Friday, July 31, 2015

TAL Challenge: This Is It

TAL has been pretty hard, actually.  Tough, but fair.  I'm kind of glad it's over, to tell you the truth.  In honor of the last day, I'm doing three times I've said THIS IS actually IT.

Act One: Labor and Delivery

When I was waiting for the kids to be born, I'd wonder about every little twinge.  Was it happening? Would the contractions continue?  Could the children possibly arrive?

Finally, when I was hooked up to pitocin and circling the nurses' station, occasionally leaning against the wall for support and breathing heavily, it occurred to me that I wasn't leaving until it was all over.  This was it.

Act Two: The First Day

My first day of teaching was a total trip.  I had been dreaming about becoming a real live teacher for ten years. Standing in front of those thirty 8th graders was a dream come true for me, even when I actually tripped over the overhead projector cord and fell to the floor.

The second day was cool, too.  And all the days, except the ones on which I had to hide under my desk and cry because teaching can be really flipping hard.

Act Three: The Romance

After hanging out for a couple of weeks, I knew I would like to marry Dan.  Dan's the best.  He's funny, smart, and he gets me.  He's also devastatingly handsome.  Would WOULDN'T want a partner like Dan?  Even in a silicone ring?

Thank goodness he also wanted to marry me.  "I caught my limit," he used to say.  So cute.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

TAL Challenge: OLD

Act One: The Joke

The kids learned an obscene gesture from some neighborhood hooligans.  I calmly explained the underlying meaning of the gesture and told them why we should never, ever do it again.

Shef kept cracking up.  "Shef," I said, "it's not funny."

"Mom," Shef said, "it IS funny.  You just don't know because you're not a kid."

Act Two: The Reunion

At a lacrosse game, I ran into a teacher I worked with when I first started my career, 16 years ago.  We both have eleven year-olds now.

"You look exactly the same," I said, enthusiastically.

"Yep," he said. And then nothing. I, apparently, do not look exactly the same.

Act Three: The Ring

Turns out Dan wants to upgrade his titanium wedding band to silicone.  He broke the news to me last night after considering it for a YEAR.

Here's the story: it turns out the fact that he can't get his ring off his finger ever is really freaking him out.  Also, Jimmy Fallon nearly lost his finger due to a ring-related accident.  This has been compounding Dan's wedding band stress.

So, he's looking into non-metal alternatives to the traditional ring.  I suggested a tattoo, but this was met with only tepid enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


We got this done in the knick of time, we did.  Phew.

Just back from another Camp work weekend.  I made so many mistakes. This is something that happens sometimes.  Sometimes, you're unstoppable and everything is done quickly, efficiently, and basically perfectly.  Other times, you just keep screwing up.

"You're just trying to delay your own departure," Alli consoled.

I think that must have been true.  I had no kids and no dog.  All I had to do was jobs I've done a million times before.  Except those times, I mostly did them better.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

TAL Challenge: Compliments

Act One: Girls' Night

Arrived late and flustered for dinner and movie with some awesome women on Thursday.  "Hey," said Dana, sternly. "Yes, there was traffic.  But there are two things really working for you tonight."

"What?" I said.

"First," Dana said, "your hair looks amazing."

I laughed.

"Second," she continued, "I can't see any psoriasis."


Act Two: The Hair

This tween had a vision for his new haircut.  "I want that thing," he said.  I was pretty sure it was the thing pictured above.  I googled, "trendy boy haircuts" just to be sure.  Turns out, this is among the first hits.

Doesn't he look fantastic?

Photo credit goes to Pronto here.   Nice photo, Pronto!

Act Three: The Sitting Dog

Headed out for a walk with KK yesterday, and we passed a very well-behaved dog.  I'm always quick to compliment well-behaved dogs.  I too would like for people to notice if my dog is ever well-behaved.

"Just walk right by," said the woman, who was holding her dog in a sit while we passed with Simon, KK's lab.  "I'm really training him."

"You're doing an excellent job!" I said, admiringly.  

I'd like to think that touched her.  Like, maybe it warmed her heart?

Friday, July 24, 2015

TAL: Will You Accept This Rose?

Act One: Proposal

Once upon a time when we were 23 and 27 (I was 23, just to be clear), Dan and I walked to the park, and there was a ring.

My answer was, "Of course, yes."

Act Two: Springfield

The first teaching job I was secured was in a tiny place called Springfield, Minnesota.  I drove the two-ish hours to the interview and did some good chatting about my teaching philosophy.  Later, the principal called me and offered me the job.

I took it.  I drove back down to Springfield with my mom and looked at apartments.  I felt a little pit in my stomach.  I think there was a grocery store.

The next day I got a call for an interview in a large suburban district in my hometown, which is a town bigger than 2,000 people.  I took the interview and called the Springfield people back to tell them I was so sorry.

Act Three: Make It A Great Day Or Not

At breakfast at Camp, they do a little reading about the theme for the day - honesty, patience, or another core value - and then the reader says, "Make it a great day or not -"

Everyone else answers, "The choice is yours!"

It's like a good day is a rose you could accept from the Bachelorette.

I get the idea, but sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, right?  I mean, how about "Make it a great day or not - sometimes you have a say in the matter!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I'm loving it.  It totally does communicate a spirit of adventure.  It's much like the adventure I just had in the bathroom.  You know you're the summer stay-at-home mother of two boys when you find yourself yelling, "Hey!  Who peed on the wall again?!"

It's magical over here.  Hands down.

TAL Challenge: I Got Behind

Of course, I'm about process, not product.  Still, it's good to actually produce.

Act One: Did You Win?

I used to be really into winning.  Like, if I was losing, I might just stop doing whatever it was I was doing.  If I wasn't great at it, I wouldn't try it.

Go big or go home.  Win or quit.

Eventually, I let this go.  Thank God.  Because how could I be an adult beginner violinist or golfer with this attitude? Someone with a 50 stroke handicap shouldn't be slamming her clubs on the fairway and stomping off the course.

Once, I remember coming home from a road race, and Shef asked me, "Did you win?"

"No," I said, laughing.  "I think I was maybe in the top 500."  His eyes got big.  "But I tried my hardest," I said.  "I'm pretty proud of myself."

Act Two: The Laundry

Have you ever been the person in charge of the laundry in a house with three boys?  The laundry needs are outstanding.  I'm perpetually behind.  The clothes are always unfolded.  The swimsuits are always wet and funky.  The eleven year-old is always in my closet, stealing my sports socks.

Act Three: #TwinTuesday

People (hi, Mom!) have been clamoring for details about how the #TwinTuesday pairings are chosen.  Well, that's a mystery that I might or might not unveil right now:

Ideally, my partner and I will exchange a flurry of text messages on MONDAY or even SUNDAY and decide on a whimsical or thought-provoking duo.  We send lots of test shots and make ridiculous suggestions for improvement.

"Too cluttered in the background?"

"Too many shadows?"

"Is it really, you know, unexpected?"

#TwinTuesday is meant to be totally serious.

But anyway, sometimes that timeline doesn't work out - we get behind, and it just becomes Tuesday morning all of a sudden.

Then, there's usually a fully formed idea floated.  How about this?  And it's like, I'll make it work.

Today's a hybrid.  Hang tight for it.  It's gonna rock.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


I had to go back to Alice this week.  I have a list of things that have to happen to Norah in the next few scenes - reactions she has to things, letters she receives, impulsivity that overcomes her.  But, I had a flash of something for Alice, too, and I wanted to go back.  Here's a little preview of Alice's high school graduation.  She won't know until years later that this weekend was pivotal.

“Mom,” said Alice on Wednesday evening, face still red from track practice.  “Are we sure this is a good idea?”

Evelyn methodically unfolded a top sheet, making up the guest room for Dot, Frank’s mother.  “It’s a nice thing to do,” Evelyn sighed, snapping a pillowcase and frowning at the wrinkles.

“Want me to iron it?” Alice asked, smiling.  They both knew Dot would notice and comment on the wrinkles.  And the mildewed grout in the shower, the pile of unsorted mail on the end table by the back door, and Alice’s round face.

“I wonder when you’ll lose that baby fat?” Dot would say over dessert, probably after graduation, probably frowning at the way Alice’s dress pulled across her lap.  

“There,” Evelyn said, pulling the bedspread up over the offending pillowcase and patting it with her right hand.  “This will be nice, Alice,” she said nodding to herself.  Alice raised her eyebrows and curled up the left side of her mouth.

“Maybe,” she said, “but probably not.”

On Thursday evening, Ethan and Alice exchanged resigned glances as they took their places in the minivan.  “Okay, good,” Evelyn said as she turned the key.  Silence weighted the threesome as they drove the twenty minutes to the Twin Cities International Airport.  As they pulled into the arrivals lane, Alice scanned the waiting travelers on the curb.  Dread settled in her stomach, a sourness rising to the back of her throat.

Evelyn took a long, audible inhale through her nose.

And then Frank appeared, planted in front of Door 6 exactly as he’d said he’d be, shoulders back, the remnants of a scowl in his eyes.  A scraggly white mustache obscured his upper lip and his cheeks, Alice noticed as Evelyn drew the van to a tentative stop against the curb, appeared red - sore and chapped.  Dot materialized just behind his left shoulder.  Alice blinked twice, released her seatbelt, and pulled the handle on the passenger door.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

TAL Challenge: Get Over It

I generally don't find it helpful when people tell me to "get over it."  I couldn't think of a topic, and once the real This American Life had a show called this.  I have no idea what I'm going to talk about.

Act One: The Crippling Anxiety

After Mac was born, I went a little crazy.  What would happen is that I'd close my eyes for a single second, and then without any control at all, I'd imagine the worst possible things happening.

I go to a museum, and Mac slips from my hands and falls off of a several-stories high balcony, splattering on the atrium floor below while I watch, screaming and clutching the railing.

I take the garbage out, and while I'm on my way to the garage, an even crazier person slips into the house and slits the children's throats.  Of course, I am accused of the heinous crime - after all, I am found with blood-soaked clothes and no alibi - and then I spend my entire life in prison as a child-killer.

Driving is excruciating every single time I get behind the wheel.  Around every bend is a fiery crash.  Death.  Catastrophe.  Over and over.

Eventually, I realized I couldn't make this stop.  I tried going down to the basement and sobbing in the dark.  Dan shouted down at me from the kitchen. "You need help!" he said.

I mean, obviously.

So I called a nice therapist who explained to me what the hell was happening - turns out this is a highly common variant of post-partum depression - and things started to get so much better after that.

Act Two: The Boyfriends

As I'm thinking back on things, I'm recalling that I'm almost always the dumped, not the dumper.

No one likes rejection.

I don't think I handled any of the dumps particularly well.  I think I might have been high maintenance.  I think I might not have just gotten over it.

Act Three: The Elections

In high school, I kept losing student government elections.  I'd lose them by extremely small margins.  Instead of giving up, I'd keep running and keep losing. I was like an addict for rejection, fueled by the one time in ninth grade when I actually won. My faculty advisor smiled sadly after each defeat and reminded me that Abraham Lincoln himself lost eight elections.

Finally, I lost my final election when I ran for the Vice Presidency of the whole Student Council in the spring of my junior year.   It was a real fat bummer, but I think I might have been relieved that it was over.

I got over it.  Who needs to plan dumb dances anyway?  Who needs to work on changing the gum policy?  Who even really cares?

And then, come fall of senior year, I got a call from the President of the Student Council, who was my best friend.  The winner of the VP election moved away over the summer.  I got to be veep after all.

I did enjoy it.  The running of assemblies, especially.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TAL Challenge: Mic Drop

Three times when it's been like, Bam.

Act One: He Swims

Mac got in the pool for swimming lessons today.

I won this battle, people.

All it took was taking away and then offering electronics, sweets, and high top sneakers.

"I should really swim every day," said Mac, after we went to Inside Out and shared a popcorn.

Right, kid.  Exactly right.

Act Two: The Points

I've written about this before, but I can't find it.  Remember that one time when I said to a parent, "Look, I know and my colleagues know that this is cheating.  But if the message that you want to send to her is that this behavior is okay, then I'll give her the points back."

 "I think you're doing this just to appease me," the mom said.

"Yes," I said.  "That's what I'm doing."

So, I gave them back, but I also dropped the flipping mic.

Act Three: The Show

I think Shef might be super embarrassed by my performances in the next three Middle School Talent Show Teacher Acts.  This finale of my very first show, we can agree, was a total *mic drop*.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TAL Challenge: The Battles and/or the Wars

Act One: The Pool

Mac and I are having a standoff related to swimming lessons.

He won't get in the flipping water at his swimming lessons.  Every day I bring him to the pool, and every day he won't get in.

"Look," I explain.  "Swimming is a life skill, and in Minnesota, it's really important."

"I already know how to swim," he says.

"Yes," I said, "but you need to have endurance.  You have to be able to fall out of the boat in the middle of the lake and swim all the way back to shore."

"I'm not doing it," he says, arms folded.

I've tried making his life (and mine) sort of miserable with no treats and electronics.  I've tried offering immediate rewards like cookies the size of his face.

And he just says he doesn't care about these things.  He'll be all, meh.  Whatever.

Act Two: Fitness

I still feel like I'm waging the "Let's Stay Fit in the Years After College Athletics" war.  Maybe I should change the name of the war to something like "Longterm Wellbeing."  Maybe I should revise the "war" metaphor.

I'll think about these things later.

So far it's been 16 years.  Sometimes I win a battle; sometimes I gain ten pounds.

Act Three: Addiction

I can't decide what to do about this embarrassing fact, but it seems kind of like a battle.

I'm addicted to ears and ear wax.

It started when I had hearing loss related to wax buildup.

Now, I keep peering into the children's ears and fishing around in mine with my pinky nails.  I'm kind of concerned I'll just be digging around in my ears in public and that people will see this as a symptom of a larger problem.  A problem that, let's be honest, I probably have.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


It's a baseball cap and a bookmark.  I love the pairing.

You should love it too because my alternate blog topic was going to be related to psoriasis of the ear canal.  It's real, people.  Best not to google it, though.  The images are horrific.

Monday, July 13, 2015

TAL Challenge: The Worst

Act One: Calling Comcast

I hate doing small chores that involve talking to strangers, especially strangers that bug me.  Strangers like the people at the Comcast Customer Service call center.

It's not even like they didn't handle my problem.  They totally handled my problem.

It's just that they have this inane script.

"Hi," I said.  "I'm calling to upgrade my modem."

"Let me make sure I understand your problem, so I can solve it for you," says the guy.  "You're calling to upgrade your modem."

Omg, for duh.

Act Two: Gelatinous

That word sounds disgusting and pretty much anything it describes is also disgusting.

Act Three: Being Late

 I don't care when other people are late.  In fact, as long as it's not like, hours late, it makes me feel good to know that other people can't always handle all of their responsibilities either.

But I absolutely hate being late myself.  It causes a visceral reaction, a rising of fear and paralyzing anxiety from my stomach to my neck and radiating down my arms.  If I'm late, I have to do deep breathing to calm myself down.  I have to remind myself not to have a temper tantrum in front of my children.  It actually feels like disaster might strike if I can't get someplace on time.

This is irrational.  I know this.

"What's the worst that could happen?" I have to ask myself.

Usually it's nothing.  Nothing will happen if I'm five minutes late.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Just at teeny tiny.  And just in the knick of time.

Two evenings later, after her transfer student orientation meetings, her trips to the bookstore, and her careful work of transferring her clothes to the built-in dresser and her pencils to the upper right desk drawer, Norah rubbed her hands nervously down the sides of her jeans.  Peter was due in Smith Hall within the half hour.

She’d called him from the hallway phone on her first night in Smith.

“I’m here!” she said, breathless, as he’d picked up the phone.

“All checked in?” he asked, and she could hear the smile in his voice.

“My dad dropped me off this afternoon,” Norah continued.

“How’s the orientation?” Peter continued.

“Oh you know,” Norah rolled her eyes at the cinder block wall and then turned around, sliding her back along it until she was sitting.  “It’s been scintillating.”

“Everything you ever wanted to know about Appleton?”

“I guess,” Norah said.  “Did you the Health Center is open until 11pm on Thursday nights to accommodate more student appointments?”

“I had no idea,” Peter laughed.

“Anyway,” Norah continued.  “I can’t wait for you to get here.”

“Me neither,”

Saturday, July 11, 2015

TAL Challenge: Flowers

Act One: The Student

The above arrangement was a total surprise from the family of an advisee, a quirky kid whom I thoroughly enjoyed.  I found it on my back steps a week after school got out.

"Thanks for being so great to Sarah," the card read.

I was overcome with happiness.

Act Two: The Bride

The afternoon of my wedding, I walked into the ready room at the church to find a box of beautiful flowers sitting open on an orange sofa, the purples and pinks bursting against the burnt orange.  My friend Jordan was in charge of finding the right people for their corsages and boutonnieres.  I gave bouquets to my four bridesmaids myself.

My sister held mine for me while I did my vows, and then she gave it back.

Act Three: The Mentor

At my second job, I taught with an iconic teacher who has influenced thousands of lit lovers, including several who cite her as a prime reason they themselves became English teachers.

This woman, who retired this spring, was a total pro.

One of her traditional practices?  Fresh flowers in a vase on her desk every Monday morning.  I always mean to do this, but most of the time, I forget.  I forget or I don't want to spend the money.  But, I'm thinking it might be worth it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

TAL Challenge: Defiance

Act One:

Me: Mac, it's 10:01.  I'd really like you to go to bed.

Mac: No, thank you.

Act Two:

Me: Mac, get out of the tube and come meet these people.

Mac: Tell them to come down here.

Act Three:

Me: Mac, get out of the car.

Mac: My feet hurt.  Carry me.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

TAL Challenge: #MotherOfTheYear

Act One: By the Pool

My table is littered with Skittles wrappers and root beer cans, and the kids are running shirtless on the pitch getting freckled.

Mom at the next table applies opaque sunscreen to her twin five year olds and says, "I've ordered some wonderful snacks!  There's carrots! And broccolini!"

One five year old says, "Broccolini?  For ME?!"

Act Two: On the Couch

"Boys!" we admonish, Twitter accounts active in our laps.  "No talking during the Rose Ceremony!"

"Who do you think she's going to take to the fantasy suite?" asks the 11 year-old.

"I hope not Ben H.," answers the 7 year-old, shaking his head and raising his eyebrows.

Act Three: Miscellaneous

7 year-old washed his hair for the first time in two weeks.

He also knows all of the lyrics to "Your Love is My Drug," by Ke$ha.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

TAL Challenge: Siblings

I actually have more Acts than three here because in addition to the five siblings I mention, I also have two step siblings, whom I adore, and four or five fabulous siblings in-law.  And, I hope there are a million more vignettes I can write in the future, memories upon memories of these incredible people.

Act One:

I grew up with Kevin.  Once he punched me in the face when I was driving him to tutoring.  It wasn't really his fault.  I said something really mean in the seconds preceding the punch.

If we were actually on This American Life right now, Ira Glass would ask me what I said.

I don't want to tell you because it was pretty mean.

Tell us, Ira would say.  So, okay, I would say, but first I want to add that to be fair, Kevin also said something mean to me.  Like, it was a two-sided fight.

Fine, Ira would agree.  So, what did you say?

And of course I would start with what Kevin said: He said I was fat.  And then I would pause for effect and really quickly tell the rest: And then I said he was stupid.  I also said that fat was better than stupid because I could always lose weight, but that he would always be stupid.

And then he punched me.  I think I deserved it, reading this back.  Last night, though, we went to a Twins' game.  The Twins beat the Orioles handily. So, I think we're all good.

Act Two:

When I was mostly or partially grown up, I met another set of siblings.  On the first day I met my sister, she and I were wearing the same outfit.  By accident.  It felt like total fate, and here we are 20 years later, still sisters.

Mary and I were both readers at our brother Devin's wedding.  I got to read 1st Corinthians.  Love is patient; love is kind.  Classic. Mary had to read the lyrics to "The Power of Love" by Huey Louis.  "Don't take money," she said slowly and deliberately. "Don't take fame."  Deep breath.  "Don't need no credit card to ride this train."

Oh my god, it's one of my favorite memories of all time, watching her do this and also watching Devin and Steph try not to laugh their heads off at her while they were up there getting married.

Act Three:

Still another set of siblings has recently come on the scene.  It's an odd thing to meet your siblings when you're all grown up.  You sit there staring into their faces, trying not to be too weird and intense, and yet finding odd little moments of familiarity.  You're immediate family, and yet you don't know each other.

In the most recent meeting - the final sibling frontier - I had to stop the conversation with Noah.  "Oh my god," I said, "you look just exactly like him."  Him, in this case, being the father we share.

"So do you!" he said.  "It's uncanny!"

The elation of saying hello - of watching my sister walk into a restaurant where I'm waiting, heart pounding - makes way for profound sadness to seep in.

Like, how could I have missed so much of this? You start to think that you've been missing them even though you never knew them in the first place.

Monday, July 6, 2015

TAL Challenge: Cars

Act One: 1983 Toyota Tercel

I liked to drive around at night with the windows open when I was 16 and got my driver's license.  The car didn't go in reverse, so I had to park only in places that were very flat, or out of which I could pull forward.  Tricky.  Got me into trouble from time to time.

I remember a smell like burning plastic, fabric seats in a neutral color.  I didn't have many passengers.

Act Two: 1989 Honda Civic Hatchback Real Time 4WD 

Stellar light blue color and a stick shift I learned to drive in the graveyard with high school boyfriend.  I liked that graveyard, and there were running trails linked to the back I used to traverse.  I rode the clutch and the brakes, and the car broke down a million times, running hot, smoke from the hood, metal-on-metal squeaks.

I had this car the summer I babysat for one set of siblings, my brother and sister.  The summer my brother dyed his hair and eyebrows blonde and maybe jumped off the roof onto the trampoline.  I got locked in the bathroom, and Devin had to take the door off the hinges.  We went to the pool, and I drove the car.

Act Three: 2011 Toyota Sienna

This car is my dream.  I love riding high with the kids in the captain's chairs.  I love the foldable seats and the cargo space.  I love picking up people and have plenty of room.

I have never made out in this car.  Not even once.

But, I have meditated, sobbed, and maybe crashed into the step in my garage.  At the beginning of the summer, Shef scratched the heck out of the right side with his bike.  "I scratched the car," he said sheepishly.

"I see that," I said calmly.  And then I kept driving it.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I've been just fiddling around with Norah.  Nothing earth shattering.  She's leaving for Appleton.  Big stuff is going to happen there. Here's a little #NovelSnip:

Bill honked twice from the driveway as Maggie clung to Norah’s waist on the front steps.

“You can visit, okay?” Norah said, kissing the top of her sister’s head and gently untangling herself from Maggie’s gangly arms.  “And, I’m coming home for your choir concert, remember?” It was on the calendar in just six weeks.

Maggie sniffed and pushed her messy curls behind her ears.  “Promise to write to me?” she asked, as Norah walked toward Bill’s sedan, her backpack slung over her right shoulder.

“Of course,” Norah waved.  “Love you, Mags!”

“Love you,” Maggie repeated.  Susan appeared behind her younger daughter in the doorway and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Good luck, Norah!” she called.  “Call us this weekend?”

“I will, Mom,” Norah smiled as she swung her legs into the front seat and closed the door.  She rolled down the window and waved dramatically at Maggie.  “By, Mags!” she shouted, blowing kisses until the car backed into the street and turned away.
Bill made sweeping turns through Richfield, headed toward the interstate, and Norah sighed happily, looking out the window.  

“Sports talk okay, Babe?” Bill asked, tuning the radio to his favorite AM station. 

“Sure, Dad,” Norah said, dreamily, settling back in her seat.

Keeping it real.  Holding myself accountable.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

TAL Challenge: Independence

Act One: Fireworks

Dan is always saying that I "don't like fun."  He doesn't understand that the concept of fun is flexible and individual.

Anyway, one of things I generally don't think is fun is fireworks.  They're loud and seem hazardous.  I especially don't like it when Dan purchases his own fireworks to light at his family cabin.  But, as I respect the flexibility of fun, I allow it.

Act Two: The Door

Sometimes when people talk about the benefits of teaching, they'll mention the fact that you can "close your door" and do whatever you want with your students.

There's truth to this, and teachers, in my experience, value independence.  We resist "scripted" curricula, oppressive administrators, and "standardized" anything.  In recent years, however, I've adopted door-open, community-based teaching.  I'm on a team of teachers.  We've sacrificed some independence, but speaking for myself, I'm convinced I'm doing my best work because of it.  I'm pretty sold on teaching and learning with the door open these days.

Act Three: Sovereignty 

The Indian Country Today Media Network had a story on their Facebook Feed yesterday about whether American Indians celebrate July 4th.  Here's the scoop:  Some Native people choose not to recognize July 4th because of colonization.  Some Native people use July 4th as a chance to celebrate their own independence, performing ceremonies and dances that were prohibited by the Department of the Interior between 1894 and the mid 1930s.  During this time, tribes were allowed to host homecomings under the guise of developing patriotism for the United States. This tradition continues for some groups.  Some Native people celebrate the thousands of Native veterans on July 4th.  Some Native people celebrate the ideals July 4th represents - freedom of speech and religion.  And some Native people just get together with their families and BBQ.

I'm going to do some of those things today, too.  I'll also watch some fireworks, probably, and try to have fun.  I hope everyone has a nice day, practicing "fun" in its many forms.

Friday, July 3, 2015

TAL Challenge: Overdue

Okay, I already failed the Blog Every Day in July Challenge.  But, that's okay because I'm totally going to make it up to myself and anyone else who cares.  My new plan is the This American Life blogging challenge.  You might know that This American Life is a radio show.  Each week, they choose a theme and present three stories around that theme.  That's what I'm going to do here.  Each day except #TwinTuesday and #NovelSnip, I'll have a theme and give you three "stories" around that theme.  I will choose my own themes, which you could do, too, if you have a blog and want to do this challenge.  Sometimes, I'm going to steal themes from previous This American Life episodes if I don't have my own idea.

Today's theme: Overdue.

Act One: Library Materials Coming Due Soon

I read a lot, and I use the library to procure the materials that interest me.  I go online and request the books, and then they appear on a certain shelf next to a certain number, ready for me to check them out and read them.

Occasionally, I'll read something super fantastic from the library, and a friend will say, "Hey, can I borrow that when you're done?"

And I'll say, "I got it from the library."

And then the person will look at me expectantly.

Of course, I know what they want.  They want me to give them the library book and trust that they will return it on time when they're finished.

"Do you promise to return it on time?" I'll ask.

Ohhhhh, yeeeesssss, the person always says.  And then I get the overdue notice and have to send a pointed text message and a bill.

Just kidding about the bill.

Act Two: Deck Stain

On June 8th, I began a home improvement project regarding deck beautification.  I went to the ACE Hardware store, and a nice gal gave me directions.

"You will need this sander," she said.

"What?" I said.

"Yes," she nodded.  "You will need to sand the deck first."

"I have to?"

"Well," she said.  "Yes."

I gulped.

"You can do this," she said.  Then, she gave me directions on applying the stain following the sanding.  "Don't overlap," she said, sternly, meaning I should only roll on one even coat, without going back over any part.  "My husband overlapped one year, and it looked awful."

"Wait," I said.  "I have to do this every year?!"

"Every other," she consoled.

Anyway, what did I do?  I overlapped, of course.  It didn't look awful, but it was blotchy.  Then, I tried to do a second coat on just the spots that hadn't been overlapped.  Results were subpar.  So, almost one month later (one could say, "Overdue"), I did a final coat, evening out the whole thing.  Now, it looks pretty darn good.  Not perfect, but better than when I started.

Act Three: The Classics

A couple of years ago, a colleague gave me a book to read called A Lesson Before Dying. It's by Ernest Gaines.

I picked it up again this spring for many reasons.  One of them is that the book is something of a classic, and it appears on the Black Lives Matter Reading List curated by Left Bank Books.  I picked it up, but then I kept putting it down.

It was just one of those books.

But, I was motivated to finish it. So even though it took months, I finally did, just this last week.  And I'm glad I did.  It's definitely good.  I'm not sure what else to make of it, but I know it's good.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

American Ninja Warrior

Today marks the first day of a full month of blogging.  Buckle up!

We're starting with a STATUS REPORT:

Dog Training: I learned a maneuver called "Quiet Hold." Also, I learned a maneuver called the "Puppy Hold."  These very similar moves have been highly useful in curbing undesirable behaviors.  Just one more step on the way to the world's most perfect dog.

Summer Reading: I'm reading The Crossover, the Newbery Medal Winner for 2015.  It's absolutely fantastic.  Shef is reading Spy School, which he really likes.  He's trying to convince Mac and me that he's actually a CIA operative who completes training missions right underneath our noses.  "What do you think I'm really doing out there on the golf course?" he asked.  Mac is reading Marvin Redpost.  Let's all hold our breath until he finishes it.

Television: I've finally hit the tv groove this summer.  Two shows not to miss: Bloodline on Netflix, which unfolds like a novel, and UnReal on Lifetime which will forever change the way you love the Bachelorette. 5 stars to each.