Category Archives: 40

ms. york

pre-2009 i was not a violin virtuoso, so the damage my stroke did to my control of my left hand is an inconvenience and even a source of amusement at times.

i had not been training for a marathon when i was diagnosed with my brain tumor, so losing my ability to run didn’t force me to re-examine my identity.

i never was much of a fan of the circus, so my constant vertigo doesn’t deny me my dreams of life on a tightrope.

my double-vision hasn’t robbed me of a gold medal in the olympic biathlon.

but you know what i was before the medical drama of 2009? i was a good teacher. i was ms. york, and that meant something.

2nd grade

the last day of my last class at loleta elementary

to finance the second year of my master’s degree, i applied for a position as a graduate teaching assistant in the speech communication department at osu. i was relieved when i was hired, but even though my friends and family were enthusiastic nearly to the point of giddiness about my return to teaching, i wasn’t. now, after the end of fall term, i can see why. i was scared. scared that i wouldn’t still “have it.” scared that i’d have to figure out how to be a person who used to be a really good teacher. because i don’t know that i could have survived that blow to my identity.

lately i’ve spent a lot of time thinking about teaching and classrooms and identity and authenticity. i’ve been “percolating” this post for months, but i haven’t been able to get it right. so i’ll take my own advice and get it down without worrying about getting it right.

several months ago, one of the professors on my thesis committee told me that i should read a hidden wholeness by parker palmer. i tracked it down and read it on the train to seattle a week later. dr. anderson was right – it was exactly the book i needed to read on that exact train ride. it got me thinking about when in my life i’d felt the most authentic. to me authenticity is that place where the circles that make up the venn diagram of my life overlap, and trying to expand that overlap is how i define living a more authentic life. as i read palmer’s book i kept hearing the phrase “room five” in my head. room 5 was the multiage classroom in jefferson, oregon, where i taught for the best part of my teaching career. life in room five wasn’t all fun, but while i taught there i got to spend the majority of my waking hours being myself. and sharing space with other people who were being themselves.

room 5 didn’t spring to life fully-formed like an elementary athena. it was actually part of a chain of things that continues to be created today. my parents have played a big part – sure, their logic and consistency haven’t always made my day, but they made for a childhood where i felt safe and capable. as i’ve gotten older i’ve realized how fortunate i was to feel safe and capable as a young person. i aspire to do what i can to give those feelings to my students.

feeling safe and capable - thank, mom and dad!

feeling safe and capable – thanks, mom and dad!

my childhood neighbors, the charnows, did this amazing job of treating me as a friend without making me need to be more mature (or themselves less mature). it’s hard to describe, but it’s been the way i have built relationships with young people starting with the 3 charnow children, who were born when i was in elementary school.

living across the street from these fine people made such a difference in my life.

living across the street from these fine people made an enormous difference in my life.

when i was an undergrad, i worked at an infant/toddler center. my bosses were merilee and janet. they taught me a lot about child development and communication with parents and families, and also recognized that my instincts with kids were pretty good. their confidence in me helped me increase it in myself. as leaders they worked from the strengths of their employees – i didn’t realize that they were doing that until much later in my work experiences. i started babysitting for janet’s daughter, zari, and in the process became great friends with both of them. my life would be a very different place without the infant center.

merilee left notes like this around the infant center.

merilee left notes like this around the infant center.

and the lives of the people in my classes would also be very different if it wasn’t for my parents, the charnows, and the infant center. I built up some habits and instincts which have influenced the way i approach teaching and classrooms and work.

i started my elementary school teaching experience in a little rural school in kneeland, california. i student-taught in a K-3 multiage classroom, under the guidance of susan adams and her classroom assistant, jim cress. their classroom was a community, and i was fortunate to have it as a model early in my teaching career. i walked in the door every day and knew that would get to laugh and think and be seen. the mrs. adams and jim that those students knew were who they were in their whole lives – those were not invented school personas. they set a tone of appreciation in that classroom, and i am so grateful to have been a part of things. it changed me.

kneeland

my first teaching position was as the only 4th grade teacher at a small rural school in humboldt county, california. i started teaching as soon as i graduated from college – i was 24 or 25 (about the age that my first students are now – so cool). it was a pretty hard-luck school in a hard-luck community – there were a lot of families living in poverty, a meth problem before very many folks knew what that was, and a lot of parents who hadn’t felt successful in their own school experiences and weren’t sure how to interact with the school system to support their children. of course these didn’t apply to all families, but i found myself drawn to the families and students who most needed my help. i realized that we all wanted to feel safe and capable, and that i could find things to like and respect about anyone who crossed my path. when i modeled that, my students did the same thing. it was awesome. i loved that school and even though i was excited to move to oregon, i was so sad to leave loleta. 

i doubt it

then kegan demant friended me on facebook. it hadn’t occurred to me that facebook would end up bringing the loletians back into my life. when i saw kegan’s name and realized that i was going to have a way to know those former students as adults, i was thrilled. most friend requests started with something like, “you probably don’t remember me, but i was in your 4th grade class.” don’t remember you? i’ve never once been friended by a former student i didn’t remember. i think that comes from the charnows – paying attention is the way to make your world meaningful. there’s always something important going on if you’re paying attention. and from the infant center i learned to focus the majority my attentions on assets not deficits. and susan and jim’s big contribution was that everything was improved if kriste and ms. york were really different names for the same person.

egg drop

when i start communicating with a former student, they inevitably ask me what they should call me. my answer is that they can call me kriste or ms. york – i answer to both. i still call my beloved high school english teacher “mr. pickering.” and he makes fun of me about it.

lately i’ve had an incredible surge in the ms. york department – yesterday a woman i work with pointed this out and wondered if the universe is trying to tell me something.

universe

this summer i finally got around to asking a young woman from loleta about her younger brother, who kept me on my toes (this is a compliment) when he was a 4th grader. turns out that he’s an inmate at san quentin – not exactly what i wanted to hear, but i got his address and wrote him a letter. he wrote back right away, and getting an unprompted letter from his 4th grade teacher blew his mind. his letter was great – i could certainly still see that spark in him that i loved when he was a kid. we’ve written about a dozen letters since then, and he’s gradually painted a picture for me of his teen years and prison and the people who have impacted his life. i really am enjoying getting to know him again, and i’m aware that as ms. york i have a huge amount of credibility with him. i’m not trying to save him or convince him of anything – i’m really just enjoying the give and take of our correspondence. and maybe i remind him how it was to feel safe and capable – he hasn’t had much of that in his life.

a few months ago i got a friend request from a person with a last name i didn’t recognize. i looked at a few of her pictures and realized that it was one of those holy grail people i’ve always wondered about. i get choked up just thinking about it. then i found out that not only did i get to have her in my life again, but she was temporarily living with her brother and sisters about an hour away from me. so a week later i was sitting in a pizza parlor with the family. and the resilience of these people – they had terrible trauma happen in their lives, and have somehow remained absolutely delightful people. i even got to go trick-or-treating with this young woman and her two children.

halloween

loleta – the next generation

i left loleta to move closer to my parents into corvallis, oregon. i got my dream job teaching a primary multiage class (grades 1/2/3) in jefferson, a community that needed good teachers. my classroom was room 5, and it meant something to be from room 5. a new principal came to the school my fifth year teaching there, and when he announced that over the summer he would dismantle the multiage program, i knew that i needed to leave. i couldn’t stick around to see the culture of our classroom taken apart. i am still sad (and a little angry) that i couldn’t stay. i took a job in corvallis, which ended up being a blessing because when my trauma hit that next summer i had a support network where i lived which was critical to my recovery, and to my quality of life.

that year teaching in corvallis also gave me an important analogy for what i was doing in my classroom. a co-worker once accused me of “really encouraging” a student who was a first grader and the embodiment of delight. yes, i encouraged him. i encourage all of them. i think of my classroom as one of those cool rock tumblers that seemed to be running at the back of every classroom in the early-eighties. my job isn’t to make someone into someone they’re not. it’s to smooth some of the rough edges and polish them up. i was able to do some of that with the 3/4/5 class i taught that one year, and i really enjoyed spending the day with the characters who ended up sharing space with me there.

this represents how i feel about room 5.

this represents how i feel about room 5.

but man i have missed jefferson. this summer i started driving again, which meant that the 30 minute trip back there was something i could do. so i invited my sidekick mrs. (redding) schmidt to meet me at the mexican restaurant for lunch. we talked about authenticity, and she also felt like room 5 was the place in her life where she was her most authentic self. while we were chatting, a young woman brought us a basket of chips. it was katia! she was in the first group of students i’d had in room 5 for all three years. from facebook it looked like her teen years were going pretty smoothly. and then there she was, in the flesh. her younger brother, who was also a room 5 kid, came to meet her there when she got off work. which meant that this happened:

room 5 reunion

i guess that this post has taken me so long because i have a lot to say.

back to the present. now i’m teaching a recitation section of intro to public speaking. once a week a few hundred students, mainly freshmen, go to a mass lecture on theory taught by a professor. she supervises a group of GTAs and adjuncts who teach classes of 20 students twice a week. we get to do the practical stuff, and my class somehow synthesizes all of my interests and skills. i love it. i loved the way my students came together as a group in the fall. thinking about how that happened last term and in the dozen years of teaching before that helped me to be able to label my expectations for myself and my new class that met for the first time yesterday:

111 rules

during one lecture session last term, the GTAs gave short speeches to model the use of visual aids. i told the story about the only toy a student ever got back out of my epic toy collection. i brought the toy jesie swapped for it – next time i’m bringing jesie, who is now a high school student in corvallis. i asked my students to give me feedback about my speech. here’s one i loved:

evil

during one of our last sessions, i pointed out that i have pictures of each of my classes and asked if i could take one of them. they humored me.

111 f13

in the last few weeks i’ve reconnected with one of the room 5 kids. tyson. as my friend deb told him, he’s a legend. i bet i’ve said his name hundreds of times since i left jefferson. we became friends on facebook a year or so ago, and it seemed clear to me that he was having some turmoil in his life. at the end of november i sent him a happy birthday message (he turned 18!) and we started messaging back and forth about our lives, until i did the math and realized that i could just drive to jefferson and eat a meal with him. so we made plans. it was fantastic to be able to sit at a table with him –  i was his captain of his fan club when he was 8 and i still am.

on her wall my grandma florence had the Y page from a room 5 alphabet book we made way back when – “tyson is yelling at ms. york.” here’s the illustration:

original

tyson liked the idea that we update it. my grandma would have loved it.

this time he wasn't actually yelling at me - maturity.

this time he wasn’t actually yelling at me – maturity.

we’ve gotten together every week since then. it has been fantastic to have time to talk about the future and the past and the present – i think that it’s meant a lot to both of us. yesterday he headed to job corps in estacada, which i think will be a great thing for him. i’m looking forward to being a part of it, and glad for the time we had before he left.

then yesterday while i was waiting for a class i was looking through the contacts on my phone and saw a name and wondered if it was my former student noah’s mom. noah spent a lot of time with me when he was a first grader in room 5, and after i stopped teaching in jefferson. then i dropped off the face of the earth. i didn’t tell him what was going on because the plan was that i’d be back up and running within a month or two after my surgery. when that didn’t happen, i disappeared from his life and i’ve always felt bad about it. i wanted to explain that i hadn’t forgotten about him. and i missed him – i really enjoyed his company. we had gotten into a pretty great routine. so i texted this number in my phone and it was his mom! she said that they’re still nearby, that noah is doing great, and that he’s 13 and the oldest of 5 siblings. i asked her if we could get together this weekend. and then like magic i was talking to noah on the phone. i told him a little about what had happened and, empathetic and kind person that he is, he asked me what i’m studying at osu. i suggested that we catch up over lunch this weekend. i said that i’d take them all out, and he asked if it could just be me and him this time and the rest of them can come next time.

so good

kriste and noah circa 2009

so it’s a pretty cool time to be kriste. or ms. york. i answer to both.

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forty things from my fortieth summer

1. my new car – my mom got herself a new car, and i got her hand-me-down. not bad, eh? closing the back has been reminding me of something, like something i did in another life. the other day i finally realized that it’s what i imagine spinning the wheel on the price is right is like. so far i’ve successfully resisted the impulse to stand next to it after it’s closed and jump up and down while clapping and saying, “come on, one dollar!”

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2. wilburys deconstructed – my love of driving around to tom petty music and of this video inspired me to make a great mix. my favorite stuff by the wilburys in their other incarnations. it’s pretty damn good.

3. the leoncavallo family of augusta, georgia – seriously. three quality individuals.

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in this photo, i’m playing the role of doug leoncavallo.

4. successful ice cream stops – in portland ME i wandered into a little ice cream shop and one of the customers said to me (in a friendly way), “have you been in here before?” i said that i hadn’t and asked her to tell me what to get. she said banana cream pie ice cream, something i would never have chosen. it was delicious. then i had it again in downtown durham. in augusta, we discovered an amazing ice cream store, bruster’s – so many flavors and the counterfolk were begging us to have samples. i don’t ever remember what kind i ended up getting – i just remember that it was crazy-good.

5. unconditional positive regard – thanks to zari and cheryl strayed, i did some thinking about who has UPR for me and vice versa. here’s one example:

upr

6. the bachelorette – oh man it was a good season. sweet sweet des.

7. PRI – i completed my goal of driving to the pizza research institute in eugene.

8. pistachios on pizza – i was introduced to this in durham, NC, not at PRI. it’s crazy how delicious they make your pizza.

9. portland, maine – the country is bookended by cool cities named portland

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this is outside a pub in portland, maine.

10. a drag queen softball game – running in stripper heels for charity (them, not me)

11. dr. pepper – having a car means that i can transport a 12-pack from the store to my apartment. a can of it is like dessert for my afternoon.

12. the china delight lounge – this whole “where dreams go to die” thing? i’m not seeing it.

photo (93)

13. cards against humanity – another thing that came my way thanks to zari. i got to hear many wildly inappropriate sentences read aloud this summer. the china delight lounge is the perfect place to play.

14. blondies – why am i just now finding out about these?

15. capers – no, not the food. the other kind. i had two going for my buddy robyn’s 40th birthday last month. here she is finding out about the first one:

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16. former neighbors

back in our spot

me and olivia back in our spot. i miss having her and her family around.

17. other people’s babies

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olivia, jeff, nico, and liz

18. swedish fish

19. larrupin & ramone’s coffee – i didn’t make it to humboldt county this summer, but i did get a few tastes of it thanks to susan and janet.

20. amtrak – i did a lot of amtrak traveling on the east coast this summer. and a few trips up to portland and back.

photo (92)

1) jaqui is not asleep
2) that food isn’t all emily’s

21. the city of baltimore – zari & kristin – i get it. what a cool city.

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gin and tonics on zari’s roof

22. mail – i’m now penpals with a former student who is in prison in california. not exactly a dream of mine, but it’s good to hear from him – i can still see the 4th grader he was. a good opportunity to practice unconditional positive regard.

23. license plates – when i was with the carter family in boston, they started playing the license plate game. now i notice them, too. i haven’t spotted a massachusetts plate yet.

photo (89)

me with the oldest carter daughter, james. sitting on some famous writer’s grave – i don’t remember which one. james is much more interesting.

24. evening strolls – i’m bringing them back.

25. grilled pimento cheese sandwiches – so tasty. i ate this one in aiken, south carolina with kristin and henry. it’s the reason that south carolina is filled in on my tattoo.

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26. my 40th birthday tattoo

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my first post-40 trip was to visit robyn and her husband phil in seattle. she asked to pick washington’s color. it’s green.

27. assertive pedestrian – when i’m out walking, i’m doing my part to assert my rights as a pedestrian. if you’re stopped at a stop sign and you make eye contact with me on the curb, i’m going to cross the street in front of you. if you go anyway, even though you see me and i have the right of way, i’m going to give you a mean look. i can’t give you the bird like i’d like to, because my parents would find out. but you’d better believe that i’m giving it to you in my mind.

28. generous driving – i’ve learned a lot about driving from the time i spend walking, and i try to practice generous driving. like giving pedestrians the right of way, waving the other guy through the intersection when it’s a tie, and stopping before the crosswalk. revolutionary, i know.

29. lifesavers – i had totally forgotten about them until i started spending time in various airports this summer. so tasty, and people are delighted to be offered one. now that i’m mature i like pineapple the best.

30. shorty shopping carts

31. monroefest – i got to spend a good chunk of the bounty of benton county hanging out at hard times distillery in monroe. and what do i have to show for it? good times and a bottle of moonshine.

32. a tumor piñata – sandy helped me finish a tumor piñata for tumorfest. i hope a few more folks make one next year.

tumor pinata

33. listen – my word for year five

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34. east coast small-town 4th of july parades – muskets! and creepy local traditions! can i do this every year?

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35. oblation – jaqui took me to this awesome shop in portland. i managed to keep my spending from hitting triple-digits. but it wasn’t easy.

36. second street – my street is so damn great. i’m glad to go out on adventures, and glad when i’m back on my street.

37. balsamic blueberry crisp – possibly the tastiest thing i baked all summer.

38. butterscotch – it tastes good! i had no idea.

39. fry-day – last month macey and i made our fry-day dream a reality, and we spent a day deep-frying candy bars. in round one we fried half of our assortment (frozen – there’s a tip for you) with one batter recipe. some were amazing and some were disgusting (circus peanuts? whose idea was that?). round two we fried the other half in funnel cake batter. for round three we did an all-star round of our favorites in our favorite batter (funnel cake of course). i thought that the best were toblerone, reese’s peanut butter cups, and rolos. macey liked all of those, but hershey’s cookies and cream bars were her number one. you should probably invite us to your halloween party – we’ll bring good treats and we spent time planning our costumes for this year.

rdj

macey’s costume has to do with her current celebrity obsession,
robert downey jr.

40. tumorfest – such a good way to end to year 4 and start year 5. i can’t describe how much tumorfest means to me.

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seis de mayo

it was my 40th birthday last month. on the seis de mayo.

a moment before this picture was taken an elderly woman in line behind me said, "smile big, dearie!"

proof

i have been looking forward to turning forty – it seems like a solid age to be. i’ve worked pretty damn hard to make it here, and not everybody is as fortunate as i am. so i’ve been feeling ready to claim a new decade.

i’ve known for a while that i wanted to mark turning forty with a tattoo, and my ideas went through many stages. i wanted to acknowledge my connections to california and oregon. i briefly thought about getting wrist tattoos of their two flags, but oregon’s flag is hideous.

the scale is wrong, the colors are wrong. as much as i love oregon, i do not want this on my body, even temporarily.

the scale is wrong, the colors are wrong. as much as i love oregon, i do not want this on my body, even temporarily.

my neighbor liz and i have talked about reclaiming the trampstamp as a feminist statement. when the wrist tattoo idea was rejected, i started thinking about a trampstamp – all of my tattoos are balanced on my body, and my lower back is the place i have left (since a chest tattoo just isn’t my style) to keep things symmetrical. i thought about getting outlines of oregon and california, but they don’t go in the right direction for that spot. then i started thinking, “what would charles kuralt do?”

kuralty bliss

charles kuralt reminded me of a few things. i thought about how much i enjoyed being in north carolina last spring, it was so different than where i live, and i feel like a better citizen for having spent time there. it occurred to me that i have never really dreamed about going to london or paris or tokyo – i dream about going to detroit. i would love to cruise around the back roads of america in an RV and see the country and talk to regular folks, like charles kuralt did. through all of this thinking, my tattoo idea came to me. i knew right away that it was the perfect thing.

while i was working this out, my buddy zari and i were talking about getting tattooed together on my birthday; our friend molly also wanted to go with us. then z went and moved to baltimore, and my tattoo hopes were dashed. the three of us really needed to do it together, so i thought of the perfect bribe to get zari to come back to oregon for “drink & ink,” as molly christened it.

i have been friends with zari since she was 3, and i met molly a few years later.

i have been friends with zari since she was 3. she introduced me to molly a few years later.

my bribe worked, and zari got plane tickets to come back to oregon. the plan was set.

molly, kriste, zari - at z's college graduation.

molly, kriste, zari – at z’s college graduation.

i was getting oregon’s state motto – “she flies with her own wings” – as part of my tattoo. a few weeks before my birthday, molly asked if it would be ok with me if she also got the motto. tattoo twinsies?! of course. then zari wanted it in her tattoo, which seemed so damn right.

we spent the afternoon of my birthday with denise, who has tattooed me a few times before. i went first, then zari, then molly.

zari's tattoo

zari’s tattoo

zari got the bear from the california flag, along with the oregon state motto, representing her life on the west coast. the top part of the motto is in molly’s writing, and i wrote the bottom part. we had a long philosophical discussion about who should write which part. i think it looks so damn cool, and it’s a huge deal to me that zari is walking around baltimore with my writing on her thigh.

molly and denise, talking tattoos.

molly and denise, talking tattoos.

molly's tattoo

molly’s tattoo

molly got a hummingbird on the inside of her arm. the motto is in her sister’s handwriting.

here comes mine.

think RV

think RV

this tattoo is a mindfulness piece, to make me think about how i spend my forties. if you look closely, you’ll see that oregon is colored in, because on the first day of my forties that’s where i was. i’m going to fill in every state i visit between may 6, 2013 and may 5, 2023. my grandpa lives in oklahoma, and i should go visit him. ditto for my cousin’s dad in mississippi. my mom’s family is from michigan, and i’ve never been there. washington is the first state i’ve been to since my birthday – i took a quick train trip up there to visit robyn. since she was first, she wanted to pick washington’s color, and she chose green. there’s math involved in coloring in a map – the US can be done in four colors, so i know which color oklahoma should be by the time i get there.

the bribe was that if zari came back for my birthday, she would be the one to write the motto. molly drew the compass rose, based on one that was in the floor of a hotel where robyn and i stayed last summer. the envelope in the middle came from molly’s realization that our relationship as adults has been strengthened by the letters we write to each other.

so happy to see molly when she got back from many months in brazil last year.

so happy to see molly when she got back from many months in brazil last year.

while i was getting tattooed, we started trying to name state capitals. z & m started researching state mottos on their phones. denise was getting into the whole US geography thing, too. i’m pretty sure that it was one of the nerdiest tattoo sessions ever.

i feel like i started this decade in a pretty rad way. it was an honor that these fine women were there with me. i really can’t put into words how i feel about them, so here’s a picture that captures it:

the last time the three of us were together - drinking cocktails at terminus last year.

drinking cocktails at terminus last year.

in the very merry month of may

so here we are on the last day of may. looking back, i’ve had a pretty incredible month. some real sadness (i’m still really not over adam yauch’s death. several friends had bad health news. other friends had some difficult life events.), but all of that puts into perspective how truly fortunate i am.

the month of may began with me in durham, north carolina. i had never spent time in that part of the country before, and i hadn’t seen my hostess, jamie, since soon after we graduated from high school way back when. that added up to a fabulous time and many new experiences – my word for this year.

this was actually on april 30th. cut me some slack, truthniks. it was amazing.

on a sunny day early in may, i took myself out to the ballgame. the durham bulls’ (plural possessive, right?) stadium is a short walk from jamie’s apartment. it was day game on a weekday, which meant that the place was crawling with school groups. i enjoyed not having to supervise anybody – teachers don’t have a lot of fun on field trips.

a perfect day for a baseball game.

that weekend jamie and i went out to the coast to visit my friend meghan. meghan and i were exchange students together in high school. we’ve kept in touch since then, but hadn’t seen each other in person since our senior year.

that’s me in the pink shorts, meghan in the orange shirt.

jamie, kriste, meghan – about to successfully climb the currituck beach lighthouse.

while i was in corolla, i climbed the lighthouse, stood in the atlantic ocean, ate frickles (deep-fried pickle chips), hung out with the locals, bought a few books, watched a snapping turtle lay eggs in meghan’s yard, enjoyed two thunderstorms, and on the morning of my 39th birthday meghan’s sons helped me blow out the candles on my cake.

on my birthday, jamie and i drove back to durham, and she put me on the plane back to oregon the next day. i was sad to leave north carolina, and happy to be home. i like seeing different parts of the country, but i’m really content with where i choose to live.

this is about 40 yards out my back door. i didn’t do anything to the picture – it really is that beautiful.

the day after i got back, i decided to go caneless. i carried my cane all over north carolina, and only really needed it on the beach. for months i’ve only been using it as a way to warn people that they need to be careful around me. when i go caneless, i have to pay a lot more attention to my environment, because my environment is paying less attention to me. i feel like i’m undercover – i think that i look a little drunk the way i wobble around sometimes, but other than that you can’t really tell by looking at me that i’m disabled. i find that drivers don’t wave me through crosswalks as often, but pedestrians ask me for the time and directions more often. i haven’t picked up a cane since that day a few weeks ago. it feels like enormous progress.

going caneless means that today i could do this – walk from my apartment to the riverfront fountain and bring a cup of coffee with me.

i had my birthday dinner with my family when i got back. our tradition is that on your birthday, you chose the restaurant and we all go out to dinner. i chose my old neighbors, murphy’s. it was definitely strange not to have gflo there. but i reminded myself to be greatful for all of the meals at murphy’s that i shared with her.

blast from the past – gflo and my niece jessy at murphy’s

the day before mother’s day, my mom and i went on an outing to sisters – about a 2 hour drive east of corvallis. my mom’s buddy connie met us there. we had a mission, in addition to hanging out together in a great little town. sisters is known for its quilts, and my mom was looking for a cute bag to hold the box of gflo’s remains while she’s “in a better place” – the back of the guest bedroom closet in my parents’ house. when we picked up her remains from the fiendish-sounding neptune society, they were given to us in one of those reusable grocery totes. it didn’t seem right, so for mother’s day my mom wanted to shop with her daughter and her FOLD (friend of longest duration) and find a more suitable bag.

gflo was flashy sometimes, and we found a great bag that seemed like something she’d like and was the right size. we walked around town (all three of us were caneless – that was my outing away from my hometurf) and had lunch at a great cafe with tasty food and an outdoor patio.

a lovely bag for a lovely woman

the next weekend, my mom and i headed up the columbia gorge to visit gflo’s sister dorothy, who lives in walla walla, washington. on the way we happened upon the full sail brewery in hood river. lunch was delicious with a great view. we stopped there on our way back, too.

best quesadilla ever

it was whitman college’s graduation that weekend, so walla walla was jumpin’. after dinner my mom’s cousin bill took me out for a walk to see the campus.

see, i take pictures of things other than food.

the next day we went out to the town of dayton, where bill is a pastor. he and my mom golfed. i hung out with aunt dorothy for a while, then went on a stroll around downtown. i stopped for a latte, and the barista asked me if i wanted to drink it on the rooftop garden. my policy is to always answer in the affirmative when asked that question. and my new canefree existence means that i can walk up stairs (that have a railing) with a cup of coffee in my non-railing hand.

in addition to going caneless, may has brought other physical challenges. i’m taking 2 gentle yoga classes at the yoga center, a block away from my apartment. i had done some yoga before my medical drama, and for years i’ve wanted to take a class at this studio. my parents gave me a gift certificate for christmas, and i decided to hold onto it until i was feeling better (christmas was at the height of my shunt-malfunction/potential surgery uncertainty and discomfort). i still don’t think that i feel as well as i did before things went haywire, but i certainly have improved and felt ready to give the class a try. gentle yoga uses a lot of props – bolsters, blocks, straps – to help folks who might have frustration-level difficulty in a more traditional beginning yoga class. i’ve had class twice a week this spring, and i see so much improvement. it’s encouraging that i’m still recovering, but in more finely-tuned ways. i’m looking forward to the summer session.

the yoga center

this month i also had about 6 pilates sessions. it blew my mind what i could do. it also made me spend a lot of time thinking about my nursing home physical therapist, dennis, who started me on the path to being able to sit up on my own, and anne (my home health therapist when i got back to corvallis from phoenix), who taught me how to crawl and to walk with a walker. and my physical therapist brian, who really taught me how to walk. i remember holding onto the counter in my kitchen, doing the grapevine over and over while i worked on relearning how to transfer weight from one foot to the other. and i remember when i couldn’t be in a room with a ceiling fan, because it would send my vertigo out of control. my pilates teacher, lyssa, had me doing things that kriste2.0 would not believe. progress. even as i near the 3 year anniversary this summer.

about a week ago, i took the train to portland. emily picked me up and zari met us at potato champion for dinner. i’d been eating pb&j sandwiches for days as i waited to get my order of pb&j fries. they didn’t disappoint.

seriously. these are insanely good.

the three of us headed over to the mission theater for a back fence pdx storytelling event. one of the storytellers (cheryl strayed) that night is the author of the book my skype book group just read. i met one of the book clubbers, theresa, for the first time in person that night. after the show, i got to see the house that emily and her husband bought. in fact, i even got to spend the night there. the next morning, i met my friend bucko. he gave me a tour of his new apartment and his new neighborhood. he drove me back to corvallis, so we had lots of time to chat.

the view from bucko’s stoop

this weekend, zari took the bus down from portland. when she got here we immediately went to farmers’ market for zia burritos. we spent lots of time chatting, walking, drinking, cooking, watching queer eye – sometimes several of those things at once. i used to babysit for zari when she was a preschooler, and i’m grateful to have been a part of her life since she was a little kid. and it’s so much fun to get to be adults together.

my mom and i took zari for her first wine tasting experience. my friend marcia did the honors.

one evening i took zari to my current favorite downtown lounge, terminus. we enjoyed some drinks and the folks and the view and the food.

happy hour drinks at terminus

this month i’ve also started to really enjoy baking. i found a great book about cooking small pies in muffin tins. i’ve been making a lot of them – there’s dough in my fridge right now. i’m thinking about either salted caramel apple or lemon meringue this evening.

sweet potato pies – in honor of north carolina

i’ve also watched a lot of queer eye in may. my friend jessica mentioned that it’s on netflix instant, and it’s my current reality tv addiction. i spend a lot of time analyzing which of the fab 5 is my favorite, and what that might mean.

maybe i’ll get a doctorate in studying what is revealed by a person’s favorite queer eye guy, monkee, beatle, beastie boy, etc.

which reminds me. i forgot to mention my big may news – i’ll be starting a master’s degree at osu in the fall! more on that later.

and june isn’t looking too shabby either.

growing up is cool

beastie boy adam yauch died 2 days before my 39th birthday. i was on the way from durham, north carolina, to the outer banks when i heard the news from my friend bucko, who had started getting into the beastie boys recently. he’s older than i am, so they were never really on his radar. they pretty much were my radar, so he decided to figure out why i was always talking about those guys. he wasn’t disappointed. other than that with adam yauch’s death, he joins the group of folks who are sad that there won’t be more from him.

bucko’s facebook post, breaking the news to me: “i just saw the news about adam of the beasties. i know you must be very sad about this. not sure what to say. i was just getting to know their music & learning to really enjoy it. what a loss.”

adam yauch 1964-2012

i’ve written about the beastie boys here a few times before. i wrote about my realization a year ago that i wouldn’t hear their new album in stereo, and then it was the first thing i listened to after i got my hearing aid. i also referred to them as pros when it comes to making your own fun. exhibit A:

yesterday a friend posted a link to an article about MCA’s death. it’s titled “MCA, kid forever: how the beastie boys united us by never growing up” and i think that it does a good job of looking at what the beastie boys mean to a lot of folks of my generation. the link in the article is to the video of my favorite beastie boys song – it’s always in position 2 on my personal soundtrack.

but i disagree with the premise of the article, that the beastie boys never grew up. i think that they actually modeled how to grow up, and that that’s a key to the reason that they stayed relevant. the beastie boys from my teen years wouldn’t have held my attention in my 30’s.

teen years beasties:

30’s beasties:

not surprisingly, teen years beasties were mainly concerned with partying. post-911 beasties said things like, “i’m getting kind of tired of the situation, the US attacking other nations.” i don’t think that they were being preachy – i think that they were talking about things that mattered to them as adults. there aren’t many references to the iran-contra affair in “licensed to ill” – makes sense because they were in their early twenties when that album came out.

another sign of maturity: when they got a little older and wiser they started changing one piece of the lyrics to “paul revere” (a song from their first album) that they decided was too offensive. there’s a lot of irresponsible teen-partying-type stuff on that album, but they were able to discern what needed a revision. they left the irresponsible stuff alone – they didn’t scrub that album clean. they changed a bit they they couldn’t in good conscience keep saying in light of the knowledge they’d gained as they got older.

ok, how’s this for maturity – i remember watching the MTV video music awards live back in 1998 when the beastie boys were presented with a video vanguard award. when it was MCA’s turn to speak, he used his time to talk about racism towards middle-easterners and the dangers of retaliation in the war on terrorism. it’s certainly worth a watch all the way through.

the atlantic article about MCA’s death said that the beastie boys made it cool to be white. i think that the beastie boys made it cool to grow up. they showed that growing up doesn’t mean that you have to give up having fun. growing up means that the ways you have fun are different – i think specifically that the fun grown-ups have shouldn’t be at the expense of other folks. i’ve always gotten the feeling that the beastie boys put a really high priority on doing things that amused themselves. a few examples:

and of course, possibly the coolest video over made:

it has always given me a smug sense of satisfaction that two of my favorite folks – elvis costello and david letterman – are big fans of the beastie boys. it seems like the boys always went the extra mile when they were on the late show. here’s an example:

and an amazing thing that happened on the SNL 25th anniversary show:

adam yauch was 47 when he passed away. part of his legacy was the example he gave of how to have fun and still be responsible in your forties. i’ll be there in less than a year, and i hope i can do as good of a job of it as he did. i’m sad that he won’t be leading the way into the fifties, but i’m looking forward to seeing how adam horovitz and mike diamond do it, if we’re all fortunate enough to get there.

i should also mention that nathaniel hörnblowér passed away this week.

here’s a rare interview with mike, adam, and mr. hörnblowér:

“i’m glad to know that all the love that yauch has put out into the world is coming right back at him.” ~adam horovitz

38 lessons from 38 years

my neurologist hipped me to this great blog called “zenhabits” and this post really spoke to me.  i’ve been 38 for a while now, and it got me thinking about what i’ve learned in those 38 years. i’ll be 39 in less than two weeks, so time to get crackin’.

it seems to me that my life falls into 4 sections, so i’ll break up the lessons that way.

kid –  birth to 17

1. fun is important

2. be as independent as possible

3. don’t let a kid win a game

growing up, we had a little cabin in the mountains east of los angeles. no tv. no phone. i played a lot of games with my parents. which means that i lost a lot of games to my parents. which also means that when i won a game, i really won it. when i was teaching, i loved to play wallball with kids during recess. i didn’t play to demolish them, but if i could get to the ball, i got to it. so they knew that when they beat me, they really did.

me with my folks in front of our cabin. 585 silvertip drive.

4. figure out how to be a good driver

5. neighbors matter

i first met the charnows when i moved across the street from them the summer before i started kindergarten. they’ve been my second family since then. in fact, i think that the definition of the word “charnow” is “noun: good neighbor” – look it up. i have fabulous neighbors where i live now. one of them is a two year-old who now bops into my apartment and makes herself at home. it feels really good.

young adult – 17-24

6. “cotton fields” by ccr is a great lullaby

7. it can be good to live someplace where nobody knows you

when i was 18 i moved from pasadena to arcata to go to humboldt state university. i didn’t know anyone there, and it occurred to me that this was an opportunity to change some things about myself. for instance, my sense of humor had a mean streak. but nobody expected that from me, so i was able to eliminate it.

the arcata plaza

8. larrupin sauce is delicious

9. raising arizona is an awesome movie

my college buddy hethir and i logged a lot of hours watching raising arizona. we ended up speaking a weird twin language based on dialogue from the movie. ah, the salad days…

we didn't even need to stop watching raising arizona to take this picture - self-timer off the top of the tv.

10. southern california is a super place to visit

teacher – 24-36

11. relationships are built on shared experiences

i remember a lot about my own elementary school experience. i remember which teachers liked me and liked being at school, and i remember the opposite. about 30 years after my time as a student at monte vista elementary school, it’s the moments of fun that we had in those classrooms that really stand out. i applied these memories to my own classrooms. i looked for opportunities for fun because those good times spent together are the way that you get through the hard times. looking back on the dozen years i spent teaching elementary school, i remember lots of good times. lots of laughs. and since former students find me on facebook, i know that they remember those times too.

a great thing about teaching is that you can pretty much play "i doubt it" whenever you want to.

12. you don’t have to like everybody (and they don’t have to like you), but you do have to get along with everybody

13. if you want to be a smartass you have to be smart or else you’re just an ass

14. elvis costello has a song for any mood you’re in

15. trying is everything

16. “i wrote it until it said ‘the end'”

you ask a stupid question… early in my teaching career i asked one of my students if his story was finished. that was his answer. he even pointed to the words “the end” clearly written at the bottom of his paper. he helped me improve my ability to talk with people about their writing, a skill that i still use to this day. so thank you, young man. you know who you are.

last day of school field trip to the beach

17. i learned a lot about how to be a good person from “to kill a mockingbird”

18. kids should know their teacher’s first name

19. bars can make great neighbors

20. a long commute isn’t bad if you use it well

21. the word “hamster” is always funny in a madlib

this fact was discovered when tyson used it as a plural noun in a madlib. it ended up saying, “tarzan was raised by hamsters.” this became a catchphrase in our classroom. and “hamster” was used in pretty much every madlib i’ve been a part of since then. go ahead and try to prove us wrong. i dare you.

"tyson is yelling at ms. york."

22. canvassing is fun

when i ventured out of my classroom, i got involved with the oregon bus project. i met a lot of great folks, and i discovered that i love canvassing – chatting with folks about what matters to them, checking out their yards, registering them to vote. i was once even given a popsicle on an especially hot day.

some really great people came into my life because of the bus project, including the gentleman in pink and his wonderful family.

stroke survivor – 36-38

23. people love to get mail

24. it’s amazing to still have people in your life who knew you when you were 5

i took this for granted, and through many conversations with friends i’ve realized how fortunate i am. i know some pretty cool people from way back when.

25. being alive is awesome

26. kindness matters

27. let people help you

28. thanksgiving is the best holiday

i’ve never been much of a holiday person, but man do i love thanksgiving now. and the plan is that this year i’ll host my first thanksgiving. we’ve been doing it at my parents’ house, and since my grandma florence was always a fixture of that meal, i thought that it was time to shake it up. we’ll be eating at the table that my grandma gave me, the anchor of my childhood thanksgivings. i was once invited to my friends ben and janet’s thanksgiving – they invited folks who couldn’t be with family for one reason or another. added card tables to their kitchen table, and did it as a potluck. it was such a good feeling to be a part of it – that’s how i’m going to do it this year. i have so much to be thankful for.

on the back of this picture, in my grandma's handwriting it says, "taken by mark thanksgiving 1979"

29. gratitude can save your life

30. jeff lynne is a genius

31. people who have grandparents are really lucky

for my entire childhood, i had 5 grandparents. incredible. my grandpa fred passed away about 10 years ago, and my grandma florence last month. my grandpa and step-grandma live in oklahoma, and my grandma betty lives here. i had breakfast with her on sunday. grandparents rock, and i’m a better person for having elders in my childhood and my adult life.

me and grandpa fred in what is now my chair

32. good nurses are the same kind of people as good teachers

33. oatmeal is delicious

34. getting tattooed (twice) with your mom is pretty cool

35. the universe is friendly and on my side

36. i took a lot for granted – things like walking carrying an umbrella, and buttering toast

37. what would elvis costello do?

through conversations with my friend bucko (a jimmy buffett fan) i’ve realized that one of the things i love about elvis is that he does what’s interesting to him. he doesn’t worry about what other people will say about it. for a while he got really into country. he did an album with burt bacharach. he’s in an american roots music phase right now. so what would elvis costello do? i think that he’d allow himself to pursue things that he finds interesting. and he’d encourage me to do the same. so that’s exactly what i’m doing. bucko is, too.

38. i will never enjoy wearing skirts/dresses

i’ve tried over the years, and i’m done. finished. and it’s a relief. i release myself.

i'm goofing off because i feel self-conscious

boy, i’ve learned a lot these last few years. this west coast woman will ring in 39 by dipping her feet in the atlantic ocean. seems like an excellent way to start my next trip around the sun.