Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding Happiness in the Last Week of Summer

This is it. The last week before school starts. I'm fine once the students arrive, and I take my place with them in the classroom, but the week leading up to the first day is always difficult for me. The anticipation hits a peak in this last week and I tend to lose my head a little bit.

I've prepared my lessons, my classroom, my materials for the first day of school, so all that's left to do is obsess about what else I should be doing to prepare for the coming year.

This year, I am trying something new. In this last week, I am focusing on my home, my family, and my health. In the days leading up to Monday and Tuesday's all-day faculty meetings, and the first day of school on Wednesday, my focus is on happiness at home.

First, health.

My summer diet tends to be plant-based, as I have plowed up much of our yard to make way for vegetable gardens. I love walking outside in the afternoon in order to assemble dinner based on what's ripe. Along with those vegetables, however, we eat a lot of bread and cheese. I make my own butter and ice cream in the summer, out of the beautifully yellow cream of Lee Robie's cows. And because tI don't get up as early in the summer, my husband Tim and I drink more wine to go with all of that bread and cheese.

This last week of summer, the fruits of my garden will be consumed in the form of juice, juice, and more juice. My friend Tom Ryan, author of Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog and an Extraordinary Friendship, has spent his summer on a 70-day juice fast in order to break the cycle of his unhealthy diet and weight gain. He drank his way through the summer and through his book tour for the paperback edition of Following Atticus, and as a result, he's 80 pounds lighter as he begins this new phase of his life. I thought I'd do a shorter, modified juice fast this week in order to clarify my mind and jump-start my health as enter this new year. My fast is amended slightly in order to accommodate dinner with my family. I drink vegetable juice all day and then prepare a vegetarian, mostly raw dinner to share with my husband and sons at our dinner table. No alcohol, no caffeine, and no animal products. I'm feeling great - save for the caffeine withdrawal headache.

Here's what my daily juice ingredients look like. There's also a sink full of kale and chard next to this lovely pile of vegetables from my garden, and all of that becomes about two quarts of juice. I drink that all day, plus one small glass before dinner with the family. Last night's dinner was vietnamese spring rolls filled with rice noodles and raw veggies, dipped in chili-garlic sauce, hoisin and peanuts. Heaven.

Second, home.

I've been writing so much this summer that all of those projects I meant to complete this summer simply  never happened. I meant to re-side a few areas of my house that were rotting, make repairs to the chicken tractor, expand the raspberry patch, fix the rabbit tractor, create two new compost bins, paint over the green screen my kids installed last year in the playroom, and a few other stupid, small tasks. I completed exactly none of these tasks, and this feels terrible. I am used to filling my summer days with the active, tiring work of improving my home, and to reach the end of the summer and realize how much time was lost to an indoor, sedentary life is a real bummer.

So, yesterday, day one, of this last week of summer, I replaced the rotting siding on the lower third of the front of the house, the lower third of the back of my garage, and began repainting the areas that most needed scraping and a new coat of paint.

Today will be spent scraping and painting that garage and completing the second coat on the front of the house. If I have time, I will re-side the lower part of the back of the house.

Last week, Larry Ferlazzo asked me to submit a short piece on how I prepare for the first day of school for his EdWeek blog, which you can find here. When he asked me to write those words, I stuck to the subject of the classroom, but If he were to ask me to write that same piece today, I would have to mention how important it is for teachers to spend some time on themselves, their homes, and their families. Everything will fall into place when the students arrive on Wednesday, August 29, but if our homes are not in order, we won't be giving our students or our families everything they deserve.

This year, happiness in the classroom starts with happiness at home.

Update: front of the house re-painting complete, as long as you do not look at the dormers. I am afraid of heights and Tim won't let me put on my climbing harness and shoes and attach myself to a rafter. Believe me, I thought of it...


  1. 1. Those are some beautiful carrots.
    2. Don't do the dormers yourself, crazy lady.
    3. Is it too late to drink one more glass of wine one evening, outdoors, before school starts?

    1. It's never too late for one more glass of wine. I promise to stop the juice fast on Sunday night!

  2. Juice on, Jess! I love the life you and Tim have created. It's always a pleasure to drop in on you and read your words... they transport me to a simpler and more peaceful place.

    1. Thanks, Tom. You have been a real inspiration. Love to Atticus and Will.

  3. Silvia G. Soos-KazelAugust 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Refreshing read~~enjoyed all, the happiness at home and the happiness at your second home. Some suggestions can be applied to anyone's daily work environment. Though your life is jammed packed you still make it a comfortable and healthy lifestyle for yourself and your Family.
    Our new school year in Upstate NY starts after Labor Day. Therefore we still have some catch up time remaining for those Summer projects and of course the great NYS Fair! Which has in the last few years, especially encouraged eating healthy foods grown by our local farmers. Of course during the Fair days this proves difficult with all the crazy, calorie loaded junk foods offered by the Fair vendors. Somewhat of an oxymoron, but there is always that fresh milk, fresh fruit cups or the baked potato for the serious healthy eaters! Wishing you a great start to the new school year; and maybe some of your unfinished home projects can still be accomplished during lovely Fall weekends!

    1. Thanks, Silvia! Some friends have convinced me to dump it all and head to a lake one day this week with my boys and all of their kids...sounds like a sound plan to me, although nothing will get "done" that day!

  4. Silvia G. Soos-KazelAugust 22, 2012 at 4:31 AM

    Jessica, as they say, life's too short and the work will never run away. So I say, you and your Boys should go & play! Besides, the Boys will remember a day at the lake, more than a day of work! Enjoy~~~