Friday, July 3, 2015

the small and short of it

We like to keep a lot of things short--meetings, doctor appointments, to-do lists, illnesses, lectures.
One of my particular quirks is the length of my fingernails. If they get even a millimeter too long I cannot rest until I cut them short. Seriously. I despise long nails, I keep mine short and bluntly cut. Filing gives me the heebie jeebies and though I remember admiring my mother's perfect oval-shaped nails when I was young, I square off my grownup nails by cutting straight across so I don't have to shave away with a nail file. No polish, no buff, no muss, no fuss. Sometimes some dirt gets beneath them, but I can fix that by washing dishes, right?

fresh cut two hours ago
Speaking of short, dig this picture of Mr. T and me at his Eagle Board of Review. Notice how short I am next to him now. Mr. B and I nearly see eye to eye these days, too. Soon I'll be the smallest member of our family.

bonus: a patriotic photo for the 4th of July

Finally, I have a short list for my comrades in conversation. As previously mentioned, I'm wretched at making small talk and it sounds like many of you share this problem. We'd rather really talk to someone about ideas, books, movies, philosophy, politics, art. My week in Baltimore was so wonderful because I was surrounded by my ilk, women who write and have great ideas about writing, publishing, society, religion and reading. We never found ourselves short on topics to discuss. Heck, we barely came up for air!

This problem of small talk--well, it's not going away anytime soon. I'm going to be stuck making it again so instead of dreading it, I'm going in prepared. This month alone I see at least five occasions when I'll need to bring my "A Game" to a conversation. I found this link to be helpful in formulating a list of Topics for Small Talk. My list is short and doesn't include divisive issues (like politics--it's pretty easy to stick one's foot in one's mouth when you live in Wisconsin, although I could go on and on if tapped on this subject).

Five Small Talk Topics:

1. Tell me about how you and _________ met. How long have you been friends/married/lovers/business partners?
2. Do you have vacation plans?
3. What projects are you working on these days?
4. When/how did you become a _________ fan? (saving this one for a sporting event)
5. What's your dream occupation?

Spill it, reader. What do you like short? What's your go-to small talk topic to add to this list?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

in which she attaches her blog to life support

Did you hear that? The feeble gasp as I attempt to breathe life back into this page? The last time I posted here I was up to my armpits in high school seniors. Who am I kidding? I'm 5'3"--I was drowning in them. The final surge of paperwork hit my desk like a tsunami and I spent a week after my students graduated mostly sputtering and wearily surveying the chaos.

Then I completed 6 credits of college work so I could renew my teaching license. That academic achievement was followed by the hullabaloo that always occurs when my own offspring get done with school. Mr. D's team advanced to baseball playoff games, I packed a kid off to camp, I read almost 1200 pages of manuscripts for my Screw Iowa Writers Workshop and helped Mr. T mitigate the final steps to becoming an Eagle Scout.

Did you read that last part? Mr. T's an Eagle Scout! I still wake up from the occasional nightmare where I am fighting with him to finish his damn paperwork, but by golly, he finally wrapped it up! And now he's close to taking his driving exam. (And what's cool about a teenager chauffeuring you around town while they log their practice hours? Checking Facebook on my phone, that's what!) Big steps around here, people.

What else is new? There's an old mattress in our garage that the kids regularly tow out to play WWE Smackdown. Team Testosterone still spends their weekly allowance at the local convenience store on firecrackers, Gatorade and gum. They get muddy in the creek, swim, bike, dribble, throw, run and keep things in a mostly lively state around here.  We have lots of baseball games. I keep the book twice a week for Mr. B's team while Mr. D coaches.

My view on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

I went to Baltimore for a week for our annual Screw Iowa Writers Workshop and today I begin the final revisions on my next novel (stay tuned!)--available in paperback and kindle format next March. We've had a little family drama (the extended kind, not immediate), peonies and irises bloom and fade, a couple of parties, haircuts and a lemonade stand. Soon we're leaving for Yellowstone. But first I have to finish painting the upstairs bathroom (all those corners and getting behind the toilet--ugh!) and weed the garden (thistles, pigweed and crabgrass--double ugh!).

There you have it, reader. A bunch of excuses for not posting. As time sped by, pressure mounted to post something pithy or carefully insightful--so many topics to choose from! Gay marriage or racism or the awesomeness of Melissa McCarthy or the ache of watching boys become young men. I'd compose thoughtful, funny posts while scrubbing a floor or practicing yoga, but then another day would pass without actual time to sit down and write these thoughts. Finally one gets to this point--just post some damn thing to get feet back in the water. Rip off the bandage. Climb back in the saddle. Break the yolk. You get my drift.

In short, nothing profound in this post, just me--a bit paint splattered  and stubbly today--catching my breath here at my laptop while I ease myself back into this blog.

Monday, May 25, 2015

of names and other stuff

Vehicle name update: I'm torn between "Sherman" and lethargically calling the new ride "the van" because that's what we've been calling it anyway.

We're T-9 days from the end of the school year, not that ANYONE around here is counting.

In other news, the new Avengers movie was pretty good. I liked immersing myself in the loud explosiveness of it. There's something to be said about that big screen experience.

This just in: I'm terrible at small talk. Perhaps I've always been lousy at it, but it's becoming more pronounced lately. We had a family graduation party over the weekend and my mind is still a little numb from standing around saying nothing much. There might be something wrong with me, I just cannot stand around a bunch of strangers and muster up conversation anymore.

Other true fact: the late frost killed everything I planted in the vegetable garden. Rats!

And finally: Muggle Quidditch. Wednesday. Broom up, AP kids! You've been sorted into houses and it is ON. (They were sorted with an old ATV helmet, I couldn't find my witch's hat ANYWHERE. Mr. T said it was kind of redneckish of me, but what's a girl to do?) I dusted off the old hoops (made of screws, scrap lumber, hula hoops, duct tape and 8 ft. tall garden stakes), got the quaffle and the bludgers ready and the Golden Snitch has been training. I'm pretty stoked for it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

naming rights

Change, change, change. It's all I seem to write about lately. I get a new job and, consequently, a whole new lifestyle (which precludes blogging, as you've probably noticed). My children grow taller and smellier and more interested in cell phones than Pokemon cards. My knee and exercise regimen evolved from running outside on a road to physical therapy with bands and running indoors on the elliptical (ellipt-ICK-le).

One change in particular has me reeling a bit still. Over Easter weekend we traded in the Momvan.

The Momvan, in all her dented, slightly rusted, taupe glory.
Ah, beloved, well-worn, dented and slightly rusted. She safely transported us 150,000 miles to church and school, grocery store and baseball diamond, grandmother's house and vacation destinations. I knew exactly how to lift heavy loads out of the back end, how to jerk the side door open when it stuck, how to accept her reluctance to fully unlock

Saturday, May 2, 2015

musings of a prom chaperone

Funny to worry about what to wear to prom at my age. I voted for comfort with footwear (boots) paired with my Sunday best (tunic and leggings), it seemed a little tacky to wear jeans when most of the crowd opts for formal wear.

Even funnier to ask Mr. D, "Can I borrow your car to go to prom tonight?"

Pit stop at coffee shot for a double shot of espresso. Prom lasts until midnight and chaperones must stay alert!

At a Country Club! Fancy-schmancy! Just the staircase up to the dance floor makes for some impressive photo backdrop.

And in they come...awkward couples. Nervous. Excited. Not exactly sure of the etiquette.

Resisting the urge to walk around straightening collars and ties. It's so hard because I want these sweet boys to look their best.

Loving the princess dresses. Sure, they ALL look alike--tight strapless bodice, huge poufy skirt, smatterings of glitter and bedazzlement. Full-length skirts means those girls can get away with comfy shoes--I see Chuck Taylors and Crocs and all nature of footwear peeking out beneath those skirts.

And the COLOR! Back at my prom there were two colors: pink and white. These young ladies are a RAINBOW! Teal! Orange! Coral! Hot Pink! Bright Pink! Green! Yellow! Purple! Eggplant! Really glorious stuff!

Plus these are romantic dresses, not the slutty dresses from a few years ago. I can totally get behind this style for teenaged girls.

The energy level coming out of the ballroom is almost frantic. These kids are so amped up the giddiness is palpable.

Funny thing, when I was in high school all the girls danced and the boys mostly held up the walls. Now it almost looks like more boys are dancing than girls. In fact, when the DJ plays the first slow song after almost an hour, the floor clears out and only a few couples remain. Everyone else is getting a drink or posing at the photo booth.

Certain songs really draw a crowd.  "Cotton-Eyed Joe" and the "Macarena" have amazing staying power. But some of the stuff they're excited to hear the DJ play is new to me. I must live under a rock.

And there's always that one boy about three beats behind on the Macarena. Yep.  Everyone shifts aaaaand yes. There he goes. Heh.

Apparently shedding your dress shirt and going skin beneath your vest is a thing. Almost 3/4 of the boys have done it by 10:00. We chaperones agree to leave them be, but no shirtless kids will be tolerated.

It's a bit disconcerting how the entire floor moves as they jump around and dance. I imagine this is a bit what an earthquake feels like. Am questioning the structural integrity of this building...

What? Fix your updo with bobby pins? Ummmm, you know I have three sons and the only business I know about hair is a buzz cut with a razor kit, right?  Okay, I'll give it a go here, sweetie...

Uh, yeah. That dude in the middle of the dance floor is shirtless. Suspenders are NOT the same as a vest. Draw the short straw and head into the fray to confront him.  Excuse me? Yeah, this is a nipple-free zone, dude. I'm going to have to ask you to put your shirt back on. I don't make the rules, I just enforce them. Yeah. Sorry, man.

Getting back off the dance floor is no easy trick. End up going around the entire perimeter, but that's okay. I check everybody and see no tears, no unseemly behavior. All is well at Prom 2015.  Eat some of the Hershey's Kisses decorating the tables.

Check my phone. Almost an hour to go. DJ walks over and mentions his concern over shaking building.

Have long talk with one of my seniors whose girlfriend is off doing important prom stuff with her friends.

Check my phone. Forty-eight minutes left. Chat with fellow chaperones.

Am very amused by dancers.

Am very amused by dance moves.

Am very amused by how boys and girls cluster in segregated groupings to jump around on dance floor.

Check my phone. Twelve minutes left.  Tell fellow chaperones that's only like four more songs.

Four songs later I check my phone. Five minutes left. Apparently prom is some sort of time warp.

Midnight strikes, but DJ announces TWO more songs!  Sigh and lean back in chair. Almost done.

Slow song. Couples resign themselves to staying on dance floor because they hope the next song will be a fast one. How times have changed!  Used to be the other way around back in my day...

And this is it!  Exit ballroom to make sure post-prom party chaperones are in place. DJ switches to radio station. Couples begin flooding the bar area to hydrate and I raise my eyebrows at the Chief Chaperone. Are we good to go?

By 12:10 I'm recovering during my a palate-cleansing ride home, listening to alternative rock on radio because the crap kids listen to these days about makes my ears bleed.

(Can I hear a "harumph," people?)

Monday, April 6, 2015

hideous and miraculous

Spring is always a circus of baseball and yard work and chores and amped-up schedules. This year is no exception, but I felt like I had a good handle on each part. I choreographed my classes to allow a grading-free weekend in correlation with my annual Girlfriends' Getaway.  This meant some smooth talking to access laptops for hours 1, 3, 5 and 6 in addition to minor adjustments to hours 2 and 7's reading schedule. The end of the quarter loomed, but if the week went as planned, I'd be heading to Elkhart Lake with a duffel bag in one hand and a bottle of red in the other and no guilt dragging me down. I'd made lists, coordinated the logistics of computer labs and assignments at work, caught up with laundry and orchestrated appropriate carpools for Mr. G and Mr. B's weekend activities so Mr. D could coach his varsity team without interruption.

You know what they say about people who make big plans.

I left school on Monday with a MESS on my desk, reasoning I'd wrap up more grading tomorrow. That night I worked out, stretched out, showered and read before heading to bed. Tuesday I woke up with a stiff knee, but I guessed I'd slept funny. Nothing a couple ibuprofen couldn't fix.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

feeling a bit like julie andrews when she's twirling in circles singing about hills being alive

When I take stock today, I find myself feeling pretty giddy about life.  What's going on? All kinds of sweetness and goodness!

*My bedsheets smell like fresh air because I'm using clotheslines and it's only the middle of March.
*It has been over 60 degrees ALL WEEK LONG, and it's only the middle of March!
*Basketball is done for Team Testosterone, and now it's track and baseball season AT LAST. No more sitting in bleacher seats in gymnasiums all weekend long. 
*Mr. D's mom is on the mend.  Long story, but a happy ending.  Mr. D's stress level is reduced and he'll be back from Iowa tomorrow night.
*Windows are WASHED and screens are ON--it's only the middle of March, but my house smells a gazillion times better and Jax feels like he's part of our family again because of open doors and windows, too.

*I met the loveliest people this morning at a retirement community where I taught a little course on creative writing.  They had the best stories about living through the Great Depression and WWII, I sure enjoyed meeting them. The facility was gorgeous and offered every amenity imaginable. 
*I teach some senior girls who are totally gnarly feminists with cool ideas and big plans.  They make me want to sing.
*Lunch out with my boys, watching Wisconsin beat Purdue, enough cheese curds for everyone and the waitress complementing me on their fine manners when we left.
*Hair metal in the Momvan--and Team Testosterone knows the words AND when to break into air guitar/drum solos. 

* I have a son who sings to himself because he's happy and feeling fine. On a school day.  No fooling.
* Wrestling champions at Happyland High. They worked hard and won first place at state and now they are done cutting weight and much more pleasant to be around. And they do homework, too. Even their faces have plumped out a bit, one boy showed up first hour with a family pack of cookies and a soda. I couldn't even be irritated because for the first time all season he arrived before the bell rang.
*A friend gave us the heads up on a hunters safety course so we're able to get Mr. B licensed before baseball season gets under way.  Really nice of him to think of us.

*Walking around barefoot outside and it's only the middle of March.
*Wickedly creative book projects from some of my English 12 students.
*Running outside with sunshine on my face in the evening and my knee isn't acting like vicious.
*Praying for energy to teach Cubbies on Tuesday nights after teaching high school all day--and always receiving it. Doesn't make sense, but I walk out filled up instead of spent. God is amazingly powerful.

*Hearing the kids play outside together, roaming around on their bicycles and making big plans for summer break.
*Spending Friday night parked in front of back-to-back-to-back episodes of Modern Family, belly laughing with my sons.
*Catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while, including a few unexpected encounters.
*Mud tracks.  A sure sign of spring around here.  And robins.

Spill it, reader.  What's making your heart sing these days?

© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved