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


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


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.