Reflections on 26.2

Yesterday I ran my second full marathon. The humidity, my crappy back, and the heat during the last 6 miles made it a particularly tough run for me, but my family was excellent crowd support. My husband, son, mother in-law, brother in-law and his girlfriend, and sister in-law and brother in-law and their two kids all came out to cheer me on. 

They had an abundance of great posters. Thanks  Amy for the picture! 
Here's some run-downs of highlights and my thoughts throughout the event: 

Miles 5-6: I ran with Marv from Colorado and Tom from Grand Island during this stretch. Marv is 75 years old and has run over 200 marathons and ultras. He's completed the Leadville 100 TWICE. He told stories about different races, but he was quick to talk about others and rarely talked about himself. I asked him what his favorite race was, and he said he couldn't pinpoint one but that he preferred ultras over marathons. He explained that in marathons, people are out to run a specific time; they run their own races. Conversely, in ultras, people are focused on merely finishing, and because they're so difficult, runners band together to push one another. I think Marv talked me into running an ultra. I caught him coming in at mile 11 when I was coming out at about 13, and he gave me a big hoop and cheer as he ran. Tom was running his first marathon. He was middle-aged, wasn't built like a runner, and wore cheap basketball shorts and his long-sleeve shirt from the event (it was a brutal 90% humidity at the start, and it was not cool by any stretch of the imagination). He smiled proudly as he talked about finishing this race he never thought he'd even attempt. When I saw Tom again, he was at mile 18 and I was at 24...he was still smiling. 

Mile 15: I ran past three teenaged girls who were volunteering at one of the intersections. They cheered as I neared, and as I got closer one girl yelled, "Keep going! You're almost done!" between bites of powdered donuts. Almost done?!? I still had 11 miles to go! And why didn't she offer me a freaking donut? For some reason I hit the proverbial wall at miles 15-20. I was just starting to feel terrible when she yelled this, and I was not in high spirits. It took all I had in me to refrain from yelling at the girl to go back to basic math class and learn how to count. 

Miles 18-23: This was a point of utter desperation for me. My back was aching and the pain had reached down into my glute and hamstring causing me to feel so tight. I was just entering the worst part of the course: an out and back for 7.5 miles on Highway 30--one of Nebraska's most boring highways. The clouds had begun to clear out and the sun beat down reminding me why most sane people avoid summer marathons in Nebraska. I tried switching from podcasts to music back to podcasts. I tried silence for a while. When I felt like I could go crazy, I called my running partner Kristin and left the most desperate voice mail. Fortunately she called back within ten minutes. She kept my mind occupied until somewhere between miles 22 and 23. 

Mile 24: I had to do some walking earlier to try and loosen up my back, but this time I had to take a walk break because I had a side ache and had a hard time getting into a rhythm with breathing because the damn humidity felt like I was breathing into a mask of cotton balls. I also felt nauseated I think from not having enough food in my system.

Mile 25.75: I came to a fork in the road where the course wasn't marked. I assumed the volunteers were supposed to direct the runners which way to go. I got closer and could see one girl, about 16 years old, asleep in her bag chair. ASLEEP. At mile 25. I damn near pushed her out of her chair. The other girl looked to be about 12. I had to shout at her to ask her which way to go, and she just pointed in the direction. No cheers, no good jobs. Just a blank-faced point in the general direction of the finish line. "Unbelievable!" I shouted to nobody. 

Mile 26.2: I looked at my Garmin and saw the finish line was still a tenth of a mile away and cursed the day I started running. 

This marathon was much tougher than my last one. That's what happens when you get older, I guess. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. There's something about pushing my body to it's absolute limits that makes me feel so alive. I realize how crazy this sounds...I'd love to sign up for a 50k here in Omaha in early October, but I'm not going to. I'm going to cut back on the running for a few months to let my body rest and to give Nate a chance to do the kind of working out he wants to do. He's done a lot of solo parenting this year as I've ran various races, and he's never complained about me running. It's time I did the same for him. legs will probably still be tight for the next 8 weeks anyway...

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Mom guilt

My friend Amee is a stay at home mom of two littles. She has the patience of Mother Theresa and the creativity of Martha Stewart (minus the criminal streak). She cooks healthy foods, has a nice smelling home, plays with her kids, and does it all while looking like a million bucks. I admire her. After being home for a good chunk of the summer with Jon, I realized how ill equipped I am to be a stay at home mom. I'm just too selfish. I found myself "fake" playing cars each day, half-heartedly looking for Jon in the same hiding place for each round of hide and seek and faking being surprised when I found him there, and just being snippy. I need time each day that is just me--time to read, write, think, create. When I don't get this time, I become rather unpleasant. Work tends to be my outlet. It's where I am challenged and sharpened. Unfortunately, it's also where most of my stress comes from. A few nights ago Jon and I flipped through photo albums and for the first time since we've had him, I become aware of just how fast the time has gone. As the photos flipped on, Jon's face lost the baby chub in his cheeks that he had when he first moved in with us. I started taking inventory of all the things he can now do on his own that he couldn't do a year ago: brush his teeth by himself, make his bed, reach the sink without a step stool, change the toilet paper roll, read, tie his shoes....seriously. I wondered then how many moments I had missed because of work or spoiled because of being stressed from work. I thought about what it would be like to work full time with two children (should our family expand)....and then I just felt guilty. It's the curse of all moms I think to feel guilty about some aspect of their parenting. I hate that my family often does not get the best of me, and I feel guilty for "indulging" myself in work. I wish I could just grow a pair and try the whole stay at home mom thing even if it was just part-time. Great thoughts for the beginning of a school year, folks...

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A hitch in the marathon training

About five weeks ago on an 18 mile run, I felt a twinge in my back. It was sharp but short. The rest of the run turned out fine, but afterwards my lower back and right glute were sore and required attention. The pain lingered for about 24-36 hours and then would fade. Each long run after that, the pain traveled from my lower back into my right glute and down into my hamstring. The pain was not unbearable as I ran, and I maintained a good pace. Each time afterwards, though, I paid for it. My right hamstring, glute, and lower back were sore and tight for a few days no matter how much stretching I did. This got worse through the weeks. On Thursday I finally caved and went to the doctor. I found out I have a pulled hamstring....10 days from the marathon.

The doc's medical advice was to sit this one out and let it heal so I don't tear it. His advice to me as a stubborn runner was to sit out for five days, take some steroids during this time, ice/heat/stretch deliberately, and then take my legs out for an easy 2 miles on Tuesday to see how I feel. If I feel good, he said I could run (but there's still a risk of tearing it).

Of course I want to run this marathon. I've put hours of training into it away from my family and have put my body through the ringer to prepare. training runs indicate I was on my way to a PR. I've been in a better frame of mind with this marathon than my last. I haven't been as uptight, and it's definitely been a mostly enjoyable process. For now I'm trying to set my emotions aside to make a choice that is smart for my body.

This is the first weekend in about 5 or 6 years that I haven't run. It sounds stupid, but I feel huge and lazy and empty. I confess to have made running my identity. I try to hard to keep Christ as my identity, but I know that running has made its way into my life as an idol.

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Year 7

This week I'll be starting year 7 in the's hard to believe. I'm no longer the youngest teacher in my building; I fall into the "teaching for 5-10 years" category. I'm not a new teacher anymore. Of course there's some sadness affiliated with this as I grapple with aging, but this also means that I'm more confident in my abilities simply because of my experience, and it means I've learned some teacher hacks to make the overwhelming task of teaching easier.

There's a few things I'm particularly excited about for this school year:

1. The kids. Kids now are different even from kids seven years ago---the needs are much greater and the struggles are often deeper. What I love about teaching is simply being present for kids; being an adult they can trust and look to for guidance. I love exposing them to new ideas or challenging them to think of old ideas in new ways. I love their energy, their passion for finding themselves, their uninhibited ways (admittedly, these very qualities can also drive me batty). Every year one of my goals is to build relationships with kids. This year I want to work extra hard on the marginalized students--the quiet ones, the difficult ones.

2. New classes. When haven't I taught something new in my teaching career?! I still have 3 sections of sophomores, but this year I'm also teaching a grad. class for teachers and I'm teaching 11th grade (American Lit) at Burke for the first time. Teaching teachers is something I've always wanted to do, and I've loved American Lit. since I was a junior. All exciting things...

3. A renewed perspective. For the first time in two years, I'm not starting a new job! What?!? There are some amazing teachers at Burke, and they and the kids make me excited to come to work. I'm also re-learning how to create my own happiness even around people and situations that are anything but pleasant. Surrounding myself with positive people, reading funny things (like Jimmy Fallon's book of thank you notes), watching cat videos, and doing things I love help me to achieve the kind of balance that keeps me centered and not freaking out when the kid in the back of my room falls asleep again.

To those of you starting school this week: I hope you find a way to enjoy it. Education is an opportunity (no matter if you are a student or a teacher) not to be wasted.

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Teaching as Subversion

Note: this is just a rambling piece of writing that I used to process through a discussion we had in class early this summer. It’s not quite finished, but it’s a piece that has been ringing in my head throughout the summer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a teacher mentioned one week in class--her question of, where is the book that encourages teachers to step outside the walls of their own classroom and engage in changing education? I’ve read so many pedagogical books that are critical but are solely focused on classroom practices. These are helpful books, but they aren’t doing much to change the educational landscape. The truth is, research shows that kids in the US are actually performing better than they have in many years. There are teachers and administrators across the country who give their lives to kids and who care about helping kids to become critical, passionate, creative people. While the state of education is not falling apart, there are, however, major cracks in its foundation. When a building has cracks in its foundation, it becomes structurally unsound….I fear this for the state of education in our country. Running schools using a business model, a push for seemingly all students to attend college, keeping teachers from having a part in creating school, district, state, and national level policies and standards, a heavy emphasis on assessment, the devaluing of creativity, inequality in resources based on tax base, treating teachers as paper-pushers rather than the professionals they are….the list of problems is overwhelming.

In my experience when teachers do step out, voice concern, or attempt to enact change, they are labeled as subversive, insubordinate, disobedient. For many, these labels are terrifying. They can damage one’s teaching career. I tend to be idealistic when it comes to teaching, so I think being “let go” from a job and labeled as insubordinate may not destroy a person’s career entirely if he/she can justify the insubordination and back it with sound and acceptable research. Is stepping out risky? Of course. But what happens when nobody says anything? Historically, when people are silent about inequity and injustice, the gaps of inequality widen and the injustice spreads like ringworm in a wrestling room. I want my son to attend public school, but if we continue to sit back and let things get worse, what will education look like in ten years when he enters high school?

I believe it is teachers’ responsibility to not only be engaged in their classrooms but outside as well. Most teachers devote much of their lives to teaching and helping kids. They go early, stay late, make phone calls home during their personal time, drag their families to games and concerts and performances, stay up late to create lessons, grade papers during any free time they may have left. The families of teachers often get put on the backburner just when teachers are meeting their daily obligations. My own son has said, “Mom, you always grade papers.” Granted, he’s five, and things are very black and white for him. I really am not always grading papers, but the comment did cause me to halt a bit, step back, and rethink my priorities. How do we balance our families, our jobs, and being an activist? Ultimately, I do want my son to see his parents as involved in his life AND involved in the lives of others. I want him to see his parents as people who fight to make a difference for the good of others because that’s who I want him to become.

There’s not an easy solution to these dilemmas. But, my parents always told me that nothing worth fighting for comes easy...

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Making time for the important stuff

This post will not reveal anything earth-shattering, but it's where I'm at this morning. I felt like I needed to dump this all out before I could move on with my morning.

Since my early college days, I've always been a morning Bible reader. During my freshman year at UNK, I got into a habit of reading my Bible in the cafeteria while I choked down Chartwells' food. The habit continued into my married life. I tried reading at nights before bed, but always found myself falling asleep a few verses in (no offense, God). As much as I despise rising early, I know myself well enough to know that if I don't get in my Bible reading before my day begins, I won't get it in. Now, this has proven challenging with a child. I don't eat by myself anymore. During the school year, Nate leaves by 6:30 to get to school for his zero hour class (suck!), so he gets J ready while I get ready. Then J and I eat breakfast together before we leave. While we eat, I try to read at least one chapter or half of a long chapter each day in between Jon's morning musings about trucks and the shape his cereal is taking that morning. It sounds bad, but I've kind of learned to mostly tune him out and let him just talk while I read the Bible. It's not that I'm totally checked out from him or that I don't care what he has to say--I just have to make reading the Bible a priority in the morning. I think it's important for kids to see their parents in the Word. So this is also a good time for modeling. Sometimes I'll read out loud to him while he eats. It's not been perfect...I don't get my Bible reading in every today.

Yesterday I spent an afternoon planning with another teacher for a college class I'm teaching. It was incredibly productive, but there is still a lot to be done for it. And when my to-do list is long, I tend to get zoned in on it. This morning I slept in until 7 since it's a rest day from marathon training. After grabbing breakfast for Jon and me(Nate was on his way out the door for a meeting), I did not reach for my Bible. I opened my laptop. Bad idea. Once the laptop is open, there's no going back to the Bible. I ate my breakfast while working on our class website--it's typically a simple process, one I've done loads of times, but this morning I was clumsy and had to undo several stupid mistakes. Soon, the clock read 7:49--we had to leave by 8:30 to get to J's last day of summer camp. I was still in pajamas and disheveled. For the next 40 minutes, I raced around the house like a crazed woman barking orders at J. We pulled out of the garage at 8:31. At 8:32 Jon asked if we could listen to Wagon Wheel, but because I was stressed, I needed a more calming I vetoed his request and opted for my song. By 8:45, it hit me how incredibly awful I had been this morning. If someone had been watching me, they would've assumed I didn't really enjoy my child.

This is what happens to me when I put work or personal things in front of my time with God. I become this selfish, crazed, uncompassionate, impatient being. I get so zoned in sometimes on my to-do list, that I push God aside and then end up pushing my family aside to cross things of a stupid to-do list. A pastor once told me something along the lines of: make time for God a priority and watch how He adjusts your time. (At first I thought God would give only me an extra hour in the day while everyone else remained frozen...not really, but I thought this would be nice of God to do). I'm not sure God adjusts our time, but I think making time with God a priority definitely helps us to prioritize better. We have better perspective.

On my walk from J's summer camp to a coffee shop, I read half a chapter of Matthew and apologized to God for shoving him off. I'm praying this week that I'd have better discipline this year even during busy seasons.

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The wanderin' blues

Recently we went on our first family vacation--we trekked to Hasting where I sang with the Platte Valley Skunk Runners at the Flatwater Music Festival, made it to Parks for a few days to see my brother and sister in-law, enjoyed a few days hiking and bumming around Rocky Mountain National Park, and ended our travels by spending time with our dear friends in Ogallala. It's no secret that I miss living in western Nebraska. I often have these romantic recollections of our time there, and these (and the pleas from families, students, and friends) often fuel the desire to move back.

But when I'm honest with myself (which doesn't always happen because being honest with oneself is quite the ordeal), I'm not sure moving back to Ogallala would be the right thing to do. Nate and I have talked about it, and there'd be a lot of cards that would have to fall into place---A LOT. Then there's the fear that we'd always compare it to what it was when we lived there nearly three years ago...part of me doesn't want to spoil these memories. When I'm honest with myself, I think what I really want is not to move back to Ogallala--but to be in a place that has some of the same values and themes (so to speak) as Ogallala. I've never been one to set down roots what with my nomadic tendencies, but now that we have J, I find myself longing to set aside "the wandering blues" for roots---maybe not deep ones, but roots nonetheless :)

Omaha is a cool city. There's lots of cultural opportunities, and we're starting to build some good relationships. I'm just not sure it's where I want to set down roots. I thought it was before Jon. Now that we have a living, breathing child, I question everything I thought I ever wanted for him when he was just a hypothetical notion. What I want for him is to attend a small school where he knows all or most of his classmates. I want him to be involved with many activities if that's what he chooses (in big schools, it seems there's not a lot of crossover between athletics and fine arts). I want to know his friends' parents and maybe even their grandparents. I'd also like him have access to the outdoors--to play, to run, to climb, or just to sit and be amazed at God's creativity. I want him to be exposed to people who are different from him so he develops a cooperative spirit, a soul of tolerance and acceptance. I want him to have opportunities to create if that's what he chooses to do. I want him to feel safe. I want him to be in a school that engages him and sees even his challenges as opportunities.

I'm not sure I can have all of this in Omaha or Ogallala. Sure, we can meet all of these by living in one place and then traveling during the summer. And maybe that's what we'll do because I don't know where we can live to have all of these desires met in one location. Perhaps I'm being an idealistic parent...but I think it's important to be deliberate about the values we instill in our children. I think the next year or two or three will be a time of exploration for us. Before we decide to pick up and move and tear Jon away from the only city he's ever lived, I want to explore Omaha more. We need to be deliberate about breaking out of our "Burke bubble" venturing into other pockets of the city. After our trip to Colorado this summer, Nate and I began talking about the possibilities of living there, but this is quite the move. There's a lot of research to be done before we can even consider this as a possibility to avoid regrets.

While I want to set down roots, part of me wonders if I'll ever "quit my ramblin' ways..." Will my heart ever feel settled? That's the question of the day, folks. It must be exhausting to be married to me...Nate, thanks for being a patient dude. I'll leave you with a song by The Be Good Tanyas that pretty well sums up my gypsy soul (if you watch the video, you can go back to the trends of the 90s...spaghetti strapped midriffs, wide legged pants, and clogs....).

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