Summer schedule of an underemployed teacher

One of the many, many wonderful things about being a teacher (besides an excuse to wear flats and cardigans every day and, you know, change lives) is our long summers off. However, this is the first summer in my life that I have not traveled extensively or had a consistent part-time job. I get a lot of crap for it but please remember before you hate on me for this, as a teacher 1) I didn’t make the calendar 2) I wish EVERYONE could enjoy 9 weeks off alongside me, and finally 3) in past summers, I have been a beer cart girl at a golf course, a craft store associate, a grocery store cashier, a nanny, a process server (that was earlier this summer), a painter, an apartment refurbisher, a secretary at a law office, a tutor, a cleaner, a curriculum planner, and a hostess at a steakhouse. I’ve put my time in doing menial, occasionally degrading work (like the time I got repeatedly sexually harrassed as a beer cart girl) and I just don’t want to do it any more.

The long answer is I hate the tedium of retail, want a super-flexible schedule, don’t particularly feel like fake-chatting/smiling people up all day like I did in the restaurant or getting yelled at for not wiping down menus right. I also don’t really feel like acquiring a new, temporary skill set and I DEFINITELY do not want to change the diaper’s of someone else’s kid when, frankly, right now I would very much rather have my own baby. Sometimes I feel like the only thing I am good at is teaching Spanish. So I’ll stick to that.


Therefore I thought I would let you in on a typical day or two of what my summer has been shaping up to be:

5:44am- wake up (I never need an alarm; I am that much of a morning person). It’s summer time however, so now I wake up, realize I have nothing particularly pressing to do today; fall back asleep.

6:30/7:00- wake up and make a to-do list, sometimes consisting of things like “straighten out the solar lights”, “check retirement fund”, and “swim in Aunt D’s pool”

7:00-9:00- cruise the internet, comparing my lives to others’ on Facebook, reading everything from Buzzfeed to NYT to XOJane to numerous wedding and baby forums. I notice how busy and productive people are.

8:50- declare to husband, who is busily preparing for work, that “I have read the entire internet”. Angrily close laptop.

9:00- get into workout clothes. Lounge around more.

9:15 – complete meaningless domestic activities I classify under “putzing aimlessly around the house”; water the garden, deadhead petunias, empty the dehumidifier, clean out the junk drawer, glue the broken knob back on for the 3rd time, arrange Halloween decorations, organize my lipsticks, pick hairballs off the couch.

10:00- exercise. This makes me feel good and like a semi-productive human. Applaud myself for getting off the couch and avoiding deep vein thrombosis.

11:00 – around this time two or three times a week  is actually a very fulfilling, challenging part of my day. I volunteer as a medical transporter/ translator for a local organization that supports our migrant race track workers. I pick a worker up and drive them to dentist, doctor or eye appointments. I sort out paperwork for them, advocate for their needs and translate in the medical offices. I love it. The workers are always humble, respectful and earnest and I really enjoy hearing about their lives. Most work two full-time jobs here as they toil in the migrant-worker horse racing circuit, and send the money back home to Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Chile where they have large families and few opportunities. In the face of self-interest, it’s a great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish, albeit humbling at times when I can’t understand the Chilean guy, Hector.

at the Backstretch Worker's Health fair where I helped translate

at the Backstretch Worker’s Health fair where I helped translate

1:00-1:30- time for my paying job! I walk a sweet but very slow-moving 14-year-old mutt for 20 minutes.

2:15- make myself a spinach shake that’s disgusting but I know is good for me. Use old, semi-rotting berries because I am incapable of wasting food.

2:10- check my school email. Feel deeply conflicting emotions about reluctance to go back to teaching but also my eagerness to re-enter the workforce.

3:00- notice my couch cushions are getting flat and smooshy from me sitting on them too much.

3:30-4:15- take my dogs on a 1.5 mile hike at Skidmore. Excited if I see other adult humans along the trail and attempt to engage in long conversations with them.

5:00- 6:30 – wait for husband to get home. Send him whiny texts with silly emojis and pictures of dogs

6:30- by this time my brain has turned to mush from inactivity and I don’t even want to talk to my husband.

Typical day #2

5:44 – 9:00- see above

9:30: spin class! Get an endorphin rush and swear I am going to crack open my Portuguese books and teach myself the language.

10:45- realize I will never actually start Portuguese without a Brazilian vacation on the horizon. Hide my Portuguese workbooks.

11:00- carefully put a bunch of things in my Target cart online. Don’t purchase any of it.

11:30- text husband something cute

11:33- text sister a lolcat photo or a llama

11:35- test husband something annoying

11:44- text sister a funny dog or bunny photo

11:46- text sister asking her if I’m bothering her while she’s busy at work

12:00- grocery store. Now, for most people this is an infuriatingly busy time to shop, but when you’re not in a rush, things bother you a lot less. No, lady in orthopedic sneaks, you go first in line, I’m in no hurry!

12:45- eat a lunch of oatmeal and bananas. Feel old.

1:00-1:30- employment time! Old Shiloh does not look eager to see me. Pray she survives out walk in the summer heat and she can make it up the stairs.

2:00 – go to TJMaxx for human interaction. Leave with 12 things I don’t need.

2:30- text husband again

2:34- text little sister again

2:50- check out Netflix. Wonder how one online service can have so many incredibly shitty movies and shows. Abandon visual entertainment.

3:10 – cat nap. Very embarrassed if someone calls and asks me what I’m doing.

3:45- take dogs on a our hike. When someone cuts me off while driving to the trails, I just smile. Go ahead, kind sir! Fully understand while old people drive so slowly and without meaning.

4:45- wonder if it’s too early for dinner? I’ve been waiting aaaaaaaalll dayyyyyyyy.

5:00- pester husband about when he’ll be home.


Yeah. So. September will be good for me.



On city living

I’m chuckling as I write that title because the “city” I live in is really just a speck of a city; a large town, really. There are 30,000 residents within our “city limits”. But moving into what’s considered downtown a few years ago when I built my home sure felt like a city.

I grew up on 2.5 acres of woods. Woods as in, wood piles. Wood stove. Wood spiders the size of your hand. Even (real) wood paneling on the walls! My dad chain-sawing every Saturday morning. I used to hate the wheeze of that machine, but now I miss it. Our house was formerly an old hunting cabin, adapted (somewhat hastily) by my father into a home.

original house before my dad adapted it for our family

original house before we added the garage, sunroom, bedrooms, etc

dad choppin' wood 1981

dad choppin’ wood 1981. I just dug this photo up and I almost can’t believe it.

There was no need for curtains on the windows as the lot was situated on a winding, quiet dirt road that was finally paved when I was a toddler. We’d go for hikes in the woods, hesitant but still eager to go “foraging” during deer-hunting season. Summer days were spent outside, screaming and screeching in the pool, getting into dad’s stuff in the garage and trying to build tree forts with dad’s leftover lumber that was always laying around. In middle and high school my friends and I would jump off the gazebo into the pool (so dangerous, I know) and spend hours making up silly routines on the trampoline. Fall brought hours and hours of raking. Wintertime we’d make tunnels out of the massive snow piles dad plowed from our long driveway. No one bugged us; no one really saw us out there on that property.

1985  My mom, sister and me on the left in front of the Grand Am

a typical Saturday morning (Dad ad sister and dog that I don't remember)

A typical Saturday morning I imagine (Dad and sister and dog that I don’t remember)

So how did I end up moving into the “city”? My mom was a fourth generation resident of our city’s West Side, formerly a dumping ground –literally– for the big hotels downtown. When I was 25 she decided to gift me a narrow but deep plot of land that had been in her family for decades. She gave it to me because I was planning on buying a house about a half an hour away, and she really wanted me to stay in town, close to my roots. As I’ve gotten older, I realize how important it is to have your family and friends (very) close by. I guess I “get it” now. So thank you, mom, for giving my the gift of land in my hometown that I love so much (I tell her all the time, but I hope she knows how much I appreciate this. It is, without a doubt, the best and most important gift I have ever received. Besides, ya know, the gift of life).

October 2009

So, I built a house on that old family plot in the city. Approximately 176 trips to Lowe’s, 5 months, and one patient general contractor later, my house was done.


March 2010

And then another house was built next to mine. Then another one. Then 2 more. Within three years my street was transformed. They’re gorgeous, well-designed  homes , don’t get me wrong, but it felt so … crowded. My closest neighbors are a snug 16’ away from my home and their guest bedroom lines up eerily PERFECTLY with our master bedroom window. When I open the creaky garden storage bin, the neighbor’s annoying dog barks at the sound. I can hear my neighbors put their silverware away. Husband said, we need curtains! And blinds! And you need to get in the habit of keeping fully clothed in front of the windows! I brushed him off, not wanting to admit living so  close to others requires a certain degree of social scruples.


Until one summer afternoon when our elderly neighbor, Janet, came over with a plate of cookies and we had this conversation:

Janet: “Oh, I just wanted to bring over some cookies for you guys. Your hydrangea are coming in nicely!”

Me: “Thanks, this was so nice of you!” [wondering why she was bringing us this unexpected gift.]

Janet: “Well, I have my grandkids over and, you know, they spend a lot of time here, and… they mentioned to me they really like peeping through the window into your house and… checking out“the lady in the bikini!’ ”
Me: (picking up on her diplomatically veiled yet effective way of letting me know that her and her entire household have been SEEING ME PARTIALLY/FULLY NUDE for God knows how long):  “Oh! Is that right! Yeah, I swim a lot…”


Blinds were ordered and went up the next week.


Naked humiliation aside, once I got more accustomed to the many sounds and smells of living in our “urban suburb” as I like to call it, I really have been starting to enjoy living downtown. It was just a big adjustment. It’s funny; when we first moved in, the roar of the nearby freight train’s whistle bothered (and sort of scared) me. But now it comforts me. Kind of like that dad’s old chainsaw whistling away.

DIY kitchen cabinet resurfacing

cabinet resurfacing


Notice I didn’t call this easy or lazy DIY? Because there was definitely some sweat put into this!

However, this project was actually easier than I thought. My dad owns a few apartment buildings and he “hired me” aka, pitied me, as I am a teacher and had NOTHING to do this summer (and no source of income)…  to paint and prepare one of his small one-bedroom apartments for a new tenant. I relished the opportunity to get off my butt and quit stalking Pinterest/ Buzzfeed/ sloth videos/ typing “How can you…” into Google just to see the weird shit people wonder about..

I painted the whole apartment first and my dad was so impressed that he asked me to re-do the cabinets. Mind you, I really had no idea what I was doing. This surely wasn’t the professional way to do it but it worked and looked great.

There were these dated, dirty oak cabinets c.1986 that needed to be sanded and re-painted so instead of renting a sprayer or anything like that, I did it the old fashioned way – clean, sand, paint then seal!

Notes: This will work on real wood cabinetry (not laminate)

This whole thing took me about 15 hours over 4 days.

Cost: believe it or not technically this didn’t cost me a dime! We had the Paint  ($16), foam roller ($3), brushes, power drill, drop cloths, and sander already. The lacquer was $14 but to be honest I actually didn’t even use it. It’s recommended to seal the cabinets with it however so I included it in my directions.


power drill to remove then re-install screws and hardware
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges to really get the oils and crap off the surfaces
rags to wipe cabinets down
drop cloths to lay the cabinets down on. You also can use sawhorses but I didn’t have these available.
microfiber/foam paint roller (I think mine was 4″)
hand-held power sander with 120 or so grit sandpaper
cabinet/ countertop paint- definitely something with GLOSS. I used a semi-gloss trim paint.
clear lacquer to seal everything in
new handles and knobs if you really want to update your look


cabinets before

1. Remove the cabinets carefully- don’t strip the screws! You’ll be screwed!
2. Clean the surfaces really well- I used a Mr. Clean Sponge aka THE BEST GODDAMN CLEANING TOOL IN THE WORLD

3. Sand ALL surfaces you will paint with a 120 sander – I used a handheld rotary one.
Note: you don’t have to strip the wood of all that old stain. You essentially just rough up the wood (as it was nice oak underneath)
4. “Cut in” the edges and corners with a paintbrush. This is important: push hard to really cover the surfaces with paint.

remove those puppies

remove those puppies

5. I painted one coat with a wide paintbrush in order to “fill” the grainy gaps and make sure the white was really pushed into the wood:

many coats with the roller!

many coats with the roller!

cabinets during

6. Use a small 4″ roller to roll the paint on! You will probably need to do a bunch of coats (I did 3 but it dried very quickly in between so it didn’t take long)
7. Let dry 24 hours at least
8. Because cabinets see a lot of wear and tear, you need to seal them up with lacquer. Follow instructions on the lacquer for best results.
9. Re-attach the cabinets after they are COMPLETELY dry.
10. Install new fixtures (handles and knobs)

and voila! New cabinets!



Our Garden Fail

Where did we go wrong? Look at our garden, 3 weeks later! Dismal!


I feel like something’s missing….


Bean stalks minus the beans?


These tomato seedlings given to me by a neighbor literally haven’t changed or grown at all in 3+ weeks.


Anndddddd nothing. Wahhh.

Here’s where we went wrong perhaps: We used 8 bags of Miracle Gro and no compost or native soil to speak of. The garden gets about 10 hours of full sun a day, maybe I wasn’t watering it enough? Underneath the soil is pretty sandy also. I’m also thinking we planted too late in the season- the end of May even in NY seems late. God knows the snow had pretty much just melted at that point though!

My uncle suggested more compost, watering more and using seedlings instead of tiny seeds. Considering I didn’t even know what a seedling was (“You mean, a seed? Well yeah, duh, I planted them…”), maybe I will try to do that next year. Damn, I was really hoping for some cukes and tomatoes! Guess I’ll have to go steal Uncle’s!

LazyDIY: Upcycled Painted Storage Box

Who doesn’t have a random storage box sittin’ around that needs a little re-fresh?!


Time: about 45 minutes:


  1. storage bin
  2. a cool stencil (I got this one on
  3. flat stamp-brush
  4. acrylic paint
  5. spray adhesive
  6. Optional: spray acrylic gloss sealer

I feel like I don’t need to write the instructions for this one… but I will:

Paint your box one flat color- might take 2-3 coats.

Spray one side of the stencil with a tiny bit of spray adhesive so you can stamp-paint it easier.

Hold the stencil down and paint! I suppose a regular paintbrush would work but a flat stamp-brush is so much more precise.

Optional: when it’s all dry, spray a coat of a gloss acrylic sealer to give it a glossy finish.

e voila!











Tri me: The big day

The morning of the race, I woke up bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 5 a.m. (I always wake up SUPER AWAKE, ENERGETIC and READY TO GO. It’s so annoying). I had butterflies in my stomach; the kind I haven’t felt since my competitive diving days.

I had my Blood Orange Greek yogurt and cottage cheese as I do every single morning (nothing new on race day!) and waited for pestered my husband  C to wake up. The race started at 8 a.m.; official referee meeting at 7:20, swim warm-up was at 7:15 (which I had no intentions of doing, thankyouverymuch, it was way too cold for that and I didn’t want to stand around in a wet suit). I hadn’t picked up my race-day packet yet because I was lollygagging on the lake the day before. I don’t really know what I was thinking leaving my house at 6:20 for a 20 minute drive to the race area itself and fit all that in but it was ill-conceived; I got all rushed and flustered and yelled at  urged C to move faster:

“Let’s go!! Where’s my coffee mug?”

“Where’s my headband? Did I pack two?”

“How do you know the bike wheel won’t fall off after you take it apart to fit in the car?!”

“Should I pee again?”

“OMG, what if I have to poop?! What if I poop my pants?”

“Let’s go! Get my coffee mug! Did I pack two headbands?”

“Do you think the line to the Port-o-Potty will be long? What if I have the bubble guts?”

Oh, he wanted to kill me.

We finally arrive at 6:50. It was looking to be a perfect day; not too hot but not chilly, sunny; just a perfect day. After more panicking about getting my packet on time, I was body-marked and chipped. Newbie moment #1: I had to peek at other racers to see how they attached their bike numbers AND how they attached the ankle foam chip thing. Tee hee.








Pretty much everyone had wetsuits and racing bikes. I was, however, unique in that I was chugging the rest of my coffee (caffeine really gives me a good jolt!) from an Uncommon Grounds mug while everyone was sipping water and sucking on gel packs.



Gear set for transition

The Swim (500 yards in the Champlain Canal system)

The canal water was not nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be. Huge relief!  The race was well-organized and small so there was absolutely no panicked entries into the water; no flailing about or kicking feet down my throat. We tread water for about a minute then started off. I felt good and prepared. Remember, this was my first open water swim- ever. At one point however I did think I was going to drown because my heart was racing so fast from so much excitement/ exertion / effort to escape the pee I had left behind at the start line (turns out I didn’t poop my pants, but did pee my wetsuit. Oops!) I didn’t even choke down too much PCB-laden water!

swim tri


My dad, C, and sister snuck down to the start to see me off

At least I don’t look awkward putting my shirt on…

tri swimThe Bike (12 miles)

I had an AWESOME transition location, I think because in my true cheap-ass well-thought out fashion I had signed up super early (and gotten a discount). Super quick transition.

Soon after I got  riding, I swear I actually heard people pitying my bike. Not in a mean way, just a WTF are you riding? Nice try on that thing but you couldn’t have borrowed someone’s road bike for the day?!

There was a steep hill to start, around mile 2, but my legs recovered. Newbie moment #2: I kept thinking there were cars coming up beside me to pass..,turns out they were just fancy road bikes. Going really fast. I think 20 or 30 people passed me. Oh well. I turned on my Garmin GPS that I had attached to the bike which ended up being really helpful in gauging my speed (4:00 pace for what it’s worth)

 The Run

P1020959 P1020962

I was feelin’ good! Nice quick transition. No rushing. Heavy legs at the start. I was very thrown off by not being able to listen to my music. I could hear my feet slapping the ground and my panting! Soon though I rounded a corner and I saw my mom and her boyfriend there cheering me on.  I had no clue they were going to be there. I was so proud and happy and surprised that it energized me and got me through the next three miles of flat ground throughout Schuylerville.

 The finish!

P1020966 P1020967


Swim 500 yards T1 Bike 12 miles T2 Run 3.1 miles


09:05 1:47107th place 44:53165th 0:36 :24:5964th


110th place

….and then I basically did this the rest of the day:

post triathlon


Getting ready to Tri

Here it was, the week before the sprint triathlon. I tapered my workouts to the following; a bike preview on Monday of the course, running 5 miles on Wednesday, skipped all strength training, and did a slow and slightly painful 4.75m on Friday.  I was feeling way more excited than nervous but I was VERY concerned about the water temp of the canal (Hudson River); it was gong to be around 70 degrees which can shock your system. I was pretty convinced someone was going to kick me and I’d panic and swallow a ton of PCB filled canal water. (Spoiler: I didn’t)

The bike preview that Monday was a great idea; it was a low-stress way to get oriented with the roads and calm my nerves. Unlike most people, I was most nervous about the biking portion of the race. I had a Diamondback hybrid meant for casual Sunday spins, not triathlons. Spoiler: using that bike was a mistake. Not a disastrous one per se, but definitely a mistake.

We arrived at the Hudson Crossing Park bike transition area and there were about 12 other bikers there preparing. I ran into a nice lady I happened to have taken a Spanish course in college with and we took off to familiarize ourselves with the course. It was… hilly. And laborious. To say the least. I become more worried about my bike. EVERYONE (except one 15-year-old girl who told me she literally hadn’t swam since last year’s triathlon and was using a mountain bike) had nice road bikes. My bike’s thick tires and heavy frame was ill-fiting for a triathlon and I knew this was something I knew going into it. I made a joke about it. No one laughed.

not a triathlon bike.

not a triathlon bike.

Bike course

Bike course


Then Saturday, the day before the race, we went up to Lake George on my dad’s boat for the first time this season. Lake George is one of my most favorite places in the world to be. The water was a brisk 63 so I made a point of lowering myself in dramatically and vocally lamenting to anyone who would listen over how cold I would be the following morning in the canal.

For our late lunch at the lake, I really took advantage of the idea of “carb loading”. French fries, chicken wings, pretzels with cheddar sauce, soft-serve ice cream; I said no to nothing! I got home and got all my gear ready:

took me about 3 days to compile everything I needed

took me about 3 weeks of intense Coach YouTube research to compile my gear

– towel for drying off my feet

– chamois for drying off my body

– Pearl Izumi triathlon suit (LOVED this – no chafing, good support, right level of padding)

– sports bra (when a tri-sut just won’t hold the ladies down)

– sweats and warm-up shirt

– socks filled with Gold Bond powder

– Gold Bond powder to fill my sneakers (this worked out great)

– tight headband (could never, ever workout without it!)

– Bag Balm for lube (so what if it’s for cow udders)

– Garmin GPS watch to use on my bike to track my pace

– regular watch to time the whole race and splits as Garmin can’t go underwater

– iPod for warm-up motivation tunes (I was reminded many times the day of NO MUSIC ALLOWED DURING THE RACE)

– ibuprofen

– goggles full of spit 🙂

-swim cap to wear under my race-official one for warmth and in case it ripped (I didn’t end up doing this)


I went to bed early (it was still sort of light out!) and dreamt of drowning in the Hudson River.

More to come!