Trayvon is my student…

Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

Potamus and Russ, my best guy friend, co-worker, and teaching mentor

We were playing in the backyard last night. Boof had gotten a new weed wacker and so we were trying to get some weeds trimmed down. We were drinking beer and hanging out and lovin’ on our little guy Potamus. It was a relaxed, happy, family-lovin’ type night. And then we came inside, and Potamus had randomly changed the channel to the news, and that’s when we heard: George Zimmerman found not-guilty.

I felt a lump in my throat and in my heart. I’m sad to say that I wasn’t shocked by the verdict, it seems that all these high profile cases end up not-guilty…I wonder if being high profile makes a jury take even more caution with “reasonable doubt,” but as far as I understood the facts of the case, manslaughter should have been chosen. Boof and I started talking about it, and he brought up the legal system, talking through all of these logistics of how cases are tried in the media vs. tried in a courtroom. And, I was only half-listening.

Because I kept thinking about my students. My lovely, beautiful, funny, intelligent, “at-risk-youth” who could, at some point, end up like Trayvon. They’ve smoked pot and stolen things and some have ended up in jail for weeks, months, or years. But they are beautiful people who do not deserve to be gunned down for walking home or ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ like so many have suggested. My students, mostly those of color, are amazing people and deserve all the chances in the world to live and love and flourish. They don’t deserve to get stink-eye when entering a store, or to be followed, or to be assumed by dress or mannerisms or their past to be lesser than my white, home-schooled, middle-class students. I love each one of them as if they were my own rascally teenage son, and the thought that this could happen to them is maddening.

Over on Blacked. Bunched. Mass. Mom, she writes a beautifully powerful entry entitled Open Season on My Sons, in which she explores and explains the conversations that she will have to have with her sons about this case and their own safety going forward. And it got me thinking about my own son, who is white as milk, and will grow up with everything it means to be a privileged white middle-class male. Will I be pro-active enough to have these conversations with him, about guns, and safety, and not stereotyping someone based off fear and style of clothing and color of skin? I know I’ve thought long and hard about having conversations with him about sexuality, but I hadn’t rehearsed these race conversations in my mind, yet. I’ve been thinking the fact that my son goes to a diverse daycare, which will end up in a diverse school, and our friends are diverse, that he would just know that black boys/men are just as worthy as he is. But I don’t think that passivity is good enough anymore. I will have conversations where he will hear, directly from my mouth. Maybe I’ll start with introducing him to my students, who are lovely, intelligent, hilarious, beautiful, individuals, despite the other labels that society has given them.

How are you reacting to the verdict? What conversations about race do you have with your children?

On Running my 1st 5k: Reflections & Lessons Learned

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Today I finished my first 5k! It’s what I’ve been training for since Christmas, and now that I am home, sitting on my couch getting ready to hang out with some friends, I feel awesome about my accomplishment. But, I must admit, I learned some things along the way that were surprising (and some just re-confirmed some things I already knew about myself but had forgotten).

Run how you train.

I got caught up in the magical excitement of the race that I got a little carried away with myself. Because this was a first annual 5k it wasn’t organized into groups based on how many minutes it takes you to run a mile. Instead it was broken down into two groups: runners & walkers. Because I am seeing myself as a runner, I ran with the runners.

That was a mistake.

The runners started off fast. I “kept up” for the first 1/8-1/4 of a mile (out of the starting gate and down the road) out of pride. It was the beginning, and there were people on the sideline cheering, and I didn’t want to look like Ms. Slow-poke right from the get-go. So I ran fast. And spent the rest of the time trying to recover from my basic sprint at the beginning.

Boof said, later, that I probably would have felt better if I had run faster than the walkers, instead of spending my time trying to ‘catch up’ to the runners. He was right.

Another aspect of running how you train, is remembering pacing. I normally train without listening to music. I’ve been focusing on my breath and my footfall, and the sound of the gravel under my foot. A few days ago¬† I ran to a local talk-radio podcast, and found that was a good distraction without getting me out of my groove.

Today, though, with all of the hype and music blaring through the loudspeakers I decided to listen to some upbeat music to help keep me motivated. Sadly, as a former band-nerd, I can’t really run/walk to a different beat than music. This made portions of my race faster than I would have liked, and made me more tired than normal. I didn’t get into the zen-like place that I’ve been getting to lately. I was running, but I had lost my connection to myself in the process.

Self-talk
A little less than half-way into my run was when I noticed the self-talk going crazy. It was like during transition in labor, when my mind raced and I couldn’t “get it together.” I just noticed myself spinning out of control, saying things like “I am never doing this again. This is stupid,” and “even that girl in jeans and running with a purse is faster than me, I suck.” When I pushed through the middle third of the race I was fine, but it was that part that made me feel like I was breaking and like I should just quit.

Know the course

I had heard, from family members who ran cross-country in high school, that part of the 5k course was hilly and hard. But I hadn’t really looked at my route before this morning, and so I found myself running blindly, with little ability to pace myself. They had written, in chalk, at the 1 mile and 2 mile mark, but there wasn’t anything in between that. I found myself having a difficult time knowing how much time had passed, especially since the sound of music was drowning my own sense of time, and I think if I had run the route before I would have known to save energy for certain parts and where I could expend a little more energy.

Have an incentive

Boof was at the finish line, camera in-hand. When I saw the ticker-time board running, and realized that I was 45 seconds from completing the race in my goal-time (45 minutes, because the next 5k I run it’s MANDATORY…dum dum dum), I gained this new found speed and stamina that pushed me through to the end. And this afternoon I am taking a sweet trip on the light-rail downtown with some friends and their 2 boys, and we’re going to drink beer and eat burgers and have a fun time. A hard workout rewarded with some playful fun.

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I’m really glad I did it. I’m really glad that I chose THIS run as my first one. It was low-key, all about community support, and was inexpensive and super-local. I may do more races, but it’s nice to have this one close to home be where I started out. Even if I don’t keep running extensively, I can see myself running this race annually to support my neighboring city!

I finished 97 of 103 women, with a time of 44:47. I ran for more than 2 of the 3 miles, and my goal had originally been to run 1.5 miles. And, the sun came out. What more can we Seattlelites ask for?