Saturday, December 29, 2012

Alternate Rhythm


It took me a little time to realize how ridiculous I looked galavanting around town on Thursday: seven months pregnant, carrying a three month old baby that still looks quite a bit like a newborn. Baby carriers are awkward at best, especially when you have a protruding belly, but it took me a minute to realize that the exceptional amount of glances and smiles I was collecting had more to do with the combination than the fact that my niece is just exceptionally cute (in my incredibly unbiased opinion).

Glances and double-takes aside, the niece-watching gig was an excellent addition to a Christmas break that--while already halfway over--has been full of lots of rest balanced with activities. Breaks find me making to-do lists with doctors appointments alongside finding refills for our hand soap, which is currently so watered down I wonder if it is doing much good. I have spent hours with friends from in and out of town, and evenings playing games with my brother--whose normal schedule of academics and athletics doesn't often allow for one of his favorite free time activities.

To top it off the weather has been perfect, with mild temperatures in the twenties coupled with a generous Christmas day snow, making the trails fresh and fast. Curtis and I have gone skiing in the evenings, testing out my compromised center of balance and skis that are clearly too soft with the extra pounds I'm currently carrying, watching in the shadows for the moose that have already punched through the groomed trails with their tell-tale tracks.

Perhaps the brevity of the break reminds me to relish every opportunity, be it time with those I love or the luxury of a mid-afternoon nap. Just as the frigid temperatures will settle in sooner or later, so will a busy schedule.  And while neither are inherently bad things, I must say I have really appreciated the change of pace.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Contrast and Progress



Photo from solstice 2010, mid afternoon...

Monday: 

Today the thermometer read -14 when we drove to school, a truth confirmed by how sharp the cold air felt in the short walk between my front door and garage, how loud the snow was as we exited the neighborhood, how thick the exhaust swirled at the stop lights. On days like this I think of the students that walk to school, cursed (blessed?) by living too close to our school to merit a ride on the heated busses. 

Today there was much talk of security, with a meeting scheduled early in the morning to review procedure. As much as I understand the need to review in light of our latest national tragedy, I can't help but be the cynic: the elementary school was prepared, had procedures, and did what they could. There is no fail safe plan. 

Today I caught up on delayed details after being sick the second half of last week. After celebrating three days of "normal" energy levels, allowing me to not only teach, but also workout and cook dinner, I was knocked out for three days with a nasty stomach bug. I suppose the early week productivity was helpful to make up for the complete lack of doing anything for the next few days after. 

Today I count down to two weeks off, a break from our normal packed schedule, and more than my fill of social engagements with friends and family, near and far. I haven't wrapped a single present. I haven't hung a single decoration, but I am ready to continue meditating on a message of hope in the midst of darkness. In the midst of our current situation, it's as timely as ever. 

----

Wednesday:

Today the thermometer read 2 when we drove to school, and it felt comfortable. Funny how the swing in temperature, as extreme as it can be, makes even the chilly temperatures feel normal. I still wore boots with thick socks to meet the day. My students probably think I have two options for footwear: black boots and brown boots. I try not to wear them two days in a row, but sometimes I lose track.

Today I felt the opposite of empowered: restricted, limited, lacking the connections or resources or relationships I needed to accomplish the goals I had in my mind. Some days I feel like I meet the needs of my students in marvelous ways. Today was a day that I felt like a failure--and not for lack of trying. As I finished the day brainstorming with a colleague on how to better approach a situation that seems to explode no matter what we do, I was thankful for the professionals I work with, but I felt no closer to meeting a student's needs. 

Today I finished my stack of grading for the quarter. I'll collect more work tomorrow, but it should grade quickly and I have high hopes of going into the new year with a clean desk, meticulous files and lesson plans for the first three weeks of school. We'll see how my motivation wanes as the week continues.

Today I will workout even though I am tired, go to bed early even though I won't sleep through the night, and try to figure out something--anything--that sounds good for dinner. Thanks to last week's stomach bug, both Curtis and I seem to have lost our appetite for just about anything of substance. Maybe I'll just have a fruit smoothie.

-----

Friday:

Today the thermometer read -9 when I left for school, but after some skepticism I was unsurprised to see online that the "feels like" temperature was -21. How fitting for solstice, when we only get five hours of daylight anyway, that the thermometer will likely skip positive numbers for the day. 

Today I planned out the entirety of third quarter, mapping out my ideal for the nine weeks after Christmas break, ever aware that they will likely play out as a loose version of my vision. Next I attack fourth quarter, mapping out a plan for a substitute that will cover my classes in my stead as I tackle a very new (though likely not any easier) adventure.

Today Curtis and I look forward to a four day weekend, various social events with family, work and friends, and perhaps even a ski out in the snow--should the thermometer ever rise to double digits. I am ready, we are ready, for rest, be it in dark or cold or the briefest of breaks. 
 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Expectations Realized

Our Thanksgiving table for fourteen, a bit more formal than dinner at home...

Yesterday Curtis and I lingered over dinner, spooning broth from the latest soup recipe I found online, spreading butter and jam on slices of bread fresh from the oven, sipping cider brewed with mulling spices against the sub-zero temperatures outdoors. It seemed like the perfect winter evening: both home from work, both full of stories from the day, neither completely exhausted quite yet. 

Evenings such as that feel like such a luxury, when so often our evenings are filled with previous commitments, overtime working that is necessary but not scheduled, or just frustration and exhaustion from situations we never predicted. On those days meals are thrown together thoughtlessly, with us crashing to bed quickly without much conversation, having only enough energy to vent about the scenarios we find ourselves in that are completely beyond our control. We know what we want in our work, and so often reality clashes with our expectations--leaving our evenings together, sometimes the only scant moments we share for weeks at a time, lacking in any restful depth. 

Last night was the picture of what I hoped for when I got married: camaraderie, connection, a safe relaxing place at the end of day. And even though that picture fails to come to fruition for days or weeks at a time, I cherish the moments when every detail seems to come together. 

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Units of Measurement

Mountain sunrise, happening after 9:30 these days...

The moon has greeted me driving to and from work this week, lighting the sky even as the sun sets painfully early. This time of year it always seems to be large and bright, sometimes jaundiced and other crisp as the snow. Today it peaked out partway behind pink, glowing mountains, still colored with the 4pm sunset. The scenery is always enchanting with the temperatures drop, and drop they have to zero and below, leaving Curtis layered for his ride to work, and me shivering when the end of the month calls for a fire drill. For now my down coat fits me, though I think I only have a week in it left.

Christmas is coming, and though the radio and stores and calendars proclaim it, I have felt the season arrive quite yet. I'm not sure if actually getting decorations out and up will do it (though this task will fall behind the more pressing bathroom cleaning, and maternity jean patching tasks that always find me a bit too weary to accomplish). Perhaps the Christmas cookies that inevitably arrive in the teacher's lounge, or the jingle bell earrings that teenage girls sport as a seasonal distraction will do the trick. Perhaps I just need my wipe-off board to read "December". However I get there, Christmas break--and the breathing room that comes with Curtis's schedule for the weeks surrounding--will surely find me in the spirit, ready to rest, reflect and find some time away from the stacks of grading and planning that haunt my mind week in and week out. 

I will miss the full moon as it wanes, starting tomorrow, continuing to cycle through another season of existence. The next time it arrives, we will be finished giving up daylight, starting our gradual gain toward our summer solstice. It is funny to be in stage where I measure my life in weeks, each marking a noted gain of weight, development, growth, maturity. Yet the measurements I have used for years, and others have used for centuries, continue: semesters, moons, seasons. Time continues, with each moment offering something different from the last. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Return to Reality


This morning Curtis woke up with a sad look on his face: vacation is over. There's always that inevitable reality check at the end of a week away, when you realize that your days of sleeping until whenever you want (usually about 7:30-8am--we've never been good at sleeping in), having the leisure of taking Curtis on my runs (alternating running and walking for forty minutes or so) before sending him off on his own, and lounging in the sunshine while reading entire books (!) in less than 48 hours are numbered. It's been a good run, and we have well-rested minds and spirits to show for it--that and some very non-Alaskan tan lines.

Today we return to reality: single digit temperatures, a sparse, pathetic amount of snow and a large increase of darkness. We return to jobs, and overnight call and being responsible for our own meals (unlike when we're with his family, and all planning and cooking is rather communal). Yet, there is something comfortable about returning to one's own space. Regular life offers a freedom of its own, where productive work offers choices of its own, choices that don't feel inherently self-centered for much of the day.

So this is goodbye, to 80 degrees and sunny, to endless hours holding my new baby niece, to s'mores around a fire pit and Harry Potter legos with Curtis's six year old cousin. Goodbye to running outside without fears of falling, and tank tops and shorts to shield against overheating instead of bitter wind. It has been a wonderful hiatus.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Future Reads (because previously, I haven't had much time...)


In case I ever doubted, this past week solidified that reading is one of my favorite past times. As Thanksgiving break approaches, including a blessed four-day weekend, I find myself eagerly scrolling through my library's options. I mark books that I read or hear reviews about, checking to see if paper or electronic copies are up for grabs.  I time my rentals carefully--being sure not check them out too early, lest a deadline hit in the middle of a period I actually have reading time. Here's the latest on my reading agenda:

My Name is Not Easy, Edwardson












I was introduced to this local author through her book Blessing's Bead, a young adult novel about a teenage girl trying to fit together her history as an Alaska native and her current life as a city teen. She has experienced her fair share of hardship, but learns that everyone has their own burdens, and she is not alone in her brokeness. I have heard that this novel is based somewhat on the life of her husband, an Alaska native, who had his share of struggles growing up as well.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua
This controversial book is one I missed in the initial hype, but have since heard much about. I was intrigued by the controversy surrounding an American family raising their daughters by more strict Asian ideals, and perhaps somewhat already finding myself drawn to books about parenting in one form or another.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Cain
I read about this book recently and was thrilled to find it in our online library. I always considered myself to be an extrovert, until as an adult I started reading about qualities of introverts. I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle, but there is no question in my mind that as I get older I am increasingly drawn to time away from noise and people and distraction, off by myself to write and quilt and think. I am intrigued by the labels we use for ourselves: introverts, extroverts and such, and what they truly mean in definition.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son's First Year, Lamott
This classic by Anne Lamott is perhaps the most fitting for my current station in life, and rounds off my list of over ambitious reading for this holiday. I love nearly everything I have ever read by Anne Lamott, since I started with Travelling Mercies in high school. Her candid, brutally honest writing truly makes me laugh out loud, and her humble wisdom oozes out of the most unlikely experiences. I picked this up at the used book store over a month ago, and I have been glancing at it longingly ever since.

And my current read, Waiting for Birdy, Newman
I'm about halfway through this hysterical and reflective narrative on pregnancy, coupled with stories about raising a three year old. While I'm glad to not be chasing a toddler during this round of baby-growing, I'm not sure that chasing 120 teenagers feels so different at times. Clearly this book fits my current experience well, and perhaps that's why I'm enjoying it so fully.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Skeletal Rewind

The day before Halloween, when I was still in the thick of recovering from the end of the quarter and conferences, I had a day off. This day was the product of careful scheduling weeks in advance wherein Curtis and I examined our schedules, our doctor's schedule, our dentist's schedule, and figured out where we could both miss work--and get appointments--on the same day. There are few acts of coordination of which I have been more proud. 

The 20-week ultrasound, as it seems to be known, is a marker of note in the pregnancy world. Not only does it mark the official halfway point (as if the due date is actually the end date), but it is a nice long look at this being growing and moving beneath the surface. Curtis commented to me after the fact that I was quite serious in the entire appointment: focused, intense, unwavering. There's something surreal about a flat screen television projecting a black and white image of something you can't physically see. Sure, the effects are obvious; nearly fifteen pounds of bulging midsection is pretty difficult to miss. Yet I've never seen the person--and try as I might on October 30, I still haven't.

The next day I went to school wearing a shirt my sister found weeks ago, one I have been thrilled to sport since I overheard whispers across the lunch table one Sunday after church. "(undistinguishable conversation)...baby skeleton... (undistinguishable conversation)". When my sisters looked up to see me staring intently at their supposed-to-be-secret conversation, eyes wide with excitement, the beans were spilled. "I found you the perfect shirt for Halloween", it was confessed. And as soon as I saw it, I knew she was right: it was spectacular.

I spent the day gathering laughs and gawks from my students, and the occasional genuine, "Wait, you're pregnant?"--which surprised me to say the least. Yet despite the beauty of a shirt that portrays my altered skeletal structure, I felt the timeliness was also of note. I'd spent the previous afternoon enthralled with the skeletal person swimming around inside, less than a pound, less than a foot, making his or her presence known at regular intervals. I still rest in awe of this fantastic feat that my body is performing, creating this little moving person. And perhaps that's why my favorite picture of the whole sequence was the spine: this anatomical structure that is so intricate and precise, and bloomed out of nearly nothing--with absolutely no direction needed from me.

Next Halloween will probably find me nostalgic for the perfect shirt, that had followed perhaps the most interesting doctor's appointment of my entire life.

The whole thing is quite miraculous.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sliced


It was one degree this morning as I readied for school, and the bite of the air was obvious the moment I stepped out the front door. If you don't spend much time in frigid temperatures you don't realize that part of the discomfort isn't just the cold, it's the dry. It's the choking feeling that comes when you try to take a deep breath, the overactive blinking your eyes do to compensate. 

And then there's the problem of skin.

My hands are starting to look like I ran them down the side of a cheese grater, courtesy of the hundreds of papers I handle on a daily basis, the compulsive hand-washing that comes as I try to combat illness AND make 74 trips to the bathroom on a daily basis (and they say this gets worse?). When I looked down halfway through this morning to find yet another bleeding cut on my right hand, I didn't even wonder where it came from, though I had no idea. It's in good company, with all the other healing slices I have gracing my fingers and knuckles. I have a healthy stash of high quality, thick lotion, and yet when the thermometer reads 1, I start to feel like I'm fighting a worthless battle.

And so, we sink into winter: temperature dropping, darkness increasing, student attentiveness and focus dropping off a cliff. 

If it hadn't been one degree this morning, and I hadn't absolutely packed my class periods to the brim, I would have marched my 9am class out to look at the mountains. They were positively glowing: pink, vibrant, radiating in a way that only comes in a cool crisp morning.

This is where I live: beautiful, harsh, and extreme. I hope I never fail to notice.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rhythms


It is easy to get lost in predictability of every day: get up, go to work, exercise, make dinner, do laundry, go to bed. Perhaps the rhythm is disrupted with evening plans with friends, the allure of a good book, or a stack of pressing grading. Regardless, days roll on without being marked at times, blending together seamlessly.

I have always loved predictability, and while the schedule Curtis and I have held for the majority of our marriage is full, it's also one that is very familiar. We work, we play, we rest. Much of our schedule is dictated by other people, and while we eagerly look forward to the day when work consumes a bit less of each day, I don't expect to have any increase in "free" time. It always seems to be filled somehow; we need only be intentional about the contents. 

And the contents are looking good these days, growing by the week, already altering our activities and future plans as much as it is my wardrobe. As much as I will miss the life we live now and the rhythm we have held for years now, I am thrilled for the upcoming change of pace and the chaos that will inevitably ensue. 

I cannot wait for spring. 

Curtis's favorite ultrasound picture to date: the fist pump.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finally Hiding Away



Our field trip location, taken last year when the weather was a bit more dry...

Today is wet. 

Scheduling outdoor field trips at this time of year is a gamble at best, with some days gracing us with crisp, fall air and sunny, clear skies and others coming around with a cold, heavy bout of rain--like it did today. The good news was that it was scheduled for half the day. The bad news was that as prepared as I was--rain boots, waterproof pants and jacket, thick wool socks and a hat and gloves--I still boarded the bus two hours later with numb feet and damp jeans. Even my best track meet gear was little match for the persistent rain. Now that I'm in the quiet of home, the echo of the rain on the roof and the gurgle of the gutters are soothing, and the memory of cold and wet does little to squelch my appreciation for a departure from the truth.

I can't help but appreciate time outside with my students. Individuals that normally lay low (or play apathetic) in the classroom blossom when they are outdoors, performing poems with enthusiasm that they'd hardly venture to read out loud under florescent lights. The students beam with satisfaction over the physical labor they take part in (as part of our trip was community service), and still counter that two hours in the rain is a nice change from the classroom.

I couldn't agree more.

And now, I'm thankful it's Friday, I look forward to some down time to rest and relax, free of grading if only for a couple days. Curtis has the weekend off, and I do too, after two months of races. At this point I don't really have a preference for sun or rain--each will offer its own options, and as long as I'm not in charge a bunch teenagers, it will be perfect.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Whispers of Autumn, or Seeking Rest

Tis the season, around here. Fall means nothing if not one-packed-schedule when I coach a whirlwind, nine week season that culminates just as the snow falls--and hopefully just before. With the running season coinciding with the beginning of the school year, the chaos abounds, with seventy and eighty hour work weeks becoming the norm, and Sundays reserved for as much rest as possible, and mandatory laundry as necessity dictates.

We are closing in on the finish around here, and 36 hours of school and coaching and racing seems like so little when I really do love the season so much. Curtis doesn't quite know what to do with the push-and-pull of my emotions--simultaneously exhausted beyond what is healthy and nostalgic as the finale approaches. I suppose there is always next year.

So much as happened in the last few weeks that I've wanted to record: two more vicious windstorms creating one epic run in wind gusts that either brought you to a standstill or pushed you forward without control, students that begin to crack at the seems revealing their vulnerabilities and insecurities or their boldness and dreams, visits from family to celebrate the newest arrival in our family--a beautiful niece. 

The trees are now nearly bare. The snow is creeping daily down the peaks of the mountains, and our championship forecast calls for a fifty percent chance of snow. Perhaps because I'm not running, perhaps because it feels magical the first time it happens every year, I say bring it on. 

It's time for winter, and I have the mulled cider brewing on the stove. As all chaos slows for the time being, I am ready for a quiet corner not plagued with a packed schedule--as much as I will miss it. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running On Empty



I could hear the siren grow nearer as I exited the hospital toward my car in the parking lot. "They're going to make it," I thought. Curtis's pager started vibrating after I'd been at the hospital for over an hour, and as he rushed to the ER, I took my time heading out to my car. We'd shared helpings of fruit and fresh gyros, chatting through the football game playing softly on the call room television. It's the last of several nights I have spent lingering at the hospital when Curtis has had a few free moments. After two weeks of night shifts, I am mentally finished. His fourteen hour shifts cross perfectly over my twelve hour days of teaching and coaching, and unless his free moments coincide with mine, we don't see each other for days.

We've been writing a lot in the book lately, sharing events and thoughts and random life happenings on paper rather than in the dark when we finally climb into bed. On Wednesday, after the epic wind storm, school was canceled because so much of the city was without power. Curtis made it home with enough energy to survey all the fallen trees outside before crashing into bed for much of the day. I cooked and cleaned and worked on projects neglected, and even though he slept almost his whole time at home, it was nice to be close by.

I couldn't help by notice how much these times of night shift remind me of college: hanging out in a common area on generic couches, constantly interrupted by people who may or may not walk through without interacting with either of us, dreading the inevitable separation at the end of the night where I have to drive home in the dark. Sustaining a relationship on sporadic visits ended suddenly with unpredictable pagers beckoning is work I dread. It is always exhausting--and not just because I inevitably go to bed later than I meant to.

This week we look forward to going back to "normal": long hours worked at the same time. And though I haven't accomplished as much as I would have liked in the last two weeks, I know it's because I was lingering over relationships instead.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reckless Abandon










Taken at the state fair this weekend, the last time I spotted blue skies...

My hips hurt, and I am the only one to blame. Today I ran for an hour, hard, the first time I've done this in many weeks. It felt good, liberating even to pound out the miles as wind that had been forecasted through warnings all day whipped the birch trees of still-green and barely golden leaves, showering them on us even as the rain pelted our faces. I wore too many layers, an easy mistake when it's the first autumn day of running. I shed my pants, but couldn't leave my wind breaking coat, or my longs leeved shirt--even though I knew eventually I would get too warm.

Eventually I tied my coat around my waist, passing many athletes on the way out, sweeping the trails on the way back in, remembering corners and intersections I haven't explored in many months. I have so many memories on these trails, and my thoughts run wild with hopes and dreams and disappointments past and present. By the time we finished the wind had gotten worse and the wind storm predicted had fully shown up. As I drove home tonight my car was pelted with long branches still green with leaves, trails of rain whipped in the tail lights of cars like wet exhaust crossing the street with abandon. Now the lights flicker, the windows shift, and I go to bed thankful that I sleep just far enough away from the windows that the tree outside should not be able to maim me if it came crashing in.

Can I hope for a power outage? A day at home to read for pleasure, unencumbered with ungraded papers that I didn't even bring home from school? It's a long shot, but it might just perfectly complete an evening that was already beautiful--wind, rain, aching hips and all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Waves of Grief



A gray day at the beach from this summer on the island...

The rain came down in sheets this afternoon, a rare occasion in our state. In the Midwest we experienced heavy showers regularly, but here the clouds seem much more prone to spit—for days—rather than pour generously.

And while the sun shined with a seeming grand finale of summer for the past few days, the rain seems somehow more fitting. Grief is in the air these days, and I find myself prone to tears over the brokenness I am surrounded with: students, friends, acquaintances, neighbors. Everyone has a story, and a glimpse into the details of private lives often leaves me speechless. I am grateful for the trust that I can delicately treasure the truth of the circumstance, even as it leaves me silently grieving for hours and days beyond the conversation.

The other night I went walking with a friend through wooded trails that nearly connect our neighborhoods. As we crossed a bridge over a major road that was blocked with ambulances and fire trucks, we couldn’t help but speculate about the nature of the accident; all signs seemed to point to a pedestrian being hit, which was later confirmed in the newspaper. Who was I, in that moment, but a pedestrian out for a walk?

There have been many occasions where friends and their loved ones have crossed paths with friends of mine in the hospital, and I always find comfort in knowing they were cared for by those I love, in ways I would never be able to help. But even as my medical skills are lacking I know from experience that sharing a burden can be just as therapeutic as any medical care. Sometimes it is the greatest gift you can receive.

These are the days when heaven is what I long for, when we will finally be at peace.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A New Start, Once Again

The midnight sun is quickly fading, and the rush to enjoy every sunny day has set in...

At the end of the first day of school, I am usually one of two things: excited or overwhelmed. Some years the details all come together to create a place where the students have a seat, I have a plan, and we can talk about the upcoming year. Other years I feel scattered and unorganized, forgetting to what I have said from period to period, and failing to share some details while repeating myself elsewhere. This is the curse of secondary education I suppose: in teaching the same class more than once, you have to keep track of the details.

Today was not perfect, but I felt like it was close. Sure, there was the locker combination that was mis-entered and had to be researched, the girl I had on my team all of track last season yet still mispronounced her name, the boy who is in my let's-read-for-fun elective class that proclaimed he doesn't like reading, but the wins countered the losses and at the end of the day I couldn't help but revel in my neatly written schedule on the board that hasn't yet been scratched through by some student who rubs too close to the wipe-off board with his sweatshirt.

There is something clean and fresh and new about the first day of school that can't be replicated on any other day.

While the students were new to the building today, I have been here for several days now. I have spent quite a bit of time assigning locks to lockers, proofreading syllabi (mine and others), typing up seating charts and perusing a new curriculum guide. I have proven I know how to use an epi pen and an inhaler, printed off medical alerts for the necessary students, reprinted rosters as they are updated, hung posters, created posters, and updated necessary lists with student preference: "My name is Alanna, but I go by Liza." Right.

This morning I told many of my classes the story of my morning, which included a stop at the coffee shop where one of my sisters works. As we exchanged details about the day, one of her regular customers walked up, whom she introduced to me as Robert. Once this older man discovered it was my first day of school, he wanted to know what I liked about teaching. I feel like it's important to share with the students why I chose--and would still choose--my profession. Some days I have students that look at me with a confused look as if to ask, "And why would you ever want to be here by choice?" There are a lot of days of teaching that are hard and long, but also a lot of details that make this profession enjoyable. At the end of the day though, when a ten second answer is all a fellow customer really wants to hear, I tend to keep it simple: I love to hear what they think.

There's a small window between being a child and being an adult when teens haven't quite figured out what people want or expect to hear, that or they don't feel compelled to give it. And that makes teaching teenagers an endless adventure. There are times for lessons in learning what is appropriate or respectful or timely, but there are also times when I like to have conversations about the concerns they have about the world they live in, concerns that haven't yet been filed into a folder titled "That's Just The Way Life Is". 

So here is to a year of adventures in the small window of honesty, brutal, shocking, and sincere. Day one is looking mighty fine.


Another first day of school post here

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Last Great Adventure of the Summer

IMG_3758Taken on the island while visiting Curtis's family last month...

This morning over breakfast with the fellow coaches and captains of my cross country running team, we formulated a plan for practice. We had spent most of the meal discussing legistics: meet schedules, team dinners, plans and inspiration for the season. And as the meal closed we discussed today: where should we do our long run? At 7am it was already clear that the chance of a hot, sunny Alaskan day was high, and after tossing around various trail systems near our meeting location, a brilliant idea arose: the beach.

There are as many beaches as coastlines in Alaska, though many would not think of them as such. Most are rocky, a few are sandy, and we have few days hot enough to warrant sunbathing, let along splashing in the glacial waves. As word spread at practice that afternoon of our destination, few were disappointed. It was sure to be an adventure, a departure from our norm, and with the thermometer reading at 77 it was the perfect place to run.

We started down a paved bike route, over three dozen high school runners, graduates, coaches and volunteers. After a couple minutes we veered off onto a dirt path, and then turned sharply again to a trail only wide enough for one person, that required even my petite frame to hunch over. The sunlight peaked through the gaps in the branches, and the turns wove around destined to shoot us out somewhere spectacular--by virtue of how mystical a trail like that feels. All of the sudden, the trail ended spitting us out on a steep, sandy slope overlooking the ocean inlet. Mountains towered from the peninsula across the water, and the sun gleamed on the ocean waves, removed from the beach by a quarter mile of mud flats exposed in a low tide. 

We scaled the downward slope of the sandy cliff, and I struggled to keep my eyes on my footing as I was so mesmerized by the view. Pausing for a moment on the sandy beach, I remembered coming here when I was barely a teen, feeling like I had discovered the best kept secret in town. You won't find many tourists scaling the rugged trails to this spot, and on a hot summer day there is something special about being the local at the only sandy beach in town.

The run along the beach quickly changed from sand to rocks to weeds over marsh. We ran past bonfires long since burned out and abandoned, driftwood forts capped with a torn white t-shirt for a flag, dogs ignoring their owners call as they sprint across the mud with abandon. There were logs to clear--both over and under--and I rolled my ankle at least twice as my feet struggled to navigate the uneven terrain, the slick mud covered rocks. Even as I baked in the sun and stole glances of the coast I was aware that even as I live surrounded by such beauty I don't always get to soak it in so closely, undistracted and submersed in the middle of it. The trail made by our team along the coast through marshy grass eventually took a turn back uphill, weaving through sparse birch trees until escalating in a steep angle uphill. The athletes I was with at the time started to give me looks questioning "Are you sure we're going the right way? We'd hate to climb that cliff only to find ourselves in the wrong place..." Onward we climbed, glancing over our shoulders to make sure we were being followed, straining to see if the rest of our team ahead of us was further down the coast, continuing to break trail where we didn't see it. 

As we crested the steep cliff we'd descended just a few miles before, we saw the final destination: the sand dunes. We continued our hike up the back side of the hill, and as I crested the top I saw pairs of boys racing across the top and launching themselves into the air, and flying for a few brief seconds before they gradually colapsed into the steep face of sand--eager to climb back up to do it all again.

In the end, we had to head back to reality, making our adventure into a loop through some of the many trails in acres of park I've explored for years on foot and bike and skis. When our initial route brought us face to face with a large moose, we adjusted our course, working up and down the undulations of trails, until familiar markers told us we were near our start. By the end I was tired, but could not have been more satisfied. If I was looking for a grand finale of this summer, this was it. 

School will crowd my schedule very soon, leaving my free time limited as our daylight wanes. And perhaps that is when I love being a coach most: mandated time in this beautiful creation--sun, sleet, wind and all--makes me a happier person. I hope today's adventure developed a new love in a few teenagers as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two Down, One To Go

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The lake that neighbored this year's campsite...

Two years ago I started our new life in Alaska by stepping off a plane, crashing for a few hours, and waking jet-lagged to attend a campout in the rain. It was an initiation of sorts, a "go meet the future family of your husband's work-entrenched life" occasion. And while the meeting and greeting was important, I walked away describing people by the color of their raincoat instead of by their names; there were just too many to remember.

Last June we ventured to a different campsite, and met a new set of "newbies" anxiously awaiting the start of their new career. We still found ourselves coated by rain, but with the company familiar it was still a weekend away from the hospital: no pager, no chance of driving in. This year the weather cooperated and I found myself overheating in temperatures in the high 70's, lounging by the lake that neighbored our campsite to catch a breeze off the water. We invented games of seeing who could wade into the glacier water the longest, and read scholarly articles aloud by the lake front. It was bliss.

The end of June featured both the annual campout and graduation, and even though Curtis isn't moving on this year, it's nice to formally mark the end of one more year passed and one to go. This year will raise some questions and uncertainties--much like the year before medical school and residency--but it also marks a bit more independence, and the beginning of a career that is his own.

Meanwhile, we make our plans to continue a little more of the same this year, a welcome bit of predictable rhythm in the midst of a time that will likely hold its share of question marks. With several weeks left in the summer, however, I'm basking in the abundance of time that comes with summer, pushing the lesson plans to the back burner for a bit longer and prioritizing more important tasks like finishing my latest book, catching up with friends or cooking a batch of snicker doodles. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Solstice Adventures

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Photo-op just after 8pm on the mountain, showcasing a friend's water bottle from Ohio, which we deemed to be a worthy companion up the trail.  

Last Wednesday marked the end of our gains in sunlight with over nineteen hours, and sunset just before midnight--long after Curtis and I had gone to bed. The day started cloudy, and given the recent abundance of sunshine I worked diligently to catch up on tasks abandoned: filling out forms, mailing bills, working on an online course I started back in January. By noon I decided I was ready for a break and set to making some fresh bread. The time required for a nicely rising loaf is more than I can typically offer during the school year, and I relish the luxury of hours to knead and rise and shape and rise and bake.

Curtis got off early, just as the sun came out, and I faced a dillemma: bread or bike? If went out for the long ride we wanted, the load would be ruined. It really wasn't too difficult of a decision. One of our favorite evening activities in the summer is a long bike across town to a local restaurant for dinner. The route, which is only about six or seven miles, is always full of plenty to see: a moose feasting on fresh greens a few feet off the trail, spotted only as we pedal past and notice we are being watched; a child perched above a tunnel who proclaims "Bagel!" as he threw a bagel at Curtis's back, leaving us laughing for several miles; endless people taking advantage of the local creek, fishing, swimming, or taking in the comfort of its motion. By the time we get home from this trek, sometimes with takeout gingerly wrapped to fit in our backpack, this time having cleaned our plates and polished off a solstice serving of creme brule, we are usually ready to shower and head to bed. These night time adventures lend just enough activity into Curtis's free time, and it's always satisfying to fit them in when his schedule is full.

The next day, we hit the jackpot again when Curtis was home just after five. The sun was shining hot that evening, with our heat wave of over 70 continuing for a sixth day. Determined to fit in a long hike before bed, we grabbed some food and hit the road, on the hiking trail just after six. Three hours later we'd made it up and down a mountain, sore, dirty and thrilled to have experienced two days of sunshine that coincided with a kind schedule in Curtis's work. Two years into residency have been enough to appreciate when weather and schedule cooperate. 

This last week has been a lot of rain, and much more work for Curtis. While I'm ever thankful for the amount of flexibility I have in my schedule to enjoy the hour of clear weather that comes now and then, I also enjoy the permission to curl up inside working on a quilt or reading a book. I still need to get outside a little every day, but yesterday's crockpot of chile after a day of running errands was the perfect pairing with some Olympic trials viewing with my brother and Curtis. In the end, I suppose I like a little of everything--and balance is golden, even in the off-season. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lately

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Bear in mind, our current heat wave is still about fifteen degrees shy of what we were sweating through in Chicago…

I’ve been working through my summer to-do list. Since I spent the first week of summer break in classes, and then proceeded to spend two weeks out of town, I am feeling the need to get started on items neglected since, well, before track season started back in March.

For the past two days, unfortunately, the sun has been shining full force. The temperatures have been in the 70’s and any good Alaskan knows that days such as these are a treat, a gift, and fleeting. While the angel on one shoulder sings of all the things I could accomplish if I buckled down and focused on productivity, the devil on the other shoulder proclaims, “put on a tank top and shorts, bike and run, sit in the sun, for tomorrow it will surely rain.”

Still waiting on those rain clouds.

On the other hand, my vitamin D level has got to be spectacular, and I’m making up for lost time after a long, dark winter: oil changes, closet purging and car washes can wait. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Exposure

IMG_3591 Vacations invite the unexpected, seemingly when one is least prepared. There is only so much that can fit in a carry-on suitcase; prioritizing inevitably requires leaving behind that which is least likely to be required: rain coat, multiple sheets of allergy medication, anything over three ounces. I didn’t expect our most appreciated purchase of the vacation to be blister band-aids, purchased soon after we arrived in Chicago. These were initially for Curtis, but eventually treasured by me as well. I didn’t expect the weather in Michigan to mirror that of Alaska for two days, before adding over thirty degrees by the time we left. I didn’t expect to spend quite so much time gingerly walking the paths along Lake Michigan.

After a whirlwind trip to the Midwest last summer, we didn’t know the next time we’d return to visit those we left behind when we relocated for residency. After Curtis discovered a conference to attend in Chicago and the possibility of vacation time became a reality, we opted to build in a trip to visit a few friends and relax away from home, happy to catch some hot weather and activities outside of our normal for a while.

One half marathon (for Curtis), one tilled piece of land (also Curtis), multiple yards of mulch and many rounds of Frisbee and baseball and swinging later, we headed off from Michigan to Chicago feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. Almost every night as we fell into bed after a full day we commented how nice it is just to be away—even if away still involved cooking and running and helping with chores. When the chores and kitchen and trails aren’t yours, it feels different and fresh somehow.

On the last day of our trip we helped with a round of landscaping, which we walked away from with tanned shoulders and sore backs, and Curtis with a large blister on one hand. After a plane/train/walk to our weekend destination in Chicago, we ventured out to the nearest corner Walgreens to find band-aids especially made for blisters. In all my years of running, I have treated literally hundreds of blisters on my toes and never used such sophisticated bandages—then again, I’ve never looked.

With Curtis in classes in Chicago all day, I was free to wander the city on my own. I would wake early to run before the heat escalated, finding that it was already over seventy degrees by 7am. Our location was less than a mile from Lake Michigan, and if you’ve ever been there, you know there’s a gorgeous lakefront path that goes for miles. Even as I ventured out solo I was joined by runners and bikers and roller bladders from both directions no matter the hour. Perhaps it was my distraction with those around me, perhaps it was the incredible view of the city, perhaps it was the flock of sailboats lined up in the harbor. Whatever the distraction, I was less than two miles into my first run of the weekend when I stepped on a large crack in the path and twisted my left ankle. As I finished my run I knew it was worse than I’d rolled it in years, and knew it would linger over the weekend. And linger it did, beyond my experimentation with every pair of shoes I brought, beyond the blisters that formed on both my heels from compensating, and beyond our three days in the windy city.

Despite the discomfort, however, I couldn’t bring myself to sit still for long. Dressed in whatever shoes felt best that day, I would gingerly navigate the busy intersections and wander the river pathways that lead to the lake. On the last night we ventured several blocks from our hotel to revisit our favorite place for deep-dish pizza. With exposed skin on both heels by the time we got there, we opted to take the “el” back, even though it was a long, round-about route. When we finally exited we found ourselves in the middle of a growing mob of local teens, surrounded vigilant police officers, watching for signs of any problems.

 After a weekend in Chicago, Curtis’s time was up but I headed on to Ohio. I woke in the morning with sounds of a toddler babbling and a baby crying. With my eyes closed it took a moment to recall where I was, but soon enough I recognized a nursery I had helped to paint and a quilt I had quilted by hand. It was so good to see so many people in a few short days, catching up with coaches and friends and children that have grown into young adults in the two years we’ve been gone. Even as I choked on the humidity I wandered the roads while running in a nostalgic haze, soaking in the memories and appreciating all we had—and still have—in this place.

Going back after time away is often as dreaded as it is embraced. Even as I look forward to my own bed and my local family and friends, I am sad to give up the good company I still miss while living far away and much more time than usual with Curtis—all while free of his pager. We have much to be thankful for: past, present and future; near and far. I look forward to spending a summer basking in it. IMG_3528

Friday, May 25, 2012

The End of the Line

IMG_3243 School let out a week ago, but with classes filling my schedule this week I am just now feeling the sigh of relief. After four days of sitting for eight hours of learning from current teachers and college professors, I felt like I was going to go a little crazy. Teaching is a lot of things, but it rarely involves sitting in one spot for an eight-hour day.

“Highlight something that makes you sing,” a teacher told me this morning as she handed out an article about the newest school standards. Normally a kindergarten instructor, she actually did a pretty good job of not speaking to our class as if we were five—a typical problem with teachers-as-instructors. I’ll be the first to admit that I have accidentally brought my teacher voice home on occasion, but being spoken to as if I’m in elementary school for hours on end makes me want to bang my head on my desk.

When I finally was released from the classroom late this afternoon, the relief of summer break finally spilled over me. With that relief was the surge of productivity I count on to catch up on all-things-neglected: depositing pay checks, mailing off bills, cleaning the dirtiest bathroom I have ever been the owner of, and cleaning out leftovers that have been in the fridge for longer than I’d like to admit.

One event that wrapped up this week as well was a race I signed up for months ago, in an attempt to bolster my fitness in the midst of the coaching-and-teaching-chaos that comes at the end of the year. Last year it inspired me to workout after practices and in the midst of exhaustion, capping off the school year and marking a beginning to summer fun. This year my training wasn’t quite as consistent, but the race still was a great experience. Several friends competed in the same event, and since starts were staggered I was able to spend hours outside cheering and socializing and embracing my role as someone that didn’t have to go home and grade papers.

Perhaps that is what I’m looking forward to most as summer officially begins: being a person other than teacher. So here is to being a reader, a cook, a housekeeper, a runner and biker, a sister and a daughter and a friend. I am excited to embrace them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best Laid Plans

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Visions of summer...
One of my favorite poems to teach when I taught British Literature was by Robert Burns. While many are familiar with a line referring to mice and men, the poem speaks to the futile plans and preparations that can be made and then destroyed, without anything to show for it. This is an obvious point of contention with high school seniors, many of whom are making endless plans for the future: moves, colleges, loans, degrees, careers. Yet what should we tell them? "Make your plans, choose your route, but never forget it may all end up in ruin."

There have been a lot of recession stories over the past few years. I ended up just ahead of the curve it turns out, graduating from college and securing a position in my chosen career path before Lehman Brothers and the American economy fell. I still remember driving home after teaching, listening to NPR when the announcement came that the financial firm declared bankruptcy; I had no idea who they were or how significant that domino falling would be.

This week I found out that "ahead of the curve" doesn't mean as much as I want it to when the school district starts making cuts. Given that I recently moved I have no tenure, my name is bouncing on and off of pink slips, leaving Curtis and I to shrug our shoulders in our financial budgeting. All the lesson plans, summer classes, forms for various school items--for next year--all of the sudden seem to be momentarily quite audacious. How dare I assume that I'll have a classroom of my own next year? A school to commute to? A pay check?

I am a planner deep in my bones. While this week shocked me a bit, it is by no means the most rattling your-plans-aren't-going-to-work-like-you-thought situation I've found myself in this year. And perhaps that why I was able to shrug it off a bit more easily than I would have before. Life will proceed, and my plans for the future may or may not match up with reality in the end.

Summer is here, and the plans are made: classes, travel, friends near and far, books, trails, mountains. I am not so naive to think it will all work out as I have envisioned, but I think it's just as important to not fear the unexpected and unexplained. And I suppose that leaves me craving balance between what I expect and what is; here's to a summer of seeking it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Jury of Peers

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Every year my school puts on a talent show, and it doesn't disappoint. While teenage perception is not always in line with reality, one thing always impresses me: they get up and try. As student after student parades on stage, unafraid of performing in front of several hundred peers, I am nothing short of amazed. Sometimes their piano concertos are flawless. Other times their vocal performance comes out wavering and off key. One dance number might be perfectly choreographed while another silently confesses the shallow desire for the limelight.

As the show progresses it feels like an endless, unpredictable bag of tricks: a unicycle rider in a cow costume, an 80's tune lipsynced by characters in black hoods embelished with unicorn horns, a teacher singing a children's song while playing the ukulele. Inevitably you end up with predictable vocal performances of "Someone Like You" while a wavering voice seeks to duplicate a grammy winner's artistic flare, but even with such cliche song choices I am impressed by any teenage girl's audacity to play a song on the piano while singing in front a crowd full of potential critics.

At the end of the day I'm proud of the bold ones that graced the stage, the audience that was (mostly) respectful and cheered after every act, the preparation and planning of most of the students and the teachers that were willing to facilitate and organize a mess of chaos into a thematic performance that had me cheering and laughing. It was a great finale for a week that was exhausting and a testimony to the good parts of teaching that make the mess of it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Satisfying Exhaustion

DSC04033 Artificial turf, finally out from the covering of snow, is a true sign of spring around here. I expect the first true showing of green next week...
 Day two of three has finished in our track championship series, and I am officially exhausted. The grand finale of the season finds me teaching in the morning, layering raincoat upon down vest upon hooded sweatshirt upon rubber boots over lunch, and standing out in thirty degree wind chill all afternoon. The sun has been shining, but it is a deceptive blue sky--the air is crisp and the snow mounds still perch in shaded corners where weeks of melting still hasn't proven to be enough. Midway through today's meet Curtis biked in for a visit when he got off of work early. I confessed my desire for a latte, and when I huddled close--hoping he'd break the wind for a few short minutes--he reminded me that public displays of affections aren't appropriate at track meets. Later, he returned--still biking--coffee in hand. One fourteen year old athlete of mine standing near me couldn't believe my luck in landing such a spouse; sometimes I can't either.

 Besides coffee delivered by good looking doctors, the last week of a season is rewarding in many ways. Most of the time the performances are often the best of the season. More importantly, after several weeks of practices and meets, I know the athletes much better than at the beginning. I have learned their typical times and distances and have gotten to know their personalities. They have gotten to know my "clear-out-the-locker-room-NOW" voice, and that I will celebrate with them whenever they perform at their best. I know which athletes always get to practice on time, and which ones constantly forget a jacket. And inevitably I know the athletes whose parents are perpetually late for practice best of all, sitting out by the curb on cement platforms while they desperately text and call for someone--anyone--to take them home.

 I know the next 24 hours will exhaust me even more than I am right now, and I know I can't uphold this pace much longer. Yet I also know there's a subtle grief that will haunt me all weekend when I realize I'll have little contact with so many of these athletes for the rest of the year--or ever again. This mourning will combine with reality of the school year coming to a close in two short weeks, when I will happily begin to fill my days with cooking and running and biking around town. All the while I will miss the daily interaction with the ever-present teenager that consumes my life for nine and a half months, a job that tests and exhausts me without fail, all the while being immensely satisfying.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Snippits of a Week

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"Can we take them on the track?" the photographer asked when he arrived to take team pictures. I didn't laugh in his face, or cry in frustration. Instead, I said "wouldn't that be nice?" and explained our current predicament: two weeks left, and a track still fully covered. This time last year we hosted a meet. Yesterday might have been a gorgeous day for such things--high 50's and sunny--yet it would be more of a snow shoe race than anything.


"It reminds me of a communion wafer," Curtis said after tasting the crisp white garnish that flanked my salmon filet. We went out to celebrate Curtis's dad's birthday this week while his parents were on a brief layover en route to greener and warmer places. I celebrated the occasion by wearing no coat--just a down vest.

"What does it mean to be born out of wedlock?" my student asked as he researched his chosen character, a person he determined to impact history. As soon as I started explaining the concept, he blushed and made it clear that no further explanation was needed: he got the point.

"My eyes are going to be burning," Curtis commented over french toast this morning, when we realized we never go lap swimming at the same time. Nearly five years of marriage and we've successfully shared one swim cap and one pair of goggles. Though I'm the one training for a triathlon, Curtis is hard-pressed to pass up any workout opportunity--especially if he has the day off.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Unmentionables

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Adolescence is an interesting phase in life, and if you take the time to ask, most people have an opinion about it. Good or bad, I have yet to meet anyone who would like to go back to junior high. The awkwardness of transitioning from being a child to an adult is exhausting, and I observe this phenomenon regularly as my students try desperately to learn the unspoken rules of being an adult. Occasionally, and sometimes frequently, these teens fail miserably as they misread or just totally miss a key rule in "grown up" existence.

Perhaps one of the classic moments in the teenage-filled classroom is the moment that a bodily function happens: burp, sneeze, gas--silent, smelly or noisy. The reaction from the doer is sometimes pride, other times embarrassment. The reaction of those surrounding the perpetrator is sometimes silent ignorance, other times gleeful proclamation. In professional adult existence, these things are typically ignored. In teenage existence, they ruin concentration for minutes at a time.

Then you have the visible snafus: food spilled on an article of clothing, shoes that are clearly worn well past their prime, pepper etched in between teeth and overly zealous makeup application. These tend to be less distracting in the general scheme of things, though an unaware student might still proclaim the existence of one or more of the above items. In these moments, in a way not so different than when I discover the presence of bodily functions, I strive to run interference. I ask the student with foot odor to not take off his shoes during class; I note to the girl with smeared make up that a quick swipe will remove the distraction. Yet as much as I try and protect the students against the tactless observations of their "friends", I fall far from reaching all students before the attack. Inevitably a student falls prey to the honest observations, and when I note to attacking students that their commentary is neither appropriate or necessary, their reply, "but it's true!" is a difficult one to combat.

Perhaps the hardest observation to counter is when a student is absent. When the student is sick, most students hear. Modern communication with cell phones and texting leave me to find out what is going on with students from their peers long before I receive an email from a parent. But other times a student is out for other reasons--problems at home, personal issues, decisions that have left him or her suspended or enrolled elsewhere. Most of the time I am aware of why a student is missing from my class, but I of course can't divulge this to the students. Yet they notice, and they ask. "She's out," I reply when they ask where "she" is. Such an answer communicates nothing; all I have done is repeat back to them what they already declared. Yet somehow, when I note an absence with that clear declaration, they know that the appropriate response is to move on and be quiet. Wherever "she" is is not someplace they want to go.

I try to create an attitude of transparency with my students over the course of the school year. If they ask me how my weekend was, I like to be honest. If they ask why I was absent, I typically tell them. In return I expect the same from them. When I sit next to a student that is refusing to work and ask him if he's planning on passing this quarter, I expect an honest response. When I sit and grade stacks of essays and journals, I am rewarded or cursed with volumes of honesty they would probably never say to my face, or even their closest friends. Unfortunately this leaves me with a problem at the end of the school year when I have created relationships with so many of my students only to find they have quietly disappeared, departing my classroom without a word or even any warning.

Spring is upon us, and with it comes an onslaught of poor choices, it seems. Everyone becomes crazy when the snow melts and the school year nears the finish. For a handful of students this manifests in ways that leave them absent for a week, two, or even the rest of the year. And when my students ask where a particular student is, I can't mask my frustration, my disappointment, my hope for a student that has been dashed.

"He's out."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekend Embrace

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It was quiet when I returned from church. My face was speckled with mud, my forehead sweaty, my legs worn from a morning bike to and from church. I peaked in on Curtis while I collected items to shower, tip-toeing around while I gingerly opened drawers and creaked the door closed, chiding myself for not planning ahead and gathering my belongings earlier, knowing he'd be asleep when I returned.

Muddy clothes in the wash, I counted down minutes until I could wake him up, eager to share the few remaining hours of the weekend together.

This morning as I readied to bike on the slush-littered sidewalks I called Curtis to see how the night had progressed. While he'd hoped to be home by 10 this morning, he knew now it would be much later. A busy night made for a busy morning, with many patients to see and notes to be written. Even after over 24 hours of work he sounded alert and surprisingly upbeat. I know better to expect this demeanor after a three hour nap reminds his body that he has gone far too long without rest, yet I love to hear his positive outlook after so many patients have demanded his attention. To have work that is fulfilling is truly a gift.

Today I find myself embracing the silence, a few hours with Curtis before he returns to bed, and the hum of the washer as evidence of my earlier adventure. Tomorrow I look forward to students' questions on writing on grammar, on track events on injury, and even the occasional inquisitive student that cares to know what filled my weekend. "It was quiet," I will tell them, "and filled with laundry, and bike rides, and softly playing Josh Ritter while my husband napped in the other room." And when they proclaim--with their expression or their words--that my weekend doesn't seem very fun, I will close the conversation content to know that someday they may find themselves craving the very same weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Behind the Scenes

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Taken last year at a track meet in early May; I'm holding out hope that we'll get a grassy infield at some point...
If someone had told me that coaching is half excel documents and spreadsheets and a quarter corraling I would have written that person off as cynical. Now I know she would have just been being honest. When practice is over and the locker room locked, my voice sore and attendance marked, there is so much more to do. First is the wait for tardy parents, the ones that have gotten stuck in traffic, an appointment, or just decided that their grocery shopping was more important. Then begins the data entry: absences excused and not, parent permission and volunteers, t-shirt orders and sizes and funds collected - not to mention the papers to be submitted with the funds later on.

As an athlete I thought all my coaches had to worry about was coming up with new and exciting ways to exhaust and challenge us, now I know that workout plans are just the beginning.

Even as the details threaten to overwhelm me, I still love my role as coach. Changing into running shoes and circling the halls is a a totally different way to connect with students than correcting their grammar. Students that struggle to construct a sentence might dominate all others in 200 meters. It is good for them to succeed; it is good for them to know I see them as more than just a struggling reader.

Today is our first meet. Though the sun has been shining in generous quantities, we will be racing indoors. Unfortunately, the tracks are still buried, as are many of the sidewalks and back roads. After a week of temperatures in the high forties, minus a couple days and inches of snow, we have been making progress slowly. We really need some rain and wind if serious gains are to be made quickly.

Tonight, when the buses have gone and the athletes are home and I have finally finished the day, I know the rush of satisfaction that comes from the culmination of racing will carry me through. Practice is fun; measuring and recording the fruits of their labor is thrilling. And as I stack my clipboard meticulously--order of events, attendance, sign out sheets, event assignments, bib numbers--I get excited for the first start of the season, when the gun goes off and athleticism is tested, and all spreadsheets and comma splices forgotten.