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I started writing poetry with my students today, something I have never done before.  My kids actually started the unit with Michelle yesterday, due to our strange schedule.  They came flooding back into the room afterwards, poems out, calling “Mrs. Heagstedt, will you read my poem?”  Of course I did, and I loved their poems.  I was a little nervous starting today.  Would I be able to pull this poetry thing off?  I don’t even really like poetry yet; I’m still just trying to.  But I did.  We started by making heart maps.  They kept asking “Can we…” or “Can I…” and I kept telling them, “You can do anything, as long as it’s in your heart.”  I wasn’t quite sure how boys would do with this, but they were into it too.  Sure, some of them had “video games” on there, which made me cringe, and I saw a few versions of “cheese puffs,” but hey, “hoodies” had made it on my heart map, so who was I to judge.  Mostly, I just enjoyed writing and sharing alongside them (I wrote mine while they wrote theirs).  Then we wrote poems.  A few were shallow, but many were wonderful.  My two favorites went something like this:

Poetry hides

In a white dove

Healing a wing

Poetry hides

in a white dove

learning to fly


by Giovanna (who has a gazillion pets, including some doves they are rescuing)



Panda, Panda, Panda

How I love you so

I ask you every night if you want some dinner

But you always say “No, I’m stuffed.”

By Cameron (who is obsessed with pandas and wrote this about his favorite stuffed animal)

There was actually a lot more at the beginning, but it is the end that made me crack up.  It is so him!


After day 1, I’m very excited to be starting this new journey with my students.  It’s a big month for expanding my writing habits, and it’s fun to be sharing that with my students.

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This morning I went to turn off my phone to put it in the TCAP bag, and I saw that I had gotten a text from my friend Heather at 6:53am.  That was unusual, so I opened it.  It read, “Hey friend.  Just wanted to let you know that Zeke went to heaven yesterday.”  Zeke is short for Ezekial, and he was her family’s dog, a big black lab.  I took a deep breath in and let out a big sigh, both of sadness for Heather and also of peace for Zeke.  I knew he was no longer able to do the things he loved to do; I knew it had probably been time for him to move on.  So today I’m dedicating my post to Heather, her family, and of course to Zeke.

Heather and I met at UCD in what she calls grad school and I call “teacher college.”  We had most of our classes together and we did our internship in the same school.  We became friends immediately.  At the time, my chocolate lab Rigby was just a puppy – not even a year old – so I would often share stories.  Zeke lived down in Pagosa Springs with Heather’s parents, but she still had plenty of her own lab stories to share.  We could tell just from talking how much the two dogs had in common.  The two dogs both loved playing fetch, going on hikes, swimming, and romping through the snow (typical lab activities).

The first time Heather met Rigby she remarked, “He looks just like Zeke, only Zeke is bigger.”  Both parts of that struck me as strange.  First of all, Rigby is not an ordinary lab.  Most are short and stocky with boxy faces; Rigby is tall and lanky with a long snout.  Second, how could Zeke possibly be bigger than Rigby?  Rigby is a BIG lab!  Not fat, just super tall and muscular.  And here Heather was saying Zeke was bigger.  No way!  I told her so, but every time she saw him, she always insisted.

About a year later, I got to meet Zeke.  Casey and I rented a cabin down in Pagosa Springs for New Years to ski Wolf Creek Pass.  Since Heather was home for Christmas, we went to her house for dinner one night.  I remember seeing Zeke running out to meet us in the driveway.  It was dark, and he’s a black lab, but I could see immediately that he was “just like Rigby, only bigger.”  For most of the night, Zeke and Rigby played the way I now see Rigby play with younger dogs.  Rigby going full steam and Zeke being a little less excited, but still very playful and certainly tolerant.  We humans also had a wonderful night.  Her family was incredibly welcoming and we all spent time playing cards and getting to know each other.  It was easy to see where Heather gets her everlasting kindness – she is hands down the kindest person I know, and probably one of the kindest people in the world.  We could tell that night that her entire family is the exact same way.

Two side notes that the story just doesn’t feel complete without:

  1. They invited us back the next night for New Year’s Eve, and we accepted right away.  As it happened though, the next day was the best bluebird powder day ever and Casey proposed.  I can’t remember if I called her or sent her a text with the picture of the ring on my finger.  We stayed at our cabin that night and celebrated just the two of us, but she always tells me how excited her family was when they found out.  She swears her family “knew it would be soon” when they hung out with us the night before.
  1. Although it was clear that night that her family was kind, generous, and just wonderful overall, it became even clearer two summers ago when Casey and I wanted to hike part of the Continental Divide Trail through the San Juans.  Heather was in Denver but her dad took hours of his time shuttling us between trail heads, even though this was just the second time we had ever met him.

Over the next few years, I didn’t make it back to Pagosa but I continued hearing stories about Zeke.  Heather would go hiking with him every time she went home, but as years went by, it was clear that Zeke was getting older.  She would talk about how he would run around, loving every minute of the hike, but then after they got home, he’d barely move for days.  Eventually, she had to leave him home and go without him.  I know how hard that was for her.  Finally, she told me how Zeke had stopped going to work with her dad, on construction sites around Pagosa, which he had always done.

So when I got Heather’s text this morning, I knew it was probably his time.  I also know that he’d had an amazing life in an amazing family.  He was blessed to spend his life with such loving people, and their family was just as blessed to have him in theirs.


A Lazy Day

I woke up late today (on purpose), took an extra-long shower, and fixed myself some scrambled eggs with tomatoes and avocado.  Around 7:05 I strolled into work feeling altogether unhurried.  Michelle was already there and had just called me to make sure I was okay (I love my teammate).  I managed to make it through most of the day with this peacefully lazy feeling.  I had lots I could have done during planning, but I figured it could all wait so I spent my time reading your blogs instead.  My students took TCAP, I tried not to look.  My students taught each other division, I helped where needed.  Things were going great and I was looking forward to yoga after school.  No such luck.  By the end of the day, I was feeling the pressure of things needing to get done being that this was my one unplanned evening of the week.  The one night I could actually get something done if I wanted to.  Stress started to creep in.  I didn’t want it to so instead I came home, ate leftovers, cooked lunch for my teammates (which I enjoy doing), played with my dog, and then cuddled on the couch with him.  Casey was at work so Rigby and I just chilled.  It was great.  I got nothing done.  Tomorrow during planning, I need to stay off your blogs.  We’ll see how well that works out.


Frog Legs and Alligator Ribs

I love 5280 week!  It’s my chance to try fancy restaurants without breaking the bank.  By happy coincidence, this week always happens to coincide with TCAP.  Less instructional time means there’s less for me to plan and grade, which leaves me more free time to enjoy good food with friends or family.

Last night, a friend planned a 5280 dinner at Row 14, a restaurant downtown that I’d never heard of.  Somewhat unusually, I had not looked at the menu beforehand, so I was beyond excited when I sat down and saw the first course options, two of which were alligator baby back ribs and mac and cheese with frog legs!  Yes! Yes! Yes!  I love strange food!  I hadn’t had alligator in years and had never tried frog legs!  There was no way I would be able to decide. Luckily one of my friends was as indecisive as me, so we split them.  Yes!  When they arrived at the table, the alligator ribs looked fairly normal, but the frog legs made our mouths drop open.  As someone commented, “They look like they’re about to jump off your plate.”  I’ve never eaten something that looked so much like the animal it came from, but that only made it better.  They were lightly breaded, but not hidden in batter.  OMG!  They were delicious! The alligator ribs weren’t as magnificent, but they weren’t bad either.

What really stood out though was the fact that every single person had ordered one of the unusual appetizers, no one was grossed out by them, and every bite on every plate was finished.  I found it a little unusual that we were a group of seven ladies without a single picky eater.  Isn’t there usually at least one?

I read recently that in France it’s considered impolite to have any kind of food restrictions.  Now, I get that people have allergies and health concerns, but I still really like that idea.  It’s so refreshing to eat with people who love everything.  My husband does and I love that.  But many of my friends and family do not.  I have a friend who doesn’t like mushrooms (not a huge deal), a sister and brother in law who are semi-vegetarians (thank god it’s only semi – I won’t get into the details), and a very good friend who does not eat any vegetables except lettuce (one of the most annoying people ever to eat with – thank god she’s fabulous in many other ways).  I recently skied 6 miles to an otherwise inaccessible cabin with 7 other people, one of whom was a vegetarian and another of whom only ate meat and bread.  Seriously?!  How is anyone supposed to cook shared meals for that crowd?   I’m not going to get on my soapbox about how as a culture we need to start embracing food, eating the real stuff and loving it, forgetting the highly processed chemical stuff we call food, blah blah blah.  So I’ll just stop at: I love eating with people who love food.


Monday Mornings

Ahhhh….Monday Morning.  Part of me, kind of likes it.

I’m not saying it’s as exciting as Saturday morning, rushing out the door for a day of mountain adventures.  I’m not saying it’s as relaxing as a Sunday morning, drinking coffee and lazing around.  I’ll admit, I do groan when my alarm beeps at an ungodly hour on Monday morning, and I do sometimes have to fight falling asleep on my way to work.

But it also has its good qualities, well one anyway.  As my students file in the classroom on any given Monday morning, they are quiet.  Really, really quiet.  Like little mice tiptoing around.  I know it’s because they’re practically still asleep, but still, it’s pretty amazing to watch.  This morning, 28 fifth graders walked around the room, put away their backpacks, turned in work, made their lunch choices, and ate their breakfast, all in near silence.  And this is not an enforced kind of silence, the kind that is only maintained by my close eye and some well-timed prompts.  This is a natural silence…and I LOVE IT!!!

Really, I’m not the kind of teacher who needs quiet all the time.  I’m comfortable with a working buzz in the classroom.  I’m even comfortable with the louder noise that comes with several teams of students all carrying out their own science investigations, many of which involve jumping up and down.  But, on a Monday morning, I love how my classroom eases into the week with a quiet calmness.  My guess is that my students unconsciously love it too, which is why it continues week after week, year after year.  It is the saving grace of Monday mornings.

Note to fellow TCAP proctors: During proctoring today, I thought about what I was going to write for this and did a lot of mental rehersal.  So if you’re looking for something to think about during the endlessly monotonous hours, you might try it.  I figure if I do this everyday, It’ll get me through half the month.  Just be careful not to think about any particularly funny events – that could cause you to break the “no facial expression” rule.


Regret? Not Quite

I rode my bike today, a lot.  I rode to do errands.  I rode to get my dog some exercise.  And finally, because I hadn’t had quite enough, I rode to get myself some exercise.  Much of this riding was on the Cherry Creek bike path, which is a busy place on a warm Sunday afternoon and absolutely superb for people watching.  I saw an adorable family strolling along eating ice cream, a few couples riding tandem bikes, a group of homeless people laughing in the sunshine, and a guy rollerblading in short shorts with his dog.  At one point I passed and stopped to chat with an acquaintance on an orange cruiser that I instantly coveted.

And over and over again, I saw road bikers in full gear.  Until recently, I all spandex was the same to me – just plain gross.  However, after a summer of mountain bike racing where everyone (including myself) was wearing it, I got used to it.  I still think it looks funny, but I no longer care.  Today though, it didn’t all look the same.  Instead, I recognized many of the team jerseys from my summer races: Evergreen Racing, Tough Girl, the blue, white and black one of the girl who always beat me.  Seeing all these jerseys got me thinking about the upcoming race season, and questioning my decision to not race with a team.

It was a decision I had put off making for months.  I went back and forth between staying on last year’s team, switching teams with a friend, or going teamless.  Eventually the last kit order went out, and the decision made itself.  If I had really wanted to, I would have signed up, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to.  Mostly, I didn’t want to buy a new kit and was kind of pissed I’d have to.  Can’t we just keep the same one every year?  Also, I mostly joined the team for the camaraderie.  I wanted to meet more girls to bide with, and have a group to hang out with before and after the race.  The first part of this goal, I already accomplished.  I’ll ride with my friends from last summer no matter what teams we’re on.  As for the second goal, the teams I know mostly race the Winter Park series, and although I loved doing that last summer, I want to try new races this summer, on new trails. For all these reasons, I let the final deadline go by and didn’t sign up for a team.  I was confident in my non-decision.  But today, watching the jerseys go by, I got a bit nostalgic.  I didn’t quite regret my decision, but some uncertainty crept in.  Really, I don’t think it ever left.  Regardless, the decision has been made – I’ll be racing with friends and family this year, but no team.  I guess I’ll know by the end which I like better, and I can always rejoin next year.



Skiing in the wind

(This is actually my post from yesterday, but I didn’t quite get it finished before my husband was “starving” and happy hour had begun.  I meant to finish it when I got home, but that never happened.  So here it is.)

I laced up my boot, zipped it shut, and cinched the ankle strap.  I watched with a mix of apprehension and anticipation as the wind whipped the snow outside into haphazard sheets and funnels.  Through the white, I could see my dog bounding through the snow, shaking a stick back and forth, completely unfazed by the weather.  Two weeks ago, my husband Casey and I had sat in my car in practically this same spot with practically the same weather and decided to turn around and go home.  That did not make Rigby a happy dog.  Today, we were determined to christen our new cross-country skis, and get our dog some exercise, no matter what the weather.  I zipped up my jacket, tightened my goggles, and pulled up my hood.  As I stepped out of the car, the wind slapped against my jacket.

“I think I hear the train,” yelled Casey.

“Or it’s just the wind,” I replied.

“Hard to tell.”  We never heard a whistle, nor did the sound change.  I think it was the wind, but since we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us, we’ll never really know.

We retrieved our skis and attempted to put them on, which was not the easiest for me.  I laughed as I kept stepping onto and off of my binding, wondering how it was supposed to stick.  Eventually I got it, and we were off.  My ankles wobbled on the skinny skis as I glided across the icy ridges.  The wind at my back pushed me along.  Eventually, I got the hang of it and a bend in the road took us into the more sheltered part of the trail.  The snow was better, though inconsistent, and I fell into a rhythm.

The beauty of a cross-country ski is that there’s not much plot.  Each moment was so similar to the one before and after, yet each was a little different.  The sounds of my skis changed with the snow:  crackling over ice, squishing into powder, humming over well packed snow.  The wind would stop, filling the woods with silence, and suddenly come roaring back.  Sometimes there was no warning.  Sometimes I could see a train of snow come barreling through the tunnel of trees and prepare for the icy, refreshing burst of air across my face.

But almost every outing in the mountains has at least some part that is not quite what I would call pleasant.  On this trip, that part came at the end, when we knew it would.  The first part of the trail was the most exposed, and as the wind at our backs pushed us through it, we knew it would be brutal returning against the wind.  We were right.  The wind lifted our hoods off our heads.  When we stopped to try and tighten them, the wind literally pushed us backwards, up the hill.  So we left our hoods off and battled forwards.  Lights of a snowplow, barely visible through the whiteness, let us know we were almost done.  We reached the car a few moments later and dove inside, smiling.


Trying to Be Present

What to write about?  Again, this question dominated my drive home, only today it was even more urgent.  It’s Friday.  Afternoon.  Happy Hour Time.  I did not want to write after happy hour.  Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to be able to come up with my topic everyday on my drive home (Sheridan is just not that interesting), so I still had no topic when I got home.

I figured I take my dog for a bike ride and come up with something that way.  It gave me frozen ears and a happy dog, but no topic.  Why, I lamented, can’t I just write about something that happened a different day?  I’ve got plenty of interesting slices filed away in my memory, and since I only write academically, this would be the perfect time to get them down.  Why can’t I just write about those?  How can something worth writing about possibly happen every day?

Not surprisingly, my mental complaints did not solve my problem.  So I went to yoga instead of happy hour.  I figured after an hour of thinking about nothing, my mind would be clear and something would come into it. And at least if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be buzzed trying to come up with an idea.  On my way there is where I figured it out.  Yoga is about being present.  Leaving your day behind, forgetting your to-do list, and just focusing on now.  In a way, that’s what this challenge could be about.  Not just reminiscing about past happenings, but being present in each day and finding something worth writing about, even if it’s small.  Today, it’s just this not earth shattering, but still new, understanding.


Drive Home

I drove home today, just like any other day.  But unlike many other recent weekdays, it was light out.  As spring approaches, my work days are getting shorter and nature’s days are getting longer.  For the first time in a long time, I brought my sunglasses to work, knowing I’d be home before dark.

Unfortunately, this afternoon was cloudy and glum.  No need for cute sunglasses.  So, they sat quietly on the dash while I stared sadly at the gray sky.  I got a chill just looking out the window, and I usually love the cold.  I saw a bundled-up man running down the street, and for once I was glad I wasn’t him.  I thought of all the reasons I hated spring – melting snow, rainy weather, muddy trails, brown mountains.

Suddenly, I saw them again – my bright pink sunglasses, peeking at me from the behind the steering wheel.  I’d looked at them all drive long, but this time they made me remember.  I converted a few years ago, to liking spring.  Spring means I work less and summer’s almost here.  Spring means I ride my bike more, even if it’s mostly on paved paths.  Spring means skiing slush moguls and steep couloirs.  Spring means winter still visits, but I get to hope for sunny drives home from work.  Welcome back March.