The twelve days of Christmas— teacher style

It’s hell for just about all classroom teachers right now. The kids are insane, the classroom heaters are either blowing 97 or 7 degrees, administrators are trying to squeeze in evaluations, and the school board took away the secret Valium lick in the teacher’s lounge.

So for all of my fellow teachers, here is a little song to help you make it to the break. Because vodka doesn’t translate in this format. And because no one has time for the full thing, here’s the countdown from twelve. Enjoy!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my students gave to me: twelve new gray hairs

Eleven whiny whiners

Ten tardy passes

Nine late assignments

Eight stomach ulcers

Seven hours of grading

Six stupid questions

Nasty stomach flu!

Four copied papers

Three parent emails

Two eyes a twitching

And a headache that needs some Aleve!

Hang in there, everyone!

My Christmas list is too fucking long

I am brain fried. Mentally spent, physically exhausted.

All because of this list:

This is everything that will need to be done in the next two weeks.

I just finished 120 essays tests for English 11, and I’m numb. Many kids did well, but for some kids it’s like they weren’t even in class for the last two weeks. So the emotional roller coaster of “They got it!” to “What the FUCK??” has been running all weekend.

And now I’m nauseous. With heart burn.

My fellow teachers can relate. We’re all desperately trying to wrap things up before the two week break because once we come back, exams start seven days later.

And some of the kids are driving me insane.

“Umm, I’m going to be gone that week before break because that’s when we’re going to Jamaica, so can I have my work?”

Umm, no because I don’t have my shit together enough to even know what we’re doing tomorrow. And let’s be honest. You’re not going to do it anyway.

“I was absent. Can I get my work?”

Absent?!? I think you mean truant. You’ve been out 38 days. And now your 16% has finally caught your attention and you want to make up all the work? Good luck.

*explosive sigh* “Why don’t we ever do anything fun? Can’t we have a free day?”

No. My job is to make you as miserable as possible and never allow even a smile to escape your lips. And for the record, I never charge. Every day is free, fuck you very much.

Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit. Maybe I need the break more than I thought. Maybe my inner Scrooge is just a little too visible. Maybe I just need a drink and a big nap.

The only thing I want for Christmas is an empty list. No tasks, no jobs, no to-dos.

That would make a very merry Christmas.

My uterus is being an asshole

Any woman “of a certain age” will get this.

Stages of assholery:

Fuck with hormones to create a fatigue that would overwhelm a meth addict. Make it impossible to stay awake and impair cognition. Fall asleep in chairs, at red lights and during conversations.

Relive labor pains with contractions that are just a few minutes apart. Call for anesthesia and realize there is no epidural to save you. Down bottles of Aleve and Motrin. Kill liver. Decide liver is already dead, so pour vodka down throat. Rage at children for atrocities such as whispering loudly and laughing while playing nicely with each other. Secretly imagine husband’s face being torn off by eagle talons because he is placidly watching football and tapping on his laptop.

Decide everyone sucks and retreat to bedroom to hate everything the world has ever created, except dogs and cats, and then dissolve into rage tears because you are aware of what a horrible human being you are and a rush of guilt and love and appreciation sweep through you like a Noah flood and all the rage you had at everyone else is now pointed at yourself.

Google “home hysterectomy” and consider it. Seriously.

Fall into uneasy sleep and dread getting into a vertical position because now the Noah flood is all too real. (Sorry, not sorry, guys. You all suck.)

Eat 10,000 calories. All carbs. In an hour. Hate self for lack of control. Eat 10,000 more.

Be cranky, tired, angry, sad, hopeless. Be cranky, tired, upset, depressed. Be cranky, tired, happy to notice the sun. Be amused at Bob’sBurgers, alive enough to wash hair, awake enough to consider a run.

Wonder who the hell you have been for the last few days.

Repeat anytime between 21 and 30 days.

Asshole.

This actually fucking happened and I need to just crawl into a hole now before I hurt someone

Mondays are crazy. Two practices at two different times means dinner options are minimal. But on the way home, inspiration hit.

Panera.

Yes, clean food, fresh ingredients, no preservatives– it’s like I can claim I cooked a decent meal instead of running through Wendys. Again.

But this encounter is just a hint of what my entire day was like.

I walk in, and make sure I stand toward the back, not at the counter, while I text Bill to see what he wants. Eyes still on my phone, I hear, “Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready.”

Unsure if this was some kind of mating ritual at Panera at 3:30 in the afternoon, I glance up and see the cashier staring at me.

Umm… I’m just waiting for my husband to text his order back to me.

More staring.

More staring.

Fuck it, Bill, you’re getting a turkey bravo.

Hi, this order is to go. Can I get two grilled cheese sandwiches?

Uh, hold on, I think we’re out of white bread. *yells to guy three feet away* Hey, are we out of white bread?

They are out of white bread.

How can you be out of white bread?

Uh, we’ll, is there another bread that you want?

Do you have honey wheat?

*yells again* Hey, do we have honey wheat?

They don’t have honey wheat.

Tell you what, just tell me what bread you have.

Uhh, *yells again* what bread do we have?

No lie, the guy replies, Sourdough and THE OTHER ONE.

Umm, what’s the other one?

*yells again, although the guy can clearly hear me* what’s the other one?

Sesame. Like white bread. With sesame seeds on the crust.

MAYBE START WITH THAT ONE????

AND WHY ARE YOU OUT OF ALL THE BREAD AT 3:30?!?! Your name is Panera BREAD for fuck sake! Are you out of flour? Water? No??? THEN MAKE SOME FUCKING BREAD.

Ok, so two grilled cheese on sesame.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a quart of chicken soup.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a goddess Cobb salad.

Do you want drinks?

*FUCK NO I DON’T WANT DRINKS!*

No… and a turkey bravo.

Do you want drinks?

My head plays this:

IF I WAS IN THE FUCKING SAHARA DESERT FOR SIX MONTHS AND WAS DYING OF THIRST AND YOU WALKED UP AND ASKED ME IF I WANTED DRINKS I WOULD TELL YOU WHERE YOU COULD PUT THOSE FUCKING DRINKS!!!

This is why I need to wear a warning label at all times.

WARNING: This person is unstable and may blow at any moment. If you are a slow driver in the left lane, someone who repeatedly jams the copy machine and leaves, or repeatedly asks stupid questions be aware.

I’m having a rough time, but who isn’t?

I can sense it, feel it, almost grasp it. The depression is lurking near, waiting for an opportunity to materialize. Right now it’s a transparent fog. This time of year always beckons it.

The days are shorter, the rain is more prevalent. The workload is overwhelming, the activities are draining. Monotony sets in, motivation stumbles.

I say yes to invitations and bail at the last minute. I make promises to exercise and make excuses not to go. I go to bed early and pledge to catch up on sleep and wind up with excruciating dreams and lonely midnights.

So it’s calling me. Coaxing me. Trying to lure me.

It’s so easy to give in, much harder to fight. Easy to just stop planning, caring and producing. Just let the darkness take over, keep everyone out, slide into nothingness. Why struggle?

I self care. I get a massage, text with a friend, make jokes, plan lessons, hug my kids, take naps, have a drink.

I self-sabotage. I am irritable, snap at others, dwell on the negative, skip showers, eat too much.

Which way to go?

Of course, I know the answer. The only answer. To fight, struggle, bite, kick, scratch and maim my way to wellness.

But it’s so fucking hard sometimes.

And sometimes I just want to give in and allow the darkness to swallow me whole, without resistance. But there are two sources of light that keep me from giving in.


The only two.

It’s a rough time of year. For a lot of people. I know I’m not alone. I’ll do my best to be there for you. In fact, I’m a better cheerleader for you than I am for myself.

And if you are struggling as I am right now, take solace in the light that pulls you away from the darkness. Whatever form that takes. 

We’ll make it.

10 Things I learned this week

1. Trying to keep the attention of 30+ students when my classroom is 84 degrees is an exercise in futility. By the end of the day, we all feel like we’ve been through a car wash and just want to lie down and softly moan in our heat exhaustion induced hallucinations. Thank you, kids, for playing along as well as you did.

2. Michigan’s way forward might just be with John O’Korn and not Wilton Speight. From one offensive touchdown last week to four this week, Harbaugh has some decisions to make during the bye week. Make the right one, Coach.

3. The word “leader” is just a title. Being a leader involves much more. If you have to scream, intimidate, and belittle those around you, you are not a leader, sir. You are an asshole. And I’m not afraid of you anymore. Bring it.

4. It doesn’t matter what the Lions do, the universe just doesn’t want them to succeed. This time it isn’t the fault of poor drafting, poor coaching or poor management, it’s just that Lion fans are doomed to watch the Super Bowl outside in the bitter cold for all eternity. All. Eternity.

5. I run slow, I walk a lot, I sweat buckets and have a bum back and hip. But I never regret going. Even when my awesome hubby has to pick me up because I just can’t go any farther. 

6. Sigh… Despite the fact that she hasn’t really grown since the fourth grade, my little girl is maturing into a responsible young adult. She is capable, confident and a force to be reckoned with. I’m so proud of her and happy for her, and eager to see who she becomes. But it’s bittersweet. If I start weeping over baby pictures, call someone.

7. I really shouldn’t be allowed in grocery stores. I was using the self-checkout, because, you know– people– and after being told for the sixth time to “place the item in the bagging area,” by that annoying robot voice, I said (maybe loudly), “I DID, bitch!” Apparently, the guy who supervises that area takes his job way too seriously, because he paused while opening the bags for the next customer and gave me the look of death. I think I’m banned now, but I haven’t been back to check.

8. I’ve confirmed that one of my biggest fears is disappointing others. This came back into focus as my students ranked the books they want to read, and I ordered 15 books online so no student had to resort to their third choice. $150 later, it’s all good.

9. When people loot in protest, critics say, “Why can’t they protest peacefully? Violence solves nothing,” but when people protest peacefully, the most hateful, venomous vitriol is spewed toward them for being unamerican. What gives?

10. My mental health has been really good lately. And part of it is because I just stopped giving certain people any power over me. At this point in time, I think I’m a good teacher, mom, wife and friend. And, right now, I’m good for me. It could change tomorrow, but this feeling is unfamiliar enough that I recognize it and am grateful for it. Thank you.

Summer’s sunset

Yesterday was the perfect day. 

I sailed through Meijer without rushing, without a deadline. Every item I needed was in stock and when I went to check out, no one was in line. 

I ran three miles around the neighborhood feeling joy in the fact that I could. 

I walked my dog, I sat outside, I counted the many bikes in the driveway and I listened to my kids and their friends laughing.

I wish it could always be like this. 

But it can’t, because next week I will be back to work again and the kids will be in school. 

And I will have a really hard time with it. 

I don’t like change, even if it’s one that I know is coming. I suddenly start panicking about how we’ll get laundry done. How we’ll fit homework and practice and yard work and housework all into just evenings and weekends. 

And my kids!!!

This was a glorious summer, I have to admit. Hang in there if you’ve got younger ones, and if your kids are older, don’t worry— I am not taking this summer for granted. 

They were old enough to ride around the neighborhood without supervision, and I’m fortunate enough to live in a true village that watches out for everyone’s kids. Some days I had a house full, while other days it was oddly quiet. 

I completed projects, read, took naps, read some more and stalked @dog_rates. 

And all was right with the world. 

But now it’s back to real life. 

To setting the alarm for 5am.

To packing lunches the night before.

To choosing my clothes for the next day.

To carrying loads of papers home to grade during baseball practices and gymnastics meets. 

To talking to my husband more through text than face to face. 

To giving exhausted ‘Good nights’ and brief goodnight kisses.

To seeing my kids for only a few hours each day. 

Every year I whine and ask Bill if I really have to go back to work. And it’s not that I hate what I do, I love it. 

But I also love this:

And this:


And I love it more than I will ever love anything else in my life. 

So if I’m a little out of sorts and weepy for the next couple of weeks, it’s just because I’m not ready to give up the summer. 

Not just yet. 

Anxiety overload

My chest is tight. My brain is in hyperdrive. My thoughts are scattered. I thought I was doing ok, but now I’m not.

That’s how anxiety works. I can be completely fine, then one thing will happen that triggers an attack. And I don’t want to scare my kids or lose myself completely, so it’s all kept inside.

Writing this is my outlet.

And it’s all over something stupid, inane and everyday. 

There have been utility workers parked in front of my house digging holes, marking lines and burying cigarette butts in my yard. All. Week. Long. 

I tried to alleviate it by trying to see the humor in it. So I posted this:


And called it “Fiber Optic Phallus.”

Today I came home to this:


More holes and more strange men. 

I opened the back door to let Ginger out and heard two men discussing the sign our neighbor posted about her dog. She got the idea because I put up a similar sign. See, a short time ago, a dog in my city was shot and killed by a utility worker for barking at the stranger in her yard. Doing what dogs do. So I put up this sign:


It sounded like these guys were making fun of it, so I went outside with Ginger. 

Since then, my neighbor has called the foreman and she called me. I was standing by the window talking to her when one worker spotted me. He said something to his buddy and he then looked at me too.

And now my paranoia and anxiety are peaking. I had wanted to clean the basement, but all my anxiety demons are protesting. “What if someone comes in? You won’t hear them. There’s no escape in the basement.”

I’m afraid to let my kids ride their bikes. Afraid of what these strangers might say or do. I’m afraid to let my dog out on her own. What if they do something to her out of spite because I put up a sign to protect her? What if one of them sees me use the garage code and records it to come back later? If I complain, will one of them take revenge? On me? My kids? My dog?

I’m afraid of talking to them. I’m afraid of not talking to them. I don’t want to seem too friendly or too bitchy. 

It is isolating and confining and terrible and suffocating and frightening to feel this way. 

And it’s not rational or logical or sane to think this way. I KNOW that. But my brain sometimes fights logic and reason with the unknowns of ‘what if?’

Sorry, there’s no real end to this post, because the feelings are there and raw. I’m going to make some tea and check on the kids. And maybe try and find refuge away from my brain.

I fucking hate this, but writing it feels better. Thanks.

Perimenopause can go perifuckitself

Sometimes I catch myself reminiscing about how insecure I was when I was in my twenties and thirties. I was so concerned about meeting someone, trying to be someone people liked, and worrying about impressing people.

And then suddenly I had this confidence. I felt good about myself. I didn’t care what people thought. I did things I wanted to do and put myself before everyone else.

Damn that was a great week.

And then things just kind of started to fall apart. My body decided that this contentment just could not last, so it threw me a curveball that I’ve been trying to hit ever since.

Fuck hormones.

Or come back? Is it that the hormones are leaving me?
So they’re all packing their bags and moving out? FINE. You’re too good for me now? Good luck in the REAL world. Motherfuckers.

Since they’ve abandoned me, my metabolism seems to be doing some kind of Benjamin Button bullshit where it’s peaked and is now in reverse. Eventually I’ll be like that purple little bitch in Willy Wonka and need a crane to lift me, but I think that’s at least a few years off.

I have some jiggle in the middle, top to my muffin and junk in my trunk but I’M WORKING ON IT and BEAUTY’S ON THE INSIDE or some bullshit like that.

But on the inside I’m one hot mess (and not like an “I woke up like this” sexy Instagram mess. Seriously, look in my ear. There’s caution tape) and I feel like Sybil with her 16 different personalities. Except the goal there was to integrate them all into one, and then I heard the entire thing was fake, and I don’t think my selves could all get along anyway because I hate some of those bitches with a passion. Plus, 16 is a lot to keep track of and I can’t even remember what I had for lunch (something completely cage free, organic and free range, of course).

*picks half melted chocolate chip off of shirt and eats it*

But these have become the most prevalent ones, or at least the ones I can describe while my attention lasts.

Crazy cleaning lady

Where the hell did SHE come from? It’s like she’s nesting for the day she gives birth to the old lady within. My housekeeping style is more akin to “recently looted” than “white glove” and she pisses everyone off. Papers are tossed in the garbage along with anything else that might be on the floor (sorry, Spot). She switches a load of laundry and suddenly notices all of the lint and dust everywhere. And she MUST clean it. NOW! She gets overwhelmed because then she sees more dirt and more piles and then gives up and becomes…

Crazy crying lady

She’s not much fun either. Sometimes she’s just mopey, but other times she’s full on waterworks. She cries because she’s fat, cries because she’s sad, cries because the moon is full and it just looks so beautiful. She can’t watch Ice Age because she cries when the wooly mammoth remembers his parents getting killed by the stupid humans. She’s doesn’t accomplish much, and she uses all the tissues. Right now she doesn’t hang around long, but I have a feeling she might try and move in for a more permanent position. Last time she left her copy of The Notebook (blech). 

The Bitch

In all honesty, I kind of like her. She says shit I would never say (ok, I would) but she has no regrets about doing it. She’s crass and confident and sometimes hopes a fight breaks out so she has an excuse to kick some ass. She is my best running partner because she can get the energy out and will tear any motherfucker apart who tries to mess with her.

I have to watch her though because her idea of “perceived threat” is sometimes that the kid taking her order (at the cage free, organic, free range) drive thru who didn’t tell her to have a great day. She’s a little combustible.

Crazy non-sleeping lady and Crazy anxiety lady (The twins)

The twins and I have been acquainted for a long time now, although I’ve known Crazy Anxiety lady longer. I didn’t even know she HAD a twin until she made me meet her in the middle of the night once. They both drive me nuts. They work together to give me intrusive thoughts and spiraling negativity.

Like one weekend, I was on an awesome getaway with two friends. We all went into a store. One friend got a phone call about a sick family member, but was off the line by the time I was finishing my purchase. So I went outside to wait for them. And waited. And waited. 

The vision of my friend breaking down jarred my brain. I could see her being consoled by my other friend, sobbing that she just wanted to go home. Maybe even saying she regretted coming in the first place.

I instantly started calculating what time we could be on the road, what time we would get home, did I have to get gas… but maybe she would want to leave early the next day, so what time should I set the alarm, where would be a good place to drive through for coffee in the morning, factor in traffic, what time would we get home…

And then they walked out laughing.

Turns out they were flirting with the guy inside.

The twins laughed and laughed and laughed at me and I flipped them both off.

Crazy IDGAF lady (the kids’ favorite)

Now she is fun, and I like her in small doses. She wears her pajamas all day, throws her ratty hair into an equally ratty bun and doesn’t shower. She says yes to just about everything because she’s too tired/ stressed/ weak/ indifferent to care. Can we get the Simpsons movie? Sure. Can we have Belgian waffles for lunch? Sure. Can we shave the cat? Knock yourselves out.

She plays lots of iPad games and doesn’t clean anything up. She takes naps wherever she wants because she can. I do have to rein her in sometimes because, you know, “child protective services” and “employment” but she’s totally cool and irresponsible.

Now, WebMD— which I’m not supposed to read anymore per doctor’s instructions— tells me that this glorious phase of life could last two to TEN YEARS. What the fuck? How is that considered an acceptable time frame? Imagine if pregnancy was treated that way.

“When am I due?”

“Could be nine months to nine years.”

*ball punches husband*

See? How is that even acceptable? If this keeps on for YEARS, then I may need those fucking corporate function get to know you name tags. “Hello, my name is ___________” and just fill in the blank every day. Or hour. 

So yes, the “change” is starting, the “golden years” are approaching, and there’s a whole new set of commercials and products dedicated to my “condition.” 

But I hate euphemisisms. 

I prefer, “I’m fucked.”

I am just about over “mental illness”

I am a huge proponent of erasing the stigmas associated with mental illness. Lord knows, I deal with three of them on an almost constant basis— PTSD, GAD and MDD. And I am glad for the strides society has made in being aware of mental illnesses and treating them as seriously as they deserve.

But there’s one thing that’s still pissing me off.

Journalists and other media personnel insist on keeping mental illness as an abstract noun by saying things like, “He suffered from mental illness,” and these abstractions lead to negative stereotypes.

A journal article by John Coverdale, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2002) revealed the following findings:

After cutting all articles regarding mental health or illness over a four week period, out of 562 articles, 61.3% related mental illness to “danger to others” and 47.3% connected mental illness to “criminality.” Positive associations of mental illness only occurred in 27% of the articles. 

Finally, 47% of the articles used the phrase “mental illness” as a generic term, failing to identify the specific illness.

This generic phrase needs to be eliminated.

You see, if I’m sick and you ask me if I’m feeling ok, I would never think to respond, “Not really. You see, I’m suffering from a physical illness,” and if I did, it would sound dramatic if all I was dealing with was the common cold. 

When you’ve been off work sick for a few days and people ask, “What was wrong?” They don’t want a generic answer. They want to know— was it strep? The flu? Bronchitis? Were you throwing up? How bad was it? And no one feels ashamed to say what, specifically, was wrong.

So why the ambiguous “mental illness”? 

And I’m not real comfortable with the “suffering from” phrase either. To me, that gives the illness power over the individual. Like you’re at the mercy of your illness and thus “suffer” from it. 

Anyone who has a mental illness diagnosis understands that you aren’t always “suffering.” Sometimes you are dealing with it, sometimes you are living with it, sometimes you are suffocated by it, but you’re still here, so you are definitely not a victim of it.

I “have” mental illness sounds off as well. I don’t possess it, but it sometimes feels like it possesses me. It’s not necessarily a descriptor (at least I don’t like to think it is) like I “have” blue eyes. 

So my preferred verb is “deal” in the present progressive tense— “I am dealing with mental illness.” Or, for my post partum depression, the past perfect tense seems most accurate— “I have dealt with PPD.”

Let’s not be scared to actually name what it is people are dealing with. I am dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If we are really going to embrace mental illness as a real issue, then we ought to be concrete and eliminate the guesswork.

“He suffered from mental illness” reveals nothing, and only evokes extreme images of someone who is out of control and dangerous to those who don’t understand the intricacies.

Call it what it is, so that people may learn more, stigmas may be blurred and those dealing with them may be understood.

People fear what they don’t know or understand. 

So let people know.