Christmas

2013/12/26

Merry Christmas! Another happy and relaxed celebration at home. As I've gotten older I've finally learned to leave expectations alone and just enjoy the day as it comes. And now I find that the kind gifts of my family, that demonstrate that I am known and loved and belong in my own quirky way, really move me.

Addendum

I have to include these two extra pictures from gingerbread day. They both perfectly capture my girls in slightly darker moods. Gingerbread occasionally brings out the grumpy in all of us.

Gingerbread

Happy Gingerbread day. Making gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve is one of my favorite traditions. Five houses down this year and for the first time I decorated my very own. Usually I'm too tired and busy helping the girls but they don't require much supervision any more. Tessa did a pot of Internet research this year and had lots of great ideas on her own. Maybe next year will be when I break out and try a more complicated pattern. Who am I kidding though? I really just care about eating them!

Break

2013/12/23

First order of business for my break from school: sunshine. It makes me feel like a ninja.

Cozy

2013/12/16

Jammies. Games. Cocoa. Yay Monday.

Color

2013/12/15

Cinnamon and I went for a stroll through the neighborhood today. Gorgeous sunshine which made the 60 degree temps pure heaven. Austin always finds autumn a little late and I find it incongruous yet lovely to have fall colors on the trees as my thoughts are turning to Christmas. 

Snew White

Tessa has very much enjoyed her theater class this semester and this week was the class play. Tessa had been very tight lipped about the whole production - she wouldn't tell me the name of the play or her part or really anything about it. When we showed up Tuesday for the performance I was completely surprised to find her in the title role of "Snew White", a funny parady of the classic fairy tale. She was poised and comfortable and did a pretty amazing job. The fairest in the land indeed.

Resolve

2013/11/30

I was feeling a little glum tonight (perhaps my Netflix binging is starting to take a toll?) and somehow ended up clicking through the pages of this here little blog. And reminded myself for the umpteenth time that I truly do write for myself. Crazy amounts of happiness I get from remembering how cute my girls are, all the beautiful moments I've been a witness to, all the cool places I've seen, all the tough stuff I've moved through, all the great people in my life. I must write more! For future me. For present me.

Amber, don't forget!

Enchanted

We headed out to Enchanted Rock yesterday, finding the idea of diversions in the city, with their traffic and crowds repulsive. There were still crowds at the state park but at least the large skies of Texas hill country kept the perspective in check. I hadn't been to Enchanted Rock and was pleasantly surprised with how lovely it was. Approaching on the drive I'll admit I chuckled to myself about how Texans would make a even a small hill a state park because elevation of a respectable scale can't be found. But the scenery and the views were definitely worth it. Good day to be in the sunshine even if my sun belt daughters (and sister) complained about the freezing temperatures which hovered near 60.

Posers

I took my girls out to Barton Creek a few weeks ago and they were in uncharacteristically photo-happy moods. At one point I was the one asking to please stop taking photos. Bizzaro.

Gobble

Thanksgiving isn't just a beautiful meal with family, it's also a blessed five days off from work. An oasis for refueling on my journey to winter break - no small thing to be thankful for.

Outside of the immediate need for a break from teaching, I am thankful for an immense amount this year. I am thick in the middle of much change in my life and I am thankful daily for the resources, be they family or friends, spiritual or temporal, to weather it all. I am grateful and happy.

Orange is the New Black

2013/11/05

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's PrisonOrange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this memoir, but I didn't find it staggering. I suppose after the all to sensational Netflix series there's no way the book would be so compelling. It was an interesting perspective, but the experience read a little flat to me.


View all my reviews

The Circle

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I think it's easy to dismiss it as too futuristic or unrealistic, but privacy issues are definitely the next battleground and I think his treatment of it is very interesting. Frog in boiling water and all that. I don't necessarily think Eggers view is the most likely outcome, but it's certainly worthy of consideration. Is the right of information with the collective or the individual?


View all my reviews

Sister

2013/11/03

Anna came to visit with baby Sophia the past few weeks and it's been such a great infusion of happy to have them here. We had park dates, dinner dates, lots of cousin bonding, and tons of baby kisses. I was pretty sad to put them on a plane back to Vegas tonight. Babies grow up too fast.

Sun

2013/11/02

There is very little that sunshine does not fix.

Halloween

2013/10/31

Candy. Smiles. Baby!

My girls tore it up with friends tonight while I passed out candy with my sissies (more on my sister's visit with baby later). Good times. 

Processing

2013/10/20

After the shooting Tuesday, our school quickly went into lock down and I kept my emotions completely in check; I was 100% the teacher. Some time later when the kids were sent home my tears finally started and I began my personal processing of what had happened. Similarly, I've been in a semi-detached state all week, experiencing short bursts of tears and some seriously difficult moments getting out of bed, but in general holding it together to make it through the school week. Last night as I was mentally planning out my Saturday I knew I had a large amount of processing to deal with, and somatically was the best way I knew how. I got up and ran at Town Lake hard and fast until I tasted blood, then I sat down next to the water and cried for a while. Later I met a friend from school for a challenging yoga class and let my breath clean out a good chunk of the tension I've been carrying. The rest of my day has been spent in the company of friends and family. Low key but just enough normal to help get me closer to right.

Teaching in a Title 1 school has already been a pretty alienating experience. The radical nature of the lifestyle just makes it hard to connect with others that haven't shared the experience. A trauma such as this is a whole new level. I'm finding it very difficult sharing the experience with most people in my social circle. It just seems so far removed from any prior reality that it's outrageous to bring it up. I only want to talk to my friends that were there that day and can understand my complicated emotions without a lengthy conversation. Everyone has been amazingly sympathetic and kind, but I find myself upset that most people just can't understand. I witnessed a child dying. A child whose present and future both were collectively my burden to shoulder. 

I feel a lot better after today, but I don't know what normal will ever be again. 

A child

2013/10/16

A student shot and killed himself at my school yesterday.

He did it during lunch in the main courtyard where easily a hundred kids were in full view.

I arrived minutes after and watched him bleed out. I could not look away.

I did not know Adrian, but I do know that he was a father. He was also a child.

Teaching will never be the same. Today was what I hope will be one of the worst days of my professional life. Crying with each of my classes today was difficult and cleansing. I have more emotions than I could possibly process on the page. Anger, disbelief, grief, fear, worry, shock, sadness.

And a tiny glimmer of hope.

One of the sources of my anger right now is a misinformed and reckless local news story insinuating that bullying was a main contributor to Adrian's choice to take his life. This is not the case. Our school is amazingly accepting and the kids are a true melting pot of nationalities, lifestyles, and experiences. I am fortunate to work here and glad to walk with my students through this most difficult of days. They are fragile and they are strong. They are wise and they are innocent. They give me hope.

Grand Canyon 2013

2013/10/13

It's a month now since I last hiked the Grand Canyon and I already miss it. This was the third time I've made the trek and it was yet again different. And yet again completely captivating and monumental. This year was a decidedly different affair - we spent more time at the rim, hiked a different trail, had completely different weather, and different company as well.

Much of the core group was the same. My dear friend Audra I always consider at the heart of the journey. She is the one who made this happen for me the first time and every time since. She definitely takes the lion share of the planning and motivation; I am lucky to have such a great friend. Pam and Shannon were there again. This time Pam brought her daughter Sarah and I brought by bestest littlest sister and another friend Carla joined the mix as well. Jackie agreed to drive us again, which is essential when attempting to hike rim to rim. It was a great group and it was wonderful to have time with friends.

We extended the trip this year to enjoy the canyon more and it was a real treat. We always hike in and out in one day not really because we're motivated, but mostly because we're cheap and it's hard to get reservations to stay at the bottom. The past two years we've only stayed at the rim one night and all the travel to and from Phoenix combined with epic detours like our middle of the night trip the ER in 2011 has given me a strange relationship with the canyon. You get to know it very intimately when trekking through the bowels, but I hadn't spent hardly any time appreciating the more common and majestic rim view.

This year I flew to Phoenix late Wednesday, crashing with Audra for the night. We drove to the North Rim Thursday and had lots of time there to take in the sights. Watching the sunset was something magical for sure. We stayed a bit outside the park in Jacobs Lake where the cafe has the best cookies in all of creation. They ended up serving as a good chunk of my fueling plan for our hike the following day. Perfect! The next day was Friday the 13th, a perfect time for an epic undertaking. We didn't get a very early start, hitting the trail head at 6:30 and that ended up meaning a few hours in the dark on the other end, but considering the balmy weather and pristine trail conditions, that wasn't really much of a tragedy. Friday night we slept at the South Rim and Saturday we shuffled and hobbled and creaked around to enjoy the views of that side of the canyon, driving back in the mid afternoon to Phoenix. I got to see a few more friends for dinner Saturday night and then flew home Sunday after a quick stop by my old church for Sacrament meeting.

So now to the details of the glorious 23.9 miles that made up my Friday... It's hard to know where to start. We had near ideal weather - starting out in the mid to high 40s and ending up with a high at the floor of only 90 or so. I've definitely done cold in the canyon before (see 2012) and that didn't bother me, but I was more than a little concerned about the triple digits that we expected for a September hike. It was such a beautiful day. The only complaint I might have is that the brilliant sunlight all day made for washed out pictures, but that seems a petty complaint. The trails were dry despite a lot of rain the week prior and that was the biggest blessing of the day. I knew we would be getting out in the dark considering this year's hike was longer than the prior years and the memory of those last muddy miles left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. We had also heard about trail closures on the North side due to the recent rains and I was a little nervous. But the trail conditions were pristine the entire trip.

I loved seeing the North Rim. I hadn't been there since I was a kid and it's quite a different landscape than the South. The pine trees and cool air were music to my soul. I started out giddy as always, settling into the walk a few hours in. I felt more restrained about pictures this trip, only ending up with 100 or so on my phone. But apparently those in my party did not feel the same because we really did end up with something like 2,000 photos (now whittled down some) by the end of the trip. It's hard for me to not want to stop at every bend and try to capture the beauty with a picture, but I've also learned that it's simply not possible. I'm more comfortable now letting that fact be and instead just letting the emotion of the vistas wash over me. Can't harness it in a photograph.

One of the downsides to being a veteran of the Grand Canyon is that I seem to take my preparation less seriously every time I do this. I haven't been to yoga as much as I should lately and my running has been a little lack luster as well. I did nothing other than two or three jaunts through the relative flat of Barton Creek to prepare myself. By the time I got to Phoenix I was a little worried that I was being stupid about the whole thing since this route had more miles and more elevation to conquer than the South Kaibab to Bright Angel that we had done the two prior trips. But truth be told, I find that the longer but more gradual descent of North Kaibab left me feeling better. I remember my calves being balls of steel and screaming in pain by the time I hit the flat coming down from South Kaibab, but I felt great the whole day this year. There was an hour or so just after we crossed the Colorado that I experienced a terrible shooting pain radiating from just outside and below my left knee up into my hip. Wincing with every step I had some serious dark thoughts about what the next several hours were going to be. But I was able to stretch out the offending muscles and I felt great by the time we were really making the climb out. The day was long no doubt, but we take things slow enough that I never felt winded or even really tired except maybe the last dark hour on our way out.

I had an hour or so hiking solo on the second half of our day and it ended up being a real treat. This has been a big year for me finding happy inside myself and I took the opportunity to walk in a meditative prayer of gratitude. I am so immensely grateful for the ability to go to amazing places and have such great experiences. Our world, both natural and civilized is a great source of joy for me and I never feel it more acutely than in times like these.

The entire hike took me and Xan about 14 hours. Indian Gardens is the last big rest and I've found that this is the point when people get serious and naturally take whatever pace is necessary for them to get out. The mood shifts and work really begins. Those last 4.5 miles are crucible for sure. I had intended on staying with the group, but Xan and I found it simply necessary to keep moving even though our pace was quite a clip ahead of the others. It got dark well before we reached the top and the twilight hours were quiet and focused. The huge silver lining to hiking out in the dark was the opportunity to stop every so often, turn off our head lamps, and let the magnificence of the stars wash over us. Words cannot describe how amazing they were. It was a lovely warm and clear night and it was a real treat to be able to see the lodge of the North Rim lit up and twinkling at us from across the monumental space of the canyon. When we hit the top we didn't know where to find Jackie or how far behind us the others were so we simply sad down in the middle of the sidewalk and crashed. What a day. What a glorious and magnificent day.

Of course, I am already planning my next return trip. The magnificence of the stars in the dark of the canyon has got me itching for spending the night at the bottom, so I'm trying to find a way to make that work. Whatever shape it takes, there will no doubt be another trip next year. I am a full blown addict at this point and I'm pretty comfortable with the pull to get back always at the back of my mind.