Monday, June 27, 2011

Wet Flarp

Yesterday was "one of those days." You know the ones. Where Murphy's Andrea's Law is in full swing? I was in "one of those moods" to begin with, so I guess I never really had a chance anyway.

It started like a normal Sunday. Cinnamon rolls. Getting ready. Getting in hubby's truck not sure what we are going to do, but determined we're going to spend time together since I've barely seen him all week. We bounced around the hay fields helping (by helping I mean he worked and I sat in the truck trying not to complain about the heat he was working in) Spaps fix tractors, move tractors, etc.

We finally got home and decided it would be a good time to finish putting Chloe's swingset together. Nevermind it was 3pm and that heat I was *not* complaining about earlier had increased greatly. The sun beat down. The directions were more confusing than ever, and the playset that looked so great when I ordered it wasn't living up to my expectations at all.

We finished it, a few curse words, sweaty t-shirts, and laughs later. I couldn't wait to get inside and get out of the heat. We got in just in time for me to watch a movie I've been missing all week. I plopped down on the couch and began cooling off.

"When's dinner?" Hubby asked a little too soon. I hoisted myself off the couch and got the chicken started. I served my family dinner, then finished watching my movie. I took my dishes in the kitchen and got all the pans rinsed. I played outside with Chloe. Then I came in, ready to relax.

"I want some dessert!" Chloe demanded.

"Me too. Ice cream, please," Hubby asked.

And I snapped.

"LOOK AT THIS LIVING ROOM!" I raised my voice. "If you two picked up everything in here that is yours I wouldn't have a thing to pick up tonight," I tried making my point, but no one really seemed too worried about it. "I'm not getting anything for anyone until everyone has picked up after themselves," I concluded.

And they picked up.

Amid the frantic pick-up, Chloe gathered all her dirty clothes and took them to the laundry room.

"Mom, I put my clothes in the washer," she told me. "Dat way all you have to do is pour the soap in the morning," she said smiling.

"Thank you," I replied sweetly.

I served them ice cream and we all went to bed.

This morning I got up, and was grateful that she had done the leg-work of her own laundry. I turned on the washer and went about my other business. I came down a little later to switch loads and I saw it.

The lid to her Flarp.

Remember Gak? Same thing. It's sticky, slimy, putty-type goo. I had taken it away from her because it was too messy, but somehow it got in with her dirty clothes, I guess.

And I washed it.

Every single item of summer clothing she owns has some remnant of pink goo on it.

I tried heat.

I tried ice.

I tried scraping.

I spent two hours picking it off, tiny piece by tiny piece.

To no avail.

I'm hoping that if the clothes sit out a while the Flarp will dry up and I can pick it off, but that's my last resort. Guess that's what I get for trying to do anything the easy way =/

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Just another day...

Father's Day has always been bitter-sweet for me. Growing up, it was always a Sunday morning in church with my mom, honoring all the men of the church. It was always a preacher talking about dads who lead their families, love their children, and honor their wives. It was always a stark reminder of what I didn't have.

Let me be clear. My dad's still living. He didn't beat us or abuse us in any way. He didn't ever ground me or punish me. He didn't move across the country or go to jail or go to rehab. He is a nice man who works hard and has a good sense of humor. He's tall and handsome, and I rather like him most of the time. He's not a psycho or a drug-addict or a killer. He left us and proceeded to live a very normal life. He took up a live-in girlfriend and her two daughters and moved to a picturesque home outside of town.

Minutes away.

Yet I rarely saw him.

There were holidays, sure. There was the Sunday here and there when Mom was working and he would take us on the boat or out for pizza. And then we'd go home, full of hope that we'd do it all again next weekend and full of promises that we'd see him more "from now on." But next weekend rarely ever came, and "from now on" always proved to be the same inconsistent Sunday-here-and-there we'd always known.

Jealousy quickly invaded my heart in many ways.

I had a friend who HATED the fact that her dad MADE her mom obey the divorce decree and took her all weekend twice a month. "Sometimes I wish my dad HAD to take us," I confided to her one day, expressing my jealousy over her dad's desire to see her. But my dad didn't have to take us. He didn't require any specific visitation at all.

Sometimes when I was feeling empty or angry I wished he'd moved across the country. I guess I thought it wouldn't hurt so much to not see him if I knew I couldn't.

The hardest thing for me was hearing his girlfriend's daughter talk about him at school. She knew him in a way I never really had. They did things as a family. We didn't. We never had. They had a complete, happy little family. Even as a teenager it was hard for me to understand him leaving our family for another family. I lived in a very modest home and had a few nice things (mostly because of my grandma and aunt). Those girls lived in a beautiful two-story home, had nice cars, and shopped at stores I'd never set foot in.

So sitting there in church on Sunday morning, thinking about the dad I wished I had, and knowing he was just a few miles away, choosing to be that for someone else really hurt me.

It made me very calloused, and with time, I became apathetic to it. I grew accustomed to a life without an active dad. I made the decision to take it for what it was. To never get my hopes up for normalcy or more involvement. I decided to be fully content with a dad who was more like extended family than anything.

So today, while everyone else is celebraing being "daddy's girl" or a chip of the ol' block, it is really just another day for me. It's a day I feel accomplished for how far I've come emotionally. A day that doesn't bring tears to my eyes anymore. A day that passes much like any other Sunday, because  now it's just another day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Beast: The End

It's time. I've been putting it off for a lot of reasons. The main one is I've been busy. I haven't been here if you didn't notice. Which you probably didn't :) I was on vacation, then had a sick hubby, and I've been out of my bloggy routine.

Know what else? It's kinda scary.

I was scared when I first started this series. Afraid of what I would stir up in my heart. Afraid of criticism. Afraid even my "good" readers wouldn't "get it." Afraid no one could truly comprehend it. At the same time, it felt soooooo good to start pouring it all out. It felt freeing to just say it all. Well, type it all.

And now, this is it. I've told everyone how theraputic it's been. How writing it has finally helped me deal with it and get some closure. So what if I post this last installment, and when it's over, I don't feel free from it? But. The only way to know is to do it. So prepare yourself for a long ending.

When I sat and thought about how to write this, I knew there was only one way. I've pulled from my old Myspace blogs I wrote at the time. I didn't divulge the things I've told you here. I still feared The Beast (and with good reason), but I had to express my thoughts. So, here is 2008 Andrea with her story:

This has been one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I don't mean incredible as in amazing. I mean incredible as in, wow. How did all that happen?

As you have read, I turned in my resignation on Tuesday of last week. At that point I felt I had done everything in my power to be who I am, to teach the right way, and to make my voice heard. I had followed every procedure correctly, yet it got me nowhere. It seemed the harder I tried, the more I came under fire. Placing my resignation on my boss's desk was one of the most relieving things I have ever done. It was as if the weight was completely lifted off my shoulders. I still, however, felt very sad, very distraught, and very helpless.

Hopeless is probably the best word to describe my attitude this year. I looked forward to August this year for the first time in my life. I was sadly disappointed. And I cheated my kids. I am not blaming myself. No one knows what I have endured. Even if I told you everything there is no way you could fathom the depths of despair I have endured. It was physically impossible for me to give my all when I was being crushed.

My point, though, is that for the first year, I probably taught without putting my WHOLE heart into it. If I had to pick a group of kids who I had impacted, I would not have picked this bunch. I felt I had failed them. Of course I was programmed to think that, but that's beside the point.

I went into teaching to love kids, it's my job. I have a passion for them and a heart for them. I desire to work in their lives and help make them who they need to be. But I realized this week that they love me just as much, if not more, than I love them. That is a powerful thing. I can't describe what it feels like to know that literally hundreds of people love you for who you are. They love me even though they've seen me at my worst, and some of them really have. They love me even though I am not always lovable. They love me even though I have sometimes been unfair to them, or sometimes punished them. They love me even though I haven't had enough love to give them this year. I am overwhelmed.

Not only have these kids loved me, now they have taken a stand for me. They don't want me to go...but even knowing they may never persuade me to stay, they have stuck their necks out. They have stood up and said, "we support you" even though they know there may be repercussions for those actions. They are bolder and braver than I could ever be. I am amazed at the things they have said, things they have done, and things they plan to do. It's so overwhelming I can't even really express to them how I feel, how much I love them, or how grateful I am for the care and appreciation they have shown me.

If I had to come to one conclusion, it would be this: For all the chaos and drama we associate with teenagers, they are brave and amazing people. They are the ones who will change the world if we'll just let them.

My time at Warsaw High School has officially ended. Grades have been entered, my room has been cleaned out (as much as it's going to be) [2011 Andrea laughs as she remembers how much CRAP she left for The Beast to clean up], and my goodbyes have been said. That whole sentence is passive, but I like it that way.

My last week at WHS was the best by far. I no longer felt like I was under the watchful scrutiny I had endured all year. I had the "what-are-they-going-to-do-fire-me?" attitude all week. We watched movies, we talked, we took pictures, and we had fun.

I had contemplated all spring what my final goodbye would be like. Obviously I told all my kiddos goodbye. I added them to Myspace (gasp!), I wrote them notes, I hugged them (something they don't see much of...because of the bubble).

For a better part of the spring there have been a pair of hot pink athletic shorts in my top left drawer. It was a strange prank, and I am still not sure what the *actual* punchline was, but I love pink, they give me Hell for it, and they stuffed the shorts in my drawer as a joke one day when I was gone.

We jokingly said I should wear them on the last day. I had thought for weeks about snide remarks I might make, things I might say, or things I might do on that last day. However, I didn't want to appear to have no class. I didn't want to stoop to Its level. On the last day of actual classes, my kids presented me with a tree-killer t-shirt they made me [because of the massive amounts of worksheets I'd given them, you know, because they weren't doing ENOUGH work as per Beasty]. With that, my 'last day' plan began in full force.

I didn't do anything crazy, but I made one last connection with my kids. I wore the hot pink shorts and tree-killer shirt under my polo and jeans. Didn't want any teachers catching wind of my plan. It seemed to take forever to get to my name, but finally they were just one teacher away. When it was almost my turn, I went behind the stage, pulled a "superman" clothes change, slid into my hot pink flip flops, and strutted onto the stage as the first teacher walked away.

My kids went wild. It was an amazing feeling. I looked out and saw a few of the other girls wearing hot pink shorts and home-made t-shirts. I'd assured them there was NO! WAY! I was going to wear mine. It just wouldn't be professional. So they were beaming when they saw me.

I gave my top student awards (yawn) like everyone else, but then I just took a minute to be different. To be me. To love my kids, even the ones some people find unlovable.

I gave outstanding awards to kids who did well in class and showed tremendous character [Monty was among them]. These were the ones who stood up for me, who fought for my job, who prayed for me, loved me, and wanted nothing in return.

I gave a special award for enduring hardships to the boy I was supposedly "dating" as per The Beast(Its face, I hear, was priceless at that time).  I gave the kid who passed by the skin of his teeth a Jack Johnson cd because that's what he likes, and because passing by the skin of his teeth was an accomplishment for him. I gave a princess award, complete with crown, to my "teacher pet" and a few others.

Then I gave a poetry award to a student who wrote every poem about pot (metaphorically, of course). But he wrote every poem. A stoner. Wrote every poem. That's an accomplishment! So I wrote one for him:

Ok. A few things you need to know to get this poem.

1) Greg's nickname is Toke (because...well, you know). I refused to call him that or to accept anyone calling him that in class. Prude, maybe..but there has to be a line.

2) Greg wrote every poem about pot in some way. He was sneaky about it (not sneaky enough for me, but sneaky enough it wasn't inappropriate). In his poems were often rhymes including green, bud, and blunt (all used in an appropriate form of course)

3) Greg had NO IDEA about this award, and I read this poem to the entire school before announcing his name (at the end of the poem) for the it was kind of a cool effect.

His poems always made me smile;
If only for a little while
His metaphors were perfection,
But often brought up many questions

The sideways glance was ever-there
As I listened the class would stare
Predicting what his words would be
His rhyming always to a T

It never was a proven theory
But I've always been a little leery
Wondering what his poems mean
Or if they're as deep as they seem

And though his name is sometimes mud
His poems were never, ever duds
Here's to my unlikely poet
None of you would ever know it

He's quite the writer, it's no joke
I present this now, to my friend..........Greg.

Everyone applauded. It was great.

Finally I honored my English III class. It was just one section, and these poor kids had worked all year to figure out why I wouldn't let them hug me. They were the boys the other teachers warn you about. The ones who know how to be obnoxious. The ones who know how to make you crazy without breaking any handbook rules. Throughout the year I realized they had some kind of obsession with using the words lodge, wedge, and power as a verb for..uh..having relations. Every story we read without a doubt had one of the three words and I had to spend ten minutes quelling the laughter and getting back on task. It was annoying, but by the end of the year I knew I had to just accept it and do my best to avoid the words at all costs.

Just before school was out I found a t-shirt at Maruices that had a log cabin on it and said "Lost Love Lodge," and I had to buy it. It made me smile. I wore it under my tree-killer shirt and made the switch once more for this part of the awards ceremony. I gave boys awards who never get awards, just because everyone deserves an award sometimes.
And when I walked off that stage, in my stupid pink shorts, yellow "lodge" shirt, and with tears in my eyes, I saw them rise to their feet. I heard them hollering and yelling my name. No matter what crap happened this year, for those few minutes, it was just me and my kids.

I got many compliments, from teachers, from even an administrator, about how great my presentations were. "You should've seen Pierre's face when you gave him that award. I don't think he's ever got an award. That's a great thing you did," Mr. Assistant told me. And that is exactly what teaching is all about. It's not about getting the highest scoring kids, or getting through the book. It's about reaching the sometimes unreachable. It's about making a difference in a life. And when I walked off that stage, I knew my mission was accomplished. That's an amazing feeling. The reward for my struggles.

That day was the best day I'd had in two years. It made me realize that even at what felt like my worst, I was reaching someone. I was making connections, and despite EVERYTHING The Beast had tried to make others (and even me) believe about myself, IT WAS WRONG. I succeeded. Maybe not by Its terms. Maybe not in the MOST professional sense, but I succeeded.

I made it through the worst time of my entire life.

I didn't give up.

I didn't quit.

I survived.

I lived to tell the story.

And I'm better for it now.

As for The Beast? It's still teaching. It's still corrupting. It kept after me even after I left the district, and I had some rough times at Its hand, but I survived.



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Do you miss me?

Do you miss me?

I miss you.

I miss blogging.

But, you see, I've been busy.

Looking at things like this

and taking walks along places like this...

and sleeping here...
So it's been difficult to find time to blog.

I'll be back soon, though.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"You will always be my baby..."

It was a Thursday afternoon in 2006 when I started to notice tight knots in my belly. I had been out of school for two full weeks, and it was a good thing. I was huge. I couldn't even hoist myself up off the couch. It was hot. I was miserable. I was beyond ready for my baby to enter the world. I had been walking (more than I needed to be) trying to spur her. And finally those first little contractions started.

Being a little over an hour from the hospital, my doctor had told me to come in at the first signs of labor. She promised she wouldn't send me home, and gave me the indication she might induce if I was close enough. I'd been dilated for over a week, and at my appointment the day before I was already at a 2.

I made my way to the hospital, and by then I was contracting more. I wasn't in agony by any means, but I was in the first stages of labor. The nurse was afraid my water would break at any time. She said it was "tight as a drum," and I was 3cm. They called my doctor to see if she'd break my water.

It was her anniversary, so she said she'd do it first thing in the morning. They gave me a sedative so I could get some good sleep, and monitored me all night.

The next morning my doctor was in bright and early. She broke my water at 8am and started pitocin. I was 4cm by that time, so she was sure it wouldn't be long.

She was right.

I had to wait for the anesthesiologist to get out of surgery, and even though I had some iv meds that made me super loopy for a while, the pain was overriding the meds by noon. Finally he got me my epidural, and I turned on Days of Our Lives. Before I knew it, it was go time!

At 1:58 pm Chloe Mae was born. She was a whopper, weighing 8lbs 9oz and 21" long.

There were complications.

I held her only for a moment, then was wisked away to the OR. Losing consciuosness [and large amounts of blood] quickly, I directed the nurses not to let anyone hold her until I got back. I'd waited so long for her, and I was already protective and jealous. I couldn't stand the thought of anyone else touching her when I couldn't.

I made it back finally, and I didn't care about anything but getting a hold of that baby girl. Her skin was softer than anything I'd ever felt, and she smelled so sweet and good. Her eyes were big and bright, and she was the most alert newborn I've ever seen.

I let go of her to let my mom and brother hold her, but not for long. I couldn't put her down. She was my everything.

Her dad left that evening to go home and rest (because he had SUCH a hard day?) and it was extremely quiet. I felt sad when everyone left, and then I looked into her little crib and realized I wasn't alone. The love of my life was with me.

I put her in bed with me and did what I'd been dying to do all day. I unwrapped her, stripped her to her diaper, and examined every part of her. Her tiny toes. Her every wrinkle. I studied her. I photographed her. I held her. I fed her.

I realized as I was watching Roseanne on Nick at Night that I hadn't eaten all day. I buzzed the nurse, and she brought me some pop tarts and juice. We cuddled in to get some sleep and I looked her in the eye. "It's just you and me, baby girl," I said to her.

For the past five years, that has never changed. We've always had family and friends, don't get me wrong, but I've always felt like it was the two of us taking on the world together. We're more than a mom and her daughter. We're tied at our souls. I only hope it stays this way and our bond continues to grow and deepen.

I can't believe my little girl is five today. She's no longer a baby. Not a toddler. Not even a pre-schooler. She is a full-blown KID.

And what a beautiful, amazing girl she is growing into.

Here's a look at all *six* of her birthdays...

She's just moments old in this one. On June 2nd, 2006 at 1:58 pm my life changed forever...for the better!

When she turned one I stuck out my lip and told everyone she wasn't a baby anymore. Looking back, she was still SUCH a little baby!
I think two was my favorite age. It was far from terrible. Her voice was so cute, she was super chatty, but said so many funny little variations of words.

When she turned three she was all about the Disney Princesses, and nothing has changed there!

Her fourth birthday was her first one with the Mister. Another Ariel cake ;) This is when I really noticed she didn't have a baby face anymore.

Five years old now, but she'll always be my baby!

The Beast: Part 16

I was shocked when I read Bob Boss's e-mail. I didn't keep that e-mail, because I didn't want to drag Bob into my mess. He had been through enough, and it had been a personal question for my own decision-making and peace of mind.

What did Bob tell me? He told me to get out and get out fast. He said it was not going to end, I would NEVER win in the end, and with the board victory under my belt I should walk out while the walking was good. He speculated what would happen if The Beast kept it up the following year. I would no longer have board support, because It WOULD do everything in Its power to prove It had tried and that I had failed.

He told me he was sorry I had gone through this. Told me he had enjoyed working with me and that I was a good young teacher who would thrive in an environment that wasn't toxic.

And then. The line I won't forget.

"Without going into details, let me just say you were doomed before you even walked in the door this year. I can tell you that. From what I gathered when I was there, this has been a goal since before the year started. There was nothing you could've done."
And that did it. That gave me that last push. You see, everything had been so WARPED and manipulated I even began to wonder if The Beast was USING Mr. Assistant. Maybe he wasn't looking at my best interest, but playing "good cop" and encouraging me to leave in a nice way, doing so only to please The Beast.

Crazy. Can you imagine living a whole year like that? Always wondering what is real and what is a game? Who is loyal and who is a pawn? Which kids really like you, and which are spies for The Beast (I now know I had at least two confirmed Beast spies as students. Students who did a very good job of trying to get information for It).

But Bob Boss had nothing to gain or lose. He didn't have to tell me any of that. He could've deleted the e-mail and been done with it. And to hear that he KNEW when he was in power that The Beast was going to target me...that was the last straw.

Bob Boss sent me a stack of recommendation letters to help with my endeavors. My first boss did the same. Both were a huge help to me in this time of desperation.

I got the new job. I took it as soon as he called, and wrote up my second letter of resignation.

I explained that I appreciated the board backing me up, but that it was CLEAR that it was never going to work, and that I needed an environment where I could grow and be comfortable teaching, not be on the defensive at all times. I told Mr. English about my decision, but wasn't going to tell The Beast until the end of the day.

Mr. English spilled the beans.

So, I marched up to The Beast in the hall and handed It my letter.

"I didn't really mean for Mr. English to tell you first, but I'm done."

"Awww! Are you sure? After everything I hate to see you do that. I really think we can work together and have a great year next year!" It sang beastily.

You know how you can think a million thoughts in a split-second? That's what I did. I was in awe that It would even SUGGEST I stay. That It would tell me we could work together. That It wasn't satisfied with me leaving. It wanted to torture me further.

"No. We won't," I tossed back at It "It will never be a good environment for me. I found another job and there is no way I'm staying to work for you." I wanted to be clear that I wasn't unhappy with the job. It was The Beast.

Mr. Assistant heard the news and came to talk to me.

"I think you did the right thing," he told me.

"Bob Boss told me I had been doomed before I walked in the building this year," I confided.

"I would say he is right," Mr. Assistant agreed. He understood. It took him a whole year and a lot of mistakes, but he finally saw it. He saw how The Beast had played everyone, even him, and he was afraid he would be next on Its list (he was right).

I was at peace. I knew I was doing the right thing, and I felt so RELIEVED to be going somewhere that I could let my guard down and enjoy doing my job.

My "supporters," however, didn't see it quite the same way, and my decision wasn't acceptable to everyone.

I told the students first, and most of them understood, but there were many who were disappointed. They felt like they'd been a huge part of my "winning" the board battle, and they were disappointed I was surrendering after they went to bat for me.

I tried to explain it to them, but I also had to remain professional. So I couldn't tell them that their principal was bullying me, and had been all year. I couldn't tell them that Mr. Boss told me It was out to get me.

The kids were the most forgiving. There were people in the community, and people at my own church, who felt I "owed" it to them to stay. Here I thought they had supported me of their own free will. I never asked for their support. Not once. I thought they were doing what they thought was right. I didn't know it was a favor to be repaid.

They said things like, "How could she? After all we did?"

They didn't understand that when it came to staying in Hell my thought was, "How could I? After all IT did?"

They thought it was cowardly and wrong of me to take another job and quit within a month of the board victory.

It hurt me that no one understood. No one even tried to understand. I didn't want to leave. But if I didn't go, I was going to be slaughtered.

The Beast didn't like me leaving on my terms. It wasn't very happy that I took the support of the board, then didn't give It the chance to persecute me anymore, or push me toward failure. It also didn't like that I had a whole month to teach without fear. Evaluations were done. There was no need for It to monitor me anymore. I already had another job so frankly I didn't care what It thought, what It said, or what It did.

I wasn't scared anymore.