Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our Biggest Adventure Yet...

From the moment when my life really started to become my own (my late high school/early college years), adventure became the driving force in my quest to find and become me. The concept of adventure has lead me away from the cornfields of my youth, over the Atlantic for a year-long European excursion, through four amazing years of university, to an elite summer camp perched at the top of the Colorado Rockies, then sat me on the floor of the Ruby Valley to teach in a one-horse Montana town. Adventure also gave me the courage to forge over the Tobacco Root Mountains to the new valley where I now live. It has inspired me to try things I would have never tried before and helped me to work through and embrace the strange quirks of the new cultures I have had the privilege to experience. In essence, adventure helped me discover who I really am and challenged me to be more.

I've been in the same place now for about five years. It's kind of weird to think about really, because that's the second longest stretch of time I've spent in one area doing the same thing (second only to the 18-year stretch I spent growing up in the 'burg of my youth). I guess it's no wonder that I've been getting that itch again... the itch for something new. The Universe must have sensed it too, because just this fall it sent us the adventures of all adventures. Parenthood.

We were definitely happily surprised to find out it was our turn. We've watched many friends go down the path before. There are definite advantages of not being the first, one of which is not being disillusioned about the realities of having a baby around-- the 2 a.m. feedings, diaper blow-outs, sleepless nights, potty training, and the like.

Despite our nerves, we are really excited. I can't wait to snuggle our little Peanut for the first time, read to him/her, and sing the first lullaby. I just hope that our sense of adventure will guide us as it has in the past and help us to remember to look up from the necessary and often tedious grind of the child-rearing routine and embrace the whole situation as a life-long adventure, for better or for worse. After all, adventure has lead us to and from some pretty remarkable places before. Why wouldn't it be able to guide us through this too

Cheers to our biggest adventure ever! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Good, Clean Redneck Fun!!

I am a firm believer in taking the time to have a good adventure, especially if it's a little out of the ordinary. Thanks to some of my fellows at the 2011 Yellowstone Writing Project, we were able to have just that this weekend. We spent time doin' it up at a local demolition derby, having a few Moscow Mules out on the town (I even met one of the real Busch men!), and finishing the two-day event with a gopher huntin' trip (my first experience). Wow, was it a weekend to remember. It reminds me of the power of amazing friends, great adventures, and the natural wonders of nature.

What will your next adventure be??

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Expiration Date...

Writing Prompt: What do you wish had an expiration date?
(From The One-Minute Writer)

I'm not quite sure yet what I wish had an expiration date, but I do know I am glad milk has one. There is nothing worse that Jonesing for a big tall glass of frothy, ice-cold milk after a chocolate chip cookie only to find it has gone sour. Yuck! Sour milk is 100% straight up horrible. I don't even have the words to describe its curdled, foul state. My husband is convinced, however, that expiration dates are more of a suggestion than a hard, fast rule. I suppose I can go along with that to an extent, but if his theory gets me "soured" some day, Hubs just might reach the expiration date for sleeping in our cozy bed for a night or two.

I also know what I wish didn't have an expiration date. I guess this stems from my never-ending struggle with letting go. For starters, I wish people didn't have expiration dates. I do understand that all good things and people must reach their end, but it sure does stink for the rest of us who have to find ways to accept the missing spots from those who pass away. I also wish good programs didn't have to come to an end, whether it's a summer camp, a t.v. show, a sports team, an educational program (i.e. The Writing Project, and a plethora of other good ideas out there and never seem to last long). It's hard to mourn those spaces without being soured to the forces or entities who ended them.

In terms of thinking of something I wish had an expiration date, I'm still drawing a blank. There are too many things I like and the things and experiences I don't like usually have expiration dates built into them some how. But, I'm curious. What do you think should have an expiration date?

Friday, July 15, 2011


Writing prompt (YWP '11 July 13th): Write about short fuses.

Fusion can be such a beautiful thing. There is beauty in merging together two, three, four, even five or more ideas; finding that point at which they all meet. It's electrifying, really, and can spark our minds as we search for the next thing to weld into this wonderful amalgamation of thought, perspective, words, and experiences. Each idea has its own individual luster. When we dig deep enough, we can find some common point, despite how small or unusual, that links to some different and equally sparkling thought.

Of course, finding the unifying point is often a challenge. To find it, we must be willing to stretch our minds and bust through our own thick habits and insecurities. It's hard work and is often uncomfortable. It can even start the short fuse of our frustrations. But, if we persevere and stay the course, marveling at the differences while also looking for the similarities, we can fuse all of these perspectives, words, theories, and experiences together. We can create our own spectacular art; art that will surely light up the world and linger in the minds of those we encounter, adding to their amazing mess of thoughts and experiences, sparking the passion within us all-- lighting the world on fire. Fusion: what a beautiful thing.


Sam Intrator once wrote in his article Teachers: The Heart of Education, if teachers are not well, their students cannot be well. Over the past few years of my emerging teaching career I have not always been well. There were glimmers of hope and inspiration from time to time, but I was often not well and not living the balanced life I wanted to live. Slowly, I stopped doing the things I loved. I stopped walking, reading, socializing, and writing. I taught and that was it. As amazing as teaching can be, it wasn't enough. I was no longer whole.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to participate in the Yellowstone chapter of the National Writing Project this summer. In fact, the institute just ended today. It was just the salve I needed to help me be well as a teacher and as an individual. The intense collaboration and interaction with my 16 fellow writers and teachers made me well. I can write again and plan on doing so every day! Writing, after all, is what helps me shape my perspective and experiences. It helps me laugh, reflect, and sometimes cry at any given moment. The Writing Project helped me find this again.

So... I'm going to muse about my wandering spirit and adventures once again, trying desperately not to fall off the wagon. More than anything this space is my accountability for my own writing challenge and my effort to support The Project's philosophies. Thank you NWP and YWP. I owe you a great deal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fresh Starts and Cautious Optimism

One of the things I love about being a teacher is the fall (in most years the late summer). Each fall we get to start fresh. Last year's old, scuffed layers of wax and grime get stripped away, scrubbed clean, and replaced with a brand new, shinny, ding-free coat. It smells great. It looks great, and it feels protected and inviting. Every year I look forward to the moment I make my first entrance into the school--usually a week or two before I am required to be there (despite popular myths about us teacher-types). The halls are cool, dark, and quiet. The floors are shinny and new. The smell of optimistic anticipation floats happily in the air. Everything feels fresh and new. It's a great moment-- one of my favorites each year.

As it is with a lot of school districts around our nation, last year's coat of wax wasn't so great. It seemed to go from bad to worse, and then to non-existent in a very short amount of time. It left many of us feeling scuffed, dinged, and way too exposed to the heavy foot traffic from above. We watched as some were scratched to the core despite our gallant efforts to prevent it. It was bad. I'd rather not repeat it again.

When we flooded the district auditorium for our annual first day teachers' meeting yesterday, things felt better. They felt fresh and new again. The floors were scrubbed, buffed, and re-waxed. Most of last year's dings and scuffs had been fixed in the summer cleaning; however, there are still some deep scratches that didn't quite buff out. Yesterday the deep scratches were not so noticeable. Today they were much more apparent. It was hard to look, but impossible not to. It wasn't pleasant to be reminded of how and why those scratches got there in the first place. Yesterday it was easy to forget; today it was not.

And so I'm faced with a choice. We all are. How much do we remember? How much do we forget?

Every school year our floors get scuffed and dinged, and every summer our custodians do their best to restore them back to shinny new with the cautious hope that a new strategy and fresh wax will protect the floors better than the year before. It's a process. It's predictable. It's comforting. This year I choose to hope like our custodians. Despite last year's damage, I will enter this year with new hope and fresh wisdom. It's a cautious hope, but an optimistic one. (What's the point if it weren't?) It's fresh wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. Until the trust is restored, it would be foolish to have anything less or anything more.

How much will I forget? This will depend on how much I can forget and still meet the goal.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reflections on a smokey sunset stroll...

(semi- smokey moonrise I took a three summers ago from our campsite on Lake Mac Donnald in Glacier National Park)

I had to get out and go for an after dinner stroll tonight. And no, I am not having second thoughts about the charming Mr. N! :) Tonight I was lured by sunset. See, the smoke from the fires in Canada has finally reached us-- a common occurrence this time of year. Because we are surrounded by four mountain ranges, the smoke has a tendency to soc us in and make it hard to see much of the usual scenery. It can be a nuisance, but it does lend itself nicely to some really cool sunsets and sunrises.

The smoke does some remarkable things when mixed with the warm tones of the rising and setting sunlight. The combination paints our valley in all shades of blue, gray, purple, red, gold, and orange. The smoke and light also play funny tricks on the mountain silhouettes. The usually hard and clearly defined ridge lines soften and become mystical shadows and whimsical clouds in the distance. Just the right mix of smoke and light lends itself nicely to Montana moments and Montana reflections...

I plugged into my mp3 player and selected a mix I put together when I was in the thick of mustering through my first few years as a new teacher, new adult, and new Montanan. I'm not sure what drove me to pick that mix, maybe it was the smoke, but it took me back in time.

In some lights, I wouldn't want to go back to that time to save my life. Those first two years had their fair share of hard, dark, and smokey moments, but they taught me a lot. Mostly, they taught me how to pick myself up and keep going after life's unexpected sucker punches to the gut and how to successfully navigate the emptiness of truly being alone-- two golden lessons that definitely came at a premium.

But in tonight's sunset, I wouldn't trade those two years for anything. As a friend once wrote, although there were more than a fair share of dark smokey days in those first years, there were also some of the most beautiful "salmon colored" days too. Those are the days and moments that will be forever captured by my memory. None of which would have happened had I not had those dark and smokey days too. The people I met, the friends I made, and the family I found were all wonderful adventures who held the keys to many golden life lessons too-- lessons of a gentler sort.

Those first two years in Montana were the perfect mix of smoke and light. They were a series of breath-taking smokey sunsets that will forever anchor my story-- sunsets just like tonight's.