Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pushing Through

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Lots of little stuff mostly. Seems like whenever I sit down to put it into words, it seems daunting and, since I’m already tired when I get to it, I decide the required effort is just too great. Today, I’m going to push through that. In no particular order, then...

Karla and I went to the Community College today to meet with the financial aid guru. We’re trying to get her declared independent so she can qualify for enough grant aid to take classes. The meeting went very well. Dennis listened to Karla’s story and was quite confident that, with a modicum of documentation, she would meet the criteria for a dependency override. The thing that struck me about this meeting, though, was how nervous she was and, more importantly, her response to my observation of that fact. I suspect I’m going to put her on the defensive by even writing about it here (and I’m sorry if that’s the case), but I was so surprised to hear her deny it that I was left to wonder how many other people in the world do the same thing. I know of several people who suffer from varying degrees of anxiety disorders. They are seemingly flung all over the place by their unsupported fears, terrified, out of control, and feeling powerless. Yet, I have come to understand that one always has a choice about how to respond to and deal with fears. If we would move past them, we have several choices: We can cave into them, struggle with them, accept them, or work around them. Whichever decision we make, we always have the choice and we make it over and over again throughout our lives, and it is important to understand that we are not bound to make the same choice forever. We have the capacity to deal with our fears any way we choose. I find the choice to deny that they exist an odd one for the simple reason that doing so inhibits us from moving past them. Perhaps this is a separate post on its own…

Lots of my alumni have been in touch recently, and it is good to hear how they’re doing. Ellen is headed to Spain, Nikki to Turkey. Several have come home to visit, or are doing so soon. Jen P. will be back from Germany in a couple of weeks. We saw Courtney when she was back from Chicago. Dani and Joe were here not long ago from New York. Jennie is due back sometime from the west coast. I was sad not to see Jen K. and her new baby when she was here visiting, but all reports are that she is doing well in Texas. Even Kate, whom I haven’t heard from in many, many years, touched base recently. She’s about to take the bar exam. Break a Law Review, Kate!

I am eternally grateful to Wheeler, who came up last weekend to help me get some home improvement work done and ended up doing battle with the spirits of the house who, apparently, did not appreciate his efforts. It was supposed to be a fairly simple matter to replace the kitchen faucet. What was originally a 30-minute job turned into a 5-HOUR ordeal that included replacing both shut-off valves under the sink and a section of drain pipe in the basement, shutting off the water to the entire house while still managing to have flow in the pipes an hour later, nearly burning the place down (the story is better if we say that, Wheeler) and cramming both of us into the space underneath the sink. The story is one of those minor epics that always seem to come during home improvement projects, and is better shared in person. Why is it that home improvement projects so often fall into the “minor epic” category?

Chili’s mom is nearing death, and a student at my school (not one from my classes, but one I know) is coming back haltingly from the brink. My heart goes out to both of them and to the people who sacrifice so much of themselves to care for them. Such work necessarily affects a great many people (it’s truly amazing just how many lives we touch in a direct and powerful way) and the balancing act of keeping all the parts of all these worlds turning smoothly is a complicated and arduous task.

My first triathlon takes place on Sunday, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, there are many positives. I am physically stronger and faster than last year, and I have equipment that will allow me to be more competitive (yay for wetsuits). On the other hand, some apprehensions exist. I still have not reached my low weight from last year (although I have managed to melt 7 of the 10 lbs. I gained over the winter during July). The rest of me looks and feels fit, but the fact that I still carry this inner-tube around my waist is really starting to annoy me. Also, and not related to weight or fat, I cannot seem to get comfortable with the course. I’ve done enough open water swimming to feel secure about that leg of the race, but the bike and run are truly worrisome. I’ve tried a whole host of approaches to the ride in an attempt to bring my times in at what I think they should be, and the best I’ve gotten is a fractional gain and a body that is not happy. I just can’t seem to get the rhythm of the bike leg down and it makes me nervous that I’m going to kill myself before I’ve even hit the run. The run. The hardest part of the race for me. I’m fitter for it than I was last year, but it remains my biggest obstacle. This course, particularly, is a test because of the hills involved. I want to conquer it in a decent time, but none of my test runs of the course have given me a lot to feel confident about. I will be happy to have improved on last year’s performance, but I won’t feel the race was truly successful if it’s not well done. Does that make sense?

I'm still working through the issues presented in the latest Community School post. I'm running out of time, so I'll have to finish that post either later tonight or tomorrow. Until then...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Glad I didn't reread the book before I saw the movie

Many of the Wayfarer Community adults (and some of the kids, too) descended upon the local movie house for the early evening showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The movie was decent (better, perhaps, for my not being up on the details of the book), but the thing that made the movie really special was that it was a community event.

We all live really busy lives. We juggle jobs, children, school, projects of all kinds--not to mention the obligations of our extended given families, and we are often exhausted at the end of the day just from the efforts of trying to keep our worlds turning as we believe they should. That my world is full of individuals who, despite these obligations, nonetheless give up even more of themselves to make this chosen family work makes me feel truly blessed. It was an honor to spend the afternoon and evening with them all (and thank you, Molly, for your part in making that happen; welcome to our crazy world)!

We're all coming together tomorrow to celebrate the birthday's of the several of us who are turning 40 this year. I'll try to post pics tomorrow. Till then, reach out to some of your chosen family and tell them you appreciate them. It's a truly wonderful thing to be connected to people.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Awareness of Summer

During the summer, the routine at Wayfarer House changes a bit. It’s not any less busy, per se, but it is focused on things very different from those that occupy my time when school is in session. In years past, I’ve not really had the luxury to take time “off”; there’s always been something curricular or otherwise related to my teaching that’s needed attention. Not so this year. In part because I’ve resigned as both AD and soccer coach at my school, but also because the need to use the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year lessens as I have been teaching at the same school longer and longer, I’ve been blessed with a goodly amount of time to pursue training for the two triathlons I want to race (both of which take place in August) and I have been able to work on rebuilding some important personal growth routines, blogging being among the latest of them. I’ve even been able to indulge in regular naps. Most of you know I have short internal batteries. Being able to recharge them, especially while doing heavy amounts of physical exercise, is a wonderful blessing.

The summer also means I’m around the house a great deal more than usual during school. As a result of this, I see more consciously the amount of work that needs to be done to keep the swirling vortex of activity we call a house from falling into complete chaos and decrepitude. I see with great vividness the endless stream of laundry. The dishes seem to scream at me every time I pass through the kitchen. The kids’ things cannot be cleaned up well enough or regularly enough to appease my rather non-standard sense of order. All these things are so much more evident to me during the summer and, as a result, are far more irksome to me than they might be otherwise, when out of necessity, I will compartmentalize my awareness of them so that I can focus on the myriad other monkeys on my back.

I give you today as an example: There are at least 4 baskets of laundry that need to be folded and 2 that need to be run through the machines; the kitchen is full of dirty dishes, but the dishwasher is full and needs to be emptied (I have to own the fact that it didn’t run until this morning); the floor needs to be vacuumed--again (Karla can attest to the fact that it was done just a couple of days ago, but, for a variety of reasons, the house gets dirty quickly in the summer); and last, but not least, the girls things are undergoing a slow but inevitable rate of encroachment such that they must surely engulf the house, much as Hemingway’s sharks must eventually devour Santiago’s great fish. Add to this, please, the ubiquitous collection of projects large and small that seems to diminish in size like the puddle you tried to scoop dry with your hands in a rainstorm when you were a kid and the relational demands that are regularly part of being a member of Wayfarer house, and you can see how tempting it can be to say, “That’s enough!” drop everything and deal with it all.

The thing is, I’ll never get it all done. I could spend all day, every day of my summer, working to get ahead on these tasks and I would never see the end of them. However greatly they wind me up, I have to recognize that I cannot do all of them at once. I have to commit myself to a certain list of things, according to a basic standard of prioritization and, as long as I have done those things, I must live with what remains.

I’ve been seeing in this an unnerving parallel to my work with the Community School. I'm working on a post for the Community School blog to discuss this more, but it won't be ready until tomorrow. Check the link, though. It might be there early.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Easy and Some Hard

Training this week is going well. I took my new wetsuit out for its first test in open water the other day and was thrilled. I was buoyant and glided along the water with an ease I’ve only rarely experienced as a swimmer. That, combined with weather that was simply exquisite for swimming, left me feeling like the 1.2 miles I did across a nearby lake was effortless. I seriously considered doing another half a mile, but decided to measure out a run around that lake so I can start practicing dual discipline workouts. I especially need to be pushing the run training. It’s my weakest discipline, and the one that is destined to cause me problems in the Olympic distance event I’m doing in just two weeks.

One of the things about training for distance events is that you spend rather a lot of time thinking about things that are not related to training (it’s part of what allows us to do things for far longer than we might otherwise). I’ve been thinking a lot about Wayfarer Community School stuff, and what I need to do to move things along with this project. I’m wrestling a bit with this, and I’ve decided I should take some time to write about the conflicts I’m having. I won’t get it all into this one post--I need to go to bed sometime--but if you’ll bear with me, I hope to connect all the disparate pieces into a cohesive thought over the next couple of days.

Laurie B asked where the project was in a comment a couple of posts ago. The answer is “not much farther than in the spring”, and I’m annoyed on several levels because I’m not happy with that answer. It’s not for reasons that are insurmountable or unavoidable that the project isn’t moving very fast. A lot of it simply has to do with me, and that’s a lot of why I’m annoyed. If it were something outside my control, I could roll with it (I probably wouldn’t, but that’s neither here nor there). That I am ultimately responsible for where we are means I have to get up off my ass and fix stuff, and that’s not as simple as I would like it to be.

I’m struggling at the moment with two separate issues in my way of doing things--not just WCS things, but all things. The first is that I have a tendency to focus on minutiae because it often seems like it’s the more immediate problem, when really I should be looking at the big ideas, which are my specialty and what other people expect me to be doing. The second is that, in a sometimes instinctive desire to keep stimulated, I often allow myself to take on projects that distract from more than they contribute to the grand plan. I’ll explain more about these over the next couple of days, but they really sit right at the heart of a lot in the deep end of my pool right now and I need to work through them.

I should probably have this conversation on the WCS blog. I am ashamed at how long it’s been since I posted to it. I’ll find a way to send this over there, and post the links to it on this blog. You need another blog to read, right?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday yesterday. He’s 68.

My father counts the day of his birth among the most important days in his year. I can appreciate that. I don’t hold my own birthday in terribly high esteem, myself, but I can understand why people see them as special. He and I have the conversation every year about why they're supposed to be sacred days. I think he supposes that I'm a curmudgeon about them. That's not true. I just don’t get all excited about the day, per se. I take a big-picture, though probably unrealistic, philosophical position on the issue. Treat people like it’s their birthday all the time, I say, and maybe we wouldn’t need to make such a big deal out of that particular day. Why should one ever feel constrained in giving love and attention?

Anyway, I love you, Dad! I hope you get a chance to do something you would enjoy. I’d get you a boat, if I could afford it. I know you love to be out on the water! You’ll have to settle for a funny card and a better way to make coffee, though. Seriously, those “coffee-in-a-bag” things are not the way to go.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A summary of the Week

The girls have been in camp for a week and, clearly, they like it a lot. One can determine this by several things, including the amount of time they spend talking about it, the number of times they ask if they can come back next year (even though they still have 5 weeks of camp to go) and the ease with which they go to bed in the evenings (this last one is an important grownup reason). Number one on the list of things they enjoy: Swimming. Their camp has poolage, and they have lessons in the morning with free swim in the afternoon. Both my girls are water children (they come by it honestly), and would spend all day in a pool or a lake or an ocean if we didn’t specifically tell them they had to come in because they’re suffering from hypothermia.

Wifeness and Karla are headed to see the Matriarch this weekend to help get her settled after her surgery. Sorry I didn’t write about this in advance; she just had a knee replaced. The procedure went well, I gather, but it’ll be a few days before the swelling goes down. Wifeness, ever the dutiful daughter, is there to do what she can to keep the house running so Nana can rest her leg like she should. Karla went to help as well, but also to see a cousin who’s been doing energy work on her for her illness (though having some time away from the young ones was a happenstance not inconsequential in her decision making)

Karla went with me the other day to get my one expensive piece of triathlon gear for the year: A wetsuit. I realized the wisdom of owning one last year, when I ended up having to do breaststroke for a full ¾ mile during a race because the water was too cold to do a crawl stroke without my lungs seizing up, but I told myself I would not spend the money unless: a) I made a commitment to continuing to race triathlons, and b) I was convinced I could get some weight off and keep it off. I made the decision to keep racing last year after the first race. I enjoy the competition and I get a lot out of the intense training that is necessary to do well in endurance events. Now that I’m doing them, I feel like I’ll do them forever. The weight came off last year and, although I put some back on over the winter (actually, it was during the end of soccer season, while I was prepping for my speaking gig in Charlotte), but I have done surprisingly well at holding since and, now that I’m training full on again, it’s starting to melt off. I decided I could spend the money with confidence. I haven’t had a chance to go try it out yet. That’ll come next week, when I have some time during the day.

Training is progressing. My swims are solid at ¾ mile lengths (the length of my longest event this year). I have to test myself in open water soon, but I feel like I’ll be in the middle of the pack in any race I run and that’s good enough for this year. The cycling is still good, although I’m annoyed I haven’t improved quite as much here. I was already a little better than the middle of the pack on the bike, but I haven’t taken the time to put the miles in like I should and my climbing has suffered a bit as a result. I did a very hilly 50+ mile ride Wednesday to work on that problem. I’ll test myself on the local race’s course next week. That will tell me more about what I need to work on. The run remains the biggest challenge for me. I was doing a decent 5k time in the spring, but I stopped running when the end-of-year school routine kicked into high gear, and so I’ve taken a couple of steps backward (pardon the metaphor). I’ll be happy if I can do the 7.2 miles of the local race in less than an hour this year. Right now, my pace is a little over that.

How’s your did your week go?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Would you like some lettuce?

Our farm share has been coming in for a couple of weeks now. Here’s about what we’ll be doing for meal planning at Wayfarer House for the summer...

Monday: Salad

Tuesday: Fresh Greens

Wednesday: Garden Vegetable Medley

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Chicken Fried Steak and McDonalds (to flush out the system)

Saturday and Sunday: Eat nothing due to continual digestion of Friday’s meal (coincidentally made possible by all the cheap greens we’ll be eating).

If we’re doing potluck or community meal at your place, you should just assume we’ll bring the salad. Seriously.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yay for camp!

The girls start day camp today, and I am happy. I am happy not because I’m glad to see them go. Quite to the contrary; I enjoyed my week with them last week. I’m happy because, although my children are good at playing independently and keeping themselves entertained in good and healthy ways, I simply do not feel like I can get things done when I’m watching them. I think it’s partly due to the fact that I can’t multitask worth a damn--being mentally aware of my children counts as a task--but there is also the matter of their rather regimented schedule doesn’t quite coincide with my rather regimented schedule (particularly as it relates to the sacred naptime). Basically, without intending to, they cut into my productivity.

It’s good that they’re going to camp for other reasons, too. Among those is the fact that they’ll get a lot of interaction with other kids that they don’t get when they’re at home. They’ll certainly be kept busy there, where trying to keep them entertained at the house can be a challenge because they really have divergent interests and abilities. It’s a help to Karla to have them gone during the day. I can push them to keep quiet until as late as 10am, but after that they just have to be who they are and that’s too loud for Karla to sleep. Since it’s frought with problems to try to get Karla to rise earlier than 11am, it’s the path of least resistence to have them out of the house.

I have a to-do list on the dry erase board, and items are getting checked off as they are accomplished. Today was a swim/run training day. I got the my .8 mi. swim in at 6am (and kicked ass, too!) The run (which, if I’m lucky, will be a full 10k that doesn't piss off my recently hyperextended knee) will hit in the afternoon--after the nap. The rest of the day is reserved for phone calls and emails, and for some necessary bits of domestica. I need to wash softball and tri clothes, and I have a couple of errands to run in the early afternoon.

Things are moving along quite nicely. I am happy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

That's what I get.

Went running today and got my ass kicked. I deserve it. I haven’t done a lick of training in the past 5 weeks, and (clearly) it shows. I pulled out of my early tri event (which takes place this Saturday) so I didn’t hurt myself, but I’m bound and determined to be ready for the Olympic distance version of the local event in a month. The first week of this is going to be painful on several levels. I have resigned myself to this fact and look upon it both as payment for more than a month of sloth and as motivation to drive me not to slack off like that again.

I’m motivated by the fact that the Tour de France starts tomorrow. I follow the tour every year, and this year it’s going to keep a driving force in my training. If frickin’ Lance Armstrong can do it, then goddamn it so can I! I’m also inspired by a book Karla found for me at the library about a woman in her 50s who retired from her life as head of a school in England and rode around the world. Can I just say that I have dreams of doing that someday? It wouldn’t be the kind of around-the-world trip Wifeness would want to take, though, and I’d feel sad if she didn’t go.

We’re headed up to Lake Spofford for an annual 4th of July cookout event. I’m bringing swim gear (no wetsuit yet--that's on the list of things to buy this month). I have no expectation that the water will be warm enough to really push through, but it can’t be any worse than my last event of 2008 when I had to do breaststroke for ¾ of a mile because it was too cold to crawl. My nuts still crawl right inside at the memory of that day.

While training is the focus of the month of July in the mornings and the evenings, the middle of the day is set aside for the myriad house projects burning a hole in my to-do list. I can do several of them without a further impact to the budget, and those are the ones I’ll get to first. Next week’s items include finishing the side porch (more than a year after it was started) and the completion of the basement workshop makeover and inventory reduction.

If I don’t post tomorrow, it’ll be because we got back late and I was beat. Happy 4th to those of you who celebrate the most American of holidays!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Quality time--for everyone

This is a transition week. The summer vacation routine is in effect, but the kids’ summer camp experience has not yet started. This means that the mornings are slow (if not always quiet--sorry Karla), and that they begin with some sacred time between the early risers. SiSi has been a rooster since her earliest days. She comes by this honestly (as anyone who has known me since college can certainly affirm), and during the times when the grownups need to catch up on sleep it can be, well, a burden. She’s been “sleeping in” this week, though (till 7:30), so that’s been nice.

Once we’ve sent Mama on her way (she’s the resident working stiff during the summer), SiSi and I grab our breakfast and go outside. We sit, sip coffee and smoothie, chat and listen to the sounds of the morning. OK, the kid does the chatting and the Papa does the listening to the sounds of the morning. Still, it represents wonderfully intimate quality time and we both get a lot out of it.

NiNi and I get our version of that same time in different ways. Sometimes, it comes from doing things together--yesterday, for example, she and I went grocery shopping (which she likes because she gets to do all the price scanning). Sometimes we get it from just chilling. We don’t do it quite so often anymore, but we used to take naps together. She’s a great nap partner!

In pondering this concept, I realized this morning that I haven’t been spending as much quality time lately with our teenager-in-residence. She gets a lot of attention from Wifeness (which is at it should be), but it’s important that she know I value the time we spend together, too. It seems like it’s been more about the other two kids when she and I are in each other’s company of late, and that’s not fair. She should get to have the full attention of the Papa, as well.

Karla and I used to take quality time together a lot but, curiously, we haven’t been bonding quite as often recently. I’ve allowed myself to be focused on other things, and I’ve been lax about making the effort to nurture that special attachment we have. Attachment is an integral part of strong and healthy relationships, particularly between chosen family, and it deserves constant attention.

I take responsibility for not doing more to connect with her in those ways, but I’ll need to reach out to her for some help in doing that more. The thing about quality time is that it can rarely be dictated by an individual. If the important thing about it is that both people share something with each other during the experience, then it must be recognized that it can’t be done unilaterally. So, I’ll see what she thinks. I’m sure that, between the two of us, we can figure something out.