Thursday, May 31, 2012
Add the fact that I am coordinator of the end-of-the-year Senior Banquet, and oh my holy God, what a week I had, er, am having. Tonight I left work and thought about how I miss marathon training because it kept me on such a focused and regimented running schedule and forced me to leave work behind for a part of my day. I'm in a transition period between the marathon and the start of training for the Half-Ironman Triathlon that I'm 90% sure that I'm going to do in September. I'm kind of giving myself a little break from a training plan, just for, you know, a minute or two.
But I was feeling the need to sweat a little, and after some Skyler and Reed time, I pushed myself out the door to go for a bike ride before dinner. Two minutes in, I saw this enormous black cloud ahead of me, but it was so sunny and warm, so I just rode right into it. I figured if I got wet, it would last a minute or two. A mile later, it started to rain, and then it RAINED hard, a hard, soaking, pounding rain -- and it was cold. It also turns out that pounding raindrops kind of sting on bare arms. Ouch. It rained for 9 miles and then stopped just as I was 1 mile from home. The sun came out, everything started to glow, and of course, because it was prime rainbow weather, this:
I feel kind of rinsed out, just what this working mama needed.
Posted by Emilie at 8:58 PM
Monday, May 28, 2012
On the way in to her piano teacher's house, Skyler spotted this butterfly, so we stopped to enjoy the good luck for a minute.
Posted by Emilie at 5:59 PM
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Well folks, it was another hot and slow marathon, and an overall awesome experience.
Skyler sent me off to my 4th marathon with this motivational drawing. The size of the sun in the upper corner and the smile on my face turned out to be very accurate depictions of the race.
Saturday I drove with Amy and my student Ashley over to the western mountains of Maine. It was a beautiful drive watching the mountains appear on the horizon. It was just totally sunny, green, lush, and rolling driving through one small, quirky Maine town after another.
Amy and I met up with friends Pam and Kristy, had a pizza and pasta dinner in town, and then drove the marathon course. After dinner, I had my very first moose sighting since living in Maine. On our way into our condo for the night, she was chomping away on something in the road and let us watch her for a good long time. What a beauty.
I slept beautifully from 9 pm to 4:45 am, and then started my day with coffee and breakfast and a surprising lack of nerves. I was as calm as I've ever been before a race. I knew it was going to be hot (forecast expected to reach 80 by finishing time) so I had no self-induced pressure. I was just excited.
Living in Maine and running a spring marathon means that all my training runs were done in weather between below zero and 50 degrees. And then in May, you gamble with the weather and end up with a hot, sunny day that your body isn't used to running in. So I had to adjust my expectations for the day.
The Sugarloaf marathon course is described as being 5 miles of flat, 3 miles of uphill and 16 miles of downhill and then 2 more miles of flat. Driving it in the car, that seemed kind of accurate. On my feet, not so much. 16 miles of downhill? Uh, in my dreams. The marathon does have a net loss of elevation so technically it's downhill, and there are some really blessedly welcome downhills, but I didn't feel like I was just effortlessly cruising down a mountain, no I did not. It was up and down most of the way, and as it got hotter and hotter, the downhills were just not downhilly enough for me.
On marathon morning, here are the Mainely Running girls plus Kristy and Pam ready for the day. Jen and Christine, on the ends, were our unbelievable road crew for the race. More on that later. Amy was running her 4th marathon too. Kristy was running her FIRST, and Pam was running the 15K.
|Amy, Kristy and me: Let's do it!|
At the starting line, I met up with my other student Mandie running her first full (she killed it!) and my friends Brooke and Maggie. Brooke is my high school friend who just moved from Arizona to New Hampshire so I am psyched that she is close enough to run Maine races and to get together for visits. I have no photos of her from the race, but here we are last summer the night before Beach to Beacon.
Brooke is a speedy runner and I had no hopes to see her during the race, but it was great to reunite for a minute.
We were all standing around chatting under the super tall pine trees when the gun went off. Okay! Time to go.
Miles 1-3: Feeling good, enjoying the shade, knowing it's not going to last. Tried to get my legs to wake up. Wondered if it was a good idea to wear the compression socks on such a hot day. (It wasn't).
Miles 4-7: Feeling awesome, finding my stride, drinking and fueling perfectly, happy but getting hot. I saw Jen and Christine in their van for the first time with cowbells, posters, and offerings of food and drink. They had a poster on the van that said: "TOMORROW YOU WILL THINK THIS WAS FUN." So true, so true. That blue mini-van became the holy grail for me, and I was always looking ahead for my next sighting.
Miles 8-10: Feeling a little less awesome. Almost all uphill and starting to get really hot. I walked up the first steep climb with the hopes to preserve some energy for the hot miles ahead. Halfway up the 2nd big hill, I heard from behind me: "Hey! Nice socks!"
It was Brooke! Brooke had started slower with Maggie who was injured and ended up dropping out at mile 8. (She passed us later in a cop car. Poor Maggie). Brooke and I walked/ ran the next few hills and chatted and caught up a bit. It was a hugely awesome surprise to have a few miles with her.
Miles 14-18: Kind of a blur. I was feeling tired, hot and sorry for myself. I took walking breaks when the sun was too much for me. Jen found me around 18 or 19 and I sat on the tailgate of her van and ate some of the MOST AMAZING orange slices that I've EVER had in my life. So sweet, so cold. I was moaning in pleasure between complaints of how hot it was. Jen pep talked me, refilled my camelbak with COLD water and Gatorade. I was so thirsty and couldn't make my mouth feel non-dry. Even when I had a mouthful of water, I was thirsty. If I could detect any shade on the opposite side of the road, I'd cross the street to get a few seconds of relief from the heat. It was maybe a little pathetic. I was no longer sweating, just covered in salt crystals. Isn't that a bad thing to stop sweating?
Mile 19-20: Great music, got into a better place mentally. Enjoyed a nice downhill or two. Started seeing Jen in her van more like every mile. More orange slices. Another banana. I knew I could do it at this point, but I was just growing plain old tired and my feet hurt like nobody's business. I ran into Brooke again who was in a ton of pain in her left hip. She was limping and struggling and we stayed close together the rest of the way. I hated to see her hurting.
Miles 20-24: I don't really know? My feet hurt. My hands were so swollen. Somehow I was still happy, though. I just like being in the 20s because you know you're getting there.
Just. One. Mile. At. A. Time.
Hot, hot, sun in my face. Hot, so very hot.
Mile 24: ASHLEY! My student Ashley who ran the 15K that morning made her way to me to run me into the finish line. She was a vision in pink and turquoise. I had warned her I may be crying, bleeding, or dying by the time she saw me so she was pleasantly surprised that I was in good spirits, albeit so hot that I was a walking salt-lick.
We walked a bit and ran when I could. When we got to Mile 25 I said: "Sweet Jesus. Just one more." People were wilting all around me. Ambulances were buzzing past. Did I mention it was really hot?
"WHERE?" I could not see the end! I think I was moaning a little.
Oh, there. At the sight of the 26 mile marker, as hot as I was, I got chills and the hair stood up on my arms. God, I love that. Almost there. Almost there. Almost there. My feet hurt so badly and I could not wait to rip off my shoes and socks. I could see the cones leading to the finishing chute. I could hear people cheering my name. Jen kept saying: "You are not stopping. No stopping." .2 more. I could see the finish. Why is .2 so very long?
Finish line! Finally. Hot. So hot. Done. 83 degrees. 5:24. All done. Huge smile.
I made a bee-line for the only shade in the finish area which was the medical tent. A medic got me one bag of ice and Ashley got me another. My shoes and socks were off and the ice on my neck and my legs was the most divine thing ever. I just sat there staring quietly for a while, spent and happy.
Marathon #4: Well, it seems that I'm not getting any faster thanks to my last 2 marathons being so very hot, but I will say that it is definitely getting easier. I had some low moments along the course, but I was mostly in good spirits the whole way and never let myself get overwhelmed by the distance. I didn't get in under 5 hours like I know I someday can, but I truly did the best I could do AND I enjoyed myself. This has all been a good lesson for me: the heat may slow me down (I kind of wilt in direct sun and heat), but it has also done wonders for my perspective. Why do I run marathons? Certainly not for prizes or record times. I love the challenge and the camaraderie and the sense of total accomplishment. I love how I feel after. I love the medals. I love the crowd support and the friendships. I like knowing people I love are with me stride-for-stride even when they aren't physically there. I like how my body feels for the rest of the day, even though it hurts.
After we went back to the condo and showered, I sat up on the couch with a bolt and said to Amy: "I DIDN'T CRY!" I always cry. I didn't cry at the finish line, or on the course at all! What does this mean? I think it means that while I'm a slow marathoner, I'm a marathoner. I think it means that a marathon is now within my body's limits and that if I pay attention and remain realistic about my pace when the weather is hot, that I can cover that distance without any trauma or excessive suffering. I won't pretend I don't feel frustrated that I seem to be stuck in the same time zone for this distance. But...it is now well within my capacity to run 26.2 miles. I guess that's pretty cool.
Big smiles and sunburns with Ashley. Talk about student-teacher bonding; she ran me to the finish line of a marathon!
Another one for the books, another medal for my medal rack. I ended the marathon on Sunday with a feeling of total satisfaction AND a drive to work harder for the next one. I love my little running life.
Posted by Emilie at 6:00 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Gun goes off at 7 am on Sunday morning.
Wish me luck!
Posted by Emilie at 10:58 AM
Friday, May 18, 2012
Of all the things I do in my life, one of the most satisfying is
teaching kids to write. It's also one of the hardest things I do, most days it feels impossible, so
that's I guess why I feel so satisfied when I think it goes well.
"A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure." ~Henry David Thoreau
I teach Creative Writing, and we do a lot of really cool assignments and those kids write some truly breathtaking work, but that population is easy, actually. They take Creative Writing as an elective because they want to write, and in almost all cases, they already do write (for pleasure!) and, they are all avid readers.
Today I'm just talking about my seniors who have to take English, and do not probably ever write by choice. I love teaching seniors because they are smart, funny, confident, and on their way into the world. Even though I've had some extremely chatty kids this year, and have practically worn out my "be quiet right now" stare-down, there is something so very satisfying about working with kids during their last year in public education and sending them off to graduation.
But there is also quite a bit of self-induced pressure on me as the last writing teacher they will have in high school. I feel like this is my last chance to save them from the unfortunate fate of being an ineffective writer. Because really, what is worse? They will want to write well in college, yes, but they will also want to be able to profess their love for someone in writing someday, or write a persuasive letter to a company who screwed them over, or write a letter-to-the-editor about an issue near and dear to them, or write a really effective thank you letter to someone who impacted their lives, not to mention cover letters and resumes.
My seniors' big research papers came in a few months ago and the first drafts were so bad that I told my students that reading them made me want to kill babies. I probably put my head down on the stack of papers twenty times and just sighed. There were typos, confusing transitions, run-ons, and most of all, way-too-casual writing voice that didn't sound definitive or confident. I riddled their margins with ??? and WHAT? and UGH!. I was in a bad mood when I passed back their drafts. They were very quiet. Lessons on formal diction ensued, as did reprimands about proofreading, and sharing examples of how to effectively embed outside sources into a persuasive paragraph.
"I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top." ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University
I retaught some tactics and rules I had wrongly assumed they already knew, and we conferenced, and they revised and revised again. What I got at the end of that month made me really proud and encouraged. Many cups of coffee later, the research papers were full of feedback and grades, and I was very satisfied. But still, I wasn't feeling super confident that they would go on to their next writing opportunity and remember all of this work we had done.
Just with first learning how to read, I think there is a little bit of magic involved in learning how to write well. I can teach skills, we can read a lot of amazing novels and memoirs, I can review grammar rules (the semi-colon is not just a fancy comma, people!) and formatting rules, and talk about how to sustain a good argument. I can go over the citation rules, explain and illustrate the difference between informal and formal diction, help revise sentences into active voice, but at some point, I just have to kind of wave a magic wand over them and hope that it all comes together. I have been running along side of them, but now I have to let go of the bike and watch them take off and hope they stay upright, the wind in their hair. (That was a metaphor).
At the end of this year, much to the dismay of my seniors, I felt the need to cram in several more writing assignments because when I wake up in the middle of the night as I always do, I would lie there and think about them going in to college classrooms and writing their first essays, and I felt a nagging sensation that they weren't ready. Their writing was showing signs of progress, but still sounded awkward or was sprinkled with errors. I told them I couldn't let them out of my sights in this condition. I couldn't let them go until they tightened things up.
So, in the last three weeks, I retaught some skills and tactics, explained some things in a new way, and they have written five more assignments: a personal essay saying goodbye to some aspect of their pre-college life, a formal literary essay on The Catcher in the Rye, two one-page written responses to ideas we discussed in class, and a formal letter of thanks to a former teacher in the district.
Really Ms. Manhart? Yes. Really, you guys.
I wanted to kick myself as the papers started coming in. Piles of papers. Papers spread out all over my desk. Papers everywhere. I was already pressed for time, but now this! But as I've been reading through them and responding, I am feeling lighter and lighter. You know what? Something magical has happened in the last few weeks. My seniors can write. THEY. CAN. WRITE.
Essay after essay, I am writing "I am so proud of this!" and "Check you out!" They seem to have figured out how it all comes together. They are transitioning! They are persuading! They are using semi-colons correctly! And for some of them, they have even found their voices at the end of high school. Except for the stray error here and there, these essays needed almost no editing. It's a freaking miracle. (Actually, it's not. These kids are products of 12 years in a stellar school district where their skills and interests have been nurtured and honed by many talented teachers, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that when they come to me, they are in very good shape already.)
One thing I'm not sure you can actually teach kids is how to have voice in their writing. Many of them just lack the life experience and confidence to have a unique personality in their writing voice. But they are definitely getting there. When it happens, when I have a kid who finds the sweet spot, when the writing takes on an effortless quality, it is such a total joy. The kid in my class who is the truest scholar, who writes the most thoughtful and original essays and has the most personality in his writing, is the kid who hides behind his hair, has multiple piercings, and has been in a lot of trouble with the law. He misses a lot of school and hands in everything late. His essay on The Catcher in the Rye made me cry actual tears. Probably because he IS Holden Caulfield. But that kid can write with so much genuine passion that I didn't even care that he had hardly any quotes from the text. If your essay makes me cry tears of joy, you get an A.
"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
In September, my seniors were struggling for ideas for their college essays and full of nerves about where they will be accepted, or what they will do next year. Their first essays were rough. They were awkward and disjointed. By May, the seniors have put in a solid year of work, and have their plans set (for the most part). My back bulletin board is plastered with my seniors' names and where each is headed next year. University of Maine, University of New Brunswick, Boston College, Air Force, Army, Naval Academy, Colby, Husson, Eastern Maine Community College, URI, Suffolk, Northeastern.
I'm letting go of their bikes, and they are riding away. I'm sending 52 kids out into the world who will impress their professors with cohesive literary arguments, persuade others of their beliefs, and woo their lovers with grammatically-correct love letters.
But as they ride away from me, I can't help but want to shout at them: "AVOID AMBIGUOUS PRONOUNS! USE ACTIVE VOICE! SOUND CONFIDENT! MAKE SURE YOUR THESIS STATEMENT ANSWERS 'WHAT?' AND 'SO WHAT?' AFFECT IS A VERB! IT'S IS A CONTRACTION! AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PROOFREAD!"
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
On Mother's Day, I requested that we all climb a mountain together, and that is just what we did. Parkman Mountain, Acadia National Park.
On the way up, Skyler said: "THE VIEW IS AMAZING" and Reed said: "THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE"
And during the last quarter mile, Reed said: "WAAAH." and Skyler said: "I FEEL LIKE I'M NEVER GOING TO STOP WALKING."
3 miles up and down a mountain on their little climbing legs: a pretty big deal.
Relaxing and eating pb & js when we were done: awesome.
Posted by Emilie at 6:00 AM
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Too busy to update much, but here are some new links:
I came in 2nd place in the Circle of Moms contest, thanks very much to your consistent votes and re-posting. We were neck-and-neck with Moms Run this Town for the whole 3 weeks and then it was a horse race to the finish at the end.
Many of you asked if I was sad that I didn't win? No... I was truly, totally fine! I just won a trip to Mexico after all! Many of you also asked what it would have meant to win? Just that Circle of Moms lists the top 25 Outdoorsy Mom Blogs, that's really all. I still have a profile up on their page, and they claim to have 6 million readers, so that's pretty cool.
Here is the One Mom in Maine page on Circle of Moms. I answered some interview questions about being an outdoorsy mom, which you can read if you scroll down.
Moms Run this Town wrote this post about the contest. Right after voting closed, Pam, the writer of the blog, and I had a very friendly and fun exchange about how stressful the voting was. Their blog is an excellent running resource and you should all read it.
I also wrote about Mom Guilt and exercise for the Atayne newsletter which you can read here.
Here is a glimpse:
Here is a photo of Reed looking Buddah-like, taken on our very windy Mother's Day hike up Parkman Mountain.
In the meantime: Ahhhh! Department Head! Academic Awards Night! Literary Magazine! Senior Grades! Committee Meetings! Senior Banquet! Retirement parties! End-of-the year reports! The Poet Laureate is visiting! Sparrow Magazine! MARATHON!
Let's take a moment together: breathe in. breathe out. breathe in. breathe out.
Posted by Emilie at 6:56 AM
Sunday, May 13, 2012
|with my girl.|
|with my boy.|
|with my mom.|
And here is my favorite poem about mothers. The last 3 lines: how true is that?
The Lanyard - Billy CollinsThe other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Happy mother's day to all the mamas. xo
Posted by Emilie at 7:33 PM
Saturday, May 12, 2012
You guys? Hi. I'm kind of drowning at work, so I've been unable to blog as much. Here are a whole week's worth of photos.
This week we had Literacy Night at Skyler's school. First, you buy books at the book fair, then make your way to the classrooms to check out the goings-on. Here we are waiting in the reading area before going into the classroom.
I know exactly how she feels.
Reedo is really into pirates right now. See below.
This week, Skyler fell off the monkey bars and landed (I kid you not) right on her face. Split lip, chipped tooth, bloody nose, and one of her baby teeth knocked totally loose (it fell out the next day). I was POSITIVE we were on our way to the ER, but a trip to see our nurse Sandi and a few minutes later, the bleeding stopped and it just swelled up. She's good now. Here she is cuddling on Saturday morning. God, I love this kid.
Big weekend event: BRIDGING from Daisy Scouts to Brownies. It's kind of a big deal.
I'm tapering for the Sugarloaf Marathon which is (all of a sudden) next weekend. I have been in a weird place about this upcoming race. Usually the weeks before a marathon, I am CONSUMED with marathon thoughts and dreams. This time, I think I'm just so busy that I've hardly thought about it at all. I had my last long run this morning of 8 miles. It was such a beautiful day and a beautiful run on the trails.
I do have that marathon taper phenomena where my legs ache like nobody's business. It's actually a thing that runners talk about... the marathon-taper-leg-ache. Isn't that weird? I guess my body is recovering a bit as it rests.
So, yeah. The marathon is next weekend. Today on my run I decided not to run with my Garmin during the marathon, simply because when I think about having my Garmin, I feel stressed, and when I think about not having it on, I feel relieved, so I figure I should listen to that. I will run by feel, and hopefully have a good race, but I'm not gunning for anything other than a good day. After all, it's 26 point freaking 2 miles. Right? Right. I'm kind of relaxed about the whole thing, which is a nice change.
Today I played piano for a while and it felt so nice to do so. I used to be pretty good, but I tell you what, when you don't play piano for like 10 years, you forget how to read music, which is really depressing. I want to get it back. I have this Bach Inventions book that I used when I studied as a teenager with my piano teacher's handwriting on it.
When I play this one piece, my hands remember what to do even though it's been so long since I played it really well. Skyler is working on 2 pieces for her first recital and she was very impressed to hear me play this.
Thank you, world, for this beautiful 70 degree sunny day. Hope everyone enjoyed it too.
Posted by Emilie at 6:46 PM