Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quicksand

I’ve never actually been in quicksand.  Although I’ve done some traveling in my day, I stay true to my city girl roots and don’t swap the urban jungle for an actual jungle. So I can’t be sure that what I went through today was quicksand, but man it sure felt like it.

When I woke up this morning my head felt fuzzy.  I showered without really thinking about what I was doing (and only shaved one leg!  Yikes!).  I didn’t have energy to do my hair, so a bun it was.  At school I found myself looking for words I knew but could not place.  I couldn’t concentrate while reading.  Forget grading.

After school I went for a run: 3 miles on leaden legs.  Usually I know why I’m slow.  A lot of my running game is mental, and I’m being lazy, or it’s the end of a long run and I’m hurting.  But today I was swimming.  I couldn’t move my legs any faster than they were going, and my lethargy knew no bounds.  If the park wasn’t a 3 mile loop I would have quit halfway through.  (Full disclosure: I weighed the idea of quitting but realized I was just as far from my car if I turned around than if I kept going so I kept going.)

I grocery shopped.  I wandered down aisles without knowing why.  I couldn’t name the thing I needed for dinner (eggplant.  For eggplant parmesan.).  I turned the wrong way out of the parking lot.

At home the baby and I just didn’t connect.  Usually she’s all smiles when I come home.  Today she frowned and reached away from me.  There were no giggles, no smiles.

I struggled through dinner, losing my place several times as I cooked.  There’s even water in my ear from my shower, making me feel like I’m underwater.

It was a quicksand kind of day.  Maybe it’s because today is Spring Break Eve Eve.  Maybe because it’s Wednesday.  Maybe because I’m tired.  I don’t know why.  But it was a quicksand kind of day, and I’m hoping to emerge clearer tomorrow.

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Admiration

Today I came home from school, packed up the baby, and took her to a local cafe to meet my husband.  My husband is also a teacher, and a coach, and he often works late hours.  Because of his coaching obligations (soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the summer), he has little time to spend with students after school.  Rather than say, “Sorry, kid.  You’re out of luck,” my husband spend his precious free time meeting students at the library, at the bookstore, at cafes to try to help them with their work.  With organizing themselves.  With getting themselves back on track.  He does this even though he’s already put in an almost 12 hour day.  He does this even though he’d rather be home with the baby and me.

So today we met him at the cafe.  We played while he helped a student.  When she worked on her own, he came over and sat with our girl, who lit up like a Christmas tree at the sight of him.  It’s easy to complain about how busy I am, to say I don’t have enough time in the day to do all of the things I need to do.  But then I look at my husband, and I admire him so much for all that he’s able to accomplish.  He is a thoughtful coach, a loving husband, an adoring father.  And he still manages to be an amazing teacher who makes time for his students.  I’m thankful to have such an amazing partner, I’m thankful my daughter has such an amazing father, and I’m thankful my students have such an amazing teacher.

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Filed under Memoir, School, SOL16, teaching, Uncategorized

Spring Break

We start Spring Break on Friday.  I have only been back to work for two months, so I don’t feel the all-consuming need to run out of my classroom as soon as that last bell rings.  I’m just getting into a groove with my students, and I’m actually a little annoyed that I’ll be losing them for a week (which really means at least a week and a half between students taking off and checking out).  There are other ways I’m approaching Spring Break differently this year, too.

I usually use Spring Break as my week to do a million things.  I grade; I plan; I take measure of the year so far.  I’m usually a busy bee during Spring Break, spending at least one full day at Barnes and Noble or the library. In fact, the week before Break is usually my easiest because I know I’m saving everything for my time off.

This year, however, I’m trying to get as much as possible accomplished before Friday.  I want to spend time with my girl, and I don’t want grading or planning or emailing hanging over my head.  I want to relish our daytime together, going on walks, the zoo, the park.  I want to just relax and spend time with her.

I’m also hoping to get some work done on my dissertation, which I’ve let languish for the better part of a year.  I have a meeting on Saturday that I’m hoping will energize me and focus me with a plan of attack.  I’m hoping to finish it in the next six to ten months, so I need to get moving.

All of this to say that this week I’ll be working my butt off trying to get ready to do nothing.  I think it will be worth it.

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Writing

I am beginning a new writing project with my juniors tomorrow.  They are going to be looking at maps of places they love and using them to tell a story.  We’ve been doing writing in preparation for it for the last week, and I’m excited to see what my students come up with; they’ve impressed me so much in the last few weeks.

But I’m nervous too.  Not because I don’t think they can do it (I do).  Not because I don’t think they’ll like it (they won’t, at first, then they will).  I’m nervous because I’m committed to doing the writing with them.  So I, too, have to choose a place I love.  I, too, have to find maps of that place.  I, too, have to do all of the drafting and planning and revision that they do.  Usually I don’t mind writing with my students; I can churn out a literary essay or a memoir in my sleep.  But in this case I feel my students’ anxiety of limiting my choices, of choosing the wrong thing, of regretting my decisions.

I will stress tomorrow that the decision they make tomorrow is not final.  They will begin their planning and writing tomorrow, but they may realize the place they’ve chosen isn’t the right one for them.  I will model my thought process, talk about my fears, let them see my vulnerability.

If I’ve gained nothing else from the Slice of Life Challenge (and I think I’ve gained a lot of things, but more on that later), I’ve realized that writing is really all about being vulnerable.  I’ve written about things I was unsure of sharing, things I wasn’t sure how to say.  And nothing bad happened.  The world didn’t explode and people even reacted positively.  That’s something I want to be sure to model to my students during this process, more than grammar or organization or figurative language.  Writing is about taking risks and making mistakes.  That might be the most valuable lesson I give them this year.

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Family Dinner

I am about to leave for a birthday dinner.  My daughter is asleep and my husband and I are traveling to Staten Island to have dinner with my parents, sister, and grandmother; we are celebrating my parents’ birthdays.

My parents were born 14 days apart and are turning 60 this year.  It is hard for me to imagine my parents at 60 because they are so vibrant, so jovial, so in love with life.  They don’t seem 60.  They seem more like peers.

I like going to dinner with my family.  We are going to a restaurant but no matter where we are there is something so comfortable, so warm, so familiar about it.  I know what they will order.  I know what they will drink.  I know what jokes they will make.  I am looking forward to it.

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Giving

It is so easy to lose oneself in taking care of others.  It is not easy to take care of others.  It is not easy to lose oneself.  But it is easy to lose oneself in taking care of others.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because I’m not.  I didn’t even particularly care for others all that much today–I attended a workshop for part of the day, then ran errands while my mother-in-law watched the baby.  My husband and I didn’t even have dinner together (he’s watching March Madness with friends, I’m eating Oreos on the couch).

But maybe it was the NOT caring for people today that made me realize how easy it is to get caught up in it.  I saw a picture on Instagram (of all places) about taking a Saturday morning yoga class and I thought, My God, how wonderful it would be to wake up on Saturday morning and take a yoga class.  But that’s just not how my life works right now.  My husband has baseball practice in the morning and is following that up with helping students at the library; the earliest I could get to yoga is 2:00 but we have a family birthday dinner tomorrow night that I still need to finish preparing for.  Yoga is not in my cards tomorrow. That doesn’t mean it’s never in my cards, but I can’t help but think about how . . . lost I can get when I spend my days taking care of others.  How I can get so caught up in caring for others that I don’t think about taking care of myself.

And it’s not like I’m being FORCED to care for others.  (Well, maybe my daughter is forcing me to take care of her as much as a 5 1/2 month old can force anything.)  I choose to do it.  Do I do it to avoid taking care of myself?  Maybe.  But reflecting on how out of reach that yoga class is made me think about self care.  I don’t think I do enough of it.  Writing is a form of self care, and I’ve made time for that this month.  So is reading.  So is running.  I have to remember as I race around taking care of others (make this dinner buy that present write those thank yous) that I’m a person who needs taking care of too.

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Filed under Baby McK, Memoir, SOL16, Uncategorized

Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a friend lately.  I have been reading two books about Friendships (with capital Fs.  Those kinds of friendships.): A Little Life by Hanya Yanagirhara and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  I’m about halfway through the former and I’ve just started the latter.

I want to be clear: my friendships are nothing like those in these novels.  I’ve only just started the Ferrante book, but I know that’s a COMPLICATED friendship.  And anyone who’s read even a little bit of A Little Life knows that theirs is maybe not a friendship to emulate (although I find it very realistic of college aged friendships, but that’s another post).  No, the friendships I’m thinking of are much different.

Imagine, instead, the friends from Now and Then.  Childhood (teenagehood) friends who know each other’s ins and outs.  But don’t let long stretches of time pass between meetings.  Imagine the girls from Now and Then in the age of cell phones and Group Me.  Those are my friends.  Today alone I received 67 messages from my friends.  That’s not including the ones I myself sent.

I should backtrack and describe my friends a little bit.  It’s true that we’ve been friends (mostly) since our freshman year of high school, nearly 15 years ago.  I say mostly because two of the girls in our group of seven are a year younger and one is four years younger.  But we’ve all been friends almost half our lives which, at this point, seems long enough to call each other lifelong friends.  We are unnaturally close.  We know each other in and out, upside and down.  We’ve been there through weddings and babies and miscarriages and heartbreak.  We love each like sisters (and there are, in fact, two sets of sisters in the group!).  We don’t always agree (don’t get me started of the great fight of 2001 which almost came to blows!), but we always love each other.

Today one of these friends shared good news with our group, and I swear I felt like it was my good news.  It was all I could do to keep from telling my students (who don’t know my friend and probably don’t care) or my work friends (who might know my friend but still probably don’t care).  I told my husband who was dutifully excited, but the reaction was a let down.  I really just wanted to tell my girls, who were already celebrating.  We are so excited.

I live a state away from these girls now.  I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like between my baby and theirs.  But we are always a text message or a phone call away.  And if feeling joy at their joys and sorrow at their pains is a mark of friendship then ours is standing the test of time.

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