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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And we’re off…

It's warm today. The house guests have left and the husband has begun the first of four ten hour days to make up for the mandatory vacation that is Memorial Day. I spent all of last week out of town and so today feels like the first real day of my summer. I have a list of projects that I probably won't be able to complete, but I'll make a dent. I'll make plans and accomplish things and even work on school stuff so when the semester starts again in the fall, I'll be ready to go with my ambitious ideas and grand schemes – some of which will actually come to fruition. I've always thought it was funny that people see the summer off as a perk to teaching. It is, in a lot of ways, but it is also (at least for me) absolutely necessary. I probably work 80 hours a week during the school year and there is never a time when I don't have things to grade and plans to work on. If I had to do all of that during the summer, I think I would probably burst. Or, more likely, collapse into a puddle of goo. I know very few teachers who actually take the summer off completely, anyway. Sure, we have more control over our time, but most teachers I know are working on the next round, recuperating their health, spending time with their children and families, and some even take jobs to help supplement the income they are no longer making. It almost has a New Year's feeling to it – a new semester is a fresh start and the summer is a way to get ready for that start in every possible way.

So, what am I doing with my newly structured freer time and its warm days and sunny skies? This is my list…

Viet Nam Album PowerPoint
Clean attic
Clean basement
Clean house
Read many books
Family Tree
Learn Tarot
Landscape front gardens
Fix / remove back trellis
Install mailbox
Clean and treat the hardwood floors
Finish painting in kitchen
Credit card adjustment
Redesign Eng 101 and Eng 102 online

Move filing to basement

I'm sure there are countless others I haven't thought of yet…but we will see how I do with this. Along with these projects, I also plan on spending time with friends, going camping, going on a getaway or two, hitting many garage sales, going shopping with my sister, planning a certain special party, and otherwise enjoying the time. So, I get summers off, but it's just giving me time to do all the things I never have time to do during the school year and it gives me time to decompress and get my energy back so that when fall comes around again, I have what it takes to give it my all for 10 months.

It's a strange set up, really…but I like it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Just Moving…

A little melodramatic….or perhaps the 'I' is not really me, but rather the voices of the people I know who are struggling through immense personal difficulty right now….either way, it was quickly written in between papers about Temple Grandin and Tim McGraw. I don't know what that means, but I hope you enjoy.


We all know tired.

Going on because we must,

Doing because we can't not do.

The stress, the exhaustion, the need,

All roll together until we are just moving.

Then the moment comes.

We finish the race, complete the task.

Minutes filled with plans and things put off.

But first we collapse into a restful place to dream.

Dream, recover, rejuvenate, reborn, reboot, reinvigorate.

I am not yet there.

I am still tired, still driven.

Still working and eyeing the grindstone.

But I know, oh I know, that I will get there.

I, too, will find that restful sleep of infinite rebirth.

I just need to get there.

I will go on because I must,

I will do because I can't not do.

Stressed and exhausted with need,

All rolled together until I am just moving.

Just moving.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pipes, Pumps, and Poetry...

When I was in college, I continued the family tradition of working for my father. He had, at the time, partnership in several companies and was acting CEO of one of them. I did a myriad of jobs there – from special projects involving the photocopier, to sorting mail, creating asbestos abatement jobs, maintaining files, doing data entry and just generally helping out wherever I was needed. I think I even did landscaping once. It was an interesting place to work in that I was the 'boss's daughter' but really didn't receive special treatment in terms of the job. I started at minimum wage just like everyone else and I didn't get to slack off just because my dad was the head honcho. If anything, I was held to higher standards. If I got to go to lunch now and then with the boss, well, then, I guess I did get special treatment.

One summer they found themselves without an Accounts Receivable clerk, and so it seemed a logical (?) choice to make the Secondary Education / English major college student do it. After all, it only involved a lot of math. I did billings, sorted checks, applied payments to accounts, balanced books, ran month end reports, sent collection notices, and just generally got to play with the incoming (or lack of incoming) money. The part of the company structure for which I worked sold construction materials and abatement supplies to various other companies in the greater Rochester, Erie, Buffalo, and Syracuse areas. It was such a memorable part of my life that I still see random box vans around from companies I used to bill and my mind immediately reduces their names to their six-character account code. It was an interesting time, to be sure. I never would have been able to do it without the help of the Controller Donna and my big brother – who was office manager at the time. We had strange conversations in that office – him, me, and the Accounts Payable guy. I used to banter with the warehouse staff, too. That's really the only office job I've ever had and while I liked it – I can't imagine going back to an 8 – 5 schedule. Then again, leaving my work AT work might be nice now and then.

Anyway, the reason I'm sharing all of this is to explain a weird correlation in what I did there and a medical thing, for lack of a better word, that I have. One of the industries we served was HVAC and there was a lot of pipe and pipe related paraphernalia that was part of that. So, there are abbreviations and items that I still remember – one of them being PVC. Not that this stuff doesn't exist elsewhere and in other contexts, but because of this time in my life, when I hear PVC, I immediately think of white tubing. Polyvinyl Chloride. All kinds of lengths and thicknesses and shapes, like elbows. I had to look at part number after part number with what looked like gibberish strings of letters and numbers – but PVC was common enough that I understood it and it stuck.

This brings us to today – 15 years or so later. I have, as I said above, a heart condition where occasionally my heart (for no apparent reason) beats…well…wrong. Normally, one's ventricles contract AFTER the atria have helped to fill them. That way, the ventricles can pump the most amount of blood to the lungs and elsewhere. In this condition, however, from time to time it does it in the reverse order. The ventricles contract first, which results in inefficient circulation. Before anyone worries, this is not really a cause for concern unless it starts happening noticeably more often. I'm only aware of happening a few times a week, really, though it might happen more and I'm just too busy to notice it. There are a number of causes which are completely out of the realm of possibility for me – drugs, alcohol, and various medical conditions. It can be caused by too much caffeine, but I've recently cut a lot of caffeine out of my diet and I still have it. So…I'm guessing that it is stress related. Or it's just a thing. Either way, my doctor isn't worried, so I'm not either. He said if it starts bothering me, I can go on blood pressure meds and get some tests done – but I see no reason to do so. It's just a weird feeling.

When it happens, it usually feels like my heart has skipped a few beats…I can put my fingers on my pulse and feel it sort of hiccup. It's a very strange feeling, but I don't feel light-headed or anything. I've made a friend feel it because he was there at the time – he also said it felt weird. My husband, who has a thing against feeling blood moving around in the body, saw evidence of it when I had surgery last year – he could see my heartbeat on the heart monitor trundle along normally, and then plummet for a few beats, then go back to normal. It's an interesting sensation; and odd that something so weird and scary-sounding can be going on in the body and really be no cause for concern. As I keep saying, it's just a thing.

My heart is already special…now it's just a little more special, right?

So, to tie these two things together, you may have already guessed that the heart thing is called PVC. This time, however, it's not polyvinyl chloride – but, instead, premature ventricular contraction. It's funny to me that the time I spent in an industry that is so far removed from my current career and my passions is now linked, in a strange way, to something that is part of the very core of what makes me who I am. Not just the physical heart, but the heart as a symbol for the things that a heart is symbolic of. Somehow, specialized industry and medical science have joined together to remind me that everything is connected and there is poetry everywhere.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Surprise (300)...

There is a strange phenomenon that I notice every year about this time and it fascinates me. It captures the joy and the mystery of Earth's dance and every year I watch for it. It always happens sometime in late April – after we've had days of sunshine and of rain. The first robins are out and some few flowers have begun color-spotting the slowly greening grass. The birds are back, the days are longer, and the breezes are warmer. It is fully Spring and there is a wild energy in the air that makes finishing school difficult for the little ones and big ones alike. The teachers seem nearly as distracted as their students. Everyone is counting days. We throw open the windows and let the fresh air into rooms too long closed tight. Through those windows comes the earthly smell of freshly cut grass. Homeowners begin the grumbling anthem of yard-work and the buzz of a distant mower accompanies every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. All of these celebrate the rebirth of Mother Earth, Magna Mater. In our deep collective unconscious, we wait for it to awaken us from the winter stagnation that makes February seem far crueler than April. As these days – some teasingly chilly, some strangely warm – roll one after the other, I watch. I'm waiting for that phenomenon that comes every year, and every year I miss it in a way. For on one day, let's say it is a Thursday, I drive down my tree-lined street and the trees have nothing much to show of themselves. When Friday dawns, however, there are leaves abundant and the road is suddenly swathed in green. Somehow, overnight, Spring has dressed their barren branches and quietly surprised me with this lovely moment once again. And I love her for it.