Monday, September 26, 2022

Witchy Autumn Nights

 The spooky season is upon us. I'm so excited. This is the season where I feel the most powerful.  It's the season I'm most likely to believe in magic and do magic and be magic. It makes me feel amazing. It makes me feel alive.

Maybe I'll write some spells or spell like poems.  I've considered learning how to kitchen witch for my own health as well as my own energy. I think it might help, but I will need to do research on some of the healthier vegetables and what to put in my cauldron.  I have a cauldron... it's adorable.  It was a present from my father-in-law, and AM says that it is proof that my father-in-law likes me better than him. I think I got it because I asked for it.

My cauldron is pumpkin shaped; a cast iron enameled pumpkin in orange. It was a toss up between orange and black, but I decided I want an orange one. It's made by Staub, and the perfect size for my stovetop to sit there, but it is heavy. so moving it from the stove to the sink is difficult.  I don't use it enough because it is difficult to clean, but I love it, and it helps me feel that autumn powerful witchy vibe. The lid makes a delicious scraping noise when I take it off to check if it is bubbling and boiling and toiling. 

I've already changed my journal over to my spooky season notebook, which is a gorgeous black wrap from GameTee (love those girls!) that I have a Kanso Noto notebook from JetPens in.  My pen and ink of choice right now is my Parker Sonnet with Diamine Black Ivy.  I even made a custom bookmark for the journal out of a skull and an anatomically correct heart charm. I joke that the heart was stolen from a fairy- but I would never do that. 

What I don't have, and I am hoping to set up this Fall Break, is an altar.  It's been so long since I've practiced that I have no idea what to put on an altar anymore or how to set one up.  Based on the limited space in my apartment, I think I may have to make it one that I can break down and put up when I want to cast with maybe something I put on the windowsill for protection all of the time.  I'm not sure.  My room is very small, but my desk is very big, but with all of my Horizontal Surface disorder... well... It's messy.

What I look forward to the most is my Autumn dreams. I climb into my warm flannel sheets and it's like being wrapped in warm fuzzy arms of protection, and then I dream of comfort. My dream self is ... much smaller than I am around the waist, and tucks perfectly in the comfortable shoulder and arm of a certain someone. We sit, sip chocolate and read books together and I am happy. The only thing I don't like is waking up, to find myself most often alone, wrapped around my huge stuffed shark. While I appreciate my shark, he's not really what I want to be holding on to. So, I spent the rest of my day sort of sleep walking, wanting to fall into the comfort of my dreams.

Here's to the conjuring season. May you find the comfort and love that you are looking for. The veil grows thin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Lighthouse Keeper

  Lately, I've been thinking about this poem that was written back in college, not by me, but by a good friend of mine, Jaye. I'm going to put it here in its entirety because it matters to know what it's about, and it's good words. (formatting is mine)

I am the Lighthouse Keeper.
I live in the Lighthouse, 
Cold, Alone and Waiting
Waiting for the ships to return.

I am the only one left who remembers
when those ships were in port.

One by one they left
Different destinations
But all away from here

Here I stay Here I stand Waiting

I have the list of the names of those ships
I kept tabs on their destinations

I am proud of those boats
I am proud of their journeys
Some traveled across the sevens seas
And carry the circus to towns
One is now private and hosts parties for
the best of Broadway
Some now show other boats 
how to move
Some still wander searching what to do

Some have been updated
Some have been destroyed
I swear one day they'll all come back
That's why I can not leave
For some one must be here
To make sure they're safe,
they're happy, they're proud

For although this boat doesn't leave
and this boat is now rusted
And all the others don't stop moving
And never get rust

I love each and every one
And I will wait for them
right here
For some are destined for greatness
Some find it by chance
Some help others make it
And one must stay behind
One must keep the light on 
So the others can find their way home

So they can come back
enjoy their time together
remember old times
catch up on what's been happening

And hopefully they won't stay
"That poor guy, stuck here all this time,
all these years"
Hopefully they'll thank me
for keeping the lighthouse on.

For I am the Lighthouse Keeper

I've been thinking a lot about this poem lately, which was written probably close to twenty years ago.  

I've been thinking about this poem lately because I've been in my profession for 20 years. I've been working as an English teacher at Stagg High School for 19 years. I have watched people come and go my entire life, and here I sit, hanging on, hoping others will come back to me someday, just to say hi.

I'm not a favorite teacher very often, but I know that I'm liked. I had a student today tell me that I'm his favorite teacher because I try to relate to my students. I said thank you, and he laughed and said "No, I'm really serious. Like-- you try to listen to us!", and I can't imagine being a teacher who doesn't listen to their students and let them talk to you. But, I am here - being a teacher. 

I've been thinking about this poem lately because I am here in Stockton, and I don't see me really going anywhere. In spite of the moniker of "Most Miserable City" (Thanks Forbes), and "Murder Capitol" (which I don't think we are) I love my city. I love its diversity. The diversity of the people, the diversity of the opinions, but especially the diversity in restaurants. I can go 4 blocks in any direction from where I am and find Indian food, a few sushi places, a poke salad place, a few Italian restaurants, a decent(ish) diner, a mom and pop hot dog store and even a Panera.  On my drive home from work there is quite a diversity of food - even if I need to cook at home more often.

I've been here in this apartment for the last ten years. It's the longest I've ever lived in one place in my entire life, but I've (almost) always lived in Stockton, and the neighborhood I'm in now is wonderful. Maybe not the quietest all the time, but a good apartment, the people are friendly and the noisiest it gets is around the 4th of July. The walk around the complex is a quarter mile track, the leaves are just beginning to turn brown and the sparse lawn between the buildings 

I've been thinking about this poem lately because I feel like the Lighthouse Keeper of the poem, I have watched everybody move away and wander to find their destiny. My students, my friends, my lovers. They all go off to find their fortune in the world, and I watch them, and wish for the best for them in everything, hoping that once in a while they look back with fondness on me and maybe think to say "Hi" once in a while, knowing that I think of them fondly. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Sick Day

 I love Autumn. I love the crisp air, the sound when the wind sussurrates through the trees, and the light is grey from the clouds. It makes me think of flannel sheets, glowing screens and comfort. It has been a beautiful day.  I took a sick day today to catch up on my grading and catch up on my mental health. The weekend just wasn't enough.

I always feel guilty when I take Mondays off, mostly because I think it makes me look lazy, like I'm trying to get a vacation or a three day weekend, but this one was the culmination of too many vegetables - and the resulting upset stomach - and stress. Since I got COVID, my life has been nothing but stress lately: stress because of procrastination; stress because I am just still so tired all the time; stress because I'm me, and I'm not taking care of myself.

Something is motivating me this week, and I hope that I can hold on to this feeling. It felt like something clicked into place. I started journalling again. It feels good to write in my journal again. It's good for my mental health to find a place. One of my students said to me this week "I haven't been using the Word of the Day, Ms. M. I've just been writing to myself, and it really seemed to help!"  I was so proud of him. Writing can be cathartic, and it's good to see that at least something is getting through to some of my students. 

I have two weeks until Fall Break, and then I can relax. I am hoping that I can relax with all of my grades done so that I can sit at Panera, drinking free coffee, writing and planning out this year's novel. It will be so good for my health. (Panera is my favorite third space!) I like to go in the morning when it's cool so that I can write while my husband is still asleep. (He usually doesn't wake up before 10.) I'm trying to write a romance this year- something I really haven't tried in a long time, but many say I would be pretty good at. I'm excited. The idea affords some research and a lot of imagination, but I'm excited.

Two more weeks... I can't wait to get to my writing life again. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Working while sick

 From the top of my esophagus to the bottom of my ribs, my entire body aches. This dry cough and sore throat have wracked my body now for over a month, causing my head to ache,  my muscles to tire and my head to go all swimmy every time I cough.  Recovering from COVID sucks.

This cough isn't unusual for me, however.  It is a cough that I have lived with every winter as the air gets chillier and the temperatures head into the 30s (that's -1 to anybody who isn't in America). Seven years ago, coming home from New Jersey, I developed pneumonia that required a fun regiment of medicines and a week of bedrest. Ever since then, I have spent every winter racking my lungs with harsh coughs that hurts everything and makes me tired and weak. My worst month is January, but the coughs will continue through to March. I have developed a taste for Fisherman's Friend cough drops- pure menthol that soothes the beast that is my lungs.

And yet, here I am, still sitting at my desk at school teaching. I can't take the time off that I would need in order to make myself better because I have only 11 school days in the year that I can take off as sick days and ten COVID days paid for by the state. I've taken 6 COVID days and was docked pay because the government only covers so much per day, and apparently I make more than that.

 When I do take sick days,  I take them for physical illness as well as mental illness. If I was to stay home during the entirety of my coughing days, I would lose all of my sick days and then some. And that then some is the problem. Any days that I take beyond those 11 days I have to pay for out of my own salary to help cover the costs of my substitute teacher. I get "docked" those days essentially.  So, instead of staying home and fully recovering and making myself better by being home, I come to school, and I sit at my desk, and I teach, and I cough... and I cough.... and I cough. 

I'm fortunate to be in an industry that allows me paid days off. If I was in the service industry or if I was perhaps a retail worker, I wouldn't have the option of taking a day off and still getting compensated for that, and living in California - probably one of the most expensive States- means that every penny is important and accounted for.  If I worked in a job that didn't afford me the sick days, I would not be able to afford life. I would have to think of something that I could let go of in order to take the day off, or I would have to work sick.

 A quick Google search for "Sickness and productivity" shows many results that talk about the affect of working while sick, and most of them say that you are definitely not going to be at 100% when you are working. There are also results about how to tell your boss that you're sick, and what to do if your boss refuses to let you stay home from work, which is a sad state of affairs. Businesses that care more for capital rather than people have become the standard.  

Unless the system changes and we can take care of ourselves rather than sacrifice ourselves to the mighty god that we call Commerce, we will continue to work while we are sick and continue to spread diseases.

Weighing in on: Division in our country

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