Saturday, January 26, 2013

Out of Focus

A month past solstice, the sun rises at 9:42am and graces us with almost seven hours of daylight. Monday morning Curtis and I were out skiing when the sky came to life, the wispy clouds radiating in dark pink and then orange, eventually glowing with the white brightness of the sun. The ski trails were covered with a fresh dusting of snow that came Sunday afternoon. The groomer had been by in streaks throughout our trail of choice, leaving fresh corduroy paths along divots left from many weekend visitors. The lights on the trail flickered out as we progressed, having finished their duties through the dark hours of the early morning. 

We practically had the trails to ourselves, save the two moose on the back half of the trail, munching distractedly on the empty branches, enjoying the lack of snow as it makes everything that much more accessible. 

Weather has come in unpredictable streaks as of late. Sunday's snow was followed by a comfortable Monday morning sun, a week of warming temperatures topping at 45 on Thursday afternoon before plummeting to -15 by Saturday morning. Fifty degree temperature swings bringing little snow and melting what delicate amounts we have seem to be the norm for this winter, a season that seems to be slipping by quickly.

We speak of schedules a lot these days, jockeying around Curtis's few days off to maximize their potential, unsure of when we might need them with a baby's unpredictable arrival--and yet scheduling them with our best guesses. An out-of-town rotation in April seems like ages away, I commented to Curtis yesterday over dinner. Life will look different then--a different I don't yet fully understand--and yet it's less than three months away and will be here very soon.

In the mean time I carry markers around in my mind, milestones to check off as they arrive:
Seven weeks until the due date.
Six weeks of school until the end of the quarter.
Four weeks until I am officially full term.
One week until research papers are due.

Beyond those measurements everything seems out of focus, unpredictable and new, uncharted. 


The students ask a lot of questions these days, perhaps aware of impending change in their routines, what they can count on, what they expect based on the past six months. For months it was as if my ever growing stomach didn't exist. Sure, they stared, shamelessly at times, but they didn't comment, didn't ask, didn't wonder aloud. 

Now they do.

"How many weeks are you?" A girl will ask. 
"Do you know what it is?" Another will comment. 
Lately I've taken to joking with them: "A puppy," I'll reply to confused looks--until the unsuspecting student realizes the joke and the surrounding students all have a laugh. 

When I missed a class period for a last minute parent conference, a student commented that he thought I may have gone into labor. I suppose I should get used to such over reactions to any change from the usual. They know one day I'll disappear--perhaps without warning. I suppose I can't blame them for having that be their first assumption whenever I appear to be missing.

As I prepare my maternity leave lesson plans I find myself compelled to record routines: this is how I check out computers, this is how seat assignments work, this is the expectation for beginning of class conduct. In truth, my substitute can establish new routines if he desires, making a classroom that he will run for several weeks his own. Yet I suppose my protective sense wants there to be as little change as possible; perhaps that is me preparing myself for a life that will never be the same.


The full moon came out last night, lighting the sky as it faded to night: blue, to lavender, pink clouds and eventually darkness. These cycles seem to symbolically remind me that time will continue forward, one day after another, whether I'm grading or giving birth. There is comfort in that. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rain, Rest, and Reestablishing Normal

It has been a wet weekend. Our (practically) snowless winter has not been dampened with the arrival of much precipitation in temperatures in the thirties--which meant rain and slush and melt. Eventually it will all return to frozen--this is still January after all--and when it does the water-covered ice rink that is my neighborhood will simply just be ice.

Leaving town felt good this weekend. I didn't bring papers to read or grade, and if Curtis brought medical journals or board studying materials he never pulled them out. We slept until we woke up (disappointingly early, and certainly before daylight), weathered a small earthquake at 3:30am, and watched my brother play basketball while chatting with friends. There was little in the way of schedule, virtually nothing on the agenda, and when drives to and from became slow because of weather there was no reason to fret--there was no where else we needed to be.

Unlike the laziness of rural Alaskan highway, there is so much to be done at home. There are taxes to be prepped, baby "stuff" to organize and purchase, lesson plans to be completed for maternity leave, and endless decisions to be made about the future. Normally I'd revert to attack mode and check items off the list one by one. Currently I'm in sleep mode, often choosing between a thirty-minute eliptical session or making dinner before officially running out of energy after work. 

Life is changing. It some ways I feel very ready, but in others it is taking me longer to adjust. And just as rain in January feels like a mockery of what winter is "supposed" to look like, I feel like my exhaustion and need for (what feels like) excessive amounts of sleep and rest has made me different from who I am "supposed" to be. Yet I am the person that created those expectations, and probably the only person disappointed when I don't meet them.

Change is a slow process, and while some shifts will come whether we're ready or not, this new rhythm we are approaching--and in some ways already experiencing--may not feel normal for a while. In that way the rain feels quite fitting. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Settling Back In

Morning sunrise, just before 10am...

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to find prenatal vitamins this morning, stashed in the Christmas gift from our neighbor--a nurse-- who recently discovered our growing addition. It's easier to mask a seven month belly when you prance around in your husband's down coat--since mine haven't fit for over a month. And since I typically only encounter our friendly neighbor outdoors, she rarely sees me without my generous outer layers. 

Today has been a day of cleaning out: laundry from our trip to the island, gifts from both Christmas and baby shower that need to be organized and put in place, suitcases to be stowed in the upper shelf of the closet for a few months while we settle in for what will be one of the biggest transitions of our marriage. I keep waiting for that nesting instinct of which everyone warns--this push to ready the home for baby's arrival. Instead I find myself capitalizing on moments of energy to sort and clean and organize, and taking naps in the in between.

Next week I return to school, to novels and research papers and grading. The hiatus was well needed, and while I mourn the loss of the generous rest my body frequently reminds me I need, I look forward to my final several weeks in the classroom. It is a place I love, some days more than others, and I will miss it even as I move on to other great adventures.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Abandoned Schedule

The clouds were thick when we were finally airborne, two attempts, two delays and one day later. Such rituals of trips to and from the airport as weather shifts in waves become normal in rural Alaskan travel. We may have streamlined travel across the largest state with airplanes but we still don't control the elements; they haven't been domesticated.

Curtis and I haven't been to the island since we got stuck there an extra 48 hours this fall, a three day trip for coaching turned to nearly five due to the grounding of an entire airline's fleet in violation of TSA requirements, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded statewide. This trip, it seemed, would not be any simpler.

The first trip I made to the island was Christmas break 2004. Curtis and I had been dating for ten months and a three-day visit for me to spend time with his family was scheduled. After weather delays I finally boarded the small plane, becoming motion sick soon after as we bounced across the ocean, weathering the winter wind. When we had nearly reached the island the captain announced we'd be turning around. The plane ahead of us had landed, but the icy runway had made for a treacherous finale to the flight--one our captain did not want to gamble on. So back we flew to where we'd started, hours spent with little to show for them but an upset stomach, my three day trip cut to two by treacherous conditions. The next day's flight couldn't have been more anticlimactic.

Life on the island always moves slowly once we get there, with each day littered with one or two activities, rarely attached to any kind of schedule. We eat when a meal is ready, sleep when activity subsides, and venture out when neighbors beckon. And in that way the weather, the isolation, the haphazard nature of travel fits. We arrive when we do, and leave when everything works out. 

This year we passed around a cold shortly after arriving, making a five day stay feel like just long enough to recover. Returning to the city often jostles the system a bit, especially when it coincides with a return with the end of a break from school. I often find myself asking what the rush is, even as I seek to maximize my efficiency and productivity in my return to "normal" life. It's good to remember, through weather delays and sickness and days out of town, that value in a day is not measured by items checked off a to-do list.