October 30, 2014

Look at this majestic, stuffed french toast. Look at it. Envy the fact that I got to eat it.




That's from breakfast last Saturday. My Floridian pals, Mel and Anthony, came to visit me, so we had to cover some north country necessities: hiking, touristy shopping, and eating lots of awesome food from local restaurants. So, yeah, clearly we did all of that. 

And then we went to Canada. 

Really. 

Why? Because there was a half-marathon in Magog, which is a very pretty town in the hills of southern Quebec- and we decided we should run it. I’m fairly certain we were the only Americans there because it wasn’t especially English-friendly. My French, which we were relying on, is totally rubbish, but lots of lovely people switched to English to help us out. 

There was really positive energy at the starting line- despite the fact that it was cold and a bit rainy- and I was ready to go and have a good race. I had one very scary moment, though, because a guy showed up on a horse. 

I know, I know. This incident illustrates why I should carry my epi pen when I travel to foreign countries.

As it was, I swallowed one of the allergy pills I had in my running belt, and tried to stay as far away from horse guy as possible. Luckily, he turned a corner shortly after I started running, so i was able to stop freaking out and enjoy myself. And I have to say that it was an awesomely-managed race on a beautiful course. It was well-marked, there were lots of water/gatorade stopped manned by spectacularly cheerful volunteers, and there was a solid police presence to keep the roads clear for runners to pass at all times. 

I figured all the hills were going to kill my time, but I actually wound up running a PR and finishing just about ten minutes behind my friends (who are, in general, better at this distance than I am). The race ended in a park along the main street in town, so there were a lot of people out to cheer, and a hype man to announce names and offer high-fives. That was great- as was the fact that they had food (AND CHOCOLATE MILK) for all the runners afterwards. 

Also? The medals and race t-shirts have moustaches on them. See?





















I’m not entirely sure what that’s about, but it’s awesome.

So, all in all? It was a lot of fun, and- as they’d say in Quebec- une très bonne course. 

October 13, 2014

Today I got an email from a democratic campaign staffer. She'd heard I'd done some staff work myself back in the day. I admitted to being surprised because there aren't actually a lot of people who know that anymore. Sure, there was a time when I couldn't walk into an event without being recognized as "Kat the writer," and newspaper reporters were emailing me and calling my dorm room to ask me questions, and it was all incredibly crazy. But then the candidate I'd been working for lost the NH primary, and I faded back into obscurity as quickly as I'd risen out of it.

And that was fine with me.

One of the biggest differences between me and my staffer colleagues was that I never planned to go on with the campaign, no matter what happened. I'd never planned to be part of it at all, really. It started with a GOV300 assignment to write about a candidate and track his or her progress; I put my writing up on a blog, and one of the candidate's blog writers found it. After a few conversations, he asked me if I wanted to write for the campaign, too. I said yes, and that's how I became "Kat the writer."

I was barely twenty years old at the time. It was the fall of my junior year of college, and- unbeknownst to most everyone around me- it felt like my world was ending. The country was fighting two wars, and Sibling and his classmates- my friends- had been commissioned back in June. There was no question that they were all going to be deployed: that year, the next, the one after. One war or the other was going to come for all of them, and it was so awful waiting for it to happen. I didn't know how I'd handle it. No one knows until they actually have to do it.

It's probably not surprising that the candidate I ended up working for was loudly anti-war.

Being a writer was an extraordinary thing, and I learned so much from the process- messaging, and talking points, and calls to action- and also from the people I was working with. We knew we were part of something big, and that what we were doing was a little bit revolutionary, and we were so, so young... It was heady and surreal for all of us, I think.

I wanted to write the view from inside a field office, so I started volunteering over Christmas break in my hometown. Being "Kat the writer" had cured me of quite a bit of my shyness, so I didn't think anything of walking in and introducing myself. Most of the field staffers were just getting over the flu when I arrived, so they were thrilled to have the help. I remember going to see Lord of the Rings with them shortly after we'd all met, and just... fitting in. I was especially good with turf and data, so I ended up assisting the volunteer coordinator. And when someone higher up decided the office needed a second volunteer coordinator on staff, the regional organizer- the office boss, essentially- chose me.

I think back on that particular time in so many ways. I worked pretty much 24/7 for six weeks, and nothing has ever been so transformative for me. I grew up so much, and it was such a period of discovery. I'd never dreamed of doing the things I did- the writing or the field work- or going through any of the doors it opened for me. Sometimes it seems like it was another person entirely who did those things, but it wasn't.

We had two major events with the candidate that were both smashing successes, and I helped make that happen. Me. I remember going out to lunch with the other staffers after the first event. We couldn't stop smiling, and people around us couldn't stop smiling at us, and coming over to wish us well. We didn't even have campaign pins on at that point, but they knew who we were because we stood out; we were so alive, and righteous, and passionate.

I remember New Year's Eve, too: dancing, singing, kissing people at midnight. The primary was close, then, and we were so sure we would win. We couldn't imagine we'd do anything but win.

But it wasn't all joyful. My world was still ending. And I was in a relationship that was unhealthy, and emotionally abusive, and just... ugh. I don't like remembering the ugliness it brought out in me, but it happened. I've written on this subject before, so there's no need for me to have it all out again. Suffice it to say, it's a good thing I never planned to live the campaign life because it meant I had another life to go back to, and eventually he ceased to be a part of it.

The good and the bad parts of the experience are inextricably bound together, and they're both so extreme. As a result, it's hard to do my memories justice, and I'm sure I haven't here. I'll sum it up by going back to what I said earlier: that part of my life transformed me. It didn't change my trajectory, in the end, but it did change most everything else.

October 11, 2014

I've been saying on my various social media accounts that proctoring the SATs made me feel like an evil overlord. I mean, of all the ways to make a bit of extra money, right? I'll tell you, though, evil and overlord-y it might be, but it's also mind-numbingly dull. Obviously, it's a whole other thing for the students, and I joked with the ones in my group to try and ease some of the tension, but the only things I had to do for the next several hours were read from a script and pace the aisles.

While I was pacing my right achilles started getting sore. It's been and off-and-on problem since last fall or so, and I had been racing recently, so I ignored it. But it kept on nagging me, so when I got home I took a look at it, and discovered it's all bruised up. I hit it against a desk earlier in the week, but I didn't think it'd done that much damage. Apparently, though.

The point is it hurts.

Always have to have something wrong with me, I guess. Meh.

I was supposed to grab lunch with a coworker (the one who did not call me back all summer and is maybe trying to make it up to me), but he ended up having to stay at work later than I did. I was kind of fried anyhow (overlording... it's tough work), so I just came home and sacked out on the couch to watch some soccer.

Anyone know how to say "dos a cero" in Polish? Because, uhm, yeah... Poland over Germany... Who saw that coming?

I will make no comments about my own country's showing last night. The football gods were just being cruel during that match. Oh, and they're being cruel to Spain, too, but Spain deserves it for giving the jersey to Diego Costa. I said so during the World Cup and I stand by it.

More sports-watching tomorrow. My town's a touristy clusterf*ck- this is our busiest weekend of the year, I think- so I don't intend to venture out much.

October 10, 2014

I've worn red all week for Jules Bianchi.

I stayed up to watch the Japanese Grand Prix after I got back from the old hometown, so I saw that he had crashed- though the cameras didn't show it, of course. There was so much initial confusion about what exactly had happened, but it was obvious that it was bad. I read the news reports in four languages- two of which I can read well, two of which I'm winging- in the aftermath, but nothing gave me much information. I don't guess there will be much information until he wakes up.

I haven't been an F1 fan for very long, so I'm still forming opinions about a lot of the drivers. I've always liked Bianchi, though, because I see him as something of a kindred spirit. It seems like he's also an introvert in an extroverted profession. He's a runner, too. And he's French, so the ancestors approve.

Keeping him in my prayers- and, at the least, keeping Ferrari red polish on my nails- is such a little thing, but I'm a pretty firm believer in the effectiveness of little things, especially when they're gathered up and taken together. I imagine that, in this case, there are thousands of others doing the same little things I'm doing. It matters.

October 4, 2014

My senior year of cross country was basically one rainy weekend after another. I have a picture from New Englands of the varsity boys covered in mud from head to toe, hugging their long-suffering coach. Ben's in the picture- arms crossed, big smirk on his face.

It's fitting that this morning when my dad and I went to run his race it was equally dreary and muddy. The rain didn't really start to come down until after it was all over, so that was good, and it was a joyous, vibrant day despite the weather. I saw a bunch of my old classmates and teammates, and so did Dad- because he went to school with my classmates' parents.

I think it's cool that, despite having a nomadic, army brat childhood, I attended the same high school that my father and my paternal grandparents attended. I think it's cool that Dad and I- and Sibling, too- all ran on the cross country and track teams. 

I think it was cool that we ran together today. And that I beat him.

Dad was a state champion back in the day, so the joke was that, even at sixty, he should've been able to beat his sprinter daughter. But nah, he let me mosey my way through the course just ahead of him. I waved and chatted as I went. It's an out-and-back course, so I got to cheer for the really fast folks, too. I was glad to see a bunch of the current high school boys leading the pack- ahead of my own ex-champion teammates- and smiling all the while.

Everybody was smiling. And that was a great thing... 'cause Ben would have wanted that. He would've wanted us out there living, affirming life (I always say that's what running does), and remembering him gladly. 

So it was a great race. 

Afterwards, I sat in a stool in the kitchen and ate an egg sandwich Dad's Girlfriend made, and it was... surprisingly normal. I've written before about the weirdness of watching another woman in what I think of as my mother's kitchen... But it isn't my mother's kitchen anymore. And maybe I'm more okay with that now than I used to be. 

Funny timing, since I realized when I got back to my own apartment this afternoon, that today would have been my parents' wedding anniversary. 

Marking it as a racing day instead? Moving on.

October 3, 2014

I'm back in the old hometown to run Ben's race. My father is going to join me, but he says his run will be more of a walk. I told him it doesn't really matter. It's just about showing up.

I hope it's a nice day- the past two have been perfect- but I can return to my cross country girl roots in any weather. I had to drive past the old course to get here, and I was immediately transported back to all those fall days when Sibling and I would drive to our home meets with the radio blaring- and to junior and senior year when I'd drive myself.

I was never particularly talented at cross, but it was a lot of fun. The team was so spirited: striped tights, ribbons, stick-on jewels, face paint, and bells on our laces...

And then there were the boys. Those ridiculous, bleached-blond, undefeated boys.

I'm sure I'll see a lot of them tomorrow and we'll reminisce about the runners we were. We'll wish Ben was with us now- and the other three we lost, too- and we'll race for him.

September 27, 2014

I've had a cold all week. Cough, sniffles, headache, general achy and rundown feeling... I get sick every September and January; comes from working in a high school.

I'm pretty sure that I gave my cold to my co-teacher. Yeah, I have a special ed co-teacher in one of my Global Studies classes this year. He's there to help with the students who need the extra support- so it's a good thing- but it's throwing me completely out of my comfort zone (it's one of the many changes I've alluded to). I'm a control freak in my class room; these cold germs are probably the only thing I've been good at sharing.

I'm trying, though. He's a good teacher, he really is, but I've got eight years more experience and an associated ego... and he thinks I'm fantastic. So I feel like a jerk because I know I'm not, especially when it comes to him, and ughhhhh. 

My buddy Libby had the best pep talk phrase for things like this: You. Suck less.

I totally need to suck less. 

In other news, I'm headed to the old hometown next weekend to run a 5k. It's a memorial race for Benny. How could I not show up for that? A lot of my former teammates will be there, and runners from before and after my time, too. My father's even thinking about running. 

Two generations representing the old team... How's that for something? 

September 17, 2014

Oh, I have been bad at keeping up with my writing. 

Summer ended, a new year began, and it may be simultaneously the greatest and hardest year I've ever had. So much is changing- and I know I've written before that it would be like this- and it's throwing me out of my comfort zone, but there is still so much about my life that's incredible. 


This past weekend? Me and eleven of my friends- some old, some new- ran Reach the Beach together.












Reach the Beach is a 208-mile relay race from Franconia to Hampton Beach. On a twelve person team, each runner will run three legs of the race. Teams travel in vans to shuttle runners to their starting lines; the first six runners are in one van, the second six in the other. While one van's runners are on the course, the runners in the other van can eat, sleep, and whatever until they have to be ready to take over (so this involves lots of cell phone coordination and a good GPS). 

My van- Van 2- was me, Boston, Tiny, Sunshine, Sunshine's mom, and Tiny's friend Mike. Basically? It was epic. I was a little unsure how Boston would take my north country friends; he met them briefly when Sunshine and Tiny got married, but a wedding's no place to really get to know someone. Riding in a van for over 24 hours, though? That will do it. 


Fortunately, it was awesome. Everyone got along, and we had a heck of a time when we weren't running. We all had to get up early for the start of the race, and then- since we were the "off" van first- we were able to have breakfast together. Afterwards, we went to our transition zone- where our van would take over the race- and had to find a way to kill time. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we had no problem lounging in the sunshine. But we also discovered a version of Cards Against Humanity that we could play on our phones. Yes, we are all horrible, horrible people. But it was funny.


And then our van was up! I was the 11th runner, so I still didn't run for another couple hours. Instead, I cheered my teammates on and handled the navigation between transitions. I finally took the baton (which is actually a snap bracelet) midway through the afternoon and ran 4.8 miles to White Lake State Park, which was a fantastic bit to run. 

My second leg was less fun: 8.8 miles at around 5:00AM. I ran from a parking lot in Pitsfield down Rt 28 to Webster Park. It was gorgeous because the sky was full of stars, and there were a lot of other runners on the route (the faster teams start in later waves and catch up around that point), and nearly all of them wished me a good morning and commented on how perfect it was to be out there. I was making my merry way through the mileage, but at around 5.5 I just bonked. I've never felt my blood sugar drop the way it did then. I sent a quick text to my teammates because I knew they'd parked the van at mile six and I wanted them to get me Gatorade. They also got me candy the Lindt Chocolate team had given us earlier. Seriously, it was like the candy of life right then. It was enough to get me through the rest of the run. I think what I said once I'd handed the baton off to Sunshine was, "Oh my God, that was ASS!" That got lots of laughs. So true, though.

I got about an hour of sleep the next time our van camped out- at Sanborn High School- and then I went out to cheer on all the runners coming through. I wasn't expecting to see my buddy Josh there as a spectator. Now, Josh is the real deal- a sponsored like woah mountain runner with a world championship medal- but before he was any of that, he was the goofy guy on my high school track team who forever encouraged me to keep running, so it was awesome to see him while I was in the middle of a ridiculous race. I hollered his name and he came over to hug me, despite the fact that I was gross at that point. He happens to be a fantastic hugger.

Anyways. I threw down as best I could in my final leg, which was 3.4 miles through North Hampton. It was all cute and residential, and smelling of autumn leaves already. I loved it. I passed the baton to Sunshine for the last time, and then we all hurried to the van so we'd be able to meet him on the beach and run the final stretch with him. That part was awesome: all twelve of us crossed the line cheering while the hype man announced who we were. 

It wasn't a very beachy day at that point- too cold, too windy- so we didn't stick around long. Another day, we'd have stayed and enjoyed the after party. Instead, we parted ways. Boston left first because his parents came up to drive him back to the city, and then the runners in Van 1 started to trickle away. The rest of us went to Texas Roadhouse- so awful, so delicious- and then made the long trek back north. I stayed over at Sunshine and Tiny's house rather than trying to drive back to mine on no sleep. 

The next morning, the three of us, plus Mike and his wife, met for breakfast. The thing about running a long race is that you burn so many calories that you're hungry for days afterwards. So breakfast was huge, heh. And then Mike invited us over to his folks' place for football, chili, and a hot tub. How would anyone say no to that? So I hung out in the north country a while longer, and man... It was awesome. Good times, good people, you know? 

Both my parents tried to call me as I was driving home- and, hellooooo, post-divorce awkward!- so I got to tell them each separately about how the race went. I'll probably see my dad in a couple of weeks because there's a race in the old hometown for Benny. More on that in another entry. 

I caught up on my sleep, drove into work on Monday morning... and, y'know, it was perfect. Sunshine, almost-autumn air, turkeys in the road. It's Homecoming Week, too, at my beautiful school in the mountains, and there's so much joy. There are challenges, too, but I'll save those for another entry. I just keep thinking to myself I want more of these days. 

August 26, 2014

So I went back to work today.

Most awesome thing? SENSEI IS BACK!!!!! After two years of teaching in other district, my friend and fellow troublemaker has returned. And there is rejoicing throughout the kingdom.

We joined our people in the back rows of the auditorium for the district-wide welcome back, which is how in-service starts every year. It's all about introducing new faculty members, going over the vision and goals for the year, and generally trying to get everyone excited and inspired. I'm excited and inspired anyway- I love doing what I do- but a bit of outside energy is always nice.

I had another quick meeting after that, and then went to check in with my new department head, which was such a trip- if only because my former department head was such an influence on me as a teacher. But B, the new one, has been a colleague since my first year, too, and he's at least witnessed me evolution. We got to talking about how long it's been since I first arrived. It went by fast, but SO MUCH has happened. I think about being just out of college, barely twenty-two, totally overwhelmed. And, of course, Sibling was in Iraq, too, and we went through all of that...

Anyways. My third meeting was a bit tense- and I won't get into it- so I just kept quiet and got through it. It's too bad it had to be like that, but it wasn't going to bring me down; there are so many things to do that my brain is too cluttered to have any space for negativity. So I got out of the meeting and went to rejoin Sensei because I'd promised I'd help him decorate his room.

It's a running joke between us- and many of our other colleagues- that I don't actually do my work (it happens by magic), so it was pretty funny when I pointed out that my room was 90% set-up at the end of the day, despite the fact that I spent most of my time helping him.

I win.

Oh, and I ran a two-mile cross country race tonight. Too bad I didn't check the expiration date on my inhaler first. Whoops. Luckily, Kevin grabbed the non-expired spare out of my bag for me so I could regain my ability to breathe normally when I finished. So... not a good race, but it's a fun event: the local running club scrimmages against the high school team and a neighboring team, winners' trophy is a giant bowl of candy, and everyone brings food for a picnic sort of dinner afterwards. I ate my fill of subway sandwiches, brownies, and- to my utter delight- cider donuts.

Pretty decent day, I think.

August 23, 2014

Summer is all but over. The temperature is going to go back up next week, but it won't stop the nights from being cold, and it won't keep me from going to work on Tuesday. 

So what have I done since I got home from Florida?

Wrapped a summer of trail racing. I came in second in my age group in the series, which sounds more impressive than it really is, but it was a lot of fun. My buddy Jim randomly took a picture of the two of us near the finish line, didn't say a word about it, and I'm still curious where that'll end up. I mean, I'm sure I looked my post-5k best... 

What else did I do? I went on a date. A guy I'd been talking to on Match asked me out to lunch, and I accepted, and... Okay, first? Yes, I have an account on Match; I caved to societal pressure. And, yes, it can be horrid. But this guy was nice. He was also better-looking in person, which is not the norm, I don't think. That doesn't mean the lead-up wasn't wretched. It totally was. I mean, in addition to the amount of shyness and awkwardness I have to deal with, it's always stressful to go meet a total stranger and just, like, hope it goes well. 

What would I have done if it hadn't gone well? I don't even know. 

But, like I said, he was nice and we got along well enough, made enough conversation to last a couple hours. He had good manners, too (we know this is key), but I don't think there was a real connection there. I dunno.

Moving on from that, I also went to a couple parties my friends were hosting- one big one and one small one- and those were fun. Music, food, kickass people... all the good stuff. At the big party I ran into a guy I'd met once a few years back. He didn't remember me, at first, but I reminded him who I was and then it was all good. He's a super cool dude, so it was fun renewing that acquaintance. 

And now I'm just... winding down. Wrapping up the books I'm reading and the writing I'm doing, getting my fill of watching sports on TV (did you all SEE that crazy Everton-Arsenal match today?!?!), and trying not to spend what little money I have left in my bank account.

More seriously, I've been thinking about what I'll say to my students when they walk into my class room for the first time. I teach about current affairs. I never have a shortage of things to say. But finding the words for this summer... Well. I'm still working on that, and probably will be until the first bell rings on the first day.