My birthday weekend began with a trip to Alamosa with the speech team. While spending 7 hours on the bus wasn't an ideal way to celebrate, we did kick some serious butt at the meet. On top of 35 awards including 7 first places (out of the 9 events we competed in), Alamosa's coach decided to give out an award to the school with the most points overall. We won it by a landslide, much to the delight of the students.
I got home a little after 11 PM Saturday night and crashed. When I got up the next morning, I though I was going to be a little late for church but it turned out I was super-early for Stake Conference.
The afternoon was spent doing laundry, cooking meals for the week, and talking to friends and family members on the phone who called to wish me a happy birthday. Rachel, Ben, and the boys descended on my house to bring gifts, dinner, and a birthday pie:
They also brought chaos. There's nothing like a couple of children to show you how incredibly not child-proof your house is.
It was really fun to see them all and celebrate. Rachel got me a labelmaker (hurrah!) and made me a crocheted baby Groot for my desk at school (much to the delight of my students). Ben got me a canvas print for my bathroom, which I love, and Jack made me some artwork for my fridge:
The "M" stamps are for "Manda", he explained.
After the Masons left I talked to Mom and Dad for a bit and opened their gifts. In a revival of my childhood years in San Francisco, they got me some tap dance accessories, including a portable dance floor that Natasha immediately laid claim to:
As if that wasn't enough, Fara told me a few weeks ago that she was taking over birthday celebration plans. All I had to do was give her a guest list and a couple of open dates, and she texted me back a bit later this cryptic message: "We're picking you up at 6:00 PM on Monday."
I was ready and eager Monday evening to find out what they had in store. I had no idea that my friends would find one of the best possible things to do on a Monday night.
Fara, Rachel, Tammy, Lisa, and Cindy surprised me with tickets to a quote-along viewing of The Princess Bride at the Alamo with a live screening of Cary Elwes reading from his new memoir before the film and a Q&A with him after the film. Plus, the tickets came with a slew of bonus items:
An inflatable sword to use during the fencing scenes (bonus points if you start out with it in your left hand),
Bubbles to blow when Buttercup jumps out the window,
A bell to ring whenever there's kissing (since it is a kissing book),
An Alamo-exclusive souvenir pint glass with art depicting the tumble down the mountain side, and
A signed copy of Elwes' new book.
It was ridiculously fun. I've never seen it on the big screen (and, oh, the textiles! I did not appreciate the use of trim in those costumes when I watched that movie as a youngster), and I loved seeing it in a room full of fans. There were even people in costume.
Truly, my friends outdid themselves. Fara told me her first suggestion to the group was that we all go paint vaginas on dinner plates a la Judy Chicago (an excellent example of why I like Fara so much), but "that idea flatlined." I assured her that this was absolutely perfect. It made my month that I got get together with such good friends to fan girl over Cary Elwes (and Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn. Yes, he's short, but he's a writer, an Oxford alum, and a Fulbright teacher so he also = HAWT.)
This pretty much sums up how I feel about the entire occasion:
A member of my church's stake presidency stopped by on Sunday to visit with me. He asked me to be a member of the stake's mid-single committee (i.e. adults aged 31-45).
I told him I was concerned about the time commitment. He said it wouldn't be much - a monthly meeting and the occasional activity.
"Here's the thing," I said. "I'm a high school teacher, and I am the theater director and the speech coach at my school. That means that from October to the end of January, I work pretty much every weekend. I wouldn't be able to commit to any activities on Fridays or Saturdays during that time." I didn't bother mentioning the long weekdays, the musical, or my habit of running away every summer for weeks on end.
He said he'd have to think about that and get back to me. I told him I understood and walked him back to my door. As I opened it, he turned back. "So that sounds like a fun hobby," he said.
"What does?" I asked.
"That speech and theater thing," he said. "Quite the hobby."
I dropped some of my conversational politeness in my surprise. "It's not a hobby," I said flatly. "It's my career."
He left after that, but I find his off-hand remark so belittling, so insulting, that I'm having a hard time letting it go.
It doesn't help that he said this at a time when I am wondering whether I can even continue as a teacher. With my own district continuing to shrink in population and in funding and with districts across the nation moving more and more towards using standardized tests to determine not only what teachers should be paid but what should be taught, I cannot say with any certainty that I can hold this job for the rest of my working life, let alone for the next ten years.
I don't know if theater teachers will still exist in the public schools in the near future, and I don't think I want to keep teaching if all I teach is English. Public education is changing. It's changing dramatically, and I'm weighing the wisdom of waiting to see how long my position lasts against getting out ahead of the game. Suddenly I find myself wondering something I thought I'd already decided:
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Honestly, I want to be a teacher. I want to teach theater and Humanities and, heck, even speech and debate. I want to do what I'm doing now, ideally with a bit more money and a few less hours riding a school bus.
I want to be a teacher, but I no longer think that'll always be an option.
It's football season, which means it's time to play dress up!
I'm referring, of course, to the bi-annual high school spirit week, which necessitates a series of themed costumes.
While I abstained as usual from the ever-popular "jersey day," I do feel compelled to participate in the other costumes of the week. One of them posed a bit of a challenge this year, though: Superhero Day.
I pondered out loud what I should wear as Tiffany and I drove home from school the day before. "Just tie a sheet around your neck and call it good," she said.
Clearly, she did not understand the obligations I am under as The Drama Teacher. Tie a sheet around my neck? Really? Without creating a personalized decal in color-coordinating fabric and lining the entire thing in something shiny first? I mean, has she even met me?
I banished the thought of a cape. It was too obvious, and it's not yet the time of year when my sewing machine stays on my kitchen table. I needed a superhero that a) I liked and b) wore clothing that I already owned. Then, around 8:30 PM, inspiration struck:
Black dress? Check.
Black high-heeled boots? Check.
Blond hair? Well... not so much, and my blond wig was put out of commission by the last play we did. Purple hair will have to do.
Accessories? Hmm.... If I was going to be a vampire slayer, I needed a crucifix. Curse my Mormon devotion! Not a crucifix in sight. I'll just have to make one.
My first attempt involved cutting bamboo skewers to size, wrapping them together with string, sealing the string with candle wax, then coating the whole thing with a bit of spray paint.
It turned out well:
...but then I discovered that I had no way to hang it as a pendant.
So I busted out the soldering kit and my jewelry supplies and soldered myself a cross:
It's a but rougher on the edges than the first version, but it works!
The necklace was too subtle, though. There are plenty of students and staff at MTHS who wear crosses on a daily basis, and I wanted to stand out.
I needed a stake.
And that's how I wound up using a butcher knife to whittle the handle of my meat mallet to a point:
But to too much of a point. It was for school after all:
I spray-painted the rest of the meat mallet handle to give it more of a "fresh stick" look, and my accessories were done!
It was subtle enough that many students didn't even realize I was in costume until I pulled Mr. Pointy out of my boot. They liked it, and were impressed by my soldering. "I can picture you spending your weekend making props like this," one of them commented as he admired my rough carving.
"The weekend?" I scoffed. "Try 10:00 PM last night!"
Such is my measure of devotion - enough to stay up late carving a fake vampire stake, but not enough to buy a sports jersey.
Sometime early this morning I reached a new state of stress. I just stopped feeling all of the pressure and frustration and suddenly I was just fine. The stack of papers to be graded and 62 unread/unanswered emails and the lack of judges for the meet this weekend were all still staring at me, but I sipped my glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast and felt totally okay about it all.
This was a nice change. Some last week when I noticed I was developing my third cold sore in six days and my right shoulder started clicking when I rotated it from muscle tension I finally tallied what exactly was causing me so much grief. In the last two weeks or so I have:
- Set up and run two field trips
- Arranged judges, concessions, and materials for the Home Speech Meet this Saturday
- Handled group ticket sales for eleven different shows for a dozen or so people
- Held auditions for the fall play
- Started pre-production for the musical
- Coordinated a on-site playwriting workshop for my classes and the entire English department
- Repainted the dressing rooms and backstage area
- Taught my classes
- Tried to keep on top of grading
- (Begrudgingly) accepted a new weekly detention supervision duty
- Fulfilled various church duties
- Fought off a minor cold (still ongoing)
It might be okay that I've been feeling stressed. Or, rather, that I was feeling stressed until I found my new Zen level.