My journey to shoot for the moon.

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Adventures in Substitute Teaching – High School

Day 10

Subbing for a SPED High School teacher doesn’t seem that different from subbing for a SPED Middle School teacher.  There isn’t tons to do.

This High School is an IB (International Baccalaureate) school.  Not that, that means anything.  I didn’t see students much while at the high school. (more…)


Chris’ Cancer and Me – Part 2

HR knew about Chris’ cancer.  I told them.  Repeatedly, whenever I spoke with HR regarding my displacements.  They knew that Chris was on my health insurance.  They knew that I was working for my benefits and didn’t care about the paycheck.  They knew.

But at the time of my displacement (I think March 2011), I went to the Union.  The Union Rep. tried to intervene on my behalf.  And he was unsuccessful.  He tried again and again and was told there was nothing that could be done.  As we all know, HR has “power” and can make exceptions when they want to.  They didn’t seem to want to.  Why?  I have no clue.

All I was asking for was that I be placed in an Educational Assistant position rather than having to interview and be “hired” again.  That was it.  It really wasn’t that much.  I checked the job postings this morning and there were several positions that were open (there were a total of 30 open positions, but only a few of them were in the classification I was previously working in).  There have been positions all summer.  So, I wasn’t asking for something that was impossible.  I was asking for something that was reasonable.  Especially, under the circumstances.

Over and over again I told HR and the Union Rep. that I was concerned about my health insurance.  I was under the false impression that my insurance would run until the end of the school year, as I worked the entire school year.  Apparently, in the letter that told me that I was RIF and that I would be placed on the recall list, there was one sentence telling me that my health insurance would expire on May 30th.  The reasoning was that the last day that I worked for the district was in May (because of the school calendar).

Here’s the thing.  I worked my “contracted” 176 days.  If I had been at a school that had a different calendar, my 176 days would have ended in June and our health insurance wouldn’t have expired until June 30th.  June 30th was the last day of the school year.

The Union rep. was as surprised as I was when we found out my health insurance expired.

In the meantime, through all of April and May, I applied for teaching positions within the district.  I was not eligible to apply for “in-district only” positions because, while I was “in-district” I wasn’t working as a teacher.  Of course, it makes no sense.  A teacher on a “one-year only” contract was allowed to apply for teaching positions before I was.  And remember I had been working in the district for 4 years.

Our health insurance was a high deductible insurance.  We were required to pay for everything until we reached $8,000 out-of-pocket (the district would “subsidize” $3,000 of that over the course of an entire year).  Once we reached the $8,000, everything was covered at 100%.  We had reached the out-of-pocket fairly early on and really believed that we would have the month of June covered at 100%.

However, my insurance “expired” at the end of May.  And we couldn’t do COBRA for one month and then sign up for insurance through Chris’ company.  So, how should I put it, we were screwed.  Chris’ insurance runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.  Mine ran from July 1 to June 31.  So, we would have to switch and have 7 months on Chris’ insurance before it started again.

If you’ll remember, Chris had radiation in June.  Originally, we thought that the radiation would be covered at 100%.  But because of the change in insurance, we had to reach our deductible and out-of-pocket.  For a single family member, the out-of-pocket was $5,700.  For the family, it was $9,700.  And all of it “rolls over” in January and we have to start again.  Even if I were to get a position within the district, we would have the same issue with the different coverage periods.

Following Orientation, I told KR and MF all of this.  And that HR knew my situation.  KR said several times that this never should have happened.  She told me that I should speak with the new Director of HR.  Apparently, he began working for the district in July. I asked her if she thought he was in, and she walked me to his office.  He was in a meeting, but she told me that she would have him call me.  She told me that, this should have never happened repeatedly.

She also told me that she would get my substitute “stuff” done as quickly as possible (and she did.  Thanks KR!!!) and to let her know if I needed anything.  She also told me that I was a “strong, beautiful woman.”   She also told me that it was amazing that I was calm and able to talk about what had happened (and Chris’ cancer) and wasn’t a total mess.

And this is the point that I wanted to get to – people tell me that I’m strong because of how I am handling my life.  But what other choice do I have?  I can’t stay in bed with the covers pulled up around me, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I MIGHT WANT TO.  What would that accomplish anyway?

I have to get up and face each day.  I have to do what I can.  I have to try to keep things going.  I have had to let go of my anger and stop asking the question, “Why me/us?”  I don’t have any other choice.  I have two boys (remember they are 13 and almost 11) who are going through something that I can’t even imagine – the prospect of losing their dad.  Chris is facing treatment after treatment and hoping (beyond hope) that they work and can keep the cancer at bay.  There isn’t time for me to have regular pity parties.  There is still laundry and dishes.  The boys still need to do their homework and practice their instruments.  The dogs need to be taken out.  And while I may wish it were otherwise, life goes on.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago, I would be facing this – this being my life – I wouldn’t have believed them.  I would not have thought that I would be able to deal with it all.  I would have thought I would be a mess.  That I would have a break-down.

But somehow, over the last several years I have managed to do things I thought I would never be able to do:  I lived for a year in IL, while Chris was in CO and managed the boys, work, and the house being on the market.  I dealt with a flood at our house less than one week before we were to move to CO – I had help, but I put in a tile floor (all by myself) and managed to get everything re-packed for the move.  I worked full-time while completing my Master’s and managed to graduate with a 3.98 GPA.  I have made new friends and adjusted to life in a new state, where I only knew 2 people (and Chris) prior to moving here.  I also finished my Student Teaching after Chris was diagnosed.

People, like KR, say that I am strong because I have done all of these things.  But, honestly, what other choices have I had?

This is why I find it hard to tell people about Chris’ cancer.  Somehow, it becomes all about me.  And it isn’t.

I had a friend who was upset about her dog dying.  She was in tears and talking with me.  And then it happened.  She said that she shouldn’t be upset and crying to me.  I had enough to deal with and her problems weren’t anything compared to mine.  I told her it was NONSENSE.  It isn’t all about me, all the time.  Her dog dying was upsetting.  She had every right to be upset.  She had every right to talk with me about it.  My problems don’t make anyone’s problems less.  Yes, it is sometimes about me.  But it can’t be about me all the time.  Sometimes, like after her dog died, it had to be about her.  It is as it should be.  It is hard to be a friend if it is always all about you.

I told my friend that right at that moment, what she was going through was important.  That it was upsetting to her and I was there to support her.  That, as my friend, she had the right, to have it be all about her for a while.  I told her that there would be days when it was all about me, but that day wasn’t one of them.

Much of the time, we are in stable and steady mode.  Chris’ cancer isn’t growing.  Now it isn’t shrinking either, but it isn’t growing.  He goes to work every day (and I am VERY thankful) and while he doesn’t feel well and he is tired, life goes on.  Yes, his cancer is always there, but there isn’t anything else that can be done.  So we all go on.

We will, at some point, hit crisis mode.  We expect that the cancer will start growing (like it did prior to Chris’ radiation treatments in June).  We will deal with that when it happens.  And we will need it to be all about us when that happens.  But day-to-day is just that, day-to-day.  Life goes on.  We manage as we have been managing for almost 2 years.

I find it difficult to decide when to tell someone about Chris cancer for all of these reasons.  I may be strong, but I haven’t had a choice.  If we had stopped managing when Chris was diagnosed, where would we be now?  It has been 2 years.  We have to live and not wait for death.  And that means that friends are going to need us.  For fairly normal stuff – like dogs dying and cars breaking down and fights with spouses or families.  And it doesn’t diminish the problem (the fact that Chris’ cancer is, well cancer).

But managing doesn’t make me strong.  Managing makes me human.  And I don’t see that I am special because of it.  I am not an example of how someone should deal, because I am me and I am dealing the best that I can.  No one can say how they would manage if it were them, because it isn’t them and honestly, you don’t know until you are there.

So, support me.  Be there when I need you and offer your help (thanks KR, MF and my friends ET, KH and AG for all you do regularly).  And let me be there for you, when it needs to be all about you.  Let me be your friend and don’t make me into something I’m not.  Because some days, I cry in the shower because it is all I can manage.  Then I end the pity party and go on.  Life is like that – you really don’t have any other choices.


He’s Morphed into a . . .Teenager

It is a very busy week for me.  Michael has started band which meets on Monday and every other Thursday after school.  He also has choir before school on Tuesday.  Soccer practice is Friday after school with games on Saturday.  Today, I have to go to court because of, well . . .I’m not in trouble, but I was a victim of false imprisonment (it sounds much worse than it really was) and I need to be there to see what happens with the case.  I don’t want to write about it until after the whole thing is said and done.  Wednesday I have a job interview in Denver with a Children’s Home for abused and neglected kids.  Thursday is a doctor’s appointment and Friday I have carpool in the am and pm.  I’m tired just writing about it!

Yesterday as I was picking up Michael from band, I got a text from David saying that the saxophone he is borrowing from school won’t work.  David plays the tenor sax and was told by the bus driver that he couldn’t bring it on the bus.  Now he brought it on the bus every Friday afternoon and every Monday morning last year.  I called transportation and David can bring his sax on the bus, but in the meantime, the band director offered to allow David to borrow a tenor sax to keep at home for the entire year.  Since the bus driver told him he couldn’t bring it on the bus, David doesn’t want to deal with it, even though I made sure it was alright.

Anyway, I told David I would drive him to school on Tuesday so that he didn’t have to deal with the sax and the bus.  I said I would drive him, even though he needed to be there at 7 am and Michael and I would need to leave at 7:30 am for choir (and the schools are across the street from each other – so it means driving back and forth).  But, I couldn’t pick him up.

That is when it happened!  My generally sweet, thoughtful, kind boy MORPHED!  He got an attitude.  He rolled his eyes.  His tone was disrespectful and he told me there was NO WAY he was bringing his sax on the bus.  At this point, we were headed out the front door.  I was walking in front of him and I turned around and looked him in the eye.  Gosh, I knew he had grown and that he was taller than me, but looking him in the eye?!?  And I told him that I didn’t like his attitude and that he was acting like a TEENAGER.  He told me he was a teenager.  What?!?  I guess that since he turns 13 on Monday, he is right.  He is a teenager.

I don’t know when it happened.  I don’t know how it happened.  But it has, and I’m sure that I don’t like it.   David has (almost!) officially entered his teen years.  Teenagers are scary – especially when they morph from being  sweet, normal kids.

And by the way, I agreed to pick him up from school on Wednesday.  So he doesn’t have to ride the bus.  The transformation following that was miraculous – he became my David again.

EVEN More Musings From an Unemployed Teacher Turned Frustrated Housewife

What will I name the follow-up to this post? What comes after EVEN More?

How come I can manage to clean off the kitchen table completely, but can’t keep it that way?  It takes less than 24 hours before it is covered with stuff again.

Why does it rain whenever I plan an outdoor activity?

Why is it that when my schedule allows me to sleep in, I still wake up early?  And why, when I need to get up early, am I sleeping very deeply when the alarm goes off?

When you are blowing up a beach ball, if you don’t hold the valve, the air won’t go in.

Why do some of the smartest people miss the obvious?

How is it that I became an adult and still have so many unanswered questions?

Can you see the speech bubble above my head when you read this?

Why don’t I get to throw tantrums?  I don’t want to be an adult and have to act my age.

I don’t want to referee any more arguments and my black and white shirt needs to be washed so all disputes must wait until shirt is clean.   How did I become a referee anyway?

What did we do before sticky notes?  How did we “flag” items that were important?  Can you imagine how your life would change if suddenly all sticky notes disappeared?

I think that digital cameras were a great invention for parents.  I didn’t take many pictures before I had my digital camera because I didn’t want to waste film or money developing the film for bad pictures.  Now I can take as many pictures as I want and if I only keep a few, that is ok and I just delete the ones I don’t want.

How can a child be in the bathtub for over an hour and not wash?  Is there not soap and shampoo in the tub?  Why is it that when you remind said child that they need to use soap, they say “ok” and when you check on them a little later and ask if they have used soap, they reply, “not yet”?  What are they waiting for?  And why is it when you check with them again, they say, “I forgot.”  How can you forget to use soap when you are in the bathtub?

How is it that you can clean all day and within an hour there are more dishes to be done, laundry to be washed and garbage to be taken out?

Why would anyone clean all day?  I must have lost my mind.

If I lost my mind, it was because I put it in a safe place and can’t remember where that safe place was.  I know that I put it somewhere safe, so we wouldn’t lose it, but I really can’t remember where that is.  It would be the same place where I put the powdered sugar container before we found it.  I promise you that it was safe there though.

Why is it that it hits 3:30 pm and I get tired?  And then all I want is to eat chocolate and sleep.  I understand the sleep part, but what about chocolate part?  Is it because I think that chocolate will wake me up?  Or is it because chocolate is “comfort food”?

Why do kids assume they missed the bus when a bus goes by?

Why didn’t my package arrive when it was supposed to?  It left Denver at 4:17 am and it still isn’t here.  What did we do we could track packages?  Or order off the internet?

Why did it take more than 24 hours for my package to transit from Denver to Parker?  It takes me less than 30 minutes to drive from Parker to Denver

Why is it, when I finally have a day all to myself – Chris is at work and both kids are at school – I have a massive headache and can’t enjoy it?  Aleve and coffee haven’t put a dent in it, either!

If unemployment says that I am supposed to make 5 contacts a week for jobs, and I apply for 10 jobs this week (because there are 10 jobs posted I can apply for), and there are no jobs posted next week, am I good?

Why is it that when I change the sheets, wash the comforter and actually make the bed look nice, does the fan decide to spit dust?  I know that I need to clean the fan and I’ve thought about doing it, but just hadn’t gotten to it.  It is a tough job standing on the bed to get the fan clean, and the dust goes everywhere.  And I’m still working on getting everything in my room put away from moving the furniture from Sugar’s trip out the window (see previous post).

Why do my kids argue about the stupidest things?  They actually were getting VERY angry with each other about having a fan on in their room while they were trying to sleep.  One child was hot.  The other child said he couldn’t fall asleep because of the noise the fan made.  How in the hell do you solve this problem?

Parenting at 9:45 pm would not qualify as some of my best parenting.  I get angry when kids are arguing when they are supposed to be sleeping.

Why is it that I ordered a book for me (on parenting – specifically parenting kids without religion) and David manages to steal it and read the beginning of the book before I have a chance to look at it?  He really frightens me sometimes:  he was familiar with one of the reviewers of the book.  How does a teenager know of a reviewer of a parenting book?  And does that mean that I bought a good book, or one I should be leery of?

Goals: My Blog and My Life is funny, I was waiting for my blog to be read 1,000 times and I hit that goal just two days ago.  But I was busy with the kids and didn’t really take the time to celebrate.

I was also waiting to hit 100 reads in a day, which  I have surpassed today.  This is after having almost no one read my blog over the weekend.  One of the things that I read when “researching” about getting more readers, was that posting first thing in the morning was ideal.  Today, I posted before 7 am MST.

I would imagine that it was a combination of factors that helped me reach my goals.  There are many aspects of blogging that I have no control over – I can only write and publicize and hope that my blog gets read.

I guess that the same thing can be said for my life goals.  I wanted to be teaching by my 40th birthday.  I didn’t make it.  Not because I hadn’t tried, I had.  Not because I didn’t work hard, I did (and graduated with a 3.98 GPA). I didn’t reach my goal because there haven’t been any jobs.  I cannot think of one single thing that I could have done that would have changed my situation:  there is nothing that I could have done to reach my goal that I didn’t already do.

When I didn’t reach my goal of teaching by the time I turned 40, I revised my goal.  I wanted to have a teaching position before I turned 41.  At this point, I do not think that I will reach that goal, but sometimes life surprises us.  I have until October.  I guess that if I don’t reach that goal, I’ll have to re-evaluate and decide if there is anything that I need to do differently.

For now, I have to hope that I hit the right combination of factors and reach my goals.  (And yesterday I hit 150 views in one day!)

More Musings From an Unemployed Teacher Turned Frustrated Housewife

Why do some of the dishes come out of the dishwasher dirtier than they went in?  And why does the repair guy me there is nothing wrong with the dishwasher?

Did you know that you can load the dishwasher (even rinse all the dishes) in less that the time it takes for coffee to brew?

Getting the coffee going in the morning is important to me, I measure a lot of things by the time coffee brews.

Why is it that I have to remind Michael to take his phone with him on a regular basis?  And why is it that the time he remembers on his own, he put it in his swimsuit pocket to go to the pool?

Did you know that phones don’t like pools?

And did you know that the vacuum cleaner is the best way to pull moisture out of a phone?  The next step is to put the phone in rice.  But, seriously, did you know that phones don’t like pools?  And no vacuum or rice can fix that?

Did you know that a phone charger costs $30.00 and you can get a new phone from Verizon (every 2 years) for $40.00 and that includes the charger?

Did you know that a kid with an alarm clock has the option to snooze means that the alarm will be going off every 10 minutes for an hour?

I wonder what causes people to get a second wind.  I wonder if there is a way to tell yourself that you don’t want one and would rather go to sleep.  Do you think that if you could tell yourself that, that you would listen to yourself?

Why is it, when I have things for the boys to do, they are doing the one thing that I don’t want to stop?  Reading!

There are three opened and one unopened bottle of BBQ sauce in my refrigerator.  I wonder why that is and if that is why I kept buying more, so there are 3 more unopened bottles in the pantry?

I I don’t make myself coffee in the morning when I get up and start feeling tired in the afternoon, should I make coffee then?  But I don’t really care for hot coffee (see How I Found Coffee) in the afternoon, so should I make it iced?  Will it keep me up at night?  And how will I know that it is the coffee and not other things, because I don’t sleep on a normal schedule anyway?

Why is it that my boys don’t think I know anything about electronics?  Why is it when I ask a question I get attitude and eye rolling?  Michael says that it is because I ask the stupidest questions.  But is any question stupid?  And if I knew the answer, why would I ask?  Just to annoy them?

I wonder if they realize that, while their dad is an expert and I don’t know as much as he does, I do know much more than the average person.  And why aren’t they duly impressed when I figure things out on my own and don’t have to bother them?

Why doesn’t my own family read my blog?  And why is it that they get angry with me for reading it to them, saying that they want to read it on their own, but then don’t?

Is it possible to “over blog?”  I’ve been playfully accused of “over blogging” by AG and I wonder if it is possible.  And why is it when someone says something like that to me, I have to “over think” it?

Can I limit myself to 1 posting every day, plus a Job Search Update without exploding?  Why is it when the creative juices begin to run, you can no longer keep things contained?

How can I spend the entire day working on my blog and doing not much else?  I wonder why that is ok with me.  It almost seems like a waste of time.  But is it really, if it helps me keep my sanity?

Michael playing indoor soccer.

Did you know that I’m a soccer mom?  Michael plays soccer and I take him to his practices and games.   That makes me a soccer mom.  How come I didn’t know this until the other day, when I’ve been a soccer mom for 4 years?  But what is a Soccer Mom, really?

Am I unemployed if I am home-schooling David?  And chauffeuring both boys?  If I am a chef, personal shopper, housekeeper, dog walker, event planner, schedule coordinator, blogger, part-time nurse, alarm clock, photographer, laundress, investigator, homework monitor, judge and jury, jailer, job applicant, and finder of lost things?  Isn’t it that I am over-worked and under-paid instead?  And how did I have time for all of it when I did work?

Why is it that the first day of school causes parents to forget how to move through the pick-up line?  I waited for almost 30 minutes to get Michael and his friend from school.  I didn’t even make it to the parking lot until 4:15 (school lets out at 4).

Why is it that when I have a TON of things to do, someone doesn’t sleep and so I don’t sleep?

A 5 lb. medicine ball and two boys is not a good combination.  And the boys will seek out the medicine ball no matter where you put it.  Don’t even think about putting it down because one of the boys will have it when you are ready to pick it back up.

A 10-year-old can get a muscle cramp from working his abdominal obliques with a 5 lb. medicine ball.

When there is an error message on the coffee machine, it is not a good thing.  Especially, when the error message means that the coffee machine won’t turn on and it beeps loudly every few minutes to tell you that the non-existent coffee is ready.

The smoke detector going off at 2 am scares the living daylights out of you.  And even if there is nothing wrong, it makes it very difficult to go back to sleep.

If the coffee machine error and the smoke detector going off in the middle of the night happen in a 24 hour period, you know that you are in for a VERY rough day.

Job Search Update – August 2, 2011

This will be a short post because there really isn’t anything to report.  Didn’t get the job in Elizabeth.  Applied for 2 more jobs in Douglas County and have asked everyone I know who might know someone there to put in a good word for me.

My substitute application for Douglas County is processing.  I applied back in June.  They have checked my references (thanks KN and KH).  Hopefully, it won’t be much longer.  I’ve spoken to the principals at 2 schools and a number of teachers about subbing – so I hope that I will work.  A friend who work with Deaf and Hard of Hearing kiddos (DHH) said that she would use me (and I didn’t need any special qualifications, like signing).  So, that will open up some new schools that I haven’t been in.  TM also had a lead for me on a job, and I’m waiting to see if something comes of it.

Beyond that, there hasn’t been anything to even apply for.  I was required, by unemployment to register with Colorado Works, which I did yesterday, and they didn’t have any jobs for me either.

So, we’ll see.

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