Monday, March 25, 2013

School Rules

(Do I look like a 5th grade teacher?  Didn't think so.)

Over the last couple years, I've found myself having to be a jack of all trades.  (And master of very few!)  I've been a journalist, dance instructor, photographer, ghost writer, publicist, nanny, producer and now I've been working as a substitute teacher for the last couple weeks, and will continue on through the remainder of the school year.  I worked at the school about 14 years ago and despised it, dreaded every day, but my job description was very different then...I'm enjoying it immensely these days.  Today I took the place of the combined 3rd/4th/5th grade teacher, a huge class which seemed daunting to me ahead of time, despite knowing most of the kids.  I needn't have worried, they were mostly all sweet and helpful.  Admittedly I stumbled a bit in math's pretty humbling to realize even elementary math is tricky for me, if only momentarily.  Math was never my strong suit!  Everything else though, I aced.

First thing, I checked the chore chart and asked the little girl responsible to feed the fish...but she came back to report one was laying on the bottom, lifeless.  Well, that kept everyone rather distracted all morning.  Some kids claimed it was stunned but still alive, (they'd seen it twitch!!!) some insisted the bubbler was making it move and it was absolutely DEAD.  One created an elaborate paper coffin while she was supposed to be doing a worksheet.  Finally when they had gone to snack, I had the janitor remove it so we could get back to business!  RIP, 20 cent Neon Tetra!

At circle time, the kids got to talk about what they did over the weekend.  Then they asked me about MY weekend.  Unfortunately, I had attended my grandmother's funeral on Sunday, which really, was a nice day, all things considered...wonderful to have many happy memories shared and to see my family, BUT add that to the dead fish incident, and the classroom conversation was immediately returned to death.  Egads!

I got a small thrill from standing at the front of the room writing things on the white board and sternly stopping two small boys from wresting over a marker.  It reminded me of all the days playing school with my sisters as a child.  I, of course, was ALWAYS the teacher, being the eldest - a born leader and general Bossy Johnson.  I got to assign a writing project of my own choosing and was delighted that the class seemed to enjoy the topic.  The smell of erasers and paste and industrial paper towels was pretty darn nostalgic.  And harking back to my juvenile days, I secretly snickered to myself every time I had to walk down the hall and see a half finished bulletin board with only: "HOW CHICKS DEVELOP" written at the top.

Anyhow, I made it.  Made it through a jammed printer, a dead fish, a mysterious math class, and a kid who refused to read a paragraph about Dung Beetles out loud.  Do I want to go back to college and become a teacher full-time?  Nope.  I'd rather do this and keep loving it.  A new, fresh thing every day.  Nice to see my own boys as they come and go, nice to get hugs from random kids, nice to laugh with other adults at lunch.  Utterly exhausting, but still, satisfying.  Tomorrow's another day, I wonder who I'll be next?    

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Grammy Sheehan

We lost my Grammy Sheehan yesterday.  After increasing dementia, she had a stroke last week.  I feel...I feel lately like an invisible deck is shuffling and my card is coming closer to the top.  As we lose grandparents, the equation changes and MY parents are the grandparents, I am the parent...we rotate up a notch and fill new roles.

Grammy Sheehan, I don't talk about her much.  I suppose it's because, unlike the other side of the family, she was quiet, not easy to sketch out in writing.  She was a hidden well that I couldn't quite understand I suppose, since my feelings are on display every minute,  I can't imagine holding them in.  She is glowing and lovely in early pictures, raised on a Brookfield farm, she married my mom's dad and they had four beautiful daughters.  She cared for her dying husband, a photographer, many years, as he slowly lost his battle with leukemia when my mother was just thirteen.  She struggled, she must have.  But all under the cover of her Vermont farm girl strength.  No complaining.  She was always so matter-of-fact about everything.  Life went on and you went on with it.  Gram had stick-to.  Gram was practical.  Gram was a hard worker.  Gram was tidy and efficient and organized.   But you know what?  Occasionally this tiny smile would hover on her lips before she keeled over with laughter, slapping her hands on her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks.  She and her daughters, my Mom and aunties, they always cry when they laugh.  Sometimes I wonder if it's because they never got to cry enough years ago.

After a while, she remarried my Grandpa Sheehan and they were happy.  He was a brave soul to take on a woman with four daughters as a middle-aged bachelor!  When we were small, they'd take us camping in their big Mallard motor home.  We loved it, sleeping up above the cab in the little sleeping loft.  I remember going to Lake Champagne and Gram watching us like a hawk in the water, never letting us in over our waist because she couldn't swim.  She made the best cookies and angel food cake, and said random, quirky things.  Their house was clean and fresh, and in the mornings, she and Grandpa would get up early and the scent of fresh coffee and some big, delicious breakfast would waft down to our room, where she would have pushed a few straight-backed chairs up against our bed in the night to keep us from falling out.  She and Gramp loved their gardens and grew wonderful strawberries, Gram had strawberry magnets on the 'fridge (where there was always Velveeta cheese!) and strawberry knick-knacks here in there, although the house was one of the tidiest of any I've ever known.  The pictures of her grandchildren held places of honor in the living room.  She sewed my sisters and I  beautiful new dresses every summer, in whatever fabric and pattern we picked, always crisp and perfect.  I remember loving my pink floral with the sweetheart neckline, smoothing the skirt as I posed on the steps of their garden for a snap shot.  Marigolds and clean sheets will always smell like her to me.

Twenty years ago, Gram had a  brain aneurysm and had her head half shaved when they operated.  Strong woman that she was, she was fine.  She rallied and kept going.  Perhaps a little different, a bit quieter, but still going strong.  She made me these sweet, vintage-style cafe curtains for my kitchen when we had first bought our house, with red cherries printed on them, "because they were Emily's taste."  At her 80th birthday party, ages ago, I saw a portrait of her, set up by the cake, that stopped me in my tracks, because it was my own face staring back at me.  I'd like to think I've inherited more than just her face, I hope I have some of her practicality to tamp down my flighty ways, I hope I can carry on no matter what happens, and do what I've got to do, without despair.  I hope I can learn to use wax paper properly someday.

She used to swing her arms forward, clapping briskly at family event's trying in vain to get everyone to stand still for a picture.  Oh Gram, I'll do it.  From now on, I'll always get the picture.  Safe journey Grammy Sheehan.                

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sniffles, Snow, Sun, Soundtrack, Sheep, Sugaring, Skiing....Spring.

Here we go!  The back roads have turned into a wrestling match where you occasionally just have to let go of the steering wheel and let the ruts take you where they will.  Mud Season driving is the perfect analogy of my life, come to think of it.

This past weekend found us soaking up some amazing sunshine, skiing in our shirtsleeves, helping tap 1,300 Maples, playing in a giant, melting snow volcano and cuddling newborn lambs.  We also did a little work on the soundtrack, it's all coming together nicely!  Eli had his first sleepover at his best friend's house, and Ira and I had our own sleepover at home, where he dragged alllllllll his stuffed animals, toys and books into my bed for the night.

Was a dream weekend, other than my slightly distracting sinus infection.  Tried one of those dang Neti pots last night, with poor results....apparently I'm doing it wrong.  I may have to repeat the process before I take myself to the doctor, see if I can't take care of this myself.  Jen's steam tent helps a lot.  Alright, hope everyone's week is shaping up nicely, raining now, steady on the roof.... sounds like Spring, smells like Spring!  It must BE Spring!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring Ahead

Heard the Chickadees doing their Spring call, so it MUST be coming!  Town Meeting yesterday, lots of pie and friends.  When I know Spring is on it's way, I always LET GO some.  Relax.  Living in VT, there is a sort of primitive survival tension that happens as the weather gets colder.  I don't know if that's true for everyone, but I certainly feel myself drawing close and hunkering down as winter approaches and then opening again when the warmth returns.  Not that I don't like winter, I do!  But somehow, I don't feel totally safe, totally human until the bitter temps leave.

Had another great ski day on Monday.  And the Monday before, since the kids were on vacation.  Suicide Six gets credit for their $7 Mondays, the only way I can afford it!  The boys are both excellent skiers now, watching them nonchalantly riding the chairlift, I wonder where my little babies went.  That's a shot of Ira and his friend Margaret, by the way.  Cuties.

My car is back on track after having the head gasket replaced a few weeks ago, and then last week, the radiator.  Uugghh!  Cars!  Can we just go back to horses?

Work is good... now that basketball season is over, I have a more regular schedule, and soon will add Tuesdays back in.  I'm including a photo of one of my favorite dancers, Wendy.  A before and after.  She's lost over 65 pounds in my class since last year!  Makes me feel wonderful.  Go Wendy!!!!  I think she went from a size 22 to a size 6.  She's a beautiful person, always was, but now she feels great and can go running with her son!

Pasghetti Western is exploding!  I'm doing all the press work and marketing, probably fielding a dozen e-mails a day from various publications, TV stations and movie houses.  So proud of Myra and Jim for seeing this project through, It's been incredibly fun and my experience as a publicist is growing by leaps and bounds!  We are all getting super excited for the opening in a couple months.

Anyhow, that's the news.  I miss sugaring.  Even though I've never been a fan of Maple syrup, the process is a tradition that I loved.  Hopefully we can do it next year, the boys would especially enjoy it and it's been a few years since we did any...we actually bought the fake stuff recently.  Sacrilegious!!!!

OK, THINK SPRING!!!!!  Catch you all later.  -Em

Friday, March 1, 2013

WCAX Coverage