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. 

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.