Back to School Chaos

back to school

I hate back to school time. My heart rate is up, my stomach does summersaults, and hands sweat as the first day of school approaches. You would think that I was the one returning to school after three months lounging in the summer sun, but no. It’s my children preparing for another year of education.

Jazz will be a senior this year. He is an excellent student and enjoys socializing and learning new things. He is comfortable in his high school and understands the routine rising in the morning, getting to school, and completing homework when he gets home. For Jazz, school is just something you do.

Sky will be in eighth grade this year. For Sky, school is a war zone.

I’ve already met with the vice principal of Sky’s school and we have another meeting next Monday with his teacher as well. We need to decide which classes Sky should be enrolled in, how to deal with his behavior at the end of the school year, and how we can start this new year off on a positive note.

Sky’s school experience has been very traumatizing including physical restraints, time out rooms, in school suspension, and out of school suspensions. Unfortunately, his experiences are not atypical for a child with his diagnosis (bipolar, anxiety, ADHD and learning disorders).

I read an article in June regarding a study done by the Department of Education stating that 267,000 students had been restrained or placed in seclusion over the 2013-2014 school year. Most of these students are special education students.  You can read the article here if you’re interested.

When I called Sky for the Monday meeting this week, he said, “I’m not going. You know I hate that place. I can’t be there.”

“I know it’s hard bud, but it’s important that everyone hears from you about what you want for your classes and what you would like to see happen this next school year to make things better. They need to hear your voice.”

“You be my voice mom.”

“Sky, I will be there, but it is more powerful if it comes from you.”

“Conference call me into the meeting.”

Sometimes I hate technology, I thought to myself.

I took the first week of school off work, so that I can deal with situations as they arise. Sky doesn’t know I am off work that week, of course. If he did, he would think he could just stay home. I actually work twenty-five miles from my house just so he can’t call and say come and get me mom. He calls anyway, but I can honestly tell him, I can’t because it’s too far for me to get him and then return to work.

As I tighten the laces on my running shoes, and step out my front door in the morning, I think of ways to make this year easier than last year. I am always looking for new ways to help other people understand my son.

It is a careful balance I strike between helping him and letting him fall. If I help too much, he will never learn to be his own voice and I’d rather him fall now when the damage he’ll do as he hits the ground will be less extensive than when he is older.

Are you dreading back to school for you or your children?

Epic Relay: Only to episodes of vomiting and one major GI explosion

tetonsTeton Mountains

The Epic relay was a ton of fun. My team consisted of ten runners. Eight “normal” runners and two ultrarunners. The race began at 5:00 am Friday morning in Logan, Utah. We went through Idaho, and finished in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Epic is small compared to other relay organizations. Ragnar hosts 1200 teams and Red Rock Relay has around 300 teams. There were only 84 teams spread out over the 205 miles.

This was the longest relay my team has completed. Both Wasatch Back and Red Rock are about 195 miles. What’s ten miles more, you ask? It’s another hour and a half on the racecourse, which is eternity when you’ve been in a van for 36 hours already!

Epic was a tough race. The course was beautiful farmland, small towns, and the Tetons.  My team, Nut up or Shut up, (from Zombie Land the movie) struggled specifically in the dehydration department in our second van (the van I was in). Van one was able to knock out their miles in the early morning hours and early night time hours. Van two ran during the heat of the afternoons and the cold during the night.Epic Exchange six My team (minus J$ who is running) at exchange six. Van Two’s starting point.

My first run was 20 miles long. I began it at 2:16 pm. I knew going out that it was not going to be the most fun run ever because I don’t do well in the heat. There was no shade on this portion of the course. There were a quiet a few hills. I was fine through the first 4.6 mile leg. During the second leg, 9.3 miles, I became dehydrated, overheated, and nauseous.  My team was stopping every two miles trying to keep my body temperature down by dumping ice water over my head. The third leg of my run was 6.5 miles long. By the time I hit 17 miles I was walking the hills to keep myself from vomiting on the side of the road (I really hate vomiting). When I met with my team, I had Spongebunny finish the rest of the leg so that my team could hit the time cut offs imposed by the race.

Lesson to take away from this: Zombie Land Rule #17 “Don’t Be a Hero.”  Ask for help when you need help. I needed help. I had twenty-two more miles to complete and was in a bad way. Spongebunny finished the last 3.5 miles and kept us on track. I’ve been trying to work this rule into relay running since 2010. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn it and for a team who believes it.

My second run was twelve miles and began at 3 in the morning. It was cold about 36 degrees Fahrenheit.  My stomach had not recovered from the morning jaunt, but I was feeling better.

After our second leg of the race, we slept about two hours and then went back out for our final run. More heat! We began our run at 11:20 and it was getting toasty. I began my last ten miles at 130 pm. When I finished, I was glad to be done.

We did have two runners vomit during the race and one major GI(diarrhea) explosion, but we persevered. We are, after all, team Nut up or Shut up!

After finishing twelve relays, I’ve decided being in Van two is more difficult than being in Van one. It’s more about the structure of the relay than the terrain, but the terrain in Van two for mountain relays typically has more elevation and Van one has longer distances.

Epic Finish Start To finish 35 hours

Pick your van wisely.

Van one Benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits:

Runs during cooler temperatures.

Maintains a more normal eating routine.

Maintains a more normal sleeping routine.

Finish first.

Drawbacks:

You have to leave a day early.

Typically has longer miles.

Van Two benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits:

Don’t have to leave until Friday

Shorter miles

Drawbacks:

Eating pattern is compromised

Sleeping pattern is compromised

Generally more elevation gain than van one

Finish last.

More severe temperatures

 

A Vigil for Justice: Episode two

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

RECAP: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig just found out that the Justice Law was passed. The Justice Law allows all US citizens to take the life of three other people without consequence. Melanie is disgusted by the law and can’t understand how something like this could have been signed into law. She dropped her sister off at school and then headed to school herself. She met her friends in the parking lot and headed to class.

Flag

Melanie’s second class was history, and her teacher had the television tuned into the president’s news conference on the Justice Law. After the assassination of President Faust last year, Vice President Ammon Vick assumed the office.  President Vick was a military man with a clean-shaven sharp angled face and long nose. He had piercing blue eyes and short obsidian hair. President was a title Vick had held at the NRA as well, but that was during the war. He held himself straight and bold, shoulders back and his expression even the American flag rippling in the wind at his back. His hands rested lightly on the podium

“—the NCPS will be synced with the SAFE system allowing the tracking of justice deaths. The security codes emitted from the RFID’s in designated safe zones will disable all firearms reducing the possibility of justice deaths in the vicinity of schools and churches. Metal detectors will be installed at the entrance of all schools and churches, which do not already have them. The safety of our citizens while at an educational facility is paramount. If we are to overcome this crisis the education of our children is essential.”

Melanie’s dad had helped develop the SAFE system. It was never meant to be connected with the National Cybersecurity Protection System.  The NCPS had the ability to monitor any cyber activity of U.S. citizens. Homeland Security has always said that they only monitor for terroristic threats and acts of violence, but Melanie knew it was more. Ever since the Homeland Security Act was passed in 2002, the government has inched its way into private homes. It had become such a ubiquitous presence that when the SAFE system was proposed, it was accepted by the people with minor opposition.

Her father had been so proud of SAFE.

“It will change everything Melbelle,” he said. The flecks of green in his hazel eyes caught the rays of the sun as he danced her around in a circle holding her small hands in his larger ones.

“Five years, that’s my prediction. It will take five years to really get going, but then it will fix everything.”

It has been four years, and she still believed in her father’s dream. Just a little more time and things would get better, she thought. SAFE revolutionized the social services system of the United States. The economy was going down before World War 3 broke out in 2016, but the war finished the job. In 2017, SAFE, Social Alliance Freedom Emission, was implemented. Her father had appeared on television with the flag waiving behind him to announce SAFE to the public.

“The Social Alliance Freedom Emission system will create thousands of jobs through manufacturing, installation, debugging, and monitoring. Every American is entitled to food, shelter, and medical care despite their income, race, religion, or sexual preferences. SAFE will replace the current social security and public welfare systems that are bleeding our depleted economy dry. Meeting the basic needs of the starving will eliminate much of the crime.” Her father’s words had convinced sixty-three percent of the American population to vote for SAFE.

“The SAFE system was supposed to fix many of the problems you are now saying will be solved by the Justice Law,” commented an off screen female reporter.

“The SAFE system has failed to do what Robert Craig promised it would,” said President Vick.

Melanie clenched her jaw. Several of the other students who were listening turned their eyes toward her at the mention of her father’s name, but just as quickly refocused on the television.

“We have seen some decline in the street violence, but it is just taking too long. Our cities are war zones and something more has to be done. The Justice Law—“

The bell rang, and the teacher clicked the television off.

“This is history in the making Mr. Johnson, why’d you turn it off?” asked a boy named Harrison.

“It will be your children’s history Harrison, not yours.” Mr. Johnson pushed his black wide framed glasses up on his nose. His brown plaid button down shirt was tucked into a pair of light blue jeans. People in Blue River held onto the past. That’s one of the reasons Melanie’s family had moved there. Her father had been a technological genius of Steve Jobs proportions, but he also held onto relics of the bygone age of the hippies. He was a contradiction in many ways.

In Blue River, you could forget that the war and resulting economic crash had happened, at least on most days. The only reminders that the US economy had fallen into the abyss were the newscasts of the violence in other cities and of course SAFE. And although these were a constant backdrop to daily life, people had a way of not noticing them.

As Melanie walked out to the parking lot to meet up with Mitchel, Holly, and Seth for lunch, she sent a tweet to a couple of her dad’s geek friends she has remained in contact with after her dad’s death. People in Blue River may be happy going with the flow of a simplistic life, but she needed information.

Seth was leaning against Mitchel’s truck clicking through messages or something on his phone.

“Hey Melbelle,” he said, glancing up at her for a flash. She hated it when he called her that. Only her father called her by that name.

“I’ve asked you not to call me that Seth.” She frowned at him.

“Sorry. Did you catch any of the president’s press conference?” He shoved his phone in his pocket.

“Bits and pieces, Mr. Johnson turned it off. You?”

“Not much. June first is the big day.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s when the Justice Law takes effect. Guess they wanted to give everyone time to prepare, so they announced it early,” Seth said.

Twenty-eight days, Melanie thought.

Mitchel and Holly strode up. Mitchel fist bumped Seth, and kissed Melanie. His eyes were soft as they met hers. They piled into Melanie’s car.

“Where to for lunch?” Holly asked, leaning forward between the two front seats.

“TacoTime,” Mitchel suggested.

Seth groaned, and Melanie started the car. None of them wanted to talk about the Justice Law, but everyone’s thoughts were consumed by it. Melanie knew they would eventually have to talk about it. Something like this couldn’t be ignored by friends. The ride to TacoTime was quiet other than the pine filled air blowing through the windows of the car at freeway speeds. TacoTime was a few miles away in Frisco. Melanie slowed down as they reach the town. Still no one spoke.

They stood staring at the menu inside the brightly colored dining room. Melanie looked at each of them. She would trust anyone of them with her life. They were her best friends. She had trusted them with her life many times already camping, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.

None of the others were ready, so Melanie stepped forward and ordered.

She waived her left wrist over the SAFE scanner. It beeped indicating it had received the signal. Her credit union information appeared on the screen below her order and the total. She tapped her finger on the touch screen to pay and then stepped out of the way to wait.

Melanie checked her phone, pushed her earbud into her ear, and listened to the video @geekedout had sent her. The others ordered and paid just as she had. They slid into a yellow and orange booth in the corner of the dining area.

“Do you think it is really possible Mel?” Holly asked. Melanie’s mouth was full. Holly had never had much interest in technology. She relied on Melanie for all of her information on the latest innovations whether it was a device or a program. Unlike Melanie, Holly never wanted to leave Blue River. Holly had no reason to leave. Everything she could ever want was right here.

All of them waited for her to finish chewing even though both Mitchel and Seth had an idea of what Melanie was going to say. Especially Seth, sometimes he had information that not even Melanie, with all her dad’s connections, had heard about yet. She thought he was a hacker, but Mitchel didn’t think his twin was that smart.

Melanie swallowed and took a pull off her soda. She assumed Holly was asking about tracking what the president had called justice deaths. She disagreed with the terminology, but answered Holly question.

“Yes, it’s possible to track justice deaths. Most of the early technology has been in place since 2012. It just wasn’t rolled out to the public. In 2012, a guy named Ron Conway started the Smart Tech Challenge Foundation, which offered millions of dollars to innovators to come up with new idea to stop the school shootings. They developed the Radio Frequency Identification Device or RFID to track firearms and to disable them. I’m sure they have continued and with the combination of the NCPS and SAFE, anything is possible.”

She loved twitter, without it, she wouldn’t be able to answer her friends or her own questions.

What do you mean easy days?

track run

“These are hard,” Spongebunny said breathless.

“Only three more, you’re halfway.” I smiled and kept pushing the six minute pace.

Running is never easy, right? Wrong. Many beginning and experienced runners run too hard on their easy run days. Each of your runs should serve a specific purpose. Running too hard on easy days compromises your ability to benefit from your quality workouts.

Easy run means run at a pace where you can hold a conversation of about three sentences at a time with another runner. The goal of an easy run is to keep your muscles loose and to work on your aerobic system. You are increasing the efficiency of blood flow to your lungs, heart, and blood vessels.  You are teaching your body to metabolize and uptake oxygen faster and more efficiently.

Anaerobic on the other hand increases your power, strength, and speed. This is what you are doing when you run hills and speed work. Running hard is expected and desired. Push to your body to its limit and then do one more.

“This will get easier right?” Spongebunny asked.

I laughed. “Yes, but then you just add more repetitions.”

“Why are we doing this?”

“If you want to get faster, you have to train to run fast. Teach your body what it can do,” I said, my breathing regaining the slow rhythm of the recovery lap.

“So, I should be running all my runs harder?”

I shook my head back and forth. “Nope. Respect the easy days. The reason I can put up numbers like 7:00 minute miles for a six miles after swimming and cycling, is because I respect my easy days. If I push hard on all of my runs, my body cannot recover and the quality of my hill training and speed work will seriously decline.”

My easy days are done at whatever pace my body needs. Most days that is a 9-930 minute per mile pace. But, some days it is a 10-10:30 pace and that’s okay. In fact, it’s great because it reminds me that I need my easy days. I don’t worry about the pace of the run, I focus on how I feel during the run. There should be no burning muscles or lungs. No wheezing or gulping air and definitely no vomiting.

Respecting the easy days, allows you to be at the top of your game on the hard days. This really applies to all aspects of life work, parenting, and socializing. Life is full of ups and downs. Enjoy those recovery days because you’re going to have to dig deep sometimes sooner than you realize.

 

Innocence

courthouse

Men in black and grey suits stood on the street corner across from the stone white courthouse checking their phones and watches. Rays of sunlight streaming over the peaks of the mountains ricocheted off the curved glass windows. The walk light blinked on. The dong of the clock tower sounded 8:45 am. I stepped off the curb tugging my rolling briefcase behind me.  It rumbled across the red brick crosswalk. My hand tightens around the handle as I step over the train rails and pull my briefcase across.

A few steps from the curb, a boy and girl hand in hand rounded the corner. A smile tickled the corner of my mouth and erupted in my eyes. So young. So innocent. To me, they are perfect and out of place.  They weren’t be more than fourteen years old.

His brown hair was short with a rounded neckline.  He wore a light blue button down short sleeve shirt with flecks of sea green, untucked from his khaki shorts that hung below his knees.  My smile widened to impossible depths when I noticed he was wearing almond dress shoes with black laces, no socks.

She wore a white short-sleeved dress decorated with crimson poppies that hung just below her knees.  Her brown hair swept past her shoulders and fluttered at her elbows. She had rouge on her cheeks and light blue eye shadow, makeup that was wrapped in pink princess wrapping paper for her birthday.

Despite it being late summer, both are pale skinned without any tan lines. Not sickly pale, but pale as innocence, one who has not been burned by the world passing around them.  Christmas morning fills their expressions as they glance around and at one another.

It’s a full court calendar this morning, a parade of what goes wrong in children’s lives drugs, violence, poverty, and worse. I watch the two cross the road away from white stone of the courthouse.  Locking their image away safe in my mind, I drag my case files up the ramp to the revolving door. I lift my briefcase up on the conveyer belt to go through security.

People in front of me set off the security sensors, but I don’t. I’ve been through it too many times. Nodding to the police officers, I set my briefcase on the floor and pull out the handle to its full length. It clicks out a familiar rhythm as I cross the marble tiled floor to the stairs.

I lean to the left to offset the weight of the briefcase as I climb the stairs to the second floor.

A Vigil for Justice: Episode One

Blue River Town

A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

“Who would you kill?” asked Sam, reading the front page of the Denver Post over her sister’s shoulder.

“No one Sam, and neither will you. Go get your stuff, we’re going to be late,” Melanie said. She pushed the chair back and downed the rest of her orange juice.

“This is insanity,” she whispered setting the newspaper on the breakfast table. She picked up her backpack and shoved her three ring binders inside. How could a law like this pass? Maybe we should just stay home today.  She checked the front pocket of her backpack for her favorite pencil and pen, seeing them safe inside, she tugged the zipper closed. Their smoky cat with blue eyes curled around her leg meowing.

Melanie looked at his food dish. Empty. She sighed and walked to the pantry. Reaching into the bag, she grabbed a handful of the tiny fish shaped pieces and dumped them into Austen’s bowl.

Samantha bounced down the stairs on tiptoe, sandy braids bouncing on her shoulders, and a Hello Kitty purse slung over her shoulder.

“You ready?” Melanie asked grabbing their lunches out of the fridge.

“Yep. I would put a pencil in Byron’s eye,” Sam said.

Melanie shot her a death glare. “Don’t talk like that. This isn’t a joke.”

“He pulls my hair and steals my crayons. Yesterday—”

“Enough.”

Sam twisted her finger in the end of her braid.  “I have a field trip today.”

Melanie cringed on the inside, sending her eight-year-old sister to school on a day like today was bad, but out in public could be life shattering for both of them.

“Really, where are you going?”

“The Museum of Natural History.”

“That will be interesting.” She smiled at her sister.

Melanie pulled the maroon front door of the house shut and checked the lock. Dew clung to her sneakers as she crossed the lawn to her car parked against the curb. She glanced both ways down the street and walked a full circle around the car peering through the windows before clicking the unlock button on her key. God, she was already paranoid as it was. She preferred the term hyper-vigilant, but her friends called her paranoid, only half joking.

She drove the familiar route to Upper Blue Elementary her mind wriggling with the possibilities of the future in their small Colorado town.

“Have a great day at the museum. Mom will pick you up from Ballet at five,” Melanie called as Sam pushed the door of the car closed.

She pulled into the parking lot of Summit High School. Mitchel was sitting in his green pickup truck waiting for her like he did every morning. She put her car in park and turned the engine off. As she stepped out, Mitchel got out of his truck. He was a year old her than her, a senior. His cologne pulled her in before his arms even had a hold of her. The tension left her shoulders with his embrace. She hadn’t even noticed it before. Tension being a normal sensation was definitely something she had to work on.

He kissed her and brushed her long walnut hair back from her face. “Good morning, Mel.”

She breathed him in and rested her head against his chest. Holly clobbered them from the side, her copper curls descending on them like octopus tenticles. All three of them crashed into Mel’s car.

“Did you see the paper?” she asked.

“Totally fine here,” Melanie said smiling as she righted herself from her best friend’s impact. Holly was as intense as her fiery hair and emerald eyes.

Mitchel wrapped his arm around Melanie’s shoulder. She fit perfectly against his body.

“See what?” he asked.

“That crazy Justice Law passed, the one about the killing three people during your lifetime without repercussions.” Her eyes were wild with the implications.

“No way,” he said.

“Yeah, I saw it too,” Melanie said as Mitchel snatched the paper out of Holly’s hands bumping Melanie’s head with his bicep.

“Sorry,” he said. His brown eyes scanned the headline and moved down the page.

“Christ all mighty,” he said.

“Nothing will change here. Blue River is too small, and everyone knows everyone,” Mitchel said, taking Melanie’s hand in his.

“Maybe.” Melanie turned to face her car. The lights flashed and horn chirped.

The three of them crossed the parking lot and entered the school. The first bell rang. Mitchel kissed Melanie again.

“I’ll see you at lunch?”

Melanie nodded. He began to turn away, but then he tipped her chin up and snuck in one last kiss before she turned down the hall where her and Holly’s locker was. Wonder if mom saw the article before she left for work this morning. Melanie’s phone vibrated in her back pocket.

She pulled it out. It was a text from her mom. Passing students bumped and jostled her as she stared down at her phone. Holly looped her arm through Melanie’s and guided her down the hall as she responded to her mom.

“We’ll talk tonight. Sam remember her permission slip?”

“Not sure,” Melanie text

“Alright, have a good day.”

Melanie smiled and slipped the phone back into her pocket. She turned the lock to the locker, left, right, left, and lifted the latch.

“You have chemistry, right?” she asked Holly and handed her the textbook.

“Same as every other B day,” Holly said smiling. “I’ll catch you at lunch.” Melanie nodded and pulled out her calculus book. She pressed her hand against the cold metal locker door, and it clicked shut. Mitchel’s right nothing will change here. Blue River is quiet. There’s not much crime to talk about, and the big cities are a ways off.

“You seen Mitch?” Melanie jumped, ripped from her self-soothing thoughts.  Mitchel’s brother, Seth was staring at her, eyebrows raised, and looking from one of her eyes to the other.

“You okay?” he asked.

“What? I’m fine,” she stammered. Seth was Mitchel’s twin. They were identical, but Seth was a few inches shorter and had bleached his dark hair, turning it orange.

“He just went to class.”

“Cool, see ya.”

The second bell rang just as she walked through the door to class. She slid her backpack off her shoulders and onto the floor as she sank into a desk at the back of the room. She had to focus. She pushed the chaotic possibilities that seeped into her mind aside for now. With her binder flipped open on her desk, she dug in her backpack for her pencil.

She wrote the date on the top line of the page, May 3, 2021, and drew the number three in the corner, outlining it, blocking it, and adding various designs as Mr. Baker went over the assignment.