Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finding the Spirit

I almost said no Christmas cards from us this year. It's just seemed too much trouble and expense. The stamps run at least fifty bucks. That doesn't count in the cost of the cards themselves (always bought on sale, of course). And I couldn't come up with a Christmas letter. Heck, I didn't even have a Christmas note. So for the past month, I've been dithering around, trying to justify to myself that a year without Christmas cards was acceptable, just this once, anyway.

But then I started to feel better than I've felt in the past 10 months. In fact, a whole heap better than I've felt in the past six months which have been actually, pretty awful. It's my life finally turning over a new leaf. I'm no longer so exhausted I can't stay awake past 4 p.m. I can actually make plans for after school and carry them through. If I need a hair cut and perm I can make the appointment and KEEP it. Plus, Hubby's been taking me out and about in the spirit of gathering Christmas goodies and my mood is vastly improved, too.

I finished a huge paper for grad class this afternoon and I thought, well, I've got some time. Let's see if a Christmas letter will magically flow from my brain to the computer screen. It's not art but I filled a page with this and that and some good cheer thrown in, too boot. So I unearthed the drawers full of Christmas cards and found the labels for the mailing list, edited the list, and even managed to do a mail merge without a lot of teeth gnashing. The to and from labels are now printed. The stamps have been ordered and will be here in a couple of days. The letter is saved, not printed, because I still may need to do some editing. The cards sit on my desk ready for the the hand-written notes, the letters, the address labels, and the stamps.

There will be Christmas this year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Getting my hair cut and permed makes me feel free. Getting up every morning will be a lot easier because that awful flat hair will now have some body. Getting all the sides shaved so hair no longer hangs over the arms of my glasses makes me feel trim.

Getting all the old dyed hair cut off makes me feel very, very old. I'm ridiculously white haired now -- not pretty white but ugly, dishwater white. And I've become really, really gray white.

I feel old, very old. But clean and neat, at least.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Counting Blessings

The news keeps reporting how many layoffs are coming in the next couple of months. The economic outlook is darned scary. My stomach churns every time I hear Citibank is laying off another 500 people or that the Morton's Steak House in our exclusive shopping district just shut its doors for the final time. I remember how I felt working in construction and I was told that my job was being phased out and I would be unemployed in under two months. As the major support of my little family, not being employed felt quite frightening.

Now I'm in my third year of teaching. In one more year, I'm looking once again at tenure. At the end of this year, I stop being reviewed annually. I was hired with nearly all my years of teaching counted into my salary (22) and this year I hit 15 hours beyond my master's degree for a nice little bump. I'm almost at the top of the scale in my district and though I'm not making six figures, I'm bringing home a very substantial paycheck compared with my construction salary -- and I have really nice benefits. Even better, I'm happy in my job; really, hugely happy. I'm good at what I do and I'm contributing to the betterment of mankind. I work with decent people for the most part in a beautiful building with responsive students.

Three years ago I was terrified when I faced being laid off from a job I hated. The silver lining, which I couldn't see then, was that this job was on my horizon. This job, with its security and decent salary and joy-making potential gives me a safety net that I didn't think I wanted in 1990 (almost 19 years ago when I left teaching). Now I'm eternally grateful to have that net beneath me.

As the holiday season approaches I thank my lucky stars that construction tossed me out, head over heels, and I managed to land once more back in the land of education. I realize that my home is secure, my dogs have good food and health care and lots of love, and Hubby and I are able to buy Christmas presents for each other and our family. The freezer and pantry are stocked with good food, the furnace is still relatively new and heats us well, and we have a new mattress on the bed so we sleep in comfort. Our closets and drawers are full of warm clothing and all four of us have winter coats, maybe not new, but warm and serviceable.

The terror of facing unemployment still haunts me. I know how the folks at GM and Ford and Citibank and American Airlines are feeling right now. I feel for them and their families -- and I count my blessings, both big and small.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It Snowed So We Started Celebrating Christmas

We had a little sprinkling of hard snow balls (not flakes exactly, just little tiny puffs of snow) that fell from the heavens this morning and the wind chill index was 24 degrees. The wind was whistling and it was darned cold but, of course, there was no accumulation of snow.

We've become old codgers around here so we were up at 7:30 (I'm such a tired old codger that I was in bed and sound asleep at 8:30 on Friday night). Breakfast from the local super buffet sounded cheering so we don't our fleece coats and headed out.

For the first time I got to use my heated car seats. S-w-e-e-t! Man, that heat bubbling through my fleece jacket felt good. We filled up on ham and potatoes and hash and bacon (we DO like our pork around here) and eggs and fruit and then, since I'd been kind of mopping around, Hubby took me Christmas shopping.

Here's the thing. We don't shop anymore. His knees hurt, my back hurts, and shopping requires standing around looking at stuff we don't need to buy. I haven't been in a store other than a grocery or a Sam's Club for over a year. Today we actually went Christmas shopping and it was GREAT GOOD fun! Spending nearly a $1000 does that to one, I guess.

First we did the Big Lot store near the breakfast buffet and I bought a couple of emery boards and a box of band-aids -- all for my classroom. The total price for everything (including some tuna mix-ins and crackers) was under $20.

Next we took in our local Marshalls. I like Marshalls a lot: high end stuff at reasonable prices and if you shop carefully, great deals. Hubby picked up a ton of stuff for his Texas sister -- and his choices were really cute and different. I got all the goodies to make up Christmas treats for my work crew -- I bought the huge coffee mugs last year at the after Christmas sale at an exclusive China outlet -- a pair for everyone -- and now I have the flavored coffees and chocolate spoons to go with. For my favorite two mentors I got gorgeous hat boxes to fit everything into. Really cool. However, at Marshalls we spent over $150 (not much over, but still. . . ).

Then Hubby thought that we should check out the closing of Circuit City and our wallets took the real hit. We wandered in a very crowded store and Hubby immediately spied the hugely expensive and very complicated digital Canon that he has admired for the last five years and so we broke down and bought it for him as an early Christmas present. I picked out some CDs for $3.99 each -- and they were reduced another 15% -- so that's practically free, right? Then Hubby took us to the GPS department. I've wanted a GPS since we got to use one with the rental car we took to Tulsa to get Luie. The cheapest one was already sold out -- except for the display -- so Hubby got them to take it from the case and sell it to us. It's a little battered but it worked fine getting us home from Circuit City.

Now I have my Christmas present and Hubby has his -- and we have the presents for Houston sister and all the makings for my co-workers and we're not totally broke, yet.

It only takes a little snow to put us in the holiday mood. I think I'll go find our Christmas CDs . . .

Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Hard to Publish When You've Nothing Nice to Say

The title pretty well says it all.

The election is the only really good thing to talk about right now -- and that's been covered by everyone else.

I'm working very, very hard in grad school. My lovely 4.0 took a huge header when I actually FAILED a huge paper -- but the prof let me try to make it up. I ended up with a low B on the paper and was grateful for that. Then I blew an on-line test and my grade point average for the class was suddenly in the mid-B range and I finally thought -- "screw it, nothing wrong with a B" and just tried to relax. The next paper and test went back up to the A grades so the grade point now sits at 91.33% and I'm trying not to blow it again. The writing and reading assignments in this class are monstrous and I'm totally overwhelmed.

I'm working very, very hard at teaching. This is my month for IEP's and mostly they have been conducted but mainly they haven't been written up. Also I've not made any inroads on my new course for second semester so I think I'm going to have to give up grad school in the spring and concentrate on building a new curriculum for the Freshman / Sophomore English course I'm going to teach.

I've been very, very sick on and off throughout August, September, and October but for the last week have been recovering nicely, once again. I can only hope that "sick" stays away for the rest of the year. I got the 24 hour flu (yeah, I know, it's not really flu) at school a week ago Monday. I couldn't make it to the bathroom on the third huge vomit but the kids were kind to me and haven't made me feel stupid about about covering myself in crap. Hubby came and got me fairly quickly and I spent 24 hours in bed recovering. However, I've had a lot of sick days this semester, more than I ever expected.

I've been wanting to tilt at windmills but the effort seems fruitless -- so I've taken the easy road out and simply stayed away from the windmill. Makes my Sunday mornings really peaceful and quiet and actually very productive. Hubby, though, is in the center of the storm. I've told him I'd go if and when he wanted / needed me to support him but my heart has abandoned the windmill, I think, forever. Autocrats fry my soul and unilateral decisions boil my brain. 'Nough said -- at least for the time being. Bah! Humbug!

Luie is adjusting to our family. He's a hoot of a dog. The eye doc says he will be totally blind very soon -- the eyes are failing rapidly but Luie doesn't seem to mind. He just loves life. Gussie likes him enough to sleep on him during the cold spells. That says a lot about how well he fits into our family.

Today I got all the summer clothes put away. I had resisted doing it because of the many trips required up and down the stairs AND we kept having days in the 70's and 80's. But it's November and this weekend we had temps in the teens so it was finally time. I always forget how much I like my winter clothes -- my winter happy pants are really nice. My summer clothes are not so pleasant in the wearing so when I finally got all the shirts and skirts and dresses put stored away and all the lovely happy pants upstairs and folded in the drawers, I realized how much I was looking forward to wearing my warmer clothes.

I'm going to try to update a bit more regularly . . . but a huge paper is due in grad school for the 24th of November, so this could be a pipe dream. Happy fall, my friends.