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...


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. 



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.



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.