Friday, October 25, 2013

On Returning to College

It happened during the summer between third and fourth grade.

We moved from a fairly big city in Massachusetts to a very rural, affluent town in southern New Hampshire. It didn't matter that my father was a vice president of a bank, or that my mother had gone to Northeastern College and worked at a hospital. No one cared that we had bought a 4 bedroom house in a new development on a decent sized lot. We were "that family from Lawrence."

Not only was I the new girl from the poor city that was always getting a bad rap on the news, I had come from a private catholic school. Fourth grade was my first endeavor into public school, and it was awful. I had made friends with some of the kids who lived on my street over the summer, but once school started, they were more interested in their friends, who wanted nothing to do with the new girl. I lost any self confidence I had that year.

The next few years of my life were hell for a whole different reason, and by the time I got into high school not only was I a mess, but things at home were starting to fall apart as well. When I finished high school, I wanted to go to college and become a teacher. I didn't have the money, which I realize now shouldn't have mattered, and I didn't have anyone who supported me enough to help me follow that dream. To work with me through applying for financial aid and getting scholarships and encouraging me to pursue what I wanted to do with my life.

I wasn't strong enough to do it on my own. That's a lie. I have always been strong enough. I just didn't know I was at the time. I was hurt, and tired, and defeated and couldn't see that I was strong enough to do it on my own.

Henry Stanley Haskins said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Life laid out a different path for me to follow than the one I wanted to travel, and 21 years later has brought me here.

I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been in my life. I am learning that in me is all that I need. I am OK with my failures and I am learning to recognize my shortcomings and working on making myself better. I still struggle with self confidence. I still crave to hear that I'm pretty or loved or needed. I know for sure though, how strong I am. I am a survivor, and a warrior, and a champion.

On Monday, I start my first class in perusing my Bachelor's degree in English/Creative Writing. It's never to late to start a new beginning.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When You Need the Day to Start Over

I walked down the stairs and through the dark house at 3am and found him on the couch playing X-Box with his friends.

I already knew he was there, because his voice had carried upstairs through the wall the high wall the family room shares with our bedroom through some quirky addition to our original house, at 1:45. I had thought at the time that he would be coming to bed soon and that I would be able to just go back to sleep.

He continued to play, and while I was glad he was enjoying himself, I was angry at how inconsiderate he was being to the fact that I was trying to sleep. Finally, when 3am rolled around and it became apparent that not only was he still playing but I still wasn't sleeping, I went downstairs. I might go so far as to say I stormed. Just a little.

I could've handled it a lot better than I did.

I could've stated that his voice was carrying up to our bedroom and could he please be more quiet and then turned around and walked back up to bed.

I didn't.

Instead, a week's worth of not sleeping well took over, and I stood there for about 30 seconds, exhausted and angry at having been woken up so early, when I'm already waking up at 3am on my own, and bellowed at him, "Shut it off!"

He didn't say anything for a minute or two, but then spoke to his friend through the mic and said, "I think I'm going to get going." Some chatter on the other end was followed with, "Yah, I woke Beth up."

It might have been the laughter that pushed me over the edge. It wasn't his laughter, and I know his friend, who probably wasn't laughing that I was up, but more likely that he knew trouble was brewing at my house.

Either way, as there was some more talking/listening, I repeated my order, because that is what it was, honestly, an order, and as he started to put his stuff away I let loose. I barked out that he had woken me up at 1:45, but I thought perhaps it might be OK, because I thought he would be on his way to bed.. but CLEARLY (I raised my voice at that) I was wrong and he had no intention of coming to bed because here it was 3am and he was still playing. However, I was NOT coming back to bed because I wasn't about to spend the short amount of sleep I might be able to salvage out of the rest of the night listening to him snore.

Off he went, and I tried to get some more sleep on the couch, but failed miserable.

He finally woke up at almost 11am, after I had been awake for 9 hours and was fighting a raging headache and eyes that felt like sandpaper.

He came in to see me after his shower, and he apologized for being inconsiderate both about the loud voice, and for sleeping half the day away.

I told him that I wanted to accept his apology, but at that moment I was still feeling tired and headachy and my eyes hurt and I just couldn't do anything with it, but thanked him.

It was a testament of how far we both have come. The apology, the acceptance of it, and that from right there, we were able to move forward and have a good rest of the day together. I can look at the whole thing and see where I went wrong and what I could've done better.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When You Feel Like Things are Falling Into Place

We drove out to the city today before work.

When they called and asked if we could be there at 1:30 this afternoon I replied, "No ma'am, I'll be in the middle of some important state testing with my students then, can we do it earlier?". She replied with, "Sure, how does 8:00am sound?" and that was that.

I'm always reminded when we drive through, or back there, of the reasons I wanted to leave. As we drove down the highway headed towards our exit, an airplane took off from the airport and it was as large as life. I remember our first apartment and how it was right next to the train tracks. Often the sound of a coal train would awaken me in the middle of the night as it rumbled through on it's way to or from Maine.

We refinanced our mortgage; changed from a 30 year loan, of which we had 18 years left to pay on, to a 20 year, dropped 2.ish%, our monthly payment drops $100 until our taxes go up again, and we will save so many thousands of dollars (to the tune of 50-something if I remember right) over those remaining years that we couldn't not do it. I realize that the interest rates are higher now than they have been in recent years, but we weren't in a position then to be able to do anything about it. The time was right at the moment, so we jumped on it.

We're going to take the escrow money that we don't have to pay ourselves back with, and the extra money we aren't paying each month and start saving up for new windows. It's one of our bigger projects, in addition to the the dozens of other projects that need attention, but this is a pressing issue. We'll not only increase the value of the house by removing those hundred year old windows, but hopefully we'll see a fuel savings as well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Musings on an October Day

L.M. Montgomery wrote "October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths. Anne reveled in the world of color about her..."I'm so glad I live in a world where they are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?..."

Aside from loving Anne of Green Gables, I love the colors of fall. I love the different shades of green, and deep orange and crimson red and royal purple and brown are the colors that I am drawn to when I make my wardrobe choices, if I'm not choosing black or grey. I feel like October is the month that fall really shines. Here in NH we call it "peak season" and it's the time when the leaves are their most glorious colors and you can drive through the state and admire the changing foliage from north to south through the month.

October is also a month that I struggle with. In school it's the month that we spend weeks doing out mandatory state testing. It's a month that ties to dark memories of my past. The funny thing about that, is that there should be so many months that tie to dark memories of my past, but October was a pivotal month, and therefore has a special place tied up in my memories. You'd think after so many years of your life, your could let go of things from your past. That eventually you move on and are done with them. Yet every year when October rolls around I am haunted by some of the same dreams, and the same dark ghosts.

I often wonder if I could go back, if I could change any of it, would I? Would I trade it all in, give it all up, for a different experience? I wouldn't be the same strong person that I am today. As hard as it's been and as rough of a road that I've had to travel, would I change any of it? I don't know. I really don't know.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Less Screen Time

One of the changes I have been wanting to make, and failing miserable at, is to spend less time in front of a screen. I feel in this day and age of smart phones and social media that a large part of how we connect to each other is done through the use of technology.

It's not always a bad thing. Social media let's me see photos of my niece on an almost daily basis when I only get to see her in person every few months or less. I am able to chat with my son, who is 6 hours away at college, at 4 am when I am getting up and he is on his way to bed. It lets my daughter send me urgent messages from her class at school when she feels like she's had an allergic reaction, without having to wait for permission to leave the room or having gone through the channels of the school nurse and all her processes when critical time is being wasted.

Then there is the wasted time. The time when I could be doing other things, but sit down "just to check email" or "just for 5 minutes" and it turns into an hour before I look up from the screen. There are the days when I am too tired to do anything else, and instead of reading a book, or spending time knitting on projects I need to get finished, I curl up in my favorite chair under a blanket with my iPad and spend that last hour before bed browsing Pinterest.

I do believe there is a time and a place for all of it, and we each need to find our own balance. I am working on finding mine, and some days are better than others. I am also looking into going back to The irony of it it all isn't lost on me, and finding that balance is going to become even more critical. For a while I was doing really well with staying unplugged on Sunday's, and I want to get back to that, starting this week. I do believe that it's important to have one day a week away from it all, and I need to make that a priority again. I might even get a nap in.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Head and the Heart

"Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows." ~ Unknown

My heart has been battered this past year. There were times  that I thought it had broken beyond repair, and times when I realized that it could be broken even more. I have felt the physical ache in my chest that I have only read about in books and I have cried until there were no more tears to cry.

Looking back now, on the journey from there to here, I can see that I made a lot of mistakes. That I was trying too hard to force change into my relationship. Trying to hard to change The Boy™. What I really needed to work on, was changing myself. I needed to change my attitude about a lot of things, and the way I responded to certain situations. I needed to change the way I interacted with the people in my house and how I managed myself and my time and my needs.

I think that all along, I knew some of this. I knew that there were things I needed to be working on, and I was, but not as wholeheartedly as I could. I felt too broken for that. I had this idea that when things started to get better, when I was feeling better and happier, then I could really focus on what I needed to be doing better and then everything would turn around for the best.

I was wrong. As I have started to focus on me, and what I needed to be doing better, I started to feel better. I also noticed that as I started to put the attention onto what I needed to fix, that other people started to pay attention more to what they needed to be doing. Change started to happen all the way around, and slowly, very slowly, things have started to turn around.

Some days we still have our struggles. We both fail, in our own ways, for whatever reason, but we own up to our failings. We apologize, and we move forward. We don't let them turn into something bigger. Something that will backslide us into a darker place that we don't want to be again. It's not always easy, but we are learning, and growing, and changing and so is our relationship. I like to think that it's changing for the better.

The Head and The Heart: Down in the Valley 

Monday, October 07, 2013

An Autumn Interlude

It's no secret around here that fall is my favorite season. Each change of season brings with it a newness that is welcome after the last season starts to wear out it's welcome. Just when summer is starting to get too long and hot...wait, what am I writing?! I never get tired of summer. I relish in the evenings where the daylight allows for late walks and sitting out in the backyard talking with friends. I enjoy the few days worth of hot weather that we get here in NH, and soon enough August is here.

I remember when I was a child and summer was June, July and August. Three months of hot weather that kept you outside until the light quit and mom called you in. Now it's chilly in August and the light changes early and it feels like fall starts creeping in sometime around the second week.

Once school is started and fall is officially here however, I'm ready for it. I love the crisp mornings and warm afternoons. I love walking through the leaves and hearing the crunch under my feet. I love that smell of wood smoke mingling with damp air and leaf rot. Warm sweaters are still a novelty and I I'm able to pull out my scarves. Baking in the summer is a chore because it heats up your kitchen, but in the fall a heated kitchen is a bonus to whatever yummy treat is now cooling on the counter. There is so much to love about it. Except, possibly the fact that it precedes winter. That however is a post for another day.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

In Which We Find Someone Hacked My Bank Card...

...or Why Yesterday Was Such an Awful Day.

Yesterday was a particularly long day at school. Our class has no specials on Friday, it rained all day which kept the kids in, and, for whatever reason known only to them, they were just loud and out of sorts. On top of all of that we threw a wedding shower for one of our co-workers at the end of the day, so by the time I walked out the door I was more than ready to go home.

The light on the phone was flashing that we had a message and my first thought was it was the doctor calling to confirm Ms. Thang's appointment on Tuesday. She informed me as I waited to punch in my code that was NEXT Tuesday and I hit 1 to retrieve my message. I listened in shock as a woman's voice told me she was calling from the fraud department of my bank and I needed to call such and such a number immediately upon hearing this message. Which I did. Discussion with another kind woman left me informed that someone had gotten hold of my bank card information and had started a spending spree. What they do is make small purchases first, to see if the account is valid, then they go big. Fortunately for me, the awesome people in the fraud department at Visa know what they are doing, and they picked up on it right away. They put a flag on my account, cancelled my card and directed me over to my local branch.

My neighbor's son, who I swear was just in middle school when we moved here, is an important big-wig at my bank now, and took the best care of me. He explained how the whole thing would work, how I would have to go about disputing the charges, and issued me a new card. For the first time since TJ Maxx leaked it's customer's information all those years ago, I have to change my card number. Gone are the days of shopping at 3am and just punching in the number on my keypad. I feel grateful to the folks across the board that kept this from being a bigger issue than it was, and feel angry that people think that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A New Morning Routine

Having to be at work early 3 days a week, and also out the door earlier than the last 10 years has shifted my morning routine.

 I used to get up, go about doing my thing, or head out for an early morning run, and then plan to get into the shower by 7:00am. Most mornings, I would get caught up in whatever I was doing, or I would fall trap to that "one more thing" mindset, and it would be around 7:30 when I finally got into the shower. Which meant I was rushing out the door and often a few minutes, or 10, late for work. As I never took my 15 minute break, and always stayed later at the end of the day, it balanced out, but it wasn't ideal.

The last few years they implemented a time clock with  key fobs and I got better about being there on time, but my morning was still rushed. It didn't help that I was often waiting for people who intended to be up and ready by certain times to do there thing, and weren't, and it was all just a big mess.

This year, I get into the shower at 6:15. This guarantees that whether I have to leave at 7:15 for an early meeting, or 7:45 for a regular day, I am ready to go. Anything extra time that I have after I'm ready, I use for all of those things that I used to do beforehand. Obviously this means that I'm not getting my early morning run in anymore. That has been a hard adjustment, but in a year of change, it's just one more thing. I have stuck with this routine for 26 work days (today will be 27) so far, and I really like it. I feel like my day starts off better, I'm calmer and I actually feel more productive.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Relying on Others

One change I've had to make this year that I'm not fond of, is relying on others to get to and from work.

We have been a one car household for about 9 years. When The Boy™'s car finally stopped working, it made sense for him to just start driving mine, because I was working down the street at the elementary school, and was walking to and from work each day. A few years later when that car finally died we just replaced it. We haven't had a need to replace it, or have been able to afford it since. Until now. Our van, however, is 9 years old. I'd say it has 2, maybe 3 more good years left on it if we are lucky. My man drives his vehicles hard. We replace brakes every 2 years and tires every 2 or 3. If we were to get a car loan now, we would have to replace the van before the first loan was paid off, and we couldn't afford to have two loans at the same time. We are both in education, it's just a fact of life.

My neighbor diagonally across the way was relocated to my new school for half a day in the mornings this year. I ride into work with her. 3 out of the 5 days of the week she has to be there half an hour early for meetings. Getting home means I have to rely on others who are headed through my town on their way home. 2 days I ride with the art teachers, 3 days I ride with the music teacher. Right now he is teaching steel drums on Wednesdays and leaves early. No one is at school that day who heads through my town, so The Boy™ is leaving work early and coming to pick me up. I love that, but I also feel bad for disrupting his day.

I feel like I'm imposing on all of these people and I hate it. I know they don't mind, because they've all told me. I thank them all every day, and they tell me it's no problem, or it's no bother, but I want them to know that I truly appreciate it, because I do. Without them I would be stuck. It would take me about an hour to bike there and it's all uphill.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Adjusting to Life Without Corey

You spend the year up sending a child off to college thinking about it all the time. All of the "last times" and big occasions. There is the headache of applying for financial aid and the stress of applying for college, and then it's all over and summer arrives. That last summer home. In most households I assume this summer is spent getting ready for college and thinking about leaving and the excitement of going away and being on your own. This is not most households, and my boy was not most children.

After having worked all last summer right from pretty much the end of school, right up until we started again with only a few days off, The Boy™ suggested maybe I wanted to take this summer off. There was a job prospect that would be starting during the early-to mid summer, and a few weeks off would be a nice break. Then, if I didn't get it, spending the summer with Corey, and having a nice long break would be a refreshing change. I hemmed and hawed over the finances and the worry of it all, and then took his advice and did just that. It was awesome.

He spent the summer working, from his computer at home, and watching episodes of Doctor Who with his sister. He started getting serious about leaving for college about a week before it was time to go. During that week he told me that he was both excited and nervous about leaving, but that he didn't want to talk about it. Respecting his wishes, and knowing that talking isn't his thing (much like his dad), I didn't press. I wanted so badly to have the conversations with him though. To ease his mind, and my own heart. To encourage him and let him know how much we were going to miss him. To remind him that no matter where he goes and what he does, he will always have a home here.

Bringing him to school wasn't as heart wrenching as I thought it would be. I suspect part of it is because for the two summers before this past one, he was off at MIT for a class one of them, and then doing an internship for DYN the next. I also suspect the fact that our arrival coincided with a floor meeting that he had to attend, and we moved his stuff in for him, then met with him briefly the next day after our orientation was done, and his was still in process had something to do with it. I think though, that a big part of it was how happy he was to be there. How excited he was on Saturday morning when we met up with him to be starting the next phase in the adventure that is his life. He was more than ready, and it really made leaving a lot easier.

It has been an adjustment not having him here. Sometimes I think of something funny that I want to share with him, or tell him, and then I have to remember that he's not here. Mail shows up with his name and I have to resist the urge to yell up towards his room to let him know. We've rearranged our seats at the table, and I'm still not used to dinner without his offering his opinion on what we are eating or how his day went. His desk sits empty next to mine, and I'm reminded of our summer together. He would sit there and work, or play his video games, and I would sit there and do my class, or work on other stuff, and it was nice not to be in the office alone. I cleaned his room from top to bottom after he left, and it's weird to go in there to water his aloe and have it still be clean and unruffled. The only signs of life are that the cats have been sleeping on his bed. I think they miss him as much as I do.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A New Loop to Walk at Lunch

One thing I really missed about my school day was my walk at lunch. It was an 8 minute door to door loop around my neighborhood that if I was feeling motivated I kept up with even once the weather turned cold. Last year it was the only chance I got to be out of the building all day, and I relished those 8 minutes like manna from heaven. The first few weeks at my new school, I stayed in the lunch room for my whole half an hour, but it was really just too long, and I was itching to get out and walk. Forget that immediately following lunch I was outside on playground duty for a full half an hour, doing loops around the school yard. I liked being able to have a walk before I ate. A chance to take a break from the morning, get my head back on straight, and to regroup a little before having to deal with whatever was going on in the lunchroom.

Soon after that, I headed out to find a new walking routine. At first, I headed up the hill towards the state park that isn't too far from the school. If I walked up to the top of the first big hill and turned and came back, it was 10 minutes. Not too bad, but not very exciting and not a whole lot to look at. I did that for about 3 days, and then decided to see what happened if I headed up the road past the cemetery. I discovered that there was a little road at the back of the cemetery and I could do a loop through it and around and be right back out in front of the school. If I walked past the first entrance and up through the parking lot and back to the door, it was 8 minutes. This is my new loop, and I love it It's pretty, it's quiet, and it reminds me to be thankful for all that I have. I hope that the town keeps it plowed in the winter, because my goal is to walk it every day unless it's raining too hard.