Gone Walkabout

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Original artwork by author

Since December of 2018, my husband and I had a housemate living downstairs. My husband had several housemates before I moved in and we’ve had several after. We like helping others, and we have extra rooms, so why not?

This particular housemate was a friend of my husband’s, and all was great for many months. She was generally happy, creative, quirky, like a fairy embodied in a human being, who also liked death metal.

Last month, this housemate passed away. My husband found her in her room. We had exchanged pleasantries two days before, and we had heard signs of life one day before. Then … silence, so my husband checked on her. This disappearing thing wasn’t uncommon; sometimes she’d sink into a depression, or her body hurt, and often she would sleep in her room off and on for days, surfacing for a bit of food.

She had started being unstable around us during the holidays last year- maybe even before that. She was in her own world, and in her own struggle. We tried to help her in many ways. She was often sad, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if she wanted to leave this life.

That said, our hearts ache for the positive aspects we came to know: her odd sense of humor, and her devil-may-care attitude, sporting her bright pink or glittery pants and colorful clothes as she went for a walk, literally dancing to her own tune. She often hummed to herself and jiggled her hips, an echo of former belly dancing days, as she stood by her sewing area. She nerded out on computer programming with my husband, talking in a language that I barely understand but respect. She vibrated life from her being in a unique way.

What I probably admire the most about her is that she strived to be the best person she could. She posted Buddhist sayings, helping her to remember that we are all in our own struggle, not to judge others, and to let go of expectations. She turned my husband on to Harville Hendrix, a relationship guru whose advice he and I now follow. And though we had our differences, she had wanted to make amends.

It pains my heart to think of the sadness she must have felt, and that no human could give her the healing or support she needed. In the end, I’m guessing the struggle was too much. I also miss her, which has been hard for me to admit.

Sometime last week, I dreamed that she popped by from a walkabout to get a pair of jeans. My husband and I looked up from whatever we were working on and said casual hellos. Then she went on her way. Everything seemed as normal, like she was before her struggles had surfaced: happy, radiating sunshine, ponytail swinging. A day or two later, my husband had a dream about her, taking a casual walk in the neighborhood with her.

I like to think that’s what she’s doing: a walkabout, and that she’s on her next spiritual journey, encountering wisdom and adventures on the way.

A Strange, Crazy Trip of a School Year

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What an amazing, crazy, ride this school year has been! It’s my 19th year of teaching, and it feels like my 1st year in some ways. I have learned SO MUCH, not only about teaching, but about being a human being and working with others.

I have already written about the first part of the school year. I worked with two little boys who screamed, threw things, ran around the school and even away from the school, and were mean to other kids. I also got to know other sweet students at the same time. My heart broke for those students, who were victims of one of the other students, and got less teaching than they should have.

I could emotionally deal with all of it, almost, except the meanness. I have a very hard time understanding and accepting those who are randomly mean to others. And, if I would have had no end in sight, I would probably be burned out and in the funny farm by now.

Through dealing with that, I learned just how wonderful the staff I work with are. I always knew that most of the staff around me have my back, and most of them worked really well together to help those kiddos. This is hands down, the most positive workplace I have been in. Other situations have come close, but this school is the most positive and supportive I have ever been a part of.

Now, I’m facing another challenge: remote teaching these same little ones (they’re Deaf/Hard of hearing second graders) during this COVID 19 lock-down. One of them has a TBI and is struggling the most with learning from home. The rest are adjusting, I think, and some are learning more than I ever expected. And some, I’m just happy they are joining my Zoom meetings and can see their faces, even if they’re not putting in much effort in the work I set for them. What a strange time this is. And we are told to prepare ourselves to do it again in the Fall.

On another note, PTSD from past teaching jobs haunts me. While I love my principal, vice principal, and DHH admin, I still have no idea if they want me back. I have learned to not trust what I see on the surface, and that any small infraction can look horrible in their eyes, or skewed to make me look horrible when I know I’m a wonderful teacher.

Not to toot my own horn or anything… well, if I do have my own horn, don’t I get to toot it? That’s assuming I have a horn to toot. Not that I think I’m a perfect teacher and I certainly see my faults very clearly, every single day, but overall, I think I do a bang-up job!

I’m just used to others not seeing that, and seeing things through poop-colored glasses. And I’m paranoid that others are judging me. I bet this is common among teachers. Let’s hope that my bosses see me in clear-no-colored glasses at the very least. I do put in 150 to 200% effort!

I do hope I can keep on doing this. By this, I mean teaching Deaf/Hard of Hearing kids. I do love it for the most part, even if some days I feel miserable about it. I love my students, and I love teaching.

I do have other dreams… most of them made of the smoke from pipes. One, is being an interpreter again… not much pay, and the fact that I didn’t pass the NIC depresses me- though I do need to try again at some point. (And it’s another field where people tend to judge each other, not a good feeling.) Another is becoming a published author for fiction, be it adult, young adult, teen, or author/illustrator of children’s books. And, in crazy moments, a fairy or other creature at Ren Faires like Twig The Fairy sounds really darned good. All of these things don’t pay as well as teaching (and may pay nothing at all), and I do love teaching kids.

We’ll see what the next school year brings! For now, we’ve all just got to survive the next few weeks until summer break. And don’t get me wrong: I am very happy to have a job during this time, and a purpose in that job. It is just a lot of hours of work.

May we all come out of this sane, and in good relationships with those we live and work with. May those on the front lines be safe and healthy. As people pass from this life, may we hold on to the light and joy of living. May we all see each other again soon, and be all the closer for this experience. So mote it be.

                                                                                                                Original artwork by author

Of Bikes and Spiritual Sides

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In a previous post, I wrote ‘more about biking later,’ or some such. And then I never delivered what I’d promised. Well here ya go.

Last summer, I started riding my bike. I’d bought this bike, especially made for women supposedly, … about 9 years ago. I rode it once. Yes. Once. Until last summer.

My goal? Be fit enough to ride my bike to work. I rode around a school that’s nearby to my house, and increased the number of times I rode around it, until finally I branched out and rode farther distances. It was a free feeling, kindof like learning to drive for the first time. A bit of ‘hey I can do this’ and ‘I can do this with my own muscles;’ almost like survivalism: I can get places on my own gumption, or rumblegumption.*

Then. The school year started… actually it started before it started, for us new employees, with lots of trainings. Then scheduling scheduling scheduling and figuring out everything from scratch, until our collective brains died. Then kids started coming and then two of them started blowing up (behavior wise). Now things have settled down quite a bit (knock on wood). Suffice to say.. since I’ve been in my own little hurricane, I haven’t ridden my bike, and haven’t done many other things that feed my soul, like seeing friends.

I hope to do so again soon, and make it a habit again.

Now.. as the title promised you.. for the spiritual side. I wrote recently that I need to jump start my spiritual side again. It has kinda.. died. And it needs a revival (no, not the tent kind. The defribillator kind. “Clear!”)

Well.. oddly enough (I’m not used to this), my new school has a book study group, focusing on a book that includes meditation. (The Book is called The Inner Matrix, By Joey Klein.) And when we meet and talk about what we’ve read, we meditate in the classroom that we meet in. Be still my pagan heart! Am I not the only Pagan oriented type at this school?

Anyway, I’ve been in a mode of surviving just a day at a time, with barely planning ahead for lessons and such. (Picture: staying up til 11 pm refiguring visual schedules for a kid with behaviors rather than planning what I’ll teach, then getting up at 5:30 am, day after day.) It’s been gradually getting better: things are settling down and I’ve been able to plan some. As a result, I’ve had to skim the book for the book club and I haven’t been doing the book club homework: meditate daily for 20 minutes, and now another piece has been added: notice your emotions throughout the day. There’s also a four-part breathing technique that’s incorporated in the meditations.

I’ve been doing the four-part breathing, and started noticing my emotions at certain times, but haven’t meditated yet apart from the 2 times the book club have happened at school. The breathing has been helping to instantly calm me. The emotions I’ve noticed so far have been guilt/disappointment, anxiety, and calm. It’s interesting, and good, to do this emotional check-up.

My goal this weekend is to do the homework for the book club, and to set times on my phone to remind me to do these things throughout the week. I hope to do enough planning and IEP (Special Ed meeting/paperwork) work this weekend, too, so that during the week I can Just. Go. Home. And. Relax. And ride by bike. And drum. And play the piano. and draw. and write. All these things that are waiting for me to do them, like silent pets, waiting for their turn to be petted.

*I had to look it up. Fun stuff:

Gumption: Noun

gump·​tion | \ ˈgəm(p)-shən  \

1chiefly dialectalCOMMON SENSEHORSE SENSE2: ENTERPRISEINITIATIVE lacked the gumption to try

Did you know?

English speakers have had gumption (the word, that is) since the early 1700s. The term’s exact origins aren’t known, but its earliest known uses are found in British and especially Scottish dialects (which also include the forms rumblegumption and rumgumption). In its earliest uses, gumption referred to intelligence or common sense, especially when those qualities were combined with high levels of energy. By the 1860s, American English speakers were also using gumption to imply ambition or tenacity, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that gumption began to appear in English texts as a direct synonym of courage or get-up-and-go. American showman P.T. Barnum also claimed that gumption named a particular kind of hard cider, but that sense is far from common today.

“Gumption.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gumption.

New School, Who Dis?

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After about a month and a half of working at a new school, my brain feels like a squeezed lemon: very used, productive, and only a teeny bit bitter. Seriously, it’s only a teeny bit. And who doesn’t want a little zest in their life?

I have longed for my own classroom again, and I got it! I was an itinerant Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) in another district, and now am back to having a self-contained DHH class.

While this’ll be my 19th year of teaching (saying that makes me feel a little accomplished, and very old as well as ironic), this new situation has had a YUGE learning curve. Partly because my teaching brain had gotten used to not having a classroom and all that comes with it: teaching all the routines, having logistics in place (oh right we need pencils… a pencil sharpener… the alphabet on the wall; etc.), and partly because I have two students whose behaviors are extreme, and I’ve never dealt with extreme behaviors. I have dealt with behaviors, yes, but not to this extent. (Picture: yelling, screaming, dumping everything in the room, throwing chairs and overturning tables. I’ve heard of worse and I am fortunate that it’s not: spreading feces on the wall or spitting, or aiming punches or scratches that really hurt!)

Things are in process for these kiddos… and I’m sure I have earned some new silvery hairs from my experiences thus far. But there are many pretty roses in my garden of mud as well, that deserve appreciation: this new situation also comes with wonderful staff that are supportive, and all of the kids have sweetness, some more than others but it’s there. And while some days have me feeling 2 inches tall as a teacher, I haven’t thrown in the towel. If I can do my darndest to stay at this school, and cling to the rocks and climb this mountain in order to do so, I will. But, as I said one day to a sweet teacher, I wouldn’t want to continue in this same way all year; if so, I would need to quit at some point to preserve my sanity.

We’ll see who wins: will this situation beat me down to choosing a new career path? Or will the situation resolve itself and become something beautiful? Stay tuned to find out! In the amazing adventures of… The Pagan Dork!

My Life, it is a-Changin’!

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Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

-Bob Dylan

There have been a lot of changes in my life lately.  Some things that are still the same are:  I still live in the same place, I’m still basically the same person, and I am still married with two dogs.

Work, home, friends, life perspectives, my soul and emotions have all been overhauled, at least in my mind if not in physical reality.  I’ve also started riding my bike! More on that in another post.

Work:  For some time now, I have wanted to work closer to home, and have also felt a draw to have my own classroom again.  I have been an itinerant Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (TODHH) for 3 1/2 years.  The most recent school year, I was both itinerant TODHH and Sign Language Interpreter Coordinator.  I learned SO MUCH!

It seems that things have fallen in the place the way they should, so that I am mentally ready for this next step: going back to a Deaf program (self-contained classroom within a hearing school).  “Self Contained,” I’m learning, might not be so PC any more… it’s being called a resource room because of the emphasis of the goal of mainstreaming kids.  But that goal doesn’t keep in mind the spectrum of needs.  Some kids need more support, slower pace, modified curriculum, repetition, concepts explained in ASL (American Sign Language), and so on.  The majority of education-folks seem to subscribe to the ideal that all kids will eventually be mainstreamed; I don’t.  I see it as a continuum of service (to use an educational phrase).  Anyway, that’s become a soapbox and I’ll step off of it before I go down that rabbit-hole!

Since I had two roles last school year, I gave myself extra expectations and work to help the team out as I prepared to leave the position.  During the summer, I had a lot to do: I created two handbooks– one for sign language interpreters and one for the next sign language interpreter coordinator.  There’s a lot of insider know-how needed, and if someone doesn’t have that, there’s a huge learning curve.  Certain sensitivies may be ignored if someone isn’t in the know and bridges may be burned… so I hope my replacement has that know-how!   “Not my circus” anymore though.  I just hope that handing that metaphorical package of duties over to the next person, whoever that may be, will go well.

As for handing over the TODHH package to the next person, I gave a summary on each kiddo and their needs, and met with my replacement.  I am so relieved that my replacement already knows the kids, already is a great person and I know all the students will be taken care of.  It’s so hard being in a service career, with wee little fragile birds you take care of (and some not so fragile), when you have to leave that nest for another one, and you want the next mama to be a good one, y’know?

Then there’s been a bunch of excitement and brain gears turning with the new school’s DHH team and the new school district.  The DHH team has been great.  We’ve had a meeting and some phone calls, and I already feel a part of the team!  It seems like I’ll be working with great people.

The new school district also seems great.  I am SO impressed with how this next district I’m working with takes care of their employees thus far.  The trainings and orientations I’ve been a part of have really left me feeling like we being take care of by people who truly care how we fare in our new positions.  That’s a vastly different feeling than what I’ve had before in previous districts.  Not to say previous experiences were bad- there was just a lack of care with new employees.  Usually you’re thrown in and expected to roll with it- which is a training unto itself… kindof like a bootcamp run by well meaning, nice people.  Usually you don’t have a boss that’s like an army sarge, but you are expected to rise to lots of challenges and just ‘take it’ like the teacher you are!

Anyway, this transition has been an emotional ride, and a brainy one too.  Trying to make sure your duties and kiddos you leave are taken care of while trying to make sure you are ready to take care of the next set of duties and kiddos, probably creates a lot of gray hairs, but also makes for a smoother transition for everyone (we hope)!  And, saying goodbye to wonderful people and students I worked with, and meeting new wonderful people and students, is also heart-wrenching and heart-blossoming as well.

Another major change, just in my mind, has to do with my home.  My home has become, in my mind, more solidly ours – my husband’s and mine- and not just my husband’s.  What has helped with this is getting the townhome, which I used to live in and still own, completely flipped and ready for tenants.  And now we have a new tenant that has just moved in.

The townhome was home to some friends for about 4 years, and they had a lot of family living with them. They left it with holes in the walls, lots of things to fix (toilets, ceiling fans), and the carpet and walls were dingy and gross (not just from friends- the walls and carpet were already ‘blah’ when I lived there). We repainted and we paid another friend to redo all the floors in Pergot.  And, we (friends, my husband and I, and our step daughter and her boyfriend) worked to the bone with cleaning, painting, patching, fixing and replacing … there has been so much to do.

The townhome’s looking really good now… though just today my husband is taking care of an odd leak situation!  Never a dull moment.  All that to say that I’ve had to emotionally say goodbye to the home in my mind.  The place I lived in not only looks vastly different now, it’s not really so much my home anymore, in my mind.  Just another stepping stone in my life, now.  With all of that came a lot of financial hardship for my husband and I, since we paid for lots of the fixups ourselves.  Hopefully, looking forward, things will be smoother money-wise!

As for my outlook on life, I’ve had a lot of growing pains for my soul this last year or so.  Just being more at ease with myself, consoling myself when I get butt-hurt over things, or just teaching myself the 4 agreements and mostly not taking things personally, I at least feel like my soul has matured and made a lot of progress.  I think that not only am I in a great place emotionally for this transition, my soul and brain are also ready.  These changes just feel right and that’s a great feeling.

One thing that needs a jump-start is my spiritual side.  Spiritually (this blog is about me being a Pagan Dork after all), I have not been a part of any spiritual group for a long time, and the closest thing pagan I’ve done is a wee bit of my own special form of visualization/meditation and a drum circle (and that’s just 2 little things in about a year).  But mostly I haven’t really done much.

That part of me has been kinda dead for a while… and that’s probably not good for my soul.  That needs a recharge.  I’m not ready to join any kind of group, except loosely like in drum circles and the like. But I am looking forward exploring new ways of thinking and being, spiritually.  Some of my past blogs here described my beliefs at that time; I feel them evolving. Maybe it won’t involve completely turning my back on my beliefs, but adjusting and growing.

Throughout all of these changes, my husband and close friends and loved ones have been there, supporting me and cheering me on, and also being patient with me, and I am really grateful.  I am mind-blown every time I think of all the wonderful people I am lucky to have in my life!

Well there you go, an update on my life!  I haven’t written in a long time! Life is feeling really good even with all these changes.  We’ll see what the next school year has in store- work-wise and life-wise.

 

A Dream: Samurai Clock

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samurai clock

Original Artwork

Last night I had a dream.  I’m going to send this dream to a friend of mine.  So, this blog is written to him.

Hey! Long time no see. I know you’ve had huge changes in your life.  We don’t know each other well so this message might seem a little odd, but I had a dream about you last night!  It seems to me like a magical, meaningful dream.  You can let me know if it has any meaning for your life.

In the dream, my husband and I had been staying at some kind of retreat.  I think we had been staying in a cabin, but those details weren’t important in the dream.  During the retreat, you and I had each made half of a Samurai clock, and my husband had made something similar but his was whole.  You and I had made our halves separately. The making of it wasn’t important in the dream, just the fact that I had half, and you had half.

The Samurai clock was a figurine that could be held in the hand, it was that small.  It was black and white glazed ceramic.  It stood, feet apart, and arms stretched out like wings.  I can’t remember what the head looked like at all.  What stands out the most to me were the wing like arms, like an almost hug, a feeling of security.  The clock: I don’t know why it’s important that it’s a clock, somehow it tells time but I didn’t see any clock face on it, and it’s made completely out of ceramic.

I only “know” you (not that well) through pagan festivals.  You were always awake with a few others in the morning, giving out hugs.  Your hugs were always warm and loving.  I always thought of you like a brother.  Like, that’s the kind of bond we have without really knowing each other, you’re like my brother.  That’s the same feeling I had in this dream.

In the dream, my husband and I had packed up and were ready to leave, and were making our goodbyes.  I looked at my half of the samurai clock.  I felt like I knew I should give my half to you, but that I wanted to keep it, with the feeling of ‘my precious’ about it.  But I quickly overcame that and just knew I should give it to you.

Now here’s what makes this dream seem magical to me, this next part, for some reason.  My husband and I entered your tent.  Your tent was made of canvas, shaped like a yurt, and it was big and spacious.  It had some kind of thick green carpet for the floor, and you had various things around like oil lamps and food stores, and it looked cozy.  Also, the sun shone in, as if you had skylights, but your tent didn’t have windows or holes- it was just sunshiny inside your tent.  In the dream, you were planning to stay at the retreat, in your tent, for at least a year.  Like, that’s where your life had led you, to this point. (I feel like that’s important.)

I handed the other half of the Samurai clock to you.  The pieces fit together and it’s like it magically came into place, so that it was whole.  You held it, and I spoke to you: “It seems like living in your tent will feel isolating and lonely.”  You nodded and said you’d felt that last night.  I went on to say something like the Samurai clock would help you when you feel isolated and lonely.

And that’s it!  That’s the dream.  I feel like the tent, the samurai clock, and my words to you have importance.  I have no idea why.  If this dream is true, and you’ll be metaphorically living in a tent on your own for the foreseeable future, take heart, and know you have a tribe and bonds with people.

I’m posting this to my blog, in case the dream helps others, too!

Rose-Eating Larva

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The first time I posted this blog, it gave some people the wrong impression. So, this blog has now been edited to add:

I am usually like PollyAnna: happy, sweet, and stubbornly idealistic.  So, when I post a blog that seems to indicate sadness, or relationship troubles, people panic.  “Oh no, what’s wrong?” they say, reaching out for me with sympathetic arms and worry in their eyes.

I think they don’t know that their eyes and arms reaching for me (metaphorically) freak me out!  Not sure why.  Psycho-analysing that another day.  I do appreciate you friends who care and love me, I do! Don’t get me wrong.

The reaction of loved ones, however, told me that there was something in the following blog that misled people to believe something was wrong, which meant I need to carefully edit my words.

Disclaimer before reading:  My relationship is doing very well.  We are stronger than ever.  This post is about me, and my own self destructive tendency- however unwitting.  My mate, lover, wonderful Pan in the Flesh, has been steadfast and just plain awesome.

. . .

This time, this blog is short.  I know, it may be disappointing after such a long wait (this author imagines all of you subscribers waiting on the edge of your seats for the next installment of ‘what is happening in that Pagan Dork’s life’)!

Warning: long sentence ahead.  I didn’t want to break up all the friendly words from each other and cause them heartbreak.

Ever experience life being awesome, then all of a sudden it takes a nosedive, and you go through agony and trauma, then everything that has been wonderful appears to just crumble away and you feel like you’ve been left with nothing… then THAT’s over and it’s back to being seemingly awesome, but now, life has refreshed your memory of how quickly things can change?

Yeah. That’s where I’m at right now (edit: that’s how I felt about a month ago, when this blog was originally posted).  I’m in a tentative kind of happiness, grateful to be back and walking on the green earth again, but aware that at any moment, the earth may thin and I may fall through into a hole again.  It’s like, I’m aware that I’m in a good place, but I’m also aware that it may be very temporary and it could all change tomorrow. But right now I’m OK with that, oddly enough.  Maybe, ‘cuz I’m walking on the green earth! Feels pretty good (albeit fragile) at the mo’.

rose eating larva

Original Artwork

(Interjected edit:  please read those words.  I am happy.  It’s OK to realize impermanence.  Life and love is much more precious once this is realized.)

I’ve experienced several situations where I have had this realization of the fragility of my perceived reality.  But usually it’s because I’ve had rose colored glasses on, and then they’re knocked off my head.

This time, though, the roses have been my reality, and some kind of rose eating variety of pest-larva has gnawed at the roses from the inside, and maybe the larva has been there all along, or maybe this is a new thing.  I don’t know, maybe that’s the same as having rose colored glasses knocked off, but I don’t think so. I think I have awoken to a beautiful reality rather than taking off glasses that provided an illusion.

Anyway.

I have become aware that the rose-eating larva… is me.  I have, once again, been keeping myself from enjoying my life as it is, and enjoying the love I have and taking proper care of the loved ones in my life.  I have just been made aware of that fact; someone I had hurt unwittingly, bravely held up a mirror and let me see my own dastardly larvaness.

I don’t want to hurt other people, but it turns out that not taking care of my own loving needs, hurts the ones that I love.  Because then, I’m not taking care of their loving needs, either.  Funny how that works.  Well… actually, not funny at all. Pretty f’in awful.

Also, once again, I feel like a fool.  Like I should have realized this long ago and done more about it.  I nearly lost my wonderful life as it is, because I hadn’t been taking care of it. And now, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be holding onto this wonderful life. Will it slip out from under me again?

So. This metaphor ridden author is now eating humble pie.  The pie doesn’t taste too good at first.  But it’s getting sweeter, because learning to be happily me, and to take care of those I love, is a wonderful thing.  Not just wonderful.  It’s essential.

Why does facing the things that block me seem so cumbersome and scary?  All it takes, is for me to ‘just do it.’  It’s like (metaphor again): that which blocks me seems like such a high wall, but it’s just my perspective, and if I walk forward a bit, I’ll see that there’s a break in the wall and that it actually turns to the right, like in a maze or a puzzle game.

          Ok, so that was a simile.  So sue me, grammar sticklers, such as myself!

So all I need to do, is walk forward.  Not to stay stagnant in my muddy waters (or inside the roses I’ve been eating), but to nourish myself with the lovely sunshine, air, and earth, in order to nourish those that I love.

So mote it be.  In other words:  May I follow through and Juuuusttt  DOoooo Iiitttttt. (Nike ad reference… I just like the Just Do It phrase so much.)

And may whatever powers/deities/totems/spiritual helpers/wise ones gone before us, help a sistah out.  Say thankya sai! (Dark Tower by Stephen King reference)