When I think about the people in ‘my tribe‘; those who inspire me; those who make a permanent impression on who I want to be as a person…Elka Troutman is another beautiful badass who may not know how much she inspires me.
My daughter was in kindergarten, when I volunteered to be a class mom. Elka was my partner…I’d never met her before…I had no idea.
The first time Mrs. Forrest sent out an email with details of a project that she wanted help organizing. I eagerly went to task and read through the email and sorted through the list of donations, volunteers, scheduling details – ready to jump into service. I hadn’t made it to the closing salutation before getting the most wonderful email to the class parents and brilliantly organized project outline from Elka.
The whole year went this way. At first I’d try like crazy to organize something first, feeling like maybe I wasn’t pulling my ‘room mom’ weight, but it was pointless. She’d breeze through it, so efficiently that eventually I decided that the best way to help was to happily do anything she wanted.
One of my favorite kindergarten / Elka days was when I finally met her in person at the Thanksgiving feast. Not only was she brilliantly smart and the most amazing mom I’d ever met, she swore like a sailor. The perfect woman! (I’m pretty sure I tried to hire her that day.)
Elka’s a champion for so many teachers and important education initiatives in our community – not the least of which is the incredibly successful summer reading program. She’s an avid fan of her sons’ many athletic endeavors and teams. She’s created the most wonderful family. She has a great attitude – she has lofty goals and ideals – but always keeps it real.
Now, I’m always delighted when I see Jake’s name on Hannah’s class list. It means it’s going to be a great year. And it’s not just me – Elka’s woven into the fabric of my family. A couple of years ago, Hannah crafted this big idea for a combination Halloween / Birthday Party. She wanted to invite lots of her friends, decorate the house, have everyone wear costumes, and play all sorts of Halloween games. It was quite an elaborate 10 year old scheme. After presenting all the details, Hannah looked at me, put her hand on my shoulder and supportively asked,
“Do you think we should ask Elka to help?”
When our kids were in 4th grade, Elka told me she’d started running again. She was training to run the Jingle Bell Run with her family. Elka has vertigo. I can’t imagine running while my head felt like it was going to spin off my body or I felt like throwing up with each step. I love to run and I’ve run through injuries, but this level of endurance and tenacity was something else. And of course she did it. And in the process, she changed my definition of limitations in my own athletics.
The past 2 years, Elka’s been fighting awful, aggressive cancer. The cancer really F-ing sucks. Elka, however, grows more brilliant in her ability to impress and amaze. Her weakest moments make her a stronger inspiration. Her longest strings of swear words, make her all the more eloquent and beautifully human. Every post on Caring Bridge from her and from Jeff push my idea of limitations and strength to a level I didn’t know exists.