A couple of the smart people I follow online are in Italy this week, writing/posting about their experiences. And they are stirring up memories for me of chaperoning my youngest son’s church choir trip to Rome last Christmas.
The Umbrian Valley is breathtakingly gorgeous. Views like that stay seared in your brain.
But Dreher tells of meeting an international student who is studying in Siena:
After lunch, we met a foreign student studying at the university here. We told him what a privilege it must be to live in Italy. Yes, he said, it’s a beautiful place, but not the kind of place he would stay once he finishes his degree. Why not? I asked. Because everyday life here is hard. The bureaucracy will grind you down. It takes forever to get things done. Italians find it hard to embrace innovation, and don’t ever want to change, even when change is necessary.
“But that’s attractive to some of us Americans,” I said. “We live in a country where it seems like everything is constantly changing. That stability looks comforting to us.”
“Maybe so,” he said. “I’ve never been to America. I’m telling you, though, that Italy looks different when you live here. As a tourist, you only see the most beautiful parts.”
I’m basically a dark person. I look for that stuff – the Not-Beautiful parts. Rome has roughly the same population as Chicago. Most of the same problems too. I saw the homeless people living in the walkway from the parking garage to the Vatican. The panhandlers on the streets of the city. The multi-faceted security system at the front door of our pensione, which fronted a neighborhood side street. And the tent cities off the side of the highway leading from our neighborhood to the airport.
But you hold on to the beautiful memories, and keep in mind the troubles, even when it’s time to go back to work. They are the stuff dreams are made of. Like Pete’s dad said, having dreams is what makes life tolerable.
And for teachers, summer is one long Dream World. You have no idea how hard I’ve been sleeping in on weekends these days. But in the immortal words of Midnight Oil, your Dreamworld is just about to end.
It’s time to play America’s favorite game show, “Who Said It?”
The line is: “July 4th is my least favorite holiday.”
The answer, of course, is “D”. But most recently Mrs. Dull uttered those words. Because when the municipal fireworks show Grand Finale has dissipated and the cookout is over and the fire on the beach is put out, it means summer is over. (But but but but… there’s still 5 weeks left, right? Yeah, but from a parent standpoint that’s just 5 weeks of budgets getting busted while mom and dad get clothes and shoes and Clorox wipes and notebooks and pencils ready for back to school).
And for teachers, well, so much for Netflix and naps…. there’s work to do.
I bumped into one of my fellow math teachers after Mass today. I played it cool when we talked summer and planning and textbooks and curriculum maps, but in truth I can already feel the low-grade anxiety setting in.
My to-do list from back in April/May? Yep. Still there, waiting for me to finish catching my breath and doing dad things in the first half of summer break. We got that big bike ride in, yeah, and are tearing a wide swath through the local library, and I almost convinced him to try to learn Kashmir on his violin, but it’s not like I have bright shiny new unit plans all set to go. I really only need to tweak last year’s plans in Canvas, but…
Time to start thinking about August.
There should be a plan tho, shouldn’t there? Yeah. I think I’m more likely to get stuff done if I plan it on paper, on purpose. Maybe make an actual schedule, like a daily planner, day by day, hour by hour. Plan intentionally.
One of my college buddies (and Saturday night radio show co-host) was my model here. Jack made a weekly grid on graph paper, using a pencil, a ruler, and some highlighters. He blocked out the time for his classes, studying, meals, sleep, social/entertainment time, tacked it up on the corkboard above his dorm-room desk… and stuck to it.
He’s a better man than I am.
The 21st Century version:
So that’s my plan. Make a calendar, share it with my youngest. Block out time for reading, for biking, for his summer violin practice, meals, play time, sleep. Share it with him so he has editing rights. Then, let’s get some summer stuff done so when August 10 rolls around we don’t look at each other and say “awww, man, where’d our summer go?”
As my running friends like to say when wrapping up marathon training and beginning a taper, “The hay is in the barn. Now all that’s left to do is run your race.” Because the dreams are so much more pleasant when you’ve taken care of business.