The English Lit Renormalization

This week I am in a high school English class where I’m surrounded by To Kill a Mockingbird, college pennants, and the promise of the great unknown. Even over two decades since taking an English class, I feel the magic. 

  
See, I’ve never been the literary type. Yes, I read and yes, I appreciate most some classics but English class was never a strength. If I didn’t like a book we were reading, I totally shut down. Sorry Steinbeck, but I could never get The Red Pony

The Ox-Bow Incident? As slow as molasses and why would I want to read a cowboy book anyway? Do I look like a cowgirl?

Maybe I didn’t like reading with the class. Maybe reading in a chair with three dozen other living, breathing humans did not hold a candle to my preferred reading situation at the time: in my room and dressed in my pajamas. I loved reading in that musty, bile green psuedo-rocking chair in my room next to the windoe, devouring every Sweet Valley High novel I could find and its related junior high titles than I care to admit. 

Maybe I didn’t get the appeal with some genres. I couldn’t identify with themes, which were usually too sophisticated for a young teen, or with the people. 

I was neither black nor white, definitely not European and definitely not the type of Asian who Americans in the 1980’s could recognize. My parents were immigrants who had limited knowledge of this country’s bestsellers and classic reads. 

If I had read a book about Hee Haw and the rise of country music in the 80s, surely I would have rocked that unit. Admittedly, I could have tried harder as well but when you’re a teenager of the MTV-music-video generation, adults were in charge of me… until I didn’t like it and then I’d take it to the streets.

And by “streets”, I mean my journal. 

  
I did, however, fall in love with the Bard himself in seventh grade and decades later I wonder why. I couldn’t believe we were reading A Midnight Summer’s Dream. We were still kids and we were actually reading Shakespeare? 

I remember being enamored of the language, of strange words and even stranger spellings, the endless footnotes from the publisher. I needed so much help just to decipher a sonnet but I didn’t care. This was romantic. This was poetry. 

This was Shakespeare.

I went on to struggle with other novels and the conundrums that are associated with proper grammar and correct spelling. I later learned to embrace all of latter through creative writing. Words came easily when they didn’t have to be spoken. Not all of my writing was stellar but consistent enough that I still remember the praise from my junior high English teacher.  

I read Romeo and Juliet as a freshman in high school and again, I was swallowed wholly and without hesitation in the language. This was not my mother’s romantic comedy. No, this was real love. This was violence, passion, betrayal, murder, suicide. Okay, the latter two were not romantic but it was Shakespeare and in my fourteen year old eyes, he could do no wrong. 

And though this isn’t MY classroom, I still feel the magic. This elation from discovering the writing legends that are John Green and Scott Westerfeld, from sharing the anxiety of college applications, and from celebrating their light bulb moments, their good grades and their good-enough grades, and their college acceptance news. 

I have started to read a novel in the morning, read through my lunch break, and even stayed twenty minutes after my job was finished so I could finish the story. I have begged the school librarian for one more night with a book, despite me not actually working at the school site. Just today, I shared my excitement for the Uglies series with a junior who was trading in the first in the series for the next two. I feel very fortunate to be a part of all of this. May I share in this wonder this magic continue for students to come.

 *EDIT: I apologize profusely about the size of the photo. I will figure it out eventually and sheesh, I know I have a large head but that is ridiculous!

The Ocean Beach Vortex

  
I wasn’t always like this. I used to be pretty flexible when it came to traveling. My friends and I would show up to clubs whenever we felt like it. We were on The List. It didn’t matter when we arrived; it mattered only that we did. After R and I got married, we didn’t have a care in the world so long as one of us was the designated driver. Like Kesha says, the party don’t start ’til I walk in.

All of that changed though after having children. These adorable monsters (kid and pet, alike) woke us up at the crack of dawn so why wouldn’t we head to our destination early? Parking would be easy, no lines, no crowds, and that would mean we would get to leave early as well. 

We took a day trip to “the most wonderful city in the world”, according to our middle daughter. We wanted to go to the San Francisco Zoo but we needed to get there when it opened. About a year ago, I wanted to take the kids to the zoo since we were in the city anyway. That didn’t happen. There was absolutely no parking and there were people everywhere! I could barely drive by the zoo, let alone find parking. 

Less traffic on Labor Day meant that we were almost two hours early. No matter though. We got free street parking, ate a delicious breakfast at Ocean Beach Cafe, and spent a beautiful morning at the beach. 

The weather was amazing. Just a tad warmer than “chilly”, not a cloud in sight. 

  

I told the kids to not get wet but I knew that would fall on deaf ears. They dug for sand crabs, watched sea gulls fight over giant crabs, and played in the crashing waves like I did throughout my childhood. 
Here’s a little bit of the Pacific Ocean for you.

  
R and I didn’t count on the zoo being so huge! We were exhausted by the time noon rolled around and we still had a lot of zoo to see. One of the most memorable exhibits was the Primate Discovery Center. Please keep in mind that the animals were not engaging in certain inappropriate behaviors while I was filming. 

Eerie Sounds from Primate Discovery Center at SF Zoo
   
    
    
    
    
   
The sound was deafening at times and eerie at most. I’m glad I caught a sound byte because it is difficult to describe. 

We had promised lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf and that was an utter fail. No parking, so many people. We still were able to get a delicious meal but we know better for next time. 

   
  

The Moscato Challenge

It’s pretty safe to say that this week in particular has been taxing on us all. Spring is in the air and allergy season becomes more and more debilitating to my sinuses every year. 

When I take a step back to see why we have been feeling overwhelmed, the list goes on and on. Uncertainty about full-time work the next school year. Lack of exercise. Dietary habits which could be and should be improved. The more I dwell, the more I feel anxious.

But this is life.

It’s hard to accept that sometimes, especially when you are knee deep in it.

Eventually you get to a point where you can catch your breath and see the next part of life in all of its imperfect and unwavering form.

Is it another challenge ahead, waiting to crush and destroy my spirit? Is it another bump in the road? Am I cursed to go through such hardship?

No. I’m human and this is how we live. 

Both my husband R and the middle child have been very ill this past week due to (we’re guessing) a sinus infection and a bladder infection, respectively. Also guess which one did not want to see a doctor. Wait, I take that back. Both did not want to see a doctor but one of them is an adult and did not want to see his doctor. Yeah, guess which one. 

R has begun his finals while I’m still worried about work. In fact, I shared with my husband that I was walking around the drug store and actually thought, I COULD USE A DRINK THIS EVENING.

My escape mechanism has not been alcohol in quite sometime; I prefer the sugar route myself.

Still, this is life. Stuff happens.

No, I didn’t have that drink tonight but had a good laugh with R about needing a drink. We agreed to have a drink… After his finals and again after I sign a contract! 

And life will go on. 

The Time After Time Insufficiency

I am typing this post on my phone at 4 in the morning. My husband R is awake to begin his commute to school in San Francisco. Usually I sleep right through his morning routine.

Usually.

In the midst of going full time next school year, I’m sometimes struck with waves of emotion. This morning is no exception.

I don’t know what grade I’ll have nor where my classroom will be. I don’t know my schedule. I have not signed a contract.

The anxiety of not knowing is sometimes overshadowed by the excitement of it all. While I have almost seven years of classroom experience, the years are relatively far and few between. I’m grateful for the years that span almost twenty years but also realize that it feels like starting over each time.

I thought I would be one of those teachers who spent decades in the same grade in the same classroom but little did I know that would be a fleeting thought once I married the navy. And it’s only now at 4 in the morning that I realize this is not just another job assignment, but a chance to prove to myself that I can still be that teacher.

Time is and is not on my side. True, the decades of teaching in front of me are limited to two depending on retirement restrictions. But in the golden age of R’s retirement, of the years of living apart, and of the foresight to buy a house while the housing market was at rock bottom, time is finally on my side.

Unfortunately a good night’s sleep is not.

Please Don’t Thank Me For My Service

After all, I did not make a commitment to our country to fight in the military. I only married someone who did.

Over the years my husband R has been stopped many times by people who wanted to thank him for his service. Like many men and women in the military, R is pretty humble about it and gets embarrassed easily. Don’t get me wrong, he does acknowledge their compliment but in Garth-like fashion, he slowly slinks away.

And on occasion, I get a thank you as well.

Those thank-you’s come from a sincere, kind place but there was no service done on my behalf.

I knew what I was getting myself into when I married into the military. I knew there would be months at a time when I would worry myself sick. I knew there would be a time where I would be by myself for long periods of time and if we started a family, I would be raising our children on my own.

I knew that.

Sure, it got tough when he went on a deployment four months after our first child was born and I was timezones away from either our families. It got tough when he was on a submarine and I didn’t hear from him for months at a time. It was extremely difficult whenever I watched the news about the death toll of American soldiers in the Middle East.

I thought nothing wouldn’t compare to teaching first grade while pregnant and raising a toddler and a preschooler. All the while, R was on a seven month deployment.

But then the phone call came on April 23, 2010 and surely nothing compared to that.

In spite of all that, those events were nothing compared to what
R went through. He doesn’t talk much about it and I don’t blame him. Over the past fourteen years, deployments have taken its toll on him. I didn’t know anything about PTSD until I saw him shaking uncontrollably when a car in our neighborhood drove too fast over a speed bump and made a huge booming sound that echoed through our house. Years later, he can’t go to Giants game with free tickets that were donated by a military charity without panicking. Years later, we plan all of our outings for first thing in the morning to avoid crowds and noise. Years later, our last trip to Disneyland had to be planned down to the minute so he could escape and retreat back to our hotel room whenever he needed to… and without the kids noticing.

Years later, I have found I know more about PTSD and yet I know very little.

I was able to raise our children, work a few years here and there, and enjoy our duty stations; he was doing the exact opposite.

So while I do appreciate the kind words, please don’t thank me for my service; thank my husband instead.

Happy Veteran’s Day to all those who served. May the lines at the VA be in proportionate to the loved ones around you– short lines and lots of love!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!

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The Hernia Recovery

Last week marked another surgery for my husband R. He had a significant hernia on the right side of his lower abdomen that until recently did not cause him any discomfort or pain.

That day did not begin well… but it ended with a surprise.

We were getting ready to leave for the VA hospital at 6:30 am. My mother arrived early to help the kids get ready for school and then drop them off. We didn’t need to be there until 8:00 am so we were fine… until we got a call from the reception area saying he was a half hour late!

R was supposed to get a phone call a few days before and when none came, an answering service told him that he didn’t have to be there until 8.

On the way there, R was hungry and cranky and highly annoyed. As much pain as he was in, as exhausted he was after having been through what he’s been through for the past four years, I needed to gently remind him that it was not the fault of the hospital workers who were about to check him in. It was not their fault nor the nurses who would scramble to get him prepped for surgery. It was not the fault of the doctors who were still able to fit him in. Rather the blame lies in an ineffective system that has frustrated and continued to frustrate thousands of veterans around the country.

When we were attached to a base and active duty, R’s medical needs and ours as a family were met so easily and without any hitch. Any questions I had were directed to his command or that of his command’s personal physicians or even the ombudsman. Hell, if I even had a question in the middle of shopping at the commissary, I’m pretty sure there would be an aisle full of stay-at-home moms and spouses of veterans who could answer it right on the spot.

Today? If R had a question, he wouldn’t know who to ask let alone who to ask about asking. I can’t tell you how many times he’s called the VA only to hang up in frustration because he’s been transferred to so many people and so many departments. No one knows the answer to these questions.

After he got settled in, I settled in to the Starbucks with a soy caramel frappuccino. When I returned, the surgeon was surprised to meet me. “He’s never brought you to any of his appointments.”

I wanted to say, “Well, he’s a strong, independent woman and can do things without me.”

But I didn’t. I said something similar though without the joke.

I do, after all, have a job and career I am trying to restart. In fact, this is what I was doing all morning.

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It’s funny how when I insist on doing everything myself, I call it being INDEPENDENT yet when he insists on doing everything himself, I call it being STUBBORN. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think it’s funny.

His surgery went well and they could fix it without (pardon the visualization) slicing him open. Even more awesome is that he came home on the same day!

I don’t think that was expressed to the rest of the hospital as when I went to pick up his meds, the pharmacist insisted he was recovering on the third floor! Luckily we both had a sense of humor about it and he cleared it with a phone call.

Cross your fingers that that surgery will be the last!