Monday, July 9, 2018

Montana Firsts

Maybe you already know about the Grand Prismatic Spring?

We're back from our Montana vacation. This is our third summer in a row venturing west. We did the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Badlands and Black Hills, and now, the Rockies of Montana. These trips suit me. I like the hiking, the adventure, the ceaseless vistas.

I know I saw all this terrain and natural beauty as a young person, but it's all seemed new to me on these recent sojourns. Of course, I distinctly remember refusing to look up from my book as we crested many a snow-capped mountaintop in our family van. My own children similarly fail to take it all in. I can tell by the way they slap at each other in the back seat and made countless off-topic jokes about balls. In any case, we accumulated many "first" experiences and, I'm quite certain, precious family memories on this Montana trip. I'll provide a list of these "firsts" now:

  • First multi-mile family hike. We did the famed Beehive Basin hike in Big Sky, often referred to as one of the forty most beautiful hikes in the world. It was six miles long and stunning. At the outset of the hike, I was very clear about my expectations. "I plan to complete this hike," I said. And everyone complied with very little complaining. In fact, the children ran the final three miles, leaving Dan and me in the dust.
  • First whirlwind national park tour. We spent eight hours in Yellowstone. Obviously, we barely scratched the surface of this American treasure. We were awed by the amazing geothermic marvels and tried not to think about the supervolcano under it all that might end the world someday. 
  • First time in a broken down taxi. On the way home, our cab driver's miniature van emitted terrible sounds and then started smoking copiously from the hood. He dropped us off in the parking lot of a gas station, and we called an Uber to make the final leg of the journey. Good problem solving to end the vacation.
We're thinking Banff or Utah for next summer. More vistas, por favor.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Not My Job

You can see the river guide here is responsible for ten lives, including his own.

I've been whitewater rafting a few times in my life, and although I really enjoy this activity, I've been thinking about it and have come to an important realization: there are, I'm convinced, few jobs I'm less suited for than "River Guide."

Although I'm pretty outdoorsy, which seems to be a trait the river guides have in common, the truth is I do not understand paddling and/or levers. Perhaps I could be trained, and yes, I was a marginally competent canoeist at one point in my life. River guiding, however, requires a level of technical precision I might find hard to achieve. There are boulders and sharp turns and also, as my crew demonstrated yesterday, the people in the boats don't always heed river guides' paddling direction with accuracy and/or alacrity.

Another issue with river guiding is that most professionals live a nomadic lifestyle, sojourning from river to river in search of both sustenance and adventure. Mike, our guide on the Gallatin River yesterday, currently lives in the back of his Toyota Tundra and will do so for the next eight weeks.

I like camping and all, but living in a truck at this point? I'm not sure I'm up to it. I already wake up sore most days, and I don't even sleep on aluminum.

A third reason I'm not suited for river guiding is that river guides must be immediately ready to handle life-threatening emergencies. The truth is, I'm rather skittish in the face of danger. And, although I once-upon-a-time became a certified lifeguard, I'm not sure my swimming and rescue skills can stand up to class IV rapids. Or class III or class II rapids. Let's not even imagine foot entrapment or whirlpools.

As you can see, I've given this a great deal of thought. Although I appreciate the opportunity, I'm going to have to say no to river guiding.

Monday, June 25, 2018

X is the Best Place to Fall in Love

Once again, we're watching The Bachelorette, and once again, I'm losing brain cells at an alarming rate. In the current season, a lovely Minnesotan woman named Becca dates twenty-five marginal suitors. We just watched a date on which Becca and Colton rode camels and then soaked in a hot tub in the full sun of the Vegas desert.

Why would one do that on a date for fun? I didn't even see either of them apply proper sun protection.

At the end of the date, Colton said it was one of his best days--not dates, but DAYS--ever in his life. I'm sorry, but that can't be true. It was a hot tub in the middle of nowhere with camels roaming in the vicinity.

In other news, the summer's been cruising. There's a lot to do on each of the days, and I'm a little worried about accomplishing all the things on all of my lists. Luckily, I totally mastered today's to-dos, including eating at a delicious vegan restaurant called J. Selby's. I had street tacos with soy chorizo, and Lee had a meatless hot dog that looked as if it were made of meat. Lee's visiting! Isn't that great?!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Summer Task Lists

Here I am finishing the hardest 5k I've ever run.

We're finishing the first week of summer vacation. Actually, I'm just thinking of it as "summer, "and not as "vacation." Last year, when I reframed the whole June-July-and August phenomenon as not time-off, but rather the start of my other jobs, I just felt much happier. I wasn't expecting to be luxuriating and feeling relaxed all the time.

Indeed, I'm not living a life of leisure over here. Instead, I'm being a novelist and a full-time parent and studying for my new job. All of these are time-consuming endeavors, but also a lovely change of pace from my normal 9-5. Or 6:30-5, as the case may be.

I've got a daily task list. It includes laundry and clutter clearing. And, most importantly, I've got butt-in-the-chair time to make progress on the book. The comprehensive revisions are due to my agent by August 6th. I'm excising two characters and adding one. I'm writing more internal thinking. I'm reworking the conflict. To be honest, it feels less like revision and more like re-writing, but so far, I think the changes are making the book more and better than it was before.

In addition, I've got running on the calendar. I joined a running team to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was lured by the possibility of scoring points for the team now that I'm old. Sure enough, I ran an extremely hard 5k last Wednesday. It was the slowest 5k I've ever run, and yet, I finished 2nd in the Women's Masters division. That's a point-scoring position! Yay for 40!

Let's do this, summer. I'm ready for you.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Countdown to Summer

We're here in the homestretch of school year 2017-18.

Here's the story: I have finished and proofed my report card comments. I have emptied my classroom. I have loaded a few belongings on a cart to take on a long drive (3 elevator rides and a trip through the courtyard) to Room 205, where I'll be teaching 3rd grade come fall.

At our assembly, my students reminisced about their favorite moments with me in middle school, which was very sweet. They remembered me leading them in dance moves from High School Musical and also commented that I'm quick with a sticker and a smile. 

I do love stickers.

Bring it on, Summer 2018! Only the Valleyfair trip, Shef's 8th-grade graduation, official high school graduation, and couple of faculty meetings to go.

I can do it, I'm pretty sure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Big News. Big. Huge.

Here's something pretty cool: I applied for a new job. I went through all of the steps. I wrote a cover letter, updated my resume, did a fifteen-minute screening call and then a one-hour in-person committee interview. After that, I became a finalist, and I did a full-day candidate visit complete with two demo lessons with real kids. There were also six interviews with real adults.

Isn't that a lot?

I'm lucky because at the end of it all, I got picked for the job. I think you're supposed to play it cool on the offer call and say you need some time to think about it, but I didn't do that. I basically interrupted my new supervisor to yell, "I'M THRILLED, AND I'M TAKING IT!"

The whole thing was for an internal transfer position at my same fantastic independent school, and here's the deal:

Beginning next fall, instead of teaching sixth and seventh grades, I'm going to teach third grade. Third grade! In a self-contained classroom where I can work on empathy and community and global competence all day long while also thinking about all the core subjects plus social and emotional coaching! Further, I'm going to handle walking in lines and distributing snack!

Lucky for me, someone I know and love a lot has expertly taught third grade for years. I called Lee. She totally coached me, you guys. She made me feel like I could do it. When I got the job, she said, "Welcome to Thirdland," and I felt like I was 100% on the team.

I think it might be the best thing ever.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Listen to Your Mother Twin Cities 2018

Here's a picture of me practicing for tonight's show. My lip might be curling in an unattractive way.
Photo Credit: Ann Marie Photography The lip curl is obviously not her fault.
In a few hours, I'll be reading a story called "Labor and Reunion" in a show called Listen to Your Mother. I wrote the story myself. It's a true one about being an adopted person and having two mothers. It's also about giving birth and being a mother myself.

That sounds like a lot, but my part only runs 4 minutes and 45 seconds, so there's no need to panic about length. And, I included a few marginally funny jokes. If you go to the show, please laugh in the appropriate places. You'll be able to tell, I think, that I tried for humor.

Of course, I'm nervous. Here are some particular fears:

  • That I'll trip on the way to the stage, need to catch myself, and shove my butt toward the audience in an awkward way.
  • That I'll choke on my spit.
  • That my bra strap will fall down.
  • That I'll lose my spot on the page and need to tell the large audience to "hold please."
  • That the audience will be weirdly silent without any laughter or reaction at all. This has happened to me before at a Back-to-School Night, and it's unpleasant.
Those are the major ones. Here are some minors:
  • That I'll have to go to the bathroom a lot of times in advance of the show and struggle to remove my jumpsuit. 
  • That the sash part of the jumpsuit will fall in the toilet during one of these trips.
  • That the reddish-orange jumpsuit will remind listeners of prison.
  • That I'll mess up the group bow.
  • That I've forgotten to shave one of my two armpits. 
  • (Update: I just checked, and we're good to go on the armpit front.)
I think that's it. Remember, I signed up for this. I auditioned for it, in fact. It's happening. Go time.