Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trip #1 - Rocky Mountain Pilgrims Retreat

Like the one I've gone to in the Midwest, except not at all like it.

Plus, I may be biased, but the Colorado scenery beats the Indiana scene:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Favorite Test Answers 2015

Only two good ones on this this year's Humanities final.

When asked to identify what period of art this piece is:

one student responded "Salvador Dada."

(It is a dada piece by Duchamp, but somehow Dali got into the mix.)

And when asked for the title of this painting:

another student said, "The Harlots of Europe."

Okay, he's not too far off on that one ("Les Demoiselles d'Avignon"), but I think it's a fine example of how everything is more elegant in French.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I was diagnosed with depression in January.

I didn't really want to write about it back then because I didn't want to make it a Thing.  However, it's consumed enough of my time and thoughts these past months that not writing about it was making it more of a Thing than writing about it would.  So here we are.

I've suspected for a while that I was chronically depressed.  For a few years I felt less and less like myself.  As a teenager and in my 20's I would occasionally lose what I called my joie de vivre, but it always came back within, at most, a day or two.

Then one day I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I felt happy.

It hadn't been a day or two or a week or a month.  I thought back over the last year, then the last two years; and I couldn't remember a single moment of real happiness.

I knew enough about depression to recognize other symptoms, but I was coping.  I still worked, still went out with friends, still traveled.  It wasn't debilitating.  It just never went away.

The thing is, I wasn't sure if there was something wrong with me or if this was just a part of growing up.  Maybe I'm just finally thinking like an adult?  Maybe this is just what people feel like?  Maybe I just need to suck it up, put my shoulder to the wheel, keep going, and everything will be fine.

And so another year passed.

Then last November-ish we had to take an online health survey for my work's insurance.  At the end of clicking though several pages of questions, the computer told me something along the lines of, "We can't actually make a diagnosis because we're a computer and not a doctor, but we're pretty sure you're depressed and you really need to see a doctor about it."


I made an appointment with my primary care doctor, told her what the computer told me, and she quickly ran through a list of questions.  Even going into the appointment with research behind me (because of course I'm going to do research), I was surprised to discover my own (unspoken) responses to the routine questions.

Her: Do you no longer take pleasure in doing things that you used to enjoy doing?
Me:  I guess.
My Thoughts: ...but I'm in the middle of speech and the musical and that's always a crazy time for me and anyone would get sick of it after so many years of teaching.

Her: Do you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning?
Me:  Yes, but I have to get up at 5 AM for work, so that may be understandable.
My Thoughts: ...Yes, and it used to be easy to find things to look forward to each day, but now you get out of bed just because it's what you're supposed to do and you're a person who shows up.

Her: Do you feel worthless or have low self-esteem?
Me:  Yes
My Thoughts: But I deserve it, I'm a horrible person.
My Next Thoughts:  Whoa!  What the hell?!  Did you just hear yourself think that?!

"Yes," my doctor said when she finished.  "It sounds like you're depressed.  Let's talk medications."

And so we started the process.  I knew (thanks to research!) that finding the right medication for issues like depression rarely happens quickly, but the process is starting to wear on me at this point.  Each month I try a new medication or a new dosage, and each month I go in for another appointment, go through the survey, and get yet another new prescription.

Some of the side effects have been interesting to experience - for example, my dreams are much more vivid and memorable than before (though rarely for the better, unfortunately).

In the past week or so another interesting development occurred - I became aware that I should be happy.  Intellectually, I suddenly could line up in my brain all of the things that were going well.  I run over the list to myself and note apathetically that each of these occurrences and situations are good.  I am fully aware that I should be happy, but I don't feel it at all.  It's as if there is a glass partition in between me and happiness.  I can see it and examine it, but I just can't feel it.  It's really quite odd to experience.

But then I get frustrated with myself.  Frustrated and angry.  I get so mad at myself that everything could be going so well, but I just can't be happy.  Why can't I just be happy, damn it?

I don't know.  I wish I could.  I think one of the reasons I feel so tired is because I'm pretending all day every day that I want to be at school, that I want to work with these kids, that I'm happy to be there.  I want to be honest about my feelings - that's important to me, but I can't be truthful and maintain the classroom atmosphere they need.  So every class period I put on a smile and tell them that I'm happy to be there, that I'm excited to see them.  Compile that with a particularly difficult 4A with students I have to be extra patient, extra nothing-you-do-will-phase-me, extra "happy" to be around....

It's getting harder to get up every day and pretend for the sake of my job; and when I am less vigilant after work, when I am honest with my friends or my family about not being happy, I worry that I'll drive them away.  Because who wants to be around someone who's depressed all the time?

I'm on a new dosage of the medication that gave me the glass partition, so maybe it will help me break through.  In the meantime, I'll keep lining up the good things in my head and try to ignore the thoughts that tell me that 'hope is a thing with feathers' because I'm fairly afraid that I'll startle the hope I've only just spotted and it will too quickly fly away.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Tonight is the final meeting for my New York trip.  It's the last chance for me to go over logistics, provide a packing list, and reassure the more nervous parents.

It's also time to give the travelers their swag.

Thanks to forward thinking and Amazon Prime, I was ahead of the game this year and putting these together. Each traveler receives:

- A NY keychain
- Cough drops (for shows)
- A NY transit pop-up map
- A whistle to blow if they loose me in the crowds (I decided our signal is "short long long" – Morse Code for W)
- Band-Aids (Marvel AND Barbie)
- Hand wipes
- A small zippered pouch (which I did not sew myself, despite temptation to customize each one per kid)

They also get their choice of bumper sticker:

And their choice of luggage tag (which, okay, I did give in and make myself.  I can't do a project like this and not have at least one DIY gift!):

Personally, I think this is much better than bright orange matching t-shirts, don't you?

Are You Kidding Me, Colorado?

It's May.  It's late May.  And I have to drive to work through snow?!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Travel Priorities

I spent a large chunk of my afternoon today searching for a hotel in London.  My indecision stems from the following combination:

I do not want to share a bunk bed/bathroom with 19-year-olds;
I want to pay hostel prices for central London accommodations.

This is a paradox that I cannot resolve.

After many, many rounds of negotiations with myself/the Internet yielded no agreements, I decided I needed to have a place to stay far less than I needed shows to see.

Within 20 minutes I booked tickets to four performances* in three days (and there's still 3 time slots I can fill!).

I do not have a place to lay my weary head, but by golly I have Shakespeare.

Which should surprise absolutely none of you.

* For the curious, I'll be seeing:

- Everyman at the National Theater (yay, medieval morality plays!)
- War Horse at the National Theater (yay, puppets!)
- A staged reading of the short story Othello was based on and a lecture on Shakespeare and Islam, as part of the "Shakespeare Inspired Talks" at the Wanamaker Playhouse next to the Globe (yay, academics!)
- As You Like It at the Globe (yay, Jacques!)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Crappy Misogyny

At 2:00 on Wednesday, our principal got on the PA and announced that all water access was strictly cut off.  No bathrooms, no sinks, no drinking fountains.  "Fortunately, there's only 30 minutes of school left," he said.  "Oh, and all activities and athletics after school are cancelled as well."

There is nothing quite like being told you have no access to a bathroom to make you very aware of your bladder.

I asked the next custodian I saw what was going on.  It seems a giant clog has blocked up the building's pipes to the west of the middle school.  It backed up into their bathrooms, then backed up into ours before spilling out into the parking lot on the west side.

This made a lovely exit sight for the National Honor Society honorees and their parents as they left the building later that night.

At 9:30 PM that night, I received an automated call from the district office.  "Due to a water treatment issue, the middle school and the high school will be closed tomorrow," they said.  "All staff are expected to report."

A flurry of texting between me and other teachers occurred, all variations of "?!?".  Report when?  For what?  Will we have bathrooms?  Nobody knew, or at least those who knew weren't talking.

My carpool buddy and I decided to go on a work day schedule and left at 7:30, right when the first explanation from our administration appeared in my email.  We were expected to be there for a full day, to work on pacing guides and grading and department/faculty meetings, and "if needed" we could use the restrooms at the district office.

"This is a decision made by a man," was my very first thought upon hearing this.

My principal confirmed it at a faculty meeting later that day.  He admitted to pressing the issue a little bit in a passive way (his words), but didn't really argue the point.

I packed three water bottles from home; made the 10 minute walk (each way) to the district office twice; and told my principal that he should point out to our superintendent that if he had ever experienced menstruation or pregnancy he would not think that a "little walk" is an acceptable solution.


They brought in an industrial machine to blast the clog out of the way in time for us to hold school on Friday.  Last I heard, the superintendent was blaming the clog on Tampons.


The last few days have remained crappy (on occasion literally, as you'll see in my next post).  Unable to take the treatments I really need (getting good sleep, regular exercise, and time away from PITA students, for example), I've taken to self-medicating.

For some that means ice cream or alcohol or other vices.

Me, my vices are spreadsheets:

Current Itinerary for NY Trip

China Train Research

To Do Lists:

(Fun Fact: I wrote the last item upon waking suddenly at 11:30 at night.
I have absolutely no idea what "Pin for Centennial" means.)

Calendar Charts:

The item in the upper right is a comic-book style rendering of the ending of Macbeth
given to me recently by Chism, one of my seniors.

Color-Coded Paper Clips:

and, just this once, saying, "Screw grading!" to the stack of tests on my desk, skeddadling as soon as the last kids leave, and catching the 4:00 showing of Avengers 2:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Great/Not Great

I tend to forget how insane May is for anyone school-affiliated.  Yes, I am done with play productions as of last weekend (2 comedic one acts, small audiences but students had fun and are proud.  I'm just glad I don't have to come up with a Chthulu costume or a goat that can be dismembered or whatever other props plays include just to drive me batty); but there's still post-tests and finals and buckets of grading and kids/parents who finally, just now, decide they want to pass after all and can I please assemble all of their missing work for them (No) on top of meetings and more meetings and curriculum writing for next year and one more field trip and Grad Night and Senior Awards Night and a Pin Assembly and graduation itself and, and, and-

And I'm stressed out.  I'm researching possible calendar apps for school-wide use next year, and every time I sync to a new app and see my calendar for this month I get a headache.  With two exceptions, I have things going on after school or in the evening every. single. day. this month.  Plus, I'm still trying to figure out China hotels and visas and trains and where I should stay in London and what do I pack/read for Oxford and, oh, yeah, I'm in charge of 17 high schoolers in New York; and, and, and-

This is me right now.  I'm very much aware of how lucky I am to have the activities I have this summer, but I've got a chest cold and I'm not sleeping enough and my 4A class spent most of the period arguing at me (and I do mean at me - I'm deliberately not engaging, water off a duck's back, all Zen-like, but it still stresses me out) and declaring that "You hate us, don't you?" when I ask them to stop talking and get to work and I'm tired of not being happy when I don't have a good reason to be unhappy and I really should go see a therapist but I've never done that before and when I'm faced with doing something I don't know how to do in America I avoid it like I avoid camping (yet I have no problem doing new things in other countries because: foreigner) and I should probably talk to someone about my anxiety over that but how do I do that when figuring out how to talk to someone is what's causing the anxiety and, and, and-

All I want to do is go see "Avengers 2."  Just go eat a burger at the Alamo and enjoy Joss Whedon's work and Chris Evans' charm and Chris Hemsworth's arms.  Is that so much to ask?

Maybe in six weeks I can.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Midwest Pilgrims 2015

I'm in the middle of nowhere in Indiana this weekend for Midwest Pilgrims again!

No cell service, spotty wifi, and 80-some-odd women of various ages, education, situations, relationships with the LDS Church, but all pretty darn feminist - it's quite the retreat, and I'm thrilled to be back with so many faces I recognize and am eager to reconnect with.

Here's a shot of the building I'm sleeping in:

Woot, woot!