Category Archives: Teaching

Beginning Again Again. Homesick A Bit.

I was doing so well with my workouts.

For about three weeks, I didn’t miss a workout. I swam, cycled, ran, and lifted my little heart out. Then on week four, I felt a bit lethargic. I still walked a bit and I swam a bit, but I just didn’t feel right. Whenever that happens, I always assume I am getting sick and I try not to push my body past what it can handle. I was right. I had strep throat and some sort of ridiculous sinus mucus thing on top of it. I slept or stayed on the couch for two days, then I swam only 500 yards one day, then I rested for another day.

Today, I am back at it. After work, I plan to go for a 3-mile trail run, hoping against hope that it doesn’t get dark before I finish. I was too lazy to walk back upstairs to get my headlamp, so if it gets dark, I’ll just be running in the dark. With any luck the clouds will be thin and the moon will be out. I’m enough of a romantic to find running in the dark to be simply glorious and awe inspiring.

Tomorrow is cycling. Wednesday is swimming and lifting. Repeat. Rest on Sunday. Repeat.

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This past week I was homesick a bit. I miss my friends and family. I miss knowing people. I miss Indiana. I realized on Tuesday that I felt so homesick because I had planned to go home to watch the school I graduated from swim against the school I previously taught at and the school who was my high school’s biggest rival. Basically, I wanted to see a three-way between Blackford, Jay, and Burris. Burris’s homecoming week was also this week, and as cheesy as I always thought it was when I was there for it, I missed it so much. I missed the stairwell decorations, I missed the dress up days, I missed the dodgeball games, and I missed the dance. I was fortunate to see lots of photos that my students had taken, but I wasn’t there in person. It was hard. I wanted to be at home watching my favorite students be seniors, but I was at work because my manager was at a three-day manager’s meeting along with every other Caribou manager.

Everything I did last week made me think of the fond things about home. I know full well that I am where I am supposed to be. I am more mentally healthy than I have been in a really long time. And, of course, distance and time have a way of softening the bad memories while simultaneously making the good memories better.

Nostalgia.

I’m better today. I’m less homesick. I’m getting more sure of my footing here. I’m stepping into gratitude for the things I have here and the relationships I’m building. I’m learning to live again in a different way, in a different place, with different opportunities.

 

Sunday, Sunday: Full Report, Each First Sunday of the Month

So, here’s an update for My 20 Before 40:

1. Run a marathon. I signed up for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon on October 5, so I have 230 days to get myself to be able to run a 6 hour or less marathon. Still working on this, and it’s going better. I’ve run or walked at least one mile every day for 14 days in a row. Woot.
2. Finish the Racine 70.3 on July 21 in under 8 hours. I have signed up for this, and it’s 153 days away. My goal is to finish the 13.1 mile run in under 3 hours. I’m planning to get on the bike this week on Tuesday and Friday.
3. Swim a 500 in 7:30 minutes. This needs some work. I will get back in the pool on Monday, March 17 for two workouts each week, so this is in progress. I’m hoping to make it to Florida to swim at the beach before I move north as well.
4. Do yoga every morning. I’ve been doing balancing exercises, using poses from yoga, because I’ve read that balance can have a lot to do with injuries and plantar fasciitis, as well as just not looking cool when I fall over while standing still sometimes.
5. Do a 30 burpees in 30 days challenge. I am going to start this on the day after Bec moves to MN. I figure it’s a good way to work off anxiety. I’m also adding in, slowly but surely, other body weight exercises, so I can build a bit of muscle to try to burn off some of this fat.
6. Ride a century ride on the bicycle. As soon as the registration is up, I am going to sign up for the Headwaters 100, which rides around the headwaters of the Mississippi, something I’ve wanted to to do for a long time anyway.
7. Meditate for at least 15 minutes each day. I’ve started walking a 1.6 mile loop and then meditating for 15 minutes every day during my 9AM prep period.
8. Eat mindfully and with joy.
9. Try foods that aren’t the usual things I eat. I am eating Greek yogurt for breakfast and trying new ciders and beers.
10. Visit Indiana state parks and Indiana breweries with my brother. This weekend we visited Black Acre brewery with his friend Jenn and Becky. We had sampler flights, and they were pretty tasty.
11. Learn to cook one new thing each month. We’ve had oxtail stew and shark. I was going to try to make haggis, but all the recipes I find require a sheep’s stomach, so I am going to make marrow bones one day instead.
12. Do not drink alcohol and be paleo the 30 days prior to any major sporting event.
13. Read the whole Bible. Working on it.
14. Draw every night before bed. This will become much easier once I cancel the cable and internet.
15. Finish my master’s degree in creative writing. Publish. Yeah. This. Class.
16. Post a blog post every Sunday. I’m posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Two weeks in a row now!
17. Get a new tattoo. I’m going to do this after Racine 70.3.
18. Lose 60 pounds. I’ve resorted back to the panopticon called My Fitness Pal. Ick.
19. Find a job doing something I love. This may be a pipe dream, but I hope it works out.
20. Read a new book each week. I am slowly making my way through books… Slowly.

Fiction Friday: Speech Sounds

My women in literature students read Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds” for class this week. We also read Donna Harraway’s “The Cyborg Manifesto.” In this class, we use Friday as a work day, and the students can work on whatever homework they want to work on. I’m a firm believer that when we ask students to do difficult tasks we should give them grace, support, and time to work on those tasks in class with our support, so I give them Fridays and their abstracts for the theoretical works are due on Monday of the next week. Tuesdays are reserved for discussing the fictional work from the previous Thursday in light of the new theory, then on Wednesdays, we read four poems through the theoretical lens. If you’re really confused about how this works, you can access the schedule here.

Anyway, we read “Speech Sounds” and my students were really insightful about the text and discussed the ways in which Harraway’s theoretical ideas were present in the text. They picked apart the dichotomies and got at the permeable boundaries and were, in short, brilliant about the text. They loved the story as well. One idea we didn’t get at, that I am hopeful we will get at this week through “The Laugh of the Medusa” by Helene Cixous is the idea that the woman, throughout the story, has a voice, but can’t use it. A couple of students brought up these ideas, but sort of skirted around them in discussion. I would love it if we could really get at that idea and explore why Butler writes the female protagonist as a woman who can speak, but who can’t speak within her cultural context. What would she say that the other folks can’t hear? In the context of the story, she’d be killed for speaking, but is there cultural application for Butler’s views on female speech or lack thereof? Yes. Of course. But getting my students to speak thoughtfully about that will be the challenge of this week. Sometimes I love what I do!

Fiction Friday, On Saturday

This week my students read a couple of texts that are worthy of note: “The Women Men Don’t See” by Alice Bradley Sheldon and the Old Testament book of Job. I’m not saying they are both fiction, but we’re studying the bible as literature, so we discussed how Job is part of the wisdom literature tradition. I’m not really going to say much about Job, except for that it was interesting watching church kids really read that text and try to figure out why their ministers or youth ministers had never mentioned Elihu…

“The Women Men Don’t See” is a strange story that, at first, seems to be your run-of-the-mill adventure story where some folks get plane wrecked and some of them wander away to find water or help while some of them stay at camp just in case they might be rescued. However, this story gets stranger and more awkward as it progresses, because the two people who wander away to get water find some other folks out there in the wilderness. The man, Don, hurts his knee on a weird mangrove root, and then it appears as if he also gets stabbed by one of the other folks, though the way Sheldon describes the stabbing is much similar to the way she describes his knee pain, so I wasn’t sure if it was a new injury or the same, just inflamed. At any rate, Ruth, the woman who is also questing for water, makes friends with the others, who turn out to be aliens that look like tripods. The intriguing part of this is that Ruth can understand their alien language, but Don can’t. In the end, Ruth takes her daughter Althea and leaves with the aliens, dumbfounding Captain Esteban and Don and leaving them there by the plain wreckage. See, it’s weird.

My students had an amazing discussion about the way the women in the story are described throughout the story as aliens or others, so they weren’t bothered by the fact the women could understand the alien language. In fact, my students were interested in the ways in which that then turned the tables and marked the two men in the story as other. Since through the first two thirds of the story women are described as interchangeable (Don can’t remember one of his secretaries from another), Other (as opposed to men), or mundane (they behaved by the manual). Once Ruth meets the aliens, the men then become the Other; they can’t speak the language, nor can they understand the customs. And as such, the women leave the men. I was bothered by the fact that the women only ended up having partial agency, because they were able ot then step out of their “manual” interchangeable roles, but only by the empowering force of the aliens. The students loved the idea that language can help turn the tables. Still, the text was a good one, and we’re going to discuss it some more this week.  They did an excellent job of using the de Beauvoir theory to discuss the text as well; let’s see how they do with “The Cyborg Manifesto” this coming week.

Advent, Food and Exercise, Writing, and Stress

Most people who know me would not be able to believe that my two favorite liturgical seasons are Lent and Advent, in that order. I love spiritual waiting, because I know at the end of the wait there will be Jesus. I love the anticipation of Jesus, who is in all ways God, coming to earth in all ways human during Advent. I reluctantly wait for his inevitable death with the promise of resurrection during Lent. There is nothing quite like spiritual anticipation to make a person realize how blessed we are on this earth, how much the God of the universe cares for us and gives us grace. I agree with Nadia Bolz-Weber when she insists that our spiritual and theological lives consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of little deaths, resurrections, and rebirths (paraphrase). So it is every day for me. Anticipation of these spiritual events keeps me keeping on. Anticipation gives me hope.

Contrarily, I do not love earthly waiting. Instead I am like the cliché kid in the candy shop, wanting to take as little time as possible to make things happen in this world. I want things and I want them now. Maybe that’s why I put so much stock in Advent and Lent; it makes feel as if I have some otherworldly waiting ability. Anyway, I’m in a period of waiting now, on this earth, for the next steps. I’m leaving teaching at the end of May, at least for a while, until I can figure out what I want to do with myself. I’m hoping to be a bartender, or a barista, or something that involves the outdoors for a bit. I need to regroup and rethink and refocus. So, I am waiting to see what comes next. And it feels like an eternity. And it feels like so many things to figure out. And it feels overwhelming.

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Well, I tried a Whole 30, but again didn’t succeed. It takes a lot of work for me to be that strict with my food. Food is love and grace for me, and I still want to share in happy hour with my friends. Maybe I’m a weak person, maybe I have no self-control (see above, I want it, now), maybe I need a legitimate starting point like New Year’s to make things stick, maybe I’m just destined to be a fat kid. Who knows? What I do know is that from my lowest weight last year until now, I’ve gained almost 30 pounds. I chalk it up to stress, since I eat my feelings. I chalk it up to the mild depression I feel every fall/winter, since I sometimes don’t even want to get out of bed.

I am nowhere near my fattest, but I am not happy with this weight gain, because I can’t run, bike, or swim as fast. That being said, I’m cruising through the holidays, and then I’ll try to make some changes. It’s too much to try to be festive and self-policing at the same time.

I have also fallen short of my yearly goal this year to move my body 5 miles each day. I don’t think there’s any way for me to accomplish this goal, since my body doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with my grand plan of completing a mini-triathlon each day. I did four days worth, but then my body sort of said, “Fuck you, fatty, this is too much exercise.” And now my foot hurts, and I don’t think I can do it. But I’m going to try again starting tomorrow.

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I’ve been trying to write with my students this semester, but all I’ve gotten out of it is a load of crap and some really bad starts to several nonsensical stories. I am taking a teaching creative writing class this spring semester, so I can make something out of my classes for my PhD that I won’t be using for an actual PhD, since I quit. I hope the muse comes back to me before I have to start working on my creative project for the Master’s degree I’ll be trying to get. It’ll be in creative writing, and I have to write a new creative nonfiction piece that is publishable. This may be a bit tricky. Anyway, my whole point is I need a muse.

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I have never felt so much stress at any point in my life up to this date. I can’t imagine being a person who is this stressed all the time, nor can I fathom how some people function while carrying around such a huge load of anger, suspicion, and doubt as I see people carrying. I have found myself wondering how people keep from simply collapsing under the weight of the burdens they bear, because I sometimes feel like I could cave to the small amount of things I shoulder.

During this Advent, my heart hurts for people who experience stress, despair, anger, suspicion, doubt, hate, a painful past, or illness, and I pray and hope for healing, peace, love, and grace to visit them through me. I anticipate that the risen Christ will show through me and my actions as I love people this Advent. I anticipate being grace.