Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dunkin' Donuts Mayhem

Spending the morning with two rather disobedient and conduct-disorder inclined middle school students can be quite exhausting.

I should know, at least once a week I take a few of my charges on out-of-school "field trips." These field trips are designed to keep these students out of trouble in school, and for the most part, they work. The problem is that the life outside of middle school is just as if not more conducive to trouble causing and rabble rousing. Funny how it works that way, eh?

For example, I took two of them to Dunkin' Donuts a few weeks ago. In the span of about five minutes they 1) stole the tip jar off the counter 2) started throwing spit balls at each other, 3) took ice out of a cooler and put it down each other's shirts and 4) dropped the F-bomb about 15 times.

I, was of course, mortified. And unfortunately, even though I was a stern as could be, even yelled at them (which I try my hardest not to do), there wasn't much more I could do besides get them out of there as soon as possible without further causing a scene. I did get them to return the tip jar, which I see as a small victory.

The whole incident made me think quite a bit. Clearly these kids don't see me as much of an authority figure (although they told me I was a "hardass" because I made them put their trash in a trash can and other teachers don't do so). It's also clear that no one taught them that certain behaviors just aren't okay. No matter what. Being thought of as a pushover certainly made me feel sad (or rather ineffective), but realizing how much teaching and parenting these kids have missed out on made me even sadder. I work with them a few hours a day for a few months. I'm trying to counteract years of pain and hardship. That's a pretty tall order.

I can try hard and do my best, but there is only so much I can do. I need to remind myself of this sometimes. I have to take time for myself and spend some time indulging my interests and not being so hard on myself. Unfortunately, getting a coffee isn't quite as relaxing anymore! Maybe it will be again someday.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Inman Square

I live in a charming Cambridge, MA neighborhood called Inman Square. Like most neighborhoods in this area, the "square" is in fact a collection of streets that run into each other as death defying angles that cause major traffic jams, inappropriate language, honking, and generally taking one's life into one's hand.

And even though these quaint street configurations can be quite annoying, they do help contribute to a nice neighborhood feel. Inman Square is a prime example of this. Cambridge Street constitutes the main drag, and then a few other key streets converge and commingle in order to create this neighborhood full of funky coffee shops, used bookstores, ethnic and high-end restaurants, and the occasional hipster boutique.

A coffee shop, firehouse, classic deli, bank, and small grocery store anchor the area of Inman that is mostly closely identified as the true "square."

And even though it creates some increased adrenaline in my body when I try to cross the street there, I do appreciate the charming craziness that this meeting of the streets creates: Hipsters and methadone clinic clients mingle together at the coffee house, fire men and women take breaks from the wait for the next big fire out on the street and smile at passing kids, local merchants do their business, and the buses come and go bringing people up and down Cambridge Street.

There was a point in my life (not so long ago) when I thought Massachusetts was boring and provincial. It may be still. But I don't mind anymore. I now know that all I have to do to remind myself that there is life here, all I have to do is stick my head out my front door.

Friday, May 19, 2006


There are few things that always hit the spot right on for me. No matter my mood, good or bad, they always make me feel better than I did before. They are as follows, and in no particular order.

1) orange juice in the middle of the night 2) listening to a good CD while driving on a cloudy afternoon 3) ocean breezes and 4) handwritten letters in the mail.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sleeping in Shifts

My current job requires that I arise much earlier than I have previously been used to doing. My alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m., and I try to be out the door by 7:15 a.m. or so. I'm at work by about 7:45 a.m. I go through the motions for a good part of the morning, and it's not until 9:00 a.m. or a little after that I finally really wake up and function.

By noon, it feels like the day should be over, and by the time I leave work at 3:30 p.m. or so, my brain and stomach believe that it's dinner time. I spend a lot of time at work on my feet trying to anticipate and de-escalate one middle school crisis after the other, so I also get pretty physically and emotionally exhausted. By the time I arrive home, it's all I can do to grab something to eat and collapse on the couch. Of course, I usually also end up falling asleep.

I tend to then wake up at 7:00 p.m. reasonably rested and ready to go. This is all well and good, since this is when my normal working hour friend tend to also be ready to go for evening activities, but of course this also means I end up staying awake way past my self-designated bedtime. I'm still wide awake at 11:00 p.m., and I do everything in my power not to go to bed. I check my email hundreds of time, watch a 1/2 hour television show, surf the Internet; it really doesn't matter what, I just don't want to go to sleep.

You see, giving into sleep would mean that I am that much closer to tomorrow. And tomorrow is generally not something I really look forward to (at least when that tomorrow involves an agenda of stressful middle school work items. The more I prolong the night, the farther away boys throwing chairs through windows and girls running away from home seems.

But of course, when I wake up exhausted the next morning, after finally going to bed at 11:30 p.m. or midnight, I'm even less ready to face the issues of the day. I know it's a bad habit, but the alternative is even worse. I desperately need to stretch out my evenings and jam pack them full of events, or the thought of facing the following day seems even more depressing.

I only have 21 days left of actual work this school year (you were surprised I've counted them out?), so I think this sleep cycle will probably stick for now. I can sleep and do whatever I want this summer. I can make a whole day out of going to Walgreens, that's fine by me. But for now, I need to cram all I can into those precious school free waking hours.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Umbrella Man Redux

For those keeping track, Umbrella Man was spotted with my very own eyes on the streets of Inman Square today. I was relieved to actually see him of course, but also sad that he was still in the same predicament. Interestingly, he has moved away from the ice cream store and now takes up residence outside one of our many local bars. I hope that isn't a bad sign.

This new sighting has rekindled my interest in him. Does he have a girlfriend? How does he handle all that rejection day after day as people pass him by on their way to lives, friends, and family members? Where does he go every night after he leaves my neighborhood? I'll probably never know, but I am in some ways glad he is back.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I've been dog obsessed for quite some time now. We always had a dog or two growing up, but I have to admit that I rarely paid much attention to them. That was my sister's job. I paid a bit more attention to our menagerie of guinea pigs, mice, and parakeets, but I don't think many people would have ever described me as a "pet person."

This all changed over the past year or two. I began to come around to the way of the dog. And not just any dog mind you, but the...gasp...the poodle! I admit it. I heart poodles.

I trace this obsession back to two sources:

The first: My sister and her boyfriend have had a small chihuahua mix named Espey for a few years. She is a very sweet, smart, and easy to manage dog. My introduction to Espy sold me on the benefits of small dogs. They travel with ease, can sit on one's lap, and are satisfied with small walks around the block as opposed to hour long romps through fields. A small dog is a city dog, and I am a city girl.

The second: Once I got convinced that small dogs were the way to go, I started obsessively looking on petfinder.com. I spent many an hour scanning the profiles of Fifi, Killer, and Tinkerbelle. I soon realized that I was not alone in this obsession. My friend J. was just obsessed with finding a new pet, and after extensive research, she settled on the poodle. At first I was shocked. A poodle? Those fluffy, silly, ladies who lunch dogs? No way. Well, it turns out, yes way.

J. has been more proactive than me in the pet department, and actually got a mini chocolate poodle named Nico about six months ago. I was instantly sold on the poodle. Smart, cute, and wonderfully loyal, Nico is my new idea of the ultimate dog. He travels everywhere, doesn't shed, looks like a mini teddy bear, and likes to cuddle. The result of all this? I am now equally poodle obsessed.

I know that my life isn't quite ready for a dog yet, but I am working on it. The responsibility that comes along with dog ownership is still a little daunting--always having to come home to feed, walk, and care for a living creature (that's not myself!), etc.

Until then, I will take Nico for walks on weekends, continue to cruise petfinder.com, and dream.