Saturday, January 31, 2009

To Marquan

This is what I remember:
the way you sat in a desk, leaning back with only your shoulder blades touching the back of the chair like stunted wings
the way you smiled, your face a dark moon split wide by the man inside
the way you talked, slow and subtle, your words smooth and rich, maybe like caramel
the way you walked down the hall, surrounded by air, and the noise of the crowd didn't touch you
and I don't want to remember this, but I do: the final paper you turned in, a poem by Shel Silverstein you hoped to pass as your own. And when I confronted you on it, you just shrugged and grinned.

This is what I wonder:
did you think about our last conversation when you saw me?
should I have said hello to you more often in the hall?
how long did you feel like your edges were fading?
when did you decide to do it?
what could I, could anyone have done to stop you?

This is what I wish:
that you had told us what you were thinking
that someone had held you a fraction tighter
that your friends had heard your silence
that I had known, that I had tried, that I had prevented
that you had not dissolved
that life could go back and fix itself

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Uncovering the Heart

Once upon a time, there was a house. An old house. A house that had seen many children and many familes. This house was happy but it was cold. It needed to do something drastic.

The house decided to begin whispering into the ear of the man. The man was always busy around the house, looking for ways to improve its aged appearance. And unlike most old people and all Lutherans, the house liked change. It was happy to feel the man knocking into its walls and clambering over its roof for the change the man brought was always good.

But the house knew its family was cold and it wanted to help them, so it whispered the idea of fire. The fire smoldered and burst into hot orange flames in the man's head and he began to search for a solution that would contain them and let them burn hot. He became obsessed with wood and fire and black things with names like Resolute and Vermont Castings.

One day, the man left the woman and children alone. It was a cold, snowy day, and he was gone for most of it. He came back with a heavy thing on the trailer and he somehow moved it from the trailer and into the garage without asking for help. Which was a good thing, for the house had quickly observed that the woman did not like to get her hands dirty and she much preferred sitting in a chair with pages in her hand. She liked things to be quiet. And warm. And she liked to have a drink and chocolate nearby. The house knew the woman would not have been much help to the man in the unloading, so it just watched.

The man found ways to clean the heavy thing and polish it until it gleamed with a dull black light. He brought it into the house and began banging and drilling. The man made a hot blue tent and sat inside it with tools and sweat and patience. He cut and drilled and chipped until he found the house's heart.

This heart was a clay pipe and it was protected by brick and mortar and clad with plaster and paneling and paint. The man exposed it all, and the house let him. The house was happy to show the man its heart.

And the man poked inside the heart and stuck his head in and looked up. He looked down and when he removed his head, his face was begrimed with the house's memories. He saw, then, a woman in a homespun dress bending over a cookstove that belched steam and smoke. He saw a weary old man opening a slim letter that reeked of war and death and collapsing on the floor, weeping. He saw bright-eyed children with tousled hair sneaking down to look at boxes wrapped in paper stacked under a tree. All those things and many more had been hidden in the house's heart.

The man wiped his hands on his patched trousers and stood back, his head cocked. His forehead was deeply seamed and the house feared that it had revealed itself too soon.

The man turned off his lamp and the house was left in the dark, its heart pulsing alone in the blue tent.

The house heard the man say something to the woman about PLAN B. Nothing was resolved. It was still cold. And the black thing loomed in the corner, looking dangerous now in the cold dark room.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bringin' back the cool

A great friend and mentor of mine, RON SAMUL, editor of Miranda Literary Magazine, has proposed a scheme that I can't say no to. I've long thought he was a genius and he's given me so many hours of his time listening to my ideas and honing my stories that I feel compelled to encourage his latest idea.
We were talking about words that have died out in the English language, words that have been recently replaced by more common words to the detriment of our vocabulary.
So we've decided to bring the most important word back. The word is RAD.
It is an important word. A word that evokes my teenage years, and maybe yours. I remember saying it when I heard the New Kids on the Block sing their crooning melodies, when I danced to Vanilla Ice, when I saw my best friend Amber's stylish hair swept back in a hot pink banana clip, and when my dad walked into the kitchen one morning dressed for work in white long johns, a dress shirt buttoned askew and mismatched socks. (That last RAD was uttered in the sarcastic voice only a teenager is allowed to use.)
Ron and I would like to see RAD revived coast to coast, so if you would just begin to use it regularly in your daily language, that would be great. You should not overuse it, however, for fear of turning people off to the wonder of the word. Don't kill it. Just gently toss it into maybe every other conversation, like you'd toss a young child onto a mattress. That should just about do it.
See how it catches on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Clint has already promised to be my encouragement partner, but I want to get you guys in on it too.

I have decided that my belly has become too protuberant and other parts between my waist and my knees have become too jiggly. Mostly since the holidays, really. This summer, I was running regularly and pretty happy with my body. But alas, I can't say no to cookies and truffles. So to fend off the despair of having to buy a bigger size of jeans, I have decided to be more proactive than I have been this fall/winter and stop it before it happens.

Here is my plan:

1) Say no to dessert. Only allow myself one (small) dessert each week. (Killer, I know)

2) Work out REGULARLY (alternate running on treadmill and weights/lunges/crunches).

3) Cut down on cream/sugar in coffee--but don't get too drastic. It's not THAT jiggly.

4) Limit my portion size: say no to seconds.

5) Gift myself with 5 chocolate chips every day (dark chocolate doesn't count as dessert--it's medically proven to be good for me).

6) Keep written record of weight and workouts.

7) See (and feel) results by spring break.

If you see me, and I have cake in my mouth, please take it away. I don't need it. And ask me how my working out is going. And you can tell me I look GOOD if you want to--if I do. But you don't have to lie.

Also, I saw this picture of myself from Christmas time, and I'm starting to get the saggy stuff under my chin (I think) (or maybe I am holding my head weird and it was just a crazy double chin). Anybody know how to firm up the under-chin sag? Your help is desperately needed! Weigh in (no pun): tell me what you think.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Making choices

Does it count as a snow day if you're home because of cold weather and not excessive snow? Not that I'm complaining about having two extra days off before the long weekend ahead. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. Yesterday was pretty much a repeat performance of Saturday--lots of reading with a side trip out to some craft stores for supplies. This weekend Alli, Mom and I are making baby shower invitations.

But today, after I finished my book, I got busy and did something I can blog about with a modicum of pride. During Christmas break, I had this great idea for a new purse, one that I can sew but still use in the winter without worrying about getting damp. Think about this: the outside is clear vinyl. Beneath it is some cute fabric, but the cleaning ease of vinyl is alluring, no matter the season. So I got some fabric and 1/2 yard of vinyl and was all set to go. Last night, I cut out the pieces and sewed the handles. Today, I started sewing.

Got a few pieces done, just interior pockets. Can't have enough of those! (No vinyl yet) Then, I sewed my first piece with vinyl. It worked okay, but the thread bunched up a little. My nerves started to jangle a bit. I hate to waste, and it would break my heart to get the purse half done and have to quit because my idea just wouldn't work.

I sewed another little piece, a side pocket that needed to be covered in vinyl, and in four inches, the thread broke three times! I knew I needed to rethink my project. If I continued to use the vinyl, I might end up either scrapping the thing entirely, miserable with a headache from squinting at ripped out seams, or carrying a horrible looking purse around a few times out of a sense of wounded pride. I couldn't do it to myself. I had to compromise.

So I continued with my project, sans vinyl. Yes, I gave up on my genius idea. I had no choice, really. But I haven't totally abandoned my plan. I think it CAN work, but I'm going to consult the experts (mom and sewing friend Donna) for advice--see if I can make it work another way.

But anyway, I finished early this afternoon. Here's the finished product. Still pretty cute, but don't look too closely at my seams. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In the Game

If you asked me at any given moment how I feel about sports, I would laugh at you. So would anyone else who knows me. Kir and sports do not even exist in the same world. I may have thought I had some athletic talent when I was in elementary school, but after getting picked dead last seventeen consecutive times during PE (the sport doesn't matter), I knew. Somehow I knew. And that is probably when I began to dislike sports. Over the years, as my clumsiness grew exponentially, my dislike intensified.
This seems to be a human trait, I've noticed: it's easier to loathe the our weaknesses than admit to them. You can supply your own examples here. You know what I'm talking about. You've seen it too.
And the cool thing about my life is that I was smart enough to marry a guy who likes sports about as much as I do. Now, he's not gifted with enormous feet and depth perception issues like I am; he just thinks sports are boring. He can't sit still long enough to watch a whole game.
And our kids, while they've dabbled in soccer and track and volleyball, really aren't athletes either in the true, diehard sense that some kids are. Seems to me like they can take or leave sports. Which is fine with me. I go to their games and I cheer for them. I have a pretty general idea of the game, but if you sit next to me, please don't ask me what any of the calls and hand signals mean. Especially in soccer. And even though I don't have any interest in the game, I love my kids and I LOVE watching them perform.
Okay, so I do have a point here, and it is this: today I finally (after six years of teaching) attended a game to watch my students play. Yeah, it's horrible I know. They know I hate sports, and they have kinda stopped asking me to come. Probably because I told them I'd rather gnaw my arm off than go to a sporting event that doesn't feature one of my children. But I felt wild and crazy tonight (and Jonah and Lauren seemed interested in joining me: Jonah for the game, Lauren for the guys), so the three of us went.
And you know what? I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SAYING THIS!!! It wasn't that bad. Really. NOT. THAT. BAD. I feel like a mother sometimes anyway, a mother with--like 150 kids. And as I sat there watching my boys play basketball, I felt this upswell of pride in them. A different sort of pride than the feeling I have in the classroom when I help them with schoolwork. I saw a new side of them tonight, and it added a depth to my understanding of what is important to them. Now I just regret that it took me six years to figure it out.
Go Pirates. (And thanks, Grant, for asking me one more time.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The guilty pleasure

On Thursdays and Fridays I usually create mental lists of my weekend intentions. These lists typically include the dreaded inevitables: cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping. But I try to reward myself and express my creativity by throwing in a good dose of fun stuff too, like making birthday cards or blogging or sewing. Oh, and usually grading too. But I try to get that out of the way quickly so I can have me time and mom time the rest of the weekend. Okay, honestly, it's mostly me time. We're being honest here.

So I made my mental plans and here's what they looked like: finish grading, skip cleaning (did it on the snow day! Woohoo!), laundry, make as many birthday cards as possible, groceries. And maybe shopping (the fun kind) (if I got everything else done).

Not unachievable, I don't think, but then I got hit with a double-whammy: Clint had to go help his brother unload a moving van (my favorite grocery and work day) PLUS Lauren went to a friend's house (read: no backup babysitter) PLUS it snowed ALL DAY!

So, in defiance, guess what I did? I read. All day. My backside kinda aches from sitting on it so long, but hey, that's the price of laziness, right?

I read Rebel Angels again, by Libba Bray. First of all, don't be alarmed by the romance novel look of the cover. It's not a smutty trashy book. One of my students introduced me to this series a few years ago and I finally got around to reading the first book this summer, I think. (It's called A Great and Terrible Beauty.) Set during the end of the Victorian era in England, it's about a trio of girls in a finishing school who have stumbled on a secret: one of them, Gemma Doyle, has more magical power than any person who has ever lived, and she has to save the magical Realms from the evil that is hunting her, seeking to steal her power and use her as its tool. Sounds fantastical, I know, and it is, but mixed in with the magic is also a love story and lots of secrets about secondary characters--and Gemma too--and period details that bring this exciting time period to life.
I recommend the book.
In fact, I may reward myself for my laziness today by picking up the last book in the trilogy tomorrow when I'm out getting groceries. I'll just have to placate my conscience by making at least January's birthday cards before I sit down to read #3.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Snow Day Adventures

So did you know that teachers LOVE to be awoken unexpectedly at 5:30 by a phone call? It can only mean one thing: snow day. I still don't know why I got the whole day off and Clint only got a two hour delay, but I am SO GLAD I got to stay home today.
I started my morning off right by sleeping in until the decadent hour of 8:30, then got up and made oatmeal with apples for Jared and myself (his request), drank a few cups of coffee and read for about an hour, and then tackled a job I was saving for the weekend--with dread. Taking down the Christmas decorations and doing a thorough cleaning. Usually the kids (and sometimes Clint) pitch in with cleaning and we get it done in about an hour, but, you know--they don't move things when they dust and sweep, they don't wash the floors on their hands and knees. I worked all day, finishing up maybe 15 minutes after they got home at 3:30, and now my legs are aching!
Who knew that a snow day would be so much work?
But I moved the kitchen table to Lauren's room for her to use as a vanity table and moved her chair up into the "library"--so now I have a cozy spot to sit and read while dinner bakes--which I did this evening. All very lovely. I like decorating the house for Christmas, but it's just so much more STUFF than I usually have sitting out. Now it looks less cluttered, less sparkly, and definitely less dusty.
I can't wait to go back to school tomorrow and RELAX! ;) But I'm rewarding myself with the thought that on Saturday, I WON'T be cleaning. That's something to be very happy about.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Here I Go

Just printed off my first VERY rough draft of the novel I wrote in November during National Novel Writing Month. Keeping in mind it's a very rough draft, here's a tidbit from page...hmm... oh, 11. How about that?

“So that’s how it is. I get it. See you tomorrow.” And he left, but he turned to take one more look before he walked out the door, as though he knew my eyes would be following his straight broad back, shaping the hollow between those long muscles under his shirt with my eyes. He was too conceited for me, I knew, and far too beautiful. But it had been a long time since anyone had looked at me the way he did, whether his looks were genuine or not.
At home, I sat in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal, crunching away while I watched my boyfriend Ross chase Rachel behind the dusty curved glass. My life was pitiful, I knew. Something about Ross attracted me, though, and had ever since the first season of Friends, back when I was still in junior high. Something about his geeky brainy-ness was appealing. Maybe the fact that he didn’t know how cute he was, and that he was awkward and shy in unfamiliar social situations, just like me. Nothing like Paul, but maybe I was growing up now, no longer interested in a nerd like Ross. Paul was my adult fantasy, and indulging that fantasy was harmless, especially when I was sitting on my ratty Ikea couch with an empty cereal bowl balanced on my knee.

I don't know...what do you think?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rex Goliath

I've realized that when I go to the store to buy a bottle of wine, I am very open to the persuasion of a good label. If I could find FAT BASTARD in a Cabernet Sauvignon instead of just the Chardonnay and Merlot I've seen at Meijer, I'd buy it. It's funny and it reminds me of Thad's amazing capacity for mimicry.
And Five Friends, that's a good label for a night with some girlfriends. Winking Owl just sounds like it will make me wise if I drink it, and I love Left Foot Charley, which happens to be the brew company of Bryan Ulbrich, a friend I made one summer at Camp Arcadia. Great wine.
So today, as I polished off a bottle of Rex Goliath that I opened last night at Dave and Ilona's always great New Year's Party, I thought about labels and covers, and how I tend to judge books and wine and people by them. We talk about how we shouldn't, we know we shouldn't, but we do. I am beginning to think it's human nature. I remember the first time I saw Clint: the late afternoon sun beat on his hair that was so blond it was almost blinding. And his smile spread across his tanned face as he entertained a toddler with a Mickey Mouse impression. He was the perfect mix of gorgeous and childish and I knew I wanted to marry him. It was that simple.
Maybe first impressions aren't that bad.
And as for the Rex Goliath, I think I made a good choice. After two glasses, I'm feeling pretty lugubrious, and ready for whatever the evening may bring, whether it be a rousing game of Scrabble, popcorn and a movie, or lazy chatting with the fam. Maybe I'll help polish off the rest of the Left Foot Charley too, while I'm at it.