Wednesday, July 13, 2011

back to school

Life, as usual, moves faster than I can blog.  I have to accept sometimes that life needs to be lived before it can be reflected upon, that often things don’t make sense until some distance is achieved. So what can I give in terms of updates? 

Let’s see, I didn’t make it back to the gym for three days due some strep-like virus thing (that after a frustrating morning at Kaiser, I found was not, in fact, strep).  I got to experience just how difficult it is caring for two children with a sore throat and a 101 degree fever.  But I was able to reap the benefits of the “can’t eat that because I can hardly swallow” diet, and lost more weight than I was expecting to.  Since the first weigh-in three week ago (yes, I’m calling them weigh-ins), I’ve lost about four pounds, which is in line with what I’m supposed to be losing.  There’s no reward yet in the pre-pregnancy pants department, but I’m getting there, and I feel better, which is actually the point of all of this.

In the line of trying new things, finding my niche, etc., I’ve decided I’d like to take up sewing, at least give it shot, so I’m trying to find a way to do that inexpensively and set myself up for success.  I could fill several blogs with the DIY disasters of my life (exploding ceramics! misshapen knitwear!), but I’d really like to do something with this one, as it could solve some of my fashion dilemmas and get me excited about clothes again.  I’ve found a dress that I swear I’ve wanted to own/make since childhood.  It’s a “very easy” Vogue pattern: halter with a full skirt that hits below the knee.  So we’ll see.  If I borrow a sewing machine, go to a discount fabric place for materials, I’ll probably only be out $30 whatever happens, so it’s a small investment.

Probably the biggest thing looming right now is grad school.  I start an MFA program at Mills College in the fall for creative writing.  I’m excited, so excited I almost can’t write about it.  It means I’m doing something real with my writing, but also still supporting my career as a teacher, which is much more than a fallback, it’s a job I want to do, in some capacity, for the rest of my life.  I was afraid I’d never get to go to school full time again, for a few reasons.  First, I went to a good school for undergrad, but I majored in something I didn’t love, so my grades, especially in the last two years, were average at best.  I came out at about that time, too, so let’s just say, I was, ahem, distracted (read more of Jenn’s coming out story here!). 

Also, once I was working full time, I didn’t imagine ever being able to afford to stop working, and had a lot of difficulty imagining holding down a full time job and going to school at the same time.  So I took baby steps.  I did a summer fellowship through Teachers College worth a few graduate credits.  I went to a few conferences at universities offering credits.  I spent a year getting my teaching credential through a program for working (private school) teachers when I was pregnant with Julia.  And now I’m not working full time, not ready to go back to teaching full or even part time, and I found a program in the area that will help me not only further my teaching career, but begin a legit writing career.

Writing has always been a sacred thing for me, and up until very recently, a private thing.  I’ve kept a journal (or several) since I was about nine, but I’d only shared scraps of writing from them with a few people (usually my significant other at the time).  I balked at the idea of blogging at first, as it seemed like such a public display of, well, everything, and I didn’t think I could take the exposure.  I have this tendency to freak out and rip apart any public performance I give about a minute after I give it.  But then, I was assigned to start a blog by my Curriculum and Instruction professor, and teacheteria was born (which morphed into mamateria once the class ended and I gave birth to Julia).  I got some good feedback from people I trusted, so I kept going.  

Around the same time, I was teaching seventh grade at a small private school in San Francisco.  I was a humanities teacher, meaning I taught a combined course of language arts and social studies.  I required my students to keep a journal and gave them some dedicated time every day to write.  On Friday afternoons, students would share from their journals.  As you might expect, some kids wanted to share all the time, every day; they couldn’t wait for Friday to come.  And then there were the kids for whom sharing was like having a tooth extracted.  I understood those kids.  So I decided to set an example and begin to share some of my writing with them. 

Reluctant to share any of my own real journal entries, I decided to write a story for my students, one I would read aloud from each week.  A lot of them were into fantasy writing, and being twelve or thirteen, were chock full of new teen angst, so I decided to write them a young adult fantasy of the kind that’s become so popular (insert snarky comment about Twilight here), and see if I couldn’t put my own spin on it.  I based the main character loosely on a thirteen year old me, which also kept them interested, knowing it was at least in part autobiographical, though I was a little cryptic about which parts.  I think most of them knew I couldn’t really fly.  Well, they began to get into the story, and I got really into writing for them and getting their reactions and their feedback.  The thing took on a life of it’s own, and I continued writing it on and off for three years for and with my students.  At about the fifth or sixth chapter, I realized two things.  One, I realized I was on my way to really writing a book.  Two, I had no idea how to write a book or what to do with it once I was finished.  And I wanted to share this one once it was done.  I didn’t want it to sit on a shelf, which it did anyway for about two years while I got my mommy career underway. 

This past fall I was tutoring a young man who was putting together a portfolio to audition for the School of the Arts in San Francisco.  And at home, I was back at my story, fine tuning, expanding, preparing it to present with an application to an MFA program.  Something had clicked inside me, and I realized that while motherhood would always be my most important work, it could not be my only work.  And if I was going to take any time away from my kids, it was going to be for something really worth my while, something stimulating, something nourishing.  But as bored and as frustrated as I knew I was with stay-at-home motherhood, I couldn’t do something that would take me away from them for 40+ hours a week.  I did that with Julia, and I lasted exactly six months before I had to quit to be with her.  I said it then, and I’ll say it now, I loved that job.  I just loved my daughter more.  So what if I could have both?  

When I got into the program, I was ecstatic.  Since I got the news, I've gone through orientation, registered for my classes and gotten more and more pumped.  I get to go back to school; get to be the student again after so much time.  My life has a new direction, the right direction, it feels like finally.  As the semester approaches, though, I have these (sometimes absurd) questions running through my head: Will it be everything I’ve imagined? Will it be too stressful, juggling school with two kids? Will everyone be younger than me?  Will everyone be weird?  Will everyone be super competitive?  Will anyone else have kids?  Most likely everyone won’t be any one thing and I’ll have to force myself to suspend judgement, be patient, and let the next chapter unfold.

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