A few weeks ago as the school year wrapped up, the dean of students asked me for feedback about my experience teaching at that school and for any insights about how he might better on-board new teachers in the future. I put my thoughts in an email, and when he met with me to discuss, he commented that what struck him most was the style and quality of my writing.
"Do you write a lot?" he asked.
"I used to," I replied honestly, feeling like a cliche of an adult who let the busyness of life get the better of her passions.
"You should make sure to pursue that as an outlet," he suggested. He said that my writing was succinct, clear, compelling -- something along those lines.
I found that incredibly encouraging and am taking it to heart. I have a new job now that allows me a nice chunk of kid-free "me time" during the day and I'm taking steps to intentionally use some of that time to write. Be it here on LiveJournal, prayer journaling (the most important to me), or getting back into my habit of keeping in touch through wonderful long emails (which I rediscovered the other day while digging around for the rough draft of a book I wrote and saved in an old email account). So here I am sitting in a Starbucks, drinking an iced black coffee, drinking in the wonderful couple hours I have before it will be time to pick the kids up from daycare.
I have so much to share. We took an amazing family vacation to Florida! I even got to meet cosmic_reverie
there! :D It was awesome to meet that amazing person in real life and to meet sweet little baby J -- and to see that she is a fussbucket just like any other baby. Especially with the relative focus I put on Facebook, the life highlights
tend to get shared and "J" sounded like some kind of otherworldy, well-behaved, agreeable superbaby. But she's a normal baby with a very patient, loving, determined mama. The three of us went to mass together in St. Augustine and I remembered trying to take my own baby girl to mass... a few times like that and it was like "We Can't Even." (Though she was prone to screaming banshee fits starting exactly 10 minutes before each mass time -- consistent and extreme enough that we joked that we had better get her baptized/exorcised asap.)
Anyway, Florida. Travelling took fifteen hours between driving to LAX, a layover in San Antonio, renting a car in Orlando and driving to St. Augustine. It went smoothly, though, and it was a really special experience being able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts on the same day.
The warmth and humidity of Florida was wonderfully refreshing to me -- it felt like the air itself was giving me a hug. The water is a little bit warmer than my south-central California beaches -- still refreshingly chilly, but not so cold that I needed to brace myself
for it or worry about blurting out expletives. The beach itself is nicer, too. The sand is covered in seashells instead of rocks and seaweed. And all those seashells make the sand so interesting to pick up and look at up close -- a full rainbow of colors and a different texture. And I felt great letting my young kids dig around and play in the sand because it wasn't home to swarms of teeny tiny flying things.
We left for Florida the Wednesday before Memorial Day and stayed until Monday afternoon. Ben's cousin, the one who gave him girl advice so much when he was dating me, was planning to get married on Friday the 27th (coincidentally, Ben's and my five-year wedding anniversary... our was another Friday, May 27 wedding). She called off the wedding shortly after we bought our tickets, which we'd heard was a possibility, but we went ahead and bought tickets anyway, figuring that it would be better to get tickets early at a lower price and enjoy a family vacation in Florida rather than pay for more expensive tickets later when it was close to the wedding.
So, "wedding" became "family reunion," as the whole family followed our lead and bought tickets when we jumped in. Ben's grandma and one of his aunts already lives in Florida, but Ben's mom, her three other sisters, lots of cousins, Ben's sister and husband and new baby (I became an auntie in January!!!) -- we all got together. Three beach houses were rented, ours in the middle with the beach in our backyard. The first couple days we were just beach bums and loved every moment of it. (Even though we'd been living near the ocean since 2011, there's a huge difference between living near
the ocean and living with it in your backyard!) One of my mother-in-law's sisters had a house about a mile down the beach and two blocks inland one way (again, what a difference a four-minute walk to the beach is versus walking down some stairs!), another sister had an amazing house about a mile down the road the other way -- across the street from the beach but with nearly as easy access as we had with clear ocean views plus views of amazing marshland in the backyard -- a house you could watch the sunrise and
sunset from, a gorgeous place built for entertaining with a balcony wrapping all around. I'd say that was the best house overall.
My first morning in Florida, I naturally awoke at dawn and had the amazing good fortune of watching the sun rise over the ocean from our room (which had huge glass doors and a balcony -- Ben and I ended up with the master bedroom to be able to share the bathroom with our kids, who were bunked with their grandma, while Ben's sister, husband, and baby were in another bedroom). When Ben heard how amazing it was, he kept setting alarms to try to catch the sunrise himself -- but every other day we were there, there were clouds blocking the horizon. I got SO lucky and will always remember that sunrise.
I did not go to the Harry Potter stuff at Universal Orlando, but I feel okay about that because they just opened some Harry Potter stuff at Universal Studios Hollywood, which I can get to easily enough. Orlando's is bigger, but... whatevs. I'll have plenty to drink in as it is when I make it down there.
Anyway -- Florida was great. I wish I were posting at the time and could flood this thing with beautiful details and stories. Recaps of longer time periods I'm not so good at.
This week was my first week at my new job. I'm still a teacher, but I'm working for Learn4Life Concept Charter Schools, which is a year-round independent study high school program. I started on June 27 with two hours of hearing about the ***amazing***
benefits package, then getting sent home with credit for a full day of "work." This week has been mostly training videos/powerpoint and shadowing teachers, with an afternoon of making phone calls to students yesterday. And I got my laptop, which is why I am back on LiveJournal. :)
We are in the process of settling in to a new chapter of life in Visalia, California. We got here about a week before my new job started and while Ben worked at his company's office here, the kids and I toodled around, got our bearings and spent a whole lot of time at the McDonald's playplace.
We've bought a house, as the rental market was slim, a lot is for sale, and we'd built up enough in our life insurance policies to draw a down payment from. But so far, we've been living in a cheap motel in the neighboring town Tulare, and tonight should be our final night there. It's comfortable enough, though definitely has the feel of staying at someone's grandma's house rather than a hotel -- floral printed sheets, only two thin pillows per queen bed, no hair dryer, a shower that's not quite a bathtub (I fold a towel over the drain to hold water in well enough for my kids to enjoy bubble baths).
There is a laundry facility on site, though my second time going to do laundry there, some guy was sitting around jerking off while his laundry washed. I didn't see anything THANK GOODNESS (especially as my daughter was with me) but ewwwwwwww. Ben mentioned it to the front office at the hotel a day or two later and they said that if I run into that again, to tell them right away so they can call the police. I turned right around and did my laundry at a laundromat instead, where there were still plenty of creepers but they at least didn't stick around. I'll try the motel laundry again tonight -- being stuck sitting in the laundromat was no fun, especially without air conditioning! It is HOTTTTTTT here.
We are adjusting to the heat. Our first day here, my son actually wimpered whenever we stepped outside -- now the kids are dashing out the door of our motel room to run around outside in the evenings. They were both born in our former town Lompoc, so they've had almost no exposure, if any, to heat like this (it's about one hundred degrees each day, as compared to Lompoc, where it tends to have highs in the low 70s in the summer and high 60s in the winter -- like Pleasantville
After tonight, Ben has us booked in a nicer hotel, and then we might be staying in someone's house for the next week or so until our house closes and we get to move in. Our mortgage person has offered us space at her sister's place.
I must say, though -- only having one room to keep up with leave me with so. much. free. time. It's just unbelievable how much time it is to try to keep up with an entire house. I love
that aspect of having all our stuff in storage and only having one little room for all of us to share.
The bad part is trying to get the kids to bed. The kids share a bed and play and laugh while Ben and I hide out in the bathroom so they don't try to engage us in play or asking for things. Ben always needs to go out and remind them that it's time to sleep. It's not the worst thing in the world, for sure, but it's still a weird inconvenience and is costing me some sleep time of my own.
Oh, another new beginning -- Ben is in the process of getting his own medical billing/office management business off the ground and will be leaving his other job once it's off the ground. His current employer will be his first client with some medical testing lab he's starting. Ben has an MBA and all the medical office management & billing know-how and the projections for this business are amazing. He's business partners with his dad, who is helping to get things rolling under Ben's direction from what I can tell. (Every phone call I overhear between Ben and his dad related to the business is all just Ben explaining things. When I mentioned it, Ben said, "That's why they pay me the big bucks.")
Oh, and we're selling our house in Oregon. We have a buyer and that process is going great. The market has skyrocketed so we are making a ton of money on it. When we did some math we decided to sell instead of continuing to rent it out -- we figured out that if we took the money we'd pocket and put it in some safe investment, we'd make more just on the interest than what we earn on rent. So my student loans will go bye-bye, and our credit cards, and we'll pay back our down payment to our life insurance policy, and pay up our down payment up to 20% so that we won't have to pay mortgage insurance or the asinine flood insurance the county is making us get.
My new job is wonderful. It was a really crazy hectic week, but my principal said that at least this way I won't get disillusioned -- it never gets any harder or more hectic than this week was, and I spent most of my time shadowing at Hanford, which is by far the hardest of all 35 school sites we have from what I am told (and that looked easy compared to my last teaching job). They pay us well, our benefits are fantastic (amazing
health insurance plus umpteen other benefits), short days, no lesson planning to speak of, no classroom management issues -- one student at a time. There is a lot
of paperwork, but it looks like it will be straightforward enough once I get the hang of it. The school is targeted at catching dropouts or would-be dropouts and getting them a path to graduation, though there are other types of students, too -- ones who have always been homeschooled and don't want to dive in to a big public high school, for example. But there are a lot of teen parents. Students bring their babies and we will get to hold them and I consider that one of the perks. I really care about this particular educational niche and it is just so perfect for me. I am so confident that I have what it takes to do this job and do it so well from the start. I'm working with a team of teachers in an open office space (no cubicles). I AM SO EXCITED. I cannot emphasize that enough. I am just so happy and so excited about this new job. It really is like the best teaching experiences I've ever had plus the systemic educational needs I have pondered about the most have all coalesced and I get to work there and be a part of something really great. I will actually get to make a difference. It just sends shivers down my spine to think about.
Did I mention that the cost of living here is much less? I wrote our new daycare a check for $1,025 for both my kids for the entire month of July and marveled at how writing a four-figure check could make me so happy. They're at a learning center right now and it costs so much less than our in-home daycare did on the coast. We'll be moving them to Montessori school next month... which will still cost less than our old in-home daycare. Un-freakin-believable.
And it's so much bigger and nicer here. We had really gotten our fill of rural or quasi-rural life. There's a lot of agriculture here, too (mostly cattle and almonds and such), but the city of Visalia is three times bigger than Lompoc (130,000 people), feels
about ten times bigger, and it's mostly... really nice-looking instead of run-down and depressed-feeling like Lompoc. And it's just a few minutes from Sequoia National Park, where we beat the heat last weekend.
We felt like it was time for a new chapter and God has brought us here and I could not be happier. (Well, we could always be happier, right? But still, loving this chapter!)