Even though I had yesterday off, I’m still exhausted from this week, and I’m pondering the relationship between work and my energy levels.
Last June, my principal informed me that my schedule would be cut from eight hours per day to seven hours per day as a part of district-wide budget cuts. I was disappointed, since I was finally starting to feel like we were making some headway financially, but I also recognized that getting home a little earlier would give me more time to spend with the kids, write, read, exercise, garden, cook, etc. (yes, I can do all of those things in one hour a day, can’t you?). My sister, Wendy, tweeted that she was looking forward to seeing what I would do with my extra time and energy.
Well, for some of that time, I ended up taking extra-duty jobs at work. I put in half an hour per day as a crossing guard for a few months, until I was down-sized out of that job, too. And I worked as an instructional assistant in an after school math program for a couple of months, which I really love doing. I love math, with its patterns and problem-solving. I love teaching kids math.
But the rest of the time, I did indeed have more time and energy for other things. I would get home around 4:00, instead of after 5:00, and I would have time to rest up, visit with the kids and make dinner before any evening activities. I think I did a much better job of being a Girl Scout leader this year; I was more prepared and we did more and better-quality activities. In fact, I ended up leading two Girl Scout troops this year; my youngest, at age 6, did not fit in well with our 4th and 6th graders, so I helped start another troop for first graders. I said I didn’t want to be the main leader, so another mom did the initial organizing and is taking care of the financial paperwork and stuff, but I kind of ended up taking more of a leadership role than I intended, anyway. C’est la vie.
In February, I decided that I no longer wanted to coordinate the Portland WordPress User Group. I’d been doing this since May of 2009, so almost three years! When Betsy Richter originally asked me to do this, I thought it would probably be temporary – I agreed because it was almost summer break, so I expected to have time available. But even though I struggled at times with coordinating speakers and getting more people there, I found that I really enjoyed learning about WordPress and getting to know people at the meetings, especially Michael Fields, who really encouraged me and helped the group to grow. It’s become a solid group that now attracts 40-60 people at meetups. But this year, I no longer had the time or passion for coordinating, so I passed the baton to Daniel Bachhuber.
I didn’t do much blogging or writing, unfortunately. In fact, I blogged so little that I got dropped from the BlogHer Ads program! D’oh! But they might take me back if I do better.
I did start setting myself a goal, near the end of the school year, of writing 10 minutes per day, and that was going pretty well until the last week or so. I actually did some work on a semi-secret project I have going, and I downloaded a free trial of Scrivener to see if that would be useful.
I didn’t lose any weight this year. In fact, at the end of the school year I was putting ON weight. Oops. I did get a fair amount of exercise, though. I bike-commuted every day and added other forms of exercise on a semi-regular basis.
I did do a pretty decent job of feeding the family, especially when I planned ahead for meals. I did not bike to the grocery store, for the most part, which is something I feel I ought to do, but most of the time I just don’t choose to, because I do have the choice of using the car. I’m weak that way.
I have a veggie garden planted out front, but I haven’t had time to do much with it for a couple of weeks, and I never got the back planted at all. We have no tomatoes or beans planted, the aphids took the broccoli, and the cauliflower never flowered at all for some reason. We have lots of lettuce, though!
So I guess it’s a mixed bag as far as getting things done in the extra time.
Now, why am I so exhausted this week, compared to other weeks? I worked eight-hour days, yes, but there’s more to it, and I think it’s the commute.
This is my second summer working for Portland Parks and Recreation as an Inclusion Assistant. That means I assist kids who need a little extra help so that they can participate in activities with other kids. In the summer, it’s mainly day camps — general camps, sports camp, art camp, skateboard camp, etc. The kids might have autism, Asperger’s, Down syndrome, ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, physical disabilities, or anything else that might be an issue for full, positive participation in the activities.
Rather than being assigned to one place, M-F, 9-5, I get assignments in various locations around Portland. The east side has been no problem for me. Most locations are easily bikeable or driveable. But I’ve been assigned to a couple of locations in Southwest Portland, which requires a significantly longer commute either by bus or car, and isn’t really bikeable for me. So I spend over an hour each way commuting by bus, and even if I drive or get a ride home, it takes at least 45 minutes, and sometimes longer, because of traffic. One day this week I didn’t get home until past 7:30 (after getting off work at 5:20) because of transit issues.
And on both car and bus rides, I was nauseated (yes, literally) and exhausted by the time I got home. I did attend a school board meeting and lead a Girl Scout meeting this week, but otherwise I crashed hard in the evenings.
I don’t think it’s worth it to me. I’m even more grateful now for my short commute to work during the school year (just over 2 miles one way). I’m glad we chose to work and live in the same part of town. I’ll be letting Parks & Rec know that I only want to work on the east side, even if it’s just sub work.
The best part of last summer, energy-wise, was when I worked at the East Portland Community Center (also about two miles one way) for half-days for several weeks. I was there from 1-5 every day. I had time to get up in a relaxed way each morning, spend time with kids, get a few things done around the house, etc. I worked with a fairly challenging kid, but I still had energy at the end of the day.
I’ve had OK experiences working full days for Parks & Rec before, but I do think the half-time schedule is helpful. Before the program was cut almost to nothing, I worked for the school district at summer school for several years, which was 4-5 hours per day for 4-6 weeks (I don’t remember exactly, and it’s always budget-dependent). I loved this. If I could get away with it financially, I think 4-6 hours per day would be my ideal schedule. It leaves me with the time and energy to do the things I want and need to do (see above).
Finally, sometimes I wonder whether there’s something wrong with me. I mean, some people seem to do it all — work and keep house and do things with the family. Why can’t I? Am I just lazy? I don’t think so. I’ve struggled with this all my adult life. Yes, there are times when I am just being lazy, but I also think that a more relaxed schedule is just what’s best for me physically and mentally. I’ve also struggled with depression for all of my adult life (and really, before). I take medication and work on managing my stress and energy levels, but ultimately, it does affect me, both physically and mentally. That’s a whole other post, though.
Now I need to do a few useful things with my Saturday afternoon.