Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Writerly Wednesday: Art and a Thriller

Writerly Wednesday, Before the Fall, We are all made of molecules

It's that back-to-school haze where I feel like nothing much is getting accomplished except the fairly herculean task of establishing norms and protocols for a great school year. Also this year, my sister is getting married on Saturday.  So, lots going on in many a department, but it feels like not so much in reading. It feels like that, but actually I'm reading a super buzzy thriller by Noah Hawley called Before the Fall, and also reading with Shef a funny and true high school story called We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielson.  And, in my earbuds, I've got Just Kids by Patti Smith.  Here's what I'm learning:
  • Both Before the Fall and Just Kids are about commitment to art. I can't help but think about how different Patti Smith and I were in our early 20s. Patti made art at all costs, living on the street and going without food in order to write poetry and support her partner's creativity. I did not make art in my early 20s, but rather worked long hours in my classroom and made contributions to my 401k. I went on dates with my now-husband and we talked about buying houses and stuff. Smith's partner, Robert Mapplethorpe, spirals into sometimes life-threatening reveries during which he produces overwhelming visual instillations. I'm awed by Smith's decisions. They worked out for her, as now she's a famous musician and prize-winning writer.
  • In Before the Fall, a fictional painter's work mirrors his own dangerous entanglement in what might be murder. Here's an excerpt from the description of Painting #2
"Now you look back to the girl, eyes widening, hand rising, not to pull the hair from her face, you realize, but to shield her eyes from the horror. And then, hair rising, you look past her, to the house, but more specifically to that tiny storm door, that black pit of salvation, and within it a single man's arm, his hand grasping the the frayed rope tether. And this time, as you take it in, you realize - He is closing the storm door, shutting us out."
So the bottom line? Maybe I didn't make art at all costs in my early 20s, but I did establish a long career that might now allow me to make art without living on the street and contracting trench mouth. Also, I still like mysteries and thrillers. I always have, ever since middle school.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Concert Review: The Dixie Chicks

Dixie Chicks, DCX, tour, Minnesota State Fair

I hardly go to any concerts, but I do go to Dixie Chicks concerts. I've now been to three of them, and therefore, I feel I'm a world-class authority on Dixie Chicks performances.  Here is my review of their DCX MMXVI tour:

Natalie, Emily, and Martie brought out the big guns with "Taking the Long Way" right at the beginning. It sounded fantastic, and Natalie looked pretty rock and roll with a haircut that involved some long, slicked back pieces and shaved sides.  My brother Noah said it seemed like Natalie had a run-in with a lawnmower, but that's ridiculous. Natalie looked super chic, and I love everything about her.

Later in the show, the Chicks did "Nothing Compares 2U" as a Prince tribute. Natalie is not Sinead, but she sounded quite excellent. I loved that part.

During "Ready to Run," the Chicks showed a slideshow of caricatures of political candidates. The song ended with a screen full of patriotic balloons and giant cannons of red, white, and blue confetti. I loved that too, and I desperately tried to catch pieces of it.

Although I felt myself alternately cheering really loudly and scream-singing during "Goodbye Earl," I don't really think murder is a good idea. The Chicks flashed a split second of Donald Trump during that song, along with a montage of old-fashioned mug shots. The crowd loved it. "I saw that," I reported to Sarah, the pal on my left. "Yep," she said.  If the message is that Donald Trump is a crook, then I'm on board with it. If the message is that we should stuff Trump in a trunk and then dump him in a lake, I'm against it.

The whole show was fabulous. I'm just a teensy bit disappointed that the last encore song wasn't a massive shredder. It was something new that I'd never heard before.  But it was still good. I'm giving the concert an A+.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Annals of Fall: First Day of School

We've done it again: We've started the school year.

The Good: I'm pumped about my curriculum and my students. My advisees are adorable. My bosses set a wonderful tone for the year with a calm, positive, and mindful first assembly.  Shef seemed happy and confident to be a "middle of the middle school" seventh grader and finished one spot out of varsity in the cross country run-off. Not bad for a sevie! Mac's teacher is empathetic and caring. When I picked him up, I could already tell he trusted and relied on her. Heart melt.  I mean, really.

The Bad: It's time for the usual exhaustion. This is not a surprise. It's an annual thing.

The Ugly: The humidity isn't doing much for my hair, as you can see in this photo.  Today, I've done a little braid, which I find to be passable. Let's be honest: I'd prefer to be pretty, but passable will have to do.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School: Status Report

back to school, status, award, rating

Classroom: Is a giant pit. I'll be in there all weekend getting things situated and ready to go in time for the sixth grade breakfast on Monday.  That's okay because I'll be alone and uninterrupted, and I'll just get it cranked out. Sometimes that's what has to happen. And so sometimes that's how I do it.  

Curriculum: I'm psyched about it, both for the sixth graders and the sevies. And my second day's lesson plan for the big kids comes straight from the great Lee Heffernan. Gonna be solid.

Psoriasis: Controlled. Knock on wood right this second.  I'll be bathing in Dead Sea Salts while you continue knocking. I appear to have a stye in my eye, but my psoriasis is controlled.

Diet and Exercise: Very poor. 7 Minute Workout and dog walks and that's it.  But, as I keep reminding myself, it's the busiest two weeks of the year, and we just have to keep doing what we can. First things first is get through the annual sixth grade camping trip a week from tonight. Last year I was so tired I almost crapped out right on the field in front of the students.  This year, I'm going to be more chipper. #goals

Overall Rating: Let's go with 3.5 stars.  I've been more on top of it, but I've also been less experienced, confident, and skilled. I'm pretty good at this job.  Let's all remember that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back 2 School: Social Graces

meetings, back to school, bad behavior

I think my problem is that it takes awhile to remember that there are actually other people around.  I'm used to just traipsing around by myself all summer, only having to interact with my own children. And then suddenly, I'm thrust back into a workplace with professional colleagues, many of whom demonstrate top-notch manners and act like confident, respectable adults. 

Okay, so all this is my way of saying that I failed my very first back-to-school meeting.

What happened was my boss was talking about mindfulness.  Obviously I'm down with mindfulness. I have an app and I meditate while soaking in Dead Sea Salts.  I breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. I did a whole six part meditation thing about the power of gratitude. Do you know that the science behind gratitude is solid? It is! I already knew this, way before this morning's faculty meeting. Thinking of things you're grateful for makes you more empathetic and more physically healthy, in addition to helping you make friends and improve your self-esteem. No one could argue with the benefits of gratitude, and certainly, encouraging self-care in the form of gratitude journaling is a really great workplace practice. Even better, in my opinion than free Fitbits.

It was the phrase "gratitude buddies" that made me laugh out loud. BUDDIES. I couldn't help it. BUD-DIES. 

After I disrupted the meeting by laughing out loud, I committed myself fully to gratitude buddies. I'm going to be the best gratitude buddy, and my buddy is going to be so grateful that he has me. I feel like he probably already is.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Movie Review: Jason Bourne

jason bourne, matt damon, review

Let's talk about the movie, Jason Bourne.  It's the latest in my favorite spy action thriller franchise, and it stars my celebrity boyfriend, Matt W. Damon.

Matt Damon's middle name doesn't start with W, I don't think. But, I wanted to feel like I had official information, as a professional reviewer.

Okay, I just checked google, and his middle name is Paige. Now we know.

Anyway, the good news is that the latest Bourne movie exists. The bad news is that it isn't really that good.  Here are some reasons:

  1. The use of shaky cam is excessive, even for Bourne. It's like they couldn't figure out the choreography of the fights or the play-by-play of the car chases; and instead of nailing it down, they decided to go with really tight and blurry shots that might make you dizzy, but that don't make you forget the aforementioned problematic facts.
  2. The story doesn't totally make sense.  Jason is hanging out and making bank by winning street fights.  Then, all of a sudden he's called out of hiding by Julia Stiles who doesn't provide a particularly compelling reason for him to reveal himself. In the trailer Jason says, "I remember everything," but in fact, he doesn't remember much of anything more than he already did.
  3. The Bourne franchise is kind of sexist. Women compromise their professionalism and risk their lives after taking one look at Bourne. I mean, I understand it because Matt W. Damon, but these movie women should have more self control. And then, some of the women also die while Bourne looks at them mournfully as they bleed out. I'm glad Jason is sad, but but I'm disappointed that the women are mostly dead or professionally compromised.
And that's my professional opinion of Jason Bourne. I will now check the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to see if I've achieved convergence with critics who get paid money for their thoughts. 

Hold please.

Good news: It seems like I agree with many of the critics, most especially this one from NPR.   That's a relief.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

End of Summer: Movie Round Up

movies, summer, movie review, bad moms, me before you, secret life of pets

I decided to do some round-ups of the summer.  Why not? Let's start with movies.  I wanted to see more movies in the theater, and I accomplished that goal.  In fact, I saw 8 movies.  I'm now realizing that naming of the top 5 of 8 seems sort of... well, dubious, I guess.  I only have to cut out three of the movies and then I'm listing, like, the best.

Good news, though: I just looked at my list, and cutting out the three was pretty easy. I cut Ghostbusters, The BFG, and The Angry Birds Movie.  Here are the rest in order of how much I enjoyed them, least to most.

5. Now You See Me 2.  Magic, mayhem, and some good anti-capitalist sentiment.

4. Finding Dory. Family, loyalty, epic bridge crash.

3. Me Before You. I started sobbing midway through, and I couldn't stop.  My friends didn't have the same issue and thus didn't look as wrecked on exiting the auditorium.

2. Bad Moms. I saw this with my mom.  Two hour PTA meetings about bake sales.  LOL because #truth. The message is familiar: Do your best and forget the rest.

1. The Secret Life of Pets. Wicked funny and very sweet.  Let's end with a quote from that fine film: "You aren't doing great, but you aren't drowning and that's something."

Monday, August 8, 2016

Annals of Summer: Sad Letters from Summer Camp

We all know that Camp Foley is the best place on earth. It features endless fun for school-aged children, as evidenced by the iconic letter from Shef we received two years ago. That letter is pictured above, and we store it on our refrigerator.

I feel great about sending my kids to camp.  And, gosh darnit, this feeling could not be dampened by the the letter we got from Mac today.  He says, and I quote, "Dear Mom and Dad, I want to come home I am crying [or dying. I can't really read it]."

Truth be told, I'd be more worried if I hadn't gotten a text from my Camp Director pal, Alli yesterday.  She told me that after three straight days of refusing to dip even a toe into the lake, they sent an assistant director down to coax or coerce him, I don't really care which. Sure enough, he passed the swim test on the first try after flat out refusing to take it for three days and crying and/or dying. The next postcard from Mac better say, "I had so much fun learning to wakeboard."  It better, but I'm not holding my breath.

Mac refusing to take swimming lessons (and my own long chin hairs)

Mac emptying his dresser, item by item. A true classic.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Annals of Summer: Camp Departure

It's time for camp departure. I'm not sure who is more excited: me or the boys. It's been a long, great summer of maximum togetherness.  Dan has been working 100% of the time and thinks he's jealous of the togetherness. But, I think we all know there are plusses and minuses to each situation.

Shef says he's most pumped for paintball and waterskiing and fishing.

Mac says he's most excited for riflery and archery.

I'm most excited for 30 or 60 or even 90 minutes where no one talks to or touches me.

I'll be at work during the days, but in the late afternoons, I'm pretty sure I can make the sensory deprivation happen.  Let's see.  Maybe I'll even exercise?  Who knows.  I haven't been doing much exercise outside of walking the dog and the 7-minute workout.  But, that's better than nothing.

Sessie the Camp Septic System

School vs Stay-at-home Mom.  We know where I come down.