Monday, April 16, 2018

Here we are in NOLA



By some miracle, KK and I escaped the winter hellscape of Minneapolis and landed in New Orleans where we're participating in a Global Symposium for independent school professionals.

I have to say, it was sort of surreal taxiing down the ice-encrusted runway on Sunday in Minneapolis. I kept thinking we'd turn back toward the terminal. The snow kept falling. The previous day's flights had been widely canceled. We'd have to bag our talk about global competence and trot it out another time in another venue.

But no! Miraculously we de-iced, we took off, and we landed. We made our way to the French Quarter and checked into the Sheraton. Truth be told, we had a heck of a lot of work to do on our talk, so we haven't seen as many sites as we might have liked. But here's what we have done:

  • Had a Pimm's cup in a corner café.
  • Walked into the smallest bookstore I've ever seen.
  • Enjoyed some street performers, including some sweet electric violinists.
  • Strolled down Royal and Chartres and Decatur
  • Ate blue crab rolls, barbequed shrimp, pralines, red beans and rice, sweet potato gnocchi, praline bread pudding, and beignets.
Also, did you know that Starbucks now has matcha lattés? We had some in the hotel before we finished writing and practicing our talk. Later, we practiced and edited the talk some more. Some nice Catholic school teachers from Memphis told us about how they went dancing while drinking hurricanes. That sounded nice, but we've been in bed watching pay-per-view movies (Molly's Game and I, Tonya) by 8 both nights. We've had to get up early to write and practice the talk.

As I've mentioned before, people have different ways of having fun. I'm happy we made it here to NOLA. It's been worth it for sure, and tomorrow we'll do the talk. I'm pretty sure it'll be good enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Drop Me Off Down the Block

Not too long ago, the kids and I went to watch a friend of Shef's play in a high-level, high-stakes hockey game. It was really fun, and I especially liked how they blasted clips of classic songs like 1989's "Move This" by Technotronic before face-offs.

I got to thinking, I should take the kids to more school sporting events. We could wear our colors and root for the teams! Sounds wholesome and screen-free! I shared my epiphany with Shef, who is now fourteen years old.

"Hey," I said, "wouldn't it be fun to go to more school sporting events?"

"No," he said. The answer came swiftly and with zero hesitation.

"No?" I asked, surprised. "You don't want to watch your friends play lacrosse and stuff?"

"No," he clarified, "I just don't want to be seen with you in public."

Just like that! All matter-of-fact!

I think the inclination is probably exacerbated because I'm a teacher at the school, in addition to also being a regularly ignominious parent. Having a teacher mom is literally the worst thing ever for an eighth-grader, Shef says. I can't help that it's my job, though, and I also can't help that I'm so embarrassing. I feel I could be even more embarrassing if I didn't already put so much effort into my behavior. Shef doesn't know how lucky he is. One little slip and he could be the laughing stock of the entire school.

Friday, March 30, 2018

It's Over

This is Mac, the only snowboarder in the family.

We're at the end of our vacation. It's certainly been eventful. Our family has skied here in Vail, Colorado, ten of the last eleven spring breaks. So far, no one in our foursome has needed any type of medical attention on this annual trek. 

This year, Shef brought a pal to keep him company on the treacherous and adventurous runs none of the rest of us will do. Well, his poor friend and bosom companion first developed altitude sickness and then broke his wrist. Can you even believe that?! To make matters worse, the wrist required surgery. Really bad luck for our treasured visitor! His parents must wonder what the heck we're up to out here, but I swear, it's not a regular thing.

In other news unrelated to traumatic injury, I signed with a literary agent. It feels rather surreal just typing that. In case you don't know, if you want to have a book traditionally (rather than self-) published, you need to have a literary agent who sells your manuscript to an editor at a publishing house. 

You get a literary agent by writing and sending a query letter. The goal of the letter is to inspire agents to request more pages of your book to read. If an agent reads your book and loves it, she might offer to represent you. In case you're interested in the data, here it is: I sent twelve queries in the past three months, tweaking the letter and the first pages of my book a little over time. Of those twelve, four agents requested more pages. And two of those offered to represent me. I picked one dream agent, Joanna MacKenzie at Nelson Literary, last Friday on my 40th birthday.

So, I guess in relation to my post title today, it's over, but it's really just beginning. Except for Shef's friend's wrist situation. I hope his pain and suffering are indeed reaching a natural, peaceful conclusion.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Vacation Status Report



Skiing:

I love the free feeling of whizzing down the mountain, stopping frequently for breaks and 100% controlling my speed. I'd say my ski level is stagnant compared to other years. Why try to get better at a dangerous sport at 40? Seems like not such a great idea, especially when I can just, like, have fun and look sort of like I know what I'm doing. Or at least look like I'm not a danger to others.

Altitude Sickness:

It appears that one person in our party might have some mild to moderate altitude sickness. It's better not to google this, but instead to consult a mountain medical professional. That's on the docket for today. Luckily, in the limited medical research I did do, professionals say that altitude sickness generally resolves in short order. We should be on the other side of this in no time.

Reading:

I've got two perfect vacation titles on the go. One is The Widow by Fiona Barton. I love a good psychological thriller, especially on vacay. In this one, there's this feeble woman named Jean who married a veritable asshole who may also be a criminal. The blurbs all tell me I'm in it with an unreliable narrator, so things could turn any second.

The second book is America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan. It's about Jen. She's suddenly jobless, boyfriendless, and broke. Why not go on a reality television show about puzzles and problem-solving? As you can imagine, the pages are flying by here. Reality television has long been my kryptonite.

That's about it. I'm hoping the second of these three items resolves today. Don't you?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Reality

I'm sad to say I haven't made too much headway on my lengthy spring-break to-do list.

Alas.

But to tell the truth -- and I'm being 100% honest here -- I don't much care. I did other really exciting things. My 40th birthday was the most memorable and frankly the best birthday I can remember.

As I was writing that, I scanned back over other birthdays, and it's true that I do have lasting memories of 23. I had a fancy dinner at a sushi restaurant with Dan, several of my friends, and my mom. At the table, Dan said fondly, "And now you're 24."

"No, I'm not," I said. "I'm 23."

He insisted I was 24, but I knew for a fact that wasn't the case. I knew it especially because we were celebrating my golden birthday. Also, I was sure my birthday was March 23rd, as it has been every other year.

"Are you serious?!" Dan finally exclaimed. Everyone laughed pretty hard, and then the sushi was excellent.

In any case, all of the things on my aforementioned to-do list will still be there when I'm finished vacationing.

In the meantime, I plan to be goal-oriented about downhill skiing. I'm going to take lots of runs and not get hurt. I'm going to write on my blog a few times. I'm going to be pleasant and cheerful in interactions with my family members. I might think about other writing, too. Anything is possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spring Break To-Do

There's a lot happening over here, but most important, it's Spring Break. I've got a to-do list as long as my arm, including an eye appointment and painting the trim in the upstairs hallway. And, obviously, other stuff because that little list is only as long as my fingernail.

Among the items, there's also this blog that I've been neglecting. I'm really wanting to get back to it with charming anecdotes and musings on the writing life.

Here are three potentially entertaining tidbits:

  • I was once again a dance captain in the middle school teacher talent show act. A student emailed me afterward to tell me what a good dancer I am. I'm pretty sure, but not positive, the email was written without irony.
  • In the Mac zone, we've traded hockey parenting for lacrosse parenting. It's time for box lacrosse. Lacrosse is, I think, the most violent sport known to humankind. During the games, I find myself yelling things like, "WHACK HIM!" and there's sometimes blood.
  • I'm working out a synopsis for my next book. Before I get to the whole thing--even the whole synopsis-- I'm pretty sure there's an impending round of new edits on the old book. Isn't it funny that it seems old even though it still hasn't seen the light of day? Here's what I think to myself: the more rounds of edits I do, the fewer there still are to go. I think that's true no matter what. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Psoriasis Update. It's been awhile.

It hasn't seemed so hard to get through this particular Minnesota winter. It's been cold and snowy, yes. I felt typically overwhelmed by work, certainly.

But even in February, I wasn't too cranky with students.  I never took to my bed in exhaustion and despair. Well, except once last Friday night after parent-teacher conferences, I was slightly weepy. The conferences themselves went well, but I just got too tired.

One of the hardest moments of the whole season came this week when, after a five-day stretch of temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, the weather forecasters doomed and gloomed over a potential 8-inch snow dump. I felt bummed about the news, but then the schools got all hyped up before a single flake fell and called a snow day. After all that, we only got about five inches.

Also, and this part helps a lot, I started a new medication for my psoriasis. It's a shot that I have to give myself--a needle to the stomach. I'm not totally psyched about this, but I can do it. And the results?

It's been about five weeks since I started the medicine, and I have almost no spots on any place. The only thing is that if I drink alcohol or eat anything with food dye, I'll get some streaky things on my cheek and specks under my eyes. But even if that happens, the spots everywhere else keep fading. 

It's a miracle like the ones you've seen on the television commercials. Instead of the spots intensifying all through these dark months, they're going away. I won't spend all summer on the strictest diet known to humankind and exposing my skin to sunlight on a meticulous timetable. I won't have to explain to strangers that I haven't been chewed by rabid mosquitos or preemptively tell new friends, "It's not contagious."

They should probably sign me up for the promotional drug commercial. I'm ready to give my testimonial and share my before-and-after calf photos.

And I'm ready for the snow to melt now and spring to start. Probably only a month to go.