February 27, 2013

The Gym: Part One

I've done it- I've joined a gym.

Let me explain why this is significant enough to write about:
1. I NEVER thought I would be a gym member.
Actual thoughts from my head- "Gyms, sheesh. What's the big deal? I can do all that in the comfort of my own home. I could get a video and it would cost one-tenth of a gym membership. Gyms are a scam, just trying to milk me for all I've got and I'm sure I'll get caught up in some contract that will cost me even more when I undoubtedly quit. And besides, there's a whole bunch of CRAZIES there in skimpy clothing lifting impossible amounts, I mean...come on...gyms are scary."
Looking back on my home-work-outs, I realize these were few an far between. It's just so easy to convince myself to do other things (I'm kind of a pushover actually).

2. I am a hermit.
I would much rather eat ice-cream while watching movies on my uber-comfy couch all by my lonesome than meet new people. Is there even a contest between those two things? Going to a party where I don't know very many people is an actual form of torture. That should be mentioned at the next Geneva Convention.

3. As my self-imposed couch exile has shrunk my social circle, it expanded everything else about me.
Perfect candidate for the gym, right? No, this fact actually kept me from working out in public. Silly, but true.

4. It's a long drive to anywhere from Benton City.
After work, all I want to do is lie on something comfortable and not think or make any decisions. It would be preferable if someone brought me food, and if I could moan a bit. Teaching is HARD. Wanting to do things that require effort after work is like wanting to listen to a door-to-door salesman tell you the 100 ways to remove slugs from your yard...when you live in an apartment. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I present myself today as a humble reformed person, a changed woman, or, as my co-worker who convinced me to visit the gym as a guest on her membership says, "I've drunk the Kool-Aid." You may be thinking, after all those (kind of pathetic) reasons, what event was so amazing that it lit an exercising fire under her butt? Even if you're not wondering that, here's why:

A. I want to be able to climb things.

There are these gorgeous hills behind my house called "Horse Heaven." I have wanted to climb to the top ever since I looked up at them while walking to work in August and saw the fog billowing off the top like cream being poured into tea and thought, "I bet the view from the top is stunning." In August, if I had tried to climb those hills, I would have died. Probably. Or at least pulled something.
I've always had a pretty good body image- I accept who I am and think I am beautiful, but I'm also a realist. If climbing a flight of stairs leaves me winded, climbing three miles at a .5 grade is going to  hurt. Being healthy is a good goal to have. Someday, I want to summit a mountain, and if THAT'S ever going to happen, I've got to get my bum in gear.

B. If I am able to conquer my stupid shyness, I enjoy having friends, especially in new places. (I mean, who doesn't?)
When my wonderful coworker invited me to join her in a yoga class, I eagerly yelled, "YES!" while spewing rice about the teacher's lounge table. She is gracious and kind, and politely ignored my lunch as it flew around her. I did not speak for the next thirty minutes.

C. I love dancing. 
I've wanted to be in a Zumba class ever since an infomercial captured my attention for a whole two hours in a hotel somewhere in Nebraska. The gym offers Zumba classes. I think that explains itself.

Don't miss the next installment of "The Gym," where I describe my extremely embarrassing first day. It's a wonder I even went back.
"The Gym: Part Three" will tell about the unique culture inside a gym. You don't know until you go, man. It really is kind of like a cult.

Small Pleasures

The sound of uncorking a wine bottle.
Finding funny birthday cards to buy.
Going outside at night when the moon is full.
Eating a handful of chocolate chips and almonds.
Folding warm towels straight from the dryer.
Watching horses run.
Fixing things with glue.
Dancing the wrong way in Zumba class, and realizing no one really cares. Including me.

February 25, 2013

Teacher Side Note

I am teaching about the Holocaust in my classroom right now, so it has been on my mind a lot lately. It is a huge strain to carefully teach children about such a period of destruction and death without doing damage. I encapsulate this dreadful event in novels that don’t shy from the truth, but declare that hope lives, have characters that never give in to the overwhelming darkness of hatred, and try to teach students that we cannot let such things come to pass again. 

If you’re interested in some excellent young adult Holocaust novels, here are my personal favorites (in order from least difficult to hardest): Number the Stars, Yellow Star, Ashes, I Have Lived a Thousand Years, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place, and Night. There is a graphic novel called The Complete Maus, which is told in an extended metaphor of cats (Nazis) and mice (their victims) that is also very well done. If you are going to share these with children, please read them first, be prepared to explain difficult concepts like stereotypes, racism, loss, and genocide, and it doesn’t hurt to have some historical facts about the time period handy. 

I’ve been asked, why teach children about such a horrible time period? I always reply, because humans are capable of horrific things. The Holocaust happened. Genocides are not a thing of the past. We, as human beings capable of intelligent thought, shouldn’t let it happen again. The best way to make that change is to teach children compassion, empathy, tolerance, awareness and a drive to do. We  must teach them not to be a bystander, the un-sung villain of the Holocaust. The Holocaust will always be a testament to what happens if we don’t.