Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm donating bone marrow tomorrow morning, and I'm terrified.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

stupid boat

We're watching some stupid Travel Channel show about boats while I lesson plan for tomorrow (first day of the new semester with new students, hooray!). All of a sudden, Nick says, "That stupid boat's kitchen is better than ours. ...Fuck that boat."

I look up, and it totally is. So... like he said, I guess. Yeah.

Back to plotting on how to make twelve year old boys think my class is all about violence and war. Boom! Crash!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

hating the help

I wish I had something more profound or thoughtful to say about it, but today, I was forced to take help from my folks. There's only one thing I hate more in the world than admitting that I need it, and that would be accepting it when it's unsolicited.

Nothing makes you feel quite so much like a big, fat failure at life as when you're busting your ass, working a job that makes you miserable - a job that pays you more than you've ever made in your life - budgeting and cutting corners, but you still can't make ends meet because the world just keeps knocking you down. And I know, I know - I'm grateful to just be broke and not poor, but man. I need a break. I need a few breaks. Then today I got one, and it feels terrible.

I know how unbelievably lucky I am to have a family who is able to help, who is willing and happy to help us out. But then the part that's worse than having your dad offer you exactly what you need to get back on your feet, without your even asking? Refusing it (I should be able to do this myself), and being forced to take it anyway, then feeling like the lowest piece of shit ever for seeming like an ingrate.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, being the helpee instead of the helper. I hate it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

so I'm running a half-marathon...

I just realized that - in addition to not blogging nearly as much as I'd like - I've been leaving a pretty huge part of my life out in my posts. I kind of hinted at it in my New Year's resolutions, but haven't explicitly written about it here.

I'm training for a half-marathon. The Rock and Roll Half on March 16, to be precise. I'm doing this with my mom to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Mom's best friend is four years leukemia free, and considering she's been like an aunt to me - she's my baby sister's godmother, too - raising money for an organization that's done so much for her is a no-brainer to me.

So we go out in the cold Tuesdays and Thursdays after work to run. We have long runs on Saturday morning; I'll assume these were scheduled by Satan, since they start at 8am. Short recovery runs are Sundays. For our long run today, we went eight miles. Pretty exciting stuff for someone who never made it through a high school cross country race - a poor choice I endured for one single season my sophomore year - without stopping.

The best part? I live in DC so all of our runs are BEAUTIFUL!
I've only lost about five pounds since we started December 1, but I just keep losing inches. So many inches. I'm back in pants I haven't fit since my first teaching stint in 2007, and appear on track to squeeze into a few favorite pairs of jeans I've kept from college. My standing heart rate is 56 beats per minute, doctors say I'm in excellent health, and I love that now I do something after work that doesn't involve wine or midnight bacon and eggs. Oh, and I'm doing a pretty good job raising money for cancer. Halfway to my fundraising goal with two months left to go!

If you read this blog, we're probably friends on Facebook, so you've probably already seen my posts asking for donations, if you can spare them. But just in case you've popped in from somewhere else, consider giving a few dollars to help LLS continue its research and support programs for patients with blood cancers. My page (with running updates) can be found over here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I need a new dumpling

I just saw a banking commercial where a man said that he's a tenth-generation dumpling maker, and that his work is his life's passion. Of course, this was followed by the bank's exhortation to avoid doing the things that you don't want to do, so that your job remains your passion and never becomes work. Or something like that. Basically, make dumplings and let us handle your money since everyone knows that Asian people are terrible at math.

Disclaimer: Not all Asian people are good at math. That doesn't mean that they're bad at math, or just average at math. It means that math skills have nothing to do with race. I made a joke about racial stereotypes in advertising, not about Asian people. Just to be clear, since inevitably someone will miss that subtle distinction (Some place, somewhere, Rachel's soul is screaming, "It's not funny if you have to explain it, Tierra, GAWD!" You shut up, Rachel's soul. I hate your stupid mouth).

But anyway. Moving along.

Because I am currently in a position where I find my work to be important, but surprisingly unfulfilling in a way that crushes my soul every hour on the hour, this commercial hit me like a ton of Hallmark cards. What tasks and conditions would I give up at work if I could? What would I delegate to someone else? What would I keep?

My immediate thought was that I want to keep writing and talking about history, but to dump the classroom environment. Let someone else have the phone calls home, the "Ms. Jolly, you wear whore-colored lipstick," the bureaucracy inherent in any public school system, and the feeling of being an academic waitress, constantly on my feet taking the orders - and dropping off the ketchup, and haggling over the checks, and calling in the manager to deal with the issues - of twenty different diners every shift.

I want to keep writing lesson plans, conducting research, presenting it to people, and contributing to the educational development of children in under-served communities. I don't want to be in a classroom every day, no matter how old the students are (here's lookin' at you, college). I do want most of my professional time to be spent with other adults. I also desperately need a workplace environment where I can come in at 10 and stay until 6 on a Thursday because I had a doctor's appointment and it's totally cool that I sometimes get sick because I am a human being.

So what are the possible solutions? Public history looks like the best answer. I would love to write educational materials for museums and historic sites. Develop activities and exhibits. Represent the program/institution at conferences and networking events. Occasionally work with children. Have constantly changing research topics so that I'm always learning something new. I could be a museum educator, a curator, a director of education, an institutional historian, a curriculum writer for a school district, some kind of research analyst for some kind of non-profit, or one of those freelance historians who helps banks prove their new acquisition didn't own slaves in the 1700s. I could transition back into dramaturgy. I could even start my own part-time side gig as a genealogist.

All of these things sound like my dumplings. But how do I find these opportunities, and how do I get them onto my plate? Ideas and advice will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'm a match!

About a year ago, I signed up for the Be the Match Registry. I'm lucky to count a few cousins among my best friends, and one of those cousins has battled sickle cell anemia his whole life. I figured that I would be proactive and sign up now, so that I'd be established in the system as a potential match the next time he had a big health scare.

Luckily, he's spent the last year in fantastic health. So imagine my surprise when the week before Christmas, I got a phone call and an email asking me to contact the registry immediately. Be the Match had identified me as a potential match for a newborn baby boy fighting HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis), a rare immunodeficiency that almost exclusively affects infants and young children.

"Are you still interested in being a bone marrow donor?" they asked.

"What the hell kind of person says no when they find out they might be a match?" I replied.

So the day after Christmas, I slogged up the highway in slushy, snowy rain to have blood drawn, the next step in ascertaining if I might be an actual match for this little guy. I cracked jokes with the phlebotomist about that time I punched a nurse in the face for trying to stick an IV needle in my arm without warning; she confided that she feels the same way at the dentist's office. For the whole drive home, I prayed that I would be the willing match this baby boy needed. When I got home, I promptly forgot, as life went on.

On Wednesday, Nick and I went on a grueling hike of eight miles of the Appalachian Trail. We camped overnight on top of a mountain; after I survived through the night, cold and sleepless but very much alive, I felt unstoppable as I marched back down the mountain. I got home to celebrate my sister's 24th birthday with sushi. I climbed into my bed after dinner for a sleep so deep that I didn't even notice when my phone rang this morning.

When I woke up, I listened to the voicemail from Susan from Be the Match. As I called back I knew. Susan confirmed it. I am the match for the newborn baby boy. My bone marrow is the cure that he and his family need. I enthusiastically told Susan that yes, I was still interested.

"First, we need to make you aware of what the procedure entails," she began.
"Do you mean how painful it is?"
"Well," she waffled.
"It can't hurt worse than having your baby die because a donor match said no," I shot into the void she left empty.
"OK. I'll put your information packet in the mail overnight then, so we can get your consent form signed ASAP," she responded.

I've spent the last several hours overwhelmed by what is coming next. I am so humbled - so God damn blown away - that out of the billions of people in this world, I am the match for a tiny baby boy, a child his parents have hung all their love and hope and dreams upon. I'm in shock that after wanting nothing more for my whole short life than to make other people's lives better, I have the opportunity to literally save a life. I am going to save a child's life. Not figuratively or metaphorically. Not as a teacher. I am going to keep a kid from dying. I'm just as blown away by the fact that for a pretty adamantly child-free person, I have this overwhelming desire to hold this little boy in my arms and look at him for hours, because we'll be linked to one another in a way that no one else in the world will ever be.

I'm clearly still processing this. But I'm so... moved by the opportunity to do this for another person that I just don't know what to do with myself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 resolutions

1. Create something (ex: make a dress) or see something someone created (ex: go see a local band play) at least once a week.
2. Blog at least twice weekly.
3. Run 5 races of any length.

And a two-year resolution: finish a complete first draft of my dissertation by April 2014.

the butterfly effect

There's nothing like finally seeing a movie you didn't see to make you EXTRA happy you didn't marry the guy you didn't marry (or go to see that movie with).

Boy, did I dodge a bullet!

Happy New Year, and thank God for my husband!