my daughter is the same way.
She was out of her routine for three days in a row. She stayed at my parents’ house on Friday into Saturday, so she was out of her routine. Yesterday we celebrated Easter twice, almost 200 miles apart, so she was out of her routine. Today she was home, and in her routine. And she was a lunatic.
As I described to my mother, “It’s like she’s just been emitting a steady whine all day.” She cried, which she never does, and all she wanted to do was snuggle. I liked the snuggling part, not so much the crying. My girl was clearly tired, and she’s teething, and she’s going through a Wonder Week and a growth spurt. All of these conspired to make one cranky girl.
My husband, who is in serious contention for Father of the Year, bore the brunt of her crank today. I got a pedicure and went shopping with some friends and he held down the fort. Her mood improved as the day went on, and by bedtime she was our smiley girl again. I know she might be a little off again tomorrow, but I also know that being home and staying in her routine will help her get back on her feet. I knew I loved routines, I just didn’t realize I’d passed that love on to my girl!
Today I came home from school, packed up the baby, and took her to a local cafe to meet my husband. My husband is also a teacher, and a coach, and he often works late hours. Because of his coaching obligations (soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the summer), he has little time to spend with students after school. Rather than say, “Sorry, kid. You’re out of luck,” my husband spend his precious free time meeting students at the library, at the bookstore, at cafes to try to help them with their work. With organizing themselves. With getting themselves back on track. He does this even though he’s already put in an almost 12 hour day. He does this even though he’d rather be home with the baby and me.
So today we met him at the cafe. We played while he helped a student. When she worked on her own, he came over and sat with our girl, who lit up like a Christmas tree at the sight of him. It’s easy to complain about how busy I am, to say I don’t have enough time in the day to do all of the things I need to do. But then I look at my husband, and I admire him so much for all that he’s able to accomplish. He is a thoughtful coach, a loving husband, an adoring father. And he still manages to be an amazing teacher who makes time for his students. I’m thankful to have such an amazing partner, I’m thankful my daughter has such an amazing father, and I’m thankful my students have such an amazing teacher.
We start Spring Break on Friday. I have only been back to work for two months, so I don’t feel the all-consuming need to run out of my classroom as soon as that last bell rings. I’m just getting into a groove with my students, and I’m actually a little annoyed that I’ll be losing them for a week (which really means at least a week and a half between students taking off and checking out). There are other ways I’m approaching Spring Break differently this year, too.
I usually use Spring Break as my week to do a million things. I grade; I plan; I take measure of the year so far. I’m usually a busy bee during Spring Break, spending at least one full day at Barnes and Noble or the library. In fact, the week before Break is usually my easiest because I know I’m saving everything for my time off.
This year, however, I’m trying to get as much as possible accomplished before Friday. I want to spend time with my girl, and I don’t want grading or planning or emailing hanging over my head. I want to relish our daytime together, going on walks, the zoo, the park. I want to just relax and spend time with her.
I’m also hoping to get some work done on my dissertation, which I’ve let languish for the better part of a year. I have a meeting on Saturday that I’m hoping will energize me and focus me with a plan of attack. I’m hoping to finish it in the next six to ten months, so I need to get moving.
All of this to say that this week I’ll be working my butt off trying to get ready to do nothing. I think it will be worth it.
It is so easy to lose oneself in taking care of others. It is not easy to take care of others. It is not easy to lose oneself. But it is easy to lose oneself in taking care of others.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not. I didn’t even particularly care for others all that much today–I attended a workshop for part of the day, then ran errands while my mother-in-law watched the baby. My husband and I didn’t even have dinner together (he’s watching March Madness with friends, I’m eating Oreos on the couch).
But maybe it was the NOT caring for people today that made me realize how easy it is to get caught up in it. I saw a picture on Instagram (of all places) about taking a Saturday morning yoga class and I thought, My God, how wonderful it would be to wake up on Saturday morning and take a yoga class. But that’s just not how my life works right now. My husband has baseball practice in the morning and is following that up with helping students at the library; the earliest I could get to yoga is 2:00 but we have a family birthday dinner tomorrow night that I still need to finish preparing for. Yoga is not in my cards tomorrow. That doesn’t mean it’s never in my cards, but I can’t help but think about how . . . lost I can get when I spend my days taking care of others. How I can get so caught up in caring for others that I don’t think about taking care of myself.
And it’s not like I’m being FORCED to care for others. (Well, maybe my daughter is forcing me to take care of her as much as a 5 1/2 month old can force anything.) I choose to do it. Do I do it to avoid taking care of myself? Maybe. But reflecting on how out of reach that yoga class is made me think about self care. I don’t think I do enough of it. Writing is a form of self care, and I’ve made time for that this month. So is reading. So is running. I have to remember as I race around taking care of others (make this dinner buy that present write those thank yous) that I’m a person who needs taking care of too.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a friend lately. I have been reading two books about Friendships (with capital Fs. Those kinds of friendships.): A Little Life by Hanya Yanagirhara and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I’m about halfway through the former and I’ve just started the latter.
I want to be clear: my friendships are nothing like those in these novels. I’ve only just started the Ferrante book, but I know that’s a COMPLICATED friendship. And anyone who’s read even a little bit of A Little Life knows that theirs is maybe not a friendship to emulate (although I find it very realistic of college aged friendships, but that’s another post). No, the friendships I’m thinking of are much different.
Imagine, instead, the friends from Now and Then. Childhood (teenagehood) friends who know each other’s ins and outs. But don’t let long stretches of time pass between meetings. Imagine the girls from Now and Then in the age of cell phones and Group Me. Those are my friends. Today alone I received 67 messages from my friends. That’s not including the ones I myself sent.
I should backtrack and describe my friends a little bit. It’s true that we’ve been friends (mostly) since our freshman year of high school, nearly 15 years ago. I say mostly because two of the girls in our group of seven are a year younger and one is four years younger. But we’ve all been friends almost half our lives which, at this point, seems long enough to call each other lifelong friends. We are unnaturally close. We know each other in and out, upside and down. We’ve been there through weddings and babies and miscarriages and heartbreak. We love each like sisters (and there are, in fact, two sets of sisters in the group!). We don’t always agree (don’t get me started of the great fight of 2001 which almost came to blows!), but we always love each other.
Today one of these friends shared good news with our group, and I swear I felt like it was my good news. It was all I could do to keep from telling my students (who don’t know my friend and probably don’t care) or my work friends (who might know my friend but still probably don’t care). I told my husband who was dutifully excited, but the reaction was a let down. I really just wanted to tell my girls, who were already celebrating. We are so excited.
I live a state away from these girls now. I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like between my baby and theirs. But we are always a text message or a phone call away. And if feeling joy at their joys and sorrow at their pains is a mark of friendship then ours is standing the test of time.
The only thing I love more than reading is television. OK, that’s probably not true. I love my family and running and theatre and teaching, and I might even love one or more of those things more than I love television. But I REALLY love television.
So when I heard one of my favorite recent reads 11/22/63 by Stephen King was being made into a mini-series I was pumped. The novel tells the story of Jake/George Amberson who finds a wormhole and time travels back to 1959 to try to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My husband recommended the book and I read it, all 700+ pages of it, during my maternity leave. And while it didn’t seem like the kind of book I’d like (I don’t get time travel. I just don’t get it.), I loved it. My husband and I have had several conversations about it since I finished it, and we were both looking forward to the mini-series.
My one word review? Eh. It’s good. It’s probably doing the best job it can adapting an epic book that is full of backstory and internal monologue and emotional nuance. The book is great. The mini-series is not. It’s good. But definitely not great.
Which made me wonder about book adaptations. I have seen some that I’ve loved. I’ve loved all of the Harry Potter movies. I love any version of Pride and Prejudice you put in front of me. I liked Hunger Games, and Catching Fire, but didn’t feel compelled to see Mockingjay. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books and I loved the recent movie adaptation even though I don’t think it’s a great adaptation, just a good movie.
I think, maybe, the key is that a good adaptation, for me, has to stand on its own. It has to be a good movie or television show, not just a good version of its source material.
Still, it’s nice sitting down once a week debating with my husband the finer points of assassination history (read Assassination Vacation if you haven’t–you won’t regret it!), and whether these time travel rules are better or worse than those in Back to the Future (verdict: they’re different, but not better).