Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zero to Sixty

Well, so much for doing a little more sitting down during break. Instead of laying back and taking it easy, I went and bought a house. Yes, friends, you can thank me for the upcoming economic recovery. Me, and my dad, who just bought a new truck.

There will be much more news shortly. Right now, I'm still in the minor-freak-out stage, given that the economic recovery is still "upcoming," and I have an apartment to pack. Which won't be all that bad, really; I did a lot of downsizing in the last two years and am one queen-sized bedroom suite + one twin daybed with trundle + one china cabinet + one folding table+ three yarn cubbies + one knock-together cabinet + a whole lotta books and magazines + various and sundry other things lighter. I'm not exactly living in a stark, bare Zen-like environment, never fear, but it's going to fit in a U-Haul this time, not a professional moving van. Besides, if you ever saw the staircase here, you would be ever-so-glad I won't be asking my friends to help move all that stuff.

So, in the meantime, I offer up a thought, for both me and for several friends who are in, shall we say, interesting situations, in a wide variety of flavors. It's from our good friend, Sigmund Freud:

When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'll take "Regrets" for $400, Alex...

Over at Kate's blog ("One More Thing," over on my bloglist there), she's been offering up a topic upon which to muse. This week, it's regarding regrets, or the lack thereof. I've been chewing this over for a while, too, so I thought I'd chew over it for your pleasure too.

I have one big fat regret which I won't go into here. Some things are still too personal to put online. Yet while I regret the action, at the same time, I'm not sure I had any choice but to go through it. Thankfully, the outcome was not what it could have been and I continue to grow from the experience.

Otherwise, I have some more minor regrets. I wish I'd gone to Germany with my college wind ensemble at the end of my first year of teaching. The Crane School of Music is part of SUNY Potsdam in the north country of New York, and several groups were invited to perform at the celebrations for the town of Potsdam, Germany's 500th (I think) anniversary. The director of the wind ensemble called me personally to invite me to play, all expenses paid, even though I had graduated. But it was during my last week of school, and the only way I could do it was to take the week of with no pay. That freaked me right the hell out, having a boatload of student loans, and I didn't go. Foolish. I have yet to travel anywhere outside the US (other than Canada).

I also wish I'd gone straight on to grad school after Crane, or at least taken a leave of absence after my first year of teaching. Again, I had some very neat opportunities offered to me, and I turned them down when my mother pointed out that I wouldn't have health insurance. (Which, of course, was most surely not the case...there is a such thing as student health insurance, I'm told...insert eye-roll.) And how would I pay for it? What would I live on? What was I THINKING??? My mom has always been very oriented towards financial security uber alles, and for a long time, I listened a little too hard to that "advice."

I've always been a good student, and I have a very, very good memory. In the average school setting, being able to memorize stuff for tests is an advantage. I'm also good at figuring out the rules for a particular situation and can adjust for success in most of them. Because I got high grades fairly easily and didn't seem to be challenged, I ended up getting more work: accelerated classes, a program called compacting, going to the local SUNY for part of my senior year. But the work in these programs wasn't more challenging, it was just more work. Because of this, I feel like a lot of my knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep. I wish I'd been allowed to train my focus on fewer subjects, but with more depth. I know there's plenty of time in my adult life to dig as deeply as I want in any subject matter, but that feeling of quantity versus quality has always bugged me. I'm irritated that either no one recognized it in me, or they did recognize it but had no way to deal with me than to simply pile more on.

(And while I'm mentioning school irritations, I have yet to forgive my physics teacher during junior year for not giving me an "incomplete" for the quarter I missed three weeks of school due to having freakin' pneumonia. She averaged in zeroes for all the assignments I missed while alternating fever chills with hacking up my right lung, and there were an awful lot of them. It killed my GPA, and even though I had the highest class average since seventh grade, I lost my shot at valedictorian. That's not really a regret, I suppose, but it still pisses me off, so there.)

But there's no point in dwelling on most of these, even the big fat one. What's done is done, and I do indeed have the rest of my life to do things the way I want. It's a cliche, but every day really is a new one, and I get to choose which direction I take each time I hit the floor in the morning.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Monday I Like

Ahhh, the first day of a week off. I'm not often one to sit all day; for one, I have cheapass cable and therefore nothing to watch, unless it's Clifford the Big Red Dog or One Life to Live. No thanks. Also, as the weeks pass and we get closer to a school break, things get left behind in ever-increasing piles. Saturday and Sunday were for reclaiming various flat surfaces, including the kitchen/dining room table, and the bottom of the bedroom closet underneath the laundry basket. It was covered by two weeks' worth of laundry. Good times, good times.

Then we come to a good Monday, meaning I can do whatever the hell I please. I have a list of weird little tasks to achieve this week, including, but not limited to...

*go to Hamlin's (to pick up the sax that got dropped only a little)
*pick up drums from Mardi (who is an art professor at the local university, but yes, she has a dozen of my hand drums at her house)
*order monkey hats and green tinsel wigs (kinky little devil that I am...OK, they're for the play at school)
*make bread (so I can make some giblet's not just for Thanksgiving anymore)
*call mortgage people (yes, you read that correctly...the possibility exists and I will keep you posted)
*mop floors (they're getting sticky in spots)
*go to fabric store for tulle (NOT for a tutu)

I love to make lists, but it's hard not to add more and more to them. There's always something that needs doing, but I need to do some plain old sitting down too. Of course, that sitting down will rarely be ONLY sitting down...there's knitting and spinning to be done, as they got left behind a little as well. I think I've been fighting something off in the last week; even though my schedule was pretty much the same as it always is, I have been absolutely crashing at about 9:00 and sleeping right until it's time to get up at about 6:00. I may even blog some more this week...there's fleece being washed, a tale of what we didn't do in music class last week, and a very good recipe to share that includes lots of fiber as well.

So, apologies for a disjointed post, but I think that's what happens when my brain is unwinding itself from its usual "Go! Go! Go!" operations. I should make more sense by Friday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Missed St. Brigid's Day

I hope you can stand a poem (or at least what I consider a poem), a few days late...

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires
why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense
plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became too civilized
to enjoy themselves
and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have half the happiness and twice
the longevity
but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

-by Don Marquis


Oh my goodness, when was that snow day? Two months ago? It sure feels like it.

I like my job. Occasionally I complain about it enough to make people wonder if I really do, but the stuff I complain about is not the teaching part. It's rarely the kid part. It's often the administrative part. I really like teaching private lessons, because there is no administrative part of that beyond paying my monthly studio fee. It's really autonomous. No one is looking over my shoulder, wanting report card grades, any of that stuff. I just get to teach.

Now, that being said, supporting myself completely on private lessons alone could be a trick, since I teach beginning piano and band instruments. I have thirteen students, which is pretty good, and I could have more if I wanted to work after school all five days a week, or at least a Saturday. I don't think I'd mind that...if I wasn't also working full-time. So it's a quandry. I need the full-time job for the steady paycheck and the health insurance, and I need the private lessons for my own sanity. It was hard to balance them this week.

Add to that the news that our school district would appear to be coming up $6.5 million short. That's huge. That's gutting-programs huge. That's the worst layoffs in 20 years huge. That's the very real possibility of art, music, and library disappearing from elementary schools huge. Almost the worst part is that we really don't know what will happen.

There are requirements for music at the middle and high school levels. There is a requirement for music at the elementary level, but it does not have to be taught by a certified music teacher (music ed certification is not the same as general classroom certification...I happen to hold both). Come to think of it, I don't know if the middle and high school courses have to be taught by a music specialist either. (Ughhhh...I hadn't thought of that until just now...I kind of wish I hadn't....) If it remains bad enough that the elementary program is gutted, I have enough seniority in the department to retain some sort of job. It would be very different than what I do now, but it would be a job, indeed. (With a side order of survivor's guilt, I imagine.)

This isn't a case of the dunderheads at State Ed trying to make a change for the sake of making a change. This isn't the local taxpayers' group staging their annual "Those Damn Teachers And Their Outrageous Salaries" campaign. (That's a story for another day.) This time, the money just isn't there. Our area's largest employer, a Fortune 500 company whose products probably grace your kitchen cupboards, just laid off 640 people locally. If even half of them have one child in the system, and they have to leave the area to find a job, that closes one of our elementary schools. It's unbelievably unstable, and very scary.

So. At the end of the day (which for me, was Advanced Band rehearsal where we all laughed more than we played today...I love these kids), my colleagues and I in the related arts sector kind of shook ourselves off, squared our shoulders and wished each other a quiet and restful weekend. I came home, changed shoes (feeling a little like Mr. Rogers, to be honest), and did the only thing that made sense: I took a walk in the rare February sunshine, down to the local yarn store. I didn't buy anything, just chatted for a minute, planned to come back possibly tomorrow to sit and knit, and then kept walking. Tonight I will do some actual knitting and take a bubble bath. There are so many things we just can not think about right now...that way would lie madness. Better to put my mind to the production of beautiful things with my own hands and pray that the focus of the creative will bring the solutions we so desperately need now.