On aging…

There’s a line in my forehead: it’s horizontal and about ½” long, maybe slightly longer. It’s been with me for as long as I remember because I “earned” it when I was just a toddler, running through the house…into the door. How, exactly, I managed to put a horizontal dent into my forehead with a vertical door is unclear, but with toddlers, one never knows.

It’s strangely comforting in a way. It’s me; it’s always been there, even in some of my earliest photographs, and it’s just me. I like it. I’m very comfortable with that line. There are other lines, though, that I like not as much.

There are lines around my mouth now. I just noticed them a few months ago and thought maybe (hopefully) they were related to my pain, but as it turns out, they’re really related to age. My lips purse instead of spread into a smile, and the little lines form vertical barriers one from another. I wonder: is it individual worries or sadness or what is it that causes those lines? I know that women have cosmetics to prevent lip colors from bleeding into the crevices. I wonder about that, too. Should we? What if those crevices are important reminders of painful experiences? What if they happened because of worry about our children? Shouldn’t that be important enough for lip color to bleed?

Then there are the age spots: what?? That’s a “thing”? My ordinary, freckled face now sports larger spots related to sun damage and age. Again, the age theme shows up. As recently as two years ago, people were commenting on my “good skin.” Today, I look at my sagging jowls and sun-damaged skin and wonder where it went, those good genes I used to have.

And here’s the thing: I’m not sorry I’ve aged. I’m not sorry I’m older, less youthful, more susceptible to the ravages of the years. I’ve lived my life (until now), and made my share of mistakes; I’ve enjoyed my loves and cried at least my share of tears. My body is what it is: but why does it now feel foreign? Why do I now feel betrayed by the body of this young girl in the photo who has a horizontal scar in her forehead?

This is what “they” don’t tell you: it sneaks up on you. One day, you’re young and vibrant and full of potential, but the next you’re tired and weak and full of regret. Aging, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but our ability to prepare ourselves mentally for the reality of age is another. Personally, I prefer the photos that show the scar.72269731_696807417486612_3662938780806938624_o-2

Go Find: The Power of Story

It was May 29, 2019 when I wrote on my Facebook page, “I want this book. Really want this book.” Go Find: My Journey to Find the Lost—and Myself, written by Susan Purvis, is about her experiences raising a puppy to be an avalanche search and rescue dog, her own growth as a professional search and rescue volunteer, and her subsequent career in teaching wilderness medicine. I knew, immediately, when I read the review in the Montanan that the book would be my cup of tea: a strong, female protagonist on a journey of self-discovery with a dog—and a memoir, my favorite genre, to boot. When I asked about it at a bookstore in Billings, they told me it wouldn’t be out until September, so I resigned myself to wait.

A few weeks later, I received a package in the mail from Susan Purvis; I recognized the name, the postmarked town (Whitefish), and the M.O.: Mark had contacted her and ordered it for me, the same way he ordered another of my favorite books, Indian Creek Chronicles, from Pete Fromm. Mark had done that, gone to all that trouble, even though we hadn’t been involved with each other for months. When it arrived, we had just started to talk about giving our relationship another try, and that, along with other things, sealed the deal for me.

Today, I finished reading the story of Tasha, the black Lab, and Susan, and completing the book left me feeling kind of lost, myself. What now? How can I just go on with life knowing that the story ended and it won’t be waiting on my bedside table for me to read another chapter? This is the same reaction I’ve had to all of my favorite books, over the years, and it’s a common sensation many readers share, one of despair that the story is over: every writer should hope for such a reaction from her readers.

Purvis does many things well in her first book. Her descriptions of Tasha, from the day she chose her from the litter at six weeks old to the day (SPOILER) Tasha took her last breath, every single thing resonated with me. I’ve had dogs in the past, spending Basco’s last minutes with him alone, and choosing Zoey Blue at eight weeks old just eight months ago, so a dog’s life, especially the challenging months of puppyhood, are fresh in my memory. What made me love Tasha—and Susan—more than anything are Purvis’ accounts of the many times Tasha misbehaved, some of them directly related to Purvis’ own mistakes. Knowing that Tasha was a world-class search dog responsible for saving many lives (and finding many others) and that she, too, gave in to distractions and temptations, despite all her training, made me feel more hopeful for Zoey. The fact that Purvis could recognize in retrospect where she had been inconsistent or herself distracted from being a good dog-mom made me feel less inadequate. Purvis’ descriptions of her complicated feelings toward Tasha during those moments of misbehavior mirrored my own with Zoey: frustration, anger, fear which soon give way to relief and intense love. Several times in the book, Purvis writes of Tasha’s dark, brown eyes, about locking eyes with her and trying to decipher what Tasha is wanting to communicate, to her frustration when Tasha won’t listen nor make eye contact. This, too, describes my complicated relationship with my dog, and I feel Purvis’ frustrations and feelings of inadequacy; I find myself nodding, silently affirming, “yes, yes, yes!!”

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I appreciated Purvis’ honesty and humility when she describes her difficult relationship with her local search and rescue organization and its members, particularly a character she calls “Stink Face.” Whether intentional or not, Purvis doesn’t seem to be trying to portray herself as completely innocent and unblemished; there’s times when I cringed internally at some of her reactions to comments or events, and I thought about my own occasional reactivity, impudence, impatience, and impulsiveness, all those “imp” words. A small woman in a male-dominated capacity, Purvis seemed to have had few supporters and plenty of adversaries, especially early on before she proved herself and Tasha capable and competent.

One important element of the story that I feel was lacking a bit is the relationship between Purvis and her husband, Doug. This relationship is present throughout the story, but like the real relationship she describes, it feels superficial. The end of the book rests heavily on the consequences of the failure of that relationship, and her reaction felt completely inappropriate to me, as a reader. Throughout the book, I felt as though her marriage was pretty good, not great, but that she was more or less indifferent to the marriage and Doug. Several times, they argue about something she intends to do, and she always goes ahead with her plans despite Doug’s protests. It seemed a cognitive decision based on priorities; however, when the marriage ends, her reaction is much more dramatic than I would have expected, which suggests to me that the true nature of the relationship—or at least her understanding of that nature—was not well-conveyed through the text. Either that or she did not understand her own feelings prior to the demise of the relationship. In any case, that is something I would have encouraged her to spend more time with had I been in her writers’ group.

So, what does it all mean? Is this a book review, a personal blog post, some kind of self-revelation discovered through reading a good book, or blather? I suggest it is all of the above. For the past nine months, I have tried valiantly to train Zoey to be an obedient dog; we have had some really great times together, but I have also cried a lot of tears, of frustration, anger, and despair, because sometimes I didn’t know what to do, and many times whatever I did, didn’t work. I wouldn’t change anything, but it has not been easy. Add to that eight months (give or take) of constant pain in my hip and back, the maddening delay of a precise diagnosis, the inability to sleep, think, or move without pain, and a person might have some idea of what my life has been like for the past year. Mix all that together with a professionally disappointing semester (myriad reasons for this) and insecurity in my personal life, and it becomes a perfect storm, or maybe…or maybe it was my own failings that contributed to the structural failure of my world in 2019.

Whatever the genesis, it was a brutal start to the end of a decade, and when Mark said, “I want to help…you don’t need to go it alone,” all I could say was “okay.” Read the book, or better yet, send it to someone you love. It might possibly have healing qualities.

Zoey

 

A Year of Changes and Challenges

Almost a year since I last wrote, the gaping hole is a metaphor for my life’s accomplishments during that time. In some ways, I lost ground, and admitting that hurts. When a person gets to a certain stage in life, there’s no time for losing ground, and I certainly feel that pressure.

Professionally, last year was a bust for me. My usually creative energies were stagnant, and I consider the last semester my poorest performance as an educator. A few moments of accomplishment shine through, though brief in duration and rare in frequency, but generally speaking, I’m relieved it’s over, and I can start fresh with a new class this summer. The one thing I’m most proud of is conquering my fear of online teaching and successfully (relatively speaking) teaching writing online last spring; currently, I’m working on a summer section of Writing 201 online, another foray into uncharted waters, but I’m excited about it.

Midway through the spring semester of Writing 101 online, I was feeling discouraged about my performance, knowing I could—and should—have been doing it better, when a student in the class, a very bright, thoughtful student, thanked me for being so responsive and present in the class. When she told me I was the best online instructor she’d ever had, all I could say was, “I’m sorry.” What a tragedy that her online experiences have been so poor. I resolved then to step up my game.

My greatest challenge over the past six months has been my health: After repeated x-rays, an MRI, trips to the chiropractor and the physical therapist, I finally had a diagnosis of necrosis of the femoral head. In other words, my right femur has died for lack of blood; hip replacement surgery is the treatment. I’ve spent some time raging about the unfairness and cursing whatever or whomever is responsible, but the truth is it’s just something that happens and I have to deal. Aside from the constant physical pain, the pain of losing my summer to surgery and recovery is poignant, but the prognosis for full recovery is good. I’m trying to focus on fall hiking and being back to my active self soon.

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I brought little Zoey Blue home on October 3o, and I had all kinds of plans for her and me to hike this spring and summer. She’s an energetic, determined little heeler, more than a match for me when I was healthy, but she challenges me in all manner with her energy and her stubborn attitude. I suppose it’s karma coming around for me. Despite my limitations, though, I really love her, and she’s become my constant companion and best buddy. We hiked Mount Ascension last week, and it surprised me at how difficult it was for me. We struggled to the top where we sat looking out over Helena and drank the last of my water. I had noticed the flowers as we crept to the top, especially the white and purple pasque flowers that I remember from last spring, and I experienced a sense of hopefulness. Those delicate, little flowers show up every year in a not-very-hospitable place, making the world just a little nicer. The sense of hopefulness and gratitude I felt then encourages me now to pick up and start over and end my little pity party. I’m not in great shape right now, but I will be again, and meanwhile, there are mountains to climb, flowers to enjoy, a writing class to plan, and a blog that needs my attention. I’m back.

Leo the Cockatiel

Leo came to live with us twenty-one years ago plus. A birthday gift for Adam, he named him Leonardo, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Leonardo, but we always called him Leo. A young cockatiel, his coloring was mostly grey, and we didn’t know if he was male or female. Over time, he took on the typical grey body with white stripes on his wings and yellow head with bright orange dots on his cheeks of the male bird. His vocalizations also confirmed him as male: he always had something to “say.”

For the first few years we had Leo, Adam spent more time with him, but the cage was always in a commons area where he could interact with the family. As Adam grew and his interests took him away from home more, Leo spent more time with Chuck, my husband at the time, and me. Cage-cleaning duty ended up mine more often than not, and there were many years when his cage wasn’t cleaned as regularly as it should have been. We occasionally let him out of the cage, including letting him crawl on us and fly around the house, but we had to watch him closely so he didn’t fly into a window and crash to the ground or land in an open toilet. As he grew older, he ventured out less and less, and over the last 10 or so years, we would open the cage, and he would climb out and investigate the cage only to return minutes later to the comfort of the known.

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Leo was a cantankerous bird, and few people held him. I held him the most because I was responsible for cleaning his cage and because I talked to him the most. He tolerated my attention, but he always squawked and struggled to get away. Once calmed down, he would snuggle into me and peck at my skin or clothes, just tasting really. He never became a physically affectionate bird, but he had some very quirky ways of showing us that he was part of the family.

One of Leo’s quirky behaviors was his always-raucous welcome home. When we were away, he would go into a verbal scolding when we returned, and it seemed to be more vigorous the longer we’d been away. He tweeted loudly and repeatedly, making sure we knew that we had been missed. When we’d been away a long time, I always felt bad for having left him. It was easy to provide enough food and water for days, but the company and interaction was something he missed, and I knew it. If we were going to be gone for more than a couple days, I’d always ask a friend or neighbor to come look in on him. “Check his water,” I’d ask, “and his food? And…would you talk to him?” I would get a look of bewilderment at first and then incredulousness, like “you’re serious??” I felt more guilty about leaving him for days than I felt embarrassed about asking my neighbors to come talk to my bird; I had that, at least, going for me.

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In addition to welcome home, he would tweet when we rose in the mornings and at other random times of the day. Early on, he learned to wolf –whistle, and that was one of his favorite tweets. It charmed visitors and lifted my spirits on days when I was feeling less-than-attractive. At some point early on, he took up an unusual behavior: he would position himself on a perch or on the side of the cage, turn himself upside down, spread his wings wide and flap furiously. We were delighted with it and called him “beautiful.” Eventually, it was a trick he would perform on command, and it was one of our favorite things he did up until about four or five years ago. That was when age began taking its toll.

Leo also had a lover…a small mirror attached to the side of his cage. He pecked at it, fed it food, preened, talked, and became agitated if I removed the mirror to clean it. It made me happy he had a friend, and one day, I noticed his strange gyrations and vocalizations as he sat in front of his mirror. Turns out his “friend” was one with benefits. I’m not sure where it came from, but we explained it to our friends as “Leo masticates.” Well, yeah, it’s a thing; ask a vet.

After we built our new house in Clyde Park, we noticed that Leo and Basco, our Chihuahua, had some kind of secret communication: when people would come to visit, Leo somehow knew before anyone else did, and he would start squawking. Basco recognized the sound as “someone’s here!” and he would run to the door barking. We were mystified how he knew when we didn’t even know; was he psychic? One day, I was in the office with him when he began his alarm, and I noticed a reflection in the glass of a cabinet directly across the room from him, which perfectly reflected the window from the breakfast bar that looked out to our backyard. Basco joined him in the fray, and sure enough, someone was walking to the door: mystery solved. That became something they shared; they always announced visitors, our own “green” alarm system.

Adam went to college in 2005, and Leo became my permanent pal. A couple years ago, Chuck and I divorced, and my beloved dogs, Rosie and Lance, left with him. It was Leo and me. Every day, without fail, he welcomed me in the morning and when I returned at the end of the day. When I left each day, I’d remind him to be a good bird, give him a Ritz cracker, and tell him what time I expected to be home. I’d leave a radio on for company. When I’d return, he’d make a fuss, a lovely welcome home. At night before bed, I’d cover his cage and say, “Goodnight, Leo. See us in the mornin’ mornin'” and in the morning uncover him and say, “Good morning, Leo.”

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When I told people how old Leo was, they were surprised. He was twenty-two, and he hadn’t been “beautiful” in years. Neither had I seen him “masticate” for a long time although he still had his longtime lover. I knew his days were numbered, but knowing something and living it are two different things.

Mark helped me bury him and let me cry on his shoulder. He brought me flowers, which sit in the gaping hole where Leo’s “house” used to be. My mornings are very quiet, and my homecomings are silent, a very loud silent. Once again, I’m reminded that the price of love is great.

Hiking Montana

I was an overweight kid, and my least favorite class was gym, or physical education, as it is euphemistically called. My least favorite week of the school-year was the week of physical fitness testing: no pull-ups for this fat girl, only marginally more sit-ups, and if I could be violently ill on the day of the dreaded “600,” that was all good…until I had to make it up the next time I was in attendance. At least I didn’t come in last since I was the only one “running.”

An overweight, asthmatic (diagnosed in adulthood), I was always the last person to complete the torturous 600 meters around the track, often forced to face the ridicule of my classmates, especially the boys. Gym teachers took little pity on me, probably just as disgusted with my poor physical condition as my juvenile classmates.

I started smoking around 12 years old, and by the time I reached the age of majority, I was fully addicted to nicotine, a fantastic accomplishment for an overweight asthmatic. With the exception of about a year when I was pregnant with my son, I smoked until the age of 34, finally succumbing to the intense pressure to conform to appropriate social norms and give up the devil.

About this time, which would have been the latter half of 1996, I decided to get serious about exercise. Previously, my attempts at physical fitness had been sporadic and mostly related to weight loss. In 1989, at the age of 27, I finally got sick and tired of being fat and tired and joined Weight Watchers, losing fifty pounds in six months. During that time, I did exercise occasionally, but I was also smoking, so my weight loss can be mostly attributed to calorie restriction. When I quit smoking in 1996, I gained back about twenty of the fifty pounds I had previously lost, and in order to get back to a desirable weight, I started walking. The exercise had a two-fold effect: it helped with my weight loss efforts, and it also helped distract me from my addiction. The healthier I got, the more I had to lose if I reverted to unhealthy behaviors, so it became a new, healthy preoccupation.

Sometime previous to this, I saw a doctor about my allergies and asthma and got treatment and medications for my breathing problems. As my walking picked up, I gradually started jogging, and soon, my jogging became regular running. I began running up to six miles a day, which helped me drop my weight back to my goal of 138 pounds. For several months, I ran Highway 89N between Clyde Park and Wilsall, always trying to improve my speed and/or distance. Sometime around the year 2000, I developed a stress fracture in my pelvis requiring eight weeks of nothing more rigorous than walking. I put back a few pounds.

Since then, my weight has gone down. Today, I consistently weigh in the 140 range though I can fluctuate five pounds either way. I have not had any tobacco products in 22 years, and my nutrition is constantly informed by my training in Weight Watchers. I whole-heartedly endorse the program that gave me a “normal” life, twenty-nine years ago. Though I am now vegetarian, I eat a normal diet, one that sometimes includes indulgences, and I always eat food I enjoy. More than anything else, though, I credit physical activity with my ability to maintain a healthy weight.

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This last weekend, I hiked with Mark on Friday and Saturday, and today, I logged four miles on the walking path near my house. Tomorrow we’ve planned another hike. For someone who used to dread the 600 meter fitness run, I’ve come to love, really love, the exertion and challenge of cardio exercise, especially the zen-like results of a hike in Montana. More even than the physical benefits, of which there are many, the mental and emotional benefits of hiking Montana cannot be over-stated. Some people would claim that I tend to emotional extremes, and that’s probably an accurate assessment, but I am much calmer now than I was as a teenager, and I often wonder how different my early years might have been if I had known the calming power of a walk in Montana’s natural beauty. The peacefulness is part of it, the beauty, the challenge, the vastness of Montana’s natural spaces, the quiet, the forced focus on the here and now, the demand that other stuff be relegated to later. All of that, and more, is part of the magic.

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I thought about that today while on my walk, listening to Staind, one of my favorite stations on Pandora. I thought about it again when Mark asked me to meet him tomorrow afternoon for a hike: I felt the endorphins spike in response to the stimuli. My teenage self could not have known that at age 55, I would be healthier than at any other point in my life. She could not have known how the prospect of a five-mile hike in 40 degree weather would be the equivalent of a date at the movies. She would have been very hopeful.

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I remember, as a young kid, longing for the day when I would be forty years old. At that age, I reasoned, I would be a grandma and it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I was fat: how wrong I was and how sad that I thought my joy in life would be as a fat grandma, feeding my grandchildren cookies. Turns out I haven’t gotten any grandchildren yet, but more importantly, the last thing I want to do is bake cookies. There are mountains to climb, rivers to ford, trails to follow, and many places to get lost. Love where you live.

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SOT (State of the Teacher Address)

Lately, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block going on, and the more one worries about writer’s block, the worse it gets. “I haven’t written in months…how can I be a good model if I can’t put a couple sentences together?” These are the thoughts I’ve entertained most days for at least several weeks in a row. So, here I am, preparing my State of the Teacher Address, and wondering how I’ll navigate this treacherous territory.

I’ve noticed that most click-bait blogs today have “? Number of things you should do, know, whatever, if you’re this…” I don’t know: it draws me in because there’s a limit, I guess. So here goes:

Ten things you should do when addressing the throngs of adoring students and other random readers (yeah, I’m talking to you, Brazil) who haphazardly end up on Karenhendersonblog.com.

  1. First, realize that it’s been a while, and if this post is essentially lame, people will forgive you. After all, they’re not going to read it much longer anyway.
  2. Throw them a morsel of bait: my personal life is undergoing transition…I’m kind of lost right now.
  3. Tell them how important they are to you: Oh, god…you guys…is there any way I could possibly explain the emotional reward I get from working with students, day in and day out for several months at a time, knowing that you hate me with the fires of hell at midterm but at the end realize it was all for your own good, that I sacrificed my own social life to grade your papers and help you improve your communication skills, all in service to your overall achievement??
  4. Tell the truth: That is the truth. Really.
  5. Support it with evidence: I have the evidence; I have the data that show that our students go on to do amazing things, both at the university level and in the workplace. I helped make that possible. Students we’ve sent to Missoula tell me they were well-prepared for the rigors of university work, that they never once felt behind or under-prepared or “less than” their university peers. This isn’t only my efforts, but this is the efforts of my colleagues, good men and women who truly take their rewards from the successes of their students.
  6. More evidence: It happens nearly every day; someone tells me that something I said, something I did, something has inspired them to keep trying, keep working, keep striving. Sometimes it comes in messages from other students, like it did today, about comments overheard somewhere about how my influence, my presence in someone’s life was meaningful and made a difference. I never know when that sweet gem of love will descend on me, but it happens frequently enough that I know to be patient when things are mostly dark and complicated.
  7. Students love hearing about my personal life, my loves and my losses, especially my losses. They rally around like fans at a rock concert and give me dating advice, offering both X and Y chromosome insight. That love is almost enough…
  8. Remember, students, college life is temporary. It’s sweet—difficult at times—but this is a time in your lives you’ll never repeat. College is temporal; you’ll move on, join the real world, and this life will be a memory of stressful tests, annoying homework, strong social involvement, and intense relationships. The real world is somewhat different, which is why I’ve yet to join it.
  9. What you’re doing now matters, too. Often, people delay their own dreams and hopes and desires because they’re looking down the road. There’s nothing wrong with that—necessarily—but today, this minute and the minute that just passed…you’ll never get them back. They’re gone. How did you experience those minutes? Were they wasted in bitterness or barely acknowledged at all? Pay attention to the now.
  10. Know that I love you: you are more than my job; you are more than random faces moving through the semesters of my life (because I am a perennial college student who refuses to give up the life); you are real humans with names, faces, families, problems, hopes, dreams, and challenges, and no matter how many students will intersect my life, everyone of you leaves a piece of yourself behind with me, and each of you take a piece of me with you into your futures (don’t try to do the math; the DNA thing would be very complicated). This job is so challenging that no amount of money could really compensate me, but it is also so rewarding that nothing else will ever satisfy me.

Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good, and make sure you come back some day and say hello.

Thankful Thanksgiving

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I posted something here. I’m the writing teacher, should probably be a little more consistent in my posts…

In my defense, it’s been “one of those” semesters. Without belaboring the details, let me just say I’ve found renewed reasons to be thankful. Let’s get started.

It’s Thanksgiving, almost, in less than six hours. In the spirit of the season, I’ve been thinking about what I’m thankful for, and not surprisingly, the word “people” comes to mind. I am thankful for my family. Like most families, we’ve had our differences over the years, and very often, I feel kind of “out of the loop.” I’m that relative, the one who lives away, the one who’s always been different, the one that no one understands. I get that. I don’t understand myself, so it’s all good. Nevertheless, my sisters are solid supporters and my mom is, well, my mom. Moms never give up on their kids. We had a great time this summer when my mom visited me in Montana City, and one year after my dad’s death, all of us are starting to recalibrate our lives.

Other family…my cousins, I think I’m the luckiest woman in the world when it came to DNA relatives. I get so much love and support from people who are related to me only by a parent…and I never, ever, take that for granted. I’ll call them out: Paula, Lisa, Susan, Joselle, Gayle, Nikki, and Jamie. Jamie, more than any other person, saw me through the pain of the last year, not only supporting me but sometimes calling me on my shit, saying, “Karen…what’s the truth here?” These women are truly selfless and loving and…family.

These people are the foundation of my life, the ones who allow me to have any sense of who I am. However, none of these people live and interact with me daily. Let me mention Mark. We met online in May, both of us a little nervous about another round with love, but we connected with our mutual love for the outdoors. We both have histories, stuff in our lives we’d rather not revisit. We both have sons, which gives us something in common other than our love for hiking and kayaking. We both have jobs that interfere with being together. This is the reality, but we’ve had fun together and enjoy each other, and so far, things are working pretty well. My mom thinks he’s nice because he sends her snapchats frequently. I’m happy my mom likes him.

Then there’s my work: this is where I get most of my sense of self, my confidence, my joy, my motivation. Without my work, I’d not know who I am or what I should try to accomplish. It seems kind of wild considering I didn’t start this gig until ten years ago…and then it was only part-time as a graduate student. This year, especially, I’ve seen the rewards of years of growth, from that insecure, uncertain English teacher in 2007 (which, by the way, my journal confirms was a conflicted, confused individual), to the relatively secure, sure English teacher of 2017. Maybe knowing what one doesn’t know is the key. When I mention my work, what I’m really focusing on is my students. They know who they are: we had a semester that should never happen. We were attacked in a way that is unconscionable, unbelievable, unfair. There were others involved, too, who suffered the effects of being subjected to scrutiny only because of their association with us, and yet we prevailed. And no matter any legal outcome or any professional scrutiny, I know…with 100% certainty…that I have made a difference in the lives of people who are not as “connected” [as if I am] or as well off, or as educated as I have been. I have helped to empower the next generation of people who will continue to question those in power, those with the authority, earned or not. And, oh, by the way, my students in writing are doing amazing, academic, smart, powerful work, and to think that I have had the privilege of inspiring that kind of scholarship…it just does not get any better.

Thank you, universe, or whomever is in charge. On Thanksgiving Day, I’m very grateful.

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