Monday, June 28, 2010

Higher Learning? A Matter of Degrees!

It is 9:54pm. I have been up since 6:25am. It's summer, it's beautiful outside. Or so I hear. I wouldn't know because all I see is my computer screen. This is the curse that is summer session of a grad program. I have spent the past 3 hours researching outdated journal articles. The irony of an educational technology degree using resources that are old has not escaped me. At least I'm not doing my research on an amber screen or saving to a floppy drive.

Now I know why Sean never wanted to quit any of his IT jobs to go back to college. He always said if he quit and went back to school he would fall behind. Never have truer (is that even a word?) words been spoken.

Good thing I don't have to worry about falling behind technology wise. Most likely my 3rd grade students will enlighten me come September. If not, while I'll soon have a Master's Degree in Information Technology to add to my name, I can always ask my high school graduate source. Turns out his information is the most cutting edge of all.

Irony..I'll laugh at this one for a while. Well, until my next student loan payment comes due.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Destiny strikes again!

I am a fan of the plan of the universe. There are many things in life that have left me scratching my head asking the proverbial "why" with no answer in sight. So I have always subscribed to the "everything happens for a reason" philosophy. Many times I don't know the reason nor do I ever figure out what it was. But I calm myself with the thought that there is a reason for everything. For instance I think I am meant to be with Sean. Is there someone else out there who could put up with me on a regular basis? Maybe, I don't really know nor do I care. But to quote the most cheesy goodness that is Jerry Maguire "He completes me". He's the best part of my day, every day, and that is all I really need. He is my destiny.

But I digress from my story of the day. Let me set the stage by rewinding. Just few weeks ago in preparation for a brewing day, Sean and I were straightening up the garage. It's a bit of a disaster right now and we were at least trying to clear a usable path. The curse of the single car garage asked to house 5 motorcycles in various states of disrepair, 6 bikes, half a dozen snowboards...well, you get the picture. As we were moving things around I came upon the jr. sized bmx bike I had purchased for my nephew a few summers back. Oh how I loved buying that bike. We went to the bike shop and I let him pick it out. He selected this shiny bmx bike with both hand brakes and foot brakes. I envisioned us taking tons and tons of bike rides together while he was in town. Oh yes, we Aunts live in a cotton candy world of unrealistic expectations.

What actually happened was that we rode together to the park just down the street from our house exactly 3 times. I doubt there is even much more than a mile or two on that bike. Zach has long since outgrown its younger boy frame. And the truth is, a middle school boy is not likely to be coming to visit and ride bikes with his Aunt and Uncle anytime soon. Our cool factor is quickly wearing off and I see in the future the couple of phone calls a year and the exchange of school fund raising checks. The hazard of a long distance relationship. No one's fault but fate. Sean wanted me to give that bike to Goodwill that day. I knew he was right, but I just couldn't do it. Dream unrealized.

Turns out, Destiny, Fate, call it what you will...had another plan. Today our neighbors came home from their weekend camping trip with big news. Hugh has learned to ride a two-wheeler bike. Off go the training wheels on his tiny first bike. He was so proud telling us about his trip with his camping buddy around the camp ground. Turns out though that his parents wanted to buy him a new bike for his birthday but they were having trouble finding the right one with the features he wants on the budget they have. The economy has not been kind in our neighborhood. And it was at that moment that my "destiny" and I exchanged "the look" that said, yep, I'm thinking what you're thinking. Simultaneously we said "we have a bike for him in the garage". So we pulled it out, dusted it off, aired up the tires and wheeled it over. Our gift to them.

Anyone who has ever met a first grader knows that there is a direct correlation to the amount of excitement and the speed at which they are able to talk. And Hugh, he was talking a mile a minute. Turns out, this bike is almost identical to his new buddy's who he had spent the weekend riding with. So as we watched him strap on his helmet, adjust the seat and head off down the side walk on his new steed a thought occurred to me. Maybe Zach wasn't meant to be the owner of that bike in the first place...maybe he was just a temporary custodian. All I know is watching the glow on Hugh's face made everything right again in the universe. Well, at least the universe on our street.

A bike is meant to be owned and ridden by someone who will love it. I think that bike found its destiny too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

M.S. Ed in Hoop Jumping

So how does one follow up a year like my first year at Timber Ridge? Why, by jumping right into summer school for my grad program of course.

Yes, I completed work on Thursday at about 3:30 and had exactly one day off before I started my grad program on Monday. To add insult to injury, I have classes from 8:30am until 4:00pm. Oh, and did I mention the windows don't open and the heating/cooling systems are right above my head. I can't hardly even hear the instructor.

There are two good things about my summer program. The first is Sam. Sam is a former co-worker from my old school who is also in the program. She is also a pretty damn fine human being so I enjoy her company. Misery loves company you know. The other thing is that this initial full -time hell only lasts for two weeks so once I make it through the next 8 days, I will at least have more time off. I still have one class, but it isn't as bad as this schedule.

So, is it worth mortgaging my future even further with student loans to get a Master's Degree in Education so that I can keep the job I already have? Well, logically, no it isn't. How the State of Oregon has determined that magically after teaching for 10 years I will no longer be fit nor qualified to teach any longer without this degree and thus they will no longer renew my certificate after that point is beyond me. You have to have a degree in politics to figure that one out.

Well then why are you doing this you ask? Why for the children of course. Yes I bitch, yes I moan about my job, the politics, the parents, the kids....blah..blah..blah...but that is just my nature. I'm crabby. But the thought that I couldn't do this job anymore? That is terrifying to me. I have never felt so "home" in any job in my life. Those kids and my ability to teach them and for them to teach me is what gets me out of bed and out the door on these beautiful sunny SUMMER days.

Do I like it? Hell no, but for those little pains in my ass I will continue to give up my summer, give up my future earnings to repay these student loans and pursue my degree in hoop jumping. Back in college...bring it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

PMS on Steroids

That is the only way I can think to adequately describe the gamut of emotions I went through while completing my first 1/2 marathon yesterday. I haven't even been able to blog about it before now because wrapping my mind around the experience and trying to put it into words has been a challenge in and of itself. But work calls and I must get this down before it is too late and becomes a foggy memory.

The biggest surprise of all was the emotion that came on so strong so quickly. I don't think I even hit mile one before I was almost reduced to tears over the mere fact that I was actually there running in a half marathon. Never once did I really believe I was going to make it there. I talked the big talk, but I always had a Plan B that would somehow get me out of it in the last minute. Even the knee injury of last week and the thought that I might not get to go didn't remove the Plan B expectation I had for myself. But there I was, lined up on race day with everyone else and I felt overwhelmed.

After that first mile and for the next six or so I just felt proud. I don't think I could have custom ordered a better location for my first half. It was pristine trail, with sage brush and Ponderosa pines stretching out all around me. While I understand the technical difficulty of the route, it was in such better condition than the trails that I have run around here and it felt like a dream.

Then came the cramping between miles 8 and 9. They stopped me in my tracks. What was this? Why now? I stopped, stepped to the side and found a stump to stand on as I stretched every possible muscles I could move. I felt a hot fire of annoyance and then shook it off and started on the trail again. I was fine for another mile and then I hit the wall.

I had heard about the wall from other runners. I had no idea what they meant. Now I do. At about mile 10 or so I had thought to myself "wow, I feel great, I can't believe how great I feel". Not more than 30 seconds later I started getting blurry vision and got instantly cold and every hair on my body stood up on end. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out or possibly both. I remember thinking to myself, "oh holy hell, I've just passed the last aide station and I'm going to drop dead out here because that was the last one". I grabbed for my last Shot Blocks and downed some water and slowed to a walk for a few minutes. As quickly as it came, it was gone again, but not without having left me shaken and my resolve questionable.

As I got back on the path again I thought to myself of all the training that had gotten me here and all the things that my friends and family had gotten through in their lives and I summoned my resolve and picked it back up to a jog. And that is where I stayed from about mile 11 on. My legs hurt, each step was an effort, but I wanted to finish and I wanted to finish strong. So I cranked up that little ipod of mine and I jogged past number 12, and 13. And then there it was, the finish line. And there he was, my Sean, waiting for me and cheering for me and encouraging me to finish strong. And from somewhere deep inside my being I summoned some last bit of fire and I picked up speed and finished with a faster pace than anything else I'd run all day. Which of course makes me wonder if I could have gone faster all along. But then I guess we all feel that way at the end of the race. Did I cry like a baby when I came across that line? No, actually I didn't which surprised me more than I can imagine. All I felt at that point was exhaustion and elation. Goal realized, Tracie actually finished what she started. Who knew.

As we mingled with the other racers after the finish, I was in awe of the shared experience. Everyone was so supportive and chatting it up and smiling and taking pictures for each other. It was one big community of trail runners who shared one day that made them in one form or another a different person, even if just for one day.

For me, I think it was more than that. I still can't find the exact words to describe what happened to me yesterday. I just know that I am different today. It's more than just running the half, although that was certainly the impetus for the change. It is more about viewing myself as someone who "does" rather than someone who "tries". Yes, I do believe Master Yoda would be proud.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What would Carol do?

I miss the optimism of the Brady Bunch. Yes, I said it. I miss the Brady family. There is nothing that couldn't be resolved in 27 minutes plus commercials. And how about those fantastic lessons they always taught us. Stick together, do the right thing and everything will turn out fine. Some of my families could learn a lot from the Brady Clan!

I especially miss the one where Mrs. Brady loses her voice before she is supposed to sing at the Christmas service. Poor Cindy is heartbroken and asks Santa Claus for her Mommy to get her voice back. Yes, I especially miss that one. I knew at the end of my daily ritual of after school Brady Bunch sugar filled goodness, there was going to be a happy ending.

I want my rose colored glasses of youth back. I want to know that it is going to be fine at the end. I want my happy ending. (No, that isn't what I meant you sickos).

I'm injured. Five days before my big dip into the 1/2 marathon world, I am benched. After 13 weeks of increasing mileage, countless nasty chews and more ice than you can imagine, I can't run a single mile. It actually happened one week ago, although I think it most likely stems from my baptism into the yellow number world. I ran too fast down some really steep single track and I f-ed up my knee. Yes, that is an "F" but it is really bad news. So I am spending most of my time walking. When I'm not walking I'm doing a fantastic exercise program that my Boot camp guru made up for me to try and stabilize the other muscles to make up for that darn knee. My foam roller and I should be on a first name basis at this point in time. Yes that thing has seen a lot of action from me. Mmmm, maybe it needs a pet name of some sort and it certainly should have bought me a drink by now. But I digress.

The bottom line is that I have never worked so hard to try and get back to where I was just nine short days ago. I've tried everything I know from diet, water, exercises, praying, begging, crying, fit throwing, you name it. I'm the first to admit it hasn't been pretty. So far, no definitive intervention to tell me that I'll be OK by Sunday.

But I'll hang in there and keep trying, and keep believing that it will be OK. Just like the Brady family, it will work out in the end. I know there is a moral lesson in here somewhere, I just need to open my eyes a little wider to be able to see it.

One thing I know for sure is that I didn't realize that in spite of the terrified feelings surrounding the idea of me actually doing this 1/2, the possibility of me not is far, far worse.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Send in the clowns!

Oh wait, don't bother,they're here. 30 of them. It's official, it is June and you can tell without even looking at a calendar. It's in the air. The children are done. Never mind that we still have 9 days left of school. I believe if I chose not to show up for the final few days I expect the children wouldn't even notice.

The benefit of these last crazy days it that in spite of how hard I'm trying to continue to impart the missing pieces of third grade into their rapidly disintegrating brains, we do relax a bit and laugh a lot. One of the best things about teaching 3rd grade is that the kids are absolutely hilarious. Most often when they have no intention of being so. Just their commentary on life sends me into a battle within myself to maintain my composure so they don't see me laughing. You see, laughing with the children can be the kiss of death. Once you are all laughing there is no going back. So, for someone like me who has a hard time keeping a straight face at a funeral, it is exceptionally taxing this time of year.

So, I think of horrible things and try not to smile. I think if I can make it through the next 9 days it will be miracle.