I know that someday you'll find better things.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Too Intimate

Mia’s dad resented the huge glass-plate windows at the front of the Speed Queen Laundromat. Every time we’d walk to and from the restaurant where we worked, he’d avert his eyes.

“Too intimate,” he’d say, and he’d shudder a little and then shake his head like he was trying to wipe away the image from his memory.

I didn’t fully understand that feeling until a few years later when we lived in the tiny apartment in Dallas which was practically on the northern tip of the Addison Airport runway.

I couldn’t bear to look up when those descending planes would roar overhead. Something about those sleek white underbellies made me feel uncomfortable, like I was seeing something private, something unintended for the general audience.
I found this image of the Speed Queen using Google Maps. Let's add Google Maps to the "too intimate" list.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Electric Slide

The most powerful light switch in our home is located under the staircase in the storage closet. Russ installed it a few months ago. When you pull the string, all the power goes out in the north quadrant of the house. You have to go out to the garage to flip the breaker switch to bring anything back to life.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Subliminal Grammar

Last week’s Michael’s circular brought out my misty-wistfulness again. I’ve been avoiding it for months, because we don’t have the money to support all the incredible projects that would come from a visit to that art material superstore.

T-shirts were going to be on sale 5 for $10. There was a time when I would have dropped everything to go scoop up that bargain, and that time was several years ago in the middle of August.

We’d just received our annual spirit T-shirts to kick off the school year, and that year’s version was a series of unfortunate attributes.

It was itchy. It was not traditional cotton. Instead, the synthetic material was a cross between spandex and burlap that seemed better suited for space exploration, ponchos, or sleeping bags.

It was white. I spilled coffee on mine the very first time I tried it on. I wasn’t even planning to wear the thing for more than a minute or two and KABLAM! Immediate and potentially permanent damage.

It was small—not just on me but on everyone. It appeared that spacesuit manufacturers used a different sizing chart than we cotton earthlings use. Beyond the few who’d made fitness their focus over the summer, the rest of our clan looked like ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack.

The worst part, though, was the graphic. Wordles were all the rage, but I would not go so far as to say they were in fashion. If you ask me, they should be left out of fashion. For eternity.
And here is why:

When you are wearing a shirt with a cloud of words, folks get curious. If the words are tiny, the folks get close—uncomfortably close—to read the message. If the folks are tall, they must crouch. If they are small, they must stand tip-toed and crane their necks to better read the tiny words stretching across your boobs.


Around that time, the Michael’s circular advertised their T-shirt sale, and I knew what I could do. I went to the store intending to purchase five navy blue solid-color roomy cotton tees, but I left with more than I’d planned, because the iron-on letters were on sale, too.


I wasn’t certain what I’d write, but I trusted that a big idea would arrive. That’s how fate works.

Sure enough, I awoke the next morning with a plan.

Visualize with me—

A teacher spends the majority of her time facing the class, but there are moments when she must turn her back to them to write on the board. Why pause the learning while the message is being recorded when you could sneak in a grammar reminder instead?!  Think of the benefits! It could cut down on the nagging. It could educate the masses in the halls during passing periods. Heck, I could even gently and subtly remind coworkers while I was at the coffee machine in the faculty room or while checking my mail in the office corridor.

I made several shirts with messages on the backs, and they were each magnificent in their own ways. Russ was less excited, but even he had the good sense to know it would be better than the wordle, which he realized after I reminded him seven or eight times. (Sometimes I wonder if what he really realized was that I was not going to let go of this issue until he cooperated and showed his support.)

Now that I’m not teaching, I don’t have the same opportunities I once had to show my enthusiasm toward grammar in an only semi-nerdy way. And now that Russ is not teaching English and is teaching Social Studies, he says he doesn’t have those opportunities either. Which I think is a load of horse poo, but whatever. Besides, he’s on this high fashion kick right now with dress shirts and ties every day, so--

Oh my gosh. I just realized—is this so he doesn’t have to wear my super-special subliminal grammar shirts? The nerve!

Well, the joke’s on him, because I already have a new purpose for those shirts, anyway. I’ve been wearing them to the gym. The treadmills are arranged in a long row directly in front of the elliptical machines. I select a vacant treadmill in front of an occupied elliptical and then, the magic happens.

Instant captive audience.

They may think I’m the weirdo in that moment, but hopefully the next time they sit down to compose an email, my reminders will resurface.

Possessive its never splits!

Possessive your, only four!

When in spelling doubt, find another way out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Progress Report: April

Which is more challenging? 5k per day or a month of A-through-Z daily blogging?

For me, it was the gym. Stupid 5k plan.

When I began Heidi’s blogging challenge on April 5, the manuscript I’d been working on for the previous seven months was 33 pages in length. It is now 106 pages long. THAT is progress.

I didn’t hate it. I loved it. I loved the writing, even though it took the better portion of the morning and the better portion of my pride to bare my soul.

But the gym.

I’ve done… let’s see… 19 days times 5k… So, 95k in the last 27 days, and I have only hated 85k of it. (Remember, K is FAR superior to miles.)

Ninety-five kilometers and I have not lost one single pound.
Not. One.
Ninety-five kilometers and my pants do not fit any better than they did before.

There are a few more weekdays in April, yes, but who cares? If results haven’t happened by now, they won’t by the 30th.

So, there’s that.

But it did feel good to have a commitment each day. A goal. A dream. A purpose. So maybe I will continue, if only to beat my own record. Day 1 was 41:22. Yesterday was 35:09. Could I do better? Could I do it in… 33:00 by the end of next month?

It’s worth a try.

And the writing—could Heidi and I do it again?
I bet we could.

We’ve already talked about options: A-Z in 30 days? 26 letters in 26 days, and to heck with the order of the letters? We’ll figure something out. Stay tuned for May 1. We’ll bring it.

Anya gave me a big baggie of lemon drops at the library this morning.

“Congratulations!” she said,”You did it!”
Did what?
“You made it to Z! Great job!”

I mattered. Someone cared.
I can do this.
I will do this.

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Zen Thief

What would you do if you were minding your own business, cheerfully sniffing the dryer sheet options at the supermarket, when a total stranger approaches and informs you that your dress is completely see-through?

I’ll tell you what I did: I cried. But I kept it together long enough to put on my most winning smile and say, “Well, I suppose it’s a good thing I’ve been working out.”

On the inside, I was thinking, “Well, it’s a good thing I decided to wear underwear.”

If I was the kind of person who thinks quickly, I might have retorted, “Yeah, and your underpants are showing, homey.” Then I might have blandly suggested that he check out that American Idol ‘Pants on the Ground’ fellow’s advice about saggy britches.

Unfortunately, I am the slowest thinker ever and fairly timid to boot, so this was not an option. To be honest, I didn't even think of it until four hours later.

I moved to the front of the store at casual lightning speed, if there is such a thing. Maybe I should have turned left toward the wine aisle, but I was so rattled that I made a sharp right turn and barreled toward the checkout lanes, praying that my newfound nemesis would not be there in line ahead of me.

Why, why, why had I chosen to push the boundaries of time and space with a late grocery visit on this day? This is actually not a rhetorical question—you may recall that earlier that day, I’d posted this on Facebook:



Still coasting the wave of pride and progress, I’d celebrated this unprecedented lack of anxiety by deliberately going to market a bit later than usual. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Remember, pickup time at the elementary school is 2:45, and it was now 2:36. I could not go home and unpack the contents of the shopping trip and still have time to change. I had to make an important decision, and I chose self-preservation.

To hell with the refrigerated items (which would literally be their fate on this 88 degree day!)

I raced home at the speed limit, honoring all traffic lights, signs, and customs, screeched into the driveway, and flung the car in park.

I even left it running.

I even left the garage-to-kitchen door open.

I might have even left the driver’s side door open, come to think of it.

I zoomed up the stairs, tore through my dresser until I found the first pair of leggings (which turned out to be winter-in-Connecticut long johns, curses!) raced back downstairs, yanked them on in the garage, (backwards, I realized too late) choked down a xanax without even a sip of water, and leaped back in the car.

I arrived on time and mostly in one piece.

Only my ego was shattered.

As I stood sweltering in those thermal long johns in the pickup line, I hid my teary eyes behind my sunglasses and reflected on the experience. Was this how the Emperor felt when he stood before his kingdom in his expensive invisible clothing?

I have never—and I mean never—noticed anyone in see-through clothing. One time while watching the Biggest Loser, one of my kids pointed out that trainer Jillian was wearing a black bra under a white shirt, but that’s different—that’s just a tacky fashion choice.

This, on the other hand, was a very deliberate fashion choice. It was a skirt I’d ordered from Etsy and India. The envelope that it arrived in confirmed its authenticity—it looked like it had been run over by several rickshaws and trampled by a herd of sacred cows.

It would be hand-wash only—the ultimate sacrifice—but I knew it would be worth it.

The skirt was long and black and flowy. It was intricately embroidered with turquoise and jade thread and adorned with hundreds of shiny silver sequins. It was my zen-mama hippie-chic favorite. Wearing it helped me to pretend to be a relaxed, laid-back, totally chill, non-neurotic member of society.

No one had ever commented that it was see-through before. How many times had I worn it to school? Oh God, oh God. All those innocent students. Oh, no. Had I worn it to my grandmother’s funeral last year? Oh, God.

If you’ve seen me in the last two years, you probably know exactly which skirt I am talking about, because I wore it ALL THE TIME. You either a.) didn’t notice it was see-through or b.) had the excellent judgment to know that I would freak out if I knew it was see-through, so you kept this detail to yourself and allowed me to continue romping around in my imaginary world of confident ignorance.

Either way, my gratitude to you is genuine.

It was my favorite article of clothing until that horrible Zen Thief stole my peace and passion.

I’m not sure I’ll ever wear it out of the house again. What’s the point of pretending to be breezy and appearing chilled-out if you have to layer yourself with undergarments?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"You'll love her!"

“You’ll love her!”  and “You know who you remind me of?” are two of my least-favorite phrases. Why is it that when someone tells me this, something dark and ugly inside of me interprets it as a challenge?

Yeah, we’ll just see about that, I think.

When Mia’s dad and I started dating, he was eager to introduce me to his best friend. Elvis was a laidback artist-musician who worked at the beer factory and played Frisbee-golf like a pro. He was very cool and very likable, and it was easy to see why they’d been best friends since the dinosaur-drawing days of second grade.

It wasn’t long before the boys wanted to introduce me to Elvis’s girlfriend. “You’ll love her. You two have so much in common. It’ll be great!” Mia’s dad gushed. You could tell from the excitement in his voice that he and Elvis thought we’d be the four amigos for the rest of our lives.

In the sparkle of his eyes, I saw our future:
Super Bowl parties and weekend getaways.
Holidays and camping trips.
Playdates with our current dogs and our future children.

There were a lot of hopes hanging on this impending introduction, I could tell.
The budding friendship was drooping with them.

On the way over there, he was giddy with enthusiasm.
“Priscilla’s a teacher, too—a great one! Maybe she could give you some advice.”
I was elbow-deep in student teaching and loving every minute of it.
But I was doing a good job.
Everybody said so.

Self-doubt tiptoed into my heart.
Did he think I needed her advice?
Maybe people just said I was doing a good job to be polite.
Maybe I wasn’t very good at all…

“Oh, and just wait until you taste Priscilla’s cooking. She is so talented. I bet she could give you some great recipes!” At that, my pride twitched again, and I felt the remaining scraps of my confidence and optimism for this friendship fly out the car window.

He continued the incessant chatter. I wished he would stop talking. How else would he ever hear the little voice inside of him—hopefully—telling him to shut up?

I reminded myself that I had to meet her before I could decide to dislike her, so I held my tongue for the rest of the drive to their house.

To the casual onlooker, it may have appeared that we hit it off famously, but my words and facial expressions were far from sincere.

To his credit, his description of Priscilla was accurate. The skills were legitimate. I think it was the delivery that was rubbing me the wrong way. Everything she said had a condescending edge to it. The emotional sensation was somewhat like rubbing a balloon against a cat’s fur.

The air was electric, and I was ready to pop.

Upon each subsequent visit, the tension inside me grew. My patience for pretending was quickly diminishing.  When I could no longer convincingly fake it through the visit, I knew it was time for a new survival strategy.

So, I became conveniently too busy for social gatherings, cheerfully seeking out other obligations that could conflict with visiting them. Not many dentists and hair salons have nighttime appointments on Saturdays and Sundays, so I had to throw myself into obsessing about teaching responsibilities and feign fluster.

This proved to be a shortsighted decision, as now it gave off the general impression that I really would benefit from her advice and wisdom.

When I’d made my sixth or maybe sixteenth consecutive gracious-but-firm excuse, Mia’s dad finally confronted me.

“You don’t like Priscilla, do you?” he asked. What was that tone? Gentleness, or disappointment?

I avoided eye contact and stalled.
“Um… You see… Well…”

But it was now or never. He’d asked, right?
“You know what? I don’t. She’s bossy. She’s know-it-all-y. She drives me crazy! So no, I don’t like her,” I spat out, because the words even tasted bitter. So much for sweet honesty.

“Well,” he countered, “I do like her. In fact, I love her.”

Normally the idea of someone’s mouth gaping in shock seems cartoonish, but that is exactly what happened at that moment. My jaw literally dropped open in stunned surprise.

Since I was speechless, he kept going.

“She can be bossy. She can be a know- it-all about stuff. She drives me crazy too, sometimes.”

Why were we arguing then?

“But I love her,” he said evenly, “because she loves my best friend. She has stood by him through some really hard times. She loves him, and she treats him well, and she makes him so incredibly happy. As long as she loves him, I’m going to love her.”

He turned and walked away.

That was twelve years ago. I didn’t know what to say then.
Still don’t.
There’s the obvious. He was right. I was wrong. “You’ll love her” wasn’t intended to be a challenge, it was a request, I think.

A classy person would have realized this and honored it.
I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I really hope Mia’s dad’s new wife realizes it and honors it. She is lovely, and I am being so sincere about this. I hope she loves Priscilla and Elvis the way I couldn’t, because I’m pretty sure they love her just for loving their best friend.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Xerox Repair

If only it was offered as a professional development course, I could have been a demi-god in the teaching world.

When I taught in Dallas, photocopies were an essential tool for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1: My classroom did not have textbooks (or anything else, including air-conditioning and screens on the windows, both of which posed several additional problems that shall wait for a different opportunity to be shared.) The point here is, if anyone in that room was to read anything independently, it was going to have to be a.) written by me and/or b.) photocopied.

Reason 2: Most of the students did not have anything to write on or in. No binders with loose-leaf white-and-blues, no composition books, no spirals. If I could create a lesson on one side of the paper and provide an opportunity for written response and practice on the back, it was a two birds one stone victory.

As with all tragedies, the circumstances were complicated--unjustly, I believe--by the fact that the paper was heavily guarded under lock and key, only available when the key-keeper was able to be located.
Furthermore, the machines in the workroom were uncooperative.
And odd.

One was a bit persnickety, but the other was the real doozy. It was not the classic purple ink mimeograph but it was also a not-so-distant cousin—there were these sheets of inky carbon paper that you’d need to clean out from the back trap each time you were ready to copy a different item.

I started going to Kinko’s every morning before work. It was just easier than dealing with that mess. It was also more expensive, but at the time it seemed worth the sacrifice.

In Plano, there were THREE copy machines. Big, snazzy, powerful ones. That first year, the students’ supply packs each contained a ream of paper that the kids were directed to pass along to their homeroom teachers. That meant there were 27 reams of paper stacked at the back of my room. Crazy!

Eight years later, there were still at least 14 of those original reams of paper stacked at the back of my classroom. The reasons here were also two-fold.

Reason 1: After surviving the photocopy conditions in Dallas, I had a deep respect for conservation. It didn’t seem fair to squander these resources when others were making do with far less.

Reason 2: Those three snazzy copy machines were about as reliable as those awful two in Dallas. Maybe worse, honestly. I couldn't have used all that paper if I made it my sole mission.

They were constantly overheating and jamming and refusing to acknowledge the user’s presence and urgency of the task at hand. I think they had a superiority complex.

My love for those machines began to dwindle, and in turn, so did my need for them.
Because we were blessed with more resources for the students, I had the luxury of seeking alternatives to photocopies. Could the item be tweaked into a powerpoint and projected onto the screen? Could one print-out be paired with the document camera for all to see? Could the concept be replicated independently on notebook paper by the students? Could the official document be linked to the internet so that students could have access to it later and even print it out at home if they so desired?

My interaction with those Xerox machines became less and less frequent through the years.
There was really only ONE circumstance that absolutely required photocopies.

Lessons and plans for substitutes.

Never was there a time more urgent—more desperate—than the wee hours of the morn, just ahead of the arrival of staff, students, and the sweet soul assigned to supervise the students for the day, especially if you were toting a feverish pajama-clad toddler on your hip.

Never was there a time when the copy machines would be less reliable.

Certain as the sun, there’d be a sign taped to each and every machine with a pathetically scratched out attempt using whatever half-gnawed barely-functioning writing utensil that God and the custodial staff had overlooked.

Copier broken.
Service called.

If some brave, innovative, forward-thinking principal—just once—would send teachers to Xerox repair training instead of off to a conference to receive and read an enriching and life-changing book (that most of the teachers had already sought out independently months earlier) they could end or at least minimize the plight and the pain of this malfunctioning machinery.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Words of Wisdom

Years ago at Jennifer’s bridal shower, we played a game that involved completing time-honored adages. The first few words of the proverb were provided, and each guest independently recorded the tried-and-true words to finish the phrase. I’d thought I was the daughter of the Cliché King, so I was surprised at how few I knew. It’s tempting to try to blame my youthful age for this indiscretion, but more likely it was my pervasive oblivion. There was only ONE that I was certain about, so when it was time for the group to call out the answers to each one (Family Feud chorale-style, as is the protocol in these events) my contribution was especially exuberant and decidedly different from the more mellow—but unanimous—‘spoil the soup’.

Spoil the soup?

I thought it was ‘Too many cooks crowd the kitchen!’ I’d probably heard my dad say a thousand times throughout my childhood. It was usually followed by ‘We’ll call you when it’s time for dinner. Go pick up your room.’ And sometimes ‘Do you think money grows on trees?’

The embarrassment of that day had almost faded when I received an email forward of a similar nature. Apparently a teacher of first-graders had conducted a similar activity and the results were pretty humorous. (You'll have to google it on your own. You know how copyright laws make me nervous.)

Ah, little kids.
So honest.
So naïve.

I began to wonder about my own students. Sixth graders pack a whopping eleven years of life-wisdom. How would they respond? I provided them with the sentence starters and directed them to complete the phrase independently. If they weren’t familiar with the phrase, they were to make a reasonable guess, as logic is at the heart of nearly every proverb, nestled snugly between collective experience and universal truth.

Here were some of the more notable contributions:

Don’t change horses…
color/hair (this was mentioned several times)
who don’t want to be changed.
if you already have one that works.
until it wants you to.
change yourself, instead.

Strike while the…
moon is out.
day is young.
cobra is still.
enemy is sleeping.
getting is good.
Don’t bite the hand that…
is germy.
you write with.
is covered in spikes.
shares the news.
has already been bitten.

You can lead a horse to water, but…
it might not get in.
good luck leading it away.
you can’t lead water to a horse.

If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…
learn something new.
smell like a dog.
earn their trust.
probably be dog-piled.
make a few new friends.
never achieve your goals in life.

A bird in the hand…
is a calm bird.
will eat your seeds.
is probably dead.
and a foot in the bush.

Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow…
what is due tomorrow.
whatever it is that you do.

There are none so blind as…
(both were very popular answers)

Better late than…

And finally:

An idle mind is…
Extremely stupid. Not to mention boring.

I whole-heartedly agree.

I laughed until my sides hurt. It’s why I kept that stack of papers in the first place. Their reasonable responses may not jive with the language of the traditional proverbs, but the spirit of their message is as clear as the wisdom of those lovely ladies at the bridal shower and all the generations that came before them.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vera and Veritas

There’s a certain irony about sporting a knock-off of a brand so close in name to the Latin word for truth.

Without fail, whenever I venture out with one of my quilted paisley-and-floral tote bags over my shoulder, someone will approach me and gush, ‘Oh! Vera Bradley. Don’t you just LOVE her?’

And I never know what to say.

I do love her, or at least the items I’ve seen on the internet and in the catalogs, but I don’t own her, or at least any of her beautiful bags.

Quite simply, I could never justify spending $65 (or more!) on something to lug around the kids’ Frisbees, sidewalk chalk, swimsuits, water bottles, snacks, and sunscreen.

Although gorgeous, my totes are not Vera.
They are Walgreens.
Two for eight dollars.

That’s more my financial fashion for now. At least until my unicorn stops munching on my money tree in the backyard.  Or until—at the very least—I can remember to snap the lid closed on the sunscreen.

And that is the truth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Under the Influence

“Why are you wearing your pants like that?” She looked like a pint-sized Punky Brewster—one pant leg was cuffed to mid-calf, the other was rolled as high as it could go.
“I have to. Isabelle says if I don’t wear ‘em like this, she’ll bite me.”

My goodness. Peer pressure starts at a younger age than I could have ever imagined.

It was August, and Mia had just started formal preschool. Because of her September birthday, and because she was the tallest child in the world, they’d decided to place her in with the three-year-olds, even though she wasn’t quite old enough yet.

I hoped this Isabelle would be moving on to the fours, or this was going to be a long year.

While I overreacted and fretted to Russ, Hannah tried to explain to Mia the merits of independent thinking.

“So Mia, if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”
“I don’t know, Hannah. Would you? Would you jump off the bridge?"
Mia gazed up at Hannah in solemn admiration. "Because if you would, then I would, too. But if you wouldn’t, I probably wouldn’t, either.”

Hannah sighed and called out, “A little help over here, guys?”

I tried to help. “What she’s saying is, you don’t have to do what people tell you to do—“

Russ interrupted me. “You should do what some people tell you to do. You should definitely follow directions from your mommy and your daddy and your teachers.”

Whew! Good save!

“Biting is mean,” he continued. “Only mean friends bite. Good friends don’t bite. The next time Isabelle says she’ll bite you, you tell her, ‘Good friends don’t bite,’ okay?”

“Good friends don’t bite,” Mia affirmed.

I wondered how long that strategy would work, though.

Wouldn’t it be weird if we lived in a world where adults curried influence with a threat of biting? If all you had to do was grin fiercely and bare your teeth to get out of a traffic ticket? If a growl or snarl at the DMV could get you to the front of the line sooner?

Good thing good friends don’t bite. What a relief that this isn’t how things work in the world! Mia would be fine—she’s grown to have a good head on her shoulders and thick skin—but I’d be a mess. Can you imagine the germ transfer of all that biting?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Twenty-Thousand Dollar Pyramid

Cigarettes! Shoes! Crackers! Childhood memorabilia! Old tax records and love-letters!
How would you have fared as a contestant on The Pyramid?

Things You Keep in a Box
Things That Go Missing
Things You Hide
Things That Kick
Things That Get Tangled
Things That Stain
Things You Wish For

Rebecca Stead wrote a mysteriously wonderful novel called When You Reach Me. The story takes place in New York City during the fall of 1978 and the spring of 1979, which—coincidentally—was an excellent time to be born.

On the very first page, Miranda’s mother has just received notice that she’s been chosen to be a contestant on the game show $20,000 Pyramid, where two-person teams (one contestant, one celebrity) compete against other teams in a category-guessing challenge. One member invents and provides clues, and the other must try to guess the linking category.

Consequently, each chapter of the novel is titled by a different category consistent with the game show answers (questions?) but applicable to the chapter’s plot. It’s a thing of beauty, such a nice little detail for an already-amazing book.

The obsessive gene in me appreciates the organizational strategy of grouping by ‘Things….’ for there is a distinct possibility that this was the method I used when I packed for college.

Box 6: Things That End in –wear
(Note: homophones were completely acceptable. It was a different world back then.)

Lately my thoughts have been running amuck, so I’ve retracted to my comfort zone and attempted to sort them $20,000 Pyramid-style. Care to play along?

Which is bigger, a kilobyte or a megabyte?
When is it time to get the oil changed in the car?
Which remote turns on the television?
How long have these leftovers been in the fridge?
Things I can’t seem to remember!

Four years ago at an intersection I frequently cross, a woman attempted a left turn without the green arrow. She and her infant son were struck and killed by an oncoming truck. The driver had done nothing wrong, but he’ll have these deaths on his conscience for the rest of his life. How will he survive?
Things I can’t stop thinking about!

The apartment was located just north of the corporate airport. Not really an issue by day, but non-stop ruckus at night. Not to mention that the thunderous roar of the planes overhead set off at least four car alarms in the parking lot.
Living so conveniently close to the school would be a nightmare during arrival and dismissal.  Tack on an extra 15 minutes for your commute, dear, because the steady stream of cars makes it damn near impossible to make a left turn.
Things you wish you knew in advance!

In the dimly-lit bathroom of the Mexican restaurant, the woman at the sink was informing her sister of the diagnosis she’d received earlier that day. It was terminal cancer, she sobbed into her phone. I cursed my small bladder and wondered about the proper etiquette: should I remain in my stall until the woman left, or should I exit, wash my hands, and give my apologies for the interruption and for her fate?
Things you wish you weren’t there to hear!

I never had the opportunity to watch the show, but I’m definitely a fan of the concept. It’s a shame it’s been canceled, though, because I’m pretty sure I could have won the twenty-thousand dollars—as long as an obsessive person like me was in charge of writing the questions.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Strength and Other Super Powers

Every minute of every day, someone somewhere is doing something you can't do. Thank goodness for trait diversity.

My friend Heidi, the one who roped me into this challenge to write every day, has a real-life super power. Neither invisibility nor invincibility can compare to her amazing ability.

Heidi can fit into her tiny little pre-pregnancy jeans two weeks after giving birth. Pretty impressive, right? There’s more. The most recent baby was over ten pounds. The time before that? Twins. And before that? ALSO TWINS.

Actually, the jeans-thing is really more of a trait of her true super power—the action that really makes her a hero is that she was a surrogate for these pregnancies.

Magnificently modest, she shrugs it off like it’s no big deal. She tries to downplay it by saying things like I have a body that just tolerates pregnancy really well. I don’t get morning sickness, and my figure bounces back almost immediately… If I can help other families to achieve their dream, why not?

Why not?

I can tell you why this certainly wouldn’t work for me, and even if we overlooked the sciatica, the heartburn, and super-sensitivity to smells, I just don’t think I could bear to hand over that brand-new baby with whom I’d shared those previous nine months.

Heidi’s different, though. She doesn’t let herself get attached. While she can’t describe how (because trust me, I asked!) she acknowledges that this emotional-detachment quality, especially in combination with her physiological strengths, makes her able to do what she does.

Although she’s the only surrogate I’ve ever known, there are quite a few members of our society who have versions of this kind of an emotional and physical skillset.

Firefighters, police officers, doctors, soldiers, and all kinds of emergency responders are most obviously professionals with an ability to keep their emotions in check while performing very important—and often very physical—tasks.

Less obvious (but still very valuable) are the morticians, Child Protective Service Investigators, and grief counselors of our society. I would add dental hygienists to this category, but I might be the only one who feels this way.

Frequently overlooked, it seems, is the role of the news reporter. I maintain this skillset is absolutely essential is in news reporting, and I speak from experience. Or lack thereof. (Have you already forgotten about Lightning Mike?)

I do not possess the almost-magical balance of emotional detachment and physical endurance. I could NEVER report the news. Most days I can’t even bear to watch the news because I know the images and stories will haunt my dreams (best-case scenario) and disrupt or eliminate my sleep or, far worse and more likely, plague my days with obsessive worrying thoughts for weeks.

Last week I saw a dead squirrel in the road, so I pulled over to shed a few tears. (Doesn’t everybody?) I avoided that route for the next three days and took the long way home while pondering decomposition rates and wondering if squirrels have families. Did he have a wife and kids somewhere, worrying? It’s been seven days now, and I still think about that little fella every day. Sometimes several times a day. And I’m not even an animal lover.

I would be a disaster as a news reporter.

My sister, on the other hand, is an amazing news reporter. She has the skills to get the job done, and to do it well, AND to sleep at night. Most nights, she’d argue.

News reporters are among those that run toward the crisis instead of away from it. They’re not doing it for the sake of gossip; they’re attempting to learn and understand the truth first-hand so that they can disseminate it to others. They’re taking the risks so that the rest of us can be informed and remain safe. All the while, they’re having to deflect criticism from the very public they’re trying to assist.

Reporters and others in news media careers possess the super powers of strength and emotional detachment as much the traditional heroic occupations do. They arrive to work knowing they’ll likely encounter a barrage of intense situations. Let’s face it-- the news is predominantly bad. Bad news is universal, but good news is more subjective.

Would an exclusively good-news station garner many viewers?

Seventeen squirrels evaded death in Plano yesterday, with even more survivals predicted for tomorrow!
In other news, a huge amount of murders, car accidents, house fires, and kidnappings did not occur today.

Even I’d eventually tire of tuning in.

I’m grateful for trait diversity in humanity—  tremendously grateful that there are those with the strength to do what they do, day after day. They are strong in certain areas so that others can apply their own strengths to the situations and careers of their callings.

Which, in turn, allows me the liberty to exercise my strength and honor my calling:
currently squirrel mourning.