Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life

I had errands to run today-- a turkey for my Girlie's birthday dinner, and picking up 1970s-esque lights for my bestfriend. At Hanaford here at home, I did finally find a little turkey reasonably priced... and I ended up in line with one of my current and former Sunnie's grandmother.  It's always nice to bump into family of my students, because I get some insight as to how they're doing-- not just what they tell me, but what their grandparents see. For the most part, it's good.

After the grocery store, I went to the local ho-mart. It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I am not a fan-- in fact, I think all 3 of my readers know this fact. But I remembered on my way to the grocery store that my bestfriend forgot to go pick up these lights at the 50% off sale yesterday... and once I remembered for him, no amount of business hatred would stop me. So in I went, as quickly as I could pull off. I noticed one of my 2014 graduates working a register; I had overheard another cashier thanking her for being helpful.... which is pretty gratifying to overhear about someone who initially introduced herself to me as a "b&^th, and someone you won't like"... really, honey? Is that how we're playing this? Cause trust me, sweetie, I'll form my own opinion.... and we'll see how I describe you at the end of our run together. So I sorta snuck up on her with my purchase; her reaction to seeing me in her line was to run around and tackle me with a bear hug. Yup... exactly as I'd expected. She told me about her Christmas day with her son and long lost cousin... and as much I hate shopping there, I was thankful to have seen her.

But then I saw one of my first Sunnies in the parking lot. In many ways, he is the reason I am the teacher I am. He came to me because he was considered too "dangerous" for regular school... but he was never dangerous with me. He had a lot of anger, sure.... but when I helped him make peace with his past and embrace his future, he became the biggest softie-- which is the only kid I ever saw in him. He's the one who named me "Buckaroo"... and part of the crew that gave rise to the Sunshines. And seeing him, with a gift for his nephew, telling me about his new (better) job, and how his elementary school son was doing... well, it was better than any present I could have received.

Each of these interactions with sunnies and their families made me so thankful to have stumbled upon this job 10 years ago. Make no mistake, I am not the best teacher out there: I can't teach algebra, or how to write an effective thesis statement, or why we need to know about chemical reactions. But I can help kids figure out who they are and where they are going... and when I get to see the results, either through Grandma's eyes, or a co-worker, or the Sunnie himself.... well, it's amazingly gratifying.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'll love you 'til the end

Friday night Dave and I stacked 2 cords of wood. That may not seem like a major event-- and in all actuality, it wasn't-- but it was one of those events that remind me I married the right man.

We were planning a bonfire for Saturday, in honor of what would have been his Dad's 81st birthday. Earlier this week we had a load of firewood delivered.... which I unintentionally had dumped right next to the fire pile... which I realized after they drove away. Between coaching, open houses, and general exhaustion, we couldn't get to this task until Friday around 6. He grabbed a beer (I grabbed my second) and we started moving the pieces that abutted the burn pile. Without speaking, we found a rhythm: he loaded into the wagon, I pulled isolated pieces, one at a time and walked them back and forth until the wagon was full, and then I helped push it up the ramp while he pulled. He put The Pogues on, and we chatted and stacked the evening away. At one of the trips into the house, he asked the kids who was making dinner, and they stepped to that task without question. (My plan to have them each cook dinner one night a week has fallen down, but it's stuck enough for them to continue to gain knowledge and confidence.) We were going to stop when we got the pile a safe distance away, but it was still light, and we were not hurting, and honestly, we were having fun together. We finished up as darkness fell.

There's the age old question of how to choose a life partner: should it be someone who you makes your heart go pitter-pat or someone with whom you enjoy spending time? Obviously, the hope it you get both... but as I've said a few times over the years, even chocolate chip cookies can get boring when you have one for lunch every day. I can honestly say I had some doubts on my wedding day. Was I marrying the right man for me? Would we end up in a loveless marriage, hating each other? When I looked at our bestfriends, I didn't think we had the same relationship they had. But I had to trust that I knew what I was doing, and on we went down the isle and into our life together.

At times, that first year was rough. Blending the needs of two independent adults is harder than it sounds. We never fought, but learning how to compromise without losing yourself in the process takes time. We were committed to making it work; not in an overt way, but it was a fact we didn't question. He knew what I needed, sometimes when I didn't. And he could always make me laugh.

It turns out we didn't have the relationship of our friends. If you had told me that only one of our marriages would last, I never would have imagined it was ours. Looking back, I should have known we'd be ok: not only were we both committed to being happily married in 50 years, but we were also happy spending time together. We didn't have to take our clothes off to have a good time.

Everyone in America knows half of all our marriages end in divorce-- but that also means half of them make it to death do us part... which brings me back to our wood stacking date Friday night. Working together towards a common cause. Good music. Great conversation. Laughter. And enough love to get us through anything that may come our way. If that isn't the recipe for a successful marriage then I don't know what is.  I'll love you 'til the end.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tell me what you think is worse: to be selfish or self denying?*

Last night we went to a free concert at LLBean. We got to town early to do a little shopping (I refuse to call it Back to School shopping. It is July, people, which is not a month for BtS activities. Seriously.) and find our comfortable place on the lawn. LLBean Visa card had a kiosk, and if you showed your card you got a free gift. Well... my card also had the magic last digit and got us upgraded seats! We were prepared for blankets at the back of the lawn, and ended up second row, center, in front of the stage. Karma is not always a, ahem, witch.

But that's not the point of this post, at least not directly. We went into the flagship store for the restrooms, and I walked by the postcard display. Now, for anyone reading this who does not know me (anyone? Bueller?) I love to send postcards. Love it. I carry postcard stamps with me, because you never know when you'll need one. When we go on vacation, I must spend upwards of $100 on stamps and cards. I mail them to my friends, sure, but also to my Sunshines. Because who doesn't love getting a postcard in the mail?

So, I bought one and wrote it out to my nephews. When they were last here we met my parents at said store (it was mid August, making it acceptable to do the BtS shopping trip), and I thought they'd get a kick out of the card-- cause they also understand my obsession, having received a fair number of postcards over the years. Dave was explaining my habit to Ben's friend who joined us for the concert, and his description pretty much summed up my existence (paraphrased of course, because I didn't write it down):
      Most people collect things to bring home. Rach is the only one who has a collection she gives away.

Yet again, my husband is able to take a simple thing that I do (albeit with shocking predictability) and summarize that action into a key component of my personality: I am much happier when I am giving things away. I love to give things to others. The best part of Christmas is finding the perfect present to give. I love to cook for others. To leave them notes and presents... and yes, postcards. I do have to work to keep it in check-- too much of anything can become addictive and destructive-- but to be known for giving instead of taking, well, I am totally ok with that.

Turns out karma feels the same way.

*This lyric is from another of my favorites, Wonderlick, who is an offshoot of one of Dave's favorites, Too Much Joy. I was listening to this song yesterday as I was delivering food to someone. No joke.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

friendly walk

One of my goals for this summer was to get back into walking. I had been doing 4-5 miles 3 times a week before my second foot got bad, and the subsequent surgery and rehab has had me on the couch for some time. Summer seemed like the right time to get back into it, although I hadn't yet ventured out on my own. Luckily my friend called to invite me to join her, and wasn't too upset that I brought my camera along.
She has some crazy dogs, who don't really like people, so she took me out to the snowmobile trails where it would most likely be just us. Oh, I could do some exploring out there! I hope to get back out there to document the different stages of wildflowers all season. Her dogs ran ahead, and were pretty good about circling back without needing to be called. She's good with them-- they are very well behaved, and she has obviously worked hard to make sure of that. It's well documented that I am not a dog person, but I don't mind being around her dogs, because I know they won't invade my space-- between them not liking strangers and her training, it's a good balance.
It was a good first walk. It's pretty hot and humid this week, so even going at 4 in the afternoon required a more leisurely pace. Add to that my lack of fitness and her 37 week pregnant belly, and you can imagine the lack of land speed records being set. Needing to stop periodically for pictures was great for us both.
Thanks for the invite-- here's hoping we do it  few more times before the baby comes... and many, many times after :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We are all made of stars... yet 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.'

I finished The Fault in our Stars today, which was as emotionally overwhelming as you would expect the current Emotional Book Everyone Is Trying To Read Before They See The Movie to be. I found a parallel that had less to do with cancer (the rest of this post is filled with spoilers, so if you haven't read the book and want to, stop reading this post.

And go read the book. It'll take you 4 hours, give or take.

....don't say I didn't warn you, or give you enough time to turn back before reading anything crucial....)

and more to do with loving someone and letting them live the life they choose. Both of these things can be incredibly hard to do.

I am in the midst of a Situation currently. This is the cause of my radio silence; partly because I am protecting the privacy of others, but mostly because it is such an overwhelming Situation that I haven't been able to put it into words. I am an empath, in all ways, and while what I feel makes perfect sense in my head and my heart, it doesn't always translate outside of my body.... but keeping it inside isn't the best of plans either, so I am in a constant struggle to find balance. Which, now that I type it, is what we all struggle with, in all things. It is part of the brilliance of this story that John Green was able to balance the optimism and altruism of Augustus with the realism and pragmatism of Hazel. We need both of these characters strengths to get through Situations. And we need their shared weakness of stubborn independence; when you stop raging against the dying of the light, night falls, and while you may welcome it's release, it is never what you want.

Which is probably why I was as struck by the parents in TFIOS as much as the kids. Being a teacher is often a lot like being a parent, but you clock out at the end of the day... except for those days when you don't. When you're really the parents, you don't get to clock out. And when you are parenting a child with cancer, I can't imagine you can ever relax-- ever.

Which is how I feel in this Situation. Like I can't relax, because to relax means I have accepted it as truth, and this is not a truth I ever want to accept. So I am constantly searching for meaning, for hints as to what is really happening, because what is being said is enough to be true but not to be completely true. So when Hazel's mom takes Hovering to whole new heights, while simultaneously keeping a semi-significant secret herself, I get it. And probably because I'm a 44 year old concerned bystander in a Situation and not a 16 year old girl living that Situation, I immediately understood how her mom could do both things constantly-- shield Hazel from the pains of life in any way she could-- because we can't shield our children when physical pain takes over and dominates the conversation.

And yes, my students-- my Sunshines-- are my children, too. I have to punch out at the end of the day, but not because I necessarily want to. And sometimes the physical and emotional pain that encompasses them is overwhelming... for everyone involved. So the day goes on, and the hovering rises and falls with the needs of each situation. And I keep my secrets, too, because my job is to protect my Sunshines (and their parents) as much as I can. And, if I do say so myself, I am good at my job.

Yes, John Green got living with cancer, young love, and living like you're dying right: but he also got right what parents go through when their kids are living those things. Because watching from the sidelines as children-- your children, in however you define 'your'-- suffer is a whole different level of pain and frustration and futility. My current Situation has aged me in a way I haven't aged since my dear friend-- a mom herself, and just old enough to have been my mom-- died of cancer. It's the things that age your soul that are the hardest to bear.

Yet bear we must, and we do, most of the time, anyway. John Green throws us Peter van Houten as a reminder to why it's important to make peace with Situations, learn from them, and move on as best we can. He also gives us Isaac, who is cured but has to pay a hefty price for the long life he's about to live. Green gives his readers hope, which is sometimes so hard to find in the midst of our own Situations. Hope is what keeps you moving forward; Hope keeps you living life and not just waiting for it to end. Hope is what parents give their kids when their kids can't find it.... and then what their kids give back to them.

I have Hope that my Situation will eventually cease to require the capitol S, and will just be a part of our storyline. I'm not foolish enough to not realize it could end up with a very tragic ending. But I do know that this time, whatever fault lies in this case, Cassius is wrong: and that does give me Hope.

Monday, March 31, 2014


When Millenium Baby Fever was striking the nation, we were hoping to have our second baby. To understand my reaction to the radio station romantic weekend giveaways, you have to understand that we'd been fertility patients the first go-round, and things were looking like the same would be true again.

I remember stating my line over and over-- having a stock answer made me less likely to cry when asked about having a second child-- 'I don't care if we have the Millenium baby, a Christmas baby, or when said baby is born-- I just want to be able to have another baby!' I'd say it while laughing (another do-not-cry trick) to diffuse the awkwardness of the situation (yet a third trick; I was getting good at the mind games against myself). But yea, I wanted another baby, and I didn't care in which month he or she arrived, just that it was relatively soon.

Well, I think all 7 of you readers know how the story ends; we didn't win any romantic weekends away, but we didn't end up needing one. Girlie was the last baby born at our local hospital in the 1900s, which was actually way cooler to me than the having the first baby of the 2000s-- and my CPA mom was pretty impressed with our Tax Baby timing, too.

The point of all this is the reality of infertility and how many people it affects. We are the lucky ones-- it took some medical intervention, a little radical treatment options (acupressure people. Look into it....), and a whole lot of good luck. But it also helped me remember how many people want babies and can't have them for a multitude of reasons. So like she said in her post above, your harmful joke can actually hurt someone you love quite deeply. It's one thing to go back to pre-internet times and say it once in a break room or something. It's something else entirely to have to read multiple 'jokes' on a newsfeed. Infertility-- and unwanted pregnancy-- is not funny.

(And if any of my readers are struggling to have a baby, don't give up. Ask questions, demand what you need, and consider alternatives. Call me if you want. Consider adoption if you can. And believe...)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I want to thank you for letting me be myself again.

Over the weekend, I learned my old doctor passed away. I hadn't seen him since I was in college and still technically living at home-- let's just say John Hughes was still producing movies. He was a good doctor-- a really good doctor. He and his wife (who was also his head nurse) became friends with my parents, so I did get to know him a bit outside of his practice. I always trusted him. (As an aside, it seems I've always been very lucky with doctors...)

Because I am who I am, I wrote out a sympathy card. I didn't know if his wife would remember me, but I wanted her to know that even after 22 years, I still remembered them and their role in my life. And even though it felt a bit self important, I mailed the card to the street printed in the obituary, signed as both my married name and the daughter of my parents.

Today I received a strange call from my hometown. It was his wife saying that my card touched her deeply, and she wanted me to know. I'm not sure what I am more blown away by-- the power of my simple card, or the power of her simple call.

My adult life is defined by maintaining relationships. My bestfriend often jokes about the size of my Christmas Card list, and wonders just what someone has to do to get removed from it.
I like to check in on people, and leave them little notes and surprises. A colleague and I made a commitment to leave little treats in everyone's mailbox once a month, because we thought the staff needed it. And while the internet has made it easier to send quick messages, I do still like mailing cards the old fashioned way. Relationships matter to us because what good is it to have good news to share but no one to share it with? Or to have had a horrible day and no one to let you cry on their shoulder. Relationships matter, even if it's been two decades since the last interaction.

And without getting ourselves into a 'thank you for thanking me for thanking you' feedback loop, I am really glad she took the time while she was grieving to let me know that card mattered. And if you're ever wondering, send the card. If you want to send it, they will remember you, no matter how long it's been.

Friday, January 10, 2014

here's to life

I had a long week. All sorts of stuff going on and not even close to enough time to get it all done. To say I'm exhausted is an understatement of epic proportions.

So as I was sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my hornet sting (I cannot make this stuff up), my friend called with some amazing news. I am so happy for her and her husband. And suddenly, my week just got a lot better. And I'm singing a whole new song.

Well as cliche as it may sound
I'd like to raise another round
And if your bottle's empty
Help yourself to mine* (except for you, my friend. I'll get you a water.)
Thank you for your time
And here's to life

Monday, January 06, 2014

what happens when The Pioneer Woman meets Joe Posnanski

We all know how I am with recipes. I can look for a recipe using chicken and pesto and come away making beef and broccoli. Well, last week we had an abundance of eggs and I could not let myself be distracted and end up making something with, I don't know, oatmeal and fruit and whipped cream or something. I searched for all sorts of egg casseroles, and didn't really find what I wanted.

So I made one up.

Again, this thing with recipes... when I create something (which I do a lot) I grab what I have available. The chances of me replicating it are pretty slim.... most of the time. This one,  I remember. This one I will make again. It was really yummy, even if no one else in my family has trusted me enough to try it. If I eat the whole thing myself, then lucky me.

Bacon Breakfast Casserole

1/2 lb cooked bacon*
1/4 red pepper**
1/4 onion**
2 cooked baked potatoes
6 eggs
1/4 c milk
1/3 c shredded mozzarella cheese

*Remember, I don't measure things. I'm guessing here, people. Make your best guess as well.
**It's all I had left. I'd have used a whole one if I'd had it.

Fry up the bacon. Let it drain. Fry up the potatoes in the bacon grease. Let them drain then put them in a casserole dish. Fry up the onions and peppers and put them over the potatoes. Crumble bacon over the top.

Meanwhile, mix up the eggs, milk, and cheese. Add pepper (I didn't add salt because of all the bacon. You do what feels right.) Pour over the casserole. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Or something like that.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

I... I will begin again

My year starts in September (late August, but that's quibbling over details) and for all intents and purposes, ends in June. (Summer Vacation is not part of the year-- it is it's own time, with it's own start and end, but that is a story for another day.) There is something about New Year's Day that speaks to me, however. It's a time for reflection and for looking forward. It's a chance to reflect on past mistakes, learn from those lessons, and start again, renewed and refreshed.

I don't find it coincidental that since I started keeping my NYRs small and manageable, I have been more successful at, well, keeping them. This year I need to get more healthy: seven-ish years ago, I resolved to drink a Nalgene of water every day-- and gosh darn it if I wasn't the healthiest I'd been to that point. This year, I need to eat more fresh fruits and veggies. I eat pretty well, but I also love snacks. I don't do diets-- all it makes me want to do is eat the very things I'd just decided I couldn't eat-- but I can do choices. I can also buy fewer chips. Take that, Willpower.

I also need to start walking again. My feet are ready, and my back needs it. Legistics are an issue-- I'm crazy involved at school, and I just don't like working out in gyms. I don't think I'll ever be the get up early and walk before work type-- I barely get out of bed when nature calls, for heaven's sake. After work it's dark, and we already eat dinner at an average time of 8 PM. I don't know what I'll make work, but I have to figure something out. Even if I could get in a couple of walks per week it would be a step in the right direction. (ba-dum CHING)

So there it is: healthier snacks and walking. It sounds so simple-- but I'm not going to lie, this isn't the first year I've had those resolutions.

Here's to a happy, healthy 2014.