Tutoring – and the desk

Many of you may be wondering why I’ve not written about tutoring recently. We are shorthanded at work right now, so I’ve not been able to go like I normally have been. I’ve really appreciated the ability to tutor on work time. This is something that the Mayor of Nashville has made available to Metro employees. Metro schools need help, and there are a lot of Metro employees. He made it possible that if you wanted to, and if it wouldn’t adversely affect your workplace, you could go volunteer in a Metro school for an hour a week. It isn’t much, but everything counts.

We’ve been without a fifth person in my department for months. While we can get by on four, it isn’t even that sometimes. Plenty of people have been out sick so that makes it three. Sometimes one of those three is a temp, so it is more like two and a half. The new branch manager was concerned about how things were backing up on Wednesdays when I go to tutor, so she asked me to put it on pause.

There have been pauses before, and we’ve gotten through them. I’m sure it was a surprise to the students. I wasn’t able to warn them, because it was a sudden decision at work. Time is different when you are five. Patterns are just developing. I remember when I’ve had to pause before and come back I get really amazing hugs from the kids. These are different kids and they are a little standoffish. We’ll see.

I could go tutor on my time off. I’ve thought about it. I’ve done it before. While that is a good idea for the kids, it isn’t a great idea for me. Forty hours a week is a LONG time at work. It just doesn’t leave much time for doing anything else. So while they need me, and while I’d like to go, I don’t think I’ll be going on my own time.

I thought I’d share this with you. It is my “desk” when I tutor.

desk

This is in the hallway just a few steps away from the classroom. There are always two chairs, one big one and one small one. I put them this way – with the big one in the center for the student, and the small one to the side for me. I know this is backwards from how it is normally done. I do it so that when we sit, we are both the same height, so we work on the projects together.

This is really important to me. This is very subtle and psychological. I don’t want them to see me as above them or better than them. I’m a tutor. I’m here to help them help themselves. I’m a guide and a cheerleader. I’m not teaching them anything. I’m showing them the assignments that we have to work on and we are figuring them out. I provide feedback and direction. But all along, they are doing the work.

Advertisements

Food and money

This makes absolutely no sense. I’m strictly budgeting my money by buying everything with cash. I’m cooking more, so I’m buying the groceries for the household now. We have fresh produce, most of it organic. Somehow, we are saving a lot of money and eating a lot better at the same time. It doesn’t make any sense but I’m grateful.

I’ve always been told that it was cheaper to buy prepackaged and conventional, but healthier to eat fresh and organic. I decided to start small and build up. It started with a box of organic oatmeal. Then I got some organic apples. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Every little bit counts in health. But then I started buying organic as much as possible. I didn’t see that much difference in price. Somehow I was able to justify it even while living on a strict budget. Perhaps I eat less food. Perhaps I’m just more mindful about what I eat. I don’t know, but it seems to be balancing out. Better food and saving money – win/win.

I think part of it is that we aren’t eating out nearly as often. We have fresh food that needs to be eaten. If we don’t eat it, it goes to waste. If you are saving money, wasting food is tops on the list of dumb things to do. Somehow I’ve realized that it is just as fast to cook our own food at home rather than go out and wait for food at a restaurant. And I’ve realized that when I cook, I know what went into the food. I know the amount of butter and salt. I know if the vegetables are organic. I know that all the ingredients are the best they can be.

I’m not cooking gourmet meals, but they are tasty. I’m not following recipes really. I’m following general guidelines. I think all the time I spent watching cooking shows has helped me to understand the general idea of cooking.

I’m coming to realize that I’m grateful that I didn’t learn how to cook from my Mom. I remember one year writing in my diary that all I wanted for my birthday was food that wasn’t brown. Everything was cooked to within an inch of its life. Everything was mushy and dull. Nothing was colorful and crisp. She was from England, and her Mom had cooked all the meals to suit a man who had ulcers. Everything was thick gravies and no fresh vegetables. She even had a special rectangular steamer pot for the frozen vegetables that came in a block. The only time she cooked from scratch was when guests came over, and that wasn’t very often.

Now, I know that some of this was because of the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. She had to make do with what she had. I also know that some of it comes from the time period. I remember reading a recipe from that era that said for green beans almandine, you should boil the green beans for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. By that time they’d be limp and grey and all the goodness would have been cooked right out of them. That was normal for our house. That was normal for a lot of people.

I remember when Mom got sick with cancer and I started cooking. I went to the grocery store and got fresh, colorful veggies for a stir fry. I remember her looking at what I was cooking in amazement. I cooked it all for just a few minutes. She looked at it and asked “Don’t you want to cook that a little longer?” I told her that no, that we could eat the vegetables raw. We were just cooking them for fun. She was unbelieving, but tried anyway. After that meal she was sold on the idea and bought me an electric wok to use to make her more.

I remember seeing a documentary about a family that said they could only afford to eat from the McDonald’s value meal. They spent so much money on diabetes and cholesterol and blood pressure medicine that they couldn’t afford to eat real food. This, sadly, is the norm for America. If we eat better, we don’t get sick. Prevention rather than cure, you know. Food has to be seen as the ultimate medicine.

It is easy to cook and eat right, and it is cheap. I didn’t believe it, but I’m doing it. If I can do it, anybody can. They just have to get started. Little steps at first. Part of it is knowing that you can. Part of it is knowing that the desire to do it is the seed. Nurture that seed and you are on your way.

Death guilt – on the relief you feel after a parent dies after a long illness.

There is a lot of guilt that comes when a loved one dies that we have taken care of. If you have been the primary caregiver, you are suddenly relieved of the majority of your duties. You duties don’t end totally – there is most likely an estate to settle – but they change. You aren’t “on duty” constantly.

There is part of where the guilt comes in. If your loved one has been sick a long time and you have been the main (or only) caregiver, you are worn out from that constant work. Sick people take a lot of attention. They are often sick at very inconvenient times. The middle of the night is a common time for things to go south. Everything is harder to deal with when you have just a little sleep. It is even harder to deal with when that has been going on for weeks. Or months. Or years.

Very few people talk about this, but there comes a time when you look forward to your loved one dying, because that means you are free to start living. It sounds cold to say this, so people will say that they want their loved one to “pass on” or “transition” so that they can be free of pain. They want that too, of course. Part of the pain of dealing with a very sick loved one is seeing them suffer and knowing there is little you can do for them other than bring them food and fluff their pillows. Death is a release and a blessing at times.

In reality, death is a release and a blessing for the patient as well as the caregiver. When the patient dies, the caregiver is now free to live. The caregiver no longer has to stay by the bedside of the sick person. She no longer has to sleep on the sofa, hurting her back. She no longer has to call in to work, using up personal leave or vacation time (if she has it). She no longer has to do double duty of taking care of her parent’s home and her own.

There is something to be said for having families live together. The more the nuclear family explodes into satellite units, the more problems are created when a member needs help. Also, why have three households who have to buy three sets of lawn equipment, when you can have one big one that shares? I wonder if this is part of the “commune” idea. Instead of having friends living communally, start at the source and have families live that way. But I digress.

Sometimes the reason children leave the household as soon as they can is because they don’t really like their parents. Just because someone is your parent doesn’t mean that he is a good person. Becoming a parent isn’t the same as being an adult or a mature person. Sometimes “parent” just means someone who has reproduced. The parent is little more than a maladapted child himself.

Our society doesn’t speak about this very much. We laud parents. We think that parents are all knowing and all powerful. They aren’t. Nothing magical happens when they have a child. They don’t suddenly stop being neurotic or needy. In some cases their problems just get deeper and darker. So when such a parent-person gets sick enough to need help, the child is conflicted. They are expected by society to help. They are expected to drop everything and take care of their sick or dying parent. The only problem is that the abuse that the child received is often never revealed. Sometimes even the child is not aware of how mistreated she was. She just knows deep in her gut that she doesn’t want to take on this task. It isn’t because she is selfish.

It is a double bind. The child was taught her whole life to serve the parent. She was taught that she deserved to be treated badly. She was taught that her own needs didn’t matter. So when the parent is terminally ill, the child is expected to drop everything to take care of him. Then she feels conflicted.

It is hard enough to take care of a really sick person. Nurses have training for this. The average person does not. You don’t just wake up with the know-how to be a competent caregiver. When that sick person is your parent it is extra hard. When that parent was abusive it is nearly impossible.

When your parent is very sick, you have to become the parent. You are in charge. There aren’t classes for this. We don’t talk about this in Western society. I’m not sure any society talks about this, but I know this one sure doesn’t. But Western society rarely talks about anything real anyway.

For years, the child is subservient. Even if the child has become an adult and has a family and household of his own, he is expected to defer to his parents. That role never stops unless he establishes boundaries. The only problem is that there isn’t training on this, and there isn’t a lot of social support for it. If his parents die before he has established these boundaries and stood his own ground, he has a lot of ground to make up.

Even if none of this is going on, even if the relationship is healthy and sound, there are conflicting feelings when the parent dies. One of those feelings is relief, but that feeling alone causes guilt. You aren’t supposed to feel relief when your parent dies. You are supposed to be sad. Often you are sad. Sometimes you are angry too, at them having left you. Sometimes you are frustrated about all the mess they left you to have to clean up. But sometimes it is relief, because it is a lot of hard work taking care of a sick parent. Sometimes it is relief because now for once you can live your life your way without being second guessed by your parent.

It is healthy to feel whatever you feel when your parent dies, regardless of what you feel. Your feelings are yours, and they are valuable. If they have died after a long illness where you were the caretaker, your feelings will be even more complex. Don’t ignore those feelings, and don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. They are natural. It is healthy to feel them and express them. You may not have heard other people talk about the relief they felt because they thought they shouldn’t talk about it – but it doesn’t mean you are alone. Sometimes just sharing this feeling with others who have been in a similar situation is very healing. This is why I’m sharing this with you.