Wednesday, September 28, 2011

10 years already?

Yesterday, I sent out a message to a couple of high school buddies and said something to the effect of "Hey there friends from my former life." It's so true. What part of my life now resembles anything 10 years ago? My goodness, my twenties are flying by! Will there ever be another decade of my life with this much tumultuous change and upheaval?

I've been thinking about this somewhat lately because my 10-year high school reunion is coming up in a few days, I guess. The only way I even know a single bit about this is because someone put me on a list on FB and every once in a while I go over there and look at bits and pieces of what people have been saying.

And I don't miss these people, at least the ones who have been posting. I'm really not sure what I was like 10 years ago. I don't remember much at all from being in high school, especially in the classes themselves. I remember snatches of who I hung out with and vague bits of my schedule. But I really wonder, what was I like from a teacher's perspective? From my classmates' perspectives? I...don't know.

There isn't any incentive for me to pay $30/person ($60/couple...what a deal!!) to go try to make small talk with some people that I used to know in my past life but who I can't always put a face with a name. By and large, I can't remember vivid details about these people. A couple of my "besties" from high school are out West and really out West (like West coast style), so they're not coming back. Another good friend is going, but...I've kept in touch with him and see him occasionally.

It's also Ben's 10-year reunion, yep, another $30/person. All told, it would be $110 for both of us to go to both of our reunions. Not a good use of finances, I think. Unfortunate? More bittersweet.

My classmates mostly intimidated me, and I never felt like anything more than an overweight, nerdy nerd around them who couldn't think of anything funny and was highly uninteresting. So this whole reunion thing is kinda bumming me out a touch cause what it is mostly doing is dredging up these ugly, unpleasant feelings.

Instead, we might go to our college's Homecoming, a place where I never felt anything but acceptance. We might go to the zoo and visit with my parents. Both of these options seem better to me.

So I'll lift my own glass of whatever to cheer on my old classmates from a distance. Some of them are truly inspiring and warm-hearted individuals; I'm proud to be friends with them or to know them, even tangentially. Best wishes to them all. I hope that they have fun.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Out of the tumult comes a modicum of relief

What do you know, our babysitter situation seems to have resolved itself. Big sigh of relief, less night crying, an ulcer has been averted...

I'm over exaggerating a *smidge.* But some amount of kismet or else a true honest to goodness heaven sent hug just came our way.

But hear me out. I'm not guilty about working and having Abby at a babysitter's house every day. I'm not. Ben's not. We have no reason to be. Because she's in the care of two wonderful, loving women, she's undoubtedly learning and experiencing things that she would not should I choose to give up my career and stay at home with her. She has the chance to socialize with two little kids who are both exactly her age. She learns songs at Bible study. She does crafts, liking making a cute little ant that looks like a spider. She gains an understanding of what it is like to not be the only child.

Granted, paying for childcare stinks. And of course of course, I adore being at home with my munchkin. Love it. Have the sweetest job in the summer that lets me be home for 10 weeks and still get paid for it.

But still, what's to feel guilty about? Before our babysitter change, the thing I felt guilty about was that she was in a mediocre situation, not a great one. And now, she's in a great one. But it's still going to be another up-in-the-air situation at the end of the school year probably. Crud. This part really bites.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


(If you're interested, I just posted about my latest book find. Keep reading if you're interested.)

This school year has been nothing short of TUMULTUOUS. There's some quality of self immolation for anyone who chooses to teach. Sometimes, it's torture. Sometimes, it's horrible. Most often, it's comfortable and (dare I say?) enjoyable.

I made no secret in college that I was only going to teach for a few years and then move on to other pursuits, ventures, and what have you. I'd already decided that I wanted to be involved in education in some capacity, but I wasn't convinced when I graduated with a license to teach adolescents (oxymoron??? ha...lame joke) that I wanted to commit my entire professional life to the confines of a high school. Just because you start out as a teacher, it doesn't mean that you have to always teach. But, you know, it's growing on me. I'm alarmingly close to reaching my 10-year-and-out limit. We'll see how the next 2 years go after I fulfill this contract.

But what I really want to talk about here is just the sheer tumult in my life right now. It seems as if nothing is truly comfortably fixed, which drives me absolutely NUTS.

*My classroom situation is in a complete state of flux. I have a student teacher working with me for the first time, which is somewhat incomprehensible. Am I really old enough or experienced enough to have a newbie working out the kinks alongside of me?
*My teaching schedule is going to be radically altered next year when I am assimilated into the New Tech way of teaching at the junior level.
*My babysitter situation is not where I want it to be and seems to be impossible to find what we need. This is definitely keeping me up-a-night. What can we do? Do we just stick it out? Where else can we place her for 2 days a week? We are doing our best to avoid placing her in a daycare setting, but what if we have to? How do I reconcile myself to that situation?
*Our house has had some really positive showings, which is quite a bit alarming and exciting. Alarming--we have no where to go, not even an apartment lined up should our house sell. Exciting--we're going to take a hit on our house, but maybe not as much as we had been warned against. Alarming--we have been seriously looking for a new house since January and have no house in our sights. Exciting--it's still kind of fun looking for an upgrade.

How HARD can it be to find a house that has a couple of basic requirements in the price range that we're restricted to? In this county, it seems that it is in fact downright impossible. Something is just going to have to give, and unfortunately, it can't be the price. Maybe we can't have a basement. Maybe we can't have 4 bedrooms. I don't know. But something is going to have to be amended if we are ever going to find our we're-staying-in-this-one-until-retirement house.

This all comes along with a phone call from our financial adviser who was answering a question that Ben posed to her. But the answer that she gave me just epitomizes the frustrations and TUMULT that everything has been lately. According to her, we need to contribute an additional $800/month to our retirement savings if we want to retire at 55 (standard for teachers). That along with what we're already contributing would equal 23% of our net salary. How does this work? It's not like we're just now starting to save. Technically, we could afford it, but at what cost? No vacations. Not nearly enough or anything saved for Abby's education. Nothing or very little put away in savings. Is the economic forecast really that bad that we need to commit this much to being able to maintain the way we live now, which is decidedly not flashy?

And, the only salary increase I earned after 4 years and $12,000+ dollars to finish my Masters was about $30/paycheck because my school's teachers were forced to agree to a 2.5% pay decrease and no incremental promotions (i.e. I'm stuck at 5 years experience for an indefinite amount of time even though this is my 7th year teaching). Comparatively, Ben, who is on the B.S. salary schedule (2 increments below mine) and has the same years of service earns about $3000 more than I do in gross pay. Our health insurance has gone up 14% in 2 years and our pay is going...

I'm whining here, I know, but why does it have to be so hard? Why? We both have stable, full-time jobs; why can't we find a decent long-term house and be able to save for our collective futures without sacrificing everything now?

Let me clarify that I don't expect everything to be given for me. I appreciate the fight and the struggle and how the benefits that are reaped are sweet. But, I wouldn't mind a little sense that we're doing things right, that we're okay.

In one of the best episodes of The West Wing, Toby, Josh and Donna end up stranded in Indiana. Toby is hanging out in a hotel bar waiting for a train to get back to Washington, and he gets into a conversation with a guy who was returning home from taking his daughter to Notre Dame for a college visit. The guy is baring his soul to Toby, talking about how he doesn't need someone to just hand it all to him, but just a little help would be nice, something to help him know that all of his efforts are meaningful and that things will work out. I get this guy's perspective now. I get him. Just a little confirmation would be great...

This has been a constant prayer as of late.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends

By Rob Lowe

There's a little bit of background to my adoration of Rob Lowe (2000s-present). He was Sam Seaborne in The West Wing. You may ask why that's such a big deal--it is!! First of all, his character is nothing short of adorable and genuine and optimistic in the show. Second, it's The West Wing, an amazing show. Third, this is the show that hooked me up for good with Ben. (Another story for another day if you're really at all interested.)

I'm not all that in love with Lowe in his pre-TWW days, e.g. the likes of Tommy Boy when he was associated with the Brat Pack. The rationale for this is basically because that type of movie is really never anything that I watch or enjoy. Crude comedies? Not my thing.

At any rate, I adore Sam Seaborn. I'm not much of a book buyer, so I had to wait in line at the library to finally get a copy of it to read, which is to say that I had to wait for a while because I was something like 18th in line for a copy. And then I got my chance to read it at the beginning of September when I was halfheartedly reading 2 other books and when the school year starts ramping up (and, oh my, this year has been epic so far--distractingly so). All of this means that I had to turn my copy back in to the library with no hopes of renewing it. I had to get back in line, but I'm only 5th in line now, so maybe I won't remember that I'm on page 127 and that he's in the middle of talking about starting to shoot his breakout film, The Outsiders (I hated this book! Truly one of the few books that I've had to read for school that I haven't enjoyed in some way. But whatev...way to go Rob "Sodapop" Lowe!)

Regardless of me not finishing it, I'm going to offer my thoughts on it so far, which I also believe will hold true for the rest of the book whenever I get it again.

1. His writing is pretty lame.
2. His stories are pretty incredible.
3. Didn't anyone who was editing/proofing his text realize that his verb tenses are problematic and subtly (or forthrightly) suggest that he fix them? I mean, past tense or present...pick one.
4. It's unreal that random connections he had by the time he was 15, 16 years old. The name dropping in this autobiography is jaw dropping. "The guy who beat me in that footrace ran like Superman; later, he would be Superman. It was Dean Cain." Or, "I got fired from my first real job partly because I was caught making out with Holly Robinson [Pete] behind the Coke machine." Or what about, "I was hanging around the [Martin] Sheen's house with my good buddies Emilio and Charlie and this guy Tom Cruise was staying there for a few days while he was auditioning." Another favorite--"I was walking across a supermarket parking lot, and I saw these guys, Chris and Sean Penn, making a movie." Ridiculous.

It's an amusing, quick read; why not pick it up if you also enjoy his adorableness? And his son is a big Colts fan. :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

computer woes

The Cox family definitely has a dearth of computers floating around the house. We've had some combination of 3 laptops and 2 iPads floating around our house all summer. Ben and I have each invested in personal laptops justifying it by citing grad school work. Ironically? Ben still hasn't started his (soon???) Unfortunately, this has also meant that I greatly appreciate the luxury of having my own device. For all of the torment my little machine has given me (really, who ever thought that Vista was a plausible operating system?), it saw me through 4 years of Masters work. I much appreciate what it can do for me. But now, I am sad to report that the little booger has died.

It is lost beyond the feasibility of pricey repair. And now I have to largely share laptop space with Ben whenever I want to type. I don't like sharing it. It irritates me enough to rarely even open it. Instead, we (fortuitously) adopted a couple of iPads for free this summer. One went back to the school that Ben teaches at, but the other is basically on permanent rent to us. I greatly enjoy the quickness that I can access any information that I desire. Especially considering that it would often take me 5(+) minutes to turn on my laptop and log onto the internet it was sometimes so bogged down in garbage that Ben never got cleaned up. Now, it's 20 seconds. Lovely! But iPads are frustrating means of typed communication. They're really mainstreamed for finding and scanning information, not typing emails to friends who you haven't talked to recently (or typing blog posts, even short ones).

But then my school blessed me with my own personal laptop, so it's kind of a cheap way out of investing in another laptop just for my personal use. If I remember to bring it home. And if Ben was able to make it compatible with our internet at home.

So all this to explain why I haven't typed much lately. And that also means that I lost the last two topics that I had yet to write on for my This I Believe series. But no one reads that anyways. And, I know that I broke my New Years Resolution for the month of August--I think? I don't think that I've done a book review since July. I've run into a reading road block once school started. This is an exhausting time of year. Unsettling as routines are hammered out and altered. Suffice it to say, I miss my laptop. I kinda feel sad, like selling our first car that we owned. Nostalgic for the silver bullet that was nothing if not slow.