Friday, February 28, 2014


I love my job.  I love my school.  I think I have FINALLY landed where I am supposed to be.  But, after a while, the outside world gets to creeping in.

Teachers these days.

And then it gets to you.

Today is Friday.  Tomorrow is shift day/spend the whole morning in your classroom pretending you can get work done while the kids are there for three sets of swimming lessons day.  Sunday means that Monday comes and the insanity is back.

Maybe I just need sleep and a less hectic schedule.

BUT, today we are introducing a HUGE service project to my kids.  UWM and several community organizations are joining us.  Once that gets started, I am CERTAIN I will be back up on  top of the world.

Maybe I shoulda stopped at Starbucks on the way in...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

We are Family

I know I JUST posted about this, but I am finding examples of this everywhere!  EVEN at WORK!  

There are two other FFWs in my building - one active, one retired.  The retired FF has had some issues since retiring last year and needs help.  She was feeling lost about where to go next.  So, she called me over to her desk and asked for my help.  Duh.  Of Course!  There are some CO2 issues from back in the day when you didn't mask up, that show why today you DO mask up. He is not advocating for himself and is not really himself she, in typical FFW fashion, decided to step in.  And where do you turn, to another FFW, of course.  I mean, DUH!  We can make it happen.  That is just how things go.

I'm a fixer, it makes me feel good when I can help make things happen.  I got the ball rolling and now, well, we'll see if the boys make me look good.  I am certain that they will.

Ladies, you are not alone in this, even on the days when you feel like you are.  Even if you department is teeny tiny, there are women that feel your pain.  I think it does help knowing to whom to go in your department, but you'd be surprised at the connections that networking brings.  Ask a certain BC (not MFD) about his latest round of conferences.  We have connections that can help you out.  "Hey, I know a guy" kinda stuff.  Or we can "listen" through cyber space or we can hold your hand if you are close enough.  We can help change out that faucet or we can send a YouTube video to help you clear that clog.  Just remember, like the guys, you are not alone in this.  BUT, among our FFW super powers, of which I have many, mind reading is sorely lacking.  Please speak up and say "HEY, LADIES.  I NEED YOUR HELP!" You would be amazed at the response you will get. 

You need a direction, hit me up here.  I am always here...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beg, Borrow and Steal

Maybe STEAL is a bit dramatic, but teachers are in a desperate place these days.  Budgets are cut, class sizes are increased and the public demands that we finds ways to do more with less.  Some days it seems like we are climbing an impossible mountain.  Other days, the kids are amazing and breathe new life into us to keep fighting for them.  This semester has done just that.  My kids have stopped fighting the structure that comes with my teaching style and begun to protest if we deviate too much from what they have come to expect.  Truly, both a blessing and a curse.  Work is coming and THOUGHT is being put into it.  We are having discussions and debates and moving beyond pure regurgitation.  HIGHER LEVEL OF THINKING!!  OMG - total teacher nirvana to see the growth.  

NOW, please don't think that I have found the secret to urban education and that we that all is sunshine and roses...not the case.  BUT, compared to the beginning of the year, night and day is  the difference here, for sure.

This rejuvenation has caused me to take a look at some of the projects that I left simmering on the back of the stove.  Luckily, I was not gone TOO long and had everything boil over, but there is a time crunch here, for sure.  

Last fall, I wrote about an amazing website that links teachers in need and donors - around the world - They are amazing!  Through the love and generosity of my friends and family, near and far, I was able to get 2 FULL CLASS sets of graphic novels to use with our Holocaust Unit.  Through that project, Drawn and Quarterly also donated a class set of books - amazingly without question!  And I was moved, literally to the point of tears.  

My real live VHS collection.
My last project was an attempt to update my DVD library.  Much of what I have is still on VHS.  Sad, I know, BUT there is still a VCR in my classroom - that is hooked up to my cyclops, so beggars can't choosers. If I cannot find it on YouTube, NetFlix or some other on-line source...or if the server goes down and we cannot access the interweb like Friday it becomes an issue.  (knock on as much as possible if you read that)  It is nice to have a hard copy to rely on.  So, I put together a third project for Donors Choose...and then life happened and I forgot.

Until I started looking for ideas...and an email came saying that AT&T had generously offered to adopt my program and pay for HALF of my project!  How AWESOME is that THAT!  Thanks AT&T!!!!!  

Now, I have FOUR DAYS left to find the remaining $127!  Many of you have given generously and I am eternally grateful!  I really, truly am!  Please don't feel guilted to donate again, that is not my point.  HOWEVER, if you could share this site, my page on social media, I will be oh so thankful!  Even a dollar or two can make this happen! 

Thank you in advance.  SHARE AWAY, MY FRIENDS!!!

An AMAZING FireWife took care of this, less than 30 minutes after I posted it!  NEVER doubt the power of Fire Wives!  Thank you, my friend!!  <3 <3 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Showers Make it All Better

I woke up from a dream this morning.  One that I am not willing to discuss with you or anyone else at this moment in time.  But, one that got me up far too early on this Sunday morning.

And the wheels started turning.  It was like a surreal picture show.  Churches and funeral homes. A dad taking off the hat of a student of mine who had been killed to show his son what he thought happen to him, and I thought I would vomit right there at the sight of his mangled head.  I was 22. And one of my favorite kids of all time, such an amazing story...and his sheer gratitude because we came to his mom's funeral...and my tears because his family was in Chicago and that was where he had to go.  And the twin that I was so furious they were skipping my summer school class in the park across from my classroom window...I told them I did not want one of them to end up dead...and then it happened 8 months later after a birthday party gone wrong. And the student, who posted "NOOOOOOOOO" on Facebook...and knew at that instant who and what, but not how.  Too this day, I have not forgiven myself.  I must have known/seen/felt SOMETHING  because I knew what that flat, textual message on social media meant.  He was in my US and AP Euro classes - the only two he went to all day.  The only two classes he went to before he went into hiding to say his final good-byes.  The kids who stole a phone from a fellow teacher of mine, a friend of mine...and I was so mad at them.  And then we got the news over the summer that we had lost one of them.  The guilt... 

They all went through my head.  With soooo many more.  They did not stop.  I started sobbing.

And now there is one more image that my head is creating.

I had muted them for the day.  My muppets needed me.  My FF was taking his afternoon off to help some fellow firefighters through the atrocities that come with the bunker gear and I couldn't burden him anymore.  So, we smiled and bonded as a family.  We walked through the mall after a lovely late lunch.  I took care of my Whovian and bought D some earrings for variety.  We finished up O's Mickey Mouse beanie baby collection.  Replaced the boys' iPod chargers.  Came home and giggled about the day, while drinking the Starbucks I made him stop and get 2 minutes from home.

I snuggled into his arms, with a polar bear in the bend of my knees.

Norman Rockwell would have been proud.

then... then I left my bed in the wee hours of the morning...

I needed to cry and I needed him not to hear.

My FFW next door had a night of deaths at work in one of our ICUs.  It had hit her pretty hard. I wasn't going to burden her.

Death is everywhere.  

I will talk to him more.  It is what we do.  But, he goes on shift in just a bit.  He doesn't need to worry while he is on shift.  There is enough there that needs his focus.

This is the reality of urban education that Khodavhandi and Cradler left out of my preparation for teaching.  This is the reality of being married to a firefighter that they were very clear about at the first orientation meeting before the academy.  This is life.  Death comes at the most inconvenient of times.  

And so there are showers. 

Showers wash away so much more than the grime of our daily lives...showers make it all better...or at least tolerable for the time being.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Midnight Musings of a Fire Wife on Shift Night

I am sitting in the dark, alone in tears.  I was playing a mindless game of matching veggies and trying not to think, but it is not working.  And so, I write...

Urban education is the most rewarding occupation I can imagine.  I got a pair of mittens today from one of my success stories. I posted something on Facebook regarding the fact that I was on the hunt for mittens so late in the season because my Raynaud's was so bad I could not hold a glass with one hand - I did not have enough fingers with proper blood flow on one hand.  I needed two.  To hold a glass.

So, today at work, there was a package from her in my mailbox, and in that unexpected package was a pair of mittens and a note that had me in tears.   Just the most simple of notes.  But, it was a reminder of WHY I am doing this and driving myself insane.

This same morning, a kindergartner died in a fatal accident crossing the street.  He was a kindergartner at one of the K8s I taught at.  My heart mourns with them, and I have never met him.  To my friends and colleagues, I am so sorry.   Talking to my FF about it.  Talking to the FFW next door, whose FF went through THAT intersection moments before the crash.  I know it is part of their world.  I. Just. Hate. Death.

And then you find out that you have lost one of yours.  All in the same day.  

He was 25 by now.  Not the same as losing a baby like my coworkers did, but no less heart wrenching when he was one of your own.  And the family has already gone through so much.  And then suicide, no less.  

I tried talking to my FF about it.  And he was almost indifferent. I suppose that comes with the territory.

But I AM NOT A FIREFIGHTER.  I am a teacher.  And with that title comes the title of Mom, nurse, counselor, confidant, mentor, tutor...they are a part of MY WORLD.  I have buried 18 kids and have not lost one since 2009 that I know of...but I was not ready for number 19.

I am a fixer by nature.  What can I do?  How can I help?  What do you need?  That is how I am wired.

I CAN'T FIX DEATH!  And it frustrates me to no end.

And, so I sit in the dark, in tears.  Wiping my eyes and nose on his academy sweatshirt.  Listening to B talk in his sleep in the living room.  He will be up walking soon, I can tell.  I just placed a series of obstacles to keep him inside in case I doze and don't hear him.  I am trying to process and compartmentalize.  Put everything in the proper box.  After all, I have to get to my committee meeting in the morning and make the Crusades exciting.  And I am SUCKING at it royally. NOTHING IS FITTING IN ITS BOX!

My nose is as raw as my heart. And I am sleeping with those mittens and no one gets to judge.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Marriage and the Fire Service

When your spouse is a firefighter, you find yourself married to the fire service as well.  At a bare minimum, you are indeed married to their schedule.  Sometimes you are married to their crew as well, because they are indeed his other family.

This week has been an especially crazy week.  I had an IEP that took me out of 3 classes, I covered 2 other days during my prep hour.  I had a meeting with our community leaders regarding a HUGE community service project we are launching through my classes, in partnership with UWM and several community organizations.  And then there is chess and judo and the auxiliary meeting that I couldn't keep my eyes opne long enough to go to.  I also have to analyze data to find out why I am failing to meet the needs of  my children at work, which is stressful in and of itself.  We don't have a PO or Vacation day to come for weeks, yet.  The laundry is mounding, the dogs are missing their people and acting like wild animals and I can't sleep at night.

How does this all come back to the fire service?

Yesterday the agreement was that J would come up to my room when dropping the boys off for the chess meet at our school to grab some stuff (Which, btw, both boys did an AMAZING job with.  B won his match in like 15 moves and N found himself down very early on and FOUGHT his way back to a win after a near 2 hour match!)  He called me and said, "Meet me downstairs and bring your jacket."  


I grumbled as I pulled myself away from my data, which was telling me that I was SUCH a horrible teacher.  Grumbled as I walked down to where his car was.  Greeted my boys and tossed them my classroom keys to stash their jackets and grumbled some more as I climbed through a snow bank to get over to the passenger side of the car.  
9 kids that are reading at or above level...sigh
He smiled oh so sweetly and brightly at my gnashing of teeth and said, "We're going to our bar and having dinner with the girls."  And I grumbled some more.

Until I realized that I was not going to be able to really see him for a bit.  We were definitely on a course for ships passing in the night. We would be parting ways after dinner so he could take the girls to judo.  I would most be drooling on myself upon their arrival back at the domicile.  I would get up and go to work in the morning.  Rush home and take all the kids to the family dance at their school (which my lovely FF has absolved me of!!  SO SWEET!).  Clean up after the dance because B is on the committee running it.  Toss everyone in the shower and into the PJs (The wiggly bodies, probably still a bit damp.) And then Saturday he is back on shift and I have a morning of swimming lessons and an afternoon of birthday parties.

This was our one shot.  

So we talked and laughed and ate the yummiest bar food ever.  

And then I kissed him goodbye when he dropped me back off.  Came up to my room of chess geeks and gnashed my teeth at the data...putting it away while they all told me about their matches and eagerly awaited the updates on N's match.

It was the needed interruption for my sanity.

The fire service rules your life.  Embrace it or don't, it will always be looming there, ready to steal family time from you.  So, you need to make family time where you can.  Even if it is with only half of your kids...having dinner at a local bar...for an hour.  We were together.  With this schedule and the kids' active lives, sometimes it seems as though we clearly don't get enough time.  So we need to take what we can get.
wow...amazing what 18mos. does!
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