Sunday, January 30, 2011

And yes, we are happy.

I am not sure how to feel:  it's Sunday night in Pilsen and the only place that has free WIFI is McDonalds.  I think I'm simultaneously embarrassed and thankful.  This is the homeless and cold warm up place, also the family eatery, and the table is sticky.  But I am truly glad to get my fill of the interweb, and to catch up on unpaid bills.  Who would have thought that not having consistent wireless at the apartment would put me at such a loss.

Oh life is such a process, and this week was no exception.  We are slowly acclimating to having some stability and certainty in our lives, and yet we regularly still long for the road.  School is great.  I am surrounded by amazing, positive coworkers and children that need me, and I am constantly learning and engaging with enhancing my skills as an educator.  It's really nice.  I've gotten to engage with my physical body as well, it's such a treat to take class, and this week I took from both Molly Shanahan and Kristina Fluty, who collectively equal two of my favorite people and movers.  And today I finished my week off with some jamming at the Chicago Contact Improv Jam, it's always so so good to spend time in the sacred space that is Links Hall, and to let my kinks be rolled and pounded out, all the while honing my dance listening skills.

This week I've actively begun my Spanish learning attempt using the Living Language method, courtesy of Chicago Public Library. With practice the cds will be helpful, but I'm thinking that in order to really get it, I will definitely require a trip to Mexico or Central America very soon.  Especially when it's miserable here in Chicago and we can't take the cold anymore.  Of course, it would be solely for Spanish practice, which is required for my job, so I could write the entire trip off of our taxes, right?  I think so.

This looks like a place where I could really practice my Spanish. :)
This week, Nick has been hard at work being a house husband.  And I am completely content with it.

This is a corner view of the bed Nick made for us.  It still is calling for a coat of paint, but for now it's perfect! 

My crafty husband also fashioned a bead chandelier to spice up a lacking light fixture.  It doesn't really filter the light through the colors, but it does create great dappled light and shadow in the room. 

"Um, dear, why are you photographing me?  I am right in the middle of building a desk for YOU."

And now for you curious folks, here are a few requisite photos of the new place. 

Preliminary shot of the kitchen...

Check out our sunny bathroom.  We picked up a yellow shower curtain and a yellow print mat yesterday.  It really helps the mood in the early mornings!

And here's the guy himself, goofy as ever.  And yes, we are happy.

Parting words:

Thanks Jill! This is something to live by. 
And now that I am sufficiently fried, and craving Big Macs (j/k) I think I have satiated my internetting needs for now.  Till next time... 

Monday, January 24, 2011

A chock full weekend. (Again).

January 23, 2011
Five days later we are driving back from Iowa with another carload of our belongings.  This time we are chock full, no rear view action possible.  We are leaving from Solon/ Iowa CIty because we had a sleepover with Avanlee and Grandma Barb.  
A recent picture of the awesomeness that is an 8 year old niece.  On another visit, we snapped umpteen pictures of perfect bubble making attempts.  Such fun. 

Yesterday we packed our car in Dubuque, drove down to Solon for a dual birthday party for Cousin Jamie and Uncle Jim.  Instead of driving an hour and a half to Dubuque and leaving from there today, we got to hang out with 8 year old awesome Avanlee and Grandma Barb.  We were introduced to mini electronic Scrabble, an addictive and humbling game that gets those neurons firing, and we had Grandma’s famous fiber packed muffins that promise your full serving of fiber for the day.  Delish.
This is an internet photo (boo), but still a good replication of what we saw!
I love our car, but I am looking forward to a weekend where we stay in one place.  I think it’s safe to say that the lower back support is lacking, and while the repetitive views from the road are mostly pastoral and lovely, it isn’t the best way to spend a Sunday.  We’ve often been driving on Sunday mornings, and today is no different.  Our Sunday drive is commonly characterized by On Bieng with Krista Tippet, The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and the birds of prey that dot the trees every mile and a half.  They are mathematical in their dispersal, their territory must be exactly a square mile and a half because we seem to notice them stoically perching on top branches, surveying their land for glimpses of something tasty.  

We have a habit of singing “birds of prey” (imagine low note, high note, medium note), when ever we see one.  They vary, we’ve seen owls, red tailed hawks, falcons, and bald eagles so far (not to mention the cardinals, sparrows, tufted tit mouse, juncos, and a fat squirrel that were munching on feed on Grandma Barb's back porch).  It is nice to see nature in action before we return to the abyss of urbanity that Chicago sits in.  I love being out in the country, love love love, at the same time, I cannot wait to feel settled in our new apartment.  Last week Nick got a mattress for us, a futon, and a sitting chair (is their any other kind of chair?)  It is a nice put it together yourself Ikea chair, but it has a neck cushion that invites sitting and relaxing.  Haven’t done any sitting or relaxing yet, but I am looking forward to it.  The apartment is coming together.  This week my handyman husband is going to build a bed for us, a coffee table, a custom window frame shelving situation, and a bench for our entryway where we take off our shoes. He’s made many promises, but I think he’s super excited about having some space to create some things that are bigger than earrings.  Nick’s jewelry making habit is wonderful for me as the recipient, and so practical for apartment living where there is no space for larger creations.  Now that we have some space, I cannot wait to see what he fashions for us to use: hands on crafting that is immediately useful! I love it.  

I promise pictures of our apartment with our new Nick crafted pieces soon!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I know some of this has already been said

January 18, 2011
RECAP: I know some of this has already been said, but we’ve been on hiatus for so long that I think you deserve a review. 
Who knew we’d be where we are now?  Well, I for one had an inkling.  The desire to be settled after 6 months of transition is overwhelming and Chicago’s dancing and friends are magnetic for me.
This year was/is an experiment in being, in action, and in experiencing what we could.  In August, after intense job and soul searching, we decided to pack it up and head to Nick’s mom’s place in Dubuque as a holding pattern until our plans solidified.  Our lease was up, the grit and crime of Chicago was getting under our skin a little too repeatedly, and we were feeling adventurous and free.  Theresa’s basement was a wonderful storage place for our belongings, and as soon as we were settled we bought a car and planned a massive road trip out west.  The trip was a defining experience in my life, and even now, there are moments when I am newly grateful for the time and grace that we lived in.  Two months later on the highway back to Dubuque, in the middle of flat Nebraska, I got a call from the Assistant Principal at Spry Elementary in Chicago.  How did she sift my resume out of the masses that had likely been piled on her desk?  How did my name get isolated on the entire Chicago Public School unemployed teacher database?  It’s still a mystery.  I interviewed for a 4th grade maternity leave position, or TAT (temporarily assigned teacher) on Friday morning, was offered the job on Friday afternoon, and started on Monday morning.  I embraced my new position, my new school, and my new students.  I immediately was challenged, I felt the internal shift from lay person to one who is dedicated to the growth of students, and I felt ownership over the learning that was taking place in my room.  I was inspired by my own successes.  We spent November, December, and half of January subletting from Bobby, a favorite person, hanging out with Rusty the beautiful, amazing fox mutt dog, and checking out Pilsen.  It felt almost like we’d moved to a new city; Pilsen is a Hispanic-centric neighborhood, there are 3 taquerias in a square mile, and my Spanish by osmosis is increasing.  
Present Day
My temporary job was slated to end on January 14, the teacher for which I was covering  indeed was coming back, to my dismay.  I wanted nothing more than for the principal to come into my room and ask me if I would stay, and continue to work with my students!  Alas, she returned.  A week or so ago, I spoke with the principal about the possibility of continuing on at the school in any capacity.  She let me know that positions were scarce, and if anything came up, she’d let me know.  The next day, she popped in to my class and observed the kids working, she happened to come in when the kids were incredibly engaged, working with rotating learning stations.  On the Wednesday, 2 days before my last day, the principal called me into her office and thanked me for my work and dedication to the students, and she offered to hire me as an ESP, or an aid in a Special ED classroom.  While it would have been great learning experience, I need to keep moving forward, I just could not go from having my own class to being an aid.  I am sure she sensed my hesitation to take a pay cut, and on Thursday, she offered me a cadre position (a permanent sub always assigned to Spry), which is actually not too far off from a teacher salary.  Again, I told her that in order for me to stay, I’d need to be hired as a teacher, getting full teacher salary and benefits.  On Friday, she let me know that she’d found a way to switch position numbers and make some changes in staff assignments so that she could hire me as a full time, salaried teacher.  I didn’t realize I was negotiating, but it seemed to work!  So, as of now, if all the paperwork goes through (CPS is infamous for pulling stops when everything is supposed to work out), I will be collaborative teaching in 3rd and 4th grade, through the end of the year.  
This happened on Friday.  Saturday morning I had 2 massage clients scheduled.  While I worked, Nick packed up our belongings at our sublet.  Saturday afternoon, we looked for apartments in Pilsen and Tri-Taylor area.  We viewed one apartment in Pilsen that we had some questions about, but seemed like a good match.  Saturday night we had a sleep over with best buddies Kristina and Paul, Sunday morning we went back to visit the apartment once more, to check out the laundry room, and to decide if it felt safe enough.  Everything passed, and we signed the lease right before the Bears game.  Grabbed sandwiches, got in the car, drove back to Dubuque to gather up some of our can’t live without items like my teapot and peacock china, and now on the return trip to Chicago, our car suitcased up, we stuffed ourselves in and got back on the road. Of course we are bed-less, so after we unpack our car-full, we will blow up the air mattress and make a pillow nest on the floor, if we have time, we’ll head to Ikea for some deliverable furniture to make our new place more homey.  It’s been a wild ride. 
And now, on the drive back to Chicago, the pull of the road still matches the magnetic desire to be settled.  I still feel romantic about taking to the road, driving until we find somewhere beautiful to spend the day, setting up our tent and getting the quinoa and grotta going on the stove. Sun wakes us up, I get my boots on, amble over to the camp toilet, tea is on when I get back, and we make a plan for the day that usually involves mountains, beauty, and being quiet.  
I realize I am still trying to have it all.  It remains that we are and will be happy where ever we are together, and in the interim, I will soak up this experience, I will dance as much as is humanely possible while taking on a new position, and I will spend time with the people I love as often as I can.