Tuesday’s Gifts

I woke up at 6:00 this morning, relieved it was Saturday only to realize that not only was it not Saturday, it was only Tuesday. Yesterday, my kitchen sink exploded, necessitating an afternoon spent disinfecting (although I’m thankful for a super-attentive landlord, who did an amazing job mopping up) before I could cook dinner for my church group. The weekend was busy, and I found I had no time to recharge, and now I just feel tired. Today, I was having a hard time finding the gifts I’m experiencing.

After a long day, I walked through my front door, and sat down to write this post and it occurred to me… maybe today’s gift is the encouragement just to think through the gifts which I am experiencing. The gift of taking a second to remember that even in the midst of the craziness, there are gifts. That someday, I will yearn for this season of life where so much is new and different.

And so I am grateful. If only for a moment where I remember that these moments I’m experiencing are only a small part of a season. The seasons of our lives are short, and even when they are hard, I am grateful for the moments that help me stop and remember that these seasons are not forever.

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Saturday

Saturdays look different this year. When I took the new job, I was well aware of the fact that my evenings and weekends were no longer going to be all my own. Still, I knew I could not repeat the mistakes of my real first year of teaching. There would be no more nights where I was at school until 8:30 or 9, and no more weekends spent entirely lesson planning and cleaning with no fun mixed in.

Without being particularly intentional about crafting a weekend routine, I’ve settled into a pattern that seems to be working perfectly. Waking up early on Saturday morning, I do a quick clean of the house before heading down to lesson plan until noon at my favorite coffee shop. By the time the afternoon rolls around, the only thing I have to do is finish my grocery shopping.

I love how finishing up my “have-to’s” (as my math students would call them), means that the rest of my weekend is mine to fill. Sure, it’s not fun to get up at 7:00 on Saturday morning, but the relief I feel at noon when almost everything is behind me is definitely worth sacrificing an extra hour of sleep. (Bonus: getting up at 7:00 lets me preserve my weeknight sleep cycle… Monday mornings have been infinitely easier!) I’ve come to cherish that Saturday morning time, with a hot latte in front of me, made so well that there is a tree design in the milk every time; my breakfast selection of the week on a plate, and the knowledge that a few hours of hard work will give me the rest of the weekend to play.

Now if I can only keep it up…

(Coming soon: A visual representation of my Saturdays, a tour through my (not-yet-perfect) apartment, and pictures of what I spent the last week of August doing in my classroom… basically what’s coming is a lot of pictures. I finally have the energy to find the cord and load them on to the computer. Thanks for your patience!)

Choosing to Ride

Today was not my favorite day. I taught a math lesson that just bombed. I tried my best, and I could not save it, for oh-so-many reasons some of which I’m still sorting out. The big thing though, is my own prep time. I never feel like I quite have enough, and I really never feel like I’m quite prepared when it comes time for math. The curriculum is not familiar, I always feel like I forget to prep something, or forget to prep something correctly, I feel like I have to consult my manual a million times throughout the lesson and as a result, there is nothing even vaguely resembling flow in my math class. I’m trying, but when push comes to shove, I know I’m failing.

I hate failing. I hate making mistakes, and more than anything, I hate feeling like I’m giving everything I have and I’m still failing. The reality though, is that this feeling of failure is the story of first-year-teaching… even if it’s just a first year in a new district. I knew what I was getting myself into when I changed schools, but it doesn’t make it any less challenging when push comes to shove.

So, I came home discouraged. I don’t have time to stay after school and prep this week, sometimes because my afternoons are filled with meetings, sometimes because I’m trying to have social plans, or exercise plans, or because I’m trying to sleep. I contemplated going back to school after my meeting this afternoon, but I was at the breaking point… I realized that what I needed more than anything, was an afternoon in my apartment, even if a few school books came with me. I spent the afternoon on my couch, watching TV, and otherwise vegging (well except for the 10-minute break during which I attempted half of Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred… I couldn’t quite get past that first 10 minutes, and my muscles STILL feel like jello!!). For the last three hours, I’ve been trying to convince myself that the best thing to do is look at my math book, to see how I can possibly do it better tomorrow. Because there IS a way to do it better… I just have to find it. I haven’t wanted to pick up the book though, because the feelings of inadequacy are too raw right now, and I fear that picking up the book will only make it worse. Yet then the rational side of my brain takes over. If I don’t pick up the book right now, if I don’t get back in the saddle, then the feelings of inadequacy will win. They’ll win tonight, and they’ll win tomorrow when another math lesson goes down the drain. So, despite what I feel right now, I’m choosing to get back in the saddle. I’m choosing to ride again, against that feeling of inadequacy, into the hope that better preparation will lead to a better tomorrow.

And slowly, I’m learning that failure is not the end of the world.

A Sense of Place

I’ve been reading the Tuesdays Unwrapped posts over at Chatting at the Sky for a couple of weeks now. What a highlight for the beginning of the week. I’ve been feeling moved to try my own for a couple of weeks, but it’s been hard these past few weeks to slow down, and to notice the small gifts around me. The beginning of the school year is overwhelming. The beginning of a new school year in a new school is unimaginably overwhelming. And yet, when I stopped tonight I was amazed by how the gifts are everywhere I look. It’s hard to pick just one for this week, but I’m giving it a try anyway!

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


It was Back to School Night at school tonight. I taught for half the day, had teacher meetings for the second half, and then stayed at school until 7:45 when my final parent when home, which meant that I arrived home somewhere around 8:00. I was exhausted; I am exhausted; but all day the same thought kept occurring to me. I am just where I am supposed to be.

I spent all year last year trying to be someplace else. I wanted big open skies, I wanted silence, I wanted to see the stars, I wanted a chance to start all over again, to create a different life. And then I got a job two blocks from my church, and an apartment a mile from both, and I realized, I am called to be here right now. I am called to be in the city with its light pollution and its noise pollution and its lack of green space and because I am where I believe God has called me to be, I love it here.

New Routines

Before I started the school year, I created a list of new routines I wanted to implement. You see, I am notorious for having to spend my weekends cleaning, because during the week, my apartment goes from clean to… not clean… in about 30 seconds flat. So I decided a routine was the answer to my problems. And honestly, it probably is, except for the fact that for the routine to work, I’d actually have to implement it.

On it’s face, the plan is pretty simple. A list of things that I need to do, and the times at which I need to do them. For example:

  • 5:10 AM – Alarm Goes Off, Get Up, Stretch, Head to the Gym
  • 5:30  – Work Out
  • 6:10 – Head Home
  • 6:20 – Shower
  • 6:40 – Dress
  • 6:50 – Breakfast, Quiet Time
  • 7:05 – Do Hair
  • 7:15 – Leave, Walk To Work
  • 7:35-3:30 School
  • 4:00 PM– Make Coffee for AM, Pack Lunch, Wash Out Old Containers, Lay Out Clothes for AM, Pack Gym Bag
  • 4:30 – Clean Sweep, Clean Daily Room
  • 8:00 – Dress for Bed, Brush Teeth, Wash Face
  • 8:30 – In Bed, Read
  • 9:00 – Lights Out

Instead, my life has looked more like this:

  • 6:00 AM – Stumble out of bed, spend a half hour showering and otherwise getting ready, because I am basically comatose
  • 6:35 – Throw lunch together. Move quickly.
  • 6:45 – Realize I do not have enough time to make coffee.
  • 6:46 – Make coffee anyway. I will never make it through the day without it.
  • 6:48 – Make breakfast (something complicated because I didn’t buy cereal and milk because my mornings are supposed to be relaxed and I should have time to make eggs)
  • 6:55 – Wolf down breakfast… check e-mail
  • 7:02 – Spend 2 minutes blow-drying the T-zone of my hair. Put up in a messy twist.
  • 7:07 – Leave the house, drive to work because there is SO much to do.
  • 7:12 – 4:30/5:00 – Work
  • 4:45 – Arrive at home. Collapse. Think about how it is too late for a nap.
  • 4:50 – Check home e-mail for the second time since 6:45. Respond to messages.
  • 5:30 – Think about dinner. Decide I am too tired to cook. Continue working on e-mail. Switch to school e-mail if necessary to fill up the hour.
  • 6:00 – Think about dinner again. Decide I am too cheap to order out.
  • 6:15 – Make dinner
  • 7:00 – Eat dinner
  • 7:30 – Look at the mess in the kitchen. Decide to deal with it tomorrow. At least corral it into the sink.
  • 7:45 – Manage to put my ice pack in the refrigerator so at least that is cold tomorrow.
  • 7:47 – Watch Law & Order: SVU
  • 11:00 – Realize I have now watched three hours of television, and it is past my bedtime. Beat myself up and go to bed.

The bottom line, and the root of the problem, is that I am exhausted. There is really no way around that. My job is exhausting, and chances are good that I will come home having spent too much time on my feet, and not enough time being able to process a single thought. However, my day needs to include more intentional exercise, and more intentional sleep so that I can spend less time feeling catatonic, and more time, actually being productive. Even if the thing I’m being productive at is relaxation. I’m going to try this week…

Changes

Change is in the air these days as the college students pour in and the cool air takes the place of hot, summer nights. It feels good to pull on a pair of jeans and head down to Union Square for a hot latte at Bloc 11. I miss summer, and the carefree, unscheduled days, but I am learning to embrace fall.

This fall brought it’s own set of changes. A new apartment. A new job. A whole new life in many respects. It’s been fun, and challenging to move into this new reality.

On the apartment front, I have been happy to discover how much I enjoy living alone, and how much it has helped me to begin deepening the relationships that I have with people in the city. Instead of running in the opposite direction of the church greeting hour on Sundays, I look forward to it each week, knowing that it’s an opportunity for social interaction. Living alone, my introverted needs are met. I can retreat home any time I need to and know exactly what I will find. Are there drawbacks? Sure… the mess in the kitchen? All mine. The utility bills? Likewise, all mine. But the quiet? That’s all mine too.

At school, it’s a whole new world and I love it. It’s what I signed up for six years ago when I began filling out applications to go to graduate school. It’s challenging, but I love how my brain is twirling 24/7, figuring out new solutions to the problems that seem to pop up just when I think I have everything under control. It’s like first-year teaching all over again… but with the knowledge that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m grateful for my evenings this year, when I can come home and decompress, instead of looking for a new job. And I’m looking forward to evenings a few years from now, when I’ve truly left work at work.

So… for a girl who doesn’t like change… it’s been a big fall, but you know what? I’m starting to like it.