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. 

December 11, 2014

Coaching indoor track is awesome.

Coaching indoor track is not awesome for my vocal chords, however (note: neither is coaching outdoor track). My voice is shot for the second time this season- which has only been two weeks long at this point- but I can't find it in me to be too upset about that because we're having fun.

I really like the atmosphere at practice. It's positive, and constructive, and just the right amount of goody. Today was media day, so we did our team photos and quick quotes (that was the head coach, not me). Afterwards, we warmed up to the beat of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," which was wildly entertaining, and then I took the sprinters to do block starts. That involved a random rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" because, hey, why not? The training went well, too.

And then the whole team ate pizza.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

I also brought a slice of pizza to our new athletic trainer because he's awesome. College track ingrained in me a deep respect for awesome ATs- little wonder given the time I had to spend in AT!Brian's office. I know to listen to them, to thank them, and to do nice things for them when it's possible.

This one is also a soccer fan and an army brat, which makes him my kind of people. Double awesome.

December 9, 2014

I didn't have the day I was planning to have today.

I went to work with a stinking headache (phrase stolen from Mark Webber, who crashed a car to get his, so it was probably a lot worse than mine) and a touch of dehydration because I was hooting, hollering, and running around after my track team all week long (which is wicked fun no matter what). I didn't end up working for long, though, because a storm rolled in and we dismissed before noon.

It wasn't soon enough to get us on the roads before they got icy, but they weren't too bad. Casey the Car slid a little on the turn into the driveway, but that's all. Tomorrow morning may be another story, but right now that's on the list of Things I Will Deal With Later. What I'm trying to deal with now is how I'm going to teach my Civics class. 

We're in the middle of a unit on civil rights and responsibilities, and there's breaking news about torture, and so I've been studying off and on since I got home. I know that seems like a grim way to spend my time, but I can't teach about something unless I study it, so there it is. I keep thinking about a cartoon one of my colleagues found years ago- my first or second year teaching- back when waterboarding was breaking news. It was a drawing of an old man, a WWII vet with a flag in hand, standing before a grave that read something like "My Civics class version of America- dead the day we started to torture people." I felt gutted when I saw it.

I'm feeling that way now, too.

I love my country- I really do- and I want so much for it to be better than it's been lately because I know it can be better. What's sad is how much that statement makes me sound like I'm in a toxic relationship. 

But I digress.

My challenge tomorrow- and over the next several days- will be to discuss the news academically and objectively with my students, and to convince them that it doesn't mean they should hide their heads in the sand or turn their backs on civic duty- two frequent responses- because the only way we change what is done in our name is to work to change it. 

December 7, 2014

Yesterday I had went on an adventure to get to my friends' annual Thansmukah (Thanksgiving-Christmas-Hannukah) party. And by adventure, I mean "Holy monkeys, I drove Casey the Car to Dorchester in an ice/rain storm and then managed to find street parking without hitting anyone!"

I'm rather proud of myself.

And it was a fun party. We ate, drank, and made merry until early this morning. And wore ugly sweaters. Boston got a truly hideous green santa sweater for me at H&M; meantime, he wore one featuring a pug with reindeer antlers. So fashion. Oh, and Steph's had actual, jingling bells on it. Seriously.

I'd seen Boston and Steph over Thankgsiving, but it had been too long since I'd seen the rest of my city-dwelling pals, so it was good to catch up with them. We also got to meet (read: interrogate) Steph's new boyfriend, who seemed flawless until I discovered one detail about him: he likes Barcelona.

Such a tragic flaw in his character.

He's also a lead-footed driver. I was following him and Steph to NH this morning to visit some of our other friends who couldn't make it to the party, and it was... stressful? I drive very carefully in and around Boston, and he's weaving from lane to lane. She totally had to tell him to slow down. But, hey, it's all good. We all made it north, had lunch with our friends, and hung out for a while.

And now I'm home. Decent weekend, I'd say.

December 1, 2014

So... I actually got home from my Thanksgiving vacation this morning.

It was a lot of fun. My buddies and I made our annual pilgrimage to North Carolina to visit Mom and Mom's Boyfriend. They rented this gorgeous lake house with a sprawling deck I'm still obsessed with, and we spent days hanging out, playing games, enjoying the weather (well, not at first- it rained- but it got nice eventually), eating good food, and- of course- having s'mores and scotch.

There should always be s'mores and scotch in life.

The others flew home on Saturday, but I didn't fly out until Sunday night. And it almost didn't happen. For whatever reason, my flight to DC- where I had to connect- was delayed, and delayed, and delayed. I ended up sitting and writing a few thousands words of my NaNo novel. I had less than a thousand to go when I got on the plane, and I figured I'd finish in DC, but we arrived there so late that I had to run through the terminal to catch my next flight.

So I finished at about 30,000 feet, somewhere over New England, and validated it when the plane got to the gate in Portland. Ta-da:

Then I brushed the snow (sad face) off my car and drove home. I was admittedly tired today, but hey. It's worth it.

November 11, 2014

I walked downtown to see the local Veteran's Day parade and ceremony this morning, which is something I'd actually not done before in all the time I've lived here. In the past I preferred to spend the holiday in private because it's deeply personal to me; the effects of my family's military service on my life are profound, and I'm honestly still sorting out what I think about that. 

I'm proud, of course, of my brother, and my father, and all the generations of military men before them. I know they served out of love for this country, and they did so with courage and dedication- and my brother, of course, still does so. 

Sibling spent a year and four months in Iraq, but there's an entire decade of our lives I associate with the war. We watched it begin, and then we waited before his deployment, and then there was that, and then the aftermath... And sometimes the aftermath creeps back into my day to day life- as I'm sure it does, far more often, into his- and that's something I don't think I'll be able to write about properly for a long time. 

My NaNoWriMo novel is based on part of our shared experience of the war- his deployed, mine on the homefront- and it's... cathartic. It's also reminding me of things I hadn't thought about in ages. Like I went and found Jay's old blog on the wayback machine to check a particular sequence of events. He deployed for the second time shortly after Sibling came home, which was also around the time we could barely be civil to one another, but I could at least read what he had to say and know that he was all right. 

Rereading those entries is a trip. I'd like to excerpt one from December 14, 2007 here because Jay had a philosopher's mind, and he used it to write a rather fascinating reflection on our generation at war: 
It's a bizzare thing, to be a member of the Army that bombs the base first, then stays on for years to finance and construct and improve a newer and (hopefully) better one: new sites built right next to the old sites that we destroyed, sometimes on the same foundations with similar materials. We're not the first to do it, of course. The greatest empires of the past had the same policy: subdue, destroy, build, incorporate. We're just the first to do it while being surprised that it's not cheap or easy. 

Or maybe it's not that; maybe it's rather that we don't like being an empire and doing imperial things. It sounds very un-American, and I guess until recently it was. Past generations could excuse it if it was necessary to fight evil people who were stronger than we were, but ours will have to decide whether we want to do it just out of principle. I think about this a lot, because one on hand I have great firsthand faith in the goodness of America, and believe that even at our worst we are still at our best. We take responsibility for fixing everything, and feel guilty for doing it at the same time. It's kind of endearing, like King Kong trying to fall in love and rebuild Tokyo all at once, while unfailingly stubbing his toes on the skyscrapers. Thus, AIDS in Africa is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and hunger in Asia is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and then there's Darfur and Tibet and Kyoto and all the angry people who hate us for being us, and somehow, it all must come back to us, because it must. Because we have so much, and others have so little, and fundamentally that's just not alright with us. 

On the other hand, though, I think because of all this I have a growing suspicion that my generation really doesn't want to be a superpower. We have been raised with a vague notion that America is sort of a bad country that does sort of bad things, and that people sort of don't like us, and we are a generation that really wants to be liked. So much so that we would rather try to be liked and fail and be insignificant, than not try at all. When people my age ask how Iraq is going, I detect an unspoken wince in the question: how bad are we really screwing up the world? But at the same time, I think they know we're not a bad people. We have good hearts. They just need to believe it, and I don't know if that belief will win out in the end. It seems too much to risk, at times, and we'd rather everyone spend Christmas at home every year, and not be responsible for killing anyone, even bad people, and at the end of the day be able to say that for all the problems in the world, at least we never claimed to have the answers. Because once you say that you think you do, you can be judged for your performance. But no one judges the country that doesn't try. It's a page of history that no one will ever write.

Someone will write about us, though, if not by name. I wrote earlier that I'm still sorting out what it means for me to have come from a family of soldiers, but there's a broader sorting out that will have to happen for everyone in my generation. Someday- maybe not soon, but someday- we will all have to look back and come to terms with who we were during the war. 

November 2, 2014

So. New Guy wrote to me yesterday. I'd sent him a quick message during the clasico last weekend- condolences, naturally- and he wrote back (in Spanish) to tell me he hadn't seen the match, but that he'd seen Barca lose again that morning. Then he mentioned he'd be watching the Manchester Derby today, so I asked who he was supporting. He said United. Of course he did.

This boy and I cannot be on the same side. At least  not when it comes to footie.

But City won 1-0, so I'm having way more fun than he is.

Source: Tumblr

I didn't see the entire match because I had to go to Church. There was a Marist Brother there as a guest speaker; he's a teacher and a missionary, and he spoke about working in Rwanda, which was emotional stuff. It's not the sermon I was expecting on All Souls Day, but it worked. Because he talked about death, but he also talked about life, and about rebirth, and I liked that.

After Mass, I grabbed coffee and a croissant for lunch, and settled in to write my daily 1667 words for NaNoWriMo (I actially wrote more than that) and watch the New York Marathon. I got home just in time to see the elite men finish, so that was cool. And I decided I want to run this race someday. I promptly nagged my Manhattan-dwelling cousin about it, too.

We'll see.

After the marathon, there were more sports to watch. And before you think this was a lazy day for me, well, I'll agree, but it was wretched outside, so I'm fine with that. I put the F1 race coverage on as soon as it started. It's nice to have a grand prix in Austin because it means I don't have to get up early to watch it. It was a rather crazy race, though it ended with a predictable Mercedes one-two. I'm happy Daniel Ricciardo grabbed third because his smile is one of the best things in sports.

Source: Tumblr

Bonus? Bruno Senna dressed as a lobster on Halloween.

Source: Bruno's Instagram

October 31, 2014

Trick-or-treating just ended (and it is SO LAME that there's a curfew for that, and I will never grow up enough to think otherwise). I handed out candy to the neighborhood kids, none of whom dressed as characters from Frozen, and now I'm going to eat the leftover candy in order to fuel up for NaNoWriMo.

Yes, yes, it's that time again: the insane and awesome attempt to write 50,000-words in a month will begin at midnight.

For now? Have a single word: