Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making something interesting

I'm going to prove how my work life is nothing but giggles and grins.  I get to read some humorous, satirical content now and again.  If you don't...sorry, my friend.  Your life is the worse without it.  If, like me, you found yourself jumping into The Longman Reader in preparation for an upcoming class and ultimately landed on "How to Say Nothing in 500 Words" by Paul Roberts, then you may have also come across this bit: "Can you be expected to make a dull subject interesting? As a matter of fact, this is precisely what you are expected to do. This is the writer’s essential task. All subjects, except sex, are dull until somebody makes them interesting. The writer’s job is to find the argument, the approach, the angle, the wording that will take the reader with him. This is seldom easy, and it is particularly hard in subjects that have been much discussed: College Football, Fraternities, Popular Music, Is Chivalry Dead?, and the like. You will feel that there is nothing you can do with such subjects except repeat the old bromides. But there are some things you can do which will make your papers, if not throbbingly alive, at least less insufferably tedious than they might otherwise be" [bold font my own].

I didn't know what I was going to pound out here for my weekly Thursday morning coffee shop hour, and here it landed in my lap.  Buckle in, dear reader, for while I'm not going to be talking about sex, I shall be wending my way through the finer points of a truly fascinating topic: someone's sitting in my seat.  (But first, I need to finish re-reading that essay so that I can better lead my planned discussion.)

(I'm back briefly: Roberts' article uses a fictitious example of writing about college football for 500 words as the task exemplar to make his point.  At one point, he writes that you [the college student struggling through the assignment] might develop your argument about why college football is no good for the school.  One of your points might be that "...for most schools it is financially ruinous."  Obviously, Roberts lived in a different day and age [upwards of 50 years ago] than what we currently enjoy.  Financially ruinous no more, eh?)

Well, now.  Thanks for waiting, and I'm back.  On to the juicy guts of the matter: allow me the chance to state again (perhaps somewhat more emphatically now) that someone is sitting in my seat.  Their bum is enjoying the cushy leather chair that is most undoubtedly mine when I stop by this little joint.  What's more, he's ensconced there as if he means to stay.  There can be no saltier salt to rub in my fresh wound. 

Perhaps this is the climax for the series of events leading up to the moment I walked in those doors.  #2 asked me, yet again, for a snack at 8:52 a.m.  #1 asked me, yet again, if she was late at 9:00 when she was looking out the window watching the students get off the buses.  #2 asked me, yet again, how long it would take to get to pre-school.  I forgot #2's backpack for pre-school (read: no change of clothes in case she has an accident, and for some reason, pre-school is the only place where she does so anymore).  I pumped gas in the delightfully crisp air (read: bone chilling wind).  My parallel parking fiasco was exactly what it sounds like, and it involved the sidewalk. 

I think that the pumping-o-the-gas made all of the difference.  That 5 minutes that put me behind my otherwise strictly enforced time budget undoubtedly allowed Mr. Seat Usurper to swoop in and perform a coffee shop chair coup.

However, it's the season of thanks and sharing, so I will, for this day only, accede my rightful place in this socially accepted institution.  But let it be understood that in so doing, I staked my claim to a tall cafe table right beside the door (cause I like 'dem small and high ones, too), and I'm not sure it's me or my high octane wit, but the large glass window right beside me is all steamy now.  And I'm distractingly close to actual people (note that my preferred location is rather tucked away in a corner, which did lead to something of an awkward moment as I went barreling toward it with my large cup of Jamaican Me Crazy only to have to pretend that I wasn't trying to sit in someone's lap).  But this place if full of interesting people with their interesting stories, so it's also a bit of an airport luxury getting to do a bit of people watching and eavesdropping.  Shameless.

Twist in the plot!  There's now a deaf, older gentleman sitting in the table beside me.  It's hard to eavesdrop on that conversation. 

This table is serving me well.  Will it lead to a complete redux of my favorite spot?  Just call me Dickins cause that was a cliff hanger.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Georgia on my mind

I'm what you might call all caught up on my grading.  This leads to all sorts of mumbo jumbo happening.

1.  Did you know that Augusta, Georgia is in the top 10 list of most affordable housing (major) markets in the country?  So says the boy who read it on one of those fab Yahoo stories that just cycle in some bewitching manner across my screen every time I check my email.  There's just about any bit of the random and the arcane that you'd like to know that you can glean from those.  Well.  Augusta, Georgia roughly falls geographically in my "Yes, I think that I would live there someday" area of the country.  This is to say that in my old (enough) age, I'm d-o-n-e with brutal cold, with puddles of slush smeared throughout my house, and with driving on black ice.  I'm beyond irritated at marshmallow-y jackets and raw, irritated skin.  I'm frustrated getting dressed in the morning when deciding what combination of layers to huddle in for the day and irritable at night when everything requires huddling under blankets until some warmth finds its way in again.  No amount of snuggly images of roaring fires, mugs of hot chocolate, and bright sweaters will provide enough salve for this case of cold weather woes.  Again, I say...well.  Augusta, Georgia is somewhat warmer, I hear.  Charleston, South Carolina has its moments of being downright balmy come the 6 months of the year that those of us call "winter."  Savannah, Georgia would likely provide a bit of comfort for my prunish little soul.  Well.

2.  We love our fuzzy little boos, but they have moments where they just don't have anything going for them except their sweet little furry faces.  "Hey, Mom-oo, glad to see you back tonight.  I'm going to sit in your doorway and give you a sad little squeak that means, 'Give me a treat right now and maybe I'll say please with a little head-butt to emphasize my point.'  Oh, BTW...I threw up on your comforter.  And your sheets.  But I was thinking about you, so I threw up between your pillows instead of on your pillows. you.  And, I still would like a treat.  Get working on that ASAP.  Please (almost forgot to say's another head-butt which will leave a flurry of white hairs on your black pants...welcome for that, too)."  Me-ow.  And now I am running yet another cycle on my dryer with tennis balls to help pound, fluff and what have you for our down comforter, which (hey hey, lucky us) doesn't have to be dry cleaned.

3.  Fur ball #2, who was seemingly innocent in puke-gate on Mama's comforter, woke me up at 12:30 AM by retching ON ME.  I've had cats for upwards of 20 years, and this was a first.  Let's have a blanket-by-blanket update here.  I'm now without my down comforter (hello friend, this is a must here...refer to #1 above) and weighed down by (count it) 4 new blankets.  But this isn't good enough for el gatitos: let's take away 25% of my blanket replacements.  At 12:30 AM just for meows and nibbles.

Maybe, I could move to Augusta, Georgia and set up shop as a cat wrangler.  I've got some mad skills in CAT 101: Listening to what your cat tells you, even if you don't like the package that the message arrives in.  And my chapped hands would thank me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Something interesting I read lately - 2 qualities of a successful relationship

I come across scads of "articles" about relationships--building strong foundations, knowing your partner, why you/your partner act as you/they do.  Typically, I don't pay much attention to them.  But sometimes, a legitimate bit of reading encourages me to take the time.  It also helps when I come across one on a Sunday afternoon while little ones are put away in their respective corners of the house.  This one was well worth the 10-minute read, no matter what stage of a relationship you are in (pre-relationship and I'm-not-expecting-to-ever-(again)-be-in-one both count because you never know). 

Cheers to the boy who does many more things right than wrong, to friends who are entering developing moments in their relationships, and to loved ones who have shaped their own relationships and in so doing have shaped my own.  Instead of reading my own lengthy blatherings about the article, just dig in to the good stuff.  (Find a relatively uninterrupted spot, a chocolate chip-y cookie, and a beverage that suits.  I highly recommend that part of the reading experience.)

And I'll tease you with this, my favorite line from the piece: "But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward."  It matters how you argue, perhaps even more so than you act the rest of the time. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moments of realization (and cookies, just because)

I swung by the library because I was out of books at home to read, and that always puts me in an uncomfortable place, mentally.  It's like having your kid spend a weekend at your parents: you wander around without purpose for a good 2 hours before you finally settle into something else, but it still just doesn't feel right.  Even though you've been looking forward to this time alone, you can't wait to get them back.  Being bookless is something like that for me.  Newspapers are addictive and magazines are moments of fantasy and inspiration, but books ground me like nothing else. 

Well, I got some books.  I was skimming the non-fiction section looking for a new memoir, and I had my 1st epiphany of the morning: I really dig memoir in the same way that I ravenously follow certain bloggers.  There's some amount of out-of-body decadence in it for me.  I'm fantastically behind where I should be in my ability to understand other perspectives (I'm blaming you, small-town, Midwest, homogenous upbringing!).  Throughout the course of the semester in one of the classes that I teach, I have my students complete a series of 10 personal responses based on specific topics located from short essays in a collective text.  The latest response was a response to what each student believes about peace...doesn't an ability to understand others' positions, to truly listen to them and respect their own place, do much toward engendering a sense of peace and ability to thrive as a unit between us?  I believe so.  All of this is to say that I picked up a memoir by Wendy Davis, the politician from Texas, in large part because I just finished a similar book by Kirsten Gillibrand (New York's Senator), and I find myself compelled to refuel my perspective about women by women.  But I bypassed a memoir by a Mormon in favor of Davis's book.  Here's my pledge: I'm going back for that one next.

This somewhat leads into my 2nd epiphany of the day, which happened just before logging into this bit of a blog when I was thinking "What, oh what, shall I write about today?" or something like that.  I had a common (of late) combination pity party/confessional/therapy session with myself in the car as I was dropping the young people at their respective schools.  It wasn't a fabulous morning, it was totally my fault, and I hate that about myself.  So I was sitting down here in my normal Thursday morning squishy chair, and (perhaps I'm just really dense not to have realized this before), but the times in my life when I have been most centered, most happy, and most purposeful have all been when I've been a student or in direct conversation about literature.  There's some seismic shift in my self-monologue when I have been in this mental place, and I like it.  No, that's not accurate.  I need it.  Here's my second pledge of the morning: in order for my life to make the most sense for me, I must be a participant in academic conversations and contributing to them; I will foster this ability more than I have been doing since my time as a student has ended.  If I am to return to my healthiest self, I must do this for myself in some way.  And I don't know how I'm going to get there, but I think that I have to try, somehow. 

I'm counting on some measure of accountability in so submitting this here.  Please, do check in on me if you want to in the future to see where I'm at on regaining my equilibrium. 

In the meantime, I made brownie buckeye cookies after the girls went to bed last for no other reason than I know it would bring some measure of happiness to the boy, who is an in-the-flesh cookie monster.  And that felt good.  If you know of anyone who could use some cookies for no other reason than just because, let me know.  Cookies for all--a pretty simple concept that makes me happy. 

Monday, November 10, 2014


Abstract:  I love me some weddings. I never get through everything that I want to do when I get a bit of time.  We accidentally watched TV for a couple of hours.  And, I gag through sweet potatoes.  Keep get's better. 

Here's the best bit first:  I love me some weddings.  It never fails; weddings just put me in a warm & squishy mood.  If we're invited to a wedding and we can go, then you can bet your first dance that we're going.  I'm also a fan of not taking my children to a wedding, especially when they don't have a solid emotional connection to the couple.  Weddings are just a perfect reason to call up ye olde in-laws and  plan a slumber party at the grandparents' pad.  Which we did.  And then...

Kid-free time happened, which means that I had about 10 hours of free time planned for about 3 actual hours.  Over-achieving.  For my down-time, I brought with me all of the following: a laptop (grading), an iPad (Netflix & email), a full-sized afghan that's down to the last skein or two before it's complete (Christmas present for #2), a memoir (go women, go), and 3 newspapers (it's good to catch up on 3 days ago).  Sadly, I forgot my Bon Apetit.  But no matter, I've worked through 20 pages since we've gotten back and accumulated another magazine today.  That's never ending in a good way, but still...never ending.  Part of the reason why I didn't get through my massive amount of reading & work is because...

I accidentally got caught in an impromptu Property Brothers marathon, thereby doing practically nothing else.  And the boy watched almost all of it with me without once kindly suggesting that we either check any of the other 900 channels or else just turn it off for the love of the DIY-gods.  (Here's my shout-out to the multiple homeowners on the show who have said they've been looking for a new home for 2 years.  I'll see that mark and raise it to 4 years.  At some point, we just need to suck it up and write the check, right?)  So that was a strange couple of hours that isn't how we normally spend our time.  And do you know what else I don't normally do?

I don't typically eat sweet potatoes.  Friends, I try.  There is something about them that automatically initiates my gag reflex.  But I'm also a firm believer of teaching my kids what healthy food choices are in part by example.  Fortunately, both of my tubers like their sweet potatoes.  Unfortunately, neither the boy nor I do.  We suffer through it when we feel we can't downright avoid them.  All for the sake of our children.  That's love.  Even better, I managed to hurt my thumb on the sweet potato last night.  That's right--the sweet potato, not the knife that I was using to cut it.  Indulge me while I state that again: I hurt my thumb to the point of bleeding on a sweet potato and not the knife.  Darn tubers.  Don't let their 1970s orange-vibe lull you into funky town: they're crafty little boogers.

By the way--that Bon Apetit I mentioned earlier?  It's chock-a-block full of recipes focusing on s-w-e-e-t p-o-t-a-t-o-e-s right now what with Thanksgiving looming large.  And that mag is so modern, elegant, and enticing that it makes always makes me fight back against that gag reflex.  But then I remember I like pretty everything else, so I move on with life and my Thanksgiving will remain sweet potato free.  It's a safe zone here.  All are welcome.    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reno, reno, ren-o-vate

Here's the deal.  I'm still catching up on Scandal, don't get me wrong (season 3, my friend!).  But, it's a hard show to watch while grading, which is what I do a lot of own my own time. 

Netflix, my partner in crime during afternoon grade-fests, now has seasons of Property Brothers and House Hunters at my ready disposal.  Home reno shows give me a bit of something to watch while still allowing me to concentrate (for the most part).

Well.  This also means that I'm dreaming big dreams again of finding a magical new house exactly where we need it to be and well under our budget so that we could have the chance to do fun (FUN!) things like put up backsplashes and crown molding. 

But riddle me do these families have such crazy budgets? 

Exhibit A:  A family of 6 (soon to be 7) has a budget over $800,000.  Mom stays home with the kids.  Dad teaches.  Wait, what was that?  Teaches?  Kind of like my own family?  Well, presumably yes (minus a couple of little people).  Move us to that school district and show us some classrooms.  We'll work there.

Exhibit B:  Mom is a flight attendant and dad is an electrician.  The budget is over $500,000.  Color me befuddled.

I could go on, but I won't.  Instead, I'll point out that the young couple who is buying a house together for the first time (unmarried) based on the guy's income alone isn't staying together for long.  That house is the guy's.  The girl isn't going to be in the picture much longer.  She's not paying for anything, and the guy talks about that as well as repeatedly referring to it as "my own place."  Pronouns speak volumes. 

If I ever have a budget for a home that is closer to a cool million than a lukewarm 100-K, it was nice knowing you cause I'm not living here anymore.