Friday, January 25, 2008

Take Two of These and Call Me in the Morning

So, for the past two Fridays, I've come home from school completely worn to the bone (which I'm sure you noticed from the previous post). And then precisely at 8:00, after a short introduction from Gillian Anderson, I get to immerse myself in Jane Austen for almost two hours, and I even get the luxury of not thinking about students who failed their finals because they are too blocked to learn math. Better still, I get to do so with a group of people who feed me and make me laugh and can imagine themselves learning English country dancing - and even invite me to join them in taking lessons.

These Jane Austen parties, it turns out, are my ideal tonic to a week gone wrong. Who could be crabby while eating homemade empanadas, and falling for Henry Tilney's flirtatious looks and dancing banter? How can I be sad when Selena hasn't even seen Pride and Prejudice yet, and I get to be there when she does? What can be bad about conversations that meander past using our "geek voices" to downplay our intelligence, and end with reminiscences about Ladyhawke and olde English spellings? Somehow I've bought more than a few hours more of weekend by spending a few hours with this kind of laughter and fellowship. It's even worth being up way past 10:00 to do so.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Cycle

There's a teaching graph. The first time I saw it it was called "First Year of Teaching" or something similar. Later, I saw it with a more generic label, which meant that I'd have to suffer through it year after year, and not just that first year. It's a graph of happiness vs. time.

The happiness is pretty high in September, when you're optimistic and hopeful and you have all sorts of great ideas. I, myself, am a wonderful teacher during that week before school starts. I always call parents when I should and I know exactly what to do with all of the behavior problems (at least until the kids show up). The happiness starts to dip a bit in November, as the daily grind catches up to you, you miss a few warning calls home and the behavior escalates, as papers pile up on your desk and you stop getting eight hours of sleep at night.

It continues to slide downward until it hits a very deep trough in January and February. I think it was labeled "despair" on the graph I saw. My principal calls is the "Bataan Death March". This is where I am right now. In the trough of despair, marching with my eyes barely open. And Rachael asked me why I wasn't posting...

Do you really want to hear about how there are 3 to 5 kids who won't pass each of my classes and I can tell you exactly how far each of them are from that magical 59.5%? Do you want me to tell you how I haven't called all of their moms recently to tell them that they won't pass? Should I regale you with the rage I feel when I hear words that sound so innocent in September: "Can I borrow a pencil?"

I go through a pack of pencils a day. It makes me insane. I wonder how I can "lend" the same kid a pencil day after day, and he still comes to class the next day without one. It's not like the little twerp gave it back to me. It makes me even more insane to watch him sit there watching his education pass him by because he can't write ("I forgot my pencil and she wouldn't lend me one, so I'm just going to turn into a piece of wood until the bell rings.").

Should I tell you about how I spent the day cleaning up the messes left behind when kids were jerks to the substitute? Do you want to hear about iPods in class, or would you rather hear about how freaking obvious it is when kids text their friends with their phones in their pockets?

So, this graph thing? It goes up in March or April. It's happened to me four times, now. I know it will happen again. It just doesn't seem quite possible, but that's the magic of the school calendar. Too bad this Death March happens right when the temperature outside makes me want to curl up into a little ball anyway, but I'm not so sure that's a coincidence, either.

Buddy hates it, too. That's why he's secretly planning his next Bad Thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Secure the Home

And so I thought, "That Buddy, he sure does suck, but at least he's already done all of the bad things he ever does this week, so he can't possibly do anything else." Then I went to a knitting meetup where I knit with a bunch of strangers in a coffee shop. While I was gone, he ripped the entire baby gate off the wall. He didn't just bust it open at the hinges, like he usually does, because I had bungie corded it shut. No, he had to pull the whole thing down.

Here's the current state of the dog food security, if you're keeping score:
The food is in a bag.
The bag is inside of a metal trash can.
The metal trash can is inside of a closed cabinet.
The cabinet is dead-bolted.
The cabinet is inside of a closet.
The closet door is tightly closed.
The closet is in the kitchen.
The kitchen was protected by a baby gate.
(And the green grass grows all around, all around.)

Today Buddy destroyed the gate. When he masters doorknobs and deadbolts, he takes over the world and we're all screwed.

And, even just writing these words has ensured that no one, ever, will dog-sit again. I guess it's true what they say: you have to be careful what you put on the Internet.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Crap! Oh! Crap!

It's hard to believe that only this week I was telling everyone to get a dog. I take it all back. You don't need a dog. Fish are the new dogs. You need fish. Dogs are nothing but trouble.

The last three days have been hard ones to own Buddy. He broke through my latest fencing technology (a clothes hanger bent to hold shut the back gate) on Saturday, and ran free in the neighborhood for an hour, until he finally got tired and let me capture him again, minutes before I had to depart the house for a yoga class.

Last night I went to the co-op for a long-overdue shopping trip, because I had no human food in the house. I was gone for less than an hour. During that time, Buddy broke through the baby gate into the kitchen, somehow managed to open the closet door, made a mess of my garbage, and ate half a bag of dog food. I got home and his midsection was all swelled up like a balloon. One thing is predictable about Buddy and that is that when he eats half a bag of dog food, it usually comes out the stinky end. I took him on extra long walks last night and this morning, knowing that it wasn't enough. But what can you do? I have to work, and I had to attend an after school meeting, and I had to wait around afterwards for a student who promised to come in for help (and who didn't), so by the time I got home, at 5:20, it was too late. Buddy had lost his shit. Literally. On my floor.

I'm dog-sitting for a standard poodle, so my only thought was that I had to get the two giant dogs out of the house long enough that I could clean up after Buddy and make that awful stink go away, so I let the dogs loose in the yard, only remembering ten minutes later as I bagged up paper towels full of crap and mopped and re-mopped the floor, that Buddy had mastered my back gate. Too late. He was free in the neighborhood again. It was another hour before I managed to get him home.

So, tired, frustrated, and angry, and still smelling the stink, I let him into my house. He looked at me with sad brown eyes, "Aren't you going to feed me?" Yeah. Right. You'll be lucky if you ever eat again, Buddy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

How to Live Alone

  1. Realize first of all, that television is a crutch. Sometimes, your legs hurt, and you need a crutch, but most of the time, you can walk without one. Believe that you will dream of something to do if you turn off the TV, and, somehow, you will. One exception to this rule is when you're on a knitting kick, and then only if you knit a lot of rows while you watch. It is, of course, also OK to watch the complete Jane Austen which debuts on channel 2 on January 13.
  2. Be aware at all times that the complete Jane Austen is only pretend. The real Jane Austen died alone, leaving behind only her pack of beautiful lies. It's OK to pretend that you are Elizabeth Bennett, but don't get carried away and pretend that Mr. Darcy exists and is about to rescue you from solitude. The key here is to embrace solitude. How can you do that, if you're forever expecting some dude to say, "Almost from the earliest moments of our acquaintance, I have come to feel for you a passionate admiration and regard."? Modern dudes won't say that. They'd totally get laid if they did, but they still won't. I may never understand men.
  3. Get a dog, for God's sake. I don't know how you've lasted this long without one. He'll force you to get up in the morning. He'll sleep with you when no one else will. He'll watch your every move, and keep you from spending the day in your pajamas. You definitely need a dog.
  4. Don't get cats. You shouldn't have to live with a litter box. What's the point of living alone if you have to scrape litter off the bottoms of your feet after you get out of the shower? Seriously. You'd rather have roommates than cats.
  5. It's not really that hard to cook for one. In fact, whenever you make a meal, you are really making a week's worth of food. You are lucky this way. No one will eat up all of your leftovers and leave you without a lunch. You'll be eating the same food for a week, though, so you'd better make it good.
  6. Go to the movies. Go out to eat. Attend political rallies. Do it alone. It's OK. No one is looking at you and feeling sorry for you. They feel more sorry for you when you sit at home alone, anyway. Go. Be. Do.