Posted in Life, Teaching

My Numbers

I love the scene in Erin Brockovich when her neighbor asks for her number and she says, “Which number do you want?” Then she proceeds to give him the ages of her children, the number of times she’s been married, and the amount of money in her bank account before sharing her phone number. It’s a great movie moment because Julie Roberts delivers her lines so well, but it’s also a great reminder that people cannot be summed up with just one name, label, or number.

Here’s a clip of the scene. Be forewarned, Ms. Brockovich has a bit of a potty mouth:

I’ve been thinking about my own numbers this week.

Tuesday was my last day of work for the 2018-2019 school year, and my school had our annual end-of-year breakfast to celebrate the year’s achievements, say goodbye to staff members who are moving on to new adventures, and welcome new teachers to the campus.

During the meeting, our principal handed out pins to teachers who have been in the district 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years. (Yes, when you have taught in the same school district for THIRTY YEARS, you get a PIN. Welcome to public education.) I didn’t get a pin because my years of service don’t add up to a multiple of five, but it got me thinking about my numbers anyway.

  • 16 is the number of years I’ve been teaching 7th grade.
  • 2 is how many districts I’ve taught in and 3 is the number of schools.
  • 4 is how many years I took off from teaching to recoup, relax, and recharge.
  • 58 is how many times I’ve read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
  • 1,200 is roughly the number of students I’ve taught during my career.
  • 1 is the number of times a student has thrown up in my classroom (and thankfully, it was in the trash can).

Those numbers might not be pin-worthy, but I think they’re pretty impressive.

Of course, those aren’t my only numbers.

Today is my wedding anniversary.

  • 9 is the number of years I’ve been married.
  • 13 is the number of years I’ve been in love with my husband.
  • 0 is the number of children we have (by choice).
  • 3 is the number of pets we have (sort of by choice… if it were up to only me, we’d probably have about 7).
  • Uno is the name of our dog.
  • 18 is the age of the cat we just adopted.
  • 0 is the number of times we have adhered to the rules about traditional anniversary gifts.
  • 100,000 is roughly the number of times my husband has made me laugh.
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Hubby doesn’t like his photo to appear on social media, so I drew a picture of him instead. It’s pretty accurate.

But there are still more numbers. For instance…

  • 42 is my age.
  • 3 is how many cups of coffee I’ve had today.
  • 21 is how many books I’ve read this year.
  • 7 is the number of novels I’ve started writing.
  • 1 is how many I’ve finished.
  • 74 is the number of summer vacation days looming before me that I hope to fill with coffee, books, stories, laughs, pets, and adventures with the hubby before it’s time to go back to…
    • 9+ hour work days…
    • 150 new students…
    • and roughly 10,000 papers to grade.

I’ll take those numbers. Most days, they make me feel like I’ve won the lottery.

So, what’s YOUR number?

 

Posted in Life, Lists, Teaching

How to Escape for Spring Break Without Leaving Home

Last year during spring break, I took my dog and ran away from home. (We came back.) This year, I decided not to go anywhere during my week off, but I still craved that feeling of escape. I wondered, Is it possible to have a low-key, stay-at-home spring break AND get away at the same time? The answer is yes. Here’s how to do it.

1. Indulge in Good Food

You don’t have to go on vacation to eat like you’re on vacation. Give in to your sweet tooth or make that favorite recipe you don’t have time to prepare when you’re working. Splurge on your taste buds.

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On the first morning of spring break, I made this giant pile of pancakes, and we ate every last morsel of them.

2. Try a New Restaurant

Splurging on your taste buds doesn’t have to include cooking and clean-up. Find a few dining spot to check out. In Austin, there’s never a shortage of good places to eat.

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I visited Hillside Farmacy for the first time this week. Their fried egg sandwich has fried green tomatoes on it. Need I say more?

3. Sleep Somewhere New

You don’t have to check in to a hotel to check out of the daily grind. Make a pallet on the couch and have a movie night. Build a blanket fort. Camp out in the backyard.

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This is what I call an open-airbnb.

4. Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Take a walk through a neighborhood you’ve never been in, or finally take the time to do that thing that everyone does when they come to your town, or visit a museum. (Note: Museums are free in Austin on Thursdays.)

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I went to the Blanton for the “Words/Matter Latin American Art and Language” exhibit. I recommend it.

5. Buy a Souvenir

There’s a difference between regular shopping and souvenir shopping. You can go buy a new pair of jeans at Old Navy over spring break, and that’s fine, but it probably won’t feel like an escape. A souvenir is a strange or specific object that you wouldn’t have purchased if you hadn’t been in that place at that time. So get into get-away mode and search for a trinket to commemorate your staycation.

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To each her own, of course, but I bought an evil eye talisman from Tesoros Trading Company on South Congress.

6. Send Postcards

You don’t have to travel to write a note to a loved one about your experience. Buy some postcards of your city or some random cards or pick up freebies where you can, and send notes far and wide. Describe your pancakes, your blanket fort, your trip to the vegan ice cream shop. People will love to hear from you regardless of where you are when you write to them.

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This weekend, I sent ten eclectic postcards to friends and family members, but I forgot to take a photo of them before I dropped them in the mail, so here’s a picture of the cards that currently hang above my desk instead.

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At this point, you may be thinking, These are great ideas (thanks) but I’m broke and lacking transportation and don’t have a backyard or postage stamps. Fair point. These next four tips for escape are for you.

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7. Escape into a Book

If you don’t have the means to travel or the courage for daring feats or the stomach for adventurous eating, read about someone who does. Pick up a novel set in a foreign land or a book of essays by someone who’s been around the world or any good book with a good story. Immerse yourself in it. Read for hours, and ignore the laundry.

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This week, I read The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It’s like a mix between the movie Clue and the movie Happy Death Day except the narrator wakes up every day in a different character’s body. It was a wild ride for sure, definitely “escape” material.

8. Call a Faraway Friend

If you’re like me, you don’t pick up the phone often enough. I mean, yes, you pick up your mobile computer and your map and your texting device and your camera all the time, but the actual phone part of that thing? You probably don’t spend a lot of time with it. Spring break is a great time to reconnect with an old friend. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, who lives in a different city. Then close your eyes and let their voice shrink the miles between you.

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I called an old friend this week. Well, not that old. She’s the same age I am. I won’t reveal her name here and embarrass her, but we’ve known each other since we were in the first grade, and it was really good talking to her.

9. Keep Work Out of Sight and Out of Mind

I brought home a lot of grading over spring break. I know, I know, boo me all you want. Sometimes it’s inevitable. But even though I brought those essays home, I didn’t leave them laying around, staring at me and judging me all week. I took my time off first and saved the work for the last couple of days, making sure that I was managing the grading, and not the other way around. Do your best to compartmentalize work and play. Don’t check work emails at the museum and discuss work talk over your stack of pancakes. Enjoy yourself without guilt.

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You can’t tempt me, essays! No! No! Stay back!

10. Say No

When you don’t go anywhere for spring break, that makes some people think you are free the whole week. You are, but that’s the point. You’re free, free on your own terms. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to every favor or invitation. There’s only so much fun you can fit into a week. Unfortunately, you may have to pick and choose where to spend your time and with whom. Escape sometimes means escaping from stress or exhaustion or obligation. Protect your time. Keep it free by saying no to some things.

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To all the friends I hung out with this week, THANK YOU! I had a fabulous time! To all the friends I didn’t get to hang out with, I’M SORRY! Summer is coming! (Note: I didn’t take a single photo with any of my friends this week, so here’s a picture of my dog. Today is his birthday. My parents sent him a card.)

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This spring break, I never traveled more than twenty miles from home. But I made pancakes and visited a museum and bought strange objects and slept in a hammock and read books and mailed postcards and hung out with good friends and said no to things so I could stay in my pajamas and write all day, and that gave me the escape I needed. If I have to go back to work tomorrow (and both Austin ISD and my hubby tell me that I do), at least I’m going back rested and rejuvenated. Except for my right wrist, which still hurts from grading all those essays…

Posted in Life, Teaching

It’s My Brain and I Can Turn It Off If I Want To

OOO

“WALLET!” my husband shouts from the car, as I bound across the parking lot to Walgreens.

“Oops!” I say, trotting back to the car to retrieve my wallet. I smile at my hubby. He does not smile back. This is after I asked to go on his errands with him because I needed something really important at Walgreens, then almost left the house without shoes, then went to Walgreens with him and bought everything except the one thing I really needed, then did his other errands with him, then remembered the thing I really needed from Walgreens and asked him to go back, then tried to go buy it without my wallet.

“How do you function?” he asks. “Seriously, how are you a teacher?”

I ignore him and go to buy the very important item.

The answer is, I function quite well, thank you very much. I am an organized, efficient, productive teacher who juggles my duties with confidence and flair. But all that remembering and accomplishing is exhausting, so sometimes at home I turn my brain off. I think this is a healthy thing to do. Everything needs rest, even the brain. Especially a brain that has to be so on-the-ball all the time. My friend Lori refers to this need for a brain break as a “responsibility hangover,” and it’s the perfect description. Sometimes we need a vacation from responsibility. It’s such a relief to not have to remember anything for a few hours, to let someone else do the thinking.

The problem is that I don’t let other people know when my brain is powering down. There’s no maintenance schedule for my brain. Updates are spontaneous and unpredictable, even for me. One moment I’ll be reading peacefully, without a care in the world, and the next hubby will be looking at me strangely asking, “Weren’t you in the middle of doing laundry?” or “Have you eaten anything today?” or “What’s that sound? Did you turn on the tea kettle?”

At this, I will respond with a glassy-eyed stare and ask, “Laundry? Eaten? Kettle?” as if repeating the last word he said will somehow give the whole sentence meaning. Then I’ll snap out of it and eat a sandwich or make some tea or put the clothes in the dryer before slipping back into blissful unawareness until hubby reminds me of the next important thing I need to do.

I make no apologies for this. There’s just no better feeling than allowing yourself to drift cluelessly for a bit, relying on others to remind you about things like wallets and shoes and food. I think everyone should do it. Although, admittedly, it would be better if we took turns. If you’ve ever found yourself hanging out with a friend when both of you turn your brains off simultaneously, you know what I mean.

This used to happen a lot when I was with my cousin Kelley. Separately, Cousin Kelley and I are both intelligent, hard-working, mature-enough adults, but people who have only met us together don’t know this because our brains shut themselves down when we come in contact with each other. It’s like how some women’s cycles sync up, but we do it with our brains instead.

Kelley and I once decided (on two low-battery brains) to drive around aimlessly in the middle of the night to listen to a new mix tape* one of us made for the other. There was a whole conversation about which car to take and who should drive, and somehow we decided that we should take Kelley’s car, but I should drive it. We headed a few miles west, turned off the bigger roads, and drove slowly and aimlessly– singing along to the latest Roxette or David Bowie song– on small streets where no one was awake but us. Soon, we were lost, but we did not care. A short time later, we were being pulled over because driving slowly and aimlessly down dark, uninhabited streets at three o’clock in the morning is apparently suspicious behavior. No big deal. We were neither drunk, nor disorderly, and I knew the police officer would recognize this as soon as he talked to us.

Then I realized I didn’t have my license because, at no point during the which car/ which mix tape/ which driver conversation did we consider which one of us was carrying her purse.

Oops.

Thankfully, the officer was kind and we got off with a warning. Kelley took the wheel, we both turned our brains on to medium power, and we went home.

Medium power is about where my brain is right now. School ended today at 3:40PM (I’m free! FREE!) and although it was tempting to go into sleep mode immediately, I knew that was a bad idea. I have quite a bit to accomplish in the next 24 hours, like laundry and packing and navigating travel plans, so I need to keep my mind at least 50% charged. Otherwise I’m likely to wander into a bookstore or decide to rearrange the metal lawn animals. (Come to think of it, they do need to stretch their legs…) But when all that is done, watch out world, because I’m hitting snooze on this thing until January. If you see me slumped on a chair staring dreamily into space with a goofy grin on my face or a little drool glistening at the corner of my mouth, don’t fret. I’m fine. I’m happy. Just put a cookie in my hand, pat me on the head, and whisper, “Sleep well, brain. You have no responsibilities here whatsoever.”

Snowflake

* Dear readers under 30, a mix tape is like a playlist made of thin plastic that can unravel and get stuck in your car’s tape deck.**

** A car tape deck is a narrow hole the dashboard of your car where you stick a tape and sometimes a plastic straw to get the tape out and sometimes a pencil to get the plastic straw out.***

*** A plastic straw is a small flexible tube that people used to use to drink cold liquids so they wouldn’t freeze our teeth or mess up our lip gloss, but are now instruments of the devil that murder turtles and will therefore incur dirty looks if seen in use.