Saturday, January 30, 2016

Professor Heather's Wild Ride

So, it all happened rather suddenly, and in these last few weeks it sometimes feels like I have been swept up along in a raging current as my career takes off almost without me! 
I am now, as of last Tuesday, a college English teacher. I am teaching two courses this semester, one is English 51: Developmental Writing, and the other is English 300: College Composition.


This all came about in December, when I chanced to run into one of my past professors at Raley's, our local grocery store, which is where I see everyone, so of course. She and I always had a great rapport, and we got to chatting. She said something like, "I heard you got your Master's degree?" I answered affirmatively, although probably blushing and noting it was some years back. (I was wrangling two very excitable, tired, hungry toddlers throughout this whole conversation.) She asked if I had any teaching experience, and I told her about the courses for which I interned (again, that was in Fall 2008). She gave me her email address and said to get in touch with her right away if I was interested in teaching. And the rest, dear reader, is history.


After we had come to some preliminary agreements (nothing would be official for quite some time, in fact my head is still spinning and I'm crossing my fingers that I'm officially official even now!) I processed the idea for a couple weeks, which happened to fall right during the holidays. I had started the application process, ordered my transcripts, crept up into the attic to go through old papers and for the first time in years, think about my academic persona. I took a break from all that though, from a few days before Christmas until after New Years. In that time I had dreams, worries, flutters of excitement. I worried about spending less time with the girls, being away from home, childcare, driving in my car a lot. I wished it was happening next year, after Polly turned three, rather than right now, just when she turned two. Then I realized that the timing was perfect, actually, that this is the time in a mother's life when she starts to become more herSELF again, when the sparks of old creativities reawaken, when tides and currents shift. I mean, that happened periodically all through my babies' first two years as well, but after age two I feel an opening, an expansiveness to the world, social concerns, others outside my close little family. They are still my world though, and I think nothing will ever change that. It's just the kind of person I am, but I am also large; I contain multitudes.



So I spent the week of 10-16 getting prepared. On the 13th I found out that the classes I had been offered were changing slightly, a change that would ultimately make things a lot better for me. I would not have to travel to Folsom Lake College main campus, but would be teaching both courses up at our El Dorado Center here in Placerville. One would be an evening class, instead of two day classes, which eased childcare greatly since Darin would be home. Basically I had four days to plan and write my syllabi.

And then I got sick. Terribly, wretchedly, totally abnormally sick. I think it was the flu, and it laid me low for five excruciating days; I could hardly move. Luckily, one of those days I felt better enough and my fever subsided enough to basically compose both syllabi in their entirety and get them ready for printing Tuesday morning. On my first day of teaching, Tuesday the 19th, my fever was still raging. I was exhausted again and could barely rise from the couch to change Polly's diaper or get the girls something to eat. I called Darin and made him come home early, and then I went to the Emergency room since my doctor could not see me. It was crazy. I spent the last three hours before my first night of class in the E.R. They gave me a chest x-ray and sent me home with a prescription for cough syrup. But during my wait at our brand new, comfortable and clean Emergency room, I brought my books, and I had my own little waiting room that was warm and quiet, and I kept drifting off to the comforting sound of nurse's voices. The practitioner was professional, humorous, understanding and respectful. Even though not much got accomplished, I felt oddly better afterwards, and I put on my rainboots, kept on my flowing frumpy dress and my glasses and no make up, and went to teach my very first night of class ever. It is an afternoon and evening I will never forget.

All through these first two weeks of class, I've still been sick. I finally found out that I got a secondary infection in my sinuses after the flue and that's been keeping me somewhat miserable. I have been able to teach classes, and even lead...dare-I-say...rousing discussions, without a hitch. But at home I've been fatigued, congested, sore, and head-achey. I have never had sinus issues, so most shocking to me was the constant pressure and ache in my cheekbones, jaw, and teeth. WHAT?! I will never, ever discount or brush off the words "sinus infection" again. I never knew what they were, I really didn't. And now I do, and I'm more well rounded for it, and I'm on antibiotics that are finally, graciously lifting this terrible fog that's been clouding me.

Two nights ago I ate ice cream for the first time in weeks. I made homemade pizza yesterday for dinner, another first in weeks. And best of all, this morning I did my first treadmill run since January 9. I only ran 2.75 miles but I felt great and I can tell I'm going to be back at it no time. (I still owe this blog a post about my newfound love of running.)

It's been a wild ride this month, friends. I am having fun with my new job, and I know I'm going to love it despite my rocky start. I am just so grateful for my normal energy and health that I hope I never take for granted again, and that I'll now be able to fully apply to my work and these students (I can tell already that I love them). Here's to new beginnings, indeed! 



  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The year is new / my baby turned two

I started a blog post the night before Polly's birthday describing the tightening in my chest as the moment of her actual Birth-day approached. Naturally, I felt overwhelmed with love for our cherished second daughter and at the same time (as usual) I felt the ever-increasing sense of alarm and even dismay at how fast the time is passing. I have tried to hold my daughters both close, to feel every moment of their babyhood and young childhood, even the tough ones, but especially the sweet ones. When I'm frustrated at how long they are taking to fall to sleep as I rock them or hold them or lie down next to them so they can hold my "ba" (that's their pet name for arm, a phrase and action that both girls have and continue to utilize) I almost always remember to check that frustration and instead place my cheek against their soft curly babyish hair and breathe them in and feel their warm snuggly bodies close to my heart. And yet, as I look back at photos and blog entries, the experiences I've had with my babies: our trip to monterey last summer, our camping trips, their tiny naked bodies jumping around in the little pool last spring, already feel so distant. The past seems to become increasingly difficult to access. Though I know from experience that from time to time, certain memories show up with sudden unmatched clarity and vividness - I've learned to harness those times best I can, turn up the song, lean in to the scent, close my eyes, try to be there, feel that memory to my bones. Because then it's lost again. It's a central part of the human experience and we all learn to deal with it in our own ways.

rainy day birthday girl outside the library.
Anyway I want this year to be about making memories and capturing them and loving most purely this little family of mine. (There is a lot more in the works for this year but I'll elaborate later.) For now, we celebrate our fun, spunky, creative, lovable little two year old! Since I never finished that other birthday-eve blog post, we've moved on. Now I have many photos of celebration and joy that are still too recent to be nostalgic. ;)



We had an adventurous day for our playful little rambler. We filled the day with everything she likes. From snowman pancakes for breakfast to free play, a trip to the library, and then all the way down to the mall just to encounter our dearest friend: the carousel!



Darin worked the first half of the day, and Nana joined us for a puddle-stomping rainy day trip to the library. 


We had some of the "My First Little House" books on hold. My girls are nuts for Laura and Mary and baby Carrie and all their fun times. The newest favorite (and how could it not be?!) is Dance at Grandpa's




After daddy got off work we took a stormy drive down the hill and after an energetic meal at Dos Coyotes...

 we headed to the Roseville Galleria, which as far as we know has our closest carousel. I really wish there was one up here in the hills somewhere because riding it is the girls' favorite treat in all the world, we talk about it afterwards for ages. 


Stop to play at the toddler area.


Let's go find the merry-go-round!


Here at last! There is great debate over which pony or animal they will ride. You may remember that Lucy only recently graduated from sitting on the bench, and does not prefer to go up and down. So she rode the tiger which is stationary. Polly was even resistant to the up-and-down ride this time, and had been talking a lot about the "belt" so you "not fall off" but I knew her fear was just instilled by Toot and not really from her own experience. So I talked her into it (my hand on her back the whole time of course) and she loved riding the pony she chose right next to Utah, who had come to join us! 




To convince them to get off the merry go round, we let them blow some coins (but now it's all digital style on a fancy credit card thingy) at the arcade. Everything has screens in front of their faces while they ride or play, from the "glo pony" to the race car ride. It's so annoying but they loved it.



Another ride on the tiny musical merry-go-round with just enough seats for the three of them. and no screens or video games, just plain and simple.


Darin took these photos in the mirrors above, and I love her little swirl of hair that is still so very pixie-ish.



Back at home it was getting past bedtime but the family gathered for some cake and candles and a few little presents. Utah, Lucy, Polly and Scout all gathered round, enraptured with it all.



Scouty LOVES a good party hat.


Loving on our tired little two year old who never ever wants to go to bed these days. 


A few days later it was Utah's birthday too and Addie and I threw Utah and Polly a joint unicorn party (his request.) I made the cardboard unicorns, testing my drawing abilities (I've never been able to get proportions right on a horse.) Here we are setting up the table moments before everyone arrives, because that's how we roll. always.




Polly woke up from her nap just in time. Here she is with Darin's mom (noni) in a party daze.


Seasoned partyer.

Utah is three!



It was sunny so the kids played outside! A little cold but they didn't mind. Once Art's family arrived (he has like ten siblings, most of them still kids) that really helped the party scene. Those kids ran ragged outside! And were so polite when they did come in. He has a really great family.







Happy birthday to two well-loved little kids! Thanks for being ours, and starting our new year out right.


I wish you all great joy and fulfillment in 2016!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This season always passes too quickly for me, always. But never as quickly as this year. Having a three year old and an almost two year old is almost too delightful to bear during the holidays. There is a constant state of wonder and excitement surrounding us; every day we are making memories and I forget to write it all down and my journal goes untouched for days and I don't even take (for me) enough photographs because it's like a snowball cascading down a hill. Bigger and more beautiful and wild and fast, but unstoppable, a runaway, uncontained, unfaltering. Behind all the fun and festivity and utter joy, is a wrenching sadness at its passing. I've always been like that, I can remember being six and feeling a desperate need to record my memories and thoughts, the moments of our day too quickly fading. 
Because I've failed to blog during most of this magical time, I will here and now present a few of our favorite December 2015 memories, for posterity ;)

Our friend Scott's 40th birthday party was held at Apple Abbey, the huge and beautiful old-church-turned-airbnb rental home that my sister manages and i clean. If you're ever planning a visit to this area with a large group, I highly recommend this place for your stay, and don't forget to visit me ten minutes away!

Scott hosted a 70's lounge style party complete with fondue and velour suits. It was awesome. That's him on the far right with a bunch of little girls leaping around like maniacs.



Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Rolling Stones on the hi-fi.
















Introducing the "Scott Trivia"game, led by Emily.



The winners:

The night turned into a fun adventure for our little family as we bundled up and walked the kids through the icy night back to Addie's house just a block away where my dad would watch them for awhile. Not surprisingly it was not long before I got the dreaded text: breakdown. Need you now. I ran back through the night in my platform boots to discover that the scene at Ade's house had devolved into utter chaos, but I felt like supermom, letting Darin stay at the party, getting both girls calmed and singing them to sleep in Addie and Art's cozy motor home, and even going back to the disco dance party later. Darin and I stayed up late talking with Addie and Art and sipping whiskey. We all borrowed pajamas; the motorhome was warm and snuggly. It was an unforgettable night! 


A new tradition we are starting that we enjoyed last year as well, is going over to my dad's humble little home to decorate for him. He's fine with getting a tree and getting out the boxes, but doesn't really have the gumption to go any further than that. That's where we gladly step in! We had a really nice visit and the girls absolutely loved going through his ornaments (most of which are from when I was little) and hanging them, stringing up lights and playing with nutcrackers. He's not picky at all about the way things look and is just so grateful for us being there bringing our unavoidable Christmassy cheer. It made me want to make a day of it next year with all the little cousins, hot cocoa and snacks. 






One of my favorite memories from this holiday season will definitely be riding the free stagecoach in our little town, Wiser Overland Stage Lines, run by local old west celebrity, Davey "Doc" Wiser.  On Saturday we got all dressed up and ready only to find that the earlier rain had cancelled the rides for the day. Oh, the sheer disappointment! Lucy bawled all the way home. She stopped only to gaspingly suggest between choked sobs, "Maybe they were worried the horses would slip!"
The next day promised some rain again, but Darin called from work to tell me the jingle bells were ringing and horses were clip-clopping! He said he'd take a short break and meet us if we wanted to come down. When I found out rides stopped at 3 pm, the girls and I dashed around the house getting ready to go out. I thought there'd be a long line but there was almost no wait at all. Some friends of ours were right before us in line and the drivers ushered us all in together. It was quite cozy! 


The ladies dressed in Victorian garb give out candy canes and commemorative wooden stagecoach coins.




Davey Doc with his great ruddy beard! He gave each of my girls a teddy bear as we were leaving. 



Our friends all snuggly right across from us.



As we came around the corner and up through the alley I was chatting away when suddenly the driver yelled "It's a hold up" and the stagecoach lurched forward and the horses broke into a quick trot. I grabbed onto Toot who was by the edge, gasping because for a split second I believed the horses were really going out of control! Haha! It was so fun to get a teeny adrenaline rush.

Dazed at what we just experienced:

I love old Hangtown.


The girls proud with Doc's bears.


I'm not sure who decorates this tree by the parking garage in the alley, or feeds the feral cats, but I'm so glad someone does. 



Looking down at the "lighted ladies" and then Daddy's back to work! One of the busiest bookstore days of the year, so grateful to his coworker Candis for letting him come be with us.



And another tradition that looks like it will stick, a "candy making party" at my mom's house. She gets all dressed up and her house is full of warmth and good smells and pretty little trinkets. Not very many that are breakable and she's soooo good with the kids they don't break anything anyway! She had out her little tree and all kinds of tiny special ornaments, many of them antiques of the plastic 50's/60's variety, for the kids to sort through and decorate. Then she made them snacks and they mostly played and watched a Christmas special while we made some Christmas treats. 






Nana's cat Nettie is getting pretty old and a little feeble. She likes to snuggle right on the belly, preferably stretched out flat. We showered her with love. I can't imagine a season at my mom's house without her. 


The kids did each get a ball of Nana's Christmas candy fondant to work with, mixing in pecans and coconut with freshly washed hands. Very important work for them.




They pretty much ate everything they touched.


I hope you are all having a magical wintry Solstice time and Christmas. I send each of you hugs, joy, laughter, and love at this sweet and special time of year. I hope you're sneaking in a little peace as well. I'm off to do so!