Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Other Side of Three Beautiful Things

Every day, I post three things that happened the day before that were in some way positive.  I enjoy sorting through the different things that happen each day and deciding what to post on my blog and Facebook.

But, in posting these Three Beautiful Things each day, I don't write about the things that are difficult and I thought I'd take some time and write about what's been and is difficult about this move that the Deke and I have made. We moved first to Alexandria, VA where we lived with Molly and Hiram.  We stayed with them longer than I had thought we would and the reason is a good one. 

The Deke initiated this idea of us moving to the D. C. area because she was tired of living so far away from Adrienne and Molly and our grandchildren, Jack, Olivia, and David.  We moved to the D. C. area because the Deke landed a job in Greenbelt, MD.  When we arrived in Virginia on July 14th, we were faced with a decision:  should we rent a place closer to Molly and Hiram and the grandchildren and be able to see them every day, meaning a daily commute for the Deke -- or should we rent a place in Greenbelt, eliminate the commute, and then see Molly and Hiram and kids less frequently?

From the start, I thought we should live in Greenbelt for one reason:  I didn't think the daily commute was a good idea.  The Deke needed more time to think about what she wanted to do, needed to do the commute for a while, and once she realized how taxing the commute was, she went to work to find us a place in Greenbelt. So, it took until the weekend of Sept. 26th for us to start renting a place and for a variety of reasons, we didn't start sleeping here until the night of October 5th.

Even moved in, as much as we are, we still don't have our beds that were in storage in Eugene and the small load of other belongings we are waiting to have shipped to us.  We got the news Friday that our stuff should be arriving some time between the 11th and 17th of October, so, for now, our apartment is empty of books, ukes, guitars, beds, and other things we are waiting for.  I'm sleeping on an air bed.  The Deke is sleeping on the love seat we just bought.

We are doing fine with all of this -- what I mean is, we aren't whining about it and we are making due. 

But, the dark cloud that hangs over everything in our life right now is the fact that the Deke's teaching job at Robert Goddard French Immersion School is the most difficult job she's ever had and she's not sure it's ever going to get much better -- at least this school year.

I've heard of these classes of students before, the group who were difficult in kindergarten, caused a lot of headaches in the first grades, continued to be hellions in the second grade, and had not improved one bit in the third grade.  The Deke's third grade students comprise one of these difficult groups.  They are noisy, physically restless, never quiet, aggressive, whiny, and just don't listen.  It's not true of the children in the other grades and this group has been difficult ever since they started school.

It means that the Deke is not able to do the things she most enjoys doing with children with these students.  She's not being the teacher she knows she is.  These children, for the most part, don't respond to her talents, her love.  In addition, the primary emphasis at the school is on testing, stating objectives/outcomes, quantifying how those objectives are being met, and so the school's administration -- or the district's -- or the Dept. of Education's administration -- doesn't place much value on what the Deke (and I) think is the most important dimension of the classroom:  the relationship between the student and the teacher.

As third graders, this early on in their schooling, these students already know that they are valued at school primarily for how they perform on tests and that the school's primary effort is to keep test scores high.  At one level, it's working (I guess).  Robert Goddard French Immersion School was just named a National Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education.  You can read about it, here.  It's telling what the Washington Post  article highlights: 

Robert Goddard, which was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School, is the second oldest full or total immersion in the United States. Nearly 95 percent of the students were proficient in math and 95 percent were proficient in reading. The school has a long history of success, having met its Adequate Yearly Progress targets for 12 straight years.

The Deke will continue to do all she can to do well by her students, but these students have never had a teacher like her, one who doesn't yell at them, who is on their side, who is interested in more than their proficiency scores and their Adequate Yearly Progress Targets, and who wants to kindle their spirits and imaginations, not just meet benchmarks.

It's hard.  It's a steep hill to climb and she is frustrated.
I've enjoyed much that I've done since we arrived in July.

My several outings have all been "beautiful things", but they have another side to them that I don't mention in my 3BT postings.  When I've gone to movies, heard Billy Collins, walked the streets of Foggy Bottom or eaten at Ted's Bulletin or wandered around D. C. looking for NE H Street and its festival or gone to an evening service at St. Mark's or gone on different walks to take pictures, it's always been by myself.  Yes, the Deke and I have met up a few times for beer and some food and that's been really fun, but outside of family and Molly and Hiram's friends,  I haven't made any acquaintances.  (Wait!  When Anne was in D. C. and we had beers and dinner together [what a fantastic time!], I got to meet Jeff and Jeff hosts Tiki Thirstdays in Bethesda -- so I did make an acquaintance and I hope to venture out for some Tiki fun one of these Thursdays.)

I've been unsettled, in limbo, uncertain about where we'd be living, when we'd move, how the dogs would respond to being in an apartment, unsure about all kinds of other things, nervous, stressed, and in this confusion I've not yet started going to a church.  I haven't been involved in anything social, yet, where I might meet some people with similar interests or maybe even find some drinking buddies. 

I've kept a good attitude.  I've been grateful for family, especially being able to spend so much time with Molly while living in her family's home.  I've taken advantage of this time in the D.C. area to see the art and movies I've enjoyed, to explore more and more of D. C. and Alexandria, and Greenbelt and Beltsville, too.  In Fairfax County, I loved going to Huntley Meadows and I'll go back. 

But, I sure know that being self-reliant and doing fun, interesting, stimulating things on my own, doesn't cancel out loneliness.  These last few months have been full of excitement and discovery and fun -- and loneliness for me.  I know it won't always be this way, but the loneliness I've felt definitely resides on the other side of the many beautiful things I've experienced. 

Today I took the dogs on a walk around Greenbelt Lake in Buddy Attick Park, a gorgeous park of trails, woods, and a lake and it's just a short walk from our apartment.  It was my first day of obeying my doctor's orders to walk every day.  It's also what I'm going to do first thing in the morning to exercise the dogs and wear them out, and, I hope, quiet them down.

In Buddy Attick Park, I've discovered a new source of beauty and it's a stone's throw away.  Indeed, today started out on the beautiful side of three beautiful things.  And, now, as I finish this post, the dogs are sacked out.  I've taken a nap.  My legs tingle from walking.  I have food in the fridge that will become dinner tonight.  And, well, I'm a little lonely here in this sparsely furnished basement apartment. 

To whomever reads this, believe me, I enjoy accounting for the beauty in each of my days. I enjoy knowing that people read my 3BTs posts.   It's done my soul good, as well, just now, to write about the difficulties the Deke is having and to live up to my loneliness. 

I suppose there's beauty in looking at the other side of beauty.

Hmm.  Sounds like Rumi.  And a good place to end.


Loren Crow said...

That does indeed sound like Rumi. Keep the faith, my friend.

MFM said...

Hi Bill. Sounds like there's lots going on for you. I was so happy to hear from Anne that she, you, and Jeff W. had all managed to meet up recently. I hope to see you and your wife in NYC sometime. Best, Mary

Anonymous said...

Moving back here was one of the best and one of the hardest things I have ever done. I know we came back for many good reasons, but there was so much that was lovely and comfortable about Oregon and the strong friendships I left behind that I continue to mourn. I hear ya.

Sandie said...

Bill - Loneliness seems to be rampant these days. I have several friends who are struggling with change, and the fact it's more difficult to make new friends as we get older. I am also sad for the Deke. There isn't anything more frustrating than pouring yourself into something you love - just to find out that you are not appreciated. I would imagine that making friends back East is much more difficult than out West. People in the West, as you know, are friendlier and more open. Maybe it's time for you to find a church fellowship where you may be able to connect with some like-minded people. You may also consider some kind of volunteer work in something you believe in, where you can share your talents and connect with others. I'll take time to pray for both of you today.

rocket said...

hey Bill...its nothing like what youre dealing with now, but when i first went to Whitworth, it was a lonely life changing transition and at first, i hated every minute of it and hated myself for having to be there..at least youre not fighting it like that.. i didnt know anyone, was socially clumsy- if at all- and spent an awful lot of time by myself- mostly getting away from campus and driving around out in the E Washington/N Idaho countrysde just thinkiing, observing, thinking...i was homesick for California, didnt think life would ever get better in Washington/at Whitworth and couldnt wait to get out of there...but by Gods grace, mercy- or because He has a sense of humor- he allowed guys like you, Gary Frank, and a few others to befriend me (Lord knows how or why), and from there, i slowly was able to feel at home, get the hang of college, get the hang of living in a new place..so much so, i almost never wanted to leave Spokane...youre a great guy, youre not a hopeless feeling college freshman, and i know youre going to make some great new freinds, they'll come along beside you- as you did with me- and change your perspective and your life, all for the good...praying for good things for you and the Deke in her new job...hang in there- it WILL get better...