Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Everything is Changing

Autumn

Image via Wikipedia

There have been and continue to be many changes in my world this month. Some are good, some are not, and some are really inconsequential in the long run.

Good:

  1. I am moving. In less than a week I will pick up my keys and move into my new apartment in North Seattle. This will cut my commute by two-thirds in the morning and at least three-quarters in the afternoon. In addition, I will actually be able to fit in all my belongings again. I miss my stuff.
  2. New school year. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s really a different year. I celebrated me one year anniversary with Seattle Public Schools this week and it’s amazing what a better place I am in. In addition to being elected to our Building Leadership Team, I have a student teacher and my colleagues often come to me for advice, which is a new position for me.
  3. Fall! Like Amanda, I love fall and everything that goes with it. Well, except those pesky allergies to decaying leaves. At least that’s not so bad in the Evergreen State!

Bad:

  1. Stress. My job is a bit more stressful this year because I have more classes to teach. Last year I taught three different subjects. This year I have five and the additional prep time is both causing a lot more work and cutting into the time and can work on the piles of paperwork that goes along with being a special education teacher. Hopefully, this will get better once I get through October and my first three IEPs.
  2.  Weight. I’ve stopped losing weight. I’m not gaining it either, so that’s a plus. However, with my schedule right now, I’m barely getting exercise time in and my diet is a bit wonky. I’m hoping that’ll even out once the move is done.

Inconsequential:

  1. Facebook’s new layout. Yes it’s annoying. Yes it’s confusing. If you don’t like it, go to Google+ Not on Google+? Click here for your very own invite. I’m tired of my feed having nothing but complaints in it for the first week of a new layout.
  2. Netflix/Quickster. I’ve been a devout Netflix fan since 2005. I do admit that their recent change to two services – one for DVDs and one for streaming – has me questioning if I really need both. But, in the long run, not an issue of earth-shattering proportions.
  3. My birthday. I’m entering my mid-30s this weekend and it’s a little odd. But, not really a big deal.

Change, overall, is good. I get bored easily, so I know I’m glad that things change constantly. It’s just important, sometimes, to put it all in perspective.

It’s time for another Our View From Here book club. This time, we’ll be reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Check it out next week when we discuss what we thought of the book and feel free to comment on our posts about what you thought about it!

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School’s (Almost) Out For Summer

When my son takes standardized tests

Image by bionicteaching via Flickr

Here we are in the penultimate week of school. Many of my friends across the country are already enjoying their summer break while some others are deep in the throes of state testing. Out here, we’re just biding our time, waiting until the end comes. What I never really realized when I was in school is that teachers are anxious for the end of school as any of the students.

Ever since we did our state tests in early May, we’ve been deep into final projects. This has lead to a high level of stress in the kids as the struggle to complete their large assignments. Many of these projects are accompanied by a oral presentation, which sends kids into a whole other level of anxiety. It’s no wonder that kids are blowing out of classes left and right. I had a kid on Wednesday who left my room to print her paper, ended up cursing out another adult, returning to my room, and the storming out moments later. I had to take her down to the office where she eventually calmed down and apologized. Another of my students was suspended Thursday morning because he was fighting. This kid, normally a very sweet boy, just is under so much stress right now that he snapped.

Then I also worry about my lower income students. How many of them rely on the free/reduced lunch program here at school for their meals? Will they continue to get the food they need during the summer? Will some of them simply be at home alone all summer because their parents can’t afford the camps and classes that some of their peers take advantage of? I have at least three kids that I am concerned about going into summer break.

Then there’s my stress level – trying to get the curriculum done before the end, trying to get all the grading done, doing IEP progress reports and sending them home, plus helping families find ways to encourage their kids to continue reading and doing math over the summer to limit regression. I’ve also been in various year end meetings almost every night the last two weeks.  My only respite has been the running club that we started here – a group of teachers who are aiming for the half or full marathon in November. We run at least once a week, often more, and it gives us a chance to vent about all the issues we are facing these last couple of weeks. Teaching can be a very isolating experience, so having this outlet has been a lifesaver.

So, as this posts, we have five days remaining (including today.) The last day is an all school activity day, so really, there are four academic days left. I just hope we all make it that far and survive reasonably intact.

Don’t forget!…Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club next week (June 20th-24th). This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Back in mid 1999, my family life was a bit of a mess. My parents were in the middle of a divorce and I was trying to find a job for the summer, as well as a place to live for my senior year of college.  I was a bit stressed. I found a job as a lighting intern with the professional theatre in residence during the summer, but I needed some sort of outlet to de-stress. I decide to try my hand at gardening.

Morning Glories, NJ, 2004

Here it is, nearly 12 years later and I have never actually planted anything in the ground. Every garden I have had has been completely in containers. That first garden was a collection of about 6-8 pots with various veggies – tomatoes (3 kinds), peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and herbs.  The biggest garden I has was when I lived in New Jersey – 41 plants on a 17’x10′ balcony.  It was fantastic.  I had morning glories climbing up the side of the deck, and a variety of other flowers and veggies spread around. I even had a nice set of chairs and a table from my great-grandmother. I would sit out there on a warm summer evening, watching my Datura open at dusk, enjoying the summer.

 

Datura opening at dusk

I have also dabbled in water gardens. It’s quite a pain when you are doing it on a balcony – all of the water comes from the kitchen sink and has to be carted out to the balcony.  I only really had one good year – one beautiful lily formed and stayed for quite awhile. Other than that, the water garden was largely unsuccessful and a pain in the butt. I was constantly worried about mosquitoes laying their eggs and keeping the water clean.  Then, once I had my dog, I was trying to keep him out of what he saw as a huge water bowl on the deck.

Water Lily

So, here it is February, and I’m itching to start gardening again.  One nice thing about the Pacific Northwest is the length of the growing season – there are already buds on the trees and the first daffodils and crocuses are starting to push their heads through the soil.  Even so, it’s hard to get too excited when there are several inches of snow on the ground.  Thank goodness for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the convention center. I plan to go this afternoon and this will be my fourth year in attendance.

Garden Show 2009

There are two parts to the show – the display gardens and the vendors.  The display gardens are amazing, built by professionals around the region. This year’s theme is “Once Upon a Time” and is based on literature.  The vendor side is a gardener’s dream – all kinds of great plants, tools, and miscellaneous housegoods that I never knew I couldn’t live without.  The only thing that saves me is that I take the bus down and back – it’s very difficult to take a tree or other large item on the bus!

So, while it’s only a month until Spring officially begins, I’m already planning and plotting what I will be planting this year.  Anyone have any suggestions?

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Stress v. Body – Guess Who Wins?

I deal with stress pretty well.  I have a fairly stressful job, yet most of the time, I don’t get to wound about about things.  Yeah, I’m currently in the middle of a double course of anti-biotics because I got another sinus infection, likely due to a new work situation, but heck, I get sinus infections even if I’m not stressed!

However, there was a time where I experienced more stress that I ever have in my life and my body reacted in several ways to that stress.  It was back in 1999 when my parents divorced. I opted to live at home through my junior year of college to save on money, so as my parents marriage was falling apart, I was witness to everything.  I took on a lot of responsibility in addition to 18 credits at school and I was having a hard time managing it all. In fact, the only class I failed in college was that semester and several other grades were much lower than usual. I was trying to be strong for my mom and my still-in-high-school sister, but it was at my own expense.

First of all, I started withdrawing from people. My mom actually made me go out to a New Years’ Eve party because she knew that I was just going to hole up in my house and be depressed.  It was the only semester that I was not involved in some theatre show.  Most of my friends barely saw me outside of classes and major events. This actually made my depression and stress worse since I didn’t have many people to vent to.

The next thing I noticed was rapid weight gain. Up to this point, I never really had to worry about my weight. I wasn’t super skinny, but I was healthy.  Within a year, I gained almost 30 pounds.  I went from a size 4/6 to a size 10.   I had to buy all new clothes on a very limited budget.  My self image was in the toilet, again stressing me out even more.

Alopecia areata.

Image via Wikipedia

The third thing was hair loss.  I experiences what is called Alopecia Areata, an auto-immune disorder that causes your immune system to start attacking your own hair follicles, causing it to fall out in clumps.  I first noticed a dime sized bald spot on the back of my head. I went to the dermatologist, who prescribed a cortisone gel that helped it grow back, but not before it grew larger than a quarter.  It did grow back in, but the first quarter inch or so was nearly white and super fine.  I had to trim it as soon as it was long enough so it didn’t show through my much darker hair. Alopecia is uncurable, and I have had reoccurrences over the past 11 years, the most recent was a small spot last spring. It’s growing back in now, but it’s still really devastating when I have to deal with it, and when I have to explain to my hairstylist what has happened.

After all these issues, my doctor tested me for thyroid problems.  An underactive thyroid can be caused by stress and can cause weight gain and/or hair loss.  After numerous blood tests, they decided that my thyroid “fell within the normal range.”  The stress eventually decreased, but I am still battling my weight, unable to get all of it off, and still dealing with occasional bald spots.

So maybe that’s why I don’t let the little things get to me. I have stressful days, but I’ve gotten really good at dealing with it. I call up a friend and chat, I go out with people, or I’ll go run it off on the treadmill.  It’s a heck of a lot better than weight gain and hair loss!

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