Friday, December 19, 2014

I'll be Home (Ec) for Christmas

Google “Home Ec -- I mean Family Consumer Science -- Christmas Lesson Plans” and what do you get?

Christmas Cookie Lab. Christmas Cookie Bake Sale. Christmas Cookie Sampler. Christmas Cookie Comparison. Christmas Cookie Swap. Healthy Christmas Treats (there's one in every crowd).

Ask the students, right after they fill out the Spooky Halloween Treat Lab evaluation, what do they want to do next?

“Make Christmas cookies.”

So when the principal asked me “Would your classes like to make cookies to serve during semester tests?” I said yes. (Actually, I gave him the “are you kidding?” look.) Then I asked my students.

Do you want to bake Christmas cookies? “Yes!”
For the other students? “Ummm....”
You can have some, too. YES!

I was feeling pretty confident in their abilities. After all, they made snacks for a conference-wide, school administrators' meeting last month. AND had recipe requests. All semester these kids have done incredible work in the kitchens. Sure we hit a rough spot with the “healthier options” recipes, but I think whole wheat Snickerdoodles are an acquired taste.

Some students have… contributed more than others. Some have... put forth more effort than others. But each of these students has made me incredibly proud at least once this semester.

All that ended with The Great Christmas Cookie Catastrophe.

I'm not blaming the kids. I should have known better than to use untested recipes (stupid Google search). I should have watched the oven timer more closely (and made sure they used it).

I should not have tried to buy Billy Joel concert tickets on-line as soon as they went on sale while trying to supervise the creation of a batch of festive, fudge-brownie cookies.

I felt like Goldilocks. One batch of cookies was over-cooked. One batch was under-cooked. One batch was... why did I approve an anise-flavored cookie anyway? And there is not enough time in a 45-minute class period for the students to do all the baking and cleaning.

To top it all off: I didn't get a ticket for the Billy Joel concert in Minneapolis.

Ouch. Way to kick a girl when she's down, Target Center ticket program. (It's not sold out yet, but I haven't liked the “best available” tickets they've “suggested” for me. I'm gambling here. Really, you think there's not gonna be one single, odd seat left on the floor? )

Final. Straw.

Camel's back? Broken.

So I stood, forlorn, in the kitchens as the students filed in for homeroom. I was stressed, surrounded by piles of inedible cookies, mountains of dirty dishes and flour-covered counters. And I was ticket-less.

There were tears.

Yeah. No. Really.

I cried.

Over cookies.

It was a brief, silent, ragged breathing, just a couple of tears overflowing type of cry. Not my proudest moment.

Wound. Too. Tight.

But one sweet boy talked me down. “Are you ok, Mrs. Salemink?”

He helped clean up the mess – a mess he didn't make! – and helped me sort out and salvage more cookies than I thought possible.

Santa's weepy elf might have to fill in a little around the edges (I'm just not sure high schoolers are ready for anise-flavored cookies. I'm not sure any one is, no matter what the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau says.) But it looks like the Home Ec – I mean Family Consumer Science – classes will help make semester tests (and Christmas – I mean winter – break) just a little brighter at West Branch High School.

Now if the Target Center would just cut to the chase and pony up a front row, center stage ticket we could put this whole ugly scene behind us.

And have a Merry Christmas. Cookie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be Good for Goodness Sake (Or Not)

The Queen Mother has always had a bit of an ornery streak. So I shouldn't have been surprised by her conversation with Santa at the nursing home Christmas party this afternoon.

“Dorothy, have you been a good girl this year?” Santa asked.


That's my mom.

Santa was momentarily taken aback. He didn't immediately re-check his naughty/nice, but there was definitely a split-second of speechlessness. This 89-year-old, wheelchair-bound, white-cotton-candy-haired, quiet, gentle lady just told Santa she hasn't been a good girl this year?

Who would expect such honesty with Christmas looming on the horizon? Who would expect such truthfulness with a sleigh-full of goodies hanging in the balance? Who would expect such a midwest-candid “nope” delivered straight to Santa's rosey-cheeked face while he is still clutching her present in his gloved hand?

Me. I would. Yup. That's my mom.

After they recovered from the initial shock, everyone at our table had a good chuckle. None more so than The Queen Mother herself.

I laughed too, although I was more than a little disapointed in Santa's timing.

You see, Santa stole my speaking role. The Queen Mother and I have our set patter -- our little shtick -- and he horned in on my part. Each time I leave after a visit we go through the same routine: I kiss her cheek, hug her and squeeze her hand. I tell her “I love you. I'll be back soon. Be good.”

She wrinkles up her nose, sticks out her tongue and laughs.

So I squeeze her hand, hug her again, kiss her cheek and whisper “Be good. I love you.”

The second time I usually get a begrudging “I'll try,” accompanied with an exaggerated sigh and an eye-roll that rivals that of my teen-age daughter for theatricality.

Such drama begs my rejoinder: “Good, because someone has to do it, and it's not gonna be me!”

We do mix it up occasionally. Sometimes I'll tell her “No dancing on the tables!” This never fails to get us a strange look from whichever unexpecting nursing assistant is within earshot. Not that The Queen Mother ever danced on a tabletop (that I know of), and neither have I (that I remember). Although there was that one time she balanced the empty tortilla chip bowl on her head....

Sometimes she beats me to the punch and she tells me to be good. Then I get to deliver the world-weary sigh, roll my eyes and whine “Well, I'm so busy I guess I won't have time to get in trouble.”

The curtain call is always the same: One more hug, one more hand squeeze, one more kiss.

I pause in the doorway for one more goodbye. One more glance at this familiar stranger.

I search for that spark of orneriness that is my mom.

Her eyes shine. She is still there.

One more “I love you.”

Don't behave.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fear and Loathing in the Chili Chilly Chill

Runner's high is real.

Any doubt I had of that vanished when I tried to interview a bunch of runners post-race at the Chili Chilly Extreme 5K in West Liberty last weekend.

It was like trying to talk to a bunch of drunks.

Focus, people. Focus. Bunch of Chatty Cathys, all talking at the same time and none of them finishing their...

Oh look! A picture! You gotta see this! And I was all runnin' and then it was muddy.... And the water was so coooold.... Only up to my knees they said.... I didn't expect that much shrinkage...”

The drunks/runners parallel only hit me when I tried to read my interview notes. They looked suspiciously like the checks I used to write at the bar at 1 a.m.

After the run I was too busy scribbling illegible notes and trying to keep up with the 7-minute-mile pace talk to work off my own post-race energy. So the Princess got it all (and then some) when I took her to lunch. After I had taken a warm shower and finally quit shivering, that is. Not only did she get my race-course recap (the same as my interviewees'), but I got to share their stories with her as I organized my slowly thawing thoughts.

“There I was, finally changing out of my wet clothes in that tiny bathroom stall, shivering so hard I coulda' been twerking, wishing I could have had a bowl of chili while I was asking questions because it looked so good and everybody else was enjoying it while I was scribbling and dripping all over the floor and my paper was all wrinkly because my sleeve was still wet. Still wet! But anyway, I thought “What's that awful smell?” And I realized it was me because we had to go though the creek  and the culvert once -- and I don't know what died in there! -- and my shoes REEK, and I mean REEK like you wouldn't believe! And then I wondered how I managed to sweat so much because my bra was still wet and I realized I SLIPPED in the creek and the water was up to my pits and it was SOOOO COOOOOLD, but I only brought dry sweat pants AND why does my thumb hurt? How could I have hurt my thumb running?”

The Princess: “Yeah. You know, with this mix-and-match thing I could just order eight pieces of bacon.”

She has quite the way of putting things into perspective.

Speaking of perspective, some of the race participants and organizers said they hoped the event could some day draw closer to 100 runners. The numbers were way down this year (only about 30, being generous). It's a fundraiser for the Muscatine County Fairgrounds and it was a lot of fun, so I can see where they're coming from.


I managed to place first in my age group.

I kinda like that. In fact, the last three races I've participated in, I think I've placed first in my age group. Granted, I've been the only one in my age group each time. There is something to be said for being old, decrepit and stupid enough to run in November.

Of course next year I'll be one of the youngsters in the really old age group, so I may still have a chance to place in the top-ish for my age group. It brings to mind that venerable quote from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: “Face it honey, I'm older and I have more knee cartilage left than you.” At least I think it went something like that.

Then there's the fact that this Xtreme run involves a lot of narrow trail running – in other words, single-file. Once you've established your running order it's tough to move up the food chain (and unless you're the lead dog the view never changes).

Not that I would know about moving up. I was pretty well occupied just trying to keep the runner ahead of me within view so I didn't veer too far off course. But I did feel sorry for the poor soul (souls?) slogging along behind me.

And I need to apologize to them and all of the south end of West Liberty for the foul language I used when I fell. And when I crossed the really, really cold creek. And when I climbed up the really, really muddy creek bank. And when I realized we were no where near the end of the run. I can either control my feet or my mouth, but not both at the same time.

One good thing about being at the back of the pack: the trail is well established. One bad thing about being at the back of the pack: the trail is a well-established smooshy, wet, slippery, mud fest. And the creek banks are nothin' but a sheet of slime, which makes for fun sliding down but not so much fun trying to crawl back up.

I did manage to improve my position early on in the run when I sprinted out ahead of a pack of runners so I could take pictures to accompany my newspaper article. Unfortunately that burst of energy – and stopping a couple other times to take pictures – ruined my planned pacing-strategy. I was just never able to get my head back in the game, and I think my time really suffered because of that.

Yep. I can explain my slow time and frequent walk-breaks.

Runners also have a lot in common with fishermen.

And did I mention that I hurt my thumb?

Just wait until next year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carpe Birthday

I wanted to make my 49th birthday special and -- boy howdy! -- was it ever! I started celebrating by preparing a bribe for Billy Joel and ended up on stage at a concert.

But first, the backstory.

I realize 50 is supposed to be the milestone year, but I figured why not celebrate everything leading up to the milestone? It’s like celebrating Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, or TGITh.

Forget carpe diem. Carpe anum!

In that spirit I began celebrating my birthday, which officially occurred Sunday, on Thursday. How else to kick off a big celebration, than by baking nearly eight dozen cupcakes and almost as many chocolate chip cookies? Those treats were the key to my brilliant plan: Operation Bribe the Students to Bribe Billy Joel.

Carpe Piano Man.

I figure Billy Joel might be able to ignore my request for an autograph, but how could he ignore a bunch of junior high and high school students writing him in support of their teacher's request? In exchange for a cupcake or a cookie, I asked students in my classes (and any random student who happened to wander by) to write a short note to Billy Joel explaining what makes me so special and why he should send me his autograph.

What I wanted was an autograph. What I got was a day as one of the most popular teachers in the school (who doesn’t love cupcakes, cookies or the person who gives them to you?), and a bunch of complimentary notes that made me feel warm and fuzzy. 

Carpe Sugar Rush.

Not everyone who took a treat wrote a letter, but that’s ok because the smiles and thanks (and puzzled looks of disbelief) they gave me were a gift, too. I had almost forgotten how much fun it is perform random acts of kindness.

Carpe Pay It Forward.

The down-side to my brilliant plan is that kids are already asking me if there's been a reply yet. Obviously I didn't think this through. Some how, some way, someone's autograph is going to have to be hanging on my wall by May.

Carpe Snail Mail.

Flash forward to Sunday and the concert.

After I managed to not embarrass The Princess at the One Direction concert this summer, she graciously invited me to a concert for my birthday: a concert she wanted to go to, but couldn't convince any of her friends to go with her (or they couldn't convince their parents to let them go, not sure which).

Carpe Cool Mom.

And that's how I wound up at a bar in Iowa City on my 49th birthday with a bunch of 21-and-youngers at a concert by hip-hop artist Huey Mack.

I'm going to give you a moment to let that soak in.

I'd like to say I was offended by the language. But let's face it, I'm the woman who gives up swearing for Lent. Every. Year. (Or as they would have said at the concert, “every mother f****ing year.”)

Carpe Potty Mouth.

I'd like to say I'm appalled by rap and hip-hop lyrics. But let's face it, as an English major and writer I admire the story-telling and that poetic ability to create rhythm with words.

Carpe Mad Writing Skills.

I'd like to say I didn't like the music. But let's face it, I was jumping up and down and waving my arms just like everyone else.

Carpe Dance Shoes.

I'd like to say I didn't get a kick out of it when Huey Mack said “We've never had a Mom in the audience before. Come on up here!” But let's face it, I did.

Carpe Are You Kidding Me?

I'd like to say I didn't chug a beer on-stage with a 22-year-old hip-hop artist. But of course I did.

Carpe Budweiser.

I'd like to say going to a concert with my daughter, laughing and dancing with her, and having her think it was cool that I was on stage with Huey Mack was probably one of the best birthday presents I've ever had.

Because it was.

Carpe Birthday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Terminus Elegaic


What an awful word.

Termination, terminate, terminus.

So cold and detached.

“Concluding.” “To form the end of.” “To put an end to.” “To stop.”


Stop, stop, stop, STOP!


I'm not sure how, but I had managed to delude myself into believing that “inoperable” meant just that and ONLY that: "not able to be suitably operated on."

And then they use the “T” word.

As if the “C” word wasn't scary enough.

But scary is one thing. Scary is an emotion. An overpowering emotion. A tidal wave of fear that pulls you under, holds you immobile until self-preservation takes over – fight or flight – you rocket to  the surface, lungs burning, and explode into action.

Tears, laughter, memories, vows, plans.


But terminal.

Terminal is a big, black, empty space.

It is the absence of feeling.



And yet....

“To put an end to,” “to form the end of...”.

Close to causing death...”.

Forming the end or extremity...”.

An end...”. Not the end.

“Either end of a transportation line or a main station on it...”.

A connective point (on an electrical circuit)...”.

All life is terminable.

But if this is an end to one station, a connective point....

Then there must be something else.

We are not losing her. She is going on ahead of us.

This is an end. Not the end.

Not nothingness.

Not emptiness.

There is still time for bravery, courage, fighting, hoping. Living. Loving. Epiphanies.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Frock You

By the time you read this, WBHS Homecoming 2014 will be just a memory.

By the time I recover from dress shopping for WBHS Homecoming 2014 it will be time for WBHS Homecoming 2015.

And The Princess will be shopping without me. It's safer for everyone that way.

Teenage girls are proficient pack shoppers – provided it is within a pack of their peers. Introduce an adult figure and the thrill of the hunt and ultimately the bagging of big game suffers. Ironic, considering it is usually the adult who controls the funds.

I remember going to the mall with my friends. No one else will be as brutally honest about the clothes you try on – certainly not someone whose commission depends upon the purchase. (“Yes. That does make your butt look like you could show a double feature on it.”) Your mother just doesn't share your sense of style, finely honed as it was/is by Seventeen or Pintrest. And only another teen could hit the food court with equal gusto. (“Fro-yo and a diet soda will totally not make your butt any bigger.”)

Unfortunately the pack-hunt mentality broke down this time. Probably because The Princess does not like to shop. (I know! Right? I think she was switched at birth.) Believe me, there is nothing more un-fun than high-pressure shopping (absolutely, positively, gotta have it) with someone who doesn't like to shop. And this was a high-pressure situation. There was just a week before the big dance, and every weeknight was filled with Homecoming Week activities.

To keep the mood light, I decided to treat this as a learning opportunity and a chance for mother-daughter bonding, rather than a buy-or-die situation. What I learned is that The Princess and I have totally different approaches to shopping, and that shopping for a Homecoming dress has changed a lot since back in the day.

How things have changed #1
Back in the day we shopped for a “homecoming outfit;” typically a wool-plaid or corduroy skirt and a sweater with bat-wings or a cowl neck. I'm not sayin' they were good fashion choices, but they were practical – warm, full coverage, and you could wear them again.  (There is photographic evidence... which will not be shared.)

And the whole thing cost less than a car payment.

The current Eastern Iowa girls' Homecoming attire trend  is a fancy party dress: the shorter, the tighter, the sparklier, the better. And only good for one wearing. You don't even want to think about the per-hour cost.

How things have changed #2
These days the pack hunters don't have to actually hunt as a pack. Thanks to cell phones, Twit-a-gram and the such, they can spread out and hit many more stores in the same amount of time.

“Why don't we check out X store,” I'd suggest. The Princess' thumbs would fly across the screen of her phone and she'd report haughtily “Randi was just there. They don't have anything.”

Once potential dresses were located, The Princess' modus operandi was simple: Grab as many as you can – without looking at the size – and sort them out in the dressing room. But it took her Fore. Ev. Er. to try them on. At first I thought she was having trouble with the zippers. Then I realized that she had to photograph and Snap-Twit pics of each dress to her pals for an instant opinion.

Did Mom get to see any of them?


Not until the very end, when it was crunch time and the stores were ready to close... when I was seriously considering buying the outrageously expensive (but gorgeous) dress, just to end the pain and misery. (Mine. Not hers.)

One thing hasn't changed: The Mom Kiss of Death.
At one store which had a plethora of fancy dresses (it looked like the sequin factory had exploded) I watched a Happy Mother-Daughter Combo enter. Obviously they had just started their shopping trip as they were still smiling, walking side-by-side and talking to each other. They stopped to browse at the front and center display (designed to capture your attention and build expectations, only to brutally shoot them down later). Daughter seemed taken by one particularly fluffy frock, going so far as to touch the ruffles and check the size before moving on.

Mom then approached the dress, took a surreptitious look at the (reasonable) price tag and said “This one's cute.”

You could hear a collective intake of breath as all the other Moms in the store turned as one, a look of shock and horror on our faces. We mouthed a silent, low motion warning: “Nooooooooooooooooo.”

Time stood still. Daughter turned around gave the dress one more look, wrinkled her nose and said “Eh” before stalking off.

Number one rule of the hunt for Moms: Never appear too interested in the quarry.

Number one rule of the hunt for Daughters: Enforce Mom's rule Number One.

Need I point out that the dress The Princess finally bought (rather, I bought) was the same one we saw at the first store, four hours, countless stores and two cities before it was actually purchased?

And it looked beautiful on her.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The One Where We Promised to Laugh

You can write about this. Just make it funny.”

That might take a while, Honey. Today I cried while I waited for my pizza. Now I'm known as “Crazy Combo Pizza Lady.” On the up side, they moved me to the front of the line.

You're right. Some day we will look back and laugh.

But today we cried.

And we worried, asked unanswerable questions, and made plans. Tonight, and for as long as it takes, we will hope, and smile, and trust, and believe, and support, and pray.

And love.

In other words, just another day with the girls.


I had the amazingly good fortune to spend time this weekend with some of my best friends – one group of girls I've known since grade school and the others I went to college with.

How was I lucky enough to become friends with so many funny, smart, caring, supportive, level-headed, take-charge, just plain bossy, stubborn, loud, brave women? How could people with such different backgrounds, interests, experiences and personalities be so similar?

They knew me at different times and they knew different versions of me. They've seen me at my best, and helped me through my not-so-best. Their influence, nurturing and encouragement made me who I am.

In other words, now you know who to blame.


These are the type of friends you can go years without seeing, and just pick right up again like you were never apart. The friends you reminisce with and make new memories with. These are the memories you hold on to, the times you remember, and the friends you rely on when life knocks the breath right out of you.

These are the friends you promise to call more often and visit again soon. These are the ones who understand when time slips away. And they're the ones who are still glad to see you when the stars finally align. These are the friendships that remind you to cherish the time you spend with the people you love.

In other words, they are much better friends than I deserve.


These are not the type of girls who sit around like bumps on a log. These are not the type of girls who watch everyone else dance and stay glued to their seats. These are not the type of girls who wouldn't know fun if it bit them in the ass.

These are the girls who bite fun in the ass. They lead the conga line. They don't sit until they're ready to drop.

These are the girls who whisper in your ear “if you want to fight her, I'm right behind you,” when someone needs an attitude adjustment. No matter what the odds are, or what you're up against. Together you're invincible.

These are the friends who know where the bodies are buried. The friends who know the stories. The stories our children could use as leverage to get out of doing chores for the rest of their lives.

In other words, the friends you want to keep close.

And hug even closer.


I need a girls' day.

I started to worry as soon as I got the text.

She wanted to talk to all of us at the same time.

I thought of several possible reasons:
1. Someone's pregnant (a standing non-joke as we approach middle age).
2. Someone's ambushing us for a Tupperware party.
3. Someone has cancer.

So I ordered the complete burp-to-seal baby food storage line in both pink and blue, because you just never know what life is going to throw at you.

In other words, you do whatever you can to keep it funny.

Even when you don't feel like laughing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Am Not An Animal... I Am A Teacher!

Since I started teaching for reals again, several people have asked me how my kids like having me at their school.

We've been lucky, I guess. Even when I was substitute teaching I rarely had my own kids in class. Sooner or later I will have The Prince for a short, junior high exploratory class. And The Princess has threatened to take my baking class next semester. (Really? You never want to be in the kitchen with me at home! Feel safer with witnesses around, do you?)

But that's not my point.

My point is, no one has asked how I like having my kids at my school.

Answer: I'm not sure.

On the one hand, it's no big deal. The Prince totally ignores me. He would walk down a different hall to avoid being anywhere near me if he could, but he can't, so I take every opportunity to wave at him and embarrass him. Nah, actually I grew tired of that after 10 or 20 times, so I don't even look for him anymore.

And when The Princess forgets to have a permission slip signed, needs money for yet another spirit t-shirt or doesn't bring her lunch, she can just pop down to my room. And when I forget my computer, she's willing to run home to get it and take an “excused tardy” for the team.

On the other hand, The Prince totally ignores me and The Princess can pop in to my room whenever she needs something. And she feels free to give me fashion advice – loudly – whenever she sees me in the hall.

Having taught before and having suffered through the perpetual ignorance of being a substitute (“No, really, our teacher always lets us go to lunch 20 minutes early”), I thought it would be great to know who's who at the zoo. I looked forward to having FOPPs (Friends of The Prince and Princess) in class.

And for the most part, it has been fun. There's less of the ol' switcheroo while I'm taking attendance. I do wield a little group-Mom power when dealing with scofflaws in the hallway, as in “Does your Mom know you talk like that, and would you like me to tell her what you said when I see her at the next PTO meeting?”

But there are times when it's hard for all of us to remember that I am Mrs. Salemink, and not Mrs. Gabby's Mom. Or that there are times when I am Mrs. Gabby's Mom the Teacher, and not just Mrs. Gabby's Mom the Mom.

My first time around as a teacher – when my kids were The Princess-ling and Prince-let – there were a couple of students who were a real pain in my… side. But a wise, veteran educator taught me this lesson:

Every student is someone's child.

You can take this two ways.

One: We only have to put up with the little monsters for an hour or two each weekday. Their parents have them All. The. Time.

Or Two: They may be a pain in the ass at school, but someone, somewhere, loves them unconditionally (I hope). They are the center of someone's universe (besides their own). They are the sunshine of someone's life. They embody someone's hopes and dreams for the future.

As my own children grew and I gained more exposure to the great unwashed, overly body-sprayed, hormonally-charged cauldron of angst and uncertainty that is junior high and high school, I realized that pre-teens and teens are human too (despite evidence to the contrary). They carry around the same steamer trunk filled with insecurities and the same mis-matched emotional baggage we all have. They gently cradle the same ticking time bomb of crisis potential that we all hold.

They just do it with more drama. And volume. And in groups. Cloaked in a cloud of body-spray.

Unfortunately I am a slow learner and I have to remind myself precisely seventy gazillion times a day not to take it personally. They are not deliberately trying to drive me crazy. They are just teens being teens.

But if I could, I would like to teach them this lesson:

Every teacher is someone's parent (or favorite aunt/uncle/cousin or child).

You only have to put up with us for an hour or two each weekday. Our families have to put up with us All. The. Time.

We have children/family/pets of our own who are the center of our universe, and we do our best to provide gravity and stability to their universe. They might not admit it, but they love us (or at least like us a little bit... sometimes). We bask in their sunshine and worry about their future.

We carry around the same steamer trunk filled with insecurities and the same mis-matched emotional baggage that you do, but ours have broken handles and are held shut with duck tape. We gently cradle the same ticking time bomb of crisis potential as you do, but we've learned how to set the snooze alarm on ours.

And one more thing:

I may be a mom but I'm not your mom, so pick up after yourself!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Everything I Need To Know, I Learned at the Gym.

Lately I've been thinking very deep, philosophical thoughts at the gym.

This is OK, because Adam, the founder/owner/head trainer at Grit Gym, is a deep, philosophical thoughts kind of guy.

It's also bad, because usually those deep philosophical thoughts cause me to lose my focus. When that happens I tend to do things you shouldn't do at the gym, like hit myself in the thigh with a 12-kilogram kettlebell (yep, that hurts).

But it's also good because I've come up with some solutions to real-world problems by applying my gym-world philosophy. Or maybe they are universal truths that I can see played out in the microcosm of the gym, kind of like seeing how the trees are the forest

Or maybe it's the effect of oxygen deprivation to my brain, because sometimes I forget to breath when I'm lifting.

In any case, here it is: Everything I Need To Know, I Learned at the Gym.

Just Do It. I know, Nike had a successful run with this. But I add this corollary: Waiting Doesn't Make it Easier. This is one of the first lessons I learned at the gym. I was doing one of my least-favorite (at that time) exercises and procrastinating between sets when I realized it didn't matter how long I waited between sets. I still had to finish them. And putting them off... dreading them... wasn't making them any easier.

This was a very deep, philosophical thought for me because I am a world-class procrastinator. I'm always putting things off until tomorrow or next week. But there in the gym, I could see instantly the error of my ways. Ugh. There were still straight-arm marches to be done (think plank, but worse).

I still procrastinate – at home and sometimes even at the gym – but I tell myself those straight-arm marches aren't going to do themselves, and I think I get back to work sooner.

There's Always a New Challenge. I get a new workout program about every four weeks, so just when I think I have everything figured out and I'm feeling pretty comfortable and confident (and maybe complacent), everything changes. The practical reason, I'm sure, is to work different muscles, and to work muscles in different ways. But it's also good mentally: I have to learn new things (sub-lesson: It's OK to Ask Questions), I can't get complacent, and I have to focus (see above).

It has also taught me that there are things worse than straight-arm marches. Like Turkish get-ups (I can't even begin to explain), which I thought were the world's worst exercise until I had to do a one-leg bear crawl with a slider (insanity), which was recently replaced by the feet-elevated Spiderman pushup (pfshhhh + eye roll) as my least-favorite exercise.

This, too, has real-world applications. Things might seem pretty crappy right now, but I will get through it. Things might get even crappier. But I'll get through that, too. Because I can. Because...

I'm More Stubborn Than Even I Realized. Sometimes I surprise myself by how hard I keep trying. Success, even in small amounts (five pounds here, a few more yards of bear crawl there) is a great motivator. Failure motivates me, too. I hate “not achieving.”

Sometimes real-world successes are harder to recognize or measure than achievements at the gym. Knowing that I have pushed myself and have achieved goals at the gym helps me believe that I can push myself and achieve any goals I set.

Goofy example: I was at the gym, mid-workout when I decided that one way or another I was going to go to the Billy Joel concert in Chicago. I thought of all I have accomplished since starting at the gym and realized downtown Chicago traffic was no match for me! And I was right.

A Little Support Goes a Long Way. There have been plenty of times when I've read through my workout and gave Adam a “You've got to be kidding me” look. He just grins and nods, and sure enough... well, maybe I can't do it the first time, but it's not a total failure, either. Adam has a knack for finding great staff, too! I appreciate the way they explain what I need to do, increase the weights when I'm reluctant, encourage me and give me the confidence to try.

This is one of the lessons I hope I use everyday with my students, friends and family. Tell someone, show someone you believe they can do great things. Just knowing someone has faith in you can restore your faith in yourself.

Everyone Needs a Medicine Ball and a Concrete Wall. I'm convinced the world would be a better place if everyone took 10 minutes each day to work out their frustrations by throwing a heavy ball around. I know it improves my day! Oh yeah, and it works your core muscles, too.

I'm a Bad Daisy. Actually, the quote Adam used was: “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms” (Zen Shin). I've learned I'm a bad daisy. I still compare myself to others at the gym. But I use it as inspiration instead of as a source of envy. I know how hard they've worked to achieve their goals. I wish I could lift as much as some, or that I could be as flexible or graceful as others, and I know what I need to do to bloom.

I admire successful writers, teachers, and parents too. I know they've worked hard for their achievements, and I know I have the tools and the drive to succeed, too.

This Daisy is on the Right Track.

Monday, September 1, 2014

We Danced All Night to the Best Blog Ever

“You two are having too much fun!”

That's what the Dad sitting behind the Princess and me at the One Direction concert in St. Louis last week said to us.

And you know what?

He was right.

I should point out that when he said this we were chair dancing enthusiastically during the hour long – that's right hour long – break between the five-song opening act and the main attraction. And did I mention the opening act started late, too? And that we waited in a glacially-slow moving t-shirt line before the opening act?

In other words, approximately two hours into our 1D concert experience we had not yet seen a glimpse of the lads, and we were still having fun. Or already having fun, however you want to figure that.

So, how was the concert? Well, One Direction is no Billy Joel. But then again, I doubt the real 1D fans (tweens, teens and post-teens) know who Billy Joel is.

And you know what?

That's OK.

It's probably a sign that all we have to look forward to during our handbasket ride to heck (or during music time at the nursing home) is non-stop Muzak versions of bubblegum pop. But that's OK.

And I'll tell you why.

But first, I'll admit I was somewhat less than excited about going to this concert. My reasoning:
     A. I had just seen Billy Joel live and in concert. Really? What could possibly compare to that, besides another Billy Joel concert? Nothing. But....
    B. Screaming tweens, teens and post-teens. This was even worse than I had imagined. They screamed whenever a new video started (during the 2-hour wait). They screamed whenever the safety announcements were made (in English accent). They screamed whenever the cotton-candy vendor walked by. (OK, I made that one up, but I did scream when the beer vendor walked by.) But....

     And 3. According to the Ticketmaster map, our seats were somewhere above the nose-bleed section in an area of the Edward Jones Dome accessible only by trained Sherpas carrying oxygen. But....


You know what?

     3. Our seats weren't that bad. Sure we were in the third tier, but we were only three rows up from the edge of the balcony. Granted, that was straight up. And I do mean Straight. Up. But the Princess and I had trained earlier in the day by riding the ferris wheel on the roof of the St. Louis City Museum (my hands never unclenched from the safety bar). And by sitting in the school bus that hangs over the edge of the roof – 20 stories up. And by going down the 10-story slide. Best. Museum. Ever.

     And... the 1D stage cat-walk extended out to at least the 50-yard line. Combined with the obligatory Jumbo-Tron Screens this made our seats... not bad.

     B. After while I became immune to the screaming. In fact, I started to rely on it. All those 1D songs sound alike to me, so the only way I could tell they had cued up a new one was when the girls started screaming.

     True Confession: I did scream. Once. Harry (or one of the lads, they all look alike to me, too) asked if anyone in the audience was having a birthday. The Princess and I looked at each other, shot our hands in the air and started screaming like... well, like teens at a 1D concert.

     And finally, A. It wasn't a Billy Joel concert. It was a One Direction concert for One Direction fans. I wasn't the target audience. The pre-teen-posts were. And they loved it.

They danced, they sang, they screamed, they cried, they laughed, they smiled. They beamed. They radiated happiness.

They had the time of their lives.

I finally recognized one song near the end of the concert (after only 90-minutes, as opposed to 65-year-old Billy Joel's 2-hours... just sayin'). And as I sat there watching the Princess singing and swaying, I thought about how the lyrics to that bubble-gum, boy-band song summed up how I felt:

“Baby you light up my world like nobody else...”

I looked at the Dad behind us and I could tell from the smile on his face as he watched his girls that he felt the same way.

Oh yeah. We had fun.

“You don't know you're beautiful. That's what makes you beautiful.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tied Up in (Forget Me) Knots

Hi, Mom! How are you doing?

It's so good to see you!

It's good to see you, too. I know it seems like it's been a long time since I've been here at the nursing home, but it was just.... Well, never mind. I've been busy. But I've been thinking of you. I'm always thinking of you!

I stopped in a couple days ago, but you were sleeping. I tried to wake you, but you kept dozing off. I talked anyway. You probably don't remember, huh? I knew it wasn't an ideal time of day to visit, but it was the only time I could get away....

It's just so good to see you!

It's good to see you too. We've been pretty busy. Of course there's not really anything exciting or memorable to tell you. Just the ordinary, everyday stuff that eats up time before you know it.

It's not much of an excuse. It's just so hard to get away sometimes. Even for a little while.

It's so good to see you!

I know. You too. Anyway, today I just had to shuffle schedules and come see you. Even if I don't have much to talk about, we can just sit here and hold hands. And I'll talk. About everything and nothing. Anything but what's really on my mind.

It's just so good to see you.

Do you remember Sue? They used to live next door? She said to say hi. So... hi.

A lot of people ask about you. They say they see you when they're here visiting their own parents. I tell them the same thing. Somehow it seems to make us feel a little better. It's our way of recognizing that unspoken, shared guilt we have. The feeling that we can never visit often enough, or stay long enough.

They say you're looking good. They tell me they said hi, but they're not sure if you recognized them or not. And really, why should you? I mean, we don't look quite the same as we did back in school. But that's how they remember you, that's how they remember their folks. I'm the same. In our minds you're still the Little League coach, the club leader, the chaperone at the dance. Or you're taking us out for dinner at college. Or dancing at our wedding. Proudly holding our babies.

It's so good to see you!

Then they ask the tough question: “Do you think she recognizes you?” And I say yes. But I hesitate. And I wonder if they're thinking the same thing I am: Do I really believe this? Do you really recognize me? And what will I do when....

Because they aren't really asking me about you, they're asking themselves about their own parents. They're asking “Do you think my mom still recognizes me?” That's what I'm doing when I ask how their parents are doing. We can't ask it outright. We can't share our fears so openly. But we know. Without speaking, we know how afraid we are that you will forget us.

So. I don't visit as often as I'd like because I'm busy.

But I'm also afraid.

And I feel guilty about not visiting more often. And I feel guilty about taking time away from the kids, my husband, my job to come here and visit with you. And I feel guilty about feeling guilty. But you know that, don't you?

I remember how you struggled to find time to visit Gramma without shortchanging me. At the time I thought that I was grown up and you didn't need to worry about me. Now I realize I might not have needed you to worry about me, but you needed to worry about me. And you needed to worry about Gramma. It's the challenge of being caught between two generations.

It's just so good to see you!

Speaking of the kids, I've got to be getting home. But I promise I'll visit again soon.

I promise.

Look at our hands. I tell everyone I have your hands. But who's hands do you have? When did they get so thin, so fragile? Sometimes I worry I'm holding yours too tight, that I will hurt you. But I don't want to let go. I'm afraid you'll slip away. Because you're already slipping away. And I don't know how to ask you to stay, much less how to let you go.

I love you.

Don't forget that (you know me).

I won't forget that (I love you).

I promise.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Your Freak-Out On (In Five Steps)

Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year.

It is past 10 p.m. on the eve of the first day of the new school year, and I can finally say that without feeling like I'm going to throw up.

Believe me, it was touch and go there this afternoon. I wasn't sure if I wanted to burst into tears, throw up, or slink out of the high school and run away to New York City where I would beat the odds and become a best selling novelist with a house in the Hamptons and eventually meet, charm, and marry Billy Joel... or become a bag lady and live out the rest of my days in obscurity and filth with only my 50 cats to keep me company.

Not that I gave it much thought.

In between reaching for the tissues and the Tums and wondering how I would feed all those cats, I kept chipping away at the mountain of work I faced trying to figure out what in the heck I was going to do to keep my students occupied for one day – let alone an entire semester– and how I was ever going to make plans to cover all the topics included in the course descriptions for the classes I will be teaching – starting tomorrow.

And make plans to take courses myself to obtain my teaching certification in Family and Consumer Science.

Because as it turns out? English and Communications are not that much like Family and Consumer Science.

Did Not see that coming.

After sitting in the small, windowless teachers' lounge (which is actually quite nice as far as teachers' lounges go, and cozy) for an hour and printing off enough internet-shared lesson plans to deforest a small equatorial country, a strange sense of calm started to settle in. At last I was able to return to my cavernous classroom (actually quite nice as far as FCS rooms go, but wide open and arctic-cold) to finish up my plans for tomorrow (the first day of the new school year) with a hint of how I could touch on the topics included in the course descriptions for the classes I will be teaching this semester.

It was at this point that I realized I had reached the Fifth Stage of Freaking Out: Acceptance.

With all due respect to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, grief is not the only emotion which drags you through five stages. Here, then, are the Five Stages of Freaking Out, according to the Sandwich Mom (and Teacher):

Stage One: Awareness. It began with the realization that I had roughly a month's worth of work to do, and only a day's worth of time to do it in. You may be tempted to ask yourself what I have been doing all summer. Please don't. I have no idea where the time went. There may have been space aliens and probing involved.

This stage is characterized by low-level feelings of impending doom, dread, foreboding, and a general “funk.” Personally, I wanted nothing more than to listen to Billy Joel's “A Minor Variation” on endless repeat (“Some days I have to give right in to the blues/Despite how I try to keep fightin'/ It's a sure shot I'm going to lose”). And to eat. Anything. That didn't move. Fast. After I covered it in chocolate. And salt. And dipped it in cheese.

Stage Two: Pinging. Some people wrongly categorize Pinging as a full Freak Out. It is not. It is pre-freak out. The reputable on-line source “Urban Dictionary” defines pinging as “a state of increased anxious activity, typically induced by an amphetamine.” But a Freak Out-Ping totally trumps an amphetamine-ping. Any day.

This stage is characterized by rapid, shallow breathing, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, pit sweat, and clammy hands. Unfortunately the Freak Out-Ping lacks the feelings of euphoria and well-being that may be associated with an amphetamine ping. At this point Billy Joel's “Pressure” was pounding in my head, over and over. And not in a good way.

Stage Three: Hyperventilation. Imagine the “pings” coming so close together they flat line – at the top of the chart instead of at the bottom.

This stage is characterized by feelings of... hyperventilation. Duh. Also a desire to throw up, burst into tears, or run away. I felt like I was listening to “Running on Ice” by Billy Joel, and dancing. Poorly. Which is unusual for me. I usually think I am a great dancer. Go figure.

The good news is that if you make a graphic representation of Freaking Out, Hyperventilation is at the apex of the Freak Out. It's all down hill from here.

Stage Four: Air Head. It may be all down hill from Hyperventilation, but that doesn't mean it's smooth sailing. At this point you recognize your inability to avoid impending doom. This is tantamount to the first step in a 12 step program: to solve a problem you have to admit that there is a problem.

Unfortunately, Stage Four is characterized by a total lack of focus. You recognize the problem, admit the problem, even start making plans to make plans to solve the problem, yet you lack the ability to focus on making the planned plans.

Personally, I had figured out the general scope for my classes and I was ready to start looking for lesson plans that fit that scope, but first I had the overwhelming need to make a pretty chart! I was going to look for a Billy Joel song to illustrate this stage, but I was too busy finding clip art for my chart. (Honestly. I could post the pdf.)

Stage Five: Acceptance. Like the final step in Kubler-Ross' model, the final step in a Total Freak Out is Acceptance. You come to terms with the inevitable future and decide to let the chips fall where they may.

Stage Five is characterized by the feeling that what happens is going to happen, and nothing you can do (no amount of planning that you haven't done) can totally prepare you for every eventuality. My profound realization every time I reach this stage is that I am heading to hell in a handbasket, and the best I can do is relax, enjoy the ride and brace myself for impact.

Unfortunately the five stages of Freak Out are not a one-way street. At any moment you may -- and I do -- revert back to Pinging and Hyperventilation, even after I thought I had Accepted my fate.

In other words there is a good chance that I won't get any sleep again tonight.

So buckle up those seat belts. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The New and The Coffee

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and did go wrong this morning as I started my first day as a new teacher at West Branch High School.

“But wait a minute,” you say. “Weren't you a new teacher at WBHS last year?”

Technically, no.

Last year I was a long-term substitute teacher for Family Consumer Science classes at WBHS. This year I am an official, lanyard-wearing, photo-id bearing, contract-toting, part-time Family Consumer Science teacher at WBHS. And as such, I attended New Teacher Orientation today.

That means last night I went through the usual pre-first-day jitters routine: I planned my outfit, charged my computer, found a semi-blank notebook, and tossed and turned instead of sleeping. But I still woke up bright and early, with plenty of time to spare before my exciting, (semi-) new adventure started at 8 a.m.

Except that a quick review of the schedule showed the continental breakfast didn't start until 8:30 a.m. Woo Hoo! An extra 30 minutes to prepare. (Note to WBCSD administrators: The only time I'm early for an event is when Billy Joel is involved. See July 19 blog post.)

While I could have used an extra 30 minutes of sleep (doubling the night's total), I chose to see this miscalculation as a positive thing – I'm sure to be on time! Oh, silly, optimistic me. That was just the tip of the craptastic iceberg of miscues that started my day.

Presented here in time-lapse write-ography are the highlights of my morning:

1. The coffee maker wasn't sure it wanted to work. A few cuss words, some persuasive taps and I had my coffee and was back on schedule.

2. The hair dryer unplugged itself. When I set the dryer on the floor to pick up the clunky, surge-protector plug I knocked the curling iron off the dresser. Picking up the curling iron unplugged the dryer... you get the picture. More swearing.

3. Clothing crisis. The outfit I had picked out just didn't seem right. I decided to switch to my new skirt. But I couldn't find it! Anywhere! My new dress was out of the question because it's sleeveless and the red, white and blue State of Iowa temporary tattoo I got (on my bicep, naturally) at the Iowa State Fair isn't as temporary as I thought. I was really wishing I could just wear the t-shirt and shorts I had on until I realized the t-shirt said “We bust ours to kick yours.” Probably not a good first impression. Back to outfit number one. But the pants didn't fit! Until I took the shorts off.

4. On to makeup. Nearly ran out of concealer trying to cover the bags under my eyes, and coverup trying to hide the blemishes brought on by nerves. Behind schedule and in a panic, I applied eye liner somewhere in the vicinity of my eyes. I decided not to risk putting on mascara.

5. My selected outfit featured a scarf... which I don't know how to tie.

6. I'm wearing a white t-shirt, orange silk scarf and khaki pants, drinking coffee and walking. What could possibly go wrong? Surprisingly, nothing!

7. One last glance at the clock on my way to the garage. It's 8:30 a.m. I'm supposed to be at the school at 8:30 a.m.! Where did my extra 30 minutes go?

8. The garage door. Will. Not. Open.

9. Hysterical swearing works wonders on electronics. Again. Garage door opens.

10. Parking lot construction means I have to hoof it from the softball field. Could this extra 200 yards be blamed for my tardiness?

11. Stopped in my room to drop off water and purse. Custodian Extraordinaire and general Amazing Problem Solver Jean was finishing up trim painting. My room is bright and shiny and doesn't smell like Junior High students!

12. There's coffee at the meeting. The Superintendent and I seem to be the only ones drinking it. I drink lots of it. Coffee is good.

New is good.

Life is good.

Did I mention the coffee?

Murphy's Law may play havoc with my schedule again tomorrow morning, but today is good.

Today, I Carpe Coffee.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reunited (and We Look So Good)

The West Liberty High School class of 1984 just had a super-fantastic reunion at the Riverside Casino. A small, but fun group of us got together for good food, good times, good music, and cold beer.

The organizers only got one thing wrong: The reunion year.

According to them, this was our 30 year reunion. Assuming the average person is 17- or 18-years-old when they graduate from high school, that would mean that we are damn near 50.

That can't be right.

I've done the math and I'm pretty sure I'm only damn near 40. Ish. (But some mornings I do feel damn near 50 for those first two or twenty minutes right after I get out of bed.) Of course I did drop calculus after only two days my final semester of high school, and went on to become an English major in college, so I could be wrong.

There were a few minutes right after I arrived at the reunion that I thought maybe the organizers were right. Maybe we really were damn near 50. Or, more accurately, somehow my classmates were damn near 50. When I walked in to the casino, I was taken aback by how... well, to be blunt, how old everyone else looked!

My God! It looked like my classmates had really gone down hill fast. Grey hair, no hair, thick eyeglasses, walkers, motorized scooters (OK, I was jealous of those) ear trumpets... and all that polyester held up with suspenders! I didn't recognize a soul!

I tried to introduce myself and chat up a few of the better-preserved classmates I saw standing around the bar (a familiar sight). I wasn't real sure of their names, but I thought one of them started with a “B,” or maybe a “K.” On the other hand, they had absolutely no recollection of me at all! Not that I was Miss Popularity or anything, but there were only 80-some in our graduating class. Poor dears must need even thicker glasses, I thought. But they're already nearing Hubble telescope proportions.

I started to worry that maybe those old-age symptoms were contagious, because I was developing a loud bell-like ringing in my ears. That gave me an idea – they may not remember me, but they couldn't forget our high school mascots.

“Did you realize they've changed the girls' teams from the Belles to the Comets?” I asked, hoping this would spark some of that old school spirit. They looked at each other. Finally! I'm getting through, I thought. Then they started to edge away. I was about to tell the bartender to cut them off when I heard someone call my name.

“Joanne?” It was my friend Tammy and her husband. And they both looked young! “What are you doing out here in the casino? Why aren't you in the ballroom at the reunion?” she asked.

Ohhhh, I see. This is the... and the reunion is in the.... Well, that explained a lot.

They guided me across the casino floor, through the doors and out to the designated ballroom. As we stood in the hallway signing the reunion guest book I scanned the crowd. Ahh, this was a much younger-looking group of people.

Muh-huh-huch younger.

All in all, a good-looking, young-looking, fine group of people. Much too young-looking to be damn near 50. And much too young-acting to be damn near 50. We still like our music loud, our beer cold, and our laughter raucous. The memories flowed freely, although I suspect some of the details may have been embellished or diminished over time. I recall being much more hip, cool and physically coordinated than some of the stories indicated.

And quite frankly, some stories just seemed a little too tabloid to be true. As I point out frequently to my children, I never did anything wrong when I was in high school. I recall weekends spent helping shut-ins and the less fortunate, volunteering at soup kitchens and rolling bandages to support our boys in the trenches. That is, when I wasn't studying or reading scripture to the blind.

I've missed the last couple of reunions, so I did notice a few changes from, say, our first reunion. There was a lot more talk about kids (and some grandkids!) and memories of classmates and parents who were no longer with us.

Picture taking was a lot easier at this reunion, too! Everyone could whip out their cell phone to take a selfie or groupie, provided they could hold the phone far enough away to see the icons without their biofocals. Of course it would have been easier if our kids were there to show us how to turn the flash on.

Judging from how many of us stayed until damn near midnight (well past our bedtimes) I think we all had a wonderful time. The organizers did such a good job several of us suggested they could plan the next one as well.

Although I might volunteer to help a little.

I want to make sure they get the year right next time.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Disc-go Golf

Hot on the heels of our successful family canoe/paddle board outing (I left with two kids, returned with the same two kids) we headed out on another family favorite summer fun activity: disc golfing.

Disc golf, for the un-initiated, is an ancient Greek term that means “exercise in futility.” It is also a modern Collegiate-Greek term that means “drink beer in the woods.”

Disc golf is similar to traditional golf in that you start at one point (“tee off”) and count your strokes/throws as you make your way to a goal (cup/basket). The difference is that instead of chasing a little white ball hundreds of yards towards a hole in the ground with a skinny metal club, you try to throw a flying disc (similar to a “Frisbee” but not trademarked and twice as expensive) hundreds of yards towards a metal basket without beating yourself senseless with a wooden club (also known as a tree).

Between the “tee” and the “hole” the challenge is to keep your throws on the “fareway,” or cleared, semi-maintained and designated area. It is in your best interest to avoid natural hazards such as trees, oceans of deep grass, creeks, deer, giant rabid squirrels, drunk college students, ticks, chiggers, mosquitos, gnats, poison ivy, and stinging nettles, all of which produce force fields that suck your disc into the “rough,” also known on Eastern Iowa area disc golf courses as “ravines” or “gorges.”

The biggest advantage to disc golf is that is is less formal than traditional golf. Which is not to say that disc golf players don't take their game seriously. They do. Serious disc golfers warm-up by stretching and practice their “putts.” They carry a multitude of different discs, each specially weighted and shaped for long distance, middle distance, approach and/or putting. And they use them. Each of them. At the correct time.

We don't. Do any of that. At the correct time. And we yell a lot.

We do usually start our games with some traditional golf etiquette. We take turns on the first tee, complimenting each other on our first shot – even if it rebounds off a tree, landing behind the tee box. This has happened. More than once.

First shot out of the way, we fan out to help find the discs (on the off chance one of them has gone farther than 20 yards), because it's hard to see where your disc went when you're laughing so hard you're doubled over. And we stand behind the other players as they make their next throw.

This is a key rule of safety, etiquette and support. No one likes to have to ask the other players to move so you don't hit them with your disc. Especially when they know, and you know they know you know that there is no way you could possibly throw it that far.

Our first time out this year was particularly ugly. I'd like to say our skills were a little rusty after a long winter and wet spring, but the truth is we didn't have any skills to begin with. In a true show of group effort, the three of us combined for a record high seven tree hits. On one par three hole. That does not include “leaf-burners” (throws that ripped through the canopy) or discs that rolled up to hit a tree. Let's see Tiger Woods top that!

Like traditional golf, a disc golf course typically has either nine or 18 holes. Unfortunately our limit is 12 holes. It take those three extra holes to prove to us we aren't getting any better and that the longer we play the longer it takes to find our lost discs. This also get us as far away from the parking lot as humanly possible.

The last time we played at Turkey Creek I exercised Mom Authority and we packed up after the front nine. It was slightly after noon, the college boys had woken up and it was getting crowded (they were all playing faster than we were: play a hole, let they boys play through, repeat). At first it was OK. The boys were polite and helpful, offering to help look for our lost discs while they played through. Then I realized they were really only trying to help The Cute Teenage Princess (in shorts and a tank top) look for her disc. The Prince and I were just two more natural hazards to avoid.

This reminds me of most outings with the Princess lately. I've noticed a distinct increase in customer service from young men (plentiful in a college town) when accompanied by an attractive young girl. I've started to think about renting her out when speedy customer service is required, but I think there's another term for that.

I could tell the kids were loosing interest in the match when they cheerfully announced we were adopting Street Rules: a  literally no holds barred phase of the game. There was anarchy before, but now it was perfectly legal to distract the thrower by any means – yelling,jumping, hitting them with your disc and full-body tackling. It was also acceptable to deflect any throw and to defend the basket at any cost.

Forget loosing a disc, someone was in danger of loosing a tooth or and eye.

In other words, another typical day at our house.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Momma's Little Angels & Demons

Approximately 16 years ago we brought a darling little angel home from the hospital. She was so sweet-tempered, even at age 2 ¾, that we decided to press our luck and bring home another.

Since then our lives have been blessed with two little rays of sunshine. There were a few grey clouds here and there but they cleared quickly, never more than a passing shower or minor squall.

Then... WHAM!

Just like that they both turned into sullen, surly teenagers. Over night. Last night to be precise.

I tucked them in as Momma's Little Angels, they woke up as The Reasons Momma Drinks Before Noon.

I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, they both are teenagers now. But The Little Prince has been 13 for a whole month without a personality downgrade. It must take a while for hormones to spin completely out of control.

The Princess has been a moody teen for three years so we've learned to expect her anti-parental behavior. She's always made it clear that I have absolutely no idea what it's like to be young. When these situations arise I roll my eyes, sigh in a put-upon manner and ignore her the best I can (behavior I obviously learned from her, having never been a teenager myself).

Unfortunately it is not legal to list surly teens for sale on Craigslist. Read the fine print. Also, it is no longer politically correct to threaten to sell surly teens to a band of wandering Gypsies.

Since The Prince began his descent into sullenness, The Princess has moved on to unbearably perky, chatty and goofy – becoming a stereotypical “Blonde,” although she's not blonde (but she wants to be and would be if only her uncaring, clueless mother would let her bleach her hair).

So I have one child who communicates monosyllabically, and one who communicates non-stop-o-syllabically.

Put the two of them together? God have mercy on my soul.

Today was a textbook example of life in the eye of the perfect hormonal storm....

The Princess arose uncharacteristically early – before noon – and asked what we would be doing for fun. I realized with a shock that summer is almost over (SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER!!!) and we haven't done anything fun together yet.

They have been wanting to go paddle boarding (Princess) and fishing (Prince), so with Dad at work (lucky, lucky man), I figured this was the perfect day to hit the open-ish water. I told the little former-angels they had an hour to get ready.

Fortyfive-minutes later I was the only one not wearing pajamas.

At this point I reminded them that they should dress appropriately for boating and/or fishing. I continued to make this announcement every two minutes until it was time to go.

My mistake was assuming that my children knew what constitutes “appropriate” clothing for boating and/or fishing on a hot, humid Iowa afternoon (eg: swimsuits/grubby clothes).

They do not.

They do, however, apparently think it's perfectly normal for me to randomly decide to wear a spandex miniskirt (AKA skirted “hide-my-ass” swimsuit) in public. My example, like my announcement, was completely ignored. But let me sing one little Billy Joel tune in the car... then they notice!

Officially, the body of water we went to is a “lake.” Unofficially, we have christened this former quarry a “lonk,” as it is somewhere between lake and a pond, size-wise.

Unofficially it could also be termed a “field,” as it was so clogged with water plants The Prince decided he could not fish and would instead share a canoe with me. This ensured him a captive audience while he silently brooded over the infinite un-fishing-fairness of the universe.

Officially, this lonk boasts 95 acres of surface area. I wouldn't know. If one acre is approximately the size of a football field, we spent 60 minutes paddling our canoe back and forth and sideways in an area the size of one end zone. Despite our lack of skill, we were at the mercy of high winds and currents. Or lonk monsters. 

Princess Paddle Board had a little more luck. She was also stuck in the end zone-sized area, but at least she was able to avoid the thick, gooey, paddle-snagging weeds growing thickly enough to walk on near the shoreline.

Or she was lucky until we almost ran into her while trying – for the umpteenth time – to escape our own personal Bermuda Triangle and make it to the dock (it would have been easier to portage across the weeds).

That's when she fell in the lonk. And I found out she did not, in fact, have on a swim suit. And I would have to haul her lonk-water logged body home smelling like a lonk.


The children answered in the usual teen manner of indistinct mumbles, grumbles and sighs.

I answered with clear, distinct and creative swearing.

So, would we do it again?

Of course!

After everyone dried off, cooled down, and filled up on junk food, their angelic little faces lit up with broad smiles as we laughed about our adventure.

A smile is the non-o-syllabic form of teen communication that speaks the loudest.