Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Extraordinary Events and Lunar Ravings

This morning there was a lunar eclipse. I love eclipses. I don’t love mornings. Still, I was determined to get up and see this great convergence of the shadow of my planet fall across the next closest astronomical object. What an awesome spectacle!!! How could I forgive myself if I missed it?? (BTW, *everything* underlined is a hyperlink.)

How, indeed. Particularly since just last night I did the nearly unforgivable and missed a triple play by my beloved Tribe. A Triple Play! This sort of thing rarely happens, and what’s more, it NEVER HAPPENS TO MY TEAM. Exciting enough that we beat the Twins (box score here, they’re a tough team. (Batgirl, I miss you terribly.) But a triple play – that’s just unreal. (I’m forgiven this once, because baseball time I ‘should’ have been having was spent instead with super excellent friends at an intimate concert by Lynn Wiles, rather than frittering it away mindlessly: one of my occasional guilty secrets.) There could be no excuse good enough for missing the eclipse. That would be 2 strikes, but 2 Really BIG strikes, big enough to count for the full 3 strikes and I’d be out.

Rick set the alarm for 5:15 and I set the TV to turn on at 4:20 (because one appliance is never enough… we’re reeeeealllly not morning people) and we snuggled in for *sigh* what we figured would be an unsatisfying nap of a night’s sleep.

When the TV came on, I was instantly awake.

“Instantly Awake” doesn’t often happen for me; mostly I sleep fitfully for an hour or more through loud morning news and then wake crossly to some inane fashion or beauty segment, which makes me want to do just the opposite, specifically to spite the squeaky-voiced advice-giving Barbie Doll.

I was fully ready to pop out of bed (surprised by my verve!) (even willing to use exclamation points at 4:22am!!), and then the Early Today newsmouths had the nerve to talk sports. I thought, “Oh, good. A replay of the triple play to start my day.” I was soooo wrong!

They only talked about 2 games. The Yankees game and some National League game (Rick later explained it was the Mets game, make sense…New Yorkers being consistently exclusively New Yorky…). I didn’t catch the National League game simply because there was so much wrong with the so called “Yankees” game. First of all, it's not a Yankees game if it's not played in New York. It was the TIGERS GAME. They played it at Comerica Park, the Tigers won it, nay WIPED THE FIELD with the Spankmees at Comerica Park, when you look at the box scores, the Yankees are listed on top and the Tigers are listed at the bottom, it’s a Tigers Game. NOT a Yankees Game. By the way, just to confirm: yes, that was a baseball game they played, not a football game.

Second, the smile-on-a-stick with hair at the desk said it was a “must-win” for the Yankees. Hmm. The Yankees, who are 8 games behind the first-place BoSox, and struggling to maintain their second place grip on the wild card slot for the play offs. And not a "must-win" for the Tigers??? Have you NOT been paying attention to the Central? Oh, what am I thinking. You’re in New York, you’re on at ZeroDarkThirty in the morning, who’s up that early except NO ONE, you can say what you want, even word your entire national broadcast as if it were a local show. Who cares about the Central Division race? Who cares that Cleveland and Detroit have been neck and neck almost the entire season? Who cares that the entire Central Division has been far more compelling baseball than the limp bats and sieve-like gloves of the Yankees? Every time someone brings up this year’s (or any year’s) substandard play to a New York fan, they inevitably say something inane, like “count the rings”, but when you have all the money in the world to buy all the talent in the world, it boils down to going to the store and buying the rings.

So last night’s miserable loss to Some Nameless Team, Probably From The Unspeakable Midwest (and not the phenomenal trouncing of the Tigers over the Yankees, which is in fact what it was, please notice the difference) made the early morning news, whereas a once in DECADES occurrence (for the Tribe; this is the 3rd this season but only the 1st for an American League team), a TRIPLE PLAY, something that happens less frequently than a lunar eclipse, especially to a medium-market team like The Cleveland Indians, Did Not.

That’s what I said. I woke up to watch the eclipse, caught a bit of the sports news, and not a word of the extraordinary play was mentioned.

I was really angry that my enjoyment of this (these) extraordinary event(s) was nearly ruined.

I took a few deep breaths, adjusted my robe, drank in the view. Aaahhhh.

I stared out at the wonder of the moon as it was beginning to be covered by the shadow of my home, and I marveled. Just marveled. Not for the first time in my life, I reflected on how it looked very like a baseball stuck in the sky. When I was very small I imagined a number of stories to explain how that giant baseball or cookie got stuck up there in the sky, and its rescue always involved my grampa using his longest ladder and climbing up there to get it for me. When it was a baseball, it was Ernie Banks who hit it because at the time I was living in Chicago, and when it was a cookie my gramma baked it and my brother and I would share it. Now I was watching it slowly ‘disappear’ behind a shadow, which at this point was still just black.

After a while I returned to the warmth of my husband’s arms, alternately grumbling Yosemite Sam-like (but coherently) about the irresponsible news anchors and raving about the moon. I reset the TV for a later time and turned a shoulder to the fools from New York, comforted that they were not only missing the brilliance and spectacle of other cities’ baseball teams, but the wonders of the natural world happening right outside their studio at that very moment.

At 5:15 the alarm clock jarred us awake to a nearly covered moon. The shadow was beginning its color change, but not enough to predict what the color would be. It wasn’t a baseball anymore. We turned off the alarm and returned to bed temporarily. We woke a bit later to a black cherry moon floating in a deep blue martini sky. Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe it. I wish you were there. I'm so glad we were.

There is nothing sacreligious about equating a triple play in baseball and a lunar eclipse. I am confident they are related, given the infrequency of their occasions and the graphic matches of the shapes of both moon and baseball. I have come to believe, thanks to immersive studies of both religion and science that there is no true coincidence. There is a rhyme and a reason and a formula behind everything, whether it guides it or merely describes it, doesn’t really matter to me, and it doesn’t remove or diminish the beauty. I feel it’s simply there to be accepted and cherished when it’s revealed. Even the churlish, like the Early Today anchors in New York, who, in their inanity, added an edge to my observations that in the end increased my appreciation of the beauty and extraordinary nature of last night’s and this morning’s events. Best of all, they increased my pride as a Clevelander and a Midwesterner and an informed person. In the light of day, I am even a little grateful for those anchors, and the lesson I learned from their seeming ignorance or indifference.

That's probably part of what makes me a Midwesterner: a tendency to keep my eyes open for the extraordinary, no matter how big, no matter how far-reaching, no matter how close at hand or under-foot. And I'll probably always share it with wide-eyed wonder.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

In For a Landing

In For a Landing
Originally uploaded by sunspotting.

Loud birdsong from 3, sometimes 4 goldfinch feeding from our sunflowers caught our attention yesterday. Rick took a break from making new flower beds and I took a break from the kitchen to spend quality time with our diminutive visitors.

This female, landing on the flower stalk, is one I'm particularly happy with. They were all so speedy it was hard to keep them in my sight, let alone stay focused on them. But to catch her in mid-landing, I feel very lucky.

The male was a very willing subject. There were times it seemed he was almost posing for my camera!

Both sexes are spectacular subjects. Goldfinch as a species are beautiful. They are excellent examples of how camouflage works, even though they are bright little creatures.

What you are unfortunately missing from the pictures, however, are the great calls they were making while they fed! It was a sweet little piping, two-note song. Loud! You can hear them from clear down the street.

The best thing? the sunflowers are volunteers. We never planted them ourselves, they just sprang up 2 years ago and keep returning. But since their debut, the goldfinch population in the neighborhood has grown. I'll take it!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Towpath bikeride today. Rick and I met Kris at Szalay's farmstand for a short ride and produce afterwards. Gorgeous day! We saw great blue herons, a white goose, some teals, Rick saw a fawn; there were abundances of wild sunflowers, Queen Anne's lace, purple loosestrife, duckweed, and water lily. Colors were just explosive. Then, fresh roasted corn at Szalay's was super yummy. Of course, the most significant thing for me about this ride was it was my first since being hit by the Chevy Suburban the week after our wedding. Yes, that's right: I got on my bike again. I RODE!!! True, not in traffic. Give me time. It's only my second time touching the handle bars, FIRST time NOT bursting into tears. I'm doing this! I vowed I would not be a victim. Today I made my first significant step.

It's a white goose! In the midst of wetland beauty. Ordinarily you can expect to see green or great blue herons, ducks of all sorts, Canada geese, but this was a bit special. It was preening itself for quite a while, took a bit of a wait to get this shot.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bert, snuggliest (and bravest) of the cats, provides therapy for my Saturday migraine. Cleopatra is at my right foot, willingly receiving massages from my toes on her hindquarters. My girls are the best comfort when I feel dizzy and nauseous. Wow, I hope I spelled that right, but again: migraine, there are worse things to suffer than poor spelling. At least I am comforted by a calm cat and dog! I am wishing I could be at the wedding shower of my dear friends Mike Kechisen and Jen Cole. Have a beautiful day, Lovebirds. Wish I could be there. Canton's a bit far to drive solo from Cleveland Heights with faulty vision and a train spike through my left temple.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

These welcome signs were loudly attended by Patti, 2 Anns, Jan, & Barb at the entrance to lunch at the Lorain County Joint Vocational School in Oberlin. Patti has a bullhorn. (Those of us who know her know it's redundant. *wink*) She and her cohorts make the riders feel immediately and warmly welcome! The first Paladins to lunch, BTW, were Ben and Steve Ogonek, ca. 8:45 am! Donna Ogonek was next, followed by my husband Rick! (Rick, I am very proud of you, that was super fast.)

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Patti's mom Jan likes this quote the best. I like how it can be applied to so many areas of life.

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Gandhi. Is it demeaning to call him a role model? I mean, he was so much more, 'role model' seems to wildly miss the mark.

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'Nuff sed. As the saying goes.

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An excellent sentiment for an event that includes participants that includes people of all levels of ability and athleticism.

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If you have to lay down to read this, I am very sorry, but I did try several times to rotate the image in my phone before I sent. It's worth it, for the message. Sign 1 of many by the spectacular Paladin Volunteer Corps!

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Patti's Ultimate Paladin

Husband of Patti Substelny, the Patti in 'Patti's Paladins'.

Mike was our top fund-raiser last year during our annual Pedal to the Point bike tour for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and made it onto the Top 10 list over all for our region. This sign was an unexpected perk for him, which we were thrilled to see on the bike route shortly after the lunch stop on Day One!

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Auxiliary Team Photo

This is the (ahem) REAR GUARD. More Paladins, some of the newest of the group! We are very pleased to have them, but they missed being part of the team photo. Nevermind! Here's their very own exclusive portrait! Look'n' good, folks.

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Zero Dark Thirty, and Patti distributes bandanas prior to team picture. We are at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. It's an R.E.M. Day- Rick started the day singing 'Sleep delays my life/Get up! Get up! Get up!' to the household, and I feel like I need more r.e.m. cycles to be functional!

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Our Contractually Obligatory Wedding

...A View Through the Trees
Originally uploaded by sunspotting.

This is what we were doing, along with countless other couples, on July 7, 2007. We chose the date not because we are superstitious or believe it is the opposite of 666. Rick likes to play with number sequences (his second choice was September 8th, so our date would look like 090807). I like prime numbers. And it was a date that satisfied both of our interests AND fell before the following school year. (If you double-click on the picture it will take you to Flickr to see more of the wedding pictures.)

That, sadly, was an important detail, and it's sad because it ended up not mattering after all.

We weren't planning to get married until 2008. We didn't have the money for it. But I got my dream job last year, we couldn't believe our good fortune. I would be teaching K-8 art at a Lutheran school, how perfect was that?

I went to Lutheran schools from Kindergarten through my second year of college, and my parents were Lutheran school teachers (Daddy was even a principal), so I was well aware of how they would feel about my living with Rick without being married to him. We discussed this, and decided honesty was the best policy. We also agreed that we would offer to get married before the school year began. Being engaged, that was no hardship. I explained all of this in the interview with the principal and the school board president, who smiled and said "I wouldn't worry about it," and "That shouldn't be a problem."

Those were exact quotes, by the way.

Well, that was wrong, and I should have known better. Especially after watching my parents' long history with Lutheran schools. But it was easy and convenient to relax into their assurances, because it was what we wanted to hear. We wanted the time to plan and prepare our dream wedding celebration, just like any other engaged couple. It wasn't a month into the school year before I was called into the principal's office and told that "someone" on the faculty was concerned about my marital and housing status, because they were afraid the fact that I was living with my fiance would actually come up in class.

Seriously. And how would that work, exactly? "First you mix the red and blue together to make purple, but not too much or you'll run the risk of living in sssssiiiiiiinnnnnnnn......."

She told us that they (the administration) needed a wedding date.

So we started scrambling.

It was initially depressing, because it was clear that we would be limited to an immediate family only kind of celebration, and after all that we had gone through extricating ourselves from our previous, tragically unwonderful marriages, we had hoped to have some sort of actual celebration worthy of our current bliss. Nothing ostentatious, not fancy, certainly not over-the-top, just friends and family and an evening of happiness. It wasn't looking like we would have that.

Oh, and by the way, none of the other faculty, when they heard this story, "bought" the whole "someone on the faculty" line. Neither did I, after I thought about it, but I have to admit that for a good several weeks I was quite hurt by the anonymous jab, and had a difficult time feeling a part of the team. Not a good feeling! Definitely not a good move on the part of this principal.

March came and I had my review. We sat in the pastor's office. I was the only teacher to get reviewed by both the pastor and the principal; everyone else had one-on-ones with the principal in her office. It was a glowingly wonderful review -- one of the best I've ever had, if not the best! My principal called me "one of the best teachers [she has] ever had the privilege of serving with". That was another direct quote. I could hear the "but" coming from the not-so-far-away, however. I was still not prepared for its impact when it hit.

The "but" was regarding my contract for the following year (2007-08). She said that the school board wasn't sure they would be able to give me a contract for the next year due to my continued unmarried-and-living-with-my-romantic-partner status. That I was actually prepared for. The big surprise was this.

The pastor was shocked beyond belief. This was the first time he had heard that bit of information. (This was also part of the reason we were having the review with him: for his information.)

THAT floored me. When I gave my full disclosure in my August interview, I fully expected the principal and school board president to share this critical information with the rest of the school board and the pastor. After all, they needed that information to properly decide whether I was an appropriate candidate to instruct their children. Clearly, I was a pawn. I had been hired to fill a position for convenience's sake and information had been withheld for expediency's sake.

The pastor gave me two options. (This was the other reason for sharing my review with the pastor: to bring his problem-solving skills on board, and remove them somewhat from the principal's shoulders.) One was to move out immediately. (WHERE? HOW? WITH WHAT? My salary was $7,800, pre-tax, spread over 12 months. Yes, that's a 4-digit salary, no typo, it was a part-time position.) The other was to get married immediately. He offered not only to do it, but to keep it quiet, absolutely a secret. Rick completely blew up when I told him that one: "The pastor offered to 'bear false witness'? That's LYING!!! I will NEVER go back to that church again!" (He did, just once, but that was for a baptism. Other people's special occasions pre-empt bad feelings.)

The pastor and the principal didn't want to pressure me into a snap decision, they understood this would take two people to discuss and decide. Rick was proud of me (he told me later) when I replied immediately: "We have a wedding date. We are getting married in July. You needed a wedding date in September: we have a wedding date. We're standing by it." (I would have felt a little better if I could have pulled the entire Martin Luther quote, "Here I stand; I can do no other..." but that's the limit of my memory. Probably a little too melodramatic, but what a perfect application!) And with that my review was over.

A month later I was told by the principal I WOULD get a contract after all. She had it, it was in her office on her desk, it had all the necessary signatures, and yes yes yes we're keeping you, no question, we wouldn't let a teacher like you slip through our fingers, yadda yadda yadda... Again, a 'something verbal' given... all the same trustworthiness as "I wouldn't worry about it/Shoudn't be a problem."

Sure enough, a week before school ended, it was explained to me that there would be no contract after all.

The last time I went to church there, one of the parents told me that yes, a rumor flying was that I didn't get my contract because someone on school board heard at that late date that (gasp) I was living with my fiancé, and didn't approve. (Ironically, this controversial status of mine was also kept so privately that the second grade teacher only found out when I told her myself on the second-to-last day of school. Two of her children were students of mine, and DID NOT hear about it during class.) If it's true -- that there was a rumor and the rumor was the reason my contract wasn't renewed --(and who knows, really; I don't give much credence to rumors), then it's a pity the school board didn't get that information prior to the school year's start when they ought to have gotten it. It would have saved both them and me a huge amount of pain and heart break. I love those children. I so enjoyed serving at that school. Foolishly, perhaps, I would actually return if they asked. Not because I have any illusions about people changing. It's because I feel a debt of service to the students. That's why I teach.

The truly excellent things about all of this are that I had a year teaching in an excellent school, on a brilliant faculty. I can't express enough the gratitude I have for that experience. It was an outstanding year, barring the deception from the administration. I take with me an enormous collection of rich and wonderful memories. Also, Rick and I had a beautiful wedding that we probably would not have had otherwise. Because we had to pull it together on the extreme cheap, on a last minute schedule, we made decisions that reflected us more clearly than if we had had all the time and budget we originally desired.

I hope and pray that I get to teach at another school. I will be more careful and skeptical about agreements, making sure to get them in writing from now on, regardless of where I am or what I do. I am heartbroken and missing my students. I really hope and pray that the school board made their decision with the children foremost in their mind. That was MY mission throughout the school year; I'm not confident that was everyone's mission, though.

About the title: getting married was never actually in my contract. Going to church WAS, and I met that obligation. But because there were so many references to our needing to get married after we offered to and were told outright not to worry about it, we started referring to it jokingly as a contractual obligation. Then, after my review, obviously my contract renewal WAS on the line if we didn't get married. And since we didn't get married on the school's terms, well, you can see what happened.

Still, we're married, according to the school's wishes, even though their wishes no longer matter, no matter how much I wish they did. But more good things about the experience is that I can look back with no regrets, and when I look back I see many good things that inspire me. I do spend more of my time looking forward.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

This is how we left the car, more or less. Emphasis on less! We started with 4 brochures, but as can plainly be seen there are only 3 remaining. We're doing our part! Trying, anyway.

Rick approximates the new 'Start to Finish MS' logo! I am so in love with him. Isn't he fun?

We are, even as I thumb-type, speeding toward our next training ride. Today is Berea, and I will be wearing a helmet cam for the MS Society, as a test run for the new 'virtual rider' option offered this year. Fun! Stay tuned for updates!