This morning was a bit of a blur. The alarm went off and I felt the events of yesterday sneak back into my consciousness bit by bit.
I had a great first day at PCTELA. I listened to Dr. Bernard Hall talk about using hip hop in the English classroom, I learned about a couple of new tech tools (check out Coggle for one), and I had a great audience for my presentation. And I cried while Cynthia Lord presented (authors never fail to make me cry…one more reason not to bother with eyeliner at a conference). I got to visit with friends from all over the state and happily talk books. (Brian Kelley asked me about the first book that made me cry – that led to a whole discussion about ugly cry books that carried over to at least three other conversations. Thank you, Brian, for the inspiration!)
Probably one of the coolest things that happened was that I got to make a wish on Cynthia Lord’s Newbery Honor plaque.
But I didn’t realize I’d need to wish that Sara would get to Harrisburg for the conference. She’d found herself stuck in an airport and I was getting quick text message updates, but it didn’t sound like there was an easy fix for her. She was stuck.
By the time I had gotten home last night after dinner, I realized that I would likely be presenting in the morning by myself. Sara Kajder and I were planning on presenting a session we titled “Re)Building Adolescent Readers” – a topic I could surely discuss on my own (though it would be far less fun than presenting with my friend). So I crawled into bed early and set my alarm for 3:30 AM so that I felt like I’d have ample time to finish preparing.
I’d clearly pushed the snooze button a few times because it was a bit after 4 and all this is coming back to me.
My brain was buzzing with all of the things I needed to and wanted to do to prepare – and when I realized I wasn’t quite able to focus, I went to go get showered and ready to leave.
And leave I did, with plenty of time to get to the conference early to tinker with a couple of other things I’d hopefully iron out in my head on the drive.
In the car I was running myself through the presentation. I was thinking about how I hoped Sara had gotten some sleep, wherever she was the night before. I was worrying about whether or not she’d at least be able to get home. I was remembering the conversations I’d had the night before and how I was looking forward to hearing Kwame Alexander speak again.
And then something big and brown popped up in the corner of my vision – and before I had a chance for my brain to process what I saw (or even to just react), I could hear the impact it had on my car. Shakily, I pulled over and carefully got out of the car, looking behind me to see if what I’d hit (what had hit me?) was by the side of the road.
There wasn’t anything to see. Just a blank stretch of road.
But on the front right bumper on the passenger side, I could see more than I wanted. The headlight was smashed, though still on. The bumper was missing in some places, jagged edges left behind. There was something I didn’t want to investigate too closely on the side of my passenger door. I called my husband, took some pictures, and tried to drive home (with the hope that I could swap cars and hope I’d get to the conference in time to present).
But I didn’t take the car home – I waited for Jason to come and I followed him home in the poor damaged car. I talked to the insurance agent and filed a claim. I told my husband that I still wanted to go to the conference. I’d paid for the day and didn’t want to miss out.
I think there was this silly notion in my head that I might still make it there in time.
It didn’t happen.
I walked in about ten minutes before our session would have ended.
But I was there.
The day could have been so much worse. Sure, I’ll have the hassle of insurance claims and getting my car fixed. I still feel a bit sore from where I guess my seat belt did its job (even though I don’t remember it tightening against me). But I’m okay.
I heard about Sara getting stuck and my unfortunate encounter with the deer all day. I got a ton of hugs and concerned questions about whether I was okay or not.
That felt good, having all of these people checking in on me. Even total strangers.
It was good to be away from home, focusing on something else, too. I got to talk about YA books (especially the importance of diverse books) with a bunch of preservice teachers and hear Toby Emert talk about LGBTQ topics in YA literature. I got to tell people how awesome ALAN is. I got to listen to Kwame Alexander talk about how poetry can reinvigorate our students love of language.
I’m home now. I’m dressed down. I’m waiting for my guys to get home from their own adventures for the day. I am sore and tired.
And I am relieved.
Nothing about my day went quite how I anticipated – not how I had predicted it would be last week or yesterday or even this morning.
Some days are just like that. The lesson doesn’t work out right. You get sick and have to call off – and send in your plans. An opportunity comes your way and you decide to see where it takes you. You see a student who needs you more than you need to check off your to-do list after school. You need to be there with your own kid after he’s had a rough day.
But even in those moments, where you’re wiping away the tears (your own or someone else’s) or scribbling out your thoughts on what went wrong in the hopes of making it better next time, I am relieved to be able to recognize my ability to choose what’s important to me and to make the best of what comes my way.