Friday, March 8, 2013


A friend said the nicest thing to me the other day.  I was in the midst of recording a sheaf of graded tests in my grade book with only 3 minutes before I had to rush down the hall to run dress rehearsal for the high school play, when she said matter-of-factly, "I don't know how you do it."

I paused and swiveled curiously to look at her.

"No, really.  You're a mom.  You teach.  You coach drama.  You make dinner.  AND you read books. How does that all happen?"

I savored the warm tingle of acclaim for a couple of seconds and thought about that.  How did it all happen?

Well, not very well and not at all consistently is the truth.  It's a constant plate-juggling circus some weeks.  Dinner can be a generous word for rustled-together leftovers, takeout, or hurriedly thawed spaghetti sauce served over a mixture of various pasta shapes representing the dregs of several boxes left in the pantry. There are times when I let the essay-grading slide a couple of days more than I should.  I coach drama because it's fun. And I read because it keeps me sane.  Mostly sane.

But, man.  It was really nice to have somebody notice that it can be hard.

REALLY nice.

What nice things have people said to you lately?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hey. Remember me?

It's shamefully hard to write that first post after an absence of ... holy crap, 18 months??!  In my defense, it has been an 18 months of life on full-tilt, brick strapped to the acceleration pedal, who the hell put speed in my coffee, fast-forward madness.  On the other hand, when is it not?

In brief:  I went back to teaching high school full-time.  I also agreed to produce three school plays a year and head up the drama club.  My own kids suddenly morphed into teenagers with full social calendars and activities rosters.  I realized that sleep is precious and coffee is not only delicious, but completely freaking necessary to my existence.  Oh, and just for fun, I decided that I'd take 40 high schoolers to New York City over spring break next year.  Why the hell not, right?

It's been wonderful.

I had no idea how much I'd missed teaching and coaching drama until I dipped my toe back in in 2011. Then a position opened up, the school health insurance sang its alluring siren song of co-paaaaays!  looooooower preeeemiums!  and I realized that teaching full-time would obviously require a snappy new wardrobe and cute accessories.  You know, FOR THE CHILDREN.

And did I mention that I am an English teacher?  Translation:  can impulse-buy books with impunity.  ALSO FOR THE CHILDREN.  Tom has a slightly different take on this.  Something along the lines of, "Just because you now earn a salary does not mean you need to spend that salary in total every week."  I'm confused.  Why, then, do people work?  Also, those new grey suede wedges I'm eyeing will make me a much more dynamic and effective teacher.  Why would the students take me seriously about appositive phrases if I'm wearing last year's shoes?  It's all about credibility.  (I don't think he even bothered to roll his eyes at me).

Yesterday my students and I discussed how the grammar book obviously hires the most boring people in the world to write the sample sentences.  Together, we rewrote them, changing sentences like, "Susan happily handed the textbook to John." to things like, "The bald llama menacingly tossed the grenade at me."  As they packed up their books at the bell, one boy said, "This grammar is actually fun."  I didn't bother to tell him that it's the same old grammar; only the words are changed.  And language SHOULD be fun.  "Grammar" and "laughing yourself wheezy" are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I've missed you guys.  It's good to be back.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Showtime...

Wow. It's been a long time since I've had the chance to sit down and blog. My days (and evenings) have been filled with drama rehearsals and yet another long-term sub job. The drama job has finally boiled down to this weekend: Maine Regional One-Act Competition.

Today we'll be loading our (huge) set onto a school bus in the pouring rain, then driving an hour and a half away to compete against other mid-Maine schools. The kids are psyched, I have three Tupperware containers of paint in my briefcase (for emergency set touch-ups), and migraine meds in my purse. I am inexplicably wearing a bright green t-shirt with a gnome on it (team spirit trumps fashion sense for the day).

I even baked cookies to take, so the drama kids will have a quick snack to grab if they need it. I'm a mom. I feed people.

I have a bag filled with duct tape, staple gun, extra staples, scissors, Ziploc bags, paint brush, flashlight, band-aids, pencils, paper towels, tape, and Tic-Tacs. I figure that variety should cover nearly anything that crops up.

We are ready to break a leg.

Hopefully, not literally. At our community performance, one kid managed to fall off the stage.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Be Careful What You Minor In

My name is Jenn, and it's been two months and eight days since my last post. But I have a REALLY good excuse.

It all started back when I took that drama position, directing the high school's one-act play for competition. Well, technically it started before that when I signed up to sub in the local school district. But the key thing is that when I went to interview for the drama position, I took along a copy of my resume (nattily transported in my leather portfolio) to give the principal, as part of my Oh Look, I'm All Professional and Not Just a Stay-at-Home Mom persona.

Two hours after being hired for the drama position, I got an email from the principal:
I see on your resume that you have a teaching minor in French. Our French teacher is moving out of state next month. Do you have any interest in applying?

I zipped back an instant reply of:
No way, man. I last spoke French fifteen years ago and have retained only the amount necessary for ordering in restaurants and cursing at fellow drivers in a creatively Gallic way.

I may have worded it slightly more professionally than that. I closed politely with:

However, I'm happy to fill in as a sub if you need someone to cover the gap between the current teacher leaving and the new one starting.

Weeks went by, and I heard nothing more, so I assumed that a new French teacher was hired. Then one day my phone rang and the high school secretary called to offer me a long-term sub position in French. The teacher they planned to hire turned it down at the last second. I would start in a week. With no lesson plans, no full-time French teacher in sight, and a back pocketful of scattered French profanities. Merde. Beaucoup de merde.

I should mention that no one in the school could seem to locate a copy of the district curriculum for French. Which would have been really freaking helpful.

I yanked out dusty college textbooks, frantically Googled things like "How to teach high school French", and made my husband quiz me on verb tenses. For just shy of a month, I taught five levels of high school French and learned that there was more French squirreled away in dusty corners of my brain than I had realized. Thank God, because three of the classes were reading novels in French. Don't get me wrong - I ordered the English translations and ready them side-by-side to check my accuracy. Still, I did better than I would have expected, especially when you consider that these were books by authors like Camus and de Beauvoir. (Bonus: I learned the French word for "pimp", which I had not previously known. "Souteneur", FYI).

By 8:00 pm each night, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. And at 5:00 am each morning, the alarm clock beeped me back into bleary consciousness.

When they finally found a full-time French teacher, I had a four days off then was right back into another long-term sub job for an English teacher. That took me right up until Christmas and the brink of a nervous breakdown because five days before Christmas I had still not baked, mailed cards, or finished wrapping presents.

Takeaway lessons from my experience:

1. Subbing is a really good way to justify buying new clothes and pretty shoes.
2. Teenagers are wacky little critters, but strangely endearing.
3. For God's sake, be careful what you minor in.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Occupational Whiplash

Once upon a time in a land far away, a land of cacti, scorpions, and summers of scorching heat, I was a high school drama and English teacher. I loved my job, and I loved the students, but mostly I enjoyed the hell out of my drama students. They were a whip-smart, funny, talented bunch of kids, and working with them felt a lot more like fun than a job. Sure there were evening rehearsals that resulted in 7:00 am - 9:00 pm workdays, and there were long Saturdays spent building sets. I dragged my brand-new husband along on the Saturdays, and he went happily to work hanging flats and building platforms alongside me.

It all went swimmingly until I got pregnant after my fourth year teaching. I didn't see that one coming, although two bottles of red wine on my first anniversary says that I probably should have.

In a whirlwind of pregnancy complications, bed rest, and the sudden, intense maternal drive to be a stay-at-home mom to this unborn baby, I left that teaching job. Left it and moved two hundred miles away - to a land of soaring mountains, pine trees, and snowy winters that had the added bonus of having this place willing to hire my husband and give us the paycheck needed to allow me to be a stay-at-home mom.

I never looked back, although there was a certain nostalgic pang every fall when the stores were festooned with "Back to School!" signs. I was a mommy, and this new life left no room for late-night rehearsals or Saturdays spent with power saws and paint brushes. Especially after our second baby girl was born three years later.

A year after that we moved two thousand more miles away, to a land of moose, brilliantly-colored autumns, and frigid winters that lasted till April. I cooked healthy meals, hosted playdates, baked cookies, volunteered at schools, and chauffered my kids around in a minivan. Immersed in the day-to-day (and occasionally minute-to-minute) tasks of mommyhood, I assumed that I would be doing this forever. It certainly felt that way when I was up at 2:30 a.m. with a vomiting toddler, anyway. I couldn't imagine my life any different and really didn't want to.

And then ... this is the weird part. Then fourteen years went by.

And one night, I found myself sitting at a Fine Arts Boosters' meeting at my elder daughter's school. I offered a fund-raising suggestion involving the program for the school play, and by way of explanation told the group that I used to teach drama.

There was a silence.

One woman spoke up, "You know, there's a coaching position open at the high school for the one-act play competition. They can't find anyone to do it. The kids are so disappointed." She fixed me with a hopeful gaze.

I hemmed and hawed. Stay-at-home mom. Busy, busy, busy. Starting to sub! Full plate, etc.

I went home and thought about it. Truth is, I'm not THAT busy. My kids are fifth grade and eighth grade. And then, what really niggled at me, was the thought of these drama kids at the high school wanting to do a play and not being able to find a coach. Drama kids are my people.

Long story short, the principal called me and asked if I'd come in to hear about the position. (And probably also wanted to clap eyeballs on me to make sure I wasn't a total freakshow).

And now I'm a drama coach again, y'all.

What just happened??

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Like She's Trying To Tell Us Something...

1. Sign That Appeared on Bug's Door:

Bug's Room
(except in emergency)

Sign here to show you have read this:

Thank you.

2. Then in the car on the way to the Fryeburg Fair, she announced that she'd written a short story, and she wanted to read it to us.

Clearing her throat, she began, "I open my eyes and wonder where I am. Then I remember, and I'm not happy anymore. I live with my grandparents because when I was three, my mother ran away. Why? I don't know. Since my mother left, I've been wondering who my dad is. I know it's crazy, but my mom was always scared to tell me. Maybe he's the hobo down the street ... no, I doubt it.

I grab the elastic next to my bed and put my hair up, then I clomp downstairs in my fuzzy red slippers. It's hard living with grandparents. They just don't understand the privacy kids need. That's why there are so many "KNOCK FIRST" signs on my door. It doesn't help much, though. I think when I grow up, I'll let my children have locks on their doors, but that's not important right now."


Subtle, isn't she?

Tom, Bear, and I all duly signed her bedroom door proclamation. Tom and I always knock when the kids' doors are closed. I believe in privacy and that everyone should have a space that is purely their own. However, I'm also clear to the kids that I knock to announce myself out of courtesy, but I'm a-comin' in. We pay the mortgage, after all.

Bear, however, is notorious for barging into her sister's room without knocking but freaking if Bug comes into hers unannounced. We're seeking the delicate balance between anarchy and full-blown turf war.

That said, I'm wondering what a shrink would say about Bug writing a story wherein the mother runs away and her father is a hobo? Hmmm.