The Trip North…

Both Gary and I are from Northwest Indiana….the Region.  The area is called the Region because of its proximity to Chicago.  I lived about 30 minutes from the Windy City until I was eleven.  Gary lived further south, about an hour and a half from Chicago.  We both enjoy visiting that part of the state, the part where the land is flat, the dirt is black, and no one waves at you as you drive down the road (unless a middle finger is up).  I, being a city girl at heart, love spending time in Chicago and taking that journey back to my childhood.  This weekend we were presented with the opportunity for a long weekend visiting family and friends.  Since my brother was available to house and dog sit, it was a perfect plan.

It began when Gary and I received an invitation to a retirement party that will take place Sunday in Fort Wayne.  Gary’s friend and former coworker, whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years, is retiring, so the friend’s wife is having a surprise party.  As we looked at the calendar and saw that it fell on a long weekend, we decided to extend the trip.

We are currently on our way to our friends’ at Dewart Lake (after a little detour to the outlet mall).  The Rector family has been in my life since I was born.  They lived next door to us until I was seven, and since that time we have kept in touch.  Peggy and Clyde are like an aunt and uncle to my sister, brother, and me.  They have three daughters who are around our ages.  We will spend tonight at Peggy’s and Clyde’s home on the lake, and attend a party hosted by their daughter Suzie.  The last time I spent a night in this house, my father was with me.  Our family had joined theirs for a weekend on the lake.  I was really young, so I remember very little about that trip.  Still, it means a lot to me to be in the same place my father spent time.  Peggy always tells me stories about my dad, and I value those stories since I have so few memories of him.  One of the things I love about this family is that we can go years without seeing them, yet the conversations always pick up right where we left off.

Tomorrow we will go to the Hammond area.  Gary wants to go to Cabella’s, and since much of this trip is about me, I will concede to a visit to a hunting store.  Perhaps I will purchase some camo.  I bet Gary would find me especially hot!  I wonder what people in town would say if I suddenly took a liking to camo.  Anyway, I  digress.  After lunch at a yet-to-be-determined location (that’s kind of a lie because I want to go to Miner Dunn, which has the best burgers ever – and I went there as a kid –  so I can pretty much bet that’s where we will go.)

After our brief stop in Hammond, and possibly a drive-by of my old houses (I also lived in Munster), we will venture into the mad traffic of Chicago.  Thank the Lord Gary is driving, though Addison gets her license this month, and that would be some intense experience for her.  Since my car is new, I believe Gary  would be the best choice.   We will be spending Friday night at my niece’s new apartment in downtown Chicago.  She just moved in May, so I am excited to see her urban abode.  That evening we will be meeting my cousin Marcia and her husband David for some Chicago-style pizza.  Oh, yah!  Deep dish pizza oozing with cheese and cholesterol.  Marcia and I are only a year apart in age.  Until we moved south, we spent a great deal of time with her and her brother.  I have wonderful memories of riding bikes, building obstacle courses in their basement, and spending the night at their house.  Despite our complete opposite lifestyles, Marcia and I have remained close over the years.  She is a big city girl; I am verging on being a hick (a very classy hick).  She rides horses (not like horseman-club-riding horses, but dressage riding, which is very proper); I run.  She has an exotic beauty – short, black hair, dark skin, tall, and thin; I, well let’s just say  you’d never guess that we’re related.  She and her husband are worldly; I have never been out of the country, unless you count flying over Canada on our way to Alaska.  I embrace our differences, and always look forward to the times we get to be together.

Saturday will be filled with the excitement of the big city.  We plan to rise bright and early, and go for a run along the lake.  That’s my heaven.  Because of this knee issue, I will have to walk a lot, but that won’t take away from the experience:  Lake Michigan on my left, the skyline on my right, and the wind in my face (I will probably be cussing the wind).  After showers, we will head to the Field Museum of Natural History.  I will admit, when I went to this museum in my younger days, it bored me, but Addison loves history, so I think she’ll enjoy it.  And…since our next stop is the CUBS game, I can endure a bit of boredom.  In the afternoon, we will be cheering on the Cubs when they play the Pirates.  That’s what true Cubs fans do.  We all have our new Cubs shirts, so we will look very touristy.  Don’t worry – I will be posting pics along the way!

After the game, it’s back in the car so we can head east.  We will be spending Saturday night in Fort Wayne, and will go to the retirement party Sunday – but not before we hit up the Dick’s in Fort Wayne.  Gary says we are trying to hit up every Dick’s in the country.  I haven’t yet met these friends of Gary’s, but am sure I will like them.  Since there will likely be a bunch of teachers there, surely I can find something to talk about.  If nothing else, I just share some funny Gary stories.  When he isn’t around.  Because he’d trump me with embarrassing Joyce stories.  And that would suck.

While my guess is that no one really cares what I am doing this weekend, you just read this whole blog entry.  I really write for my own enjoyment, and I did just pass a substantial amount of time in the car, but I hope you enjoy reading my random thoughts.  Actually, if you knew what really goes on in this mind, you might petition a judge to lock me up.  Want an example?  This morning as we were driving down a country road near our house, I saw a turtle crossing the road.  He (who really knows what sex a turtle is?) also saw us, and naturally shrunk into his shell.  I thought to myself (I probably shouldn’t admit this) that it would be really cool to be a turtle.  Then when I am afraid, or someone annoys me, or I just want to be alone, I could just pull myself into my shell and hideout.  And because I am a turtle, no one would even wonder what my problem is.  I think I will be a turtle in my next life.  Then I’d really be a hard-ass!

That’s it for now.  I have to rest up for shopping.  Have a fabulous 4th of July….Isn’t it great to be an American?!

Summer…

Gary and me at Virginia Beach

Gary and me at Virginia Beach

As usual, this summer is zipping by, and I can’t seem to slow it down. We have a busy schedule, which means it’s not likely I will accomplish all of my summer cleaning goals, but we are creating some great memories, and that’s much more important. As a teacher, I am extremely grateful for my time off. There are many who make comments about how teachers have it made having summers off, but I can tell you, it is necessary. After spending day after day with 22 or more students, being not only teacher, but many times a nurse, mother, counselor, and more, we are exhausted. I love my students, but just as parents are ready for their kids to return to school in August, we are ready to return them to you in May. We spend time with our own families, catch up on all the work we missed out on throughout the school year, plan for the new year, read education-related material, and come back ready to tackle a new year. If it weren’t for summer break, I would be incredibly stressed, and I wouldn’t be the best teacher I can be. Come August, I will be eager to welcome a new group of students. Which brings me to one of the things that brings both excitement and added work this summer…

I will be starting the 2013-14 school year in a new position! I have taught third grade for the past six years, and have enjoyed almost every moment of it. I had considered moving up to junior or senior high English, but a few years ago I would have had to return to college to add to my license. In more recent years, the state of Indiana changed the law regarding some licensing. Someone who already holds a teaching license can now add to that license by passing the Praxis test in that area. Last spring I decided to take the test so I could add English/Language Arts grades 5-12 to my license. I paid the ridiculous fee, studied for over a month, and took the test. I have to admit, it was difficult. Having been out of college for eight years, one forgets the names of authors and styles of literature. I had to wait three weeks after the test to get my results. I was up bright and early the morning the results were available online (and I paid an additional $30 to get those results a few days early), and found that I had passed! I was so excited, and so proud. I had put in the work, and it paid off. Now I had to wait for a position to open.

In April, I learned of the retirement of the eighth grade English teacher, and immediately applied. I was so thrilled at the possibility of focusing on English all day. English is my strength, and I enjoy helping kids discover the love of reading, their potential at writing, and the intricacies of the English language. I had taught English at the prison before becoming an elementary teacher, and I loved every minute of it. I was also intrigued by the idea of working with older students. Having been a youth group leader at church, and a cheer coach years ago, I know that I like being around adolescents. This was the job for me. I went through the first interview in April, and I was a nervous wreck. I kept thinking that here I am, 46 years old, and still interviewing. After that interview was a long wait. This month I had a second interview, and then received the news that I had been selected for the job. I was ecstatic…and a little nervous! I love working at Wm. Tell, and have some amazing friends there. I have learned so much from my boss, and consider her a friend, as well as a mentor. On the other hand, I had to take this opportunity. I immediately got to work studying eighth grade standards, reading texts, and moving. Moving a classroom is no small task. I began by packing up my room at Wm. Tell. I had invested a lot of money in books and materials, and those items have been put in storage containers for my daughter, Bethany, who is currently an education major. Everything else was either left for the new third grade teacher, or moved to the junior/senior high. My next big project is to get my new room cleaned out and reorganized. That begins this week.

Along with preparing for a new grade level, my husband and I have three trips this summer. Last week, we returned from our family vacation to Virginia Beach. My step-daughter and her family live there, so along with enjoying the beach, we were able to spend time with family. Bethany and Addison went along, which was so enjoyable. Bethany hadn’t been on vacation with us in five years, and it was fun to have her along. The weekend of July 4, Gary, Addison, and I are taking a short trip to Northern Indiana and Chicago. The highlights of that trip will be visiting family friends at their house on Dewart Lake, dinner with my cousin in Chicago, visiting my niece Erin, and attending the Cubs game.

At the end of July, Gary and I will be venturing off to Atlanta for a fitness conference: Atlanta Mania. I am really excited about this conference, but also slightly terrified. We will be spending four days working out…all day. And these workouts will be way out of our comfort zones because the purpose is to learn about various types of exercise, and to become better educated on fitness. I am going to become certified to be a Tabata Bootcamp trainer, and Gary will be certified in teaching Spinning. We are attending this conference with several instructors from Everbody’s Gym, so hopefully we will be able to work a little fun in with the torture. Since my knee is still injured (UGH!!!), I am looking forward to learning about some different workouts. Without running, I have struggled to stay as active as I need to be.

No wonder summer is marching by at an accelerated rate! Along with these big events, I also have physical therapy twice a week, and have some other obligations. I am not complaining because I appreciate that we are able to do it all. We have incredible friends and family to share our time with us, and are blessed to be healthy so that we can be involved in fitness. I am thankful every day for the opportunities we have, and that we are no longer afraid to take those opportunities, even if they don’t always work out. I am thankful for summer.