Monthly Archives: May 2022

stress fracture

This is looooong, but I think it’s what I have been building up to. It eventually turns to topics of forgiveness and self-worth. Two days later, I am still holding the line.

Lemme start by saying I do not, to my knowledge, have a stress fracture. It’s just a phrase that is attracting my curiosity today. Like breaking point. Buckling under pressure.

I was thinking about earthquakes and volcanos and how we keep our ears  to the ground, monitoring the shifts and spasms. How building codes in vulnerable areas act as bulwarks. (I  just looked up bulwark to check my usage… it lives in my brain as “something that defends, maybe related to water”. I was on point though I pictured it as something on shore but it’s the side of a ship. Either way, def a word that sounds like it means!)

Thinking about that moment when everything changes. The limits of prediction. The hurricane cuts its own line.

Thinking about hindsight (a wonderful concept and I was going to say wonderful word but now that I think about it, I imagine it’s related to behind and now I am thinking about craning my head to look at my butt and now I’m picturing butts with eyes so just no. Some digressions should not be followed.)

Thinking about butt eyes and how we don’t know the line between before and after until there’s been a lot of after. How much after? Like when I quit smoking (see what I did there? butts?)  I had tried to quit before. I could not know that 11/11/2001 would be the sticking day. I’m not sure when I knew the line would hold. I do know that if I had a cigarette today, there’s a high chance I’d slide back to it. Just one. Just one more.

So maybe I am thinking about befores and afters. With tragedies it’s horrifically clear. May 24, 2022. Uvalde, TX will never be the same.

I’m thinking about Big T trauma and little t trauma. The bones we break when falling out of a swing and the ones we didn’t know were at the breaking point until after the fact. Stress fractures. How the slightest jostle can sever whatever tenuous bonds were still holding the pieces together.

I’m thinking about the limits of analogies and wondering why I take refuge in them instead of speaking plainly.

Our brain follows different rules than bones. Our thoughts are not hurricanes even though our thoughts spin and shred up and down the Saffir-Simpson scale.

I am trying to resist digressing into a blah blah about how trite and ridiculous this all is. I want to minimize. This has all been lived and said before. Nothing new here. But I promised not to apologize for taking up a wee bit of online space for writing. It somehow helps me find my footing.

OK let’s say the brain is a house. Some houses are sturdy enough to hold up in almost any setting. Going back to bulwarks. Some are more site specific. And maybe some are just one busted pipe after another and you can’t even catch your breath long enough to decide if you need to rebuild somewhere else.

I want today to be a breaking point. To be a before and after. What I’m looking for is not as clear as stopping smoking and it’s sure as hell more difficult. I cannot simply quit being me. Wherever we go, there we are.

But I can’t keep on as things are. No, that’s a lie. I can keep on, as folks do. Which is why I am thinking about stress fractures.

Maybe in a year, or five or twenty I will be able to say, yes–something shifted on May 31, 2022. Because I do know what needs to change. I need to forgive myself for real and perceived failures so I can move forward. I need to stop looking for evidence everyday to prove that I continue to fail. And–the hardest of all patterns to break–I need to uncouple my sense of worth from my perceptions of competence. Just thinking about doing this makes me queasy, shortens my breath, releases the tears.

Am I able to say I have done the best I could, given the knowledge I had and my personal capacity? I am supposed to say yes. That’s what the professionals say. We cannot hate ourselves into change.

I do not know why I cling to self-recrimination.* It’s almost a form of grandiosity. Why would I hold myself to different standards than others? Knowing that we are fallible is Human Studies 101.

I might not be ready to say I’ve tried my best. Wasting hours playing Freecell (and now every iteration of Wordle I can find) is *not* trying my best. The list of all the things I could have done, should have done, wished I had done is long.

Maybe I can start by acknowledging that I have always approached each day with good intentions, with the desire to have a positive or at least not negative impact on those around and beyond me. I can even go farther out on the limb by recognizing that I do have a strong work ethic, even though it doesn’t always fire on demand. But I guess that’s a sneaky way of reconnecting worth and competence.

So, really, what I need to do is forgive myself and allow for the possibility that I have worth, just as I am, right now. I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe today won’t be the day it sticks. But claiming and voicing it as a goal, for real this time, is actually a big step.

*Re: where the core beliefs and self-recrimination come from. . . I grew up in a loving, supportive, awesome home with great parents who never made me feel like I was defined by my performance, used withering words or anything like that. I don’t think I had an inordinate amount of terrible experiences with peers, teachers, etc. Sure, definitely some ouch moments, but nothing horrible enough to account for my core beliefs. Maybe I just started off with some vulnerabilities that predisposed me to cognitive distortions and disproportionate reactions to the normal slings and arrows of being a human which then snowballed. And then I unintentionally made choices that deepened the rut.

sensory overload

So yeah, it’s a good thing I handle sleep deprivation well because I def have some princess and the pea qualities.

Tonight I’m thinking about noise and light.

I’m sitting on the back porch. Neighbors are laughing and playing music. I just heard the low boom of a firework, a screaming motorcycle and now an ambulance (unrelated I assume). The wind is whistling through the narrow spaces between buildings, a flagging down a taxi cab whistle (though I guess folks don’t do that as much these days). The apple tree is aflutter and the porch curtains are flapping around like sails.

It’s all good. Maybe the variety evens out the edges of each sound. Like a white noise machine.

If our neighbor’s AC compressors fired up right now, I probably wouldn’t notice.

Oh wait a sec. They just kicked in. Sounded more like a yawn than an airplane taking off. So my theory holds. Because when it’s quiet, those things make me jump out of my skin (I wonder who first came up with that phrase) and claw my eyes out. It takes a while for my brain to file it under background noise, esp when it cycles on and off.

And there goes Rumor barking… sort of annoying to me and perhaps very annoying to our neighbors. City living.

The mechanical sounds are what get me. One of my earliest memories of being very much me… I was living my best life in st Pete Beach, visiting my grandparents who lived in a high rise  steps from the ocean. Feeling my soul knit back together like some Sci fi corporeal reconstitution. Maybe it was after one of our first winters in Chicago. And then I noticed a buzzing. A whirring. Not loud but persistent. Grating. Distracting. I walked up and down the beach with increasing urgency. Finally I looked up. It was coming from the buildings. Air conditioners. Window units. They were everywhere.

Knowing the source made it easier to tolerate the drone…

0k I need to come back to this.

heat signature

Three things about me that are? seem? atypical in their intensity and that very much affect the daily rhythms of life, for better and worse

  • Horrible sense of direction, as I wrote about yesterday
  • High tolerance for sleek deprivation (I’m usually  keen and cheerful after I’ve been up all night… slap happiness and slow processing  don’t  kick in until much later…. like right now…)
  • Low? high? threshold for being cold. Unless I’m being active, below 80 means long sleeves. 85 to 87 is magic.* Humidity? Bring it. I was salty when I leaned that office temps are traditionally calibrated to the comfort level of men. Probably not nefarious. Just an assumption that we share a sweet spot of comfort.

Today I leaned into all three. For my run, I simply ran west for two miles and turned back. No fancy route, though I did need to swing a block north for a crossing. No chance of getting turned around. I think I hit “the ridge” a topographical feature that harkens to the ice age but I need to look that up.

It was 82, sunny, and humid. Can’t imagine better running conditions Actually that’s BS. I would rather run a race in the 60s than the 80s. But for a mellow, get some miles in while listening to the Crosstown Classic, outing, it was perfect.

I’m glad I shoved myself out even though I had been up all night.

Im gonna table this for now because I really do need sleep and ilm not sure

* Live update. I just grabbed a blanket because the windows are open to cool down the house before tomorrow’s maybe low 90s day. We are down to the high 70s. Brrrrr. Tomorrow, when the outside temp starts to exceed the inside, we will  close the windows. For all my heat swooning, I concede the house feels better at 83 than 93. I can always go outside for a warm up.

two doors

This post describes a lockdown drill and discusses school shootings and violence in general. It’s also not complete.

A classroom with a red/green patterned couch, two blues, bookshelves with plants on top, a brown door
Door number 2

I’m just going to get right to it. One of the scariest moments of my teaching career was during a lock down drill.

I began my teaching career before Sandy Hook.* Some folks locked their classroom doors when they and their kids were gone for lunch but I don’t remember having keys to my room. I was probably offered and said no out of fear of losing them.

When I returned to the classroom after a ten year detour, the key was mandatory.

My 7th grade classroom had two doors. At the beginning of the year, I decided which would be the main entrance based on transition patterns between classes. But the lock didn’t work very well and I had to keep asking to get it fixed. The delay was not due to reckless indifference on the part of leadership. They were working 24/7 in an under-resourced, high-needs school. The other door also locked, but I didn’t pay as much attention to it.

During my first lockdown drill, my students knew what to do, where to hide. I checked that my door was secure. The main door. Pssst! Students were looking at me, nodding at the other door. I ran over to check it. Unlocked. I turned the lock. Within minutes, our security guard was banging on the doors and rattling the knobs. We “passed the test.”

I still can’t quite shake the feeling that I had put my students at risk. My logic brain reminds that the whole point of drills is to learn, to bake in the protocols. And even the tightest, most perfectly enacted plans can fail. My mom brain still echoes “what if?” Families entrust us with their children. What if I had been the weak link? I can’t even complete that thought.

When I weighed the reasons for leaving, I included my concern that I would not be able to protect my students. My spatial skills are terrible. I can get disoriented within two blocks from my home.

No matter how many times I studied the fire drill evacuation plans and practiced taking the correct stairs, I was hesitant about which direction to turn during every fire drill. I did not trust my ability to direct the movement of children in a crisis.

I think of all the teachers who likely share similar fears but still courageously show up for our kids in so many ways. It’s mind-boggling.

I am not quite sure where I am going with this. Maybe just feeling some big feelings about what we ask our kids and teachers to do.

*I just realized it was after Columbine. I wonder if small elementary schools remained more relaxed than high schools. Or maybe I am imagining simpler times,

ducks, cats and ballast

So. This week has not gone as planned and these days I don’t even plan a lot given the predictable unpredictability.

This is why I am not yet looking for a full time job. I put out some feelers this week and am looking forward to catching up with fellow travelers in the coming weeks. But before I commit to anything that involves people depending on me being at a certain place at a certain time on a daily basis, I want my ducks to be in a better row.

Never really thought about that idiom? metaphor? analogy? How does it compare to herding cats? What are those expressions meant to convey?

Getting ducks in a row makes me think of wrapping up essential projects before vacation and setting up an autoreply with info about who to contact in your absense. A person who is already pretty calm and organized, just tightening things up a bit. So now I am wondering about duckling behavior. How rogue do they go? I picture a gentle nudging back into line, not a chase down the block.*

If they just need a little redirection for forward momentum, then maybe my interpretation makes sense. If so, it might not be the best discription of what I need to do before I can take on new responsibilities. I don’t need to button up some projects. I need to start them.

Herding cats isn’t quite right either. Makes me think of loud, comical, futile attempts to manage an impossible situation. All my self deprication aside, I’m actually pretty good at coaxing order from choas. Doesn’t mean I’m always able to impose it, but my day to day does not involve a lot of flying fur. The wild cats and I have an understanding.

What I need is an anchor. Or maybe ballast. Lemme look that up.

Ah yes, that’s it. Don’t want to be pinned down. I am looking for something to add stability to help me ride the waves.

*I know I can ask the internet and reread Make Way for Ducklings…I guess this is like a KWL where I am activating prior knowledge and thinking about what I want to learn.


This is a tbc/placeholder because I am really behind on sleep. I’ve been meaning to write about assessment in school settings. Oh boy I have so many thoughts and feels about this topic.

It’s on my mind today because of a great conversation I had with Quetzal’s math teacher today. Q has missed a bunch of school and continues to be out a few afternoons a week which is when they have math.

They don’t have to make up all the work, but that’s tricky in math because it’s cumulative. Without going into all the details, the teacher was of the same mind that it’s more important to focus on big picture mastery than individual assignments right now. The final is in about two weeks. We know what chapters will be covered.  So long as Quetzal submits some  evidence that they are studying, they won’t be penalized for missing routine assignments. They do, however, need to show they know the material by passing the exam.

This level of individualized flexibility (redundant?) is not easy for a teacher juggling 7 classes and over 100 students. The work we ask teachers to do is super human, as we were reminded again by the massacre in Texas.

But putting logistics and work load aside for a moment…. what do grades really reflect? Behavior? Work ethic? Mastery of content? Mastery of specific modalities for showing mastery? (Example: written communication is valued more than oral.)

If a kid can pass an exam, should they have to do the assignments leading up to it? Do we ask kids to do work for the sake of doing work?

I take a meandering middle path on this one. I haven’t shaken the belief that doing work for the sake of doing work has value. Builds stamina. Can deepen understanding. Passes the time.

I just think we should be clear to students (and ourselves) as to what we are measuring and why.

cheat day

I ended up spending a lot of time updating what I wrote yesterday which is now probably too long for one post anyway so I am just going to count that work for today’s post. Gotta keep the streak alive!

Ah, OK, now that I have credit for pushing publish before midnight, is there anything else I should say?

Today was rough on the home front in part because it was heart shattering on the world front. Yesterday 19 young children and 2 adults were killed in another school shooting.

Is it ridiculous and selfish to write and run and hand wring about my small sphere given the horrors around us? Maybe, though I reckon I am not taking up a lot of space by writing. And one of my goals for this version of “self care” is write myself into a better place so I can maybe do. . . I don’t know. . .something. Head to Georgia to get Stacy Abrams elected?

screen shot of a congrats message from word press about posting 85 days in a row

false confidence/marathon follies

long and somewhat rambling but includes a story I’ve been meaning to write. will probably break it up. . . but not today (which is now the day after I posted this and kept editing)

map showing a running route with a graph of pace and elevation change
Running data. Yay for all seeing tech? Eek?

Today I ran to pick my kid up from school, about 4 miles away. When I did this two weeks ago, it was blazing hot (yay!) but I ran out of steam (was over steamed? ) and hopped on the bus after about 2 miles. Today was in the 50s (boo, but I concede a  better temp  for exercise). And I have a few more runs under my fanny pack.

I was feeling strong out of the gate. Definitely faster than my recent treadmill excursion. As I closed in on the first mile, I looked forward to checking the stats. Would Map my Run’s cheerful coach report a pace in the low elevens? Mid tens?

11:52 minutes?? I was on the Bloomingdale Trail for most of that time so I can’t even blame intersections. Maybe I need to set the treadmill incline up a bit  to compensate for lack of wind resistance.

Dejected, I walked a bit. I was also winded from pushing myself to maintain what I thought was a brisk (for me) pace. After a quarter mile, I rolled my eyes and got going again.

I don’t know how much I should trust the app anyway. My stats often include a mysterious 100 foot dip. But I can also use basic math (easy enough to check distance and time) and common sense to know that I have a ways to go to build up speed and endurance.

close up of a hand wearing a running watch with numbers written on the hand for pacing guidance.
Heehee I guess this was my pacing plan for the Mag Mile 10K Sept. 2019. I usually do best with negative splits but those look pretty ambitious. Through the miracle of the internet, I dug up my race results. Er. . . . average pace of 10:46 (1:06:51) Good to have goals though!

As I sulked/chuckled, I remembered what happened at the halfway point of the last marathon I ran, almost five years ago.

It was about six weeks into my ill fated return to classroom teaching. That summer I had actually been  training more seriously than usual (still not all that serious) but when I got the job with no time to prepare and a classroom that needed major work, my  running stopped.

However, I did start biking 5 1/2 miles to school, standing on my feet all day, and forgetting to eat. When marathon day rolled around, I decided to go for it. My running muscles were  rested, I was 10 pounds lighter, my aerobic conditioning was fine, my bladder was a fortress (teachers have few opportunities to pee) , and 26.2 miles was nothing compared to the marathon weeks I was putting in.

Still, I didn’t have high expectations seeing as my longest run that summer had maybe been 16 miles. But as the miles ticked by, I was amazed by how well I was doing. I was on pace for a personal best (low bar, but still). Maybe I was on to some new low effort training system.

woman on a bicycle pulling two large chairs and a box on a trailer
Friends donated furniture for my classroom. Writers need to be comfy!

Emboldened, I pushed myself a bit more. I  was feeling strong as I neared the half way point.

Yup, was ready to whoop it up at the half way point. Any minute now.

Why haven’t we hit 13.1 miles yet?

Excuse me, what mile are we on? 12? OK thanks now excuse me while I crumple off to the side.

My Garmin was over a  mile off.

By the time I met my family at mile 14, I was both a mess and bemused. I told them not to bother trying to meet me at the finish line because who knew how long I was going to be. It also gave me an out.

Miles 15-17 follow the Forest Park Blue Line. When we reached the Halsted Station, I seriously considered bailing. Stood and stared at the entrance I knew so well from commuting to UIC for an M.Ed 20 years before (master in education? ha!). I could just hop on the train, be in a shower within the hour, and have a chance of being able to walk with only moderate pain the next day.

I had nothing to prove. I don’t have major aspirations as a runner.  The people who had donated to support my cause would more than understand. They knew life had changed since I started the job.

But I knew I could do it. Slowly and painfully, but there was a clear finish line, a metric, something I could check off. Done. Complete. Something I could feel proud about during a time when I felt I could do nothing right (hmmm pretty similar to current conditions) .

Miles 16-23 took us south, with energy boosts at Pilsen (19) and Chinatown (21)–and more train temptations. The Halsted Orange Line stop is perfect for folks done in by the dreaded 20 mile wall. After Chinatown, the next stops are near Sox Park, about two miles further south (which brings up some questions about equity and station distribution. . .)

Map showing the south section of the 2017 Chicago marathon route, with circles around transit stations.
South side portion of 2017 Chicago marathon map, with bail out train stops highlighted.

But once you make it to 35th street, the turning point for heading back north, it’s all good. Just a mad dash a couple of miles up Michigan Avenue. The thing about being a mid/back of the pack runner is that I see a lot of folks suffering. I know the really fast folks suffer too, but at least they end up spending less time on their feet. (OK wait, I need to save this digression for another post.)

Anyhoo, I finished. Well over 5 hours. Personal worst but hardest earned.

Is the lesson to not rely on technology? Sure that’s always a good takeaway. But I am also wondering  about how great I felt when I thought I was exceeding my expectations, just like this morning.

I had a tearful morning before lacing up. Ugly crying. Talking to my therapist about a lifetime of feeling incompetent, that i have not lived up to potential. These feelings are illogical, inexplicable and tenacious as bindweed.

Maybe I like running because it’s so low stakes and I can have a sense of humor about it. It also gives the brain buzz which is always helpful. I just need to be careful about not letting it reinforce unhealthy core beliefs about underperformance.

I mean really. It’s kind of cool that I completed a marathon on a hot day, not having run in weeks, and made it to my 3rd floor classroom the next day.

A chart showing running stats
My pace dropped off precipitously after the demoralizing realization that my watch had been using the equivalent of vanity sizing for my pace. But check out that last sprint 🙂


diagram of a planet showing the relative positions of the horizon, meridian, and polar axis

Can’t remember if I already wrote about this but if I start poking through old posts I’ll start editing them and that’s a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down.

I know there’s a word for words whose form fits? evokes? their meaning. Not onomonopia exactly. I dunno. Why can’t I remember these things?? (OK, after I posted this I poked around. Phonestheme might be what I’m looking for.)

Regardless. What about words that don’t match? Took me a long time to finally accept that nadir means lowest, not highest point. I’m still a little skeptical. Some thing with hoi poloi. Always thought it meant the fancy folks… maybe I got it mixed up with hoity toity. (I am not alone.)

Anyhoo, I am now willing to accept that nadir means lowest point which is good because the alternatives are meh. And because I couldn’t resist looking it up, I just learned that it’s related to astronomy so that’s cool. Zenith and nadir are relative to the position of the observer. I can definitely get behind (or above? below?) that.

Anyhoo again, I’ve decided to reframe this whole lead up to my bday as more of a coasting down to the nadir. Instead of having my act together *by* 50, I’ll invoke new beginnings and what not. Start the trek up to wherever it is I’m trying to go. Another 100 days of writing for symmetry and that gets me close to the marathon so egads I hope I’m in a better place by October!

Speaking of running I’m thinking the sub 30 min 5k in 19 days is out of reach. After all my big talk, I haven’t been putting in the work… but I have at least been on a few runs. Even did some yoga tonight. So, progress!

treadmill display showing stats for a 5k run.
The 9:40 pace was just for the last 1/4 mile. I started at 1130 and slowly increased the speed. To get below 30 minutes, I need to average 9:40. My reflection shows how wiped I was. Oof.

I’ll just be happy to make it to the starting line. Average time for women in the 50 to 54 is 41:20 so I have a shot at being above average. Woo hoo! Here’s to new age groups.

clothing swap

I wear the same 4 black skirts year round. They are usually paired with thick tights, a purple or gray long sleeve shirt , and a black tank top. In midwinter, I add a base layer under the shirt and pull tall thick socks over the tights. In summer, I keep the tank and ditch the tights and long sleeves. But I don’t pack them away  because I am always watching over my shoulder for a cold front.

This is why my seasonal clothing exchange is unbalanced. In June, I stow a few big sweaters, flannel PJs, and about half of the socks. And I cram the closet with a motherload of aspirational summer dresses.

Aspirational in three senses of the word: that we will have hot weather (I’m not good with bare arms unless its over 80 degrees), that I will have reason to leave the house, and that I will be able to fit them.

In theory, the switch is a good time to cull . But my donation bags are usually small because I’m indecisive, my weight has been fluctuating, and  there’s a clothing glut in the world.

Since we are also lucky to have plenty of space, I can dodge the should it stay or should it go question by returning it to storage. I tend to keep borderline items in play. The more clothes I have, the less often I have to do laundry.

I am also more comfortable just wearing what I want even if its not flattering. I just prefer not to see the pictures.