Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Meme: What did you do in 2008 that was…


I took SiSi on her first overnight kayaking/camping trip. We were racing a wind storm, and had to work hard to get where we were going by the time the water became choppy. We got to explore the wilderness, go swimming in the river and make s’mores. She was a great partner in this adventure, and really got into putting up the tent, making and tending the campfire and paddling the kayak. I remember thinking, as we were coasting down the river the next morning, that my kid really impresses the hell out of me and I am glad she chose me as her papa.


I packed six months of endurance training into about 13 weeks, so I could run in my first triathlon in 15 years. I could have started earlier--in fact, I tried to start in February--but building this routine proved incredibly difficult for me. I just couldn’t get myself up to do anything. I don’t remember now if it was because of anything in particular (note to self: blogging is good for remembering), but I do remember being frustrated that, after having already trained for and accomplished a 400-mile bike ride, I couldn’t get up to go for a 5k run or a 750m swim. What made the training particularly demanding was the timing: All the peaks of my training fell into the full and frantic times of my school-year routine. That just added to the desire to put it off. Eventually, I had to kick myself in the ass and just go, deal with the stress and discomfort, and get moving. I was motivated by the fact the goal of competing in the event, but also by the knowledge that I could actually do it and do reasonably well. Also, sending the checks out to cover the entry fees appealed to the tightwad in me. If I’m going to spend the money, I will damn well do the race! I did, and it was a great experience, but actually getting into the habits of mind, body and spirit that were required to train for it took a lot more will and determination than I was expecting.


My first run of more than 10k was exhausting, but I was so over the top at having done it that I wanted to shout. If I hadn’t lost my car key along the way (necessitating a call to Beth at the house to come and fetch me), it might have been even more epic. It’s not the marathon distance of Grammar Snob’s husband, but it was the first time in my life I’d ever run that far, and the sense of accomplishment was incredible.


I was able to put it out of my mind while I was in session, but it was hard to know that, as I was speaking at my conference in Charlotte, my soccer team was playing for the league championship. That game represented the culmination of several years of effort on my part to build an extra-curricular sports program at my school, then to build a league within which we can have meaningful and evenly-matched competition. It also meant a great deal to my players, who worked very, very hard to get to that game. Last year, our league’s first, my team lost in heartbreaking fashion in the semifinals on penalties. This year we had to survive two intense contests to reach the finals, and they knew that, if it came to it, they would be playing the finals on their own (well, not on their own. Jeanne gets big props for working that game in my stead--she did an awesome job).

Someone on the field was supposed to call me when the game ended--about 4:00, if there was no overtime. When 4:15 passed with no word, I figured they were playing overtime (I was mentally prepared for this). When 4:30 came and there was no call, I was starting to wonder. At 4:45, I was starting to panic. The call came at 4:55, with the word of a 0-0 tie that went to overtime and 19 (!!) penalty kicks before we won. The game was truly epic, with a result my team can be justly proud of, but waiting for news had me chewing my nails down to the quick!


Reviewing my list of goals for the year reminded me that I’ve done absolutely nothing in the way of woodworking all year. There are several projects on that list that I really want to do, but none of them ever rose high enough in my awareness to drive me to get them started. I have decided to move them onto my goals for next year, with the added commitment to devote more time in my tiny shop in the evenings so such things will stay in that prominent place in my attentions.


Wifeness and I dropped the kids of at the Matriarch’s and drove up to Freeport, ME for a night at a B&B. We tooled around the LL Bean campus and enjoyed some of the other local shops, but really the date was about taking time to enjoy being in each other’s company--and the hot tub!


The work I did to research and prepare for my gig in Charlotte took four months and resulted in a 15-page workbook for the participants of my seminar (I’ll post a link to it eventually, but it’s not available online at this point). I’m questioning whether it’s worth putting some additional time into it so I can publish it for popular consumption. I need to send off some emails to people to get feedback on that question.


I gave up my side of the bed to Karla to assist in her recovery. I’ve been sleeping on the futon in the living room for the last two months, and expect to be there for a good while longer. I miss sleeping with my wife, sure, but it’s ok. We’re adapting well overall. We only need to constantly remember to take the time to communicate and connect at other times, in other ways. It’s easy to forget to do that stuff.


I moved the store of Trident gum I keep in my classroom from the center drawer of my desk to an undisclosed location. It is public knowledge that I chew gum, and that I’ll offer it to students who ask, but somewhere along the line someone decided it was ok to go searching for it. I can’t figure out who it is, so I’m protecting my stash from further depletion. If you want some, just ask. There’s no reason to steal it.


I do a lot of this, really, so it’s hard to pin down a single event. Napping in some form or another would probably fill up most of the top 100 slots on the list. Napping in my hammock on a warm summer afternoon certainly ranks among the top 10.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas! Where's the Internet?

The Matriarch's DSL service was spotty at best and never seemed to be working when I was able to sit down and blog, so I just decided to wait until we got home. Sorry if you were missing me. Did any of you even read this blog this month?

The holiday event in NH was fine. We left Wayfarer House (without Karla, who went south to observe the holiday with her given family) at 7pm on the 23rd, which was about as early as I could get home from school and get the car packed. The two-hour drive was uneventful, which is just the way I like it. The kids watched a movie on Wifeness' laptop in the backseat. Wifeness read her book and nodded off. I plugged into my psipod and grooved to 80's music until the battery ran out. I knew I should have charged a battery before we left! Once in NH, Wifeness and I unloaded the car of luggage and gifts while the kids cuddled with the grandparents. It wasn't long before everyone was in bed.

The 24th started later than usual (thanks go out to Grampa, who gets up early with the kids), and I went out after breakfast in search of some final holiday purchases. A note to the DPW of Portsmouth, NH: It was NOT a good idea to dispatch the bucket loaders and dump trucks to clear the snow near the malls, thereby closing all the access roads down to a single lane, on Christmas Eve. I'm just saying. I don't mind the traffic, but it seemed unnecessary.

Christmas Eve night traditionally involves Chinese food and relatives, and gifts for the little ones are exchanged. To my great relief, there were no "noisy toys". The girls got books they absolutely love, and clothes they'll wear and enjoy. The adults got to chat and relax without drama or tension. A good evening, by any standard.


I would like to tell you about Christmas morning by recounting a conversation.

SiSi: Papa?

Papa: [grunt]

SiSi: Is it time to get up?

Papa (fumbling for watch and realizing that it's 3:12am): No. It is NOT time to get up. Go back to bed.

Time passes...

SiSi: Papa?

Papa: [grunt]

SiSi: The clock's not working!

Papa: What do you mean it's not working?

SiSi: It's not moving! It's barely moved in, like, a long time.

Papa (fumbling for watch and realizing that it's 3:24am): [Sigh] I'm setting the alarm on this watch. Do not come out of your bedroom until it goes off. Do you understand me?

SiSi: Yes, Papa.

Papa: No, I mean do you really understand what I'm saying to you?

SiSi (in a softer voice, tiptoeing out): Yes, Papa.


Wifeness and I offered a special present to her folks this year: We would prep, cook and clean up from this year's Christmas feast. It is usually something that they do (they host this event, and as a result, have viewed it as their province), but the last couple of years it has seemed to leave them completely exhausted. We're used to doing such events, and we thought it would be helpful to take this very draining commitment off their list. It turned out to be the most wonderful gift we could have given them. They were able to sit, relax and enjoy the family gathered to them in a way I don't think they've been able to do for wome time. We talked about it afterward, and I'd like to see it become something we do from now on. They've earned the right to pass the torch on this.


The Wayfarer family has a tradition of visiting the Chili house on Boxing day for waffles and bacon. It is the last event of our Christmas observance in NH, and one I look to with enjoyment every year. It is a chance to relax with people I love in a manner that is wholly forthright and easy. Chili and I both value this kind of social experience and, I think, are grateful for every one of these we get.

It was nice to see you, too, Auntie, even if it was only for a few minutes!


We're back home now. The suitcases are unpacked. Laundry and dishes are underway. Piles are making their way back to the right drawers and shelves. I spent an hour or so knocking heavy snow off our elderly neighbor's hedge and shaving ice off the driveway so it will melt smooth tomorrow (it's expected to hit 60ºF!) I'm going to relax tomorrow, or what passes for it at this time of year. The floor needs to be vacuumed. Someone needs to go to the grocery store. You get the idea. There is just not much time before we have to start prep for the New Year's Eve party. Fatty's is doing English food this year! Are you coming?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Inbox: Delayed from Yesterday

I tried to do this yesterday during my free time at school, but there wasn’t any. By the time the kids were in bed, I was really done. So, it gets posted a little later than I wanted.

[On the rules of the house]

Laurie B: What's the quote? Great blessings and great expectations?

I don’t know an exact quote that marries the two thoughts, but they’re tied together strongly in my belief system. Personally, I believe the latter begets the former. In teaching I say it more less that I will do anything--ANYTHING--I can to support you, in whatever way you need, but I expect you to be trying to do the best you can. Is that high pressure? Maybe, but once they’ve reached the point where the blessings start to come (often in the way of tangible results), it starts to make sense that the pursuit of excellence brings rewards. There’s more on this I’d like to write, but not right now. I’ll try again later in the week.

[On the Ice Storm of ‘08]

Many people on and off blog made offers of shelter and accommodation to people in our world who were affected by the weather two weeks ago. You were all very generous, and I want to honor that here. This wasn’t a major disaster, by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly made a lot of people justifiably nervous. It is my hope that the generosity of those in my world helped to alleviate some of the uncertainty of the experience.

[On unhappiness and control]

Chili: Ugh. Convincing someone of their control over their own life can be the single most frustrating endeavor one ever undertakes.

There’s a morally difficult question for me in these kinds of situations. On the one hand, I think it’s important for people to find their own way to understanding. No one can bring enlightenment unto another. Growing in this way is sometimes a long and painful journey, but there is no shortcut to making it. It’s also a matter of individual choice, and I respect the right of people simply not to try. On the other hand, however, I think it’s important for people to recognize that their choices (and their failure to make choices) carry consequences, and not just for them. We hear all the time about other people paying the price for one’s own sins. As a member of my chosen family, I have accepted an obligation to support you, but also to protect everyone else from things I recognize are harmful. I’m still coming to a decision about where these two seemingly competing ideas meet harmoniously, but I’m convinced there is such a place. I’d love some commentary about this, by the way.

[On getting the various holiday personalities to communicate better]

Eric: You shouldn't have gotten the red (camera)...

*I* didn’t get the red one. That was all Wifeness’ doing. Does that mean she gets to take the blame for the radiator, too? It was her van, after all…

Kizz: Sort of the nice thing is that it waited until AFTER they'd been ordered so you're still getting something nice.

Yeah. Sort of. I’d have been content with something less expensive that I could drive around in the van (with its nice, new radiator), but as they say, what’s done is done. Maybe I’ll take some nice pics of the new radiator? **shrug**

[On the end of long days]

LB: You are going at a gut busting energy level that you can handle and work with right now.

I’ll tell you, LB, it’s not all that unusual for either Wifeness or I to be working at 110%. It’s just what we do. It does catch up to us every now and again, but we’ve developed ways to deal with things when we need to slow down or check out. Planning and communicating are the two biggest things we do, and when we do them well (which, admittedly, is not all the time) we’re able to do a lot with our time, space and funds.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today is the Winter Solstice

It is the shortest day of the year. I celebrate this day because, from here on out, the days get longer. They won't get warmer for a while yet, but this is the beginning.

The kitchen is seeing heavy use today. Lots of yumminess is in various stages of creation, and the house is filled with warmth and aromas of sweet and savory. The snow is falling heavily at the moment, but there is no need to venture out. No one in the house has to travel, and the plow has not rumbled by. I am perfectly content, therefore, to stay in my squishy clothes (that's a Wayfarer House term for sweats, slippers and the like) and take care of the ever pernicious domestica.

I was excited to do some writing yesterday (the DnD adventure the house has been playing for several years is drawing to the end of its latest chapter), and I want to finish it by the end of the year. Who knows what will happen to it after that, but I'd like to see it through.

Wifeness is looking for one of the cameras that "Santa" is giving the kids this year. If you see it, will you tell her? It's driving her meshuggeneh.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Long Day Done

Today seemed to wear everyone out, including me. We got a lot accomplished, though:

The laundry is churning along (4 loads through, plus one in the wash and one in the dryer)

The kitchen has been cleaned--twice. I’m not sure I’ve acknowledged the universe publicly for our dishwasher, but I’ll do it again anyway. We would not be able to do what we do without it.

The drive has been shoveled--once (SiSi helped). I’ll have to do it again, but with only another 3-4” to fall, it can wait until the morning. People can get in and out, and that’s what matters.

We were able to get to the mall, and the girls and I did some preliminary research on a present for Mama (which shall not be mentioned here, Mama, since you read this blog). The mall kicked Karla’s ass, but it was good that she got down there to do what she needed to.

Wifeness and I were able to powwow about the gift baskets unnamed holiday gifts we’ll be sharing. We’ll start working on the final goodies parts of them this weekend.

SiSi finished the first Harry Potter book. She is very proud of herself. She damn well should be! She’s frickin’ 7 years old! So awesome.

NiNi wrapped “presents” for people and put them under the tree. I’m not sure what she’s giving as “gifts”, but she’s very excited for people to open them. I just hope it’s not a tie. Or, as is the tradition in my given family, a painted stick.

Now that it’s the end of the day, I’m going to chill and do some writing. If I’m still feeling awake in an hour, I’m going to watch a bit of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. May the force be with you.

This snow is really putting my knickers in a twist...

...and no, it's not just because it falls. Let me 'splain. No, there is no time. Let me sum up.

I knew yesterday that there would be a storm coming this afternoon, and that it would likely result in a cancellation of classes. I knew it, but could do nothing about it. The day was just too busy for me to do what was necessary to prepare for all that was going to follow.

A snow day today creates a lot of problems for me. The way our school's class schedule works, losing the day today means I have to pack in everything--presentations, performances, assessments and independent study reviews--all before the end of the day on Tuesday (a day, it must be noted, that not all of my classes meet). Add to this the fact that several of my students are not coming in next week (they're leaving to celebrate Hannukkah stuff out of town), so they will not have what they need to do for practice over break, and all of a sudden there is an organizational nightmare. I do not, as of this writing, have a solution for these problems, but at least I have the extra day to think about it!

The kids' school actually decided to fit in a ½ day (they're dismissing at noon), but I'm keeping them home. It's not worth the gas to drive up there twice, with everything else that's going on today. We need to get some grocery shopping done, and we need to pick up Wifeness and hit the mall so Karla can get some stuff for the gifts she's giving. I don't think we're going to get back home before the snow falls, but it is my hope that we'll escape the worst of the driving experience. Then it's all about domestica (laundry, vacuuming, dishes) until the snow reaches 6" in height. I'll have to move it around with the snowblower before it gets too dark, so that Maeve can get in the driveway when she returns home from work.

Who says snow days are like an extra day of vacation? They can come on over and enjoy it here. We have dishes to do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Karma?

Wifeness and I decided to splurge a lot and get each other digital cameras for Xmas this year. Cost: $300 for the pair. She ordered them online this morning.

Wifeness brought her van in this morning to have new tires put on, and in the process of doing that the mechanic discovered that her radiator has a leak and needs to be replaced. Cost? Go ahead. Take a guess. I’ve already given you a hint.

I'm writing Buddha to ask him what the crap brought this on, anyway. I'm CC'ing Santa. Their people need to talk.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10 Things Tuesday: Randomness

1. My students love to play Spanish Jeopardy, but mostly because they get to play with the buzzers. I cannot tell you the number of times I have to say, “If you press that buzzer again, I’m going to kill you.”

2. It will suck if we don’t have school tomorrow. Wednesdays are my easy days: I don’t go in until 12:15pm, and I only teach two classes. If I’m going to have a snow day, it should be on a day like today, when I have to be at school for 8 hours.

3. Of all the sports I can play, basketball is far and away my worst. I mean, really. The worst. Just ask the kids that played this afternoon.

4. SiSi is reading Harry Potter. She started a week ago, and she’s about half way through it. It’s really cool to watch her so intent and focused on what she’s reading. The fact that she is 7 years old amazes me.

5. NiNi is not reading yet, and is having some difficulty accepting that her sister can do it. Younger sibling jealousy is a horrible affliction.

6. My mother wants to come up this summer to visit. She wants to drive, and to bring the dog. The cat will not be pleased to learn this.

7. A member of chosen family is living a life of stress and unhappiness, but totally unwilling to believe that she can make decisions to change that. She believes firmly that her life is what it must be. It makes me sad because it hurts not just her, but her entire family, even though she sees that she is doing the opposite.

8. I made pretty decent chili on Sunday. Well, it wasn’t much to look at (apparently, it was several shades of brown), but I can’t be responsible for that. At least it tasted good. Karla ate it for two days!

9. I am really excited about the prospect of biking to Nova Scotia this summer. I have NO idea when or how it’ll happen, but I am all giddy about getting to do it!

10. It’s 10pm, but I’ve posted for the day. Now I’m going to go for a 45 minute walk and go to bed--in my own bed. Thanks Wheeler!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Will you 10,000 monkeys shut the hell up?!?

The kitchen is full of people, and I can’t get in to fill the dishwasher. That’s ok. I needed to post for today, anyway.

Today, it was 54ºF. I don’t think I can tell you just how good it felt to my psyche to be outside in that weather. I ran for 4 miles after classes and it hurt and healed at the same time. For those of you only just getting back into your homes, I am very, very sorry. I feel guilty that I kinda needed it so bad.

I sat down with myself last night and meditated on my goals and what I wanted and needed to do to achieve them. I have to admit it was hard to do that. I have been in a funk for a good week, and anyone who knows what that feels like will agree that getting out of one is a whole lot harder than getting into one. It was hard to focus, and more than once I thought it might be better if I just went ahead to sleep. I’ve learned from past experience, though, that if I just keep going back to the thing I’m supposed to be contemplating, eventually one of two things happens: I either achieve clarity (that is, the distractions sort of fade out), or I reach a point where the distractions become the thing I realize I need to focus on. The latter was more the case last night. Mostly, it came down to knowing I needed to get up and start doing. OK, fine. What’s in the way, then? I made a list of stuff. I took care of a bunch of it today during school. I’ll start on some more tonight. I’ll try not to let the list get in the way of the goals (that’s a lot like missing the forest for the trees), but I need to work through the distractions to get to a point where I can go back to actually contemplating the big picture. I’m not all the way there yet, but already I feel much more like I should today for having taken the time to get inside my head.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Stay warm. Stay safe.

There are still some 10,000 people in western MA without power as of this writing. Many of these will not see it until Tuesday, although crews are working as quickly as possible. Those I've talked to out here are ok, and the Red Cross has shelters and services set up for those who aren't, but it serves as a reminder to me that we should be prepared for havoc and support those who take care of us in times of need. We at Wayfarer House have heat and lights, but our hearts go out to those who do not.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm in school. Where are you?

Despite the icy, slushy and generally messy conditions in the area the last couple of days, my school has not cancelled classes. I’m all right with this, since it means I’ll have to stay in June that many fewer days. You see, we already get out much later than the average public school (our current last day is June 18), and it often happens that we’re chugging along in that last week of the month. I like my summer to start earlier rather than later, so if it means I have to slog through 2” of slush to get to school I’ll put on my wellies and my wide-brimmed hat and head on out.

That said, there are not all that many kids here today. Many of my students live in the hill towns. The road conditions there will be treacherous until mid-afternoon, and a great many trees have succumbed to the weight of the ice on the branches, falling on houses, cars and roads. I cannot complain that most are at home, though hopefully they’re working on their stuff for my classes so I don’t have to send out Late Notices for them. I hate writing that paperwork! I cancelled the exam today for those of them that showed up. With only one full week before the holiday, it just didn’t make sense to create work many of them would have to see me outside of class to make up. Why create a Spanish emergency when one doesn’t need to exist?

It’s supposed to clear up later today, but I’m still not going to try to do any training. I’ve been invited to the local watering hole after school, but I also need to run to the mall to drop Karla’s computer off at the Mac Store (the CD drive is being recalcitrant). I should be back well in time for the holiday photo, although I’ll have to de-scruff beforehand.

Wifeness and I are going out for a date tomorrow morning! Auntie Carolyn has offered to take the children off our hands for a couple of hours, so we’re going to chill at a local breakfast joint, then go window shopping. I’m really looking forward to this time. It’s rare of late that I get to spend such time with my wife, and I miss it.

I’ll try to get out for a run this weekend at some point and, hopefully, that will spell the end of this episode of depressive exhaustion. I’m ready to be done with it, I really am.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ten Things Tuesday (on Wednesday, because Tuesday sucked)

Between the cold, the wet, the dark and the grading that I need to do in advance of Late Notices, I'm really not enjoying life right now. This week's list, then, is dedicated to the dos and do nots of my life at this time of year.

1. I DO a lot of mindless distractable things--video games, sudoku, web surfing--to keep the blues at bay.

2. I DO NOT have a lot of motivation to do things that require concentration--grading being chief among them, as applicable this week.

3. I DO have a lot of grading to do, however. I have exams from last week, two separate projects (wonderful though they are) and homework... So. Much. Homework.

4. I DO NOT think I can get up at 5:30am to go to the pool while I'm in this funk. I've tried, like, three mornings to get up. I can actually wake up, but I simply cannot get out of bed. Ugh.

5. I DO have a phys. ed. class twice a week, so I'm getting a little exercise, but it's not what I need to have to stay on top of my training.

6. I DO NOT have any endurance right now. Even though I'm not doing much physically, I feel like I need to sleep all the time. I've had to pull over on the drive home to close my eyes and refresh my batteries several times over the last couple of weeks.

7. I DO manipulate caffeine a bit to help me through the day, even though I know it's only a short-term solution. When I say "manipulate", I mean I have an extra cup of coffee during the day (above the cup and a half I have with breakfast). That's the most I can do without creating more problems than I solve.

8. I DO NOT have a metabolism that would tolerate taking real drugs to deal with this. Hell, Ibuprofen kicks my ass!

9. I DO NOT expect this to last forever.

10. I DO, however, think I'm going to go to bed early again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm taking a day off from everything.

I'm sorry, but I don't have anything profound to blog today. I'm cold, I'm tired and think it's just best if I go to bed. We'll try again tomorrow.

Thanks, Eliot and Mia, for your kind words today. They really mean a lot.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Meme: What if ... ?

1 could bring one character from your favorite book to life, who would it be?

I enjoy the quiet wisdom of characters like William of Baskerville (The Name of the Rose) and Marko Ramius (Hunt for Red October), but since both of these are played in film by Sean Connery, I’ll leave those as tied for the number two slot and select Gandalf (Lord of the Rings). I’d find it intriguing to see his world through his eyes! could solve one of history’s unsolved mysteries, which would it be?

I thought at first that I’d really like to know exactly why and how stone monuments like Stonehenge were created, but recent archeological evidence seems to suggest that such formations were places of burial, and that cremations were performed there. I figure the academics will have it all figured out without my help. The mystery that next came to mind was that of The Iceman, Otzi. We don’t know a lot about what life was like when he lived (4th C. BCE), and I feel like it’s nothing like what we imagine it to be. were stranded on a deserted island, what 2 people would you chose to be stranded with?

Well, certainly Wifeness would be one, and not only because it’d be great to spend all that quality time together (figures, though, that we wouldn’t be alone), but because between the two of us, we could figure out how to either get off the island or live quite happily together on it. The second person would probably need to be someone like Les Stroud, whose knowledge would be indispensable if we were destined to be there a while. could spend a day with any celebrity, dead or living, who would it be?

As I get older and realize that celebrities are real people, just like me, I’d want to spend that time with someone whose real self I truly admired and from whom I feel like I would learn something. The first name that pops into my head is Emperor Kangxi of China. I feel like he has that quiet wisdom I admire, and that he is a good judge of people and how to work with, not against them. The link above is clearly biased, but is the closest one I could find that portrays Emperor Kangxi as I learned about him first. Wikipedia’s entry on him is decidedly more evenhanded. could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I am, I believe, an excellent judge of people, but I am still learning how to use that skill to communicate effectively. Sometimes, I just don’t recognize what to say or do fast enough to be helpful or supportive at the right time. I would love to be instantly better at simultaneously reading and interacting with people. could live anywhere, where would you live?

For a long time now, it’s been central France. The Loire Valley just gets me in a soft spot. Perhaps, when the school is built and we’re ready to retire, I can convince Wifeness to buy a small villa there.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rules and Regs

Susan at Foster Care Space Warp recently posted some of her "house rules". Wayfarer House has its own, as well (what house with children or pets doesn't). Based on recent events, however, I'm adding a couple.

New Rule #1: If you ignore the fact that you have to pee and, as a result, have an accident, you must accept that you will have to wait until we get home to deal with the problem of wet pants. Papa does not bring spare clothes for children on outings.

New Rule #2: If you violate the "hands off" rule when we are at a store (see earlier rules publications for the full text of this rule), you are responsible for any damages and the costs associated with buying the item. If you are unable to make financial restitution to either the store or the parent, as applicable, you will be required to perform additional manual labor in the form of chores around the house until such time as your debt is paid. The number of chores imposed under this rule will be commensurate to the severity of the violation of the rule and/or the amount of debt incurred, with the intent being to prevent any repeated infractions.

New (Amended) Rule #3: When an authorized parental unit--any authorized parental unit (given or chosen)--tells a dependent member of the community to abstain, desist, cease, curtail, discontinue, belay, wind up, close out, culminate or in any other way bring to an end an activity, that instruction will be followed in both letter and spirit without question and without delay. Any appeals may be brought--after the fact--to a (or, if applicable, the other) given parent. Amended as follows: Any instruction to abstain, etc., regardless of its origins, overrides a permission unless and until ALL AVAILABLE GIVEN PARENTS affirm and concur that permission is granted.

New Rule #4: Theo is off limits to all dependent members of the community while he is in holiday dress. Neither he nor any of his trappings are to be touched in any way, directly or indirectly, without the express consent of ALL AVAILABLE GIVEN PARENTS. This most especially includes the Star Trek Mr. Spock talking ornament.

New Rule #5: You will be advised of weather conditions at the time of departure from Wayfarer House. You may, at the discretion of an authorized parental unit, be advised to consider outerwear appropriate to the conditions as given. When you are so advised, the choice to heed the counsel is yours, with the understanding that you accept--without complaint--any consequences. This does not change the earlier rule that states, as relevant, "an instruction by an authorized parental unit to bring or wear particular clothing may not be interpreted as advice, subject to choice."

New Rule #6: Lunchboxes will be emptied by their owners of all perishable contents and refuse immediately upon their return to Wayfarer House. Failure to do so will forevermore result in any new lunch items being refused admittance until the offending container meets space and sanitary regulations.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday In-Box (while my students are taking their exams)

[On “given” vs. “chosen” family…]

Chili: I guess we have to come down to questions of biology and intention.

The importance of both is one of the parts of larger question I’ve been mulling about family and marriage’s place as a fundamental keystone of the nuclear family concept. I’m still working on it, but I’m nearly ready to post something.

Mary Fagan: I have observed that those in our actual gene pool tend to bring out the absolute worst in us.

Firstly, hello Mary! I’m glad you’re here! Secondly, the anecdotal truth of your statement is something that has taken up a lot of time in my thoughts. Why is it that our given family does that to us? I’ve wondered if the answer is not somehow tied to the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt”, but I simply cannot accept as universal such a depressing supposition. I’m working too hard to evolve beyond feeling contempt for people to accept that it must be that way.

Wifeness: We should add (StoryCorps) to our next agenda.

I think it’s a great concept, and it would serve us well to find ways to make use of such things in our school development. Let’s talk more about it, k?

[On decorating for the holidays…]

Kizz: The past few years I've bought a low cost wreath for the smell.

And what a wonderful smell it is, too! It is truly a comforting winter scent, right up there with wood fires, pipe smoke and roast turkey. Theo isn’t aromatic, so we have to import wreaths if we want that particular fragrance.

Laurie B: Mostly, we spend time and share good food and wine. Time is really the only thing of limited quantity that we do have to spend.

Truly, Laurie, I think that time is undervalued in American society. I value the time people give to me and mine far more than most things they can buy. Gift cards don’t do much for me, but homemade anything is really special, especially if it’s thoughtfully done.

[On hot people living in New England…]

Kizz: I had no idea Lauren Ambrose lived in New England. Where?

As it happens, Kizz, you were right to question this. I checked again and found out she actually lives in Manhattan. Dammit! I was just settling into my decision.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brain Dump...

The last two days have been more than a little frenetic. It sort of came out of nowhere, and I wasn't ready for it. Yesterday, I think I made it to 9:30pm. I'm not expecting much better today. Thankfully, my exams are made for tomorrow. All I have to do is print them out.

Part of it is the weather. It hasn't been cold, but the gray and dark really reaches into the deepest part of my soul. Cold I can handle. I'll snivel about it, but it's bearable. Dark and dismal just withers me.

I'm glad I'm doing training again, though. It's tempering my desire to curl up under blankets and hibernate. Today, I went outside and played soccer with my class, and it felt good. I managed a nice hike in the woods yesterday, and that helped, too. I know that exercise does a good job of alleviating SAD. I'm working really hard to keep on top of it, not just so I'm in a good place for triathlon season and Nova Scotia (have I told y'all about that yet?), but also because I have a feeling it's how I'm going to best survive this time of year.

Wifeness, Karla and I have agreed to take time out of the evenings a couple of days per week to keep in touch with each other. Wifeness and I rely strongly on that kind of time to debrief on the day, pass information back and forth, plan, strategize and generally bond and be intimate. We call it Teapot Time. It's hard to have Teapot Time during soccer season because my world is so screwy, but now that we're back on a more or less normal schedule, we're finding we really need to reestablish the habit. We want to include Karla in that time because so much of what we're doing now involves her, either directly or indirectly, and it's good for her to have input. It's also good for her to see how we work together to talk things out and solve problems. She hasn't seen a lot of that among the adults in her world.

We're also letting SiSi and NiNi stay up a little bit later now. We still put them in bed between 8 and 8:30, but we'll let them leave the light on for a few minutes to read or draw. SiSi has been good about turning the light off when the time is up. I love that she's so responsible!

Kiara and Mia are back together again. They seem much happier now. Ben and Leah are not together anymore. They seem happier, too. Teenage romance is weird like that.

Karla has beaten me at Scrabble. I don't mean covered the 70 point spread she normally gets. I mean, she beat me outright. Wheeler is close to beating me, as well. I think my Scrabble mojo has left me.
: (

While I may come back to Grace Park when I start watching Battlestar Galactica again, I think I've decided my new crush is Brea Grant. She's on TV now (and I actually watch Heroes, so I see her every week), she's got a blog--thanks Kizz, for finding that out, and she doesn't live near enough to worry that I might run into her (sorry, Lauren). The voting is open again, though, if Lauren moves outside New England. It's the hair. Redheads are hot. Especially educated redheads.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

10 Things Tuesday: Talking about Community

I met with students from my advisory today to talk about one of the big thoughts running around in my head, and they had some interesting insights about how my school’s identity has changed, and what we might do to help get us out of this place of “not-knowing”.

1. They have noticed, too, that our community seems fractured. We do not do things as a whole body any longer and, although there are organized events that allow us to interact as a school, they don’t contribute as well as they could to the sense of community we all really value.

2. They noted that our school has become far more rigid in its approach to things. They talked about how they used to be able to visit classes and teachers in their downtime and how, if a group were deep into something of consequence, the staff would support them by giving them time and space to see it concluded well. Now, they are pushed to eat lunch in a shorter time frame, required to follow regimented guidelines during their independent studies and, as they put it, “be all institutional”.

3. They felt like this less accommodating attitude has affected the public perception of staff as a whole, but particularly of administration. They see them as less approachable and collaborative now than just a couple of years ago.

4. These issues notwithstanding, they don’t think we’re truly broken as a school. They were quick to point out that. They felt just like the students that have already approached me do: That it’s still a wonderful place, but is suffering for some of the changes it has seen recently.

5. They see our school as a place where students used to come to do performing arts (not necessarily to become great performing artists). Now, they think, students come mostly to escape traditional schools. This was insightful. We as a staff have discussed this same thing.

6. They wondered to what degree the three major changes to the school--the creation of a middle school program; the move to a new, modern (but more confining) building; and the retirement of one of our founders--have contributed to this fractured state. More importantly, they wondered about what solutions might come from understanding how these are all related.

7. They suggested that there are a lot of ways that we can be together as a school to promote a sense of community, and that they need to be “canned” experiences. One such suggestion was a game day. “There’s nothing that draws us together like playing Giants, Wizard and Elves!”

8. They recognize that our building is not well designed to allow us to do things together as a school, or even in larger groups. There is no space large enough for all of us to meet as one body, and this really gets in the way. We used to do all-school open mic events every couple of weeks, for example, but this is not possible in our building.

9. They felt as though we should totally be able to come to consensus as a school about this issue of community, although they were uncertain as to how to approach the discussion without making it seem force-fed. They felt that, to be truly valuable, the discussion needs to happen in a spontaneous manner.

10. They were reluctant to stop this discussion short to go to class (as it was, they were all 5 minutes late). When I asked if they were interested in continuing this discussion, they all said “YES!” I’ll admit I was surprised to see them so engaged in this. Even those students that are not normally so vocal were commenting and asking questions. Clearly this is something of interest to them, and I’m looking forward to taking this to the group who asked me to be involved in the first place. They’ll be pleased to know that this resonates with more than just them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

PloYoMoFo Assessment

Time to review the results of National Blog Posting Month on the Wayfarer Journal. I’m actually quite impressed at how I did! I’m taking a mulligan on the three days that I was in Charlotte because of technology issues but, apart from those, I missed only one day. People are even reading the blog, so I can make the generous assumption that it’s worth people’s time. That makes me feel good. Thank you, everyone, for your comments and support!

I’m really feeling empowered by what I’m writing; it’s helping me to stay focused on goals, and I find the big things I’ve been pondering (in some cases, for a long time) are starting to become clear. I’m reading and writing more about the things I value, and that’s good for me. This is what I wanted blogging to be.

If you signed on for National Blog Posting Month, how’d you do?

In other news, the tree has been dressed for the holiday season. For those of you who don’t know, Wayfarer House has a tree, a weeping fig, that’s been part of the décor for some 15 years. His name is Theo. Every year, we drag out the lights and ornaments and deck Theo out, instead of spending a lot of money for a tree that just gets cut down and thrown in a landfill in a month. A lot of people think we’re weird (what else is new), but I like the idea of the tree being part of the festivities. I’ll post a pic as soon as I can find the camera (or convince Wifeness to take a pic for me).

We also have Wayfarer House “stockings” hanging in the living room. They get quotation marks because one could hardly call them stockings. They’re closer to sleeping bags in size. They are, in a word, enormous. There are five this year, and they cover the entire closet door! Other decorations will come out as time permits. Some years, we put stuff everywhere, but I’m less and less of that mindset as time goes by. It’s not that I’m a scrooge. I’m just not into the holiday IN THAT WAY. I like the certain traditions that we’ve developed as a family, and I love the sounds, smells and smooches that are all part of the season, but turning the house upside down doesn’t contribute to my sense of the festive. I prefer to decorate on the inside.

Wifeness and I have decided to forego gifts to each other this year so we can get stuff the house really needs, like kitchen equipment, sheets, towels and insulated curtains (the cost of heating our house will be astrofuckingnomical this year). We’ll still do anniversary somethings when the time comes, and Santa will be kind to the kids, but when we sat down to talk about it, we just didn’t see the sense in going nuts trying to find stuff the other needed when we knew we both wanted to take care of infrastructure. It’s amazing how much peace can come from new linins!