Monday, March 29, 2010

Spin Doctor

The hills were killer today. Who knew when I got there, after checking my seat and adjusting my handlebars, after putting my towel and water bottle just so on my bike, that we'd be off on a climb in the Canary Islands. Sure,we started with a reasonable tilt and speed. But before long we made big adjustments. New positions. We rode a lot standing up. I guess if you're going 266 m. up a pleistocene grade you better stand up. What goes up then makes a drastic down. We not only push down on pedals on this climb, we drive them up and across on the way around as the foot circles, as we go up and down that grade. For this maturing athlete that was almost too many directions for maturing body parts. Sweat was beading up quickly on my brow.

Our spin doctor continued spinning. Words and wheels. She described the mountain scrub we'd notice if we weren't looking through a fog of sweat and visible breath. There was water in their somewhere. Something about the confluence of oceans and gulf streams and... well, I really didn't get the rest. She talked about the low cost of good wine (5,00 ), good rooms (100 €), the viable pure beauty, persuading us further that this climb was benefiting us. Driving us to distraction, molding the truth just so.

She's good. I needed the towel. Over a liter of water gone from my bottle. An hour gone by and the visit to the Canary mountains and spin class was over.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dream girl

Boxed up the extra slices and headed to the theater to watch our April daughter in her first big theater performance outside school. Truthfully, she's only had a few performances in school; this seemed so much bigger. Real lights, tech people, upholstered seats, tickets, a stage. She told me once, when I urged her to try out for the freshman field hockey team because she had years of experience playing that game, "Mom, that's your dream, not mine." She played in every game that year. Tonight was her dream. She's always danced like Britney, sang to all the hits, pop, country, and rock, and had a knack for playing mean girls. Her role as Cindy, the cheerleader has a little of e) all of the above. Double dream.

I watched, my Thursday coffee friend on one side and my husband on the other and laughed at all the right times and often. The musical comedy was a bit about high school cliques and characters, complete with a principal who doesn't realize the students are running the school. Our star was a sassy, cheerleading star. No case of the nerves was evident. All lines were recited with comedic timing, and everyone fell together in a dance off at the end with all the right moves.

No easy feat for this ensemble formed seven months ago as the "Showcase" group for the Arlington Inclusive Theater Company. The actors on stage, save a few "mentors" happen to have intellectual disabilities. Ages range from 18-??? They are all young at heart and it's obvious they are all sharing this dream to perform.

I couldn't get over how far they'd come in a few months. I couldn't imagine how much work their directors and producers put into getting everyone to tonight. They had taken shy, quiet adults and had them looking out into a crowd with mischievous grins while they stood in the right spot on stage. Great show. It's going to have a good run.

yoga smooth

Wednesday is my day to stretch mind and body and quiet my thoughts with a few friends at school. Our principal set up a yoga class for teachers after school.

So, yesterday a half hour after contract hours, there on school grounds, we slipped into a "cottage" (read: trailer where P.E. is taught) with all its interior finery, threw down our mats and memories of the challenges of our day, took off our shoes and began to refocus as smooth, quiet music and a darkened room (trailer) helped the transition.

We transfered smoothly to another way of thinking, flowed smoothly as we reconfigured ourselves and listened to each instruction our teacher shared. The walls of the trailer with its verb vocabulary and "good sportsmanship" quotes were disappearing.

A tree pose and warrior pose later the walls were back. The after-school child care program brought their students to the playground. Right outside our very thin door. Our breathing grew smoother, and deeper and our stretching reached further as we quietly worked to bring our "studio" back into focus.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Old House

I ventured out on a short run around the neighborhood where my daughter takes acting. This is a detour from my usual "meet my friend for coffee" time. It was so beautiful out. This neighborhood, with origins in the late 18th century, like a lot of other post world war I and II neighborhoods has morphed under the guise of land development and modernization. Tree lined, well-kempt streets of tidy brick colonials and Arts and Craft bungalows from Sears are a few blocks from a major interstate, a hospital, the metro, an urban citiscape complete with mall, restaurants, parking garages, and several bustling four lane arteries that spider web their way to and from our nation's capital.

Today on foot I had a different view. To my surprise there are also historical markers that dot pieces of American history on more than a few corners. The church where the acting class is held has quite a history.

Running across a bridge to the citified section I passed the W O & D Trail, formerly the Washington and Old Dominion RR. This 100 foot by 45 mile park has multi-use trails, bridle paths, and wildlife. I've been on parts of this trail but, much further west. I didn't realize I could take it this far in. It was fully occupied with people on wheel and foot.

My next stop surprised me the most. I took a little turn down a street with tiny houses. At the end of the street, atop a hill and across a sprawling lawn, sat a majestic white mansion complete with an octagon house so popular in the mid 1800s. It was the Glebe House. Originally built in 1770, this latest conversion is a privately owned, beautifully refurbished, National Historic landmark. I don't know how I missed this.
I've decided to make these excursions a regular part of driving to acting class. Next trip- I'm packing my bike, a drink and heading out.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vagabond Crabs and other diseases

One of our teachers, a good friend, my teaching colleague, fellow bookclub member, and evidently, confused pal read the subject line of my posted note on the in-school only "Staff News" email folder and furrowed her brow in concern. She immediately had three thoughts that came in the form of questions. "What are vagabond crabs? How did she get them? Why would she post that on Staff News for all to see? I mean, she's (meaning me) pretty open about things and would look to her friends for help and advice, but... vagabond crabs? Maybe she wants to help prevent an outbreak?"

Then she read past the subject line to the rest of my email which went like this:

I have Vagabond Crabs, Chicken Little, and Wagon Wheels. They were left on a bench at school and probably belong to a "Morning Book Club" participant. They will be on my desk if you want to claim them for your student.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This morning I had a swerving, lurching, tipping to the right kind of morning. My insurance company issues credit cards. I got a call from the fraud protection folks. They noticed some unusual charges on a card our family shares for emergency expenditures; attempts made without the proper expiration date, and charges to businesses I don't usually frequent, in areas not near where I live. How much had been charged? What businesses were they using. How did they get the card number? I was thinking fast. I appreciated the quick response, but I had so much to do to prepare for my school week and was already spread out and focused on reading. So I had to redirect. Shouldn't take 10 minutes.

I listened to the places where charges were made: Savannah- daughter is visiting there this weekend. That's ok. Small town in VA for a gas fill up- other daughter. UnderArmor in Baltimore. Maybe? Health Products in ND... doubt that one's ours but you never know. Another phone call. The card company would put a hold on the cards and reissue new ones immediately if I needed. I didn't want that unless I knew the charges weren't ours. I looked online for the company information for a couple of the charges. A few more phone calls. Now I had a description of four charges not made by our family and the amounts. One company asked if my name was _____ (enter name on the order). Nope. The credit card company had denied the charges because the expiration date and zip code for the card were not entered properly. I now knew which tries on the card were legitimate and which weren't. A few more phone calls and text messages and I confirmed the news with all card users. Forty-five minutes were gone. We were going to have to get new cars.

I ordered new cards, cancelled the violated cards, fell in love with my insurance company all over again, and got back to work.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A number by any other name is January

I'm going to have to disguise this post a bit. My January daughter is a little shy about some things. Like attention. She's also brilliant so who am I kidding when I think I can disguise anything enough so she won't get it? She's the one who reads Margaret Atwood after me and figures out the "who dunit" long before I had in the book which of course is at the end. She is a scientist who loves research. She also figures out the whole plot of movies early on. She is at least kind enough to not share her thoughts until everyone's seen it. She's got her dad pegged. Well, maybe we all do. I have three daughters. But, her theories often come quicker and seem funnier.

Today she came to my school and delivered a chai soy latte, iced (my first ever) on her way home after her visit to another college. It's her spring break. The latte and she were both a little piece of mamma heaven. So... it's really hard to call her my middle daughter or my number two daughter or my second daughter. So limiting.

Pondering the adjectives for birth order last week, I decided I'd describe my daughters by their birth month instead of an ordinal number or other age superlative. "Hi, let me introduce my January daughter. She's a college student." "Have you met my August daughter? She's working for a publishing company and loves living in Charleston." "I know, can you believe my April daughter is graduating from high school? Remember when she was in that preschool in Oceanside?" Specific yet unbound by custom. Descriptive but with a bit of mystery left. Sassy yet sporty. (That last one, a family favorite for describing wine.)
I think this is going to work for me. I hope it does for the girls.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kiss and Ride

"Can you please stay with your car?" My request for him to stay with his car was politely delivered. No response. He just stared me down. I guess technically that is a response. I kept smiling hoping he'd just say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was a safety issue." He was already annoyed with my directive ways. I had gestured him forward in the Kiss and Ride lane just a bit earlier so the cars behind could pull up as they all waited for their children to be dismissed. We have a lot of cars to move and kids to load. It gets tricky. The Kiss and Ride backup causes a bus backup which then adds more backup to the Kiss and Ride lane. You get the picture.

At Kiss and Ride those on duty open car doors, deposit cute kids in the car with, "Don't forget to read and have a great night." We are generally pretty pleasant. But "Safety first" is our motto.

He had stared at me as my arms flailed and pointed not moving an inch. I swear I heard him say, "Make me." Then he just got out of his car, past dozens of kids, past the Head Start, kindergarten and first grade teachers who are always out there to help the process along and walked over to get his child just coming out of the school door a hundred yards away. Wait... your car is running. "Please stay with your car. I'll get your student. What's your child's name? What grade?" I was practically running after him with my questions as he purposely walked fast right by me without one word. Didn't he see the long line behind him? Was he trying to be rude? Maybe he didn't understand me? I was running along pretty fast. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But now I just doubted his cooperative spirit.

On his way back I kindly delivered another explanation, with full rationale of why we want adults to stay with their running cars or not park in the Kiss and Ride lane or why it's just not polite to stare and walk past people who are talking to you.

For the first time in awhile, today I just couldn't muster the usual friendly wave goodbye to a parent.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's just a number

I’m not one to dwell on my age. Once in a while when I have to get the oil can out or curtail some activity I think about it but, only briefly. Today I thought about it.

As part of my over-50 wellness program I got an EKG. I went into a nice medical office building well after the usual working hours grateful to be able to just walk in, show some ID and insurance information and be set to have it done. I walked over to the sitting area noticing a cute elderly couple. They were also waiting. I wondered what condition they had. I mean at their age it could be just about anything. I watched them (actually stared) as they sat across from me. As I continued to watch I had to suppress a little chuckle. Both sat with their heads down. Both had hands with fingers moving wildly on their touch screen phones. They were reading intently between moves. I thought they must be the coolest great-grandparents around.

Heck I have years ahead of me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

weather or not solc day 8

I took out my hand me down, beat up Canon today and finally uploaded some photos I'd taken over the winter. How long ago were these taken? I recognized the images but struggled with the when. Finally realized some were from late November. Some were from last month.

On December 18th I took this picture of the woods in my back yard. Gorgeous.

It was but an inkling of what would become a two foot plus covering of snow in our area of Virginia. If you live in the US you may have heard about how we got socked on national news. The white stuff came so quickly that day my gloves barely had time to shrivel and dry between shovelings. I'd forgotten how white everything was until I uploaded this image today.

A few days after this storm my family left for a holiday trip. We went someplace warm. We'd only vacationed once in the winter to try skiing. We are usually summer vacationers. When we made plans for the trip we thought maybe it would be a good idea to be someplace warm in December, never realizing it would be a really, really good idea. In a matter of hours we slid between these two extremes of weather. Happily so.

I loved this little flashback today.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

a wake

After school yesterday I made a stop on the way to the gym and the rest of my Friday night. I walked into the entry looking at the various placards for the name of the family. There was a crowd on the right in the first reception area. I walked on not seeing anyone I knew. I noticed the other two names. Women's names, so I knew those were not the right rooms. I went back to the first room where everyone, talking quietly, looked so distinguished as they filled a small area. I still didn't recognize anyone. A man asked if he could help me as I wandered and wondered if I even had the right funeral home. I mentioned a name. Yes, this was the correct place.

As I looked around I realized I didn't know much about this family. I really pride myself on how much I know about the kids in our school. Our whole staff does. We know where students are from, who their siblings are, and the various situations their families may have. There are a lot of situations when you have a population that represents over 40 countries, many languages, and who are often struggling economically. But I didn't know this student. I didn't realize her grandmother, grieving so quietly in the pew and her now deceased father were from Torino, Italy. That her mother was from Sicily. I didn't know many of the people in the room, only the teachers and realized this family had a lot of life outside our school. How did I miss knowing this little fifth grade girl who bravely came to school the day after her father died so she could have classmates and a teacher who loved her nearby? Was she new? I didn't know her father was diagnosed with cancer last Father's Day when he died on his birthday.

I stopped at the display of family photos on the way out sorry this was the only way I had for the moment to get to know them all a little better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

coffee mate solc day 4

Tonight, like every other Thursday night, it was my turn to drive my daughter and her friend to acting class. On the best of nights it's a start and stop drive that takes me across three towns and dozens of traffic lights at the height of rush hour. Not too much fun. But I look forward to it.

Once I park, walk the girls across another busy street, go into the church and drop them with their director and fellow performers, I turn around (small smile) and have 75 minutes to enjoy a girl-friendship. My friend Patty lives in that neighborhood. I don't know if she is usually coming home around that time from her job as a journalist but she makes time. So we meet.

We first met over 10 years ago when we volunteered to facilitate an orientation program for Marine spouses. It was basically a cultural class. The foreign culture was the US Marines. We had a ball with those young wives. Though Patty and I were never on the same base at the same time we had lots of common friends. Lots of common experiences. I was in awe because she wrote for the newspaper in one of the towns we lived in and was witty, smart, and fun.

We met tonight in the same coffee shop, sat in the same seats on the same side of the deuce (restaurant talk for a table for two), with our same hot drinks. We caught up. We do this pretty efficiently every other week because my car turns back into a pumpkin at the stroke of 6:30. Our topics included the usual diversity. We provided updates about our kids. She has two boys, a junior and senior in high school. I have three girls, senior in high school, junior in college and one out on her own. We caught up with our own stuff. We talked about empty nests and semi-empty nests. She's preparing for both. I offered feeble tips. (She and her husband don't need them.) We dipped into talk about travel, how her husband was on a trip to Asia last time we met, school events, fundraising, friends who divorce after 25 years of marriage, and our kids who act and sing. We pondered what our kids were going to do when they really grew up. We laughed a lot.

We didn't solve any big problems. Heck that would take longer than 75 minutes. We didn't even discuss the big stories in the Washington Post. We just met. We made small talk. Only really it isn't small talk.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

lost in translation~ solc day 3

I have a bit of a vicarious relationship with my Japanese ethnicity. I love almost all things Japanese- food, dress, business, culture, music, art, geography, language, anime, judo, paper. I wanted Myoshi Umeki to be my mother! I haven't spoken Japanese for about 45 years, but I still feel connected to this language when I hear it or see it.

Before Two Writing Teachers started this month's Slice of Life Challenge it had been months since my last post. I decided to reacquaint myself with my own writing. Today I read one of my last posts. It was about transitioning to a new position in my school. I noticed there was a comment which must have been left months ago. It was in Japanese. My heart skipped. What did it say? Who was it from? How did they find my blog? It was probably some teacher in Japan wanting to know more about how we teach literacy in the United States. I suddenly felt like an ambassador of all things reading and writing. I felt responsible. I mustered my fledgling knowledge. I wanted to reply to his/her comment with thoughtfulness and just the right words.

So I entered the characters into the google translator and waited for the English version.

I read down the list of terms trying to make connections. Wait. What did those words have to do with literacy? Ohhh... My commenter, Otemoyan who doesn't represent the comical Japanese song very well, is as they say, "furyō shōjo" (bad girl).

The right words would not be necessary. The delete button would be necessary. I immediately deleted the comment but not before I mourned my lost Japanese teacher friend. I offer my apologies to all who may have read and understood that comment prior to my knowledge.

I've got to read my comments more often.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

facebook findings~ solc day 2

On my way to work this morning my phone had an updated message on my Facebook icon. I thought maybe one of my daughters left a comment or a friend posted something new or a friend of a friend had commented on a comment or another friend was suggesting a friend or maybe a page. I mean it does go on, doesn't it?

Someone was contacting me. I saw the name. Hmmm. I had an English teacher in high school with that name. She was one of my favorite teachers of all time. Sophomore year? Junior year? I couldn't remember. I did remember she always dressed so nicely. I remembered we read The Scarlet Letter and The Canterbury Tales. I remember memorizing the first stanza (at least) of the Prologue in Middle English and performing it. I loved how it sounded. I loved how close to the modern version it sounded, only wound with some ancient thread. Reading that prologue was about as far away from the small desert town I lived in as you could get.

I finally got to open the note late afternoon. It was her. She is still teaching in California though not in the desert. Teaching for 37 years and still loving it from what I could read. I can imagine that pretty easily. She reminded me it was sophomore year. She still looks the same... smashing in a red evening gown.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I'm already thinking differently. That's part of it. Seeing is the other part. As I made the daily walk between my office and the 2nd grade classroom I get to teach in, thoughts of the day's word study lesson in my head, I scanned quickly between the bent over trees, the slush on the ground, and the two kids running back to class. I urged my eyes to observe... and see. Anything. I'm definitely a little rusty, but glad to be back practicing.