Monday, September 27, 2010

Drugs of Choice

My freshman year of college, I took an Intro to Psych class. I think it was one option on the list of requirements, and I thought it would be a fascinating venture in to something about which I knew little. Surprisingly enough, I found that the class was truly an introduction to psychology in that it explained the workings of the brain, as much as we can say we know, rather than the stereotypical "and how does that make you feel?" examining of the human psyche.

I was shocked at some things I learned, and hope that I relay my perception of certain points accurately here. Allow me the disclaimer in that I am NOT a doctor, psychologist (though sometimes feel like one with the young'uns I deal with), or any other occupation in which you should take my words as medical truth. A fascinating point of interest was the brain's interaction with drugs, and we reviewed quite a laundry list of them.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I was not raised with soda in the house (or, depending on where you are, lower case 'c' coke, pop, or any other moniker for fizzy drinks). We drank milk, juice, water, and tea. And our tea was not the diabetic-coma inducing sweet tea you find in the south, but it was sweetened. I continued those habits on my own.

Although we drank hot tea, too, my consumption of hot tea increased exponentially my undergrad years. In college, the dorms became arid as the desert in the winter, so I would drink a cup of tea at breakfast to moisten my throat (note to all my former and soon to be former students - seriously...invest in a warm mist humidifier for your dorm room, apartment, etc. The flu virus hates moist air, and I credit my consistent use of a humidifier with preventing us from getting sick as often during the winter months...).

Enter life after college - I began to experiment in the various types of tea - green, black, white. I found it relaxing. Delightful. Delicious. And it is so good for you. I even threw "Ladies Hat Tea Parties" with my friends. All very good stuff. But I did not drink coffee. I pretty much refused. When I had no choice, I had coffee with my milk and sugar, and not the other way around. When I went to Italy, I actually had to take a Dramamine with my espresso or it would give me such a buzz I got ill. Seriously.

Back to my freshman year - I learned that the neurotransmitter that acts as a stimulant is called acetylcholine (ah-SEE-tyl-KOH-leen). It's a fun little chemical that bounces around from synapses to synapses and makes you feel awake. When you consume caffeine, the body recognizes that it is a stimulant, and puts a hold on the amount of acetylcholine that you produce naturally. After following a habit of consumption for so long, the body no longer makes the same amount, resulting in headaches, crankiness, etc. Hence, the coffee-headache you experience when you don't get your coffee soon enough, or enough of it.

I was horrified to think that something I did purposely could cause me to feel that way, and vowed to never become a coffee drinker. I wanted my mind to "be in its right mind" and not expect anything from outside my body to function properly. Sure, I enjoyed times when I consumed caffeine. And goodness, it never took much. If I actually pounded a full 12 ounces of soda, I would get a caffeine buzz. So, I stuck to tea, water, milk, juice. Besides, coffee was absolutely disgusting. It was bitter and made my breath smell bad.

And then Sydney came. I made it 33 years without becoming dependent on coffee. Now, more than a year later, coffee does for me what tea used to do - it relaxes me. I love the smell, but had to get used to the taste. And now, I can actually have 2 cups and still fall asleep while nursing Sydney. It no longer affects me the way it used to, but I can actually understand the commercial where the woman wraps both hands around her mug, curls up in her pajamas and slippers on the living room love seat, and inhales deeply, ecstatically, of her mug of coffee.

I've never NEVER used illicit drugs. But I will say that caffeine is, indeed, a drug. And it is now my drug of choice, administered through coffees and creamers - mix and match to find your bliss.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Birthdays and Keeping a Career


Sydney turned one on the 16th. Last Saturday, we had his party and he was in his element. Syd isn't an uninhibited child at all, but he did have an excellent nap before everyone arrived, and the smiles didn't stop (until we put the cake in front of him - what on earth is this stuff? Why is it so sticky? Why is everyone staring at me as though I'm supposed to perform? What am I supposed to do with this? Hey! This is kinda yummy!). He was such a good little boy and he even allowed Mommy to put away food before he nursed for his nap, and slept until 5:30! Goodness he was worn out!

I like this one, if only because you can FINALLY see his top tooth! We waited 4 months for this one!

Sydney enjoys a pre-party lunch.

Pretty flame! What's this all about?

You want me to do what?

Sydney decides the cake is, after all, worth digging in to!

Sydney decided that playing with the shiny noisemaker would be more fun than opening presents!

On another note, teaching has taken on a whole new challenge. I made a promise within the first month of starting this blog where I promised to try to remain panglossian. So, I will not vent here. But suffice it to say that my co-workers and I are under increasing pressure. So much so that I wondered how long I would stay in this profession.

Allow me to say that that thought saddened me a great deal. There's a reason why I teach, and rather than repeat a phrase that is becoming cliche, I'll leave it at that. I enjoy passing on my passion for literature, for writing, for learning too much to joke about this. And usually, I start to wonder how much longer I can stand to bring home my job every night...every weekend by about March. Preparing for the first round of SOLs will do it to ya. But the truth is, I DO get 2 months during the summer to recuperate. And who else can say that? I was able to spend that time with my son this summer, and it was glorious.

But then something happened the very next day at school that forced to accept the fact that I will keep pushing myself to accomplish everything the state, the school board, the school administration, and my department chair asks of me...all without sacrificing my instruction to my students. My juniors were giving group presentations on ballads, teaching their classmates in the process. Some students included the actual tunes of their chosen ballads so their classmates could hear them. A few students elected to sing their ballad. One group, in my 5th block, had the ballad 'Clementine,' and they were playing the music and singing. It is a well-known ballad, so I started to sing along. Jokingly, I waved the class on in time for the refrain and wonder of wonders, THE ENTIRE CLASS SANG THE SONG! It was so surprising...I was caught completely off guard. It was fun, refreshing, and I came away from that class knowing I would be a teacher for a long, long time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When a Distraction is a Good Thing

This will be very concise, since I'm supposed to be grading right now. Midpoint is next week, and the kids are starting to get itchy to see where their grades stand. Besides, Steve was hoping he and I could munch some popcorn together before we head to bed...

An oddity has occurred this year. I've taken note of it, but haven't known what to think of it. I haven't been nervous. At all. In my 12 years of teaching -4 different schools, high school and collegiate, everything from general 9th to college literary analysis, I've been nervous at least the first few classes, sometimes even more. I've started with a shaky voice, butterflies desperate to escape their enclosure, shaky hands. I've recaptured myself quickly, but the nervousness has always been there.

This year, I jumped in to the new year with nary a hesitation. I didn't shake. I didn't waver. I had no cocoons (hatching?) into butterflies. None of that. I recall thinking, way in the back of my mind, "This is weird. Why aren't I nervous?" I then thought I'd wait until the next day (odd/even block scheduling), but the same thing happened. On THAT first day, I, again, just plowed through the day as though it were the last week of classes instead of the first week. So, then I thought I'd wait until Back to School Night, where the parents of my students follow their children's schedules in order to meet the teachers, see the new/renewed school (construction), etc. And, again, no real symptoms of nervousness. I was out of breath, but that's because I was traveling my 4-room schedule with only 5 minutes in between each change and no time to catch my breath.

No anxiety. Kind of nice, but also rather unsettling. Am I getting so experienced that new faces, names, parents no longer faze me? Nah. I couldn't be that lucky...or good. The only explanation I have is that my mind and body are so focused on accomplishing my goals and getting the kids off to a running start with so few materials and resources at my disposal, that there is no room, no energy, no sleep that can be wasted on anxiety. Makes sense. If your body can actually begin to eat itself (muscle mass) when you are not taking in enough calories, couldn't it also prevent you from experiencing an emotion that is common when you don't have the mental capacity to entertain said emotion?

So, here's to appreciating the hectic new year. Here's to celebrating the distractions of construction, technology upgrades, and the Freshman Initiative. Here's to putting to rest the waste of emotion and energy when it can be used in so many more productive ways. Here's to distraction!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

This Time Last Year...

One year ago, it was Saturday, the 12th. Steve and I shopped, loading up the freezer with Stouffer's meals, filling the cabinets with peanut butter, soup, cereal - we were getting ready to not go anywhere for a while. One year ago today, we went on a date, knowing it would be some time before we were alone again. One year ago, we were finishing laundry - tiny little pants, burp cloths, onesies, blankets. One year ago, today, we were as ready as could be, because on Wednesday, the 16th (last year), our baby was coming into the world.

We did not find out gender. I reminded the ultra-sound technicians every time I went in because I didn't want anyone to slip up and mention it. Our doctor didn't even know whether Sydney was a boy or a girl. We had the name, just not the sex. Middle name changed depending on what we were gifted with. So needless to say, we were quite excited for this weekend and the subsequent Wednesday.
Sydney Allyn is the best thing to ever happen to me. Goodness knows, there have been trials and tribulations - the most recent being the joys of nursing when there are top AND bottom teeth. But he's learning to control his urge to bite, and things are getting better. No, unfortunately, the top tooth hasn't come through enough to get a picture of it. But that will come in time. Now that he's walking, haltingly every once in a while, but slowly moving away from crawling, things are even more fun. Last night, he chased me around the pack-n-play in the kitchen - grinning and squealing with delight the whole time! I wouldn't trade any of this for anything in the world.

One year ago - the love of my life was almost here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Replacements and Syd Pics

I believe a game we will all be playing this year is 'duck, duck, goose.' Or rather, to paraphrase Gene Hackman's character in The Replacements, who, out of all of us, can best hide the fact that we're all just a bunch of ducks on a pond? Our faces may seem passive, exuding insouciance, when in fact, our feet are paddling as though our lives depended on it. Break the surface of the water and you'll see just how frantic we are.

Ah. Life. At what point do we stop, really stop, take a step back, and appreciate the fact that we're stressing over things that are huge, but still minuscule in comparison to some. Yes, I can sit here and list everything that's got me paddling. I can harp on it incessantly and use it as a means by which to think I can't take any more. But in the end, that's not who I am and I won't enjoy anything. I am the type of person who loves to enjoy life. I like noticing the clarity of the sky, now that the summer's end is near and the humidity is finally gone (one reason why Autumn is my favorite). I enjoy walking down the hall and (shut it, Rafe!) having the kids call out to me and tell me how their day, their year is going and how much they miss me, though that Mr. Telsch isn't really that bad. I adore how I come home and my son, who is now walking quite well, still crawls over to the stairs, peers down through the baby gate at the top, and cracks his face into the biggest grin you can imagine, just because Mommy is home.
I try. Those who know me know I do. I try to remain positive so I don't end up harping, so I don't bring others down, and so I find the strength to persevere. And wonders of wonders, it works. Just like when you're scared senseless of standing up on front of a classroom because you don't feel confident you know the material, and you smile and fake it, and it works. Faking a positive attitude is the same thing. If you fake it long enough, you start to live it. That's the whole premise behind self-fulfilling prophesies. If you tell yourself it's too much, it will be. If you tell yourself that it's hard but you can do it, you can. Just writing this last paragraph has given me new vigor for tomorrow and the newest tribulations I must face that piled on this evening. But you know what? I will go in tomorrow, apologize profusely to my seniors for STILL not having their first timed writing graded, and go into a fantastic dialogue on the most recent short story. And it will all work out. Besides, Sydney's first birthday is soon here, and I can't wait to spend the days with him this weekend.

Speaking of, here are the most recent pics we've taken. My apologies for the delay in posting them. Haven't videotaped him walking yet, but I will this weekend and hope to publish that soon, too...
Sydney plays with Daddy early one morning.

He commandeered my headband. What fun to chew on something so bendy!

Grr! We love this game! We scowl, holding it until one of us breaks into a huge grin.

Sydney's 11 mos. picture.