May 12, 2015

Insomnia and allergies are jointly kicking my ass.

I wrote off the insomnia as being the result of not having a track meet over the weekend, but it's more that I've got a lot on my mind. I'm gearing up to teach some big lessons in my Civics classes: civil liberties in the post 9/11 world, freedom of the press during wartime, all of that sort of thing... They're the kinds of lessons in which some of my best material comes from my relatives and friends.

A lot of it comes from Michael.

I wish he was around for me to tell him about it. I wish a lot of things, really.

One of my colleagues told me- a few weeks ago, when I was teaching about the wars in Global Studies- that my "personal connections" make the lessons more engaging for my students. I know that, of course, so I just nodded. He said I should tell more of my stories, talk about that part of my life more often, and I could tell he didn't understand how hard it was.

He didn't know me when the war came for my friends, or when it came for my brother. He never saw what that was like for me.

He doesn't know how different I was beforehand.

I used to say that it was easy see the war lurking around us- around Sibling, and our parents, and even me- but it's faded over time. It's nothing but an old, barely detectable bruise now. Sometimes I poke at it and it still hurts, and it ends up keeping me up at night when it shouldn't. I do this every year, though: I teach about these wars.

Sometimes I don't know how I do it.

May 10, 2015

This is my one spring weekend without a track meet, which is probably why the insomnia is making an appearance; I'm not coming down from a second-hand adrenaline high and crashing.

My team is fantastic, by the way: talented, scrappy, alternately obsessed with rap music and Taylor Swift, and often dressed in Marvel apparel. Literally, when I want the relay boys, I can yell, "Assemble!" I've taken to wearing my own Avengers t-shirt and referring to myself as Agent  Coulson (the head coach is Nick Fury, naturally).

My inner geek girl is pleased about that.

It amuses the other coaches, too, as do most of my antics. There is one newer one- about my age- who still isn't quite sure what to make of me. That's also because- in addition to basking in fandom- I've never actually introduced myself (and I don't know his name either- I just call him The Other Coach), but I banter about soccer with him at every single meet.

I mean, he likes the wrong teams, so I've kind of got to educate him, don't I?

But yeah, free weekend now. And it's a gorgeous weekend, too, so double bonus. Soon it'll be summer and I'll have nothing but free time. I've been making some plans for adventures with Boston- the kind that involve planes, trains, automobiles, and our running shoes.

It's going to be glorious.

April 4, 2015

We have to get up early tomorrow and head to Boston so my cousin can catch her train home, so- after a day of shopping, cupcakes, .$50 chicken wings, and other such things- I went to the Easter Vigil Mass. It was really something special. 

A lot of Catholics say it's the most beautiful Mass we celebrate, and I'd have to agree; it's a candle-lit series of lessons during which those new to the church are baptized and confirmed, and then join us in the Eucharist. One of the high school kids went through it this year, so the first two rows of pews were filled by my students. They all waved when I went up for the Eucharist, and another- there with his family- beckoned me over as I was walking back to my pew to wish me a happy Easter and tell me about the super sweet car he saw in town earlier. 

I had to laugh at that, and I was still laughing as I knelt down to pray- and I thanked God for the life He blessed me with because all of those little moments with my students are the ones I'd never trade. 

After Mass, I walked out into an unseasonably cold- but perfectly clear- night. All the stars were out.

The first reading at the Vigil Mass is the creation in Genesis; God hangs the stars in the sky. 

I'm going to end not with a quote from Genesis, but Baruch 3:14-

"Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding, that you may at the same time discern where there is length of days, and life, where there is light for the eyes, and peace."

Happy Easter, everyone.

April 1, 2015

Went to see the dentist this afternoon and he told me that I have two cavities that need to be filled. Seriously. Not an April Fools joke.


I spent my entire childhood lording my cavity-free mouth over my older brother, who has teeth full of metal. Since becoming an adult, though? I've had six of these suckers. SIX. How does that even happen? I mean, I'm fairly certain I have better dental hygiene now than I did when I was eight years old.

My entirely petulant and childish reaction to this has been to eat half a bag of Easter candy.

At any rate, I don't have a shred of free time until June, so he can just wait till then to stab me with Novocain and drill holes in my mouth or whatever. It was actually weird to leave the dentist and come home because I should've been at track practice, or up in my class room preparing for the next day, or something like that.

Track season has been amazing. The team is fired up- especially the boys coming off the tremendous indoor season they had- and it's a lot of fun. I can't wait for the rest of the snow to melt and for competition season to begin. I always say it's going to be amazing because it always is; I think this year will be something really special, though.

I am getting something of a break this weekend because I have company coming in the form of Steph, Dereck, and Boston. We have no plans beyond shopping and sampling some of the local cuisine, and that... is amazing. We're all, as Alanis said, young and underpaid, tired but working, etc...

I may invite The One I Work With to join us for dinner on Saturday. My friends refer to him as The One With Bad Manners/The One Who Never Calls, and he ought to get the chance to make a more favorable impression.

We'll see.

March 21, 2015

I don't think I give March enough credit for its awesomeness. I mean, there's often crappy weather up here in my northern town, and there's the whole springing forward thing (which I still don't think I've recovered from), but March is still really awesome despite that.

For one thing, I actually have time in March to devote to my creative pursuits. I read, write, draw, dance, and whatever else as much as possible. Sometimes, it's all scribbles and doodles, no particular purpose. Other times, I give myself goals, attend events, take on fandom challenges.

I just drew for a challenge for the first time, actually- and this with broken fingers! So that's exciting. 

I also end up doing a lot of professional nerdy things during March because of in-service days and conferences. I spent today at a conference about reading and writing, in fact, and came away with an insatiable desire to go to the local bookstore. And, y'know, the book store is near other things, so... A half dozen books, a Starbucks latte, and a couple Old Navy dresses later, I came home.

I intend to spend the rest of the weekend reading said books, and, yes, I think that is a fantastic way to use my time. 

It's about to get eaten up by the other most excellent thing about March, the thing that convinces me that it's spring no matter how many feet of snow still remain in my yard: TRACK SEASON.

Practice starts Monday. This delights me.

I'll close this entry with a song that- while not entirely accurate to this setting- is stuck in my head all the same:

March 2, 2015

Tiny and I were at Reggie Lewis yesterday during USATF Indoor Nationals because I am a wizard who scored tickets (while coaching my state championship winning boys at the regional meet on Friday). When we got there, we spotted my buddy TC sitting right behind the finish line, and he had enough space saved for us to join him, so that was fantastic. 

Most epic thing: I MET MATT CENTROWITZ.

He's amazing. He came to sign autographs and pose for pictures after winning his race, and he was super gracious to everyone who wanted his attention. I thought TC was going to have a heart attack, he was that excited to meet the guy. Not gonna lie: afterwards, both of us grabbed each other- like teenage-girl-at-boyband-concert style- and shrieked a little. Tiny just laughed at us.

I also got to see one of my track idols, Alysia Montaño, crush it in the 600m. Probably her toughest competitor, Ajeé Wilson, had the bad luck of falling on the back stretch, and I have so much respect for her for getting up and finishing the race. The two women hugged at the finish line before Alysia went to celebrate with her family.

And then I saw an American record get broken! Cas Loxsom, who is- for the record- a gorgeous human being, ran the most ridiculous 600m I have ever seen. I mean, WOW, he's strong. 

All of that distance fabulousness was fun, but y'all know I'm a sprinter and I was all about the 60m dash. It's run up the infield at Reggie Lewis, so it was hard to get pictures of the action. But Marvin Bracy jumped up on the barrier after he won (note: he did not fall over it like Ashton Eaton at Millrose), so I took a picture of that. He also posed for a picture with me, and gave me his race bib. Which was awesome. There's a good chance I will use the pins at my own future races. That's got to be good luck, right?

And I have to add that he was really cool- super nice, grateful for the support we'd given him, patient with everyone who wanted a moment. I'll say the same things about Jarret Eaton and Aleec Harris; they both came over after the hurdles and gave the fans their time. TC's daughter and her friends- all trackies- got pictures and autographs with them both, and they were really sweet, especially when they found out one of the girls was a hurdler, too.

All in all, it was an awesome day of track and field. Tiny and I hopped the T in search of dinner, and spent the ride like "I can't believe we were just there! I can't believe we saw all that!" After some good eats- and sangria- at Fajitas and Ritas (which I hadn't been to since college, heh), we headed north. 

I introduced my car to an unfriendly snowbank on the way home. But that? Is a whole other adventure.

February 24, 2015

My mom and I decided that for our birthdays we'd go to Disney World and run the Princess Half Marathon; my birthday was in july when registration opened, and hers was Friday- the day we arrived in Orlando. 

As unseasonably chilly as it was, it was still delightful for me because winter up north has just been stupid. We checked into our hotel and caught the bus to the Expo, got our runner swag and all that. In the evening, we went to the Boardwalk for dinner at Beaches and Cream. For the first time in my life, I snatched the check and paid; it was Mom's birthday, after all. I insisted. I was happy to insist. 

We got chocolate cake to go (we ended up saving it till after the race, in fact, and it was perfect for that), and headed over to Jellyrolls to see the oh-so-talented piano men. I knew Mom would love it, and she did; she said she could've stayed there all night. But, of course, we had plans to play the next day. 

Tackling three Disney parks the day before a half marathon? Probably not the best idea. But we were there to have fun, and, boy, did we ever. Mom hadn't been to Disney since the fam went in 1987, which is basically like never having been at all, so I wanted to show her all the awesome stuff my friends have shown me when I've visted. We started in the Studios, which were just opening, so there were no lines for everything. Then we headed down the footpath to the Boardwalk- which Mom loved the evening before, and loved again in broad daylight- and over to Epcot. We're both nerds for the World Showcase, so we strolled through there. I argued football with a cast member in "England," we drank tea in "China," and so on. 

After lunch, we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. It was predictably mental, but I'd fast passed seats for the parade, so that was perfect. Afterwards, we rode a few rides, stopped by the Enchanted Tiki Room (amusing), and headed back to the hotel to meet Mel and Anthony for dinner. That was fun, and I was glad my mom got to meet them.

After far too little sleep- because we got up at 3AM- we, and every other race goer, got up, dressed, and headed to the bus stop to be shuttled to the staging area. It's brutal, getting up so early, but it's also fun because thousands of other people are doing it, too, and once you arrive you have a DJ, and photo ops, and all kinds of good stuff. We, like most everyone, were in costume: I was Sleeping Beauty and Mom was Maleficent, and lots of people applauded her "team evil" choice. 

She could have outrun me (my natural talent runs out after 200m), but she wanted us to run together, so that's what we did. We started sometime after 6AM. The course started in a parking lot near Epcot and wound its way out onto the road toward the Magic Kingdom. I didn't tell Mom that there would be marching bands and cheerleaders on the roads, so she loved that. We ran the first few miles at a decent pace; the weather was perfect and we both felt good. 

There was expected bottle-necking in the Magic Kingdom, especially right around the castle, but there's also such fantastic energy. At one point, a group of cross-dressing dudes came up behind us singing "Do You Want To Build a Snowman?" Always amusing. And it turned out the characters from Frozen were waiting on the balcony to cheer us on. 

We ran through the castle and out into Frontierland, then exited the park. I told y'all that my talent runs out after 200m. My endurance runs out at about 7 miles in the winter because it's hard to train any further than that at this time of year. Plus, my Achilles, which has been dodgy for the last few months, started to hurt a little. I anticipated it, though, and just slowed my pace.

It's the kind of thing that doesn't really matter in a Disney race- unless you really are there to win- so Mom and I jogged our way through the next five miles, admired what was by then an absolutely beautiful morning, and otherwise basked in the Disney experience. We picked our pace back up for the last couple miles through Epcot, which my mom absolutely loved, and all the spectators and entertainers there to cheer were phenomenal. We kicked it to the finish and got our lovely, shiny medals. 

And, alas, after a shower and a change of clothes, we both had to fly home. I left sunny Florida and returned to negative temperatures. But, hey, there's no place like home.

January 4, 2015

The old year passed into the new, and I wrote some poetry yesterday.

The Cost of War

There was an article in the paper today
about the cost of war.
I could almost see readers shaking their heads
at the dramatically bolded dollar sign,
but the cost of a war is more
than all those wasted decimal places.
It's the tattered remnants
of faith, hope, and youth. 
My parents' marriage.
My brother's heart.
We pay for our wars with lost loves:
simple loves and might-have-been loves
like the boys I danced with in Eisenhower Hall,
and actual, honest-to-God loves
buried at Arlington and at West Point.
These are the things a war doesn't bill for
but takes, and takes, and takes,

because a war is the worst kind of thief.

December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve and I'm back in the old hometown.

My dad and I will be joining an assortment of our relatives at Midnight Mass in about an hour. I'm writing this post before I have to get ready. And by get ready I mean put my make-up on, dress up, and all of that because my family does NOT do casual-wear at Church, especially not for Christmas.

I already assured one of my uncles I'd be wearing decidedly un-sensible shoes for the occasion.

Actually, they're just the black high heels I wear at work nearly every day, but still. They're not sensible for going out in the middle of the night. In a rain storm. In the winter.

It's a pity it isn't snowing. That would be better.

There is a huge Christmas tree in the living room- like, taking up the entire bay window, had to be tied with fishing line, etc... huge- and lots of presents beneath it. I don't remember what I asked my dad to get me, so I might be quite surprised tomorrow.

Oooh, and I'll be meeting one of Dad's Girlfriend's daughters tomorrow. She'll be visiting with her boyfriend and his son, and... I have no feelings about this at the moment. I might in the future. We'll see.

The festivities will continue well into the weekend because I have lots of relatives. My uncle is having dinner at his house on Sunday, and Sibling's driving up with his family, which is crazy, but hey. It means I get to see him, and my sister-in-law, and my adorable nephews.

Oh, and check out this Christmas news: Sibling got his next orders. He's going to HAWAII.

I am totally visiting.

December 12, 2014

The students in all my classes are working on big projects- the first big research project for the freshmen- so I've spent the week bouncing from my classroom to the library and back, trying to keep some semblance of a routine, and wishing I had an army of clones to simultaneously answer questions (between the content and the skills- proper grammar, spelling, citation, and whatnot- there are a lot of questions).

The project the freshmen are doing is one I'm team-teaching with Jess because interdisciplinary education is awesome. We've both been observed various times throughout the process, and everyone said great things what we're doing. It's alternately daunting and fantastic. 

And the effort we have to put in is totally worth it. I'm proud of what our students are accomplishing.

I'm proud of my seniors in Civics, too- and I told them so during class today- because we had a talk last week about how they could (and should) be improving the quality of their work in preparation for college, and 99% of them really got it. I noticed the increased effort they put into the projects they turned in today (on the Bill of Rights, and if you're following along at home, you know I'm VERY aware of how pointed that happens to be). It feels like I've made some real progress with them... like I'm doing right by them, you know? 

We have a week and a half until Christmas break, and in that time I'll be delivering some of my most memorable lessons in both Civics and Global Studies. I don't plan to teach dramatic things right before the holidays, but it always happens, and I try to send my students off with something inspirational. Like this: in Global Studies, I'm teaching about the Rwandan genocide, and part of that is telling the story of the UN peacekeepers who bore witness. A couple thousand- and then a couple hundred- men saved roughly 30,000 lives in the midst of one of the most brutal events in modern history. That's heroic. 

I know it's the season of "peace on earth," but I think the lesson is that it takes heroism to get there.