Monday, January 28, 2008

When I Make Up the Practice Sentences

Directions: Punctuate the following sentences correctly.

1) Ms. Triteacher, how do you manage to look so lovely every day the children asked.

2) How many years in a row did you win Ironman, inquired Sarah.

3) Was it just your 30th birthday that you celebrated, Ms. Triteacher, queried Brett.

4) Abbey asked, Where DID you get that outfit? It's fabulous!

Ostensibly, we're working on punctuating questions in dialogue. But OK, my ego's getting a few strokes too.

Until they all groan and burst my bubble.

What's with that?? :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I swam this morning. Through an agonizing shoulder ache that had me stopping every 100 yards to stretch, that had me doing touch turns instead of flipping. I had to remove myself from Coach and Dolores's lane so I could baby it, but I kept on going. Believing. Hoping...

I meet Mersault in my classroom, stare across the table at him, watch him in perplexed wonder. He is the "hero" from Albert Camus' absurdist novel, The Stranger. He chooses nothing, cares for nothing, tells me "Nothin'" in answer to 90% of my queries. The other 10% are met with shrugs. All actions happen around him. He has no memory, has no past, takes no responsibility for what is done him. He lives school in the passive tense.

This kills me. I know this kid. I have known him since 4th grade. He struggled back then, but we had a relationship. Now - at least by his lights - we don't. He's headed down a bad road. I want to shake him and wake him, say "Take charge of your life, kid!" Instead I cajole, lecture, jolly him along, praise every little attempt - and grind my teeth because the attempts are too few and far between.

Like Mersault, his discomfort leads him to act out. Like Mersault, he shoots a man because he is too hot. The man he shoots is himself. In the foot. In the future.

I want to put him on trial like Mersault. To be judged by his peers, to have to listen. I want to force him to reflect. To see.

This I am wrestling with. I have no happy ending. No solutions to propose except the slow, painful one of consistently staying my course. Of offering him an education every day, of drawing my line in the sand of how much I'll let him disrupt the education of others.

I kept on swimming this morning. Through the pain. I did a lonely 2700 yards in a lane of my own. But I stayed the course. With 500 yards to go, it finally gave. My shoulder loosened up and I hopped back in with Coach and Dolores. I considered it a victory.

Could there be a happy ending yet for my Mersault?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How Cold Is It?

...So cold that in an effort to layer up and keep warm, I donned make-up for the first time in 15 years. See my mascara, my painted eyebrows, and the crystalline beads in my hair...

Ski hours this weekend = 5:25

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Moments

I'm not ready to declare victory yet. But I have moments. Where I catch myself breathing freely, where the hollowness doesn't supersede all else, where I feel almost... free, light, hopeful, and excited. And not just in the tearing way that wants to prove them wrong, but in a healthy way that invests in me.

When I can string together enough of these moments, I will not only imagine the possibilities, but I will make a decision.

It will be like coming out of an illness. That euphoria that you feel just being free from pain. It will be like when I woke up one day and realized that I had kicked my eating disorder. That my first thought of the day wasn't about calories and food. It will be freedom from obsession.

I feel where I am tonight, and I believe: it will come.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Swisher Sweets

I walk in the door and am greeted by thousands of calories. I eat indiscriminately, a starving athlete who had oatmeal for supper too many times this week. I conscientiously avoid asking my mom what her creations are called - much less how much butter, sugar, and motherly love went into making them.

My mom is the kinda cook who looks at something sideways and it adds calories - and flavor; her broccoli is like my cream puffs. Seriously. The woman can cook. And she is on a mission to fatten me up. I comply with alacrity.

And then I'm out the door.

Four inches of new snow are calling my name. Once again, I comply. With alacrity. The snow and the waxing moon contrive to play a reflective duet that makes 9 PM look like I'm skiing across my cereal bowl. The snow, sitting in its -4°F crisper, is fluffy and fast. The insides of my nostrils burn, my eyelashes wear jewels of crystalline ice, my breath comes out in vaporous puffs.

And my skis. Oh, my skis. They swish, they swoosh, they paint the path. I look behind me, survey my handiwork - a dark stain in the snow, two parallel indentions that stretch from the house to the barn to where I stand now, at the back of the field ready to enter the forest.

As my ski tips dip into the woods, I hear it. "Hooo... hooo." Softer - and eerier - than I'd remembered. The hoot owl is here. Her cries carry across this cold night, echo between stark-naked trees whose fingers point their icy tips to the moon.

Amidst all this I

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fighting the Flatness

Ever have those days where you just feel ... flat?

I feel flat today. I got up at 4AM to get to a 4000 yard swim. I did the workout. But I was sluggish, slow, and spaghetti-like by a third into it. I was even farther behind Coach and Dolores than usual.

Now I'm at school and I feel... flat. Grrr. I wanna feel excited, motivated, inspired, and able to inspire. My first class went well. I can fake it with middle schoolers. But then I had my high schoolers and I swear they can smell weakness a mile away. One girl in particular seems to read me like a book. She's bright. Too bright. Double grrr.

Maybe I'm overdoing the training. I haven't had a day off in... let me check quick... Oh! 10 days. That's it! I need a day off. I need to recover.

Click! I lifted weights on Friday, and I was wondering why my arms and shoulders still hurt this morning. I need time to recover. Eureka! What a load off. Tomorrow I WILL NOT work out.

Aside to self: You hear me? No work out tomorrow. And no obsessing about it either!

Aside to you: Hold me to it.

Maybe I'll eat a bunch of chocolate tonight too. And play my guitar. And relax. Maybe I'll just chill out instead of having to be Superwoman every stinkin' day.

Yeah. Chocolate, a mellow dog walk, guitar, a touch of merlot...

RECOVERY... here I come!

Jan. 15 Update: Woah. 9.5 hours of sleep later, I am a new woman. I guess I should have realized that being stranded on Saturday overnight in Madison with six 19 year-old girls (my niece and her friends) would take it out of me. And then the 4 AM wake-up call on Monday... I needed 9.5 hours of sleep. Look out today school kids, TT is refreshed!

Oh, and on the workout front: Now that I've had some good sleep, there is fresh snow on the ground. And my skis are freshly waxed...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A-s-p-h-a-l-t Spells Relief

I am running down the middle of a country road in a blizzard. I can barely see because I've pulled my cap down to shield my eyes from the big wet flakes that seem hell-bent on piercing my cornea. I snap punches in the air - one is my daunting right, two is my left hook, three is a smashing undercut, four with my left... to ten. It feels like release. I yell to the world, to the snow, to no one in particular, "Yes! Fucking yes!" The dog jumps and scurries, tail-tucked, off to the side of the road, eying me warily.

I had a BAD day today. It culminated in detention duty tonight after school. A jail-like setting where I was the jailer. Children who I see daily in my classes and who "Ms. Triteacher" me in ever-so-polite tones turned into snarling beasts who only saw me as one of those "damn teachers who make up whatever rules they want." I guess it is pretty offensive to assign someone a seat apart from his juvenile delinquent buddies. I was steeped in that negative energy for one and one-half HOURS.

And it was bad even before I had to play hard-ass. One of my favorite teachers called me in the middle of class to tell me that one of my not-so-favorite teachers had just ragged her out about what an incompetent teacher she was.

What's up with all this negative energy? Is it the time of year when everyone goes a little, um, bitchy?

I came home determined to let off steam in one of four ways:
1) A bottle of Merlot swilled and savored at my leisure.
2) M&Ms or any other form of chocolate consumed in large quantities.
3) Rum cake - Why not get the sweet and the alcohol combined?
4) Go for a run.

Mercifully, the dog bounded to me the second I walked in the door. He hadn't been exercised yet today. My decision made, I double-timed into my running clothes.

And there I found myself on that country road. Running like Rocky Balboa. I could even hear the music swelling, surging, punctuating my footfalls. I tracked the molecules of stress as they leaked out of my temples, down my spine, through my aching piriformis, to the soles of my shoes and out into the asphalt. May those molecules rest in peace.

It was a beautiful thing. I even thought of a Suzy-Sunshine kind of idea. I'm going to make some lemon-yellow poppyseed muffins (I personally don't think that a little opium is overkill at this point) and ship them off to all the people with whom I had issues today with a single note of "The sun will shine again. Someday."

Or I could just invite them all to go running with me.

And warn them to look out for my fists.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Between the Bubbles

I feel it. I kick off the wall and my calf kicks back. That sensation like two rocks are vying for dominion of my calf muscle, grinding at each other, with my measly little muscle in between.

I keep going. I keep pushing, even though my spaghetti arms and shoulders ache with each pull. Dolores is ahead of me, her bubbles just out of reach. In front of her is Coach, the fastest man on Earth (at least it feels that way.)

We three arrive at the pool of a morn and grumble hellos. Sometimes the hellos are snapped - usually by Dolores - who may even launch into a tirade about Coach while he swims off to start the set. After a particularly grueling 600 pull, we exchange glances that must curl the hairs on his back.

But we both keep going. We tuck our heads and pull for all we're worth. It is good. If I could stay in the pool all day, I'd be content. Even joyful. By 2300 yards, even Dolores has swum through some of her funk. She cracks a smile and offers to lead a couple of sets.

As she leads the 6th of 8 100s, descending, I re-realize the importance of oxygen. As in...

Brain. Must. Have. Oxygen.

Dolores is no slouch in the pool. She sets a pace equal to Coach's. I am far slower than either of them. But I am persistent. I will not miss a morning swim. For this reason alone, I am allowed to tag along, to chase their toes, to swim in their bubbles. Maybe they appreciate that I am willing to wheeze.

Sometimes I look longingly at the empty lanes and want to opt out, to swim alone at my own pace. But I won't. Something drives me. It's more than specific stressors or recent losses. It's an internal drum.
I have a few Truths:
  • I HAVE to train. Every day.
  • When in the pool, I HAVE to catch Coach's toes.
  • When on my bike, I HAVE to clock the best time possible... etc.
I think sometimes it's my religion or perhaps the children I will never have. I am an athlete. But I am an athlete who doesn't have any races planned or goals for this season. I may get around to setting some. Or I may not. I'm in that kind of spot with it. I enjoy training for the sake of training. For the breathing hard and the personal triumph of staying within striking distance of Coach's toes.

I ski because there's snow on the ground.
I bike because it's above 26 degrees and the roads are clear.
I run because the conditions are way too shitty to do anything else. (Case in point = last night's run of 45 minutes in freezing, stinging sleet with two dogs that refused to heel - grrr... but that's another story!)
I swim because it's entertaining to watch Dolores's daily transformation. By the end of every workout, she is laughing and slapping Coach on the back. Swimming opens her bottle of bubbly.

You know, Dolores may have something there. I do sport, I make sport... because I am alive.
It opens my bottle of bubbly. It floats my boat. It pops my cork...

Huh, all the thinking you can do between a few bubbles of chlorinated water.