Friday, December 10, 2010

Good News

I passed the Praxis I exam!

This is a big deal. I had some high anxiety regarding the Math portion of the test. But alas, I did it. I passed. I took the test after a crazy week in the aftermath of the penalty phase in the murder trial on which my husband served as a juror. News vans and reporters were at our front door and calling our house with more persistence than creditors. I was so grateful to have the test to prepare for that week. I needed a diversion from the circus surrounding the trial.

So a few Saturdays ago at 7AM I arrived at a Yale classroom on Hillhouse Ave, sharpened my #2 pencils and sat down for four hours of testing in a room full of people all younger than me by at least a decade. I apprently did not get the memo, as I was the only girl--uh, woman--not dressed in a North Face fleece jacket and Ugg boots. But I rocked the test. And now I get to apply to grad school for my MS and certification in special ed.

I had originally wanted to blast through graduate school as quickly as possible. But I don't think that's how it's going to play out. I have a full-time job and two children. Two boys who are familiar with friends' parents who are also taking graduate classes right now. "Does this mean you'll never be home?" they asked. "Does this mean you won't have time for us anymore?"

Absolutely not.

I'll have less time, but I will still have time. Lots of it. Those boys are my priority in life. Period. Nothing (except my own sanity) comes before them. Nothing. So I've decided not to pursue my degree in typical Moira Burn Out fashion. I'm going to do something I am only now learning to do at 37 years old. I'm going to pace myself.

I used to run track in high school. I was a distance runner. My time wasn't all that great, and I didn't even really love running all that much. But on some level I enjoyed it--especially the fact that I was really racing against myself.And I loved the riddle of it all. In pushing myself too hard and too fast too soon in the race, I inevitably had worse time than if I just paced myself. I've remembered that lesson when I've picked up running on and off in my adult life. Now I hope to apply it to the marathon of higher education.

But first I need to apply to school. And get accepted. And then get adequate loans and grants to cover the cost of my books and classes. I have no choice but to accept that it's going to take a while, right?

Part of me still wishes I could apply to nursing school, but as a full-time working mom whose salary is an absolute necessity to our household budget, there is no way I can take on the courseload (especially the labs) of nursing school right now. It would require me to be in school full-time. And I think teaching is ultimately a better fit for me, anyway. I guess time will tell.

For now, it's back to the business of being crafty for Christmas. We're getting our tree tomorrow. I cannot wait to unbox the ornaments and trigger memories I had forgotten.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Well, Hello

I haven't written in three months. I've let most of the fall slip by without a word. It's not that I had nothing to say. Instead, I was hesitant to say anything about anything. My husband served as a juror on a terrible murder case from September through November. Media was off-limits to him, and I had to limit my exposure to things as well. It seemed like a good idea to stay away from sharing any thoughts during that time, lest my words be misconstrued to somehow indirectly reference the trial and result in him being removed from the jury--and compromising the case.

But I am not here to write about that. The trial was his experience; mine was being his support at home. And that is a story I don't feel much like sharing right now.

So instead, I'll share with you the few things that have been on my mind lately. Like the cricket I heard on a mid-November walk with my pooch, Cee Cee.

The air was still, the trees were mostly bare. The sky was dark with a smattering of stars. And while we stood quietly on a pretty tree-lined street in my neighborhood, we heard what might have been the last hold-out of the season. One little cricket, sounding as if his batteries were wearing out, chirped a slow stutter from somewhere in a patch of myrtle. Like a little goodbye, it sent me and Cee Cee out of a season of warm nights and heady sunsets and on our way into evenings of cold moonlit walks led by the ghosts of our exhales.

I used to not enjoy evening walks. I was all about the morning or afternoon constitutionals. The evening, especially in winter, was for people far hardier than I. People who enjoy the cold. People who endure the cold.

But I guess I'm one of those people, because now I can't wait to slip out into the quiet night with the dog, hearing nothing but the distant hum of highway traffic and pouting train whistles. My neighborhood on the east side of our small city might as well be its own island on nights like the past few. So still. So peaceful. The trees are not swaying with leafy life. The earth is frozen and doesn't yield underfoot. But for the first time to me, nothing seems dead. It truly seems dormant. Asleep. Resting in the most mysterious stage of nature. All except for the osprey that returns to our yard each day, waiting for mice to unsuspectingly wiggle under the fence.

I'll take the dormancy. I newly appreciate this cycle of things. I've stopped fighting winter, no matter how much I love summer. The warmer months are sweeter because of the grey emptiness of these days. The cycle is not complete without this time. A time to become quiet in the garden. Quiet in our minds and hearts. And right now, around "the holidays", it's a festival of light everywhere I turn. In the darkness, lights twinkle from windows and bushes in the spirit of Christmas, Hannukah, and the Winter Solstice. Some lights actually blind me or threaten to send me head-long into a seizure, but that's okay. The kids love driving by the homes of those cracked-out light displays. And I love it, too.

So I'm feeling a little quieter lately. More reflective. More appreciative of this gift of life and parenthood--and more keenly aware of its fragility.

Last night Cee Cee and I were stopped again in front of the same patch of myrtle. The crickets chirps were long gone. But in the cold stillness, we could hear the sound of laughing children carry across neighborhood.

I look forward to tonight's walk. Right on schedule, I'll be bundled up with my dog and heading out into the darkness. It's so funny how for years we convince ourselves that we can only feel a certain way about things. Then, when we're not paying attention, how we feel about something changes. And with that change comes freedom.