Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Home is Where You Remember to Drive to After Work

In the past month, I have made a trip to Boise, moved house, and made a trip to Portland. I’m exhausted. My lower back hurts. I’ve got a lot on my mind.

If there is one thing that moving from a 3-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment teaches you, other than the fact that downsizing is good for the soul, it’s that needing to get rid of tons of stuff will expose neuroses you didn’t know you had. Also, storage units are expensive.

The past year has been really challenging. Just read any blog posts I’ve written in the past ten months if you need to get caught up. I also realized something else really significant during the move: the fourteen years we lived in Willow Glen cover a LOT of major life experiences. We were ten months in one house, and then thirteen years and two months in the one we just moved from. Fourteen years TO. THE. DAY. (That day being Valentine’s Day, coincidentally.)

Standing in the echo-y empty living room of the house, it hit me. Both my parents had visited us and slept in that house. And an aunt. And all my siblings at one time or another. Plus two of their partners and all three of my sister’s daughters. It was the house where I brought my son home from the hospital. That house had seen late-night feedings, nosebleeds, vomit, diaper changes, potty training, and checking for concussions. Several of those. (Kid’s got a hard head.)

The walls of that house witnessed me finding out my Dad had died. Coming to grips with my son’s autism diagnosis. Finding out Mom was sick. And then learning Mom was gone. Those same walls looked on as I earned my Master’s degree online. And as I taught online classes and participated in weekly video broadcasts. Song parodies and videos. Helping raise another person’s child. Taking in her boyfriend. Telling them they had to go.

Meals with family and friends. Christmas trees and cookies for Santa. Annual school portraits. Arguments over the dumbest of things. The only home my son had ever known.

Don’t get me wrong; I wanted to move. I suppose it would be nice to be able to come up with a down payment on a home we could own, but this is Silicon Valley, so I’ll settle for a pool I don’t have to clean and grounds I don’t have to keep. We’ve traded nearby train tracks and the 280 freeway for light rail and 17. We’re not as close to the airport. We’re a tiny bit closer to the mountains and the ocean beyond. We almost overlook the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and we hear the bells of St. Lucy’s on a regular basis. We have all our own furniture, and eventually we’ll put stuff up on the walls. I like it.

But after the year I’ve had, it just feels like one more fork in the road of life where I’ve had to decide how to proceed . . . and be prepared to live with the consequences of my choice. I definitely wanted out of that house. But I am not used to this new home yet. It will come.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

When NO to One Things Means YES to Another

(This was written January 21, 2015.)

My life has gotten REALLY busy. That is part of why I haven’t blogged in a while. Another part is that, while I have plenty to say, I haven’t been able to get my head around HOW I want to say it. And I was waiting to tell some folks something in person before I shared it widely.

And that was the worst introduction I’ve ever written. So let’s just dive in, shall we?

I’m wrapping up my second year as Director of the MERIT program here in the Bay Area. It’s an amazing year-long professional development cohort situation for teachers, and I absolutely love it. As I wrap up my second year, I have decided to wrap up my being Director at all. We typically serve three years as Director, and that had been my plan all along. But then, life loves to throw us curve balls when we have the audacity plan that far ahead, doesn’t it?

Many people who know me personally know that this past year has been eventful, but not necessarily in the good way. Last May, we found out that our son’s learning challenges are caused by autism. Shortly after that, we discovered that my mother had stage 4 cancer. I traveled to the East Coast (or close) seven times between April and December. There was a Spring Break trip to Boston with my son, a conference in Atlanta, and three trips to see Mom (the final one being for her funeral). I also went to Pittsburgh in August for an EdTech thing. The last of the seven trips was to spend the holidays with my family in New Jersey. Because we all really needed it.

All those trips made my year INTENSE. My husband, as always, stepped up and did even MORE than he usually does with taking care of everything around the house and seeing to all our son’s needs during the five trips Cameron didn’t take with me. And this has meant a lot of new adjustments, given what we’ve learned this past year about how our son learns and functions. It made me start to look at things I could cut out of my professional life to make more time for my family’s needs.

When I was in Napa in October at a conference, I found out that the dates of CUE Rock Star Lake Tahoe would conflict with the MERIT Summer Institute in the summer of 2015. My son goes with me to Truckee for this event every year, and I wanted to continue that tradition. Applying to be part of that event’s faculty would mean I would have to step down from my MERIT Directorship. I realized that after the year we’ve had, I did not have the strength to tell my son that Truckee was off because I needed to work another year for MERIT. I had to make a choice.

I chose my son.

It’s not that the MERIT program has caused me to have to neglect him or anything. It’s just a big commitment, and I didn’t want to start feeling resentful. I also chose to stop teaching the grad school class I teach online for San Diego State. For a few years at least. I’ve thought about starting a Doctoral program in another year and a half or so. That’s on hold in my mind until we get a handle on the transition between elementary school and middle school for my son.

But I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to turn her back on a commitment. It’s always been hard for me to say NO. But with a full-time job that is busier than any I’ve had before, and my family’s needs changing as they have, I’ve learned that in order to say YES to my family, I need to say NO to the rest of the world sometimes.