Mother of Nine…. None of which are mine!!!!

Nothing equals brutal happiness like having a family and taking care of kids. There is joy, anger, sadness, and pure WTF moments.  I technically have nine boys. They are all middle school and high school…. Now before you think that I was a very buy young woman… please know that none of those boys are mine. I have no children of my own.  I work for an organization called Mooseheart. I am a live in family teacher…. for those of you not up on the “Mooseheart Speak” that basically means that I live in the home with the kids. All of the kids come for ‘at risk’ backgrounds. I spend my days taking care of them, helping them with their studies, taking them to doctors appointment, and teaching them family values, social skills, academic skills, and independent living skills. I work 24 hours a day 5 days a week…. and my job is a rewarding one…. though, like any job, it has its pros and cons, and its ups and downs.

So I would say that out of everything…. the most brutal part of my job comes at dinner time. Feeding nine preteens and MealTimeteenagers takes a lot of work. For more complicated meals I have to start cooking around 3:00 if not earlier. They eat a TON of food, and there are days that it feels like they have bottomless pits for stomachs. Most of the time the love what I make for dinner…. but there are times when they come home after I have been cooking for hours and I hear… “Uh…. What is that smell???” At that point I see red! and I have to keep myself from getting angry! At that point they earn a consequence for not showing sensitivity to others. Some of you may be like “What!? How do you do that!!!???” Mooseheart lingo makes it all possible.  There are a total of 182 skills we try to teach the kids. From following instructions to how to answer the telephone. When they do something right they earn points which allows them to buy privileges.. like video game time. When they do something wrong they loose points. So a teaching interactions for showing sensitivity to others would go something like this…. “Hey…Joe… I understand that maybe you find the smell of dinner unpleasant… but right now you are not showing sensitivity to others because you did not take my feelings into consideration before you criticized dinner. For not showing sensitivity to others you have earned -6,000 points. Its Important to show sensitivity to others so in the future they will consider your feelings…. Does that make sense?”  So that is how we teach the kids in Mooseheart land.!  Anyhow…. back to eating… They eat… Tons.

Tonight we had lasagna and salad with chicken. This was an instance where they loved dinner and ate all of it.! Which makes me happy since I cooked for hours! So though making dinner for nine boys is a brutal job…. someone has to  do it…. and the smiles and laughter we have over meals definitely makes it worth it!

Lasagna Salad 

When it Rains it Pours

I just took three ibuprofen trying to ebb the tension headache that is pounding behind my eyeballs.  So while I wait for my skull to return to normal I am going to do a little therapeutic blogging. To say that the past couple of days have been emotionally draining would be a drastic understatement. I have cried in the privacy of my room for two days. I have gone between anger, sadness, and calm reserve on a roller coaster ride that has left my nerves shot.  So What happened? What happened to all of my positive “You can do anything talk?” That hasn’t gone away completely, but sometimes it gets hard to keep the positive going when you are hit with one thing after another… and the feeling like you are drowning takes over.

I take pride in my work. I want to excel at what I do, no matter what it is. I want people to walk around and say “hey that girl has her stuff together!” I am my worst critic, and I tend to view even constructive criticism as a negative. Is that rational? No not at all, but I never claimed to be the most level headed person in the world. That leads me to my story.

So I was sleeping off my vacation in Yogyakarta (another blog post to come) when my phone buzzed to life. It was a staff member from Peace Corps saying that she had just talked to one of my co-teachers and that she would like to talk to me. I immediately went on alert trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Upon talking to her, I found out that my co-teachers felt like I should be doing more and being a bigger resource to them and their teaching methods. I immediately got angry. I am a decent teacher. I love my kids, they enjoy their class time with me. What was she talking about that I wasn’t doing enough!? Then I thought about all the meetings I tried to hold that were canceled and all of the ideas I have presented that were not deemed acceptable… and my anger just grew. Then I thought about how my co-teacher and friend went directly to Peace Corps to voice her complaints instead of talking to me directly… and my anger grew. Now I am the type of person that when I get really angry… I cry. I don’t know why, but I always have. And I am the type of person that tends to freak out first and then go back and problem solve. Its a little backwards I know, but like I said, I never claimed to be the most level headed person. So I got off the phone after my brain shorted out and I started to give clipped one word answers to the Peace Corps staff, I went to my room, and then proceeded to have the most glorious freak out of my life. When it was over and I could breathe again, I started to think about everything that was said, and really analyze the situation or situations as the case may be.

Situation 1…. Why did my co-teacher / friend go to Peace Corps instead of first talking to me about her concerns.  My first thought was that she must secretly hate me and wanted me to get into trouble. Possible… but maybe a bit melodramatic.  Then I thought about it from her point of view… She speaks English as a foreign language. And when she and I talk we do not always understand what the other person is saying. Peace Corps offers staff members that are fluent in both Indonesian and English. So it possibly could have been more comfortable for her to voice her concerns in her native language and then have Peace Corps be able to relay those to me in a way that I would understand… with nothing lost in translation. Ok. Makes sense. Am I happy about it. No. But I understand.

Situation 2…. What is the issue with my teaching skills?  First reaction was to be like.. “My teaching skills… lady what about yours!” But resorting to being a 5 year old wasn’t going to solve anything. So thinking about it all, I decided… Am I perfect? Hell no. Do I have all of the teaching answers? Definitely not even close. Can I improve on my teacher to teacher communication and lesson planning? Definitely. Does her concern say I am a terrible teacher? No. It says that she wishes that I would give her more teaching ideas and strategies. Understandable. I am only here for two years, she will be teaching much longer after I am gone. So for sustainability purposes adjustments need to be made. So I am going to push to have weekly meetings to lesson plan and talk about what our goals for the week are. We will go from there… I will hear what their expectations of me are, I will share what my expectations of them are, and we will compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. Does this whole thing suck? A little, but it can be tackled and solved.

So with all of that brainstorming I woke up this morning feeling so much better, and ready to start the day. I went to school, to plan and prepare for the radio show that I was doing with my co-teacher and a student to talk about learning English with me. I was still a little worn out, but things didn’t seem impossible.

Then my phone started buzzing this morning at 10:30 and it was Peace Corps, telling me that they would like to have a conference call with me. Again warning bells went off and I started to freak out and get sick to my stomach. So upon reading the message  they said that they would call at 11:30. I had an hour to wait and imagine the worst scenarios possible. When the phone rang I answered to discover that a couple of new issues had popped up in the middle of all of the stuff from the previous day…  1)My host mother would like me to move out and find a new place to live. I immediately felt hurt and betrayed. I thought that we had a very good and close relationship. 2) The school is a bit tired of having to pick me up every morning to bring me to school. Since I got hit by the truck I have been unable to bike to school due to the back injury. So what I thought was a good arrangement apparently is leaving people bitter that they have to be my chauffeur. Again I felt hurt and like I was a burden that no one wanted to deal with.  The tears started flowing again, this time from sadness rather than anger. And I said something that I didn’t think I would say: “I am just done. This isn’t worth it anymore.”I went home and cried in my room again. Calmed down (sort of) and then went to go talk to my host mother. She started crying as she explained that she loved me and that I am family, but the house was very crowded and all of my host siblings are preparing to move back home. So there just isn’t enough room for everyone. I told her that I understood and that I was just sad because I was really happy living with her and her family. She apologized more and I reassured her that it was ok. Then I went up to my room, and screamed “This sucks!” into my pillow.  Then I figured that I can solve both of these new issues with one move. I will move into a home closer to the school.  That way I can walk to school and my current host family has the room they need for their expanding family. It this ideal?Not at all. I hate it. I am very sad and still a little hurt that I am being booted out of what I have come to feel is my home. But I am not going to let it affect my relationship with a fantastic family…. I hope that I am able to continue to be close with them for the next year I am here.

So this brings me to my current place.. Laying in my bed with a pounding head… feeling a bit weepy, and trying to figure out if I have what it takes to hack it for another year.  I hope the answer is yes.  Though I am ready to throw in the towel I know that I have come too far now to just quit… and if I am honest… I would miss my students and Indonesia terribly.

I know you can’t always have 100% positive days. Some days just plain suck the big one. The past two days have been those kind of days. I am emotionally drained and very much frazzled, but I am hoping that tomorrow is better and this rain cloud that has settled over me starts to dry up and I can get rid of this drowning feeling.