Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time To Soar

It is fall break.


I LOVE fall break!

After a week and a half of conferences after school causing me to be home stupidly late (including two nights of getting home at 8:30 -- ewwwwww), I have a five day weekend. Five days with nothing to do but enjoy the beautiful 70 degree weather with RetiredHubby. We contemplated a few different big trips, but ended up settling on a weekend at home, hanging with the dog and playing in the area.

Wednesday was one of the most pleasant "here" days in recent history. We slept in, ate some pancakes, then ventured to Boulder for a big adventure. Climbing the 3rd flatiron.

For those of you not from Colorado, Boulder is known (among other, less pleasant things) for this view:

Those rocks jutting up out of the mountain are called "The Flatirons." They are numbered from right to left -- the far right being the first flatiron, the middle is the second, and the next tall one is the third flatiron and so on.

I've always looked at the Flatirons, been awed by their beauty, and amazed that people even think about climbing them.

So Wednesday, I found myself at the base of the third flatiron, harness on, uncomfortable rock shoes laced up, looking up at what I always thought to be an impossibility. Only those "crazy" people climb such things.

Hello crazy.

We were climbing to get to the top so we could see some friends and lend them a rope to get back down. Chris led us up the climb, placing gear along the way, and stopping at the first belay point to allow me to start climbing and catch up. The first five feet were frustrating and I couldn't find a way to get up.

Keep in mind this is the FOURTH time I've climbed. Ever. Inside or out.

Needless to say, I was a bit rusty, nervous, and generally unpracticed. But I found a way up the first little part and then the climbing got a bit easier. I made my way up to Chris, who happened to be up over a little ledge that took some finagling to get over. He tied me into an anchor, made sure I was secure in belaying him up the next pitch, then started to climb. And so I cried. I looked out over the view, and the long way I'd fall if something went wrong, and I freaked out a little. But I'm happy to say that this was my only freak-out of the entire climb. Chris calmed me down, offered that we could turn back, and kept me positive.

Then he headed up to the next belay station. I was kinda awkwardly stationed so I looked up at Chris climbing when I could wrench my neck around, but otherwise I read the tension on the rope and fed it through to him as he flew up the rock like a tiny dancer. More often than not, throughout the entire climb, Chris could climb faster than I could feed the rope through to him. He was careful, as leading up a climb requires some caution, but he moved gracefully. Soon he was setting up the next anchor and calling to me to unhook and start climbing.

So I did.

Each pitch got a little easier and a little quicker. In general I'm a slow climber. I'm happy to admit to that. I would stop, analyze the next few feet, find places to put my feet and hands and plan a route up to Chris. Each time I'd stop to belay Chris, I'd feel a bit more secure. The cool thing about climbing is that after you get used to the initial shock of the exposure, it really doesn't get worse the higher you go. At least in this case.

So I got used to the view -- looking down on the small, hippy town that I spent four years growing myself in. I looked out at the brown haze that crowded the horizon and engulfed Denver. I admired the geographic features and bumps that make up the foothills around us.

At some point we had to cross over a big crack in the surface of the flatiron, which was a little interesting. As I climbed down into the crack and climbed back up the other side, I thought about how amazing it is that any of this even exists.

The climbing on the other side of the crack was my favorite of the day. I'd gotten into a groove and was able to move quicker and more securely. Think of it as you will, but I found that climbing can be an extremely spiritual experience. I got to a point where I had to let go of my own inhibitions and worries. I had to trust that someone out there was looking after me, pushing me a little so that I wouldn't fall. I moved with purpose, moved to places that I knew were secure and would hold my feet, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little conversation with the man upstairs as I got nervous. It also helped, dramatically, to know that I had Chris up ahead of me, placing secure gear, able to catch me if I happened to get bad footing. He cheered me on, encouraged me, and gave me enough confidence to keep moving.

Eventually we made it to the last ledge, the last rest, before the final grunt to the top. Chris sprung up ahead, warning me of a few sections that didn't have good holds, where I'd have to rely more on the friction from my hands and shoes. I was nervous, as I'd heard that the last 20 feet is the true crux of the entire route.

He made it to the top, bribed me with delicious sandwich, chips, and Butterfinger. Food never fails to motivate me. So I headed up the pitch. I followed a few chalk marks from previous climbers and ended up finding a pretty good route up to the top. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I joined Chris on the summit, we admired the views, and high fived our accomplishment of getting each other up it.

We were soon joined by some new friends, who helped us set up the rappel for the way down. There were two different options -- go one way that required three short rappels, or go the other way which was one big free-hanging rappel to the ground. I wanted to go the three short rappel way, as I've never done a solo rappel outside the rafters in my garage. I was worried about controlling my own speed and somehow falling 60 feet to the ground SOUNDS better than 200 feet. Either way it's not good, obviously, but it sounded better.

I seriously give into peer pressure. There were three guys on top and me. Three Chris's and a Marni -- three who thought I should just do the big rappel and then me who didn't. One Chris was my hubby who I trust my life to. One of the other Chris's happens to be a certified rock instructor. They told me how one Chris could wait at the bottom and be a backup for my rappel, the instructor Chris could be at the top reassuring me that I was doing it right. HubbyChris could rappel down next to me on a different rope and encourage me mid-air. So I gave in. Without freaking out, might I add.

Before I knew it InstructorChris was telling me to step back off the rock. Hubby Chris was a little below me on his own rope. I inched my way off, very much not prettily or gracefully, but there I was, suspended 200 feet off the ground hanging from a rope, controlling my own speed with which I slid down to the ground. Hubby helped me keep going without freaking out. Overall it wasn't that bad. I went pretty slow. I didn't look down until I was within 20 feet of the ground. The scariest part was when the rope twists and I'm no longer facing the rock, but instead facing out at the world. I was high above the trees. That was weird. At some point, after hubby had zoomed to the ground, that the two Chris's at the bottom yelled up: "Are your eyes even open???" Yes, they were open, I was just not going to look down. No matter what.

Eventually, probably the slowest in history, I made it to the ground. I was very happy to touch solid ground again. And very proud of my accomplishment. We hiked around for a bit to find the other Chris making his way down a different way, and then as it turned dark we made our way back to the car.

Dinner afterwards with new and old friends was delicious and fun. These guys can climb that Flatiron in MINUTES while it took me a few hours.

It may have been slow, but I made it.

I stood atop Boulder.

I soared (slowly) to the ground.

I was scared but I found a way to work through it.

I'm now very sore.

But happy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

White Rim Take 2

What is one to do when life gets a bit overwhelming, the world around getting a bit small, and the weather a lot blah?

Run off for an adventure in the desert -- that's what.

We tried this solution last Thanksgiving, and I ended up stranded on a snowy cliff in Canyonlands, lulled by the thawk-thawk of the emergency blinkers while Chris slugged himself up the hill in search of help. Ah, sweet sweet memories.


Anyway, we've been itching to return to White Rim together ever since. Only this time, even that 20% chance of precipitation kept us away... as that seems to mean 80% chance of feet of snow or flooding rain in the desert. But this weekend, the weather looked PERFECT and perfect it ended up being.

Chris crammed in some last minute packing on Friday (as we only made the final decision to go while sitting at our weekly Starbucks date that morning) while I taught the children. He picked me up from work and we drove the I-70 slog before camping super cozily in the Hotelement.

Hubby has an excellent write-up to recap the adventure, so I'll just throw in my own random memories:

1) The Shafer switchbacks were fun, and by no means would I ever want to ride up them. That seems painful. We saw some really cute mountain goats, which we took to be a good sign since the only other time Chris saw them was on his own first time around the Rim. It was very strange to start a ride by dropping down into something first. Colorado always starts with a big climb -- never a big descent (unless a chair-lift is involved)

2) My knee started to hurt at mile 8... a bad sign because my previous big ride two weeks ago (my first road century) left me unable to stand up straight that night from the knee pain. Despite having knee problems since I was 12, I've never really had bad knee problems biking; however, these last two big rides have been genuinely excruciating. Luckily I learned from the century that the pain doesn't stick around forever, and turning around wasn't an option to me, so we kept going. Both would bother me the rest of the trip and keep me from being able to sleep for the last two nights, but the overall experience was well worth it. There's no doubt that turning around then would've ultimately been more painful than continuing.

3) Our plan was to ride 70ish miles the first day and then the last 30 the second day. Essentially we did all of the hard stuff in one day, minus the last climb and road section.

4) I got extremely overwhelmed around mile 30. The canyon was SO BIG and I knew I wasn't even halfway through the day. I knew I couldn't turn back, didn't want to keep going forward, and generally felt emotionally trumped. Luckily, as he always does, Chris pulled me through it, got me back on my bike, and made me feel better. I'd have lots of peaks and valleys both days, but hubby was the ultimate friend and stayed sweet through all of it.

5) Murphy's Hogback is a heck of a grunt. Luckily there was the promise of lunch carrying me to the top. And Chris helped push my bike up part of it -- that's how sweet he really is.

6) Everywhere we go, no matter where it is, we run into someone Chris knows. It has become the standing joke "who will you see today?" but honestly, it's no joke, it really happens. Just prior to reaching Murphy's, we ride past a guy who says "Hey Chris!" Haha... it's always so funny.

7) The last climb of the first day -- Hardscrabble (i.e. "not-easy-or-fun-scrabble") was hard. I was hot and tired. Sick of pushing my bike up sandy pitches. But I knew that on the other side there lay a piece of ground with our tent's name on it. That kept me going up it. Plus Chris said that once you reach the top, it's all downhill to the campsite. Ok, so there are little uphills, and I sure let Chris know about each one of them. Haha.

8) Camping was great. I've never seen so many stars in my entire life. We even saw the Milky Way clear as could be. Unbelievable sight and perhaps my favorite part of the whole trip. My sleep that night was terrible and quite frustrating, but frankly, how bad can spending the night in a warm canyon really be?

9) Getting up was hard, as I hate getting up in the morning, but I was looking forward to an easier day and then returning home to my pup. Sitting on the bike seat was a horrible horrible experience. It quickly brought back Kokopelli memories and I squeeled in butt-pain as Chris tried to remind me that it does go away after a few minutes. Yowsers. The knees were not happy and pedaling was not pleasant. The view, on the other hand, was stunning down by the river and the terrain refreshingly flat.

Once we reached the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks, climbing actually made my knees feel a little better. As long as I could get into a textbook smooth pedal stroke up the hill, the pain virtually went away. Because of this, the climb was remarkably great. We even saw an airplane flying around inside the canyon -- sketchy for sure.

10) We got to pass the spot where we got the black E stuck last year. Even dry it looked a bit gnarly. Glad we made it out of that one in one piece. In the end, the broken taillight was nothing and our laziness in not fixing it ended up to be a wise decision as that car is now probably a paper-weight somewhere. It was good to revisit the spot and lay those bad memories to rest.

11) The last slog of the trip was a bit irritating. The dirt road that leads to the final paved road was, eh, as I expected. I'd already ridden part of it in March and knew it was fairly boring and generally uphill. Together, Chris and I had some good conversations, snacks, and laughs and it made the time pass relatively quickly. The last paved section was a slog that I don't particularly want to revisit. Sure, there's a big climb and then it's generally down to the car -- but generally means that there are freaking hills thrown in there to make you hate the world. I didn't think we'd ever make it to the car. But eventually we did.

12) I couldn't wait to eat the cheese danish awaiting me in the car. After shoving half of it feverishly in my mouth in my post-ride starvation, I looked down and noticed that the next bite would've been full of mold. Oh ew. Makes my stomach churn even now. Pringles were a good substitute once I saw that nastiness.

The trip, overall, was awesome. The scenery, company, and weather were unbeatable. The vastness of the canyon quickly put life and troubles into perspective, and after initially being quite overwhelming, ended up being just the therapy needed. I have, once again, pushed myself far far beyond my boundaries. The road through your own perceived limitations is one full of ups and downs, tears and joy, pain, exhaustion, and pride. The key is traveling the road with someone who can put up with you through all of it. Someone who will lift you up when you're down, high-five you when you're excited, and distract you through the pain with thoughts of Golden Shepherd puppies. While I probably would never do these types of adventures without Chris, I can't imagine not doing them.

Who would I be if I didn't have the opportunity to see myself totally broken down?

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in life, believing that "here" is all there is out there. Sometimes my world gets consumed by my 26 kids, their problems, their futures, my inability to fix the unfair world that they will grow up in. Now and then, even if it's painful, I just need to drop into a canyon, stare into the Milky Way, be with the love of my life, and Monday morning I return a better teacher, friend, and wife.

Thank you again, Chris, for taking me through canyon and bringing me back up to the mountains.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


My dog has socks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What a day...

Chris came to help me on a field trip this morning, stayed to help me in the afternoon, and let's just say got a true taste of teaching in the 'hood in the process.

At the risk of perhaps saying too much, instead all I'll say is that I'm married to a saint. I'm surprised he even agreed to come home with me this afternoon instead of retiring to some far off 8,000 meter peak where s**t like this doesn't happen.

Thank you, wonderful, for coming to help me out today.

I'm glad you love me.

(and yes, even through it all, he still wants to teach! It's a miracle!)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Random Catch-up

So... after coming home from school everyday, my creativity and motivation has been a bit lacking, so my blog has suffered.

Luckily, today is Saturday and I've done a whole lot of nothin' so I can catch-up and get back to my normal blogging.

Thoughts from the past few weeks:

* Chris came to help in my classroom this week and reinforced my belief that he is going to make an unbelievable teacher. The kids LOVED him and learned a lot from him in one short afternoon. Monday he'll be accompanying us to the pumpkin patch -- if he still wants to be a teacher after a field trip with a 26 crazy five year olds, we'll know he really wants it.

* Chris and I have had a few great after-work rides around the dogpark. Yesterday I put my pedals back on the single speed and found that my love for it has not diminished in my short hiatus. We went up and down one of the fun hills a few times and played around like little kids for an hour. It seems to be those rides where you're just not motivated to go that end up being the most fun. I need to remember that the next time I talk myself out of riding after a hectic day at work.

* We just turned on the heat for the first time this season. It's freaking cold. Now I'm toasty warm though.

* We've tried to go do White Rim in Moab the past two or three weekends and have been weathered out each time. After our Thanksgiving disaster last year, then us almost creaming a cow going there for Chris to ride on Spring Break, we're both a little weary of pushing any sort of luck in Canyonlands together. Perhaps next weekend will be nice...

* My kids at work are cute. And hilarious. And overall a rowdy bunch. We started the nutrition program up again last week (a local grocery store gives us the ingredients for nutritious snacks each week and the materials to make it with and we do a little cooking lesson with the kids each week). Yesterday we had sliced pears. After giving out the pears one girl shouted "Should we say a little prayer? Anyone?" (then when no one responded, she looked up to the ceiling and said...) "THANK GOD FOR THESE PEARS!" Haha. She made me laugh. The other kids looked at her like she had lost her mind. Haha. She's the one that, after asking me how to cut out a cirlce and I showed her, immediately turned away and said "That's an idea. I'm not sure it's a good one" and walked away. She kills me.

So, overall, you haven't missed much by my lack of blogging.

Hopefully now that I'm caught back up and I can get back to my regular blogging. I'm currently cleaning up our iphoto so that instead of a VERY SLOW program with 5,000+ photos, we can have one that actually runs efficiently and both of us can get back to normal picture blogs.


p.s: The difference between a friend and a best friend that you want to spend the rest of your life with? A friend will have coffee with you on Friday mornings, but a best friend will stick his nose purposefully in his whipped cream just to make you smile. I am the luckiest girl in the world. Hands down. I win.

p.p.s: HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSIE!!!!! We can't wait to come see you some time soon hopefully. We both miss you!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

At least someone learned something...

A funny thing happened in my class last week.

Imagine that.

We've been learning shapes. They all want to call the diamond a diamond, but I told them that's the preschool word, and the kindergarten word is rhombus.

So anyway, we're singing twinkle twinkle on Friday and we got to "like a diamond in the sky" and one of my kids interrupts with "NO! That's the preschool way! It's like a RHOMBUS in the sky!"

Haha. So funny.

So now that's how we sing it.

At least HE learned something.