Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dank an Sie, Darling, Dank an Sie

I'm very grateful to live where I do and spend time with my family this Thanksgiving! Last year and the year prior I wasn't able to be with my family, yet it's phenomenal how people come together and bond over holidays, no matter their circumstances. I still feel gratitude for the void I didn't feel the last two years.

I have a wife of 6 1/2 years. Her name is Ro and she is my soul-mate, (for those who are perplexed, 'wife' is my term for my best friend from college. I only feel the need to clarify because my cheer moms question my sexuality. Who doesn't have a husband by age 24 in Tulsa, OK?) No matter how far apart we are I know that we are always connected. I would - and have - moved across the country for her. Last year I spent Thanksgiving with Ro and my in-laws at the most Martha Stuart-esk meal I've ever attended. There were perfectly cut turkeys on the cherry pie instead of lattice, apple butter pumpkin pie, perfectly prepared turkey and sides and immaculately displayed everything coupled with excellent wine. Her family took me in and conversed with me as if I were their own, including the eccentric grandma, (I didn't even have to miss my own!)

Two years ago I spent Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't celebrate the holiday. There were no Pilgrims in China who feasted with the Natives. At least, not in this sense. I made pumpkin pie for my favorite class - an incredibly intelligent group of 5th grade students (we had just learned a rhyme that incorporated pumpkins and pie and they had never heard of the food). All of my students brought little bags to take home tiny pieces for their parents to try.

Cherry was not impressed. Pumpkin spice was quite foreign to her. My mother had mailed me many of the ingredients I would need to prepare this.

Most of my friends in Harbin, China were not from countries that celebrated Thanksgiving, yet three of my Australian friends shut down their bar for a day and hosted a feast that fed 25 people complete with turkey, (I've yet to figure out how they acquired a turkey), mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and yams. In true Australian fashion it quickly became a party with ridiculous antics.

What I gather from all of this: as long as you have love you have all the makings of an exquisite holiday - and I'm blessed to never have to go without love.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It is disgusting. I NEVER feel sorry for myself or entitled to things. I used to read Holocaust literature per chance I ever began to waiver from the previous statement. My favorite:

Passion of Ravensbrück (English)

He steps out from the others.
He stands in the square silence.
The prison garb, the convict's skull
blink like a projection.

He is horribly alone.
His pores are visible.
Everything about him is so gigantic,
everything is so tiny.

And this is all.
The rest -
the rest was simply
that he forgot to cry out
before he collapsed.

Now, all I have to do is look around my classroom for a similar experience. One of my student's knuckles were bloody the other day. "Did you punch something, (student name)?" I asked lightheartedly, trying to engage a typically quiet student in conversation."Yes, my dad" they responded. "He hit my mom in front of me."

My group home students... I watched one get berated with all kinds of profanity and tackled to the cement by a group home leader. They limped around school the next day and I called to report excessive force. Another had a 2" by 2" chunk of hair ripped out of their head.

"Ms. Hering, you my mom?" "Ms. Hering, can I go home with you?"

"You know, I'm never at my house and I don't even have a T.V. Trust me, it's no fun there."

Gang hazing means one of my student's arms are entirely yellow with infection and covered in gashes and cuts. It doesn't make me sad that they sit there suffering silently. I merely marvel at the ignorance and acceptance of the situation.

One of my projects - a 19-year-old Algebra 1 student - came to class completely defiant. Slowly they began to work in class and became one of my best: finishing work early, helping others, leading games, and even bringing me candy on Halloween :]

Two weeks later they jumped a faculty member after school. One of my friends actually. I took pictures of my colleague's face for the police and took them to the hospital. And my project went to jail.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's ok. Don't get to the point. I am going to live forever.


Gratitude can't begin to describe what I feel towards my lovely and talented assistant coaches. Today we had camp for the cheer squad and dance team simultaneously (as I am still attempting to perfect my self-spawning super hero technique). My competition cheer coach handles my occasionally foul-mouthed girls and guys with grace. Yes, I said guys. I now have 17 girls and 3 boys on my co-ed squad. I enjoy breaking down gender norms; we're the only co-ed team in the district. When I became head coach there were 11 girls. 2 quit because I literally ran them off. Note: I never asked them to do anything I wasn't doing myself.

I actually cried watching the dance girls perform to Feeling Good today. (I tried to avoid it but then they hugged me and I couldn't help it.) This is the first dance team my high school has had in years and the girls have progressed so much, especially without any sort of formal training, (dance classes are expensive). We are so lucky to have such a talented choreography coach.

My Friday meeting with my dissertation mentor, the CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, was such an excellent and engaging conversation. He made me phone interview with him before he would agree to be my mentor. I felt more of an adrenaline rush making that phone call than I did doing this:

(hurling myself from 10,000 feet a few weeks ago)

I now have - here comes the boring part - connections to Switzerland health care models, the creator of Health Savings Accounts, economic perspectives on health care spending, a greater direction for research ideas, consumer focus on destination health services, and a restored sense of enthusiasm for my research. He ended our conversation with "I'm excited to read what you end up writing." I need to take more time to internalize and dissect our conversation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I feel selfish...

... and I feel the need to justify having a blog. Why am I taking time away from things I should be doing to write? I'm going to avoid rambling about how I think this could assist me in keeping track of my life.

I actually just had to stop writing this for the last 10 minutes to talk to a cheer mom. I'm typically pulled in 3 directions at any given moment. I write during grad school classes sometimes. That's when my thoughts are most engaged and coherent; or it's just the time in my week that I'd consider my "down" time.

I Teach For America. I teach because my students are 5 or more grade levels behind on their math skills. I teach special education and I am in charge of 22 students files. I coach the cheer squad. I coach the dance team. I am getting my MBA in International Business. My masochism has run rampant.

My job is a bipolar roller coaster. Everything whooshes by so quickly. The ups are really high and the lows create such a sense of pressure. Diving between each peak and valley gives a feeling of complete lack of control. I'm almost hoping this blog provides a sense, (or illusion), of awareness. I'd say control instead of awareness but I'm not dumb.