Winter Warrior

We woke up to about a foot of snow this morning. this time last year I was at work at home mom, and The news of a snow day what are you meant sleeping in for an extra hour before logging on for work. This morning, however, my new life as a teacher at a residential school where snow days just don’t exist meant the alarm was set the night before for 5 AM. call cement rediscovering a slightly more adventurous part of myself that has been buried for a long time.

I’ve had trouble with my eyes for the last few years which has limited night driving. In the winter when the weather is bad, I tend to be a homebody at night. combine the bad eyes with a little PTSD from two winter time accidents, and I am normally just as happy to keep my car parked in the driveway and my butt parks by the wood stove for most of the winter.

Two years ago when Thing1 was sick, I had to suck it up and find the nerve to drive over the mountains almost every week and a winter that miraculously had a major storm almost every single time we drove. My concern for my son help quell my fear, but today I didn’t have a bigger fear motivating me. There was just a knowledge that our students need us to be there whether or not the weather is bad.

So I got up and showered and got the car out. I was rewarded on the way down with a glowing early morning view of the snow. I had an emergency backpack packed in case I get stuck. I have heavy duty ice and snow scraper and shovel, and suddenly I felt less like a tired and nervous middle-aged hausfrau and more like an adventurer — a winter warrior.

when I got down our mountain, the roads seemed easier to navigate. I thought about some of the women in my family who have been happy adventures as they get into their 50s and 60s and how I always joke that I want to be then when I grow up. As I pulled into the parking lot at school, accident free and wrapping up my morning spanish lesson on tape, I felt my old fears fade as I took a step towards becoming a happier adventure.

Bring in winter!

but this morning I had someplace to go .

Selfless self-care

One of the things I’m loving about teaching is that it takes every fiber of your being to do it well. It takes your creativity, your intellect, and your physical input. There’s no way to half-ass it and have any worthwhile outcome. One of the things I love about the place where I teach came as a bit of a surprise to me. During our orientation, the different presenters emphasized the importance of self-care for teachers and caregivers at our school.

All of the students at our residential come to us because of an emotional disturbance due to some sort of complex trauma.. Being affective with the students means being present, and, often, it means hearing stories that, when you get home, bring you to tears. it means having kids yell at you as they vent their frustrations with life and remembering not to take it personally. It means thinking about the people who have done these kids harm and trying not to become hard because becoming hard means you can’t be there for those kids.

I haven’t gone to an hour of the school organized group self-care sessions, but, about a month ago, not knowing why exactly except to save money on health insurance, I decided to start going to a gym. I hit the big 5O back in April and knew that keeping bone density up means doing some resistance training, but the desire to work out was something else. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized what it was.

I’d behave myself all week, hitting the gym for each of my routines every single day before going home. Sometimes that means getting home a bit late, especially on the days when we have professional development after classes. It also means feeling a little guilty that, in focusing on self care each day, I’m not doing right by one of the two kids who is the most important in my life. I get home feeling more relaxed, but I’m spending less time with him to do so.

This weekend my husband, Thing2 and I have been stacking wood. we have a pretty good system of me carrying logs from the wood pile to a wheelbarrow where Thing2 hands them off to the Big Guy for stacking the way he likes. Ferrying logs, two and four at a time, is it pretty good workout. normally I’d be pretty tired and ready to quit after 15 or 20 minutes. Yesterday and today, however, I was able to keep it going until the boys are ready to quit, and I was happy not just for being able to keep up but because it was another hour each day that the three of us had to talk and joke and sing along to the Beatles albums that were playing as we stacked.

When we finished up for the day a little while ago, we looked at the work we’ve done and then at each other and said to each other, “We done good.“

and I realized that self-care isn’t just about being able to help the kids at school every day, it’s about making sure that when I’m home with my kid, I am really present.

At the Dairy Bar

I had about two hours before we were heading to the movie, so I went looking for a place to paint. I’ve done this spot at the Wilcox Dairy ice cream stand before, but I sold the painting and wanted a bigger one.  The new one isn’t done yet, but I have still got something good out of the afternoon.

I got some water from the ice cream stand and chatted with the woman who is running it now. Fifteen years ago a friend of ours ran it, Planting a beautiful herb garden nearby so customers could sit and enjoy the flowers as they eat their Sundays. Her son and my son were friends when they toddlers. Now the son of the new ice cream lady is helping mind the ice cream stand.

He noticed me setting up my easel and asked his mom if he could come over to watch. I had the sky started and had blocked in the outlines by the time my new companion arrived.

We chatted about how to paint and where to get paint. He said he wished he could pay for lessons. I reminded him that once he started painting, someday he would show somebody else the ropes. Then my young “apprentice” pointed out a crate in front of the ice cream stand that belonged to him. He asked if I would put it in the painting, and I agreed.

I hadn’t got that far by the time it was time to go to the movie,but I’m coming back to it now. When it’s done I think I’ll take my new pal a copy.

Things in the Path

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I’m trying to include a two-mile hike/walk to the town hall and back each evening as cross training and, now, as Katy-the-Wonder-Dog is more inclined to wander in the warmer weather, a way to make sure she gets a good long walk in before dark. Taking the boys is always entertaining. Taking only the dog, yesterday, was enlightening.

Somedays the boys go with me, but yesterday it was just us gals.

We had to sneak out to keep the cats from following us (Princess Jane and Gentleman Jim-Bob have been joining us on the morning run). The first half mile of the walk is a steep incline from our door to our neighbor’s house. Katy loves this part of the walk. She wags her tail as we walk by houses filled with people who pet her and give her treats. We’ll stop so she can reclaim territory alongside the road, and there was a pause and a wag as we passed the neighbor’s house and she noticed the neighbor’s son, clearly in need of a canine playmate working in the yard.

To her credit, Katy had kept on track, the only serious pauses being the conducting of business. As we pass our neighbor’s house, however, we got to the quieter part of the road (a relative term in a town where the only traffic jam happens for 20 minutes after the July 4 parade when all the horse drawn wagons are driven home). There would be only one house to pass before we got to the town hall still over a half-mile away down the hill.

I will admit that my imagination starts to run faster than my feet on this section of road. We have seen a mountain lion cross this part of the road, and, even though I’m guessing he/she doesn’t just park himself up the hill waiting for stray joggers, I always wish I’d brought lion spray. Or bear spray. Or coyote repellant. Have I missed any possible predators?

With my vicious attack dog, infamous for drowning visitors in kisses and annoying passing deer with her attempts to play with them, I knew I’d be safe. Strength in numbers, right?

As it turns out, Katy is scared of more than just gunshots and thunderstorms. We passed a chained driveway to a camp higher up the mountain, and she slowed down, sniffing the air, looking down the mountain to our left and, then, up the mountain.

“Come on, honey,” I coaxed. She looked at me and then the mountain and then tried to do her happy trot. We passed an exposed ribcage, and I wondered if the smell had spooked the dog, but remembering that she had no qualms about eating decaying deer meat — a kill apparently deemed too small to tag by some anonymous hunter that had been left in our woods.

I kept walking wondering if she could smell big mountain cat pee on the road or something.  Were the bears waking up?  Maybe she could hear them rumble.  

We did the sniff, slow, and stop routine a few more times, and I thought how ironic that I, the queen of worry and wonder (as in, I wonder if that guy in the unfamiliar truck could be a serial killer?) was suddenly in the position of trying to help another being find her moxie.

We got to the town hall, I slapped the mail box to mark the half-way point and started up the hill back to our house, me coaxing and ignoring my own ridiculous fears. We passed the petrifying rib cage again. Katy stopped to mark it this time, and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I wouldn’t have to fake courage for someone else after a few more minutes.

The pathetic thing is that this road isn’t the only place my fears speed up my footsteps or, worse, stop me in my tracks to consider an ancient carnage. That tendency to stop becomes a habit in other areas of life, sometimes making daily struggles seem bigger than they are. Usually I muscle my way through them for the sake of the kids, but I always wish I didn’t feel the fear at all.

As we got to the top of the hill near the neighbor’s house and the easy part lay ahead, I decided I was really grateful to Katy. When I go walking with the boys, we’re so loud that any animal will steer clear of the road just to save their eardrums.  With my fellow worrier, however, I had more than company. I had some time to consider my more ridiculous fears and, even if I was faking it the whole way just for her sake, to pretend that I was bigger than they were. 

Someday that may become a habit.

 

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