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.”