Sunday, December 4, 2016


Like Hillary Clinton, I've taken to regular hikes in the woods to clear my head and heart. I go to work Monday through Friday when it's dark, I leave work when it's dark, I spend my entire work day in a cinder block cell without windows. This takes its toll on a person.  Rumor has it that we might have a building referendum someday and I may just get a brand-spanking new high school to teach in--possibly before self-driving cars become common. Working in a room with windows sounds like such a luxury. I try to fathom the way a simple gift like access to daylight would make all of us feel at Happyland High.

Years ago in a previous teaching gig I moved from an old high school building to a brand new one. I had windows in both classrooms, but the new one offered storage in cupboards along the back wall. I don't lack for storage in Room 212, in fact I have so much space that I store other people's stuff for them. But a window! I told Mr. D that if we don't get a building referendum I might look into the logistics and cost of installing my own by myself. One whole wall faces outside, one runs along my neighbor, one borders the stairway and one leads to the hall. It was a sick, black-hearted person who designed an entire row of classrooms along an outside wall and denied them windows.  How could they not know people need light, daylight, sunlight, natural light? Especially in Wisconsin. Especially during winter. Especially when they're young and growing, but even when they're old and fading.

Speaking of Room 212, I decorated it this year for Christmas with the help of some students. People seem to really enjoy the gesture, it's the first time I've done this. One colleague stopped by and remarked that she liked it and it was "safe." I nodded and replied, "Yes, no paper hanging from the ceiling, not a fire hazard at all!"  She answered, "Actually, I meant that you hung red balls and snowflakes--it's not specific to any religion." That got me thinking about how much teachers have to consider, the line we constantly toe--what might offend? How far to push? Who might get pissed? If they do get offended or angry, do we get support or are we thrown to the wolves?

Yes, in a world where a self-declared white supremacist advises the president-elect, a high school English teacher must cautiously approach holiday decorating.  Then I turned around the next day and agreed with Sarah Palin.  Good grief, life has become confusing.

The first snow of winter came today. I made Mr. T drive us home from church so he could experience that with me in the passenger seat. New drivers and snow, I am cautious with my firstborn when it comes to the "firsts."

Second-born son and new kitten, Rose.

Kittens suck you in with their cuteness and make you give them a home.

Our cat, Rose, is a real slob with the litter box and water dish. Her gear is in the basement bathroom and I have to sweep up after her every single day. Violet was never such a pig (RIP, dear cat). I went to the store and bought Rose a trough for her litter, the kind one uses to mix concrete for bricklaying. It's much larger than a conventional litter box. No matter, she still kicks up a mess. I laid newspapers, they absorb the water from her dish across the room, but the litter ends up all over. Yesterday I bought a LED nightlight, swept up the basement, mopped the floor and reset the space for her. I theorized that maybe the cat was messy because it was too dark and she couldn't see.

For the first time since she moved in with us, I walked downstairs to find just a tiny bit of cat litter scattered across the tile floor. The paper beneath her water dish was soaked, but it seems I solved the litter box issue.Turns out that all Rose needed to function better with her litter box was a little light.

I just realized I may have written a metaphor here--something about a little light and solving problems and having hope.  Maybe that's enough if you think about it.


  1. Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in.
    - Leonard Cohen

    It's a great metaphor. I am grasping at any light and hope that I can see.

    I really sympathize with you on being in a room with no windows. Our high school has some interior rooms with no windows. It seems they put the math classes in those rooms. AND painted them puke-green. Do the people who make the decisions about these things have souls?

  2. Our cats actually stick one leg out after finishing up, shake it off (outside the box, of course), then proceed to do that with each leg. A constant battle :-)

    Emma has a concert tonight, and I've just told her that she can't drive to it, since we'll be heading out after dark. I'd rather she have her first drive in snow during the daylight!

    Here's to windows, and the hope that you'll get some one day :-)

  3. My husband went to a high school that was built with NO windows. Something about being more "energy efficient" because there was no pesky sunlight warming up classrooms or drafts coming in through the windows. It also works as a bomb shelter or tornado shelter. AND the children don't get distracted. Supposedly. Seems like a form of medieval torture if you ask me. I've worked in offices without windows and it's horrible. Just horrible.

    Mine has started the countdown for when she is eligible to drive. I'm not sure I can stand it.

  4. I worked in a basement with one window that looked onto the stairwell. When I got promoted, my office was on the far side of the room with no windows. I was just happy to have a door.

    As far as the cat box, our youngster is horribly messy. In the daytime too, so I can't blame it on lack of light.

  5. Oh, windows! I have a window at my cubicle in our new building. It may get cold now that winter is really here, but wow, the difference a window makes! The new-to-us building has much better access to natural light - including a sunroom that we use for lunchtime. Such a simple pleasure, yet necessary.

  6. I cannot fathom working anyplace without a window, and I agree that the person who designed your classroom was lacking a soul. Good grief!
    Your students are so lucky to have you.

  7. I SO hear you about the natural light. I crave it, and a lack of light makes me squirrly. I too can't fathom why anyone would design a room with no windows, other than as a punishment. And yet so many schools do lack windows - apparently views of the outside are seen as a distraction. We remove distraction, but at what cost? One of the reasons I homeschooled for two years was to keep my young children out of the dank and windowless classrooms of the school our district was forcing my kids to attend.

  8. I hope Rose is still keeping her bathroom space cleaner.

    You deserve that window.

  9. I would crave the same me, windows are so vital it gives you the real feeling of your surroundings.


Spill it, reader.