Days of Sadness

I officially said goodbye to most of my sophomores on Tuesday, but we have had finals since then. Many students have stopped in to say hi, and I know a couple are coming to school early to hang out with me before school. It is turning out to be even harder to say goodbye than I had thought it would be.

Since my divorce, I hadn’t cried more than a few times – until my life started to fall apart again this spring. I have cried every day for the last couple of days. In fact, I have lost a couple of contacts because of it…fortunately they’re daily wear. This afternoon, a couple of my girls brought me flowers and some framed photos of them with me. Saying goodbye has given me a new perspective on the reasons that a teacher may stay in the same district for many years. Once you start watching your kids mature, you don’t want to miss a class. I got attached to most of the kids, whether they are good students or not.

Tomorrow is the last day of finals, which means the last day with students. I have a teacher work day on Monday, but will use that time to pack up my classroom and move out. I sincerely hope that I will find another place that I love; if not right away, then within a few years. I’m afraid I’m going to burn out if I have to do this again. There’s been enough heartbreak in my life already. Something good has to happen sooner or later, right?


A Return, After Many Months

I realized a couple of weeks ago that it has been more than a year since I last posted. The three people (thank you 🙂 who read my blog probably wonder if I fell off the earth. Not quite, but it felt close a few times! It has been another year of tremendous change, some for the better, some for the, uh… hmm. Anyway, it’s been quite a year.

I started dating again last spring. Well, I tried, anyway. After dating a few guys, I realized that I will know the right man when he comes along, and I was getting too frustrated to keep actively looking. I met one guy who got me back into serious birdwatching (then dumped me via text message…sheesh), but I will take the positive from that experience. Now my blog really should be biology, bicycles, and birding. Something I have done off and on over the years has become a true passion, and I have rediscovered a love of observing birds and their behavior.

As part of birding, I have made some wonderful new friends. Friends that I can rely on to support me when I’m feeling low, and who can and will make me laugh until I have tears streaming down my face. The best, most wonderful, terrifically authentic part about these friends is that they have had life struggles just like I have, and they love me unconditionally (and believe me, I am pretty damn unlovable sometimes). So this post is partly in honor of Becca and Hesther, who have helped me through a tough year…true kindred spirits.

Through Becca, I “met” a fellow biologist, birder, and nature lover in Las Vegas. We have not met in person, but we have so much in common that it’s almost like he’s known me for years. Dave is another kindred spirit, and one for whom I am particularly thankful: his life experiences give him a thorough understanding of my feelings, and I have found that to be extremely rare. He has been incredibly supportive during the last couple of months, when my world felt like it was falling apart again.

Now for the main reason I haven’t posted in so long. After school ended last summer, I worked at the quilt shop again to make ends meet. Despite applying for dozens of teaching positions – both in and out of state – I didn’t find a job. There are very few teaching positions in the state of Wisconsin right now, particularly for someone with a biology certification. Just a couple of weeks before school was going to start again, I saw a posting for a job teaching biology and integrated science (freshman physical science) in a town about half an hour away. I applied immediately, and was pleasantly surprised to get an interview, followed by a job offer. I accepted the offer on Monday and started school the next day…one week before classes were due to begin. It was a mad rush, but I was extremely excited to finally have my own classroom, and my colleagues were awesome!

The first semester was a challenge. I was working sixty or more hours a week, and frequently felt overwhelmed. As I became more comfortable in the classroom, this feeling eased, and I was thoroughly enjoying my work. I fell in love with the school, and absolutely adore my students. Of course there were frustrations, but I looked forward to going to work every day, and had a blast developing new labs for our biology curriculum. Just as the stress of getting used to the school and the kids passed, I had a new source on my radar. One of my colleagues recently completed certification for becoming an administrator, and has been interviewing for positions. The administration at school didn’t want to get caught in the same situation they were in last year with a last minute hire, so they advertised an opening at the school, ostensibly to replace him if necessary. I was technically a one-year hire, but it was understood from the beginning that if my performance was good, I would almost certainly be kept on. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Two months ago, the school interviewed candidates, and offered one with both biology and chemistry certification a position. My colleague did not get an administrative job, so the new hire is taking my position. The last two months have involved dragging myself to school and trying to put my heart into a position I have lost. The administrators tell me I need to get certified in chemistry, too, but there are a couple of problems with that. First of all, it won’t help me keep my job, and will put me even further in debt. Second, and more importantly, I don’t want to teach chemistry. What good is a position going to do me if I am miserable teaching a subject I don’t particularly like?

In just two short weeks, I will be packing up my classroom, saying goodbye to my students and colleagues, and moving on. To what, I don’t know. The job outlook for teachers in Wisconsin is even worse now than it was a year ago. I am actively looking for jobs outside of education, just so I can keep Aaron at his current school until he graduates.

You can imagine what all of this did to my psyche. I was already struggling with my usual winter blues, and this (along with other junk) plunged me back into depression. I didn’t want to do anything anymore, even go birding. I cried easily, and too often. But remember those amazing friends I mentioned? They helped me recognize that I was in bad shape and needed to do something about it before it got any worse. I began treatment for depression nearly fourteen years ago, when genetic predisposition reared its ugly head. Fortunately it has been well controlled, and few people even recognize that I have struggled with it. So back to the doctor I went. She listened sympathetically, made some suggestions, and increased a medication. It did what was needed, and I am now at least coping with the end of the year. Most people don’t realize that depression medications are not magic happy pills. I still feel the normal range of emotions, but the bad times no longer drag me down into the incredible darkness. Around the time I began to feel better, Allie at Hyperbole and a Half posted this, the most accurate portrayal of depression I think I have ever read. I love her for that. Well, that and the fact that her blog is often absolutely hilarious…

I am hopeful that the next few months will bring a great position. Or even a good position. Mediocre? Or maybe cromulent (thanks, Dave). Life goes on, one way or another. I have amazing people in my life, and so much for which I am thankful. Things will get better, right? RIGHT?

And now for something fun: some of the photos I have taken over the last year:Image

Barn swallow – common, but a favorite


Black necked stilt (uncommon in Wisconsin)


Great Horned Owl owlets


Forster’s Tern


Sunset at one of my favorite places: Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

More photos and hopefully upbeat posts to follow… 🙂

I have a confession to make

Hello, my name is Heidi, and I have a cycling jersey problem.

After The Masher purchase/ride, this will come as no surprise to any of my readers. All three of you…thank you! 🙂

I discovered today that Twin Six has posted their 2012 previews for both men and women. Usually I really like something offered for the guys that isn’t also available for gals, but not this time. In fact, this time I like the guys’ stuff, but love the gals’ jerseys. There is one I must have, mostly because it is incredibly sassy:

The Vixen - back

The Vixen - front











Then, of course, I also really like The Schoolgirl:

The Schoolgirl - back

The Schoolgirl -front











I just love that little touch of plaid on the back pockets. Speaking of pockets, the T6 pockets are awesome! The jerseys I have all have three sections in the pockets, and the elastic at the top is just snug enough that you don’t have to worry about stuff falling out, even when you cram the pockets full.

No, I don’t work for Twin Six… although I bet they’re pretty cool/fun people to work with.

Finally, I may need to get the 2012 version of The Masher, because it is as awesome as the 2009 one that I have:

The 2012 Masher - back

The 2012 Masher - front











I might even like this one better than the 2009, which is saying a lot. The Masher I have is my favorite jersey, although last year’s Team Fatty is a close second. I just love the lightning bolts on the 2012! Awesome, and sassy again.

Hmmm, I detect a theme here…

I also like the Speedy Milan, but I couldn’t wear it. I am a terrible liar, and that would just plain be a lie, because I am not speedy. I am built for comfort, not speed.

There is one of the older jerseys that I have wanted for a while, too: The Bird from 2011. That teal-ish color is one of my favorites, and I like the more delicate design. It’s out of stock, and I’m not sure whether I should hope that they have it again. That’s $300 worth of jerseys so far!

Have I mentioned that I don’t have a full-time teaching position, and I’m substitute teaching until I find one? Not a great income, by any stretch of the imagination.

Yeah, well. At least they don’t come out for a while, and they will be available for quite awhile. Maybe that’s how I should celebrate when I finally get a full-time teaching job…

Next week’s ride…the ultimate combination

Thanks to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and their wonderful publication of Wisconsin events, I am doing a group ride next Saturday. I must do this ride, for so many reasons. Take a look:

photo courtesy of Trek

Yes, you read that correctly – photo courtesy of Trek, as in Trek bicycles. Their high end bikes are made in Waterloo, WI, which is approximately two hours drive from here. The ride is called the Chocolate Chase, and as they say,’What’s not to love about this ride?!’

There are a few reasons I want to do this ride, some more obvious than others:

1. Chocolate. This is the most obvious reason I would drive two hours for a 20 mile ride (I usually ride much further than 20 miles if I drive that far to get there). I love chocolate. This ride has chocolate at every rest stop. mmmmm, chocolate. As Andy would say, ‘I will ride for chocolate.’ Yup, me too!

2. The fees/donations from this ride benefit Gilda’s Club and a group called Team Survivor Madison. Both are cancer support groups, for anyone affected by cancer. This includes families and friends of cancer survivors, as well as cancer patients and survivors. Gilda’s Clubs were formed in honor of Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer. Gilda was a fighter, but ovarian cancer is commonly known as a ‘silent killer’, because by the time it is detected, the disease is often too advanced to treat effectively.

When I was not quite twenty-three years old, I was diagnosed with stage 1a ovarian cancer. At such an early stage, removal of the tumor is the only treatment required or suggested. I was blessed. One of my doctors called me her miracle girl: not only was I very young to have ovarian cancer, it was also caught very early, so I was still able to have children.

I would have benefited from the kind of contact offered in groups like Gilda’s Club, and helping with funding for their free services is a form of paying it forward to me. A cause dear to my heart.

3. Driving two hours to do a ride that will take less time than the drive did is crazy enough to really appeal to me. I also talked Suzanne into doing it with me, so I will have my best biking buddy along to enjoy the ride and chocolate.

Next March will be my twentieth anniversary of being free of cancer. I hope that the people who benefit from my registration fee will be able to say the same someday.

I can’t deny the mental benefits of chocolate, either…

The best laid plans…

I started this post a couple of days ago, then didn’t finish. Even though it describes Tuesday, I’m still going to post it, because it totally sums up my typical style. What a weirdo…

I did end up going for a ride, albeit 14 miles instead of the 22 I had planned. I didn’t leave the house until 7PM, and as I left I realized that even if I rode at a fairly good pace, I could potentially be riding on a bad road at a dangerous time. You know the time: just at dusk, when the light is beginning to fade, and it’s hard for drivers to see cyclists. I didn’t wish to add a car/cycle accident to my list of adventures, so I took a shorter route. Here is my pre-ride post…

It is Tuesday, which prior to teaching certification was “shirk your responsibilities day,” with Amy. Since it’s summer vacation, we have been able to shirk a few times, and we had plans to do some quilting for today. That isn’t the problem: the plans for quilting didn’t change. I told Amy last night that I wanted to go for a ride this morning, so she was coming over this afternoon instead.

I should know better.

I don’t particularly enjoy riding in the morning, and today was no different. I ate breakfast, had coffee, and checked my e-mail. I had plenty of time to go for my usual 22 mile ride, take a shower, and be presentable by the time she got here. Right. So did I?

No, of course not. That would have made too much sense, and it would have taken advantage of the beautiful weather. I thought I could go for a ride tonight instead, as long as I leave by about 6:30 (I always try to leave plenty of time in case of a flat, bad weather, swarm of locusts, whatever)…

What a dork.


Last night I finished my final student teaching class. I handed in my portfolio (ack! putting that together was a major suckfest), filled out and turned in all the paperwork, applied for a license, and wrote a check. Woo hoo! I am glad to be done, and soon will have the piece of paper to say that I am officially a teacher. An unemployed teacher, but a teacher nonetheless.

I have a whole litany of posts to write, but they may not be in sequential order. My friend Andy came out and did the Trek 100 with me, and it was an awesome weekend! I have a frog story, and another bike story that may or may not get written (it’s kinda embarrassing). More posts soon!


The irony of the week…

I am a biology teacher, but my specialty is plant biology. Quite specifically, horticulture, plant propagation, and taxonomy. All involve handling mature plants, which are usually flowering at the time. I focused on plants in college because I enjoyed the classes, especially the identification and ecology classes, which involved a lot of time in the field (literally often in a field). I also managed the greenhouse at Bates for a couple of years before I graduated, so I had a good working knowledge of horticulture by the time I was done. I love plants, especially the ones that I can go out and study.

A few years after college, I started having allergy problems. I already knew I was allergic to dust/ dust mites, and a few other things, but I hadn’t been tested in a few years. My allergies got bad enough that I was re-tested. When I went for the results, the allergist told me that it was easier to tell me the trees I wasn’t allergic to: I am allergic to all but three of the trees on the eastern seaboard. And don’t forget the ragweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod, and asters.  Nice. A plant biologist who is very allergic to pollen.

I am reminded of this perennial complaint (perennial, pun intended for any plant geeks), because on my lovely ride on Sunday, the pollen level was very high. I have had all the usual allergy symptoms since the weekend, but I’m holding out hope that it’s just a cold. The irony of being a plant biologist allergic to pollen is enough. I can skip the reminder, thanks. Really.