Saturday, August 22, 2015

Flowers for Mommy

Aug. 18, 2015: Beautiful blue flowers from my firstborn.

On Tuesday morning, my daughter Sarah came by around 6:30. She often stops in like that after she drops her husband Chris off at work. As usual, I was in the bathroom getting ready for work. When I came out, I noticed a bouquet of unusual blue flowers on the kitchen table, so I asked Sarah if Chris gave her flowers. She said no, so I asked if she got them and was taking them home with her. She said no, so I asked, "Are you leaving them here for us?" She answered, "Something like that."

Then I walked into the kitchen and saw the note she'd printed out for me. I immediately burst into tears (so much for my carefully applied makeup...). Sarah has a gift for knowing when I need an emotional boost.

I took my gorgeous flowers to work with me, placing them on my desk where I could occasionally pause and feast my tired eyes on them while I graded...and graded...and graded... My students appreciated them, too. In fact, it was a student who pointed out to me how the centers of the deep-blue flowers were filling up with lengthening white petals (see below) as the week went on. He thought they were incredible, and I had to agree.

I have no idea what kind of flowers these are. They remind me a little bit of
chrysanthemums. Check out how they looked on the morning I got them...

My whole family knows how stressful the past three weeks have been for me. They know because I've become a crazed, cranky, easily-frustrated lady. Luckily for them, I haven't been home that much. Teaching 6 classes, three of them being large freshman and sophomore English classes, with no prep time and with papers to grade for 130 students, is truly kicking my booty. Kicking it hard.

...and check out how they looked 4 days later! The inner white petals
continued to grow out and fill the interior day by day.

My contract day runs from 7:30 to 3:30. Teachers always put in much more time than that, of course. We all do. And, since I'm being paid extra to give up my prep, it's to be expected that I'll put in more hours to stay on top of my extra load. But this is ridiculous.

That first week, I stayed until 6:30 on Monday, 8:00 on Wednesday, and 5:30 on Thursday (I had to leave at 3:30 on Tuesday to get Mark to a doctor appointment). That's 9.5 extra hours. The second week, I stayed until 5:00 on Monday, 8:00 on Wednesday, 4:00 on Thursday, and 5:00 on Friday (with more medical appointments on Tuesday). That was 8 extra hours. Still too much, in my opinion, but within the realm of reason. Then this week: 6:00 on Monday, 5:00 on Tuesday, 9:00 on Wednesday, 5:00 on Thursday, and 7:00 on Friday. Putting 13.5 extra hours into five days is beyond absurd. At this rate I'll exhaust the extra pay (about 180 hours' worth) by the first week of December. And I still ended up bringing home the last 10 papers to grade.

I am not a workaholic. Never have been. My home and family are far more important to me than any job will ever be. My career, in fact, is all about taking care of my family and being there for them. Now I find myself on the edge of burnout, so something's got to give.

I've always felt an important aspect of teaching is grading all the students' work and giving them feedback on each assignment. To me, everything they do has value and part of my job is to let them see that their effort matters. Yesterday I spoke with the Spanish teacher about my endless, sky-high stack of grading. He told me he assigns plenty of work all week, but only chooses two assignments to score and put in the grade book. The students don't know which he'll choose. Other English teachers have told me the same thing. I don't necessarily like the idea, but now, after 35 years in the classroom, it's becoming a matter of survival. And I need to conserve some energy and time to actually plan my lessons and teach them.

Back at home today: So beautiful, like my daughter!

Coming home late so often has also wreaked havoc with my diet, which in turn drains my energy and affects my mood. Many nights I dash away for 15 minutes to pick up some fast food, then return to my classroom to eat it with one hand while I grade papers with the other. On Thursday night, I just couldn't take it anymore. I left work earlier than I'd planned (at 5:00), went home to grab a one-hour nap, then told Mark, "Let's go get some real food somewhere."

Aug. 20, 2015: Mark waits for his lasagna at Pasta House.
(The same restaurant where I had dinner with Orlando Bloom 6 years ago!
Click here to read about that experience... Orlando and Me)

He was game, so we ended up at an old favorite, Pasta House, where Mark ordered the beef lasagna and I got the manicotti. Yum! Then we splurged on dessert: hot fudge-drizzled chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream for him, raspberry-and-caramel-drizzled New York-style cheesecake for me. Both desserts were divine!

I must give props to Mark, too. Another big stressor for me is watching my home become progressively more messy and disorganized during my continuing absences. I accept that most people, especially the men in my world, do not share my OCD gene and simply do not see the chaos around them as I do. However, Mark is aware of the stress it places on me and, despite the toll his own job takes on his aching back (we'll get his MRI results on Monday), he heroically works at keeping the kitchen clean whenever he has a day off. That, my friends, is what real love looks like.

I love each and every one of my family members passionately. This week, my deepest gratitude to Sarah and Mark for reminding me that I am valued and loved, too!

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