Happy Halloween

It is finally Halloween, which means two things in my house – “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and homemade Mac and Cheese.  I’ll bet you were thinking something else – trick or treaters, candy, ghosts, pumpkins – and we still look forward to all of that.  But it is the movie and the Mac and Cheese that my family looks forward to the most. 

It started when my son was younger.  He had to have a palate expander put in on Halloween.  Knowing that his mouth would be sore, I promised him that we could make Mac and Cheese.  So we did.  And during supper, we watched Linus in his sincere pumpkin patch getting passed over by the Great Pumpkin yet again. 

He asked the movie and meal the following year, and then the next, and we just keep going.  He is fourteen, and still wants to hang with his parents, help make homemade Mac and Cheese, and watch Charlie Brown on Halloween.

It is a pretty cool tradition, and an even more awesome kid. 

This Moment

 

This past weekend was the State Cross Country Meet. It was a true joy to watch my runners enjoy it.  To my team:

“Soak in this moment, kids. You have worked so hard to get here, so make it count. Remember this, because you will never have another moment like this very one.  Don’t rush through it. This moment is yours forever.”

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If found by the side of the road, drag across finish line

This is one of my favorite running shirts, because I have been there and done that.  When I started running, I had not a clue what I was doing.  I progressed slowly to running a mile, then a 5K, to a 10K, then a ten miler, and finally took the leap into a half marathon…all while maintaining a brisk 15:30 pace.  Yes, really, that was all the clue I had.  And when race day came, I was sick, but determined to run it since I had been training for months.  It was awesome and gruesome combined.  But I learned lessons that I will never forget – learn to run properly, good shoes that are broken in are essential, there is a place that serves smoothies on the corner of the Seawall and 63rd and they are yummy because the nice lady gave me a sample when I thought I was going to die at mile 9, the Gu packets at mile 11 were not a good idea and made me want to hurl, my husband and son are awesome, and hydration and rest are essential.  I limped across that finish line – barely – and was done.  I was too wiped out to even stay for the after party. 

I just finished my first season as an assistant cross country coach, and I crawled across the line.  We had been practicing since June, and just ran the state meet the last weekend in October.  Two practices a week during the summer, four practices a week during the first three weeks of August, and then when school started, four practices, study hall, and a meet each week. Bouncing between JV and middle school teams (coaching over 30 middle school kids by yourself is a challenge) and writing practice plans three days a week. All this, and I was still teaching a full load of classes and taking care of my family.  It, too, was awesome and gruesome. 

Seriously, I crawled – stressed, exhausted, at the end of my rope – and then collapsed. 

But from this too, I have learned.  I learned I needed to figure out the best way to help build up the kids so that they did not make the same mistakes I did.  I wanted to be sure that they could run properly, and run they did.  I learned that I had to have the right equipment – good mental shoes if you will – to make this happen.  I prepared everything, from making sure lessons were planned and ready to go weeks in advance to making meals and freezing them for two months ahead of time.  I learned that people will be unexpectedly kind, and just when you think you cannot do another thing for yourself or anyone else, someone will do or say something amazingly kind that helps move you along.  I learned that it is good to stick what is known.  I learned that I have to make taking care of myself a priority, because if I am sick and worn, either nothing at all gets done, or the quality is terrible.  And my husband and son remain awesome.  So the lessons are not necessarily new, the context of them has changed.

But this time, I stayed for the after party, and my family stayed with me.  We had worked too hard not to celebrate. 

 

I reject your reality and substitute my own

There are a ton of touchy-feely teacher movies out there.  You know the ones where the “never-say-die” teacher overcomes complete adversity, both personal and professional, to drag a group of unwilling and resentful students kicking and screaming to success.  These teachers receive accolades by the truckload, and are adored by every student, parent, administrator, and fellow faculty member.  Their students go on to win the Nobel Prize for something, and always remember to thank that teacher in their acceptance speeches.

It is a beautiful theory.  Life – real life – is not like that.  Look at those movies.  There is so much emphasis placed on complete success that we feel as if we fail if we are not up to that standard of perfection.  We are imperfect people teaching imperfect students.  Teaching is more like the movie “Summer School.”  A far from perfect teacher is thrown in to a room with a collection of issues:  a surfer girl who skips school, a pregnant student who is due at any time, a boy who can’t read, another who wants to get through life by brute force, and two more who want to make chainsaw movies – forget the growing up part.  The directive is that all of the students should be able to pass a minimum competency test by the end of the summer.  This teacher does something never before seen in the movies – he fails…an imperfect teacher.  No heroics, no accolades, no Nobel Prize students.  Imperfect people in an imperfect world.

That is reality.  We make mistakes, we struggle, we fail.  Even our best laid plans don’t always work – as teachers and as human beings.  We succeed…sometimes, but those successes seem to be outweighed by what did not happen.

And in this same movie, the teacher does something remarkable.  In the midst of failure, he points out to each student what their successes were.  Each one did something right; something that they could find pride in having accomplished.  Even though we all want success in the form of perfection the first time we do something, that is not going to happen.  And we need to stop focusing on this idea of perfect.  We need to stop putting that pressure on ourselves and others.  Instead, we need to simply change our focus to what we did right and build on that. 

That is a much happier reality

Quietly Defiant

I was writing my end of season speech for cross country last night, and my subject was motivation.  I know that there are both spectators and coaches out there who look at athletes and judge them solely by their motivations. There are some sports broadcasters who thrive on this.  But honestly, does it truly matter why someone crosses the finish line?  Why that person can lift the most weight, make the most points, or jump the highest? 

My answer is no.  I believe that the motivation to succeed at anything, athletic or not, is as individual as that person.  And that motivation varies from one event to another. 

I’ve heard my runners talk all season long about their motivations during a race.  Some want to pass a certain runner from whatever school, some want to beat their PR, some want to qualify for state, some just need to pee, and for some, just crossing the finish line before throwing up is what makes them move a little faster.  As the coach who is always at the finish line, I have learned to get out of the way quickly for that last group.  And I know there are some people who will not run unless they are being chased by zombies with flaming chainsaws.  I get that, too.  And none of these motivations are better or worse, more or less, than anyone else’s.  They simply belong to that individual. 

When I look at my own reasons for some of the things that I do, I see a common thread: defiance.  Not in that “stick it to the man” kind of way, but in that “I am not going to let the rest of the world determine who I am and what I do” kind of way.  I run because I was told not to.  There is nothing that makes me crazier than being told I will never achieve something.  I Crossfit because it makes me strong, and I will not be weak.  I teach my classes in a more linear, process based fashion because I refuse to believe those who think that English is “artsy fartsy” and “subjective” and that we should all sit in a circle on a lawn somewhere and talk about poetry and snap.  Really? 

Defiance.  The simple act of not being passive.  The act of defining myself, based on my decisions, and not those of the world.  That is what motivates me. 

Welcome

I’ve always thought about writing a blog, but never really thought I had enough to say about one subject to fill it.  But I do think about several things, so there will be a wide variety of topics to entertain you.  Maybe, it will also help get so many of my random thoughts in order.  So, here it is…