Sunday, September 25, 2011

Injury time

For the first time in my life, I am entirely incapable of walking independently, thanks to a knee injury from soccer last Tuesday. The doctors don't think it's too serious, but can't tell much for certain until the swelling goes down and the x-rays are looked at more closely. In the meantime, I've been hobbling around on crutches and feeling incredibly thankful for all of the following things:

Roommates who drive me to the doctor and carry my things around and share their Aleve and ice packs

Students who write priceless sympathy cards and offer to be my helper in the classroom

Colleagues who carry my lunch from the microwave and give medical advice and offer rides and knee braces

A sister and brother-in-law who trade me cars because I can't work the clutch and do all the work setting up tents and Thermarests and things so I can still go camping

Friends who get my meals and refreeze my ice and carry my coffee and give up their seats and chase all the stray balls while I play one-legged ping-pong

Thanks, guys. For the help, and for helping me realize how much more comfortable I am with helping other people than being helped. It's a humbling experience. And one I will remember even when it's over. Hopefully that will be soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Home Alone

One housemate is out of town for a wedding, the other just moved halfway across the country, and the new one won't arrive for another week, so it's just been me and the dog. I've been taking full advantage of the situation: playing bad pop music on the piano, practicing the mandolin, turning up my "top of your lungs" mix and singing, talking to the dog in Mandarin, having zucchini cake for breakfast, eating the cream cheese icing straight out of the bowl in the fridge, making random things for supper out of fresh garden veggies and questionable leftovers, leaving dirty dishes all over the kitchen, coming home from soccer late at night and making lots of noise. Ah--good song's on. Singing time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Story of E

About a year ago, I wrote about The Story of B, and how my story wasn't B's exactly, but that I didn't know quite what it actually was.

I started thinking about my story again more intentionally this summer, after reading Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest and realizing that most of the things I love and do and think are connected to what he calls "the Movement"--the confluence of the social justice and environmental and indigenous peoples' movements. It began with a mental web, during one of the summer's backpacking trips, of how all the books I'd read in the past several months connected in some way to those bigger ideas. But it was more than just the books; I started thinking about the college courses I'd taken, the jobs I'd had, the organizations and activities I'd been part of. They all had something in common. They all had me in common. It sounds obvious, I know, but it gave me a different lens for looking at who I am and what this story of mine might be.

I wanted to see what it might look like, visually, this diagram of things I've read and studied and thought about and valued, so I sat down on the floor one day and scribbled pages of ideas connected with arrows all over pages, until the mass of words and lines was so chaotic that even I couldn't tell what I had written. So I went online to prezi and made my first-ever zooming presentation. Forgive my lack of expertise with the program. Even with the prezi, not everything related can sit nicely side by side, and I had to stop drawing arrows because they were covering up too many of the ideas, but it's a start. I didn't create a path for you to follow in viewing this diagram because it not only is not linear, but it has no beginning and no end. Too many branches and forks. I don't have a path for a web. Explore as you wish. Press the play button down there, and zoom and move.

There are many more ideas that could be added and arrows that could be drawn, but I had to leave it somewhere. It's a work in progress. Not just the presentation. The story itself. Here you have it:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Revenge of the junk in the cupboards

Spoke too soon, apparently, about the virtues of stashing stuff away in cupboards. As I was putting away the grocery bags today, I found a branch in the back of the pantry. Pulled it out...and pulled and pulled...and found:

a potato tree.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Victory of a pack rat

Confession: I have three cupboards in my office filled with junk that I can't bring myself to throw away because I think one day, someday, it might be useful. Today was someday. I finished planting the fall crops in the garden today and used the junk closet not once, but twice.

Twine that the thrift store guy used to tie a dresser (now fully functional, with the 100+ Disney/Barney/Lisa Frank stickers removed and the drawers glued back together) to my car is now tying up the pear tomatoes:

And an old license plate is now keeping water and soil from escaping through the corner of a garden box where the planks had come apart:

Finally, a valid response to the people who tell me I need to throw this stuff out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Short and sweet

That is the theme for upcoming posts. Ambitious thoughts for long, deep entries rarely make it out of my head and onto the screen. With the end of an adventure-filled summer and the beginning of a new school year just days away, it's time for the annual taking stock of life and reevaluating priorities--and writing is one of them. Four sentences. Done.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just a city girl

But I'm not, even. At least I didn't think so. And then I came back here to my college town for a wedding and realized just how far I've digressed from my small-town mindset, and it made me a little sad. My road trip buddies and I pulled into town late afternoon after two days of driving and found the brother-of-a-friend-of-the-grandparents-of-a-friend, who showed us into the part of the house where we'd be staying. When I asked about a key, he said, "Oh--well, we never lock our doors around here, but if you want to, keys are somewhere..." Once I dumped my stuff inside, I went for a walk along the Mill Race to get the blood flowing in my legs again. Apparently half the town of Goshen had the same idea, and I was soon reminded that in this alternative universe, you are indeed supposed to make eye contact, smile, maybe even say hello to everyone you pass. And I still recognized a good number of them. Between that walk and First Friday and breakfast at Rachel's Bread on Saturday morning, I ran into dozens of people I needed to catch up with--old college friends, professors, siblings of friends, friends of siblings, the families of a brother-in-law and a college boyfriend, a coach, a tennis teammate, a stand partner from college orchestra, a neighbor. It's humbling to realize that even after being gone for four years, there are still people here who know me and love me. And this small-town girl loves them back.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I've recently had a hard time keeping track of my age. It's not that I can't remember how old I am, more like I think of my age as staying constant while everyone around me seems to keep getting younger in comparison. I remember, as a kid, thinking that 40 was those are my peers. And all these athletes, actors, musicians that everyone wanted to grow up and be like--it's too late. We grew up, and now they're all younger than us. It sunk in a little more, going back to my college town to visit people over spring break this past week, just how much my life has evolved in the four years since I graduated. I could walk around campus and not look so different from all the students, but then I'd sit down and file my taxes while my cousin plowed through abstract algebra homework, or design curriculum while my sister's friends stopped by the dorm room to talk about boys. And then I came home and spent a very productive day doing all sorts of grown-up-feeling things: getting new rotors in the car, installing new wiper blades, replacing light bulbs, analyzing the month's finances, buying a pitchfork for turning the compost pile and picking up a load of free manure for the garden. And it felt wonderful. I still get nostalgic sometimes for college days, sure, but I have no desire to actually go back and live them again. Just this morning I came across a pile of emails from the spring of my senior year of college, and just looking through them brought back those gut feelings of uncertainty, possibility but instability, the stress and pressure of making the decisions about jobs and relationships and location after college that would shape the rest of my life. The dread of saying goodbye to friends, family, community, of entering into entirely unfamiliar territory. Korea, Botswana, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Honduras? Life ahead was a thousand question marks. It took me a couple seconds sitting here to remind myself to breathe, to relax, to remember that I don't have to deal with any of that right now--and that all of those tough decisions brought me right here. And this is a very fulfilling place to be right now. Real. Rooted. And don't worry, I'll still go play kickball with a bunch of other grown-ups in the park tomorrow. We're never too old to stop having some little-kid fun.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stop and smell the goose poop

I took Moo on a walk this afternoon. It's spring break, and it was sunny and 70 outside, and I had spent the whole day in a hotel basement at a language acquisition seminar (which actually was wonderfully inspiring and made me want to run off and start my PhD in Second Language Acquisition...but that's another story), so it was time for my outside fix.

It's really springtime here. We'll probably get a 2-foot snowstorm before the end of April, but today the daffodils were blooming and the trees were budding and everyone in the neighborhood was in the park riding their bikes and flying their kites and walking their dogs and practicing their soccer and playing their tennis. And Moo kept stopping every 30 seconds to sniff around at goose poop and worms, poking through the dirt and reeds, and I kept trying to drag him along, realizing that his harness was not designed to pull him forward, only back. So I resigned myself to going at his pace: meander, backtrack, sniff, explore, repeat. And I started noticing all kinds of things. The patterns of the wind on the lake. The mallards sleeping on the shore. The kids on the porch swing across the street. The freshly plowed flowerbeds. The shiny red buds on branches above my head. The little girl with her daddy buying paletas de fresa. The grandpa teaching a kid to fly a kite. Isn't that what a walk's supposed to be? Feeling a part of it all? Not hurrying along with headphones stuffed in my ears.

It reminded me of school. Here are our kids, inquirers by nature, stopping to poke around at every little thing that fascinates them but that we as teachers all too often fail to notice. And we yank them along by the leash, powering through the curriculum, making stops only for the sights we know will reappear on the standardized tests, dragging them past all the things of real interest. Goose poop isn't on the standardized test. (Or that all it is?, no, that would be something a bit different.) No wonder so many of our kids seem to lose their natural curiosity, to become apathetic toward school in general. No wonder so many of our teachers get burnt out with it too. That's not the way it has to be. Which brings me back to the seminar. Ahhh, education that matches the way brains actually learn. More on that another day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Photo update

Here's a link to the facebook photos I just posted. If a picture's worth a thousand words, this more than makes up for my lack of blogging in the past month. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On the potential benefits of flat tires

Just because I have a car now doesn't mean I'm giving myself permission to give up biking every time it's a little bit cold or snowy. They plow the bike trails in Denver, after all, even if they don't do the roads. I successfully made the commute with no wipeouts, but did manage to get a flat tire 1.2 miles from school. Boo. And then my pump broke when I tried to reinflate the tube--the plastic pieces got a bit brittle in 6-degree temps--and left the tire completely emptied of any air that had previously been in it. So I walked (and ran, now being late for professional development) the rest of the way to work. And once I got there, I was reminded of just how much I love my coworkers. Two offered me rides home, one ran home over lunch and brought back two bike pumps, another tracked down the pump from the school gym, and another, after looking at my 4-times-patched tube, ran to the bike shop down the street and got me two new tubes. And one more, stopping by to make sure I had everything fixed, offered, albeit jokingly, to follow me in his car to make sure I got home. Even if I can take care of myself, it's nice to know there are people looking out for you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The co-op

Happy New Year! Apologies for my three-month hiatus in blogging. Life's been busy (and that is a serious understatement.) Turns out I've been doing an abysmal job of finding the balance I talked about back in September. One of the many things keeping me busy (but also very much inspired) has been the realization of a summertime vision for a food co-op. It's now been up and running for about three and a half months now, and I'm thrilled with the success so far.

The basic vision: to organize a group of people who love good food and the making of it, and who care about where their food comes from, to trade homemade value-added food products. I wanted to bake bread, freeze jam, dry fruit, culture yogurt, can tomatoes, pickle cucumbers, dehydrate backpacking meals, make applesauce and tofu and salsa and granola and pesto...but I knew that as soon as the school year started, I'd be lucky to have time for even one of those things. The idea, then, is that if I make a large quantity of just one item to share, I can trade it for a variety of other foods without spending the time actually making them all myself.

After bouncing the idea off a number of friends and feeling out interest, we ended up with a group of 14 and met to flesh out visions and logistics, and the co-op was born. Essentially, we meet for a food exchange twice a month, bringing shares for everyone once and receiving shares both times. Emily went into a bit more detail about logistics in her blog, so I won't do it again here. James also set up a blog for the co-op itself, where all of us involved can post photos, recipes, questions, etc. I just posted a collection of food photos from the past several months there, so check them out if you like. And of course, feel free to ask us questions on that blog, or here. I'd love to see where this idea goes if people start running with it in different directions.