Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hover and then - BAM!

That's my new race strategy. Courtesy of Piper at 11:30 last night. He hovers by the bed, waiting for Chris or me to go to the bathroom and then BAM - he's up and in your spot before you can say Bob's your uncle. Very effective.

Need a race strategy? Get a dog. I'm listening to mine. I'm going to hang on the heels of other racers this summer and then BAM, pass 'em at the water stop or porta-potties. Ha, victory is in the bag.

OK, so the name may need work... what about Lurk before you leap?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cold and Clear

So Cold
You put on every garment that you own and then add your mother-in-law's parka, mittens, and snow pants. Just for good measure.
Your sweat compacts as frost within all those layers.
Your puppy is the first one to want to turn around and head for home.

It's one of those winter nights where a half moon bounces off of the snow and makes 9PM look like dusk or like 2:30 AM on an Alaskan summer night. It will never get dark tonight.

So Clear
You can safely venture into new fields on tonight's walk.
You can make out the individual twigs on the individual branches of the trees.
You can see that the dogs have unearthed (unsnowed?) some bit of carcass - all fur and sinew - but thankfully dark enough that you can't discern just exactly the creature it was.
The sidewalls of your footsteps in the snow cast a shadow that makes the spaces between your steps glow iridescent white.

So beautiful.

Finite Quantities, Finite Possibility

I'm beginning to think that the other side of aging is wisdom. Yes, I have creakiness and wrinkles that I've never had in the past, but maybe those creaks and wrinkles are signposts showing me the way to something more.

I've always wanted to do Something Big with my life. Something Big once meant becoming a famous singer (middle school & high school), then it meant going to the Peace Corps (high school and college). It has meant Ironman, marrying my best friend, helping my family and friends, being the best person I can be. But I also have gotten bogged down in the past by a) spending energy and worry on prissy obsessions - stuff that I couldn't change or even if I could, it wouldn't matter in the big picture. b) trying to do too much. I've drowned in the infinite possibilities. I haven't said "no," and I end up spreading myself way too thin.

Now I see that my wrinkles and papery cheeks are telling me that my life is a finite quantity. My slowness to recover is telling me that I have only so much cognitive and physical energy left. They're waking me up and making me think about how I am going to spend those finite quantities. I want to make sure I'm spending them on Something Big. Not piece-mealing them and doing a partial job on everything.

So I'm stepping off of the hamster wheel wherein I tease out every possible outcome of situation x at least a bazillion times. I'm going to accept the things about (primarily) people that I cannot change. Shut the door.

And open the door to Something Big. I know myself now. I know my strengths and my limits. I'm good at teaching. I have a passion for it, especially for the "gray area" kids. And I have a gift for relating to them. I also have the training to teach them to read and the income to buy enticing books for them to read.

The vision? I have the belief and zeal of a religious convert about education being the key to lifting these kids out of their environments. I believe in reading as the key to improving their lives, both economically and metaphysically. I know that a better education means a better standard of living for them.

But I want even more for them. I want enlightenment for them. I don't want them to just see the stars in life, I want them to experience the richness in picking out Cassiopeia, Orion and the Big Dipper. That will be my gift to them. My Something Big.

And should I forget or lose sight, I have a built-in reminder system. Thanks, Wrinkles and Creakiness.

Swimmin' in it

Slipping my hand into the glove
that is Mandie's bubbles,
Coming blind out of my flip turn
and straining for the percussion
of her kick.

If it is there, I float into it.
If it is not, I reach for it.

Then it is my turn to lead
and I am a slippery eel
sluicing through the water
catching more than my share
faster than I have a right to be.

It's even OK
when Swimming Partner
with the unfortunate halitosis
catches me between sets.
Breathing hard and
blowing her nastiness
across three lanes.

It's all good
even to the grocery store
where my favorite bagger boy
wheels my cart to the car
unloading his self-conciousness
to reveal glimpes of a cat-loving
mama's boy.

I'm swimmin' in it tonight, kids.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Secret Life of Bathrooms

Why is it that all the good stuff evolves in school bathrooms?

In the last 3 days, I've had numerous occasions in which I had to use the little girls' bathroom. Experience has taught me to brace myself, draw a deep breath, and give in to the urge to sing, "Little girls, little girls, everywhere I turn I can see them." It's been YEARS since I've seen Annie. But surely this is the place where Ms. Hannigan found her soul:

  • It never fails that 2 out of 3 of the toilets aren't flushed.
  • Don't even ask about the toilet seats.
  • It never fails that the sinks are dripping with slimy green soap. (Does ANY of it make it onto their hands?)
  • It sometimes fails (thank god!) that a little kindergarten girl is in the next stall talking to herself about... oh, let me just use her words, "Oop, another one." Tuneless humming interrupted only by grunting. Then, "Hey, who's in here?" Then tee hees herself silly when I say, "It's a teacher." (What more can you say??)
I always vow that next time I'll wait until the faculty bathroom's empty.

But at least I don't have to go inside the boys' bathroom.

Today we teachers were sitting in the lounge enjoying a little chat and a laugh and lunch. (Yep, that's what we do in there.) When we hear a huge thud on the northwest wall. My classroom's on the south wall, Teacher #2's is on the northwest wall just west of the bathrooms, and Teacher #3's is on a whole different wing.

But still, all three of us pop up and race for the door. I am the last one to spring into action and pull the door to the inner sanctum shut behind me with the cunning instincts that make me a top-notch teacher; Never leave the Teachers' Lounge open to surveillance. We fly down the hall with T2 in the lead.

Within seconds our little SWAT team has the boys' bathroom surrounded. That's where things get dicey. We exchange quizzical looks that clearly indicate, Who's going in??

T3 and I figure it's really T2's turf so we hang back. T2's a trooper and bucks up, bangs on the door and yells, "What's going on in there?!"

Out staggers a 6th grade boy, mumbling about a fight and another boy who's still hanging in the bathroom.

Turns out they escaped the holding cell (AKA the cafeteria) after bolting the noon feeding and thought they'd rowdy it up in the bathroom.

Ha! Little did they know that we teachers don't rest. We're just sitting in the lounge with our ears to the walls. Ready to change into our SWAT gear at a moment's bang and leap down the halls... to wherever the current crisis is located.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Strength: My Mom

The air was thick
The barn aisles slick
My 13 year-old body coated with sweat.

The cow-stink of manure
weighed heavy in my nostrils
humid air with assault power.

The manure-producers
sagged under their heavy garb
of surcingle and milker.

I watched the milk first gush
out of their bodies,
then trickle as their bags drained dry.
Then I'd switch the milker to the next bossie
and she'd have her gush-to-trickle moment to shine.

Alone in a barn of 73 females - milking.
Peter played go between,
catching up on the dipping if I needed him,
feeding the cows, and checking on Sarah.

Sarah was manning the shooter.
Wagons pulled in,
Sarah switched on the hydraulics
to shoot the fresh-chopped sileage up
up into the 70 foot silos.

Empty wagon out
Full wagon in

But wet and heavy was the sileage
blocked arteries often needed unclogging
and Sarah would have to ascend
to beat at them with desperate fists
to comb at it with a fork
to poke it, prod it, move it along.

Then the clouds unleashed.
The torrents began
The black sky gave birth to sheets
to pound down and soak her
and block out her view
Her 10 foot leap to the ground

I, in the barn, felt relief at last
the humidity condensing to cleansing rain.

To my ears came sounds of wild laughter
between the thunderous peals.
They're laughing at me again
was all I could think.
When Peter burst into the barn.

Sarah has a fork through her foot!
Sarah jumped onto a fork and it's through her foot!
We need to get Mom! We need to get Mom!

Out to be vigilant I went
To stand by my sister
who dragged herself
out of the way of the rocking wagon.
With a fork hoe stuck through her foot.

Red-scarved, sunburned, halo-auraed Mom came
and saw Sarah
She gritted her teeth
They were field work dusty brown.

Go into the barn.
She didn't waste words
We didn't waste time

She grasped that fork and pulled it right out.
She grasped that fork and pulled it right out.

Sarah has the scar.
I have the wonder.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sneakin' Stinkin' Blues

Stage 1: Hide 'n' Seek
Steadfastly ignore their presence...
Keep truckin' on through, acting as if.
Smile and teach at school.
Work out, eat, socialize, sleep in the after hours.

Stage 2: Slip-up
Let them creep into the after hours...
Feel like being on nodding acquaintance only with 100% of humanity.
Finally get left alone.
Don't know quite what it was I wanted to do with myself.

Mozart is annoying.
Can't find anything decent on Sirius.
Maybe Billy Joel will cheer me up. (Snort at own perversity.)

Skip swim workout.
Ski 15 minutes, freeze fingers, go home.
A good book would be nice.

Eat lots of food:
Spaghetti supper.
3 bowls of cereal.
Gorp grazing.

Re-shovel the driveway.
Almost smile when Piper chases snow.
(OK, allow self full smile and laughter; 80 pound puppies bounding and leaping and sliding all over the place for a snowball that explodes into a million tiny pieces when it hits the ground are FUNNY.)

Stage 3: Proclaim it. Own it.

Ha! Take that you Dirty Blues Bastard.
I am looking you right in the face.
I see you there.
Now come and get me.

I dare you.

Stage 4: Move on. At last. Please?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

Out with the old...

These hiking boots are being retired after 13 years of service. In this photo (cropping inspired by Anne's profile photo), they are hiking into the Colorado Rockies. They've also...

a) Waded through the waist-deep Mighty McKinley River, whose gray silt retired a pair of once-white socks.
b) Toe-kissed the iridescent blue of a glacier.
c) Hoisted the burden of 70-pound packs bearing a hiking diet of oatmeal, gorp, and the occasional, decadent Diet Pepsi. And then stood by a diarrhea-stricken owner 5 days into Yosemite.
d) Ascended into the fjords surrounding Bergen, Norway, bearing their wearer through their depths and out to the other side.
e) Explored their home state of Washington, picking up ash and gravel from Mount Saint Helens and carrying it to neighboring Mount Hood, Oregon.
f) Tiptoed across the lava fields of Etna.
g) Cooled themselves in Michigan, Superior, Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and a certain Spanish pantano.
h) Surmounted the 500 foot bluffs at Devil's Lake and trammeled the Ice Age's leavings: morraines, eskers, drumlins, and kettles.
h) Lead a Weimaraner puppy down Lake Superior's rocky Canadian shore.

I think they deserve the rest, don't you?

And in with the new...

You've got big shoes to fill, Asolo.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Triteacher Unplugged

Generally, I am a nice person. Nice and good. Usually.

Scene: The gym.
In walks Jared Jockhard from the school where I teach. Note: I've never had JJ in class so I haven't had time to probe for his sensitive side. Nor should I even know JJ's POA or who he is. But he is the kind of kid who EVERY TEACHER knows. I had my first run-in with him my first year in this district. He's a conceited asshole who hasn't matured with age.

So into the gym he struts and conscientiously avoids looking at me. Two can play at that game. I don't acknowledge him either. Then my brain gives a little yelp... he's getting onto a spin bike. Hee, hee. I'm on a spin bike. And while Jared Jockhard could benchpress me, wrestle me to the floor and pin me in 0 seconds flat, he is no biker. And he has a HUGE ego. Huge egos like to compete.

He has chosen a bike one row behind and three bikes down from mine. Suddenly there is no one else in this gym except this little miscreant who called me a bitch and me.

My warm-up is officially over. Payback time, mister.

I know he is watching me and I increase my pace - just a little bit. I want to lull him. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that he's matching my cadence. Time to set the hook. I ostentatiously turn up my tension and pick up speed. I do 3 1-minute reps, with 1-minute recoveries in between. Then I do a climbing set. Then another speed interval. Climbing, Speed, Climbing, Speed - til I don't know if I'm coming or going.

Neither does JJ. Covert glances reveal a red face, locomotive-breathing, and more sweat than I shed during my entire Ironman. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost.

I have one set left. Killer climbs. You come out of the saddle and turn the tension until you can't stand it anymore and then stay there until you break out, e.g. your momentum has built and you can spin even at that high tension. Then you let the tension off and sit back down for bare seconds cuz you need to repeat this as many times as you can in a minute.

JJ is still hanging with me. By this time, I'm sure he must know that I know he's watching me and must further know that this is a pissing match.

Then again, I never have been sure how highly-evolved he is.

Yet, the little sucker won't give. Damn. I do 2 more sets of killer climbs - one minute rests in between - and then I give. I go into my cooldown. I'm ready to call him the better man.

Suddenly, he gets off of his bike and staggers out into the hallway. I peek out the door and there he lays, stretched out on the floor, beggin' that baby for mercy.

"Hey, Jared, (surprised)... you OK (concerned)?"

"Unhngh... I felt so good on the bike. Now I think I'm gonna puke."

"Need some water or anything?" Obviously out of my depth; I've never cracked anyone before!

"No, I just need to lay here."

"Um... I'm gonna clean up my bike and then I'll check back on you, K?"

"Whatever." Huh, he's starting to feel better.

When I return, JJ has apparently mustered the strength to lug himself into the locker room to lick his wounds in private. Too bad, I was gonna ask if he wanted to do abs with me...