Monday, September 16, 2013

I Wake Up for Coffee and Other Routines

It's not surprising that routines are one way of settling in. I've certainly come to depend on my small Rimbach rituals in order to get through the days. I apologize for using the phrase "get through", as if my life is tedious or agonizing. Quite the contrary. Its just that, as I've eluded to before, life in Rimbach is about ten intensity notches lower than life at St. Olaf. For starters, I am no longer a student with tremendous amounts of reading and secondly, I am no longer living in an intimate social community where finding time alone was harder than finding a new friend. I don't think its too outrageous an exaggeration to say that within one week in Rimbach, I interact with the same amount of people I would have in one day at Olaf. And that is NOT to say that I am not fulfilled from all the daily interactions I have in Rimbach and at MLS. I love being at school. But, my routines, rituals or habits help me to fill out all the free time I never had the past four years. And while they certainly make me feel more settled, I think I they are helping me define a purpose, too. 

Let's start with Coffee. I wouldn't call myself a coffee person. I only recently started drinking coffee regularly and 75% of that craving was just the act of "going out" for coffee. In Portland, Oregon this summer, that wasn't a problem. I'm proud to say I made it through a frequent buyer punch card for the first time in my life. Germany, however, has a different understanding of what "going out for coffee" is. Some Rimbach bakeries will have a "Stehcafe", but its just a table to stand at while you drink and less appealing for my morning ritual. However, caffeine makes me very happy. On my first night in Rimbach, I was jetlagged and miserably journalling at 3 AM about how stupid Germany was and questioning why I came here in the first place. At the end of my dark, spiraling rant, I made myself write five happy things about my situation to fall asleep on. Number 6 was "Coffee. I can drink coffee in the morning and be happy." And then I fell asleep. Since that night, I wake up every morning and make a pot of coffee. Its not that I need the coffee so much as I need something to do. Its true that last week I realized I didn't even want to drink the coffee anymore, but the idea of a coffeeless morning made me sad. As the days in Germany turn bleaker (grayer, rainier, colder etc), the ritual of scooping out my daily coffee and turning on the pot each morning is becoming necessary in order to pull myself out of bed at 6:15.  

The first week of school, I ritually made an ice coffee and watched an episode of my favorite TV show immediately after coming home. It was my cure for the exhaustion of the school day. I no longer dependent on this routine like I did. Teaching and planning is easier now, but I still like that guilt free part of my afternoon where I can indulge in something for myself before doing the dishes and opening up the textbooks to plan. 

Saturday is baking day. My first Saturday in Rimbach, two friends visited so I made baked oatmeal for brunch. Since then, I've tried waffles, scones and muffins. Cookies of course. Many failures. Although, the second round of scones were better. And I think the waffle recipe doesn't match the waffle iron so that can be easily improved. And I just needed less nutmeg in the muffins and more zucchini. See, its also an educational experience. By the end of the year I will know how to bake in Germany. The cookies I made today were an 8 out of 10. They are the first thing I've made that I've actually be sad to give away. Baking on Saturdays gives me something to wake up for. Then I'm up, and despite my baking failures, optimistic about the day. 

Sundays I plan on going to church. So far, I've made it 1.5 times. This past Sunday, I arrived at 10:25 thinking church starts at 10:30. It starts at 10 (10:30 is chapel at Olaf). So I walked home, too embarrassed to have to walk in late. People stare at me enough as it is- I don't need to add to that my interrupting the service. When I'm not either in or trying to be in church, I usually go for a walk up the hill where you can get a great view of the Odenwald. I like like sitting up there the most when its rainy.

Apart from the repeating daily schedule of classes, sometimes school can be a black hole for routines. I've developed a few patterns, like sitting in the teacher's room after class to give daily grades or correct papers so that I don't have to lug extra work home with me. And plus I just like the environment of bring at school. But I don't really have a system for lesson planning. And I generally make more work for myself than necessary. I actually love being efficient. I thrive on finding ways to improve efficiency by manipulating variables, but when it comes to being a teacher, I'm often so afraid of running out of either things to do in class or things to do outside of class, that I chose the least efficient method possible just so that I will have something to do. I know there are faster methods of coping and stapling, but what do I have to do when I finish this? I know I could ask a student to hand out the dictionaries for me, but what will I do at the end of class if I have extra time? 

I think I keep busy less so because I am bored, but more so out of a fear that I will become bored and that I'll be bored and won't like it. The number one rule I taught myself in Rimbach week one was, "save something for tomorrow". Otherwise, what will you do tomorrow? I don't like to think of myself as a person who can't just sit and "be". Its not that I'm scared of "just being", but, sometimes I'm afraid of what I'll do after "just being". So I cling to my routines. 

I've decided to make running part of my routine. A teacher at MLS (who has run Ironman races) has offered to make me a training schedule. That offer coupled with the amount of time I have on my hands is too good to pass up. Plus, I figure it will put teaching 8th graders into perspective if I am regularly doing something more challenging than classroom management. To be honest, I actually hate running, but I don't do enough things in life that I don't enjoy so I think its a good lesson in self-discipline. I'll hopefully run a 10K this November, and then maybe something bigger in the spring/summer. I kind of have a "go big or go home" attitude about it; why not run a marathon? And then I remember that I actually hate running, so we'll see. 


  1. "Its not that I'm scared of "just being", but, sometimes I'm afraid of what I'll do after "just being". So I cling to my routines."

    Wow -- I really like the way you put this. I agree with you about routines, that even if you don't like what you're in the routine of doing, it can still be nice to do it just to have that structure in your day. Structure is certainly comforting. It's like making a list of things just so you can cross them off and think, yes, I did things today!

    "To be honest, I actually hate running, but I don't do enough things in life that I don't enjoy so I think its a good lesson in self-discipline."

    And I like this too -- and the idea of reminding yourself there is something "harder than classroom management." I have a lot of free time, too, but I try to mask it a bit by staying at work for most of the day. I guess for me it's about proving to myself that I'm doing the right thing with my life. If I just stick with this, and keep doing it, then it has to be the right thing. And if I'm not spending my time doing something, I must not be passionate about it, and therefore I shouldn't be devoting my life to it. That's how I feel about grad school. If I wasn't taking this 100% seriously I would be very self conscious about whether I am making the right choice -- and because I wasn't certain about this to begin with (slash really wanted to be in Norway), it's imperative for me to remind myself that this is what I want to be doing. And I want to contribute to something bigger than myself and make a difference because otherwise it's all just self-indulgent and that's not the kind of person I want to be.

    Anyway, thanks for the post molly, I really enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to hearing how the routine of running turns out. If you want someone to run a marathon with... I am looking to do one too!


  2. Molly,
    Thanks so much for your consistent blogging. It is good to see the course of the year through your eyes. You are doing well, and will continue to do so. It can be puzzling, tedious, irritating, depressing, but also joyous, peaceful, happy, and thoughtful. Enjoy it. There are lots of folks supporting you.
    -Chuck Huff