Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A New Era of Skiing for Me? Kachemak Women's Nordic Ski Team

As I've skiied the trails around Homer the past couple years I've passed a group of women skiing up and down hills and doing drills. I figured it was ski lessons, but last week when we went to the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club's annual meeting I discovered more about the group.

First of all, the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club's (KNSC) annual meeting was a rowdy affair. Packed into a bar (Only packed because there were so many people. I would say over a 100-ish throughout the evening), there was a full lineup of delicious food, a silent auction, door prizes, kids games and, later on, a live band. Since it wasn't packed when we first got there, the woman in charge of the Women's Nordic Ski Team, Megan Corazza, nabbed me and tried to recruit me. I was intrigued. I've been looking for ways to meet more people, and I enjoy a good workout. When Megan started talking about a 3 hour OD (over distance) run the next day, though, I thought, "No way! This is way out of my league!" On top of that, they practice 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. Geez. Who has that kind of time?? I threw the form on my "black hole" pile of papers in my office when I got home and figured that was that.

A few days later I was walking my daughter into the high school for her rock climbing session when I ran into Megan again (it looks like she and her husband coach the high school team). We got to chatting and I mentioned that with home schooling I would need to bring my kids to practice. Megan said, "No problem." What if I can't make it every day? "No problem." Is it ok if I don't compete? "No problem." In fact, apparently the women on the team who skied competitively in college are the ones who want nothing to do with competition now. They just ski for fun, exercise and camaraderie. Sounds like me to a T. I said, "Get me on the email list."

The next day I got the email list of the workouts for the week that week: this will be a double pole and specific strength workout; run/walk and leg swings; try to swim for a full hour; no particular plan, just crappy skis and see what kind of inventive technique we can use to get around the trail. I wasn't sure just how good of shape I wanted to get into, but hey, it sounds pretty flexible. I'm not into running, though, and I'm a bit touchy about super-focused workouts, even after nearly 20 years away from competition. Obsession about sports turns me off faster than an ice cube down my back.

When a little bit of snow fell and the temperatures fell with it, lake skiing looked like the best skiing possibility. I had no prior commitments today during practice time (11-1), so I loaded up the car with my skis, the kids' skis, the kids' ice skates (just in case), extra gloves, neckwarmers, hats, jackets, snacks, and water (did I miss anything??? Oh, I looked at my camera and opted against it. Sorry--no pictures.) and away we went. A 15 minute drive up to the reservoir above Homer (off West Skyline Drive) got us to a lake covered with, say, maybe 2 inches of snow in the deepest spots.

We skied a warm up loop around the lake, and then Megan introduced the kids and I to the group of 9 women who showed up. The kids went off and did their thing while we demonstrated our technique to Megan. We skied another loop around the lake (without poles this time!) and then began technique work. Do you know the V-2 alternate technique with skate skiing? I'm guessing it was invented after I got out of competitive skiing years ago, because I'd never heard of it, and certainly didn't know how to do it.

Half an hour later, after more coaching than I recall getting in all the years of skiing competitively, I had the technique down and got to celebrate by skiing yet another loop around the lake--using V-2 alternate technique of course!

Now I'm back home, my thighs are throbbing, my shoulders aching, and my spirit is glowing. It felt so good to learn something new, to work hard at it, to be in the company of other women who love to ski, and to get 2 hours of sunshine as part of the package. I don't think I'll be out there 6 days a week, but is exciting to have a group of 20+ women to ski with. It is one more thing about Homer that I love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kayak, Climb and More: Benefits of Homer Community Education

Last week my kids started taking a kayaking class at the Homer High School pool. They both like kayaking, but we had to drag Aurora; she didn't think it would be "cool" enough. By time she was done with class the first night, she was looking forward to going back, and had added kayaking to her list of sports she loves. And although Denver capsized dozens of times in his small little boat, he left in high spirits, bragging about how much better he had gotten over the course of the night. The highlight of the class was creating a "raft" of kayaks with everyone holding onto each others kayaks, and then one by one the kids crawled out of their boat and had to crawl over everyone else's kayak. It was a blast for the kids, and they thought it was hilarious when one kayak got sunk!

Kayaking is only the latest of our kids' fun with classes offered through Homer Community Schools. Aurora rock climbs twice a week at the high school, Doug plays pickup basketball twice a week, Aurora plays basketball with the Bruins, (over 30 kids grades 3-6 participating) and finally, Denver has discovered his passion for wrestling through the Popeye Wrestling Program. All of these are offered under the auspices of Homer Community Schools.

Homer Community Schools is sponsored by the City of Homer and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. It is considered part of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, so the director of the program is paid by the city. The school district offers the building use for free, which is appropriate, since in Alaska school buildings are owned and maintained by the borough. When area voters decided last year to remove sales tax from food during the winter months as a relief to locals' pocketbooks, the city lost a significant source of income. The economy was sluggish this summer, so sales taxes from local businesses were also down. Between these 2 factors, Homer Community Schools, along with many other valuable programs and offerings in Homer, face the chopping block. If this happened, hundreds of community members of all ages would be out of recreational opportunities, and dozens of dedicated volunteers who teach classes of all types would not have an outlet for passing on their passions.

My first assignment for the kids at the beginning of this homeschool year was to write a letter to the Homer City Council or a letter to the editor. I spoke to the City Council president in passing one day, and he mentioned that it is more effective to show up in person. Denver jumped at the chance to give a speech, so the following Monday Doug took him to the City Council meeting and he testified, sharing why he thought Community Schools should be kept. A month or so later, at another City Council meeting, Aurora unexpectedly took the opportunity to present as well. For her it was a heartfelt plea, completely unplanned, as she shared her feelings about the matter: through the offerings of Community Schools she has discovered passions that mean so much to her, and those activities give her something to do and give purpose to her life.

As a parent, my heart aches at the thought of what losing Homer Community Schools would do in my family. The $68,000 cash outlay a year that the entire program costs seems like paltry sum for all the good it does, month after month, year after year--echos for a lifetime for the hundreds of people who utilize the program. And like all good things, once it is gone it will never come back. It has taken years of development to get the programs to where they are at now.

What will my daughter do if there is no Community Schools? I just don't know. There are other options out there, I suppose, though undoubtedly they will cost significantly more than what Community Schools programs cost. But even more than that, what of those passions that have been kindled? What happens when you take those things away? How does one get through the long, dark winters in Alaska without the beacon of activities, interests, social contacts and exercise to pull them through?