Friday, November 20, 2009

Seriously....An Afterschool Special??


What brings different people together? This question has been swirling around my brains for the last few days.

I don't just mean why men and women feel a mutual attraction or why we choose the friends we have - it isn't that simple for me.

I know that many highly educated people have written about chemical reactions and hormones that wildly mix together to create attraction, but those reasons seem so clinical. My thoughts are much more personal - why do certain people come into my life? Why do my feelings for those in my life change?

When I think of all the people who have weaved their way into and out of my life I do realize that fate does play a certain role. I do believe that I have personally grown because of people who have come into my life - I take that as an unconditional gift from the universe.

What about those feelings that happen as a new relationship is starting? Is it just chemicals that make a person's heart race or stomach flutter at the sound of that new voice on the phone? That just seems so....sterile...

Or what about the new relationship that seems pleasantly easy, but those butterflies or only a flicker...does that mean it isn't supposed to happen? Or is it the universe's way of telling me to be patient -that life isn't always about instant gratification?

I understand that people grow and change over time - that's what makes us human. People connect in love or friendship for many reasons - same interests, attraction, fundemental beliefs and values. But what happens to long standing relationships when one person's belief system changes? Can the relationship survive?

I know these questions could be the premise of a cheesy afterschool special. Be that as it may, they are presently very real for me and I see a very significant "fork in the road". Each day I make choice that can potentially change the course of my future...a bit dramatic...but isn't life boring with out some drama?

I made a choice recently - a decision that I didn't think twice about - I mean I didn't decide to rob a bank, shoot herion, or hurt someone. We make choices about a million times a day, don't we? How quickly the tide can turn; and a simple choice changes the course of everything you've worked toward. Your life suddenly dissolves right in front of your eyes.

I have amazing angels in my corner - because the tide turned back - and my future and I are still standing...However the universe did kick my ass; and in one moment core beliefs changed and what was once right became very wrong.

Wrong in that as an adult, I know there is a time and place for everything. More significant is that my belief of what is the right time and place changed so completely.

The shock, excitement, fear, happiness, or anger at oneself that come with this realization can change relationships...especially for those who share in making such simple choices. We've all experienced those moments with people - when regardless of the type of relationship - things happen and the relationship changes...Or maybe is it just me who changes.

Change is good for the soul...that's what they say...right? I think the scary part is wondering if the other person will want to continue the relationship as my thoughts and beliefs change.

That moment...that second when the change happens can be so forceful that the ground shakes. Think about it, the moment you look at him and just know this is the person for you. Or the realization that the person standing in front of you will not be a part of your future. The dark reality of shared demons. How about the crushing understanding that a supposedly innocent choice can completely turn your life upside down?

It is when those moments happen without warning that profound change is on the way...ready or not here it comes...

All the change in my life the last year...the relationships...some have grown...others have just withered and died...Is it all fate...or does fate combine with our choices to direct the next part of the journey?

Ready or not....sheesh....

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Math, Math, and Math...

Sometimes teachers do things that change the way they approach teaching. I've posted before how I am struggling with teaching math this year - that I've been blessed with a group that is weak in the very foundation of mathematics: number sense. Without number sense - math just doesn't make SENSE.

I've been involved in a math lesson study project since August. This week my group did the actual lesson at the host school. After observing the students and talking with my group, I walked away thinking to myself that I need to rethink how I approach teaching math to this special little group of children.

One of my instructors said these all important words to me, "Gracie, focus on what they are good at and go from there. Then, decide each day what exactly you want the students to walk away with." This may sound like first year teacher stuff...I should totally know this, right? Well...this little reminder was what I needed.

After a few years in the classroom, teachers often forget that they too have to learn, grow, and yes, change their teaching in order to become better educators. For me, this means I have to put all my past preconceptions of what a "math class" should be on the back burner and move in a different direction....this reinventing the mathematics wheel definitely wasn't in my plan for the school year - I love the irony, don't you?

The challenge for me is how to make sure my students master basic number sense, at the same time keep up with the curriculum that has been mapped out by my school district. This is my mission for this school year...and if it kills both the students and me, we will find a way to be successful. Success...something this group has been be told since first grade they will not achieve...well, I'm here to change that.

My administration has given me a Calendar Math kit. I incorporated this program into my classes at my old school. It can be a cumbersome endeavor and can completely take over the class, however, done right it can help students gain a sense about numbers they never thought possible...and number sense is where I have to start with this group.

Something else I've started in my class is constant practice with both mental math and multiplication facts. In the past I haven't worried too much about students memorizing multiplication facts - I mean isn't that what a multiplication chart is for? Let's be honest, knowing multiplication facts quickly makes math so much easier.

This group of students are getting good at mental math. Using a bribe - I mean incentive of homework passes I am hoping they will know their multiplication facts most of the time. . Focus on what they are good at, Gracie, and go from there....

OK...this is a start. My gut tells me this is the way to proceed, that this can work - cool...that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So, being a team player, I share my number sense thoughts with my co-teacher from special ed. Out of nowhere our little planning meeting turns...my co-teacher responds with a constructive critque of my teaching ideas. As we talk I'm having this other conversation in my head...saying things that would be completely inappropriate in this professional setting.

This educator says she thinks it is best if she takes her special education students out of my general education classroom. That she can't teach them because she has to pay attention to the general education students, and it's too many students for her. Seriously? You're a teacher who can't teach more than 8 students at a time?

I smile and tell her I respect her decision, and ask about the VGLA portfolios (what LD students do instead of standardized testing). You will love this: she says we can still plan together and she will use all the lessons and VGLA assessments I create....but the LD students cannot be taught in my classroom. Will I agree and support this decision? Are you kidding me? She's either stupid or has balls the size of Bolivia for asking me to do her work for her.

I smile again...tell her I respect her decision and she can do what she wants, but I don't agree it is good for kids to be pulled out of a general ed classroom. Not smiling, I said she will have to plan her own lessons. Good luck on putting those VGLA binders together.

Here's the bottom line: this teacher doesn't like my teaching style. She doesn't like that I teach LD students the same way I teach all students - as individuals. She doesn't like that I have the same high expectations for ALL students - I don't care about labels. She doesn't like that I put student learning first, and changeable words from an IEP second. She doesn't like that I don't want to give 5th grade students 2nd grade worksheets. She completly hates that I base accommodation on student need and not a text book. Know what? I don't dig your teaching style either. Your low expectations and constant hand holding will cripple these students.

I spoke with my assistant principal. She's not sure it is best to pull out the special education students. Her main concern: passing the VGLA...she knows I can get students to do binders that will pass advance...very good for the school's AYP score. Everyone has a fucking agenda...

My agenda? I just want the kids to learn...and the conflict with this woman will end one way or the other...It is killing my teaching...students aren't getting my best...unacceptable.

I don't know how this will pan out...the only thing I do know is that I just have to, "Focus on what the students are good at, and go from there." This clueless teacher can be my opportunity.

These are times when I wish I was still friends with HIM. He's an administrator, he knows education and the lame games we play at elementary schools. Yes, I would love his insight here...what would he tell me as my friend, as administrator? Ha!...wouldn't he just love GIVING his opinion...Come on, he would...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Looking Through Glass...

I was asked yesterday what is it that I want from my life right now. In that moment I was not able to articulate what I want. Last year at this time everything seemed so clear...now the lines have been blurred.

Those who are in the know say these feelings are normal, especially for women. As we enter our mid forties women start thinking of all the things that, "should have been or might have been." Admittedly I am in that place.

I have thought a lot of what "might have been". You know what might have been had I stayed in California? What might have been had I waited for HIM to deal with his issues. What might have been had I just stayed in Spain this summer.

I've posted in the past the way I would like my life to proceed. I've posted my "plans" to get myself there. I've always been able to manifest the things that I want...to accomplish my goals, but lately it seems like I've been looking at my life from inside a glass wall where I am unable to make my dreams come true.

I am feeling stuck inside that glass. Stuck in a world where I am destined to live this boring, unfulfilled, unloved life. As I said last year at this time it was all clear. I felt like I was doing great things as a teacher. I lived a life where I socialized with people. I was loved - or at least believed I was loved by someone special.

Now I go through the motions of my life. I give my all to teaching...doing the best I can within the prameters of this new school. I have a couple friends. I don't think I can really speak about the love part - not today anyway. But like I said, I'm just watching...I'm not really participating.

I want to know this...where is my passion? Why can't I find it? I keep searching. Trying new things. Staying positive, being thankful for everything that the universe has given me...thinking joyful thoughts. Where is that passionate woman that I was? I got to know her in Spain...I miss her...where is she?

The logical side knows that these feelings are coming to the surface because my birthday just passed yesterday. The day come and not one of my "friends" here in Virginia even acknowledged it...not that this is a requirement for my friendship...but it just...I don't know...it just made me feel a little sad and really alone here.

My two best friends; who as I've said before do not live here in Virginia, tell me that I need to leave here...that I've out grown this place...who knows maybe they are right...the question is where to next....where am I going to find my passion?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not What I Thought....

Math...usually a subject that I have been very successful at teaching. Right now I am totally lost with the group of students in my classroom. I've shared before that the school I am at "flexible groups". That is a politically correct way to say they track students. My group is the lowest of all the 5th graders and I cannot figure out how to get them to learn the curriculum.

I am frustrated to the point of anger. Anger directed at myself because I do not know what to do. It is like I am talking to a box of rocks with these kids....and this is only the beginning of October.

The special education teacher I am co-teaching with says that we have to force them to memorize the concepts. I bite my tongue when she says these things reminding myself that this is her first year and no matter how much book learning she has done, she really has no clue about teaching.

A group like this doesn't memorize to learn...they really have to LEARN the stuff or it just ain't gonna stick. On top of that there are ONLY low students in this group...so there is absolutely no peer tutoring, which in the past has helped the lower students I have worked with.

I sometimes wish I was like many teachers and just not give a shit about the students who are not getting what I am teaching...but I've tried that and it just isn't me....I do care...probably too much.

So here I am the beginning of October with a group of students who are not learning math. I have a co-teacher who doesn't bring a fucking thing to the table...she is too busy to come up with modifications that could possibly help the children learn, and she is entirely too busy to spend extra time teaching the students - like during their lunch time. So the modifications and accommodations are left to me...the extra time teaching is left to me...I know I sound resentful...sorry it is the mood I am in right now.

On top of that it is my birthday this weekend. I turn 45 and am not liking it. It isn't the getting older part. It is the feeling like things are not turning out the way I thought they would part. Work isn't what I thought it would be. My personal life is well...definitely not what I thought it would be. I keep thinking of my birthday last year...and that just makes me cry because I was truly happy then...and now...my life is not turning out the way I thought...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Date....

Being a single woman of 44 years old, I've been out there in the dating world for a very long time now. As you can imagine, I've been on a multitude of "first dates". Last night I experienced another first date, and it is something I just have to share with you, my friends.

As I posted last week, I met Larry at the wine festival. I didn't really know if I was attracted to Larry. I mean with some men I'm immediately drawn to them from the second we meet...this was not the case with Larry. But I haven't been on a date here in the United States since I quit seeing HIM and it is definitely time I make myself available out there in the universe.

Larry called me during the week, calling me by the wrong name...he used a nickname that I never use because I hate being called by that nickname. I let that go, and agreed to meet him at a restaurant near my house.

For a woman the whole ritual of getting ready for a date is something I've always enjoyed. Not to sound conceited, but I am a pretty cute girl...some would even say I am pretty. So as I put on make-up, did my hair, and chose a sexy, but not too sexy outfit, I was in a pretty good head space...Selfishly I've always gone through this ritual more for myself and how it makes me feel rather than worrying about what the guy will think.

I meet Larry in the restaurant bar. I look at him and I notice that his jeans have been hemmed to the ankle straight legged style and he is wearing flip-flops. OK...this is so superficial, but come on, it is Saturday night, we are at a nice restaurant, and this dude made the choice to show me the most unattractive part of a man's body - his hairy feet and toes. My gay husband would've left right then - I just didn't look down for the rest of the night.

Larry has already been drinking wine, explaining to me that he hasn't been out on a date in 14 years and is a little nervous - he's divorced. Not a big deal, right? However, I can tell he's been sitting there drinking for a while - a big turn off in my book.

I am pretty good at the first date talk. Sharing just enough so the other person gets to know me, but not revealing too much - no one wants to hear about baggage on a first date, right? Larry didn't get that memo. He proceeds to tell me that he is the youngest of 8 children, but that six of his siblings are now dead. I'm not sure if he's looking for sympathy, but then he tells me that his family name will die with him as he is unable to conceive children....so far entirely too much information on a first date!

By now Larry has had four glasses of wine to my 1 1/2. and we've only been sitting there for about an hour. Growing up with an alcoholic father, my brain is screaming, "danger, danger". On top of the drinking, each time Larry orders another drink he snaps his fingers at the bartender in order to get his attention - if I was Susie, the bartender, I would've spit in his wine.

As Larry continues to unload all his family secrets, I'm informed that he comes from a very old family dating back to the Mayflower, is related to Robert E. Lee, among other war heroes, and he grew up in a haunted house built in the 1700's. Oh and of course he has a lot of money. I have found that when people talk about themselves this much on a first date, very little of it is true.

Just when I think I have heard everything, Larry tells me that three of his dead siblings died from alcohol, and one from a drug overdose. He tells me that he comes from a long line of alcoholics, but he didn't get that gene because he doesn't have to drink....he's just ordered his sixth glass of wine. Oh....we haven't even ordered dinner yet! Starving, I ask Larry if we can eat...

After we eat - I had the sea bass, which was amazing - I begin to plan out my exit. I didn't know what time it was, but I was done listening to Larry unload every piece of dirty laundry that he's been keeping in the dark trenches of his mind. He also felt this was the time for us to make plans - like going on vacation together...I almost RAN right then. After what I think is an appropriate 10 minutes after they have cleared our plates, I tell Larry that it is time for me to go.

Larry walks me to my car, I thank him for dinner, give him a peck on the lips. He tells me that he is going back in for another glass of wine. He asks if I want to go out again. I smile and tell him to give me a call, leaving Larry standing in the rain in his ankel jeans and flip-flops....I will be screening my calls for the next week....sorry dude, but if you are looking to get laid anytime soon I would rethink how you approach a first date.

As for me...I'm ready for my next first date!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Best Practice in Teaching

Friday night, I'm in my jammies, and I'm about to watch the season premier of Ghost Whisper...a teacher's wet dream after the first three weeks of school. OK...maybe just this teacher's web dream.

We are now into the first week of "real work". I'll put grades in my grade book this week and I'll start sending home student work in Tuesday Folders....this means I've been grading papers...the one job I avoid as a teacher.

My learning curve at this new school is in overdrive. I'm learning to hold my tongue. I think that is the key to all this....you know...live the life of smiling, nodding, and keeping my mouth shut. I think this is the safest place to be for an elementary school teacher.

In a way is excellent that the administration just stays away. When I think about it, everyone just stays away. There's no connection between anyone in that school not between the teachers on my team, nor with the teachers in special education or ESL. We all share students, but no one shares what they do in their classrooms....it is a little weird and creepy.

But like I said the administration just stays away, they just trust that we are doing the right thing in our classrooms....this could be a very good thing...however, I sorta wish they paid more attention. Because there is so much disconnect between teacher and specialist in that school. Plus the students are pulled so many different directions...I question if this is the "best practice" for teaching.

Many teachers talk of "best practice". While there are many different ways to define this, I find that for the students I teach "best practice" is for students to have as much uninterrupted instructional time in the general education classroom. While every teacher today has students who receive services through special education or ESL, I've found that having those specialists "push-in" the classroom is the best way. That is, I believe students should be completely included in the classroom.

This way of thinking is not the practice at my new school. Instructional time is constantly interrupted by various numbers of students going to band, strings, or chorus. The rule is that I am supposed to stop teaching when students are pulled for these classes. How does one do this and teach everything that is in the curriculum?

I fear that my students who receive special education and ESL services are losing out. Are they really learning how to read and comprehend? Are they really learning math concepts or being forced to memorize a bunch of rules that mean nothing to them?

Instead of complaining or fighting a battle I will surely lose, I'm rethinking my approach to teaching. I am desperately trying to find ways to integrate reading and problem solving in everything I do with my students...this would mean when I teach content subjects like social studies and science.

I am not saying that my "best practice" is the only way, and I'm not saying that the special education and ESL teachers are not doing their job. However, there is little communication and these teachers do not really seem interested in talking about how to combine our efforts. I understand this because for many teachers this "practice" takes more work and effort and a new way of thinking when it comes to educating children...again a battle I will not win...so I do what I can when I can, and not rock the boat or ruffle the sensitive feathers of my co-workers.

Maybe that is my lesson in all this....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Isn't FHA Supposed to be A Good Thing?

I wish I knew how to say, "Are you freaking kidding me?" in Spanish. I wonder if the effect is the same after the translation?

So I didn't get the house that I mentioned in my last post. The bank took another offer. This is the sixth offer I've made on a house! What is the deal here? I made a really good offer, $17,000 over asking price, asked for $5,000 in closing...a good offer...even the LISTING agent said it looked like I had the best offer. But no...apparently they were just...joking.

The listing agent said it was because I was going to go for an FHA loan. First time home buyer thing, you know? She said the seller wasn't sure the property would qualify. My first question is why have five of the nine homes sold in the same condo complex been sold to first time home buyers through FHA??? Why didn't my real estate agent ask that right away?

The seller is a bank...so banks look at the bottom line, that is why I bid so much over the asking price. I thought that was the smart thing to do (I've learned somethings in placing six previous offers). I did exactly what they asked me to do, even rushing around Saturday night signing an extra form for the seller AND getting pre-qualified through their bank....then they turn around and say NO to me?

It just pisses me off this is just wrong. I've sent my agent on a mission to find out why? What is their deal? I hope I get to talk to the bank guy who said no. My agent is afraid to be confrontational...he just accepts things....I let him know tonight that I didn't like that...not sure I will have this guy as my agent much longer. He doesn't have to be a pushy asshole, but I want him to go in and ask questions, fight with a smile for me...without me telling him what to do.

Every other offer I've been like, "OK...universe you know best...you'll lead me to the right direction." This time I am truly pissed off. Not at the universe, but at the bank people, the listing agent, and my agent. None of them realize how personal buying a home is...especially when you plan to live there. To them it is just another name on a paper they've said, "no" to...the listing agent made a sale and the bank sold the property. My agent, well he has other clients, I guess. I think that is what pisses me off the most....these people are not seeing me as human...I'm just this faceless name on a paper in front of them....it's just wrong!! I think I deserve to be treated like a human being even in a business transaction.

As far as the universe goes...I know you are leading me in the right direction...things are peaceful right now..thank you for that...but can you give me a clue...what am I missing here?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vino Tinto....

Went to the Vintage Virginia fall Wine Festival yesterday. You may remember me posting about the spring version of this festival...that was only last May, but it seems like a lifetime ago.

Yesterday was a perfect pre-fall day...75 degrees and sunny...I went with friends and we took a picnic and drank a lot of wine on the grass....just lovely.

A man named Larry hung out with us for a while, asking me for my email when we left. This morning I get an email asking if I want to go out next Saturday...OMG a date on a Saturday night!! I'm not sure I'm attracted to Larry, but a free dinner and conversation...it sure beats take out and Law and Order repeats...plus every woman likes to be seen as a woman now and then.

I received two lovely emails from people I had met in Spain. Ester, is teacher who lives in Madrid. I thought Ester was a really cool lady and I am glad she reached out to say hello. I asked her if she wanted our students to be pen-pals...Was that a lame thing to ask her? I mean, school is in session, people, and those 5th graders are supposed to be able to write letters.

The other email was from "J"...remember... I wrote about him when I came back from Spain. He just makes me smile...he has this amazing way of using the English language...it is not always correct, but it is quite beautiful. I bet he is a really great writer in Spanish....I wonder if he's heard of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ? I think I need a pen-pal, don't you?

Keep your fingers crossed that this time next week I will be "under contract" as we say in the real estate business. Just a little condo...but mine...and tax deductable.

I met Andres Friday night for a beer and some conversation. I gotta tell you it is hard to speak Spanish during happy hour. There was a lot of "Como? Como?", but I just rambled on in my rickety Spanish and Andres smiles, corrects me, making me repeat things over and over again to get the pronouncation just right...

It seems like I'm having a life....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alguna Vez...Conmigo....

I just love watching football on Sunday! And the title of this posting means nothing...just my new favorite words to stay in Spanish!

This weekend you could feel that the seasons are starting to change...fall is coming. I like fall in Virginia. The air is just crisp enough to have to wear a jacket. The leaves will magically change into the most beautifully vibrant colors. School has started and life is consumed by getting to know the lovely little darlings that have graced you with their presence. Football season begins...and Sundays are filled with watching very large men take a ball down a grass field while they bash into each other...muy perfecto!

The first week of school was good. I am definitely not in the ghetto anymore. These are nice kids...way more innocent than my classes at my other school. They are a year younger, but even the 6th graders look innocent in this place. Things are way different from my old school. I've had to make changes, but change is good for every soul.

My approach to the way I teach has changed a bit...well how I structure things anyway. This was difficult for me...to fit what I think a good classroom is into this school's structure and schedule. Of course I fought it for a minute...then I took a step back and re-thought my approach...how would the new Gracie handle things? Once I relaxed into their schedule and went with the flow, ideas just started popping into my brains...I can be a kick ass teacher and make it all fit into their world...

Just a bit more of the nerdy teacher stuff here. This school "flexible groups" for math and language arts. I have the "lower" classes for both math and language arts. The thing that is kinda cool is that the class sizes are pretty small. Math is a bit bigger (20 kids) because I combined with the special ed teacher. My group for language arts is unbelievably small - only 12-15 kids! Do you realize how totally cool that is? I can do so much....lit circles, a lot of guided reading, real writing conferences....I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I know I did a lot of complaining...but I'm so glad that I just frigging relaxed with it all...because there are nice people at this school...and I would like to stay a while.

I've met with my language partner, Andres, twice now. Yesterday we met downtown and spoke in English and Spanish for about three hours. Andres is a graduate student from Columbia. It would be very 'romance novel' for me to describe Andres as a tall, beautifully sculpted Latino man who looks deeply into my soul with smoldering eyes. As cool as that fantasy is, my Andres is a skinny awkward kid/man studying to be an electrical engineer. He is very patient with my butchering his home language, and he's starting to get some of my jokes and word usage,,,So far so good...The hot language partner of my fantasies will continue to thrive in my imagination.

However, I WILL be ready for Spain...Keeping my eye on the prize....Spain...travel for the two summer months. You know what is funny? I really want to buy my own place...but I am seeing home ownership my ticket to summer travel...is there something wrong with that...you know being motivated by travel??

Speaking of home ownership....I lost out on the perfect place this week. My agent couldn't show me the property on Wednesday night when it became available. We looked on Thursday went to place an offer to HUD and someone had bid Wednesday night and the offer was accepted Thursday. I know, I guess it really wasn't the perfect house. Sheesh...

My agent is not very pro-active at finding me places. He should know what I like by now, we've put offers in on five different places. My little go-getter sits back and waits for me find the places...I may have to fire him if I am really seriously wanting to buy something.

Well....my new year has begun...I think I've mentioned that a teacher's year begins in September...me gusto mucho...gracias!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New School Growing Pains

Have you ever been the "new kid in school"? I have many times in my life. From kindergarten to 12th grade I went to thirteen different schools....so being the new kid is something I learned how to do a long time ago...or so I thought. This week I was the "new" teacher at school. While a learning experience in an abundance of ways, being a "new" teacher in a school is a lot like having a scarlet "TN tatooed onto ones forehead.

Right off, let me just say that there are many people who have been very nice, helpful, and have made me feel right at home. However, the learning curve one goes through when starting at a new school is like walking into an alien spaceship or a foreigh country. All of a sudden everything I have known about being a teacher is not understood by those around me. I is like I am speaking another language and have no dictionary to refer to.

Everything I mentioned about doing in my classroom was answered with a, "we don't do that here." or "I'm sorry, I don't know you as a teacher so I am not sure you can teach these students." Talk about getting slapped into insecurity zone from the get go.

Of course being me, I took everything VERY personal and cried most of the week. I HATED where I was at for the last 3 years, but in those moments I so wanted to be back there...at least they knew I do good things with my students...

Again, being me, with the emotion that was seeping out of my skin like sweat off of a fat guy, I shut down completely. This was exactly what I DIDN'T want to do...but there it was...me with a HUGE wall around me that the largest sledgehammer couldn't break through. I came off exactly as I was...unapproachable, emotional, and really unhappy about deciding to teach at this school.

I did rally back Thursday night and went in Friday with a happy face agreeing with whatever they said...outwardly agreeing anyway. I am hoping this attitude will last. I know frustration will rear its ugly head...then what?

Frustrated...that is the key word here. One example is that I am working with a BRAND NEW special ed teacher for math - in a co-teaching situation, which is great....I love co-teaching. So today this woman tells me she has doubts that this will work...that special educations students will not learn with general education students. She hasn't even met the students! How does she know what they can or cannot do? I smiled and said that I am going in with the attitude that we will be a successful team and produce successful students and am hopeing she can see things the same way...she said she would try...WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN? How can a person walk into a school with the attitude that students are not going to succeed?

You know, all I really want to do is teach and make students successful. I want to be shown a little respect and treated like I am a credible teacher. I want my own place to buy and to move. Iwant to make enough money so I can travel next summer for the entire 2 months. It is not a lot to ask. I am not even asking for some guy to be my boyfriend, or for HIM to like me again, or for people to hang out with...so why does it feel like I am constantly swimming upstream to fight a battle that I am not sure I am even going to win? These ARE attainable goals...aren't they?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teaching, Football, and A Little Something New...

It is that time again....teachers go back to work and spend the week preparing their classrooms for the arrival of students the Tuesday after Labor Day. Also football season is starting...large men bashing into each other just makes me smile. Last year at this time there was a sense of excitement because I was starting a project of sorts at school...I even had another blog that I started writing...that, and Sundays were filled watching football on a big fancy television...good times....

While I am REALLY glad to be starting at a new school, I am proceeding with caution. I have discovered that they do things much differently than I am used to. They "track" students and they are big fans of "pulling out"...If you are a teacher you completely understand what I am talking about...if you are not, well basically they put students into low, medium, high, and learning disability groups that rarely change. I feel all students should be included in the classroom and student "groups" change all them time, and are not only based on ability levels. So, my philosophical approach to teaching is very different, and I am not sure how to deal with that.

The Gracie of the last school year would fight, kick, and scream to get her point across...and her way. The Gracie of today is not sure what to do. Do I express my views hopefully finding words that will not give the perception that I am NOT, for lack of a better word....a bitch? Do I just keep my mouth shut? This is really bugging me...I am trying to do things differently...I'm just not sure how...I keep reminding myself to just surrender, the answers will come...


As far as football goes...there will still be Sunday games....I don't have a big fancy television...we will see if it is the same...

As for my something new... I have decided to improve my Spanish. So I will be more prepared when I go back to Spain next summer. I posted a request for a tandem language partner on Couch Surfing....and you know what? Someone answered....so I will follow up and hopefully find a friend to meet with once a week where we will speak English for a while then Spanish for a while...you know TANDEM...we both learn a language...kinda cool, huh? Even more cool is that by next summer I will be speaking great Spanish for my return trip....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just Surrender...

Thinking about my new life that I'm walking towards I am realizing that there is a word that must now be included in my vocabulary: surrender. My way has always been to work, fight, or push my way into getting what I want. Now I am finding, much to my discomfort, that fighting and pushing is not going to get me where I want to be.

Just surrender. That is what the voice in my head keeps telling me...just surrender, Gracie. Have faith that you will find the contentment and peace you are looking for. I am all for faith and for listening to that inner voice. So why am I having such a rough time coming to terms with this just surrender concept?

This started when I found a condo I wanted to buy. I put an offer in all seemed good. Then, I find out that there are all these obstacles: the seller wants to wait to approve, it is in short sale so I need to wait for the seller's bank to give an approval, my agent doesn't want to push the listing agent. All the while I'm thinking to myself, "Hey people, I made the decision to buy a place, this is part of the plan of my life...will you just make it WORK OUT for flips sake?"

So woman makes plans and God laughs. I've heard this a million times over...nice joke...thanks. Now what? That voice again, "Just surrender..." The old Gracie wants to fight kicking and screaming...the new Gracie knows this will only bring sadness and stress. But the old Gracie is screaming at me, "Only WIMPS surrender...you are no WIMP!"

I know that there is strength to be found in surrendering. I just cannot see it yet. I think that is what is troubling me most. I cannot see what is on the other side. I KNOW this is where the faith comes in...knowing that the other side will be wonderful. Can't I just get a peek? Come on what do you say?

All this is making me very closed off. I do not want to talk to anyone. I definitely do not want to go look at more houses with my real estate agent. Just the desperate look on his face and his voice telling me that condo X is a great place...it doesn't matter that you can get mugged as you're going home or that you have to go to the basement to share a community laundry room, it's perfect for you, Gracie...I just cannot do this anymore.

Buying or not buying my own place is just a catalyst or a crossroads or a fork in the road, maybe even a test. The important thing is how I handle this situation will determine how my new life will proceed. I do not know how I know this...I just know. I am not sure how to just surrender. I want to think it doesn't mean to just give up...because even the new Gracie is not a quitter.

I'm sitting here and I realize that I am totally and completely afraid to just let go and surrender. The thought of just going on faith at this time is terrifying me...So much so that I have stopped momentarily and that is even more scary...this is a problem...

I am a person of solutions...there's a problem I want to immediately find a solution and put it into action. Trouble is I cannot exactly find a solution...I know just surrender...but what does that mean? Once I figure that out I'll let you know....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Does Matter???

For the last week I've had so many thoughts floating around in my head. Sometimes this is good because it is a sign that I need to write, and I usually end up writing things that I like. I tried writing the last two days, and it just was not happening. I couldn't stay focused and my random thoughts had no direction...so I sent them to the delete pile. So here I go again...let's see what happens...

I have two weeks until I go back to work. I see this time as the calm before the storm. Please do not take this as a negative statement. This is truly a gift of time that allows me to continue taking charge of my life...putting into action the decisions I talked about in my last posting. However, as I am taking action my brain goes on overload with thoughts and ideas of what exactly I am accomplishing here..and the new life that I am about to begin...yes folks, I am about to begin a brand new life.

My trip to Spain sent me on a spectacular adventure, one that will stay with me forever. More importantly, my trip allowed a new person to emerge - a new and improved Gracie, if you will. However, for this new Gracie to thrive I must let go of the old Gracie - the girl that is no longer needed in my new life.

So my thoughts over the last week have been consumed with letting go of parts of my life that are no longer necessary. You see, the old Gracie is a person who has never been comfortable when it comes to opening her heart up. The old Gracie is very good at "faking" and appearing like she is open - the reality is that there is a wall around that girl that very few have ever penetrated.

In Spain the wall crumbled into dust. This was not anything I did consciously...it just happened...and to my surprise I liked the girl behind that wall better...she glows...she is lovely...and she is who I really am. Right now the only thing on my mind is keeping her alive.

You may think this is easy, trust me it is not - it is really flippin' hard. Old Gracie is very strong, and very comforting in times of stress. She can manipulate and justify every negative action that comes to mind or out of my mouth. Old Gracie is afraid of the person that I discovered while in Spain. Afraid because as the new Gracie grows a piece of the old must die in order to make space. I know this sounds like I am a crazy person fighting with my multiple personalities - OK I get that...and you are sort of right in that regard.

I'm looking at the death of old Gracie as an ending, but also a beginning of a great journey. So you can see why these two weeks before school starts - this calm before the storm - are so important. Each day I am joyfully letting go of Old Gracie...giving her lots of love, light and thanks because she has been or rather is someone that has been so good to me, protected me, and been my friend when I felt I didn't have a friend in the world. These two weeks are giving me the time and space to say good-bye.

This path that I am on is truly fascinating. As get to know new Gracie, I am beginning to understand that the "stuff" that was so disturbing in my life before I went to Spain really do not hold the same value. For example, it is no longer a terrible thing that I don't really "fit" in Virginia. Or that I do not have as many friends as I had in California. Not to sound like a clique, but I've found some peace in both of those aspects of my life. In the big picture of where I'm going those things do not really matter.

So what does matter? How I treat others matters. How I treat myself matters. Sending love and light out into the world matters. Allowing the new Gracie to become the most beautiful person she know how to be matters. Those other things...those worries are the things that will keep new Gracie from taking the amazing journey she is about to take.

Look, I am human and I love having people in my life...I am truly blessed by the people who are my friends. However, don't you think it is a bit silly to put all my focus on trying "fit in", or searching endlessly for new friends. or even looking for a boyfriend. Isn't it better to focus on this new amazing person I see myself becoming? The new Gracie is turning out to be a truly great person...doesn't it make sense to have faith that truly great things will come her way?

The calm before the storm...a gift I must remember as I start the school year and the things that don't really matter start creeping their way into my soul...and you know they
will. I am curious about what my reaction will be when those little "things" tap my soul on the shoulder. How interesting this journey will be....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taking Charge

I have two "best friends" in this world. My best girlfriend lives in Los Angeles and I call her "the wife", and my best guy friend is traveling the world. I call him my "gay husband". These two people have seen me through thick and thin over the last 20 years. They have loved me unconditionally as I've been good, bad, and even ugly. Before we even get started here, let me say that I cannot imagine life without "the wife" or my "gay husband".

Last week I received an email from the wife. It was a Daily Kabbalah Tune Up titled "Take Charge" and said:

You are the only one who will make your life different.
Your personal growth and betterment is related to how much you want to lead in your own life. That is how much you will manifest. Today take charge in those areas where you have given your power over to others.

A day later my gay husband sends me a link to an article he wrote for Matador Travel, a travel and lifestyle web site. In his article he mentioned me and how after going to Spain I've discovered that a new way of life is not only possible, but within my reach...all I need to do is TAKE CHARGE.

In the two weeks since I've returned from Spain have been, dare I say...extremely challenging. I've been walking around in a state of sadness, confusion, and self destructiveness. I'm not proud of this, but to be honest I have not been TAKING CHARGE OF MY LIFE! Although I haven't really shared much about these last two weeks with my wife or my gay husband, they both instinctively and separately sent me these messages as a way to kick my ass into gear...thanks, guys...

I know, the question in your mind is: Why have I been allowing LIFE to take charge of ME instead of the other way around? I'm not sure. Coming back from Spain did make me sad...I loved it there more than I thought was possible. I discovered a new life is possible and right there in front of me, but I'm not sure how to incorporate it into my current life here in Virginia....that's where the confusion comes in. The self-destructive piece of this puzzle just appears when I'm either sad or confused about how to make my next move in life...sort of my little way of punishing myself...why I think I deserve to be punished...I have no fucking clue...that is one of those little secrets about myself that most don't know about...guess I've let that cat out of the bag haven't I?

Just to clarify my self-destructive behaviors...they manifest themselves in different ways...this time it's not exercising, eating anything that can make me fat, and smoking cigarettes. I know you are like, "Big deal, Gracie. Those things are not SO bad." Well...YES they ARE, because they are my way of alienating myself from others...you know keeping others away from me...very healthy!

So here I sit, five pound heavier since I've returned from Spain, my muscle mass depleting, and smelling like an ashtray...not an attractive picture, I know...and not one I am very proud of. So you can see how important it is that I TAKE CHARGE before two weeks becomes two months, or two years....you get the picture.

For me, TAKING CHARGE comes in stages. First, I figure out why this has started in the first place. I have this part covered: before going to Spain I was looking for a home to buy, psyched to start a new school, and in a place where I had let HIM go....A nice little safe package. I come back from Spain and I do not know if buying my own home is the right thing to do, I'm ambivalent about starting a new school, and HE has responded to my writing like a jealous, left out boyfriend, who supposedly wants to be my friend, which is not only confusing, but sort of pisses me off. I can hear the wife now, "Gracie, you've given your power away!" I KNOW this...that is what I'm trying to resolve here.

The second stage is to start DOING. For me this means I exercise even though I don't want to. I eat food that doesn't contain complex carbohydrates - they not only make me fat, they make me a bit depressed. I also, make sure I don't smoke cigarettes. The second stage is critical and the most difficult to achieve...but I know taking it one day at a time is the only way...can you guess I've been down this road many times before.

Third and final stage of TAKING CHARGE is to make decisions. So decision number one: I will buy my own place. Doing this gives me a home base, and a VERY LARGE tax deduction that will give me the funds to travel all summer if I choose. Some may look at me owning a home as a chain that will keep me in Virginia. I'm seeing it as the vehicle that will enable me continue exploring that new life I discovered in Spain.

Decision number two: I know going to a new school is a GREAT thing. I do have FAITH that it will be a wonderfully productive and peaceful school year. My experiences at my old school are a thing of the past that I will stomp on whenever they rear their disgusting head. Again, teaching in Virginia will give much needed security that will allow me to continue delve deeper into a new life. One more year and I am eligible to take a year off, teach overseas, and come back still having a job.

Decision number three: HIM...I am not sure he knows how to be my friend...especially now that I've returned from Spain. I keep asking myself, do I really care anymore if he is my friend or not? I mean, what is it exactly that I'm getting out of this "friendship"? I do not mean to sound callus, but after a while it just becomes boring. In this case I know my thoughts are better served elsewhere....Can you guess what my decision is?
I know...I have shared a lot with this posting, but I think it was necessary. Remember this blog is mostly for ME. Who knows, maybe there are others who have similar situations....and are trying to figure out for themselves how to TAKE CHARGE.....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Are You There, God? It's Me, Gracie...

Do you remember that Judy Blume book, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret? When I was 12 years old it was THE book that all the girls read. If you are female you may remember reading this book as you entered puberty. If you are a dude, well...I'd be a bit concerned if you read this book as you were going through puberty.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret is about a young girl as she enters that confusing time just before she gets her period. Confusing is putting it mildly; and yes, I even wondered if God was around during that time of my life. Everything changes for a young girl during this time...her body, her thoughts, her wants, her needs, and definitely her mood. Everything comes into question. I know, you're asking yourself, "Gracie, why are you bringing up puberty?" Well, my friends, what I'm going through now with this friggin' perimenopause is a lot like going through puberty.

Everything is changing. My body, my thoughts, my wants, my needs, my flipping mood. The only difference is that I'm no longer an innocent 12 year old. I have years of experience to add to this crazy mix. So...Are you there, God? It's me, Gracie...what the hell is going on here???

The books I've read about menopause say this is normal during the 5-7 years before the BIG M hits me in the face. Women question their choices in life during this time. You know, things like, Did I make the right choices? Is my life going where I want it to go? I MUST make DRASTIC changes NOW or I will just die. So God...It's me, Gracie...what's the flippin' deal here?? I'm feeling like a nut case.

God...there's an interesting subject during this time of my life. I have never been very religious, never went to church as a kid. However, I've always believed that there's something bigger than us out there. My Christain friends will cringe as I say this, but I'm not sure that "God" is just Jesus. I think God is whatever you perceive him/her to be. For some, God is the Buddah, Allah, Vishnu, or Mother Earth. I ask you, does it really matter how we perceive God? Isn't having faith the important thing? Is God listening to me as I go through this crazy time? I truly believe he/she does listen, at least I sure as hell hope so.

The question I propose is: does God answer us back? I have always talked to God...even as a kid...but my conversations are not really formal prayers...they are just conversations. I have always talked to God like he/she was just a person hanging out with me...again the Christians are freaking out...relax people...I mean no disrespect. I ask again...does God answer back? I think so...that is if we REALLY listen and pay attention.

Music has always played an important role in my life. Whatever, right? Many people like music, Gracie, you are getting off topic. Let me explain. For me music has always been the way God talked to me....you know, got the messages I needed to hear through my thick skull. You know that song by Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing In The Dark" from Born in the USA? That record (yes, I mean RECORD ALBUM) came out in 1984. That song spoke to me in such a way that at age 20 I packed my bags and moved by myself to Los Angeles with a dream of being in the music business. That song was God's way of telling me that all would be OK...that I would make my dreams come true...and you know what? All was OK...and I made many dreams come true during my 20 years in Los Angeles.

What is totally freaking me out is that same song, "Dancing In The Dark" keeps coming up. The radio, my IPod when it is on shuffle, in the mall, in elevators. I'm laying at the pool today and there's Bruce singing,

"There's something happening somewhere, baby I just know there is...you can't start a fire sitting around crying from a broken heart...you can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart..."

OK, God, it is me, Gracie...I get the "sitting around crying about a broken heart and worrying" stuff, and you are right....that gets me nowhere. But Bruce Springsteen is just one example. As I was laying there in the hot sun, songs just kept coming up, Semisonic's, "If I Run", Sarah McLachlan's "Surrender", David Gray's, "This Year's Love", Smashing Pumpkins' "Mayonnaise". I understand those songs may not mean squat to you people out there, but for me they have always had a certain significance. Take a listen, maybe you will get where I am coming from. Now God, that play list has over 400 songs on it and THOSE come up? What the freak? What are you trying to tell me??

Since I came back from Spain my brain has been spinning with so many thoughts and questions about what I'm doing here, how to finally fix "things" in my life, and the biggie, what do I really want for my "what's next"? See, I do ask that sometimes...I do not always live in the moment.

I do know that the answers to my questions or my "what's next" are not going to be found outside. This is all about me. It is not about moving to another place, whether I want HIM as a friend or not, making friends, or even a boyfriend. Those things will be the icing on the cake as I find my answers. I also know that the answers will be shown to me when the time is right. God, it's me, Gracie...have I got that part right at least?

I remember when I was 18 and I had my first real boyfriend. I could have wrangled my way into a marriage with this guy...really, I could have. Even though seeing me married off would have made my mother very happy, I just knew that there was so much more for me to experience. So much more for me to do, you know? I have had many, many experiences in my 44 years; yet I keep thinking there's so much more out there...Spain really showed me that.

I want my future mean something and not just be this empty vessel of cities I've visited or lived in, men I've fucked, jobs I've had, or people who have come and gone. I can hear the people in my life, "Gracie, you have accomplished so much. You've reinvented yourself a couple times over and have been successful, you teach children and impact their lives, blah blah blah." I know all this, but I am feeling that is not enough, you know? That there has GOT to be more for me...I do not mean to sound like an ego maniac or a narcissist, but I want, maybe even need my "what's next" to have a larger impact on the world than my experiences in the past have had. God, it's me, Gracie...are you getting my drift?

So here I sit faced with a new school year that starts in a month. Wondering what my "what's next" is. Do I stay in Virginia and buy my first home? Is it time to move on and reinvent myself again? Is going to Spain the answer or was that just the catalyst for what is going to happen in my future? I do know that I do not want to lose the woman I became while in Spain. I love her and think it would kill me if I allowed her to die as I get back into the grind of life.

I have well meaning people in my life who tell me to leave Virginia, that this is not the place for me. I have also been told, "If you go, I will follow you on the computer, keep in touch, etc." Before Spain these things would have influenced my decisions, but now...WHATEVER...my decisions are only about ME...that's the narcissist talking. The confusion I am going through is part of growing up and I just need to find some comfort in it all so it does not become too overwhelming and make me crazy. God, it's me, Gracie...I'm listening. You WILL give the answers when I need them, won't you?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fantasy Land

I told myself that I would have one week to be in what I call, Fantasy Land. This is sort of limbo where I'm not quite here in Virginia, but I'm not quite in Spain. I'm in-between...I do those at home things like go to the gym and do laundry, but then I do Spain things like eat what I want, drink wine, and daydream about another life. One week...then back to my reality that is Virginia....well the week ends on Sunday, and I'm not quite sure I'm ready to come back.

I was asked last night why do I stay in Virginia if it isn't really "home" for me. My answer was that I have "things" to do here, I'm not finished, and until I'm finished those "things" will follow me where ever I go. Plus my gut tells me that if I don't find some peace here, I won't find peace anywhere else. But since I came back from Spain last Saturday I look around and ask myself, "What the fuck are you doing here, Gracie?"

I know that quite a lot of this is the after my vacation backlash. I knew when I left Spain that I would experience these feelings...that I would feel a bit down and a little afraid of coming back to a life where I'm not entirely happy. That being said, I KNOW that it is up to me to make myself happy and not allow those dark feelings to take over my life. So now the question is, what do I gotta do to make myself happy?

Please don't get the perception that I'm this miserable human being because I'm not - far from it. I have a good job that I love, I can pay my bills, I'm in a position to buy my first home, I have good friends, over all...I have a good life and for that I'm extremely grateful. It's that contented feeling that I'm striving for...right now...yo no soy muy contenta as they say in Espana.

Going to a new school this year is good start...but it is also one of those "things" I need to deal with here in Virginia. I'm really afraid for the start of school at the end of August. I didn't realize just how afraid I was until I went to book club with some of my new colleagues Tuesday.

It's like this...I know that I'm hard to get to know...I can make small talk, no problem...but when the conversation gets too personal I either say entirely too much or I shut down. Saying too much too soon is very dangerous as it can come and bite you in the ass....I experienced that at my last school. Shutting down is even more dangerous because then I give the perception that I'm aloof and unfriendly. I'm not sure where the middle ground is on this....any suggestions? I also know that I have a very strong personality and that I am very passionate about education and how things should be taught. Thus, I sometimes give the perception that I'm a 'know it all" and people don't like that. So again, I do one of two things...I talk too much or I shut down...again, both equally dangerous, to repeat...NOT SURE WHERE THE MIDDLE GROUND IS. These "work things" have been with me my entire life...so I got to deal...it's now or never.

That is the work side of things. On the personal side, this week in Fantasy Land has magnified just how on my own I am here in Virginia. My really good friends are either in California or traveling the world. I have made a couple calls to people that are "friends" here in Virginia...but calls haven't gotten returned or people are off living lives that don't include me. This is another "thing" I must deal with here in Virginia - I either need to figure out at age 44 how to make friends or be at peace with not having friends here. This "no friend" things isn't as pathetic as I'm making it sound - I have plans next week for dinner with a friend, and I did see HIM last night - I guess he's a friend...that's how we left it anyway...we'll see if he picks up that ball.

HIM as a friend...there's a blog for you - Can A Person be Friends With Someone After Being in Love With Them? I'll think on that, in the meantime, seeing HIM - interesting - especially since he's been reading this blog and has reacted passionately a couple times through email, which is kinda nice that my writing affected someone. We did need to talk with each other...clear things I guess. I will say that I was having some dangerous thoughts last night (the wine, I think) had thought become action I would be writing an entirely different blog today. So friends? Well I guess he does know me better than anyone else here in Virginia. I do know we enjoy talking with each other; and we like, even love each other as people, but will we be friends? I left the door open...if he walks through I'll go from there....Look, don't freak out I''m just saying what I'm thinking...I would like him to walk through that door, but I will be very surprised if he does, as it is often easier to just walk past.

I have realized that today's writing is kind of all over the place. I guess that is just my state of mind here in Fantasy Land. Quite often my thoughts do that...they float around me like a bunch of dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. I think writing them down makes them less overwhelming and keeps their voices quieter.

I do know what I need to do once I leave Fantasy Land on Sunday...I need to take care of business and take care of myself so my head is back in the game. Going to Spain put some perspective on how I can deal with the "things" that are haunting me here in Virginia...because once dealt with they will become a distant memory and I will be able to say whole heartedly, "Yo soy muy contenta!"

Until Sunday, I go to the gym, I do laundry, I eat what I want, I drink Spanish wine, and I daydream about another life....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Moment in Love

Have you ever been in love? You know, your heart beats really fast, you cannot think straight, and the entire world suddenly looks bright and beautiful in a way it never has before. This is something I think we as humans crave, and quite frankly need.

While in Spain I discovered "falling in love" in a way I never had before. Of course I've been in love...if you've read my blog you know that I spent a year being in love with someone in a way that I had never experienced. My trip to Spain blew that love out of the water.

You are probably wondering, what in the hell is Gracie talking about? I guess I'm wondering that as well. I thought the love I had experienced with HIM was the most profound and the only way I could ever connect with another human being, and when it ended I just KNEW I would never experience that again...well I was wrong.

I decided before I went to Spain that I the most important thing I could do for myself was to be open to all that could possibly happen. So I opened myself up and I met many people. You've read about some of the people I met in previous postings so I won't bore you with a recap. But at the end of my trip something happened and that is what I want to write about today.

I spent 6 days in Salamanca, Spain teaching adults conversational English. In my last post I wrote about this, so again, I won't bore you. What I must talk about is one of my first "conversations". It was on the first day of the program and he was a very tall, handsome Spanish businessman...for this posting we will call him J.

J is a bit older than me and has worked for the same company for over 20 years. He has a family and I could tell he loves them very much. In our conversation he told me he has a dream of buying a Harley Davidson motorcycle and going to live in Paris and that within the next 5-6 years he will begin to make that dream come true...in that moment I think I fell in love. Why? Because I think anyone with a dream like that could truly understand me and my constant wonder-lust.

Nothing happened between J and I for a couple days. Of course we talked and got to know each other. In my mind I kept thinking that this man only thought of me as a friend, which was fine with me...I'm always up for great conversations with a handsome man. In fact, there was another man that I had an attraction to and "connected" with one night. This other man was the universe's way of reminding me that assholes are everywhere...even in Spain. He is not worth any more of my writing time.

The next night a group of us went dancing at a club in Salamanca. J went along and we talked some more. I just found that I loved talking with this man, which is doubly fascinating because J's English isn't so good and my Spanish isn't so good, but we communicated beautifully. Then we danced, and you know I saw stars...and I don't think it was the vodka I was drinking. As we danced we connected in another way. I found him totally and completely sexy and had this overwhelming desire to be with him, I guess you could say this was only "physical" and that my crazy hormones were acting up, but I don't think this was the case.

When we went back to the hotel J asked if he could come to my room and I told him yes. He knocked on my door and all he said was, "don't think" and he kissed me. Again I saw stars - ok fireworks. I had not been with - I mean sex - with a man since being with well...HIM from last year. To be quite honest I didn't really feel the want or need to have sex with any of the other men I had met in Spain. I WANTED to have sex with J more that I thought possible. It felt as if I couldn't get close enough to him. Hormones, lust? Maybe...but in that moment I was in love in a way that I never thought was possible. I let him completely SEE me and FEEL me without thinking and with complete TRUST in him and more importantly myself. I don't know if it was the Spanish he was whispering in my ear, but him touching me just set my skin on fire and I wanted to be with this person in this way forever.

We each "slept" in our own hotel rooms, but the next morning J was all smiles to me. That in itself just solidified the love I was feeling. All day long I wanted to just talk and be with him. The night couldn't arrive fast enough. He told me that he wanted us to talk together alone some more...my head was just spinning because all I wanted was to be with him. We spent the night together, sneaking off from the party being held by the program like two high school kids.

The time I spent with this man wasn't only about sex. It was about me connecting with another. Like I said before I didn't know for sure that I could do that again after having my heart so broken. I found that it is possible to "fall in love" again...even if it is for only a moment. I say for a moment because J and I both have lives an ocean away from each other, and I'm old enough to know the reality of that. So there is no "what's next"...there is/was only "what is right now" and we didn't think about anything else. When you get right down to it, "right now" is all we really have because the reality is that tomorrow may not come...so grab hold of the "right now" and enjoy and cherish it.

J and I parted ways the next day. He said to me, "Todos lo que quieras." Loosely translated it means, "Everything that is wanted." I agree...J is everything that I wanted and quite frankly what I needed to move forward. What a gift!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Salamanca Surprise

I'm sitting in a bar/cafe in Salamanca, Spain. It is Wednesday evening. I've been teaching adults conversational English all week...I'm tired and definitely "talked out"...but I'm so loving this week.

I've been involved in this program called Vaughn Town where I spend a week with businessmen and women teaching them conversational English. Basically, I have numerous conversations with Spanish people. I must tell you this is one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I've ever had.

The people I have met are quite simply...AWESOME! I cannot even begin to tell you how much these people have enriched my life.

Both sides, the Anglos and the Spaniards, have many different lives. Yet we all came together for a common purpose...to learn. As we talked we learned about each other. At night we put on small skits, dance, sing, and thoroughly entertain each other. O f course there were those of us who explored the Salamanca night life. I have danced like I haven't danced in over a year. My two favorite dance partners are my Spanish sister, Laura and a lovely man named, Joan.

As a teacher I was thrilled and intrigued on how these adults went about learning English. Some were very concerned with grammar while others just wanted to know that they could speak and be understood. I completely understand all this because I had just spent the three previous weeks wandering around Spain where I was desperately trying to learn the language.

During this week I've learned a lot about communication. First, a person doesn't really need perfect grammar to communicate. Second, it is imperative that a people listen closely to each other...this goes for people even when they are speaking the same language. Finally, communication is more than talking. It is facial expressions, tone of voice, and use of body language. These are all things I've known as I've taught many students who don't speak English...the difference is this is the first time I have really been on both ends of the learning to communicate part.

Like I said before the Spaniards I met have totally enriched my life. I cannot begin to express how blessed I feel by meeting them. Of all the Anglos, I was one that was a bit different...the reoccurring theme of me not "fitting". But you know what? These people just accepted that I didn't fit and loved me for it.

Just like the feeling I had in the mountains...I can go back to Virginia and be at peace with "not fitting". I like that I don't fit, and I know that I will continue to bring people into my life who appreciate me simply for who I am.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Three Strange Days...


There's a song by School of Fish called, "Three Strange Days" that keeps floating in my brain. In the last three days I've been to 3 different cities in Spain - Leon, Valladoild, and Avila. I must say these are the strangest days yet.

First of all this part of Spain is much different in goegraphy. I'm in the middle of what I would consider the desert. No more lush green mountains with bubbling rivers or sprawling beaches. It is dry, hot, and desolate. I'm reminded of many days driving through west Texas and I kept thinking I was going to see dead armadillos in the street....to get that reference you must drive through west Texas.

Leon was a pretty cool...the best wine I've had yet. Yet there's a certain depression that I felt there. Like people are just going through the motions of life. I was in Leon with a friend and we spent a very drunken night eating various tapas at many bars. What was VERY cool was that whenever you order a glass of wine they give you a tapas for free...on my budget this fits in quite nicely. I ran the next morning along the river...I was REALLY HUNGOVER so in order to not throw up I did like the people of Leon...I just went through the motions. Definitely not one of mybetter running experiences.
Valladolid...which I still cannot pronounce correctly, was next. If you've ever been to Los Angeles and visited The Grove at Farmers Market, then you've visited Valladolid. Very much like Leon in the layout of the city, but very pristine, very upscale. Got completely hosed at dinner and was over charged...having one day, I didn't have a chance to figure out where the locals dine...thus spending entirely too much money for a meal. I was glad to be leaving on the early train.

Avila is a walled city that was built in the 1400's or so. The train trip to Avila went through the middle of nowhere...just barren land with dead grasses. Suddenly this great wall appears on the horizon and you've arrived in Avila. My friend, who I was traveling with at the time, booked us at a very inexpensive hostel. Come to find out this hostel is a refuge on the Comino de Santiago. I never lived in a college dorm room...now I can say I've slept in a college dorm room. Literally, this was a dorm room. Can I just tell you the smell of mold was really, really BAD...so bad in fact that I went and bought a candle to light just to cover up the smell. Walking around Avila was a bit depressing. The people just seem sad. I guess I would be too if I lived in a walled city out in the middle of the desert.

My friend and I are a bit financially challenged at this time so we went to the grocery store and bought fixings for salad a couple bottles of cheap wine and had a picnic on the floor of our dorm room...we listened to music and I ran, danced, and sang down the empty hallways...was one of the best meals on my trip.
I have one more week left in Spain. I am spending it in Salamanca teaching English to adult businessmen and women. Right now I feel like my journey here hasn't even begun to be finished. I'm trying not to think about going home. Just keeping myself in the moment. I was told last night that if, "You think about tomorrow you always live in a dream, but if you live in the moment you live THE dream." That is a rough quote as I'd had a bit of wine, but that just about says it all....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oviedo, Spain...Who Knew?

When I arrived in Oviedo two days ago I was a bit overwhelmed. This is a "big" city compared to Cangas de Onis and the mountains where I had spent the last five days. All of a sudden I felt like a fish out of water. This was strange as I live and lived in cities most of my adult life, but my feeling of "not fitting" came full force.

Oviedo is a very charming city and the old district reminds me a lot of San Francisco. I explored as I have been doing right away when I come to a new spot on this journey. There's an old cathedral in the center of town. I went in and got the strangest vibe. I think people must've been tortured or accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake here or something. I got the hell out of there fast.
I ventured out around 8:00 pm to look for somewhere cheap to eat. I'm never sure where to go when I'm on my own. I found many resturants where couples or families were having dinner or drinks, but those kinds of places really make it apparent that I'm on my own. I then discovered this bar/resturant where people were hanging at the bar eating tapas...perfect. I ended up staying for the entire evening as I suddenly felt as if I "fit" here.

At the bar I chatted up this old guy who told me he was a "politco", which for us Americans is the equivalent of a councilman. I've gotten used to having conversations in broken Spanish and asking the people I'm talking to to speak slowly. My friend, the "politco" introduced me to his other "politco" friends.

Starving, I ordered a salad and sat down to eat at a table next to two women. It was like I was having dinner with two old friends as they began asking me questions and including me in their conversation. I just "fit"...who knew?

After a bit a male friend joined the ladies. Javier was very tall and very handsome and spoke some English. He was quite charming and I was quite taken with him. He wrote me a Haiku poem and asked if I would be his "Virginia girlfriend". I felt like I was in some strange romance novel and was loving every minute of it. The romance of it all seemed to just go from various fantasies in my mind to the reality of the moment.

All of a sudden after six hours of being overwhelmed by Oviedo, I had a group of friends I was hanging out with. I had a great dinner, which was totally paid for my my "politco" friends, who had left by this time, and had left me with this wonderful suprise of paying my bill.

I went to Gijon (pronounced he-hon...make sure it is said correctly as the Spanish get a little insulted if it is mispronounced) the next day to the beach. This was my last chance to see the ocean while in Spain as I go inland today. It was a perfect day and I felt such a lightness to my soul. On the bus ride back to Oviedo I decided to email Javier and ask him out for a drink that evening. I didn't even know if he would respond, but was thrilled when he called me a couple hours later.

We met at 10:00. Javier is an attorney here and seems to know many people in town. I would describe him as "connected" and he introduced me to various characters who seemed to emerge from a David Lynch movie....to quote a friend of mine. I must admit it felt really great to be paid attention to by a man...what I mean to say a man who is my age, intelligent, that I was extremely attracted to, and was just right there in the moment with me. I have not experienced that in quite a while.

For dramatic affect I could say we went to his apartment and made mad passionate love all night, but that wouldn't be the truth. Even being the risk taker that I am, I wouldn't go to someone's home that I didn't know. However, the night did progress and I found myself "being with" this man in the most enjoyable way...

I'm not sure how to explain this, but at age 44 I think it is important for a woman to feel sexy and attractive to the opposite sex - or the same sex if that is what she is into. Last night I felt both sexy and attractive, and for the first time in quite a while it "fit" to touch someone and be touched and kissed. It was perfectly in the moment. No strings, no "what's next", no worries. I felt ALIVE in a way that I haven't felt for months...I came - no pun intended - in his universe at the most "fitting" time...Javier, thank you for that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

And Furthermore With the Letting Go Stuff....

This is my last night in Cagnas de Onis, Espana...the small mountian village where I've been for the last five days. I'm sitting here in my favorite bar, Ca'Melan. Yes people, I have a favorite bar in this little town. It is my favorite because the wine is very cheap, they serve free peanuts, and I can poach access to the Internet for free. Plus there's this great bartender named, Hannah.

Hannah is from Finland and came to Spain to attend culinary school. She's a chef but working at Ca'Melan as a bartender. She told me that she came to Spain and didn't know the language at all and was forced to learn very quickly in order to get through school. I greatly admire this as it takes a huge amount of courage to go to school not knowing the language...talk about putting oneself into a challenging situation. I hope to visit the resturant that I know Hannah will own someday.

It was a bit rainy today, quite different from the last four days of sunshine...I didn't really mind. I decided to go into another village called Covadonga which is about 12 km away...that's about 7.2 miles for my American friends. The bus ride took me up into the mountains even further than I already was.

The village of Covadonga is basically a really big church that dates back to the 1600's. I went into the church and just sat for almost an hour being quite overwhelmed by the vastness and dare I say it, the presence of a higher being. I must say that I became quite emotional and just sat and cried silently for the entire hour.

At first I wasn't sure why I was crying. I'm not very religious, although I do believe in "God" and the power that comes with a higher power. I think now that the tears were a much needed release of things that will not be and for the things that were. This is truly letting go, and I'm glad I was in such a place to come to this realization. Glad because I was in the middle of nowhere, by myself, not "fitting", and I was at peace.

How long this peace will last I'm not sure, but in that moment I told myself that I needed to remember this always...especially when I get back to Virginia.

I also cried for the life that is to come. I know that the life that is coming for me is to be the most wonderful yet. I guess I've always known this...as I get older my life only gets better and better...I just have to keep the faith that this in fact is TRUE. Am I a little scared? OK...I admit it...I am...but I can look fear in the face and walk right through it. This has always been my nature...this is what I have done time and again and I will continue to do so...bet YOU didn't know that back-story, did you?

Fear of what, you ask? Of being alone...of never being loved. For me this is the biggest obstacle I've always faced, what I've always run from or run to, which every way you choose to look at it. I guess it is time to let that go as well...or at least begin to let it go...because there's really nothing to be afraid of...I've been alone, and I haven't shriveled up and died, have I?

Even more, I realized to a greater degree in that church that it wasn't only me who didn't "fit"...it was BOTH of us who don't "fit" with each other...and that's ok...I grew by leaps and bounds during that year and someone else will benefit from that growth...what a lucky guy he will be! I think that in life we encounter people who are supposed to be there in order for us to grow and continue.
I think my visit to these mountains of Spain have been the most significant time of my journey so far. I've met some great people, but more importantly I've met a side of myself that I didn't think really existed. On my hike Sunday, Maribel, one of the women in the group I was in told me she thought I was, "valiente". This means "brave" in Spainish. I've been told this before, but never really considered myself brave. I see this now in myself...not to be conceited...but I realize that I've got some "balls". I may not always "fit", but I can be proud of who I am.

I walked back to Cagnas de Onis from Covadongo - the bus wasn't coming for another hour an a half - I became unbearably restless so I decided to walk the 12 km/7 miles back to town. I didn't cry on the walk...I felt so strong and alive and totally marvelled in the beauty of Northern Spain as I treked through tiny village after tiny village. I'm sure the locals were thinking, "Muy loca turista, cambina!" - "Crazy tourist walking!" OK...so I'm a bit crazy...whatever.....