Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last Day Of School

I am utterly exhausted.

Not only did I finish off the last day with the kids, but afterwards I organized my room to return to the teacher whose place I was taking. I never thought I could do it in one day, but I did.

Someone asked me today after school how I felt about the year. I'm not quite sure. I guess I don't feel that satisfied right now. Maybe I feel like this every year, like things are incomplete or left undone. Maybe it's because the last few days have felt wasted and not too creative, because we've all, kids and teachers alike, just wanted it to end. Maybe it's because my mind is just on the NJ move.

But also, it wasn't really my class. I did good things with the kids. I know that I did. I know that I connected with a few of them on a profound level, strenghtening them in ways they needed to be strengthened, or softening them in ways they needed to be softened. But it was not my classroom. I was substituting since January and using another teacher's curriculum and tools. It was not my room. It was not permanent.

It has been a long time since I've had my own room and my own class.

The first year of teaching is so hard. I think I must have felt incomplete then too. (4 school years ago.) But then I was geared to start up again and improve where I could.

But then the second devastating year came, and the kids swallowed me up with all of their issues, and then the cancer came.

And then I came back in, part time, sharing a room that someone else had started and discovering how bitter I was about my illness and about having had to leave the school in the first place.

And now it's been this year of impermanence, of transition.

It's hard to believe that some teachers stay for a long time in the same job. I imagine them as feeling very successful. Yet I know that good teachers never feel they've really mastered anything. Just blips of pride here and there for a day, a project, or an interaction gone well.

Next year I get my own classroom, all year. I'm so grateful. It will be the beginning of something that isn't just temporary.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Wow! Just two days left of teaching before I'm DONE for the year.

I just came from a very late-night "graduation" for the grade 7's at the Jewish school where I work. I have to say I was a little skeptical at what to make of it. It was an enormous gala event, clearly a fundraiser for the school, and I don't remember that kind of fanfare for 7th graders in any other place. But to tell you the truth, I'm impressed. The event was primarily in honor (or honour) of the 5 grads, but it was really also about the school itself and how it's been raised up from very little to a clearly growing and thriving community. I feel really honored and proud to have "served" in a place like that during its developmental years. And to think, for those of the kids that had been there since preschool, this really was a big deal, to leave an extended family after TEN years. Quite a landmark.

I enjoyed talking to some of the non-Jewish staff at my table about Jewish identity. They asked me and another teacher about women's hair covering - whether each of us always cover our hair or not. And I said it doesn't just mean how religious or not religious a person she is, but how we kind of communicate where we belong within our community by the clothes we wear. I could go on for hours talking to non-Jews about these things and I love it when they ask. I like taking the role of an authority. Not a rabbinic authority obviously, but sort of a real life authority. Just as I do here on Brainsite.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Important Day

OK. I just have to point out that it will be my birthday in just one and a half hours.

It will also be the birthday of my fellow blogger (you'll see her comments here and there), Alissa.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Homesick for Oregon Rainstorm

There was a huge thundestorm in Oregon last week that left behind a double rainbow. The Oregonian newspaper published tons of photos of it from this photo page. If you click on "Sunday's Storm--Gallery 5" you'll get a whole bunch of gorgeous photos including one from my mom's backyard. (If you are my friend and know my last name it won't be hard to find. If you are a stranger... well, cool... there's a stranger reading my blog!)


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How Much Kosher Pizza Do You Really Need?

My husband flies out to NY/NJ on Wednesday. Hopefully he'll come back with both a job and an apartment. (No, he won't bring them... just secure them... duh.) So already I had to sort out the right school community for me. Now we're looking at living communities.

People say, "Oh, you don't want to live there, that place only has like 10 Kosher restaurants. You should live in such-and-such place which has over 5 kinds of pizza alone."

I don't really care that much how many pizza places there. And I do really love pizza. Giving up eat-out pizza was my last hurdle towards keeping Kashrut completely. (That's a story for another time.) I did that in a place with NO Kosher restaurant options. But now that I have options, one good pizza place amidst Chinese food, Italian food and who knows what else will sufffice in order to make a place more than livable. I have never had Kosher choice like this before.

There was this one day when my husband and I needed to find something fun to do on a Sunday. We didn't have much time and thought we could just squeeze in a trip to a coffee shop. So then we said, "Hey, let's have an adventure," and drove out to the Kosher bakery in the neighboring sort-of town.

When we got there the place was closing and everything yummy was gone. I bought a non-dessert food of some kind that was greasy and slimy and we didn't even have a place to sit. We found a curb outside where we ate our "treats" and I think I cried.

I remember shortly afterwards telling the story of this bakery trip to a Rabbi visiting from Israel, and citing it as proof of my commitment to Judaism.

What's there to prove when it's all at your fingertips? Yes, I want good pizza. But it's a badge of pride to keep Kosher even without it.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Discomfortable Disclosure

I think I finally realized today that telling people about my cancer experience always feel bad in some way.

I thought it felt good to talk about it sometimes, to get it off my chest, to let me people know more about who I am, or whatever, but it doesn't.

I sometimes feel like I'm trying to show off

or get pity

or let them know just how tough I am

or explain a very BIG or WISE concept.

But I always feel like I've made someone else uncomfortable (or made myself uncomfortable)

or that they can't speak now because I've brought up something so huge.

Or that I'm somehow in some other zone than they are.

and if I'm talking with another survivor, I feel like we either spend the whole time trying to show or understand how our experiences were alike, or not alike.

It's as though when you go through it, no matter how many people are there to support you and love you and go through it with you, that you're still really alone in your own personal experience. No one else went through just what you did. No one else can really understand.

And if they do feel something similar, it's because they experienced it too, their own illness in their own way. And you talking about it just makes them go through it again. That's no fun either.

Will it always be this way?

So now I"m about to publish this on my blog. Am I getting too personal?

This is where I get brave and may publish it anyway, because I don't HAVE to make anyone feel uncomfortable, because they... you... don't HAVE to read it.

And I want to be able to speak.

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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Book: Inkheart

I just finished reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. With movies I'm always quick to tell you everything wrong with it. Not with this book though. (Is that how I am with other books too? I think so.) I know some of what "went wrong" in the story, and I can pretty much agree with a couple of reviews I've read, but I so very much enjoyed reading it.

I'm not going to tell you anything about it other than that it is an adventure in a fantasy world and it makes you fall in love again with books in general. Don't read the back of the book. The information it gives doesn't become clear until 100 pages into the book.

It was also fun to become so involved reading it since I have a student who loves it.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Sports Day Post-Script

Sports Day was a success, even if a chaotic one. Several people did comment on the "Friends Come In All Colors" shirt that I mentioned in my previous post. It hadn't even occurred to me to consider how relevant that was to today's "color war" with red, yellow and blue teams competing in the day's events.

I had always thought my shirt icon was a little obvious or used. Diversity is most of what we talk about in public schools. But that's not the case everywhere. And as I said in my previous post, diversity exists in all settings. In a religious Jewish school it means really confronting what it means to be a Jew, or even an Orthodox Jew, and how to reconcile the differences. Yesterday when I played music for an activity a couple of kids freaked out a little and said, "But the omer isn't over! I'm not supposed to listen to music!" These particular kids seemed to understand just as well that other kids did NOT hold by that rule. Either way, we all agreed that most rabbis say you can listen to music for educational purposes. (Which this was... if you consider drawing about how feelings relate to music. It was an assignment I needed for report cards.) I was a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes as a teacher. But as a Jew I was annoyed at the thought that I COULD be judged for having begun to listen to music again after Lag B'Omer, and in fact really NEEDED to do so.

I had a great talk with a colleague about this diversity today. She later called me up before Shabbat to say how much she'd miss having me and my perspective on this in the school with her next year. (She's like-Minded.) How sweet!

The highlight of my day must have been at the tug-of-war. For one of the sessions staff and students all pulled together. A nine-year-old boy from my class said to another boy, "Yay! We've got Morah Arwen. She's strong. She survived cancer so she's really strong."

I'm beaming with this as I move into Shabbos.

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Cycle Part II

As I said just a few days ago, there's this weekly cycle of feeling good and bad and what-have-you. It has worked again. I was so worried yesterday afternoon about various things: report cards, transfering fitness club membership, not wanting to move, feeling in exile... you know, little stuff. Today I just feel fantastic. Shabbat is coming and it's a short day at school too. Sports day. I'm wearing the shirt from my old school that shows a box of crayons and says "Friends Come In All Colors." I wonder if anyone in this ethnically homogenous (though Jewish Orthodoxly diverse) school will ask or wonder anything about it.

Most likely they'll just be wanting to know if we have candy at the end of Sports Day.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Outdoor Goodbye's

Today's obsession is saying goodbye to places I haven't even visited yet. I have not yet done Grouse. We only went to Whistler once and that was in the summer, and for just one night... only long enough for a long walk and a canoe ride.

There's a retreat a couple of Shabboses from now, but I think it's just too much to plan and I don't know if I'm up for it. I'm trying to tell myself that when I get to NY, I'll meet up with my best friend in MA and we'll go camping there and that will be a million times better because I'll be with her.

But I'm still choked up.

Went to Van Dusen Gardens with my husband yesterday. I love those gardens and have spent a lot of time there. I doubt I'll ever find another place like that elsewhere, but I also haven't found what was in Portland again either. You lose places. You gain places. And it hurts. Look back at Leaf Blowing. Love relationships with places fade, just like sometimes friendships do.

Then again, some friendships don't. Like the one with my friend in MA.

I feel like I'm being tugged in two directions.

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Keep on going

The weekly cycle just keeps happening. It's Sunday and I'm panicking about school work. Then it's Monday morning and I'm anxious about leaving my cat and my comfy home and going back into the rough world of work. Then I'm back Monday evening and feeling fine about everything but just not sure how I'll complete everything this week, but honestly, not terribly worried.

Yesterday after the report card disaster I went to the gym on my bike and had a fun little spin on the bike (in the rain) back by False Creek before visiting a friend. Somehow I'm no longer panicking even though there is now more for me to do than before I lost that work.

Something about that event just broke me through the panic mode into total trust that everything will work out.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Report Card Hell

I was already bitter that I had to do report cards today instead of enjoying my remaining time in Vancouver.

But now after working for 3 hours I'm even more bitter.

The thing about report card season is that something always goes terribly wrong with someone's in the school. This time it hit me. I hit a button that suddenly duplicated my marks from one kid to every other kid in the class. So all my work has now been technically deleted.

Real cute.

It's time for a break.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

When It's All Too Much

When I get too much on my plate (like moving, report cards, emotionally draining doctor's appointments etc.) I try to plan how I can use every minute efficiently, but sometimes I just need to crash and chill out for a few hours.

It makes me more efficient in the long run.

(Hence I'm writing this here after I've been "chilling" for about 2 hours and am about to go shopping for groceries instead of doing report cards. Sometimes this is called procrastination, but I think I'll be in better shape to work later if I do this.)


Hitting the Ground Running

Since my trip I've barely had time to sit and integrate it.

It's report card season now which means a major rush to not only write the report cards, but to do last-minute assignments that will provide something I can PUT on the report card. (So there's the truth. I hope I'm not spilling any trade secrets. Besides, these last minute assessments aren't for anything MAJOR.)

I really hate the way I feel during report cards. It's a time to reflect on everything I haven't accomplished. And after seeing my new school, I just want to start fresh. I've always been better at starting things than finishng them. But I've asked around. Most of my colleagues are suffering lower-than-usual self-esteem right now along with me. Even being offered a job so quickly doesn't fix those feelings of insecurity.

In any case, there's not much I can do today at the school. I have a follow-up at the oncologist during the time I normally teach in the afternoon. I'm 1 year and 8 months out from the beginning of my remission.

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