Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.

Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

Fearless but not ENDless

Technically the summer’s been over for a few weeks now; I just haven’t wanted to admit it. I ignored Labor Day. I overlooked the crisp apples at the local farmer’s market. I pressed past the aisles full of Halloween candy.

But on Saturday it was only in the 60′s. It’s hard to pretend it’s still summer while curled under a blanket wearing a fleece.

But how can it be over? (I say this despite having completed my 9th day of school).

LUCKY MIA‘s over too… at least this stage of it. And that’s a hard truth to accept. I still wake up with words on my fingertips and itch to insert self-indulgent chapters to the MS. I hear songs and add them to Mia’s soundtrack. I miss the story. I miss the characters. I spent more time with them than anyone else this summer.

And how can it be over? (I say this despite the kitchen dance party that commenced when I read The End for the final time).

I’ll give up summer. I’ll even accept that MIA doesn’t need an epilogue. But I’m not giving up my FEARLESS. The challenges I created and accepted this summer changed me. The never-back-down, what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?, scared-is-not-an-acceptable-excuse attitude I adopted still doesn’t sit comfortably over my inclination to flee and retreat. But I don’t care. I owe myself more than that.

On Saturday night, as I shivered in my fleece and sipped spiced cider, I took a deep breath and erased MIA from the whiteboard walls of the NTB.


Staring at the blank walls was scary. How to fill them? What to fill them with? Would I love the new project as much as MIA? Where to even begin?

I studied them all night, finally falling asleep beneath walls that mocked me with their emptiness.

And I woke with new, nervous words on my fingertips. My first marker strokes were tentative, made of shaky letters and timid bullet points.

But it’s a whiteboard, mistake and changes wipe away with the swipe of a dusting cloth.

By mid-afternoon the wall looked like this.

And that fear and doubt? Replaced by hope and inspiration.

Who’s up for FEARLESS FALL?

8) Camping requires lots of STUFF

8) Camping has lots of STUFF you can buy.

I kinda like this part of camping. Okay, I really like this part of camping. Along with all new pink and green river outfits, and my waterproof notepads, there was lots of new STUFF.

Like, my flashlight. It has FOUR settings. One of them is the Spinning Disco Lights setting. That is TOO COOL. Yes, everyone else had official looking headlamps. But my flashlight blinked Green, Red, and Yellow. Theirs did NOT.

And there are tents and sleeping bags and cup holders that float. And waterproof bags and sparkly helmets. And campfires that run off of propane tanks. And, did you know that you can buy ice in 18 inch cubes? This reminded me so much of Little House on the Prairie and the blocks of ices they cut from frozen ponds.

There are mattress pads that come in all sorts of colors and waterproof MP3 players (which I totally should have had b/c I stupidly brought Speedy the iPod on the river and he stopped working after day 1… he magically recovered once we were back in PA).

I just wanted to go in a sporting goods store and buy all of the gadgets and widgets and electronic things that look like they fell out of Westerfeld’s UGLIES.

In fact, on our way home from the airport – before we’d eaten or showered or done anything prodcutive, I convinced St.Matt to detour to E.M.S. so I could just look at it all again.

He wouldn’t let me buy any! Not even when I argued that there may come a time when we need a throw bag in our backyard…

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7) River trips have their own language.

7) The Language of the River.

I spent a good part of the trip having no idea what anyone was talking about. This glossary should be about 12 zillion words long but A) I procrastinated in writing it and forgot most of them B) I tend to tune out things I don’t understand, so…

Anyway, here is river-language, according to me.

Groover – A box that is pooped in. So I hear. Not that I would know. Ewwww!

High Side – A command that means throw yourself at whatever part of the raft Capt. D points too. I was glad we never had to actually use this command b/c I am convinced I would have overzealously thrown myself OUT of the boat and onto whatever obstacle we were trying to skirt.

Kubb – My new favorite beach game. It involves throwing things at other things and knocking them down. It also has a castle. I’m good at falling down. I like castles. I don’t throw very accurately, but no one seemed to mind.

PFD – Personal Flotation Device. You and I know this as a “life vest.” I called it a PDF by accident at least twice a day.

Master Blaster – It has a flame and makes the coffee. That’s all I needed to know.

Throw Bag – This is a bag that is, um, thrown when someone goes overboard. But before you throw it, you have to make sure that you hold on to one end…

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5) If you haven’t used your underwater camera in a year – check it before going shutterbuggy

Doesn’t our underwater camera look cool?


I posed and hammed it up for all sorts of FEARLESS shots – I only learned to row the boat so that St. Matt could take photographic proof. I even took a picture of me completing one of Victoria’s dares. A photo of me cannonballing off of a moving raft into the river.

And I delayed writing this blog until I could go pick up the pictures and photo CD’s. You were all going to be so impressed…

But then the photo place had a machine malfunction and we couldn’t pick up the pictures ’til last night. So we bounced in (okay, I bounced and St. Matt walked) and I proudly handed the woman our slip and her face fell. “Oh, yeah. About your order… We were going to call you…”

They’re blank!

Two rolls of blank film.

72 frames!

How could that even happen? The camera flashed, blinked, advanced – shouldn’t there be images? So I have my safe-on-dry-land Petunia pics, but any photographic evidence that I did more than pose on the banks of a river will have to come from my river compatriots. Guys? *

*And did they! Thanks Katie and Joshi for letting taking pictures that are GORGEOUS and letting me borrow them.

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Why I Cried in my Classroom Today

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

I was talking to another teacher yesterday and he was telling me he’s ready to come back to school. “I hate the end of things – whether it’s the school year or the summer – I get impatient to start what’s next .”

I hate the end of things too, but for an entirely different reason. I hate endings.

  • I always hesitate before turning the last page of a truly great book – because I’m reluctant to say good-bye to the characters.
  • I’ve never seen the final episode for Full House, Wonder Years, Dawson’s Creek, or Gilmore Girls because if the screenwriters choose to NOT give the characters a happily ever after, I didn’t want to see it. I’d prefer the unknown to a resolution that would haunt me.
  • The end of the school year makes me cry – those kiddos will go on to great adventures, but I won’t be in their day-to-day lives to see their triumphs.
But there’s something particularly awful about the end of summer, because not only does it mark a new beginning, but it requires classroom set-up as well. I am not a visual-spatial person. The idea of setting up a single room so that it’s functional for 28 people is beyond my scope. So each year I stand in the chaos of desks and boxes, folders and textbooks and I cry. Every year.

But why? I’m not a crier and even though I never believe it in-that-moment, I know it will all get finished and organized – or at least shoved away somewhere.

So why tears?

It’s because of the NEW. I’m not crying for loose-leaf paper or post-it notes. Not even for that last desk that won’t fit anywhere or the spelling book that’s gone missing over the summer.

I’m crying because I’m worried about the NEW. My tears say: Hey New Kiddos I Don’t Know Yet, I want this classroom to be perfect for YOU and I hope you like it and I hope you like me.


I know by late September I’ll be able to tell any of these kiddos to find a spot for the index cards or a better way to store the extra copies of Time For Kids. They’ll be telling me where they want to sit and how to rearrange the desks.

… but that first day, when we don’t know each other yet, I want to offer them perfection.

I feel the same way about writing. I’ve been dreading and procrastinating about my next writing project. LUCKY MIA’S still on the walls of the NTB – even though I haven’t needed those notes in months. I just can’t bring myself to erase them yet.

What if I don’t love my next project as much as I love this book? What if the characters don’t resonate as loudly or keep me up at night with fierce wonderings? My outdated MIA-notes are a literary security blanket, they’re a reflection of my endings issues. I don’t want to let go.

But it’s FEARLESS Summer, so I will. I spent yesterday afternoon making notes on potential next projects. I’ve got five vying for my attention, clamoring to be noticed. I used my big teacher paper and markers – I’m not ready to commit one to the whiteboard walls yet – and gave each story the chance to say “Pick me!” And they ALL did.


So, baby steps. I’ve got them on paper… I’ve hung the paper on the wall in the NTB.

Someday soon I’ll be reaching for erasers – both in the classroom and the NTB – and in both instances I’ll learn, as I always do, that while new may be scary… it’s also so exhilarating too.

6) Braids are the ideal river hairstyle

6) Just because it’s camping and there aren’t bubble baths doesn’t mean I couldn’t bring the pampering. Not only did I do my own hair, but I coerced the other girls into letting me French braid theirs in all sorts of ways. I owe them all a big THANK YOU, for letting me treat them like Barbie dolls – I think that playing beauty parlor was my way of bringing a piece of Tiffany to an entirely non-Tiffany environment.

I don’t have any pictures of my own hair (see #5) but here’s a great one of J-bean and Capt. D. Awww, adorable! See, you’d totally never guess that she hadn’t showered in four days!

The twists and loops are great at hiding the hasn’t-been-washedness. How do I know? I got complimented in the airport on Wednesday, when I hadn’t touched shampoo since the previous Friday. I might’ve given that woman a strange look along with a thank you.

Return to Lessons from the River…

Lessons from the River – My FEARLESS Adventure

Fearless doesn’t mean without fear . Okay, technically it does, but for the purpose of Fearless Summer it means acknowledging that something is scary or difficult and then *gulp* doing it anyway.

What could be scarier or more challenging than ME on a 5-day Whitewater rafting trip through the Gates of Lodore in Colorado and Utah? (Admit it, you were a little scared when you saw the words Tiffany & Whitewater together).

But I DID IT!

Lessons Learned on the River:

2) What a groover is. If you don’t know, you probably don’t want to.

3) If you scream like horror-flick blonde, you will get made fun of around the campfire.

4) When things go wrong on the river, they go wrong fast and they go really wrong.

5) If you haven’t used your underwater camera in a year – check it before going shutterbuggy.

6) Braids are the ideal river hairstyle.

7) River trips have their own language.

8) Camping requires lots of STUFF

Don’t we look rather FEARLESS? Okay, really we just look amused…. but there was plenty of fearlessness occurring too. And it was, most definitely, an ADVENTURE!

Apply sunblock BEFORE you put on your Chacos

Like my stripe-y sunburn?

The shoes that caused it… (though mine are lighter pink)

photo credit

…Also, pedicures are no match for camping.

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2 ) I am not a camper.

I attempted it once when I was six and ended up in the hospital before it was time for s’mores – and that was the only reason I’d wanted to try it. That some people are just-not-meant-to-be-campers was brought home to me on this trip in some very real ways.*

For instance, while I had a great time practicing setting up the tent with J-bean in her front yard:

Yes, I am modeling my lifevest over a dress

I didn’t really think about the fact that when I had to sleep in it the next night, it would be out in the WILD and it would be dark. It’s a good thing St. Matt bought me a kid’s flashlight, complete with blinking lights (aka the ‘disco setting’) and a nightlight. I kept that on the whole first night.

Another thing that hadn’t occurred to me even once was where people went to the bathroom in the woods. I’m not a moron – I didn’t expect sparkling powder rooms with uniformed attendants – I just hadn’t thought about it at all. When J-bean told me about the groover, I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.

Um, no. Letting her show me was all the experience I needed. Thank God, this was a shortish trip. Maybe next time I’ll think about it…

… then again, maybe not!

*This was also brought home to be post-trip, when everyone who asked me how the trip was, did so by saying *giggle* “How was camping, Tiffany?” *giggle* “Did you like it? I’m shocked you survived!” hrumph!!!

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