Hiking Mount Cheaha, Alabama’s Highest Point

“Are you ready?”

My dad obviously didn’t think so. But in all fairness, I couldn’t blame him. We hadn’t hiked in over a year, and we were about to tackle one of the most difficult trails in the southernmost Appalachians. One that dropped more than a thousand feet in the first half a mile. My mom (smart woman, it turns out) decided not to join us. Continue reading

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Farmhouse

Weekend at the Farm

Have you ever felt like you were in a book? I have, once, a few Saturdays ago.

Farmhouse Kitchen

We drove about two hours outside of town to our friends’ farmhouse, and although we’ve been there dozens of times, something about this time was different. I felt like I was being guided, almost pulled, by some crafty writer who kept making grasshoppers chirp and laughter bellow and who just couldn’t keep from  jumping and pointing and saying, “Did you know that a place like this could exist? Look! It does! Let me show you.”

Farmhouse Table

I started noticing it that night when I fell asleep to the smell of vanilla, wrapped in fleece and hand-sewn blankets in a room bound by wood and family heirlooms. Sunday morning, it felt like my writer was pleading, “Look! Look at the sunshine streaming through the windows! Look how it makes everything glow! Forget the vanilla. Smell the coffee, the leftover smoke of late-night cigars! Listen to the bacon hit the cast-iron and sizzle!”

Liquor Cabinet

It continued through breakfast. We gathered around the table and drank coffee, black, over 1920s jazz. We ate potatoes fried in bacon grease; cheddar melted over grits; and avocado, bacon, and egg atop toasted sourdough.

Pouring Coffee

I tell you, the farm really is like a house you find in books, the ones that most people dream about but wouldn’t know how to live in even if they had the chance. Our friends, however, have perfected the art, and they make a weekend in the country everything it should be. I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll be cold enough next time to light the stove.

Breakfast

(And, because I’m sure all that talk about bacon made you hungry, here’s  a recipe. It’s especially great served with hash browns, cheese grits, and fresh bananas.)

Avocado, Bacon, and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Avocado, Bacon, and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 sourdough buns, cut in half
  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 4 large eggs
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast sourdough halves 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp and brown.
  3. Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with cold water and eggs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3-4 minutes. Immediately remove from heat, drain, and soak eggs in cold water and ice. Once cool, remove eggshells and slice eggs.
  4. Layer sourdough halves, spicy brown mustard, avocado slices, egg slices, and bacon.
Greensboro

A Transition

Well folks, that’s it. I’ve been living in the charming town of Greensboro, Alabama, for about a year now, and here I am, packing up and moving again. I am moving because I have accepted a job in Birmingham as a writer for a local newspaper, which means that, for various reasons, I will not be returning to teach a second year with Teach For America. After much distance – spending weeks agonizing over the decision, struggling between the idea of fulfilling a commitment and the idea of being happy – I have an incredible amount of peace about where I landed. As I look back at the reasons why I joined Teach For America, I realize that so much and yet so little has changed. My passion for education and my desire to be a leader haven’t changed; my career path and outlook on life have. I joined Teach For America as a way to jump-start a new career in teaching, something that, at the time, I thought I would want to do forever. Now, I realize that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I have gained so much from my last year of teaching – a new appreciation for teachers, an even stronger passion and anger at the senseless lack of opportunity that exists in many of America’s schools, a greater understanding of my skills and how I may use them for the benefit of myself and others, a better understanding about where America’s education system fails and what needs to be done in order to fix it, and, most importantly, a new outlook on life that will make me forever grateful for each and every opportunity that I receive.

In many ways, it feels strange to be writing this post. I’m talking about leaving Teach For America, and I never even wrote anything about my experience as a corps member. Part of that stems from the fact that, frankly, I just didn’t have time. I worked, on average, 80 hours a week for an entire school year, and I still felt like I was drowning.

The other reason I never wrote anything is that I just didn’t know what to say. Even now, I’m at a complete loss for words, and I’m afraid to put words on paper – or even let words slip from my lips – for fear that any story I tell will not wholly represent my experience as a corps member. I’m afraid that any one story would either perpetuate the stereotypes that exist about America’s education system and the communities struggling within it, or it would misrepresent the work that corps members across the country are doing on a daily basis. How does one convey the gravity, the difficulty, the complexity of the situation through a story with a finite amount of words? I’m afraid such a task may only be accomplished with a book.

I’ll also be the first to admit that it’s much easier to block this past year from my memory rather than write or talk about it. It’s easy to forget about those mornings when I drove to work in tears and employed every bit of strength I had not to turn around, just like it’s easy to forget those afternoon tutoring sessions when three or four students would tell me, “This has been so helpful. You’re a really good teacher,” when I had heard the exact opposite message for nearly five hours earlier that day.

But as I think about how easy it would be to forget these things, it scares me. I think about everything I have learned this year – about my new home, about my country, about myself – and I know that I do not want to forget any of it. Not the funny moments, not the good moments, not the eye-opening moments, not even the breathtakingly bad moments, as these were the moments when I think I learned the most. I say all of this, yet I have done nothing to make these memories permanent. I’m sure other corps members would agree with me when I say, “I wanted to write about my experience as it happened, but I just didn’t have the time between lesson planning and attending meetings and (sometimes) eating and (sometimes) sleeping…”

This past year has been a whirlwind. A difficult whirlwind, but I will be forever grateful for it. In one-word answers, it has taught me patience, strength, faithfulness, gratitude, humility, and joy in ways I never would have imagined. As I sort through it all, bear with me. Some thoughts and stories I will share here. Others will only surface in conversations over coffee and in my own journal for safe-keeping. In the meantime, I would love to hear about yours. I would love for you to ask me more about mine. Like I said, there is so, so much to tell.