Monday, March 19, 2018

19/31: Portrait of Waikiki

The weather: 80 degrees. Slight breeze. A few fluffy clouds drifting over Technicolor blue skies.

The people: chill. Aloha and mahalo. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Drivers wave you across crosswalks with a smile. Wet footprints leading down the sidewalk to the beach. Worn surfboards held aloft like waiters hold heavy serving platters, offerings to the ocean.

The agenda: nonexistent. I abandon my "city walking" pace in favor of more of an amble. Wet sand, unstable footing, wet toes. I spread the beach towel, lie here for awhile and let the sun sweep its rays across my pale, pale body. No judgement here. The only requirement for a beach body is having a body.

The result: a sort of bliss that only a teacher knows, a teacher who is convinced January and February had approximately 124 days in them. Each.

I think I'm going to like it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

18/31: Transition

From 40 degrees to 81.
From MO to HI.
From “hi y’all” to “aloha.”
From barely budding trees to lush palms.
From industrial highways to winding, unpredictable roads.
From duty to relaxation.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

17/31: My Trusty Purple Backpack

Traveling is tiring. There's the hassle of packing, the rush of security, the boredom of waiting for your plane, the impatience of the flight, and, finally, you're spit unceremoniously out into the airport of your destination.

But I have a secret weapon, and that's my suitcase. Or, rather, my Un-Suitcase.

When I first traveled abroad, I purchased a travel backpack instead of a traditional suitcase with wheels. Since my husband and I were going to be "hardcore traveling," i.e. jumping from place to place quickly, the backpack made more sense when hoofing it from train station to hostel.

Little did I know that this bright purple bag with approximately 8 zillion pockets would turn out to be the best travel buddy ever.

Traveling for 2 days? 2 weeks? Doesn't matter. The backpack can fit all of your clothes with ease. Need a little more room? Unzip this zipper and presto: expansion.
Need to compress it down a little to fit into an overhead compartment? Four simple snaps, and everything's nicely bundled up.
Tired of waiting for your flight, but there's no seats available next to the gate? Sit on your backpack! It's actually quite comfortable.
Want to turn your backpack into a traditional suitcase? Tuck the straps in and grab the side's much easier to squeeze through narrow plane aisles that way.
Need to fight off a potential enemy? The backpack on your back becomes a powerful weapon when you plant your feet and swing it, perfect for knocking assailants off of their feet.

(Kidding about the last one...sort of. I've never had to try it, but I'm pretty sure it would work.)

I've had many trips with my purple backpack, and she looks as good as new. She's durable, practical and still maintains a slight modicum of stylishness.

I think I'll keep her.

Friday, March 16, 2018

16/31: A Hotel Interior Decorator's Memo

I am currently killing time before my flight back home to St. Louis. I'm a little obsessed with noticing hotel interior decorating choices, so I decided to imagine what a memo written by this hotel's designer would say.

Re: interior design of Washington Capitol Hotel lobby in DC

In the style of a minimalistic, tasteful artist. Bland enough to disappear into the background for harried businessmen. Interesting enough for the observant young teacher to appreciate. Intentional. Modern. Subdued yet intriguing. Let me paint you a picture...

A cool palette of slate, cream and dove gray should swirl across the carpet in a pattern reminiscent of static or pixelated fog. A pop of blue in the art hanging on the walls, a smudge of cerulean against darker abstract shapes. Light fixtures should be airy, circular, pendulous. If they're not, they must be recessed as far into the ceiling as possible. No middle ground.

Furniture: modern shapes take precedence over function. Sure, we want people to sit, but we don't want them to get comfortable enough to stay longer than they have to. Too many sitting patrons means we aren't efficient enough to have rooms ready promptly. Square leather cushions without backs in pure black, arranged in neat rows. Ground-grazing chaises in muted gray. A coffee table that's far too low to easily reach your cup...bright reflective aluminum, shaped like a tree stump. Booths lined with cushions that are merely suggestions of pillows. Comfort isn't our goal here.

A sculpture here, by the smooth marble tables. Mobius strips intersecting with each other, gentle twists, uncertain endings and beginnings. It's symbolic, of course. Where does your normal life end and your vacation begin? We make the transition seamless. White? No. Black is better. Black is always better.

Add greenery under the stairs. A lone pink orchid, stretching up to the steps above. Subtle, yet poignant. After all, we're not going for sterile.

These are all merely my thoughts, of course. But whatever you velvet, no '70s carpet patterns and, above all, no red. Red is too aggressive. Hotels are about suggestion. Consider taking mine into consideration when making final design decisions.

I So Don't Do Holiday Inns

Thursday, March 15, 2018

15/31: Capitol Hill Maze

Today, I spent time on Capitol Hill advocating for Title 2 and SEED funds for the National Writing Project. Let's just say the layout of some of the buildings wasn't intuitive...

I sighed and looked at Nancy and Julie, my colleagues. Another dead end. 
"I swear the sign said this way..."

My voice trailed off as men with ties flapping blew by us and women in impractical heels clunked past purposefully. I squinted my eyes and read the gold-embossed sign again. 

"Let's try this way," I said, clutching my folder with materials about the National Writing Project in my hand. We rounded another corner and began to see office doors decorated with state flags. Some congresspeople had their social media handles by their doors, which I found amusing. 

211. 215. We were getting closer.

Weak florescent lights reflected off the glossy floor as we approached our target. We readied our research briefs, rehearsed our stories and adjusted our name tags. We took a deep breath and pushed open the heavy wooden door. 

It was game time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

14/31: Row 15, Seat B

I stood on my tiptoes, trying to see beyond the squished line of strangers and the Jenga-puzzle packed overhead bins. Were there any seats left in the back of the plane? I fidgeted with the straps of my purse as we shuffled forward, inch by inch. I hadn't flown Southwest in a long time. What was this no assigned seats business? Those who know me might be surprised to hear this sentiment. After all, I let my students choose their own seats in my classroom.

But here, on this pressurized biscuit can of a plane, a bit of predictability sounded like a good idea. But as it stood, my seat was not preordained by some computer algorithm or benevolent airline worker. It was all up to chance at this point.

People started to peel off into seats as I scooted closer to the flight attendant directing traffic.
"There's a seat right here, hon," she said, smiling the smooth practiced smile of a someone who's no stranger to the service industry and its requirement for a bit of canned politeness.

I looked at where she pointed. A middle seat. Between two older men. Both had already nestled their elbows territorially on the armrests. I craned my neck, looking for other options. The stewardess snapped her gum and shook her head. I was stuck.

I hoisted my carry-on up and into the overhead bin. I wiggled myself into my seat, settled in and buckled up. Only then did I notice something strange. My legs weren't touching the seat in front of me. I looked up, confused. Was I...

"You're sitting in an exit row. Please listen carefully..."

I sighed and stretched my legs. Lucky me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

13:31: Pressure

Things I'm better at when under pressure:
  • Cutting corners in inventive ways (when running late, the lid to the cream cheese tub becomes a knife!)
  • Making outfit decisions (when you've got three minutes, everyone becomes a fashion expert)
  • Chopping vegetables quickly and dramatically (while keeping thumbs in tact)
  • Making dramatic sound effects to help keep myself motivated (a well-placed "whoosh" as I rush from room to room does wonders)
  • Carrying more bags per arm than one might think possible (if you balance it out, it's all good!)
And, of course...
  • Writing (when you have a late night at school and still have yet to slice at 9:30 PM, it's amazing what you can do under a little pressure!)

Monday, March 12, 2018

12/31: My Desk Horoscope

I've had a lot of desks throughout my teaching career. Most of them were unremarkable: made of dark wood. Heavy. Far too big, with drawers that didn't quite shut right and that were too often filled with half-chewed erasers, confiscated fidget spinners and old hall passes that never made it to the recycle bin. As I moved from classroom to classroom, I never felt much when I left my old desk behind. It was a place to stack ungraded papers and a perpetually empty cup of pencils. Just another piece of furniture.

However, two years ago, things changed. I got a new desk. And not just any old piece of furniture resurrected from a boiler room deep in the bowels of the school. Nope. My desk was handmade by my dad. We went dumpster diving in the brimming disposal bins next to recently built houses one sticky summer day in South Carolina for pieces of "good enough" wood. A few days, a lot of wood shavings and a couple of coats of paint later, I had a pretty nice desk (thanks, Dad).

Today, the desk sits in the corner of my seventh grade classroom. I'd like to tell you that I keep it perfectly organized, but the reality is that it's cluttered. I try to keep it clean, but I'm me. I'm a bit messy, and my desk is a reflection of me. Each item that sits on its surface tells a story. If you look carefully enough, you can read my desk horoscope:

A crocheted bee from my husband: I'm sentimental.

A framed picture of my very first group of Book Battle students: I'll never forget.

A large cup of iced tea: I'm tired.

A cat-shaped pouch brimming with my favorite colorful pens: I'm a writer.

An ever-growing stack of books: I'm determined.

Various stacks of Post-It notes, some with scrawled fragments of reminders: I'm a work in progress.

A button that exclaims "That was easy!" when you hit it: I'm silly.

My desk is more than just a flat surface with four legs. It's a landing spot, a personality kaleidoscope, a chaotic oasis in my classroom. And, should I change classrooms again, this is one piece of furniture I won't be leaving behind.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

11/31: 10 Thoughts During Hot Yoga

I've only taken a few hot yoga classes, but I hit one up this morning with my friend Ashley. Here's a running narrative of what was going through my head.

1. Oh geez. They weren't kidding about the 'hot' part of hot yoga. Enough heat to rival a middle school dance or some sort of rave is radiating through this place.

2. I hope no one judges my cheapo Amazon mat with the puncture marks where my cats decided to sharpen their claws. #notfancy

3. That must be the instructor. Wait. Why is she heading towards the thermostat...are you kidding me?! She's bumping the temperature up!

4. Okay, here we go. Deep breaths. So this is what breathing should feel like...I need to do more of these at work.

5. Ugh, I am in desperate need of a pedicure. Nothing like a foldover to get up close and personal with your calluses.

6. At least my yoga pants are cute.

7. Tree pose is my favorite. I feel so...arborous when the instructor tells me to grow my branches.

8. Sweat. Everywhere. In places I don't care to admit. But hey, warrior pose looks way cooler when you're glistening, right?

9. Happy baby? Don't mind if I do. Looks so stupid, feels so good.

10. I'm pretty sure actual corpses don't sweat like this, but I don't care. I made it to savasana...and the end of class. A tall glass of water is in my future.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

10/31: The Awkward Shuffle

I like to think of myself as a fairly coordinated person. I dance, I don't trip over my own feet too often, and I am very good at balancing several different bags in my arms every morning as I make my way from my car into the middle school where I work.

But today, I was a Not once, not twice, but three separate times, I fell victim to The Awkward Shuffle (AS).

You probably have experienced The Awkward Shuffle. It happens when two people are walking towards each other and, instead of one person smoothly going right while the other goes left, both people go the same way at the same time. Cue The AS. Usually both people try to correct, which starts Round 2 of the Shuffle...and so it goes, until both people break into awkward laughter, apologize, and finally scoot past each other. If it happens in the Midwest, it's usually followed by the proverbial "ope" that we tend to say when faced with such a dilemma.

Usually, I try to avoid these scenarios by trying to intuit the other person's intentions. It's not exactly a science: a slight lean to one side, a shift in body weight, a darting of the eyes. But it usually works and we sail past each other with ease. Today, though, while zipping through Dierbergs (a local grocery store here in St. Louis), my sensors were decidedly off.

A near cart collision next to the deli. An awkward apology next to the crackers. A full-on reversal next to the checkout line, due to the unfortunate location of a display of wine (a product placement that almost actually worked on me...I was stressed enough to be thinking about a glass at that point).

I managed to escape the grocery store without hip checking, cutting off or running into anyone else, but I couldn't help but wonder what caused my sudden lapse into clumsiness. Planetary alignment? Weather changes?

Whatever the cause, I have decided it's best to spend the rest of my day inside. After all, a fourth Awkward Shuffle might do me in.

Friday, March 9, 2018

9/31:The Tinfoil Trap

Tiberius is our youngest cat, and like most youngest children, he is Special (capitalization intentional). I've already written about his penchant for water, but when he was about six months old, we learned that Tiberius is also a professional tightrope walker.

Well. Tiberius was a professional tightrope walker.

How it all started is unclear, but one night, Tiberius decided to hop up on top of our fabric-covered headboard and walk, loudly, to the other side...then reverse and walk backwards back to where he started, tail held aloft for maximum balance. He'd dig his little claws in for extra traction, which, in the middle of the night, sounds a lot like someone undoing Velcro shoes four hundred times in a row. Soothing.

The first time it happened, Scott and I laughed, mostly because he looked so silly walking backwards across the top of the bed. The second time, we were decidedly less cheery, as people tend to be when awoken at 3AM. By the thirtieth time (can you tell we're not parents? We let this go unchecked for far too long...), we were sleep-deprived enough to devise an action plan.

The next night, I walked into the bedroom to see something unusual sitting on our bed. Immediately, I knew that Scott had had enough. It was time to throw down our trump card, and our particular card happened to be silver, shiny and come in a convenient roll. Tinfoil.

Cats hate tinfoil. It freaks them out for some reason...maybe because it makes noise when touched or it feels strange on their paws. Either way, we knew that a certain kitty's tightrope walking career would be derailed by a well-placed sheath. Scott tore off two pieces of foil, wrapped them over the headboard and scrunched them a bit so they'd stay put. With our trap set, we went to bed.

Sure enough, right on time at 3AM, Tiberius padded into the room. He hopped up on my nightstand, and I could hear his little butt wiggling before he pounced up to the headboard. Poor thing. He had no idea.

What happened next was simultaneously comical and a little sad. Tiberius made contact, which sounded a bit like someone hitting a cymbal vigorously. Tiberius freaked out. Tiberius ran out of the room.

A few minutes later, I heard him try again, this time approaching from the opposite side. Crash. Thud. Scamper.

It's too soon to say if our trap has been entirely successful. For all I know, Tiberius will practice on the tinfoil while we're both out of the house and soon be ready for another nighttime performance. But for now, the cat circus has left town...and if it comes back, well...I've got a lot more tinfoil.

Author's note: This morning, I woke up and realized two things:
1. Tiberius did not attempt to tightrope walk last night.
2. I missed a prime opportunity to make a zinger of a pun in this post: we quite literally foiled his nighttime plans. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

8/31: The Language of Frustration

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions. After all, you can choose to reinvent yourself any day of the year, right?

However, without even realizing it, I did end up making a resolution for 2018. It was somewhere around day 25 that I realized that a momentary whim had turned into a full-blown obsession. I was thinking about the next time I'd practice. Wondering what other resources I could use. Asking everyone I knew for advice.

Yep. I had a resolution all right. 2018 was going to be the year that I would FINALLY learn to parle en francais. Er...learn how to speak in French.

French and I have a tumultuous relationship. We were on again and off again throughout high school and college. I watched Amelie (with subtitles). I ate macarons like nobody's business. But I still couldn't speak it.

Everything changed when I received a grant to go to France for a summer learning opportunity. I was surrounded by bilingual people, and all I could say in French was, "Where is the bathroom?" (Ou est la salle de bains, s'il vous plait, in case you were wondering). I returned with a seed planted in my mind that stayed dormant for the next six months. However, come January, it suddenly germinated into a creeping ivy that was slowly consuming my brain.

I Duolingo'ed. I read French websites. I even discovered that you can watch some children's cartoons in French on Netflix (My Little Pony sounds so much nicer en francais). I downloaded podcasts. I joined websites that paired you up with French pen pals and began exchanging emails with some native speakers. I discovered that there were adult language learning classes in my hometown.
Basically me.

56 days later, I still can't speak French. I get frustrated when I listen and still have no idea what the other person is saying (why hasn't someone invented the capability to project subtitles above our heads? Or where's the Universal Translator from Star Trek?). I get stuck and wonder if I should just give up when I confuse cheveux for chevaux for the zillionth time (hair and horses are two very different things when you're talking about cutting something).

I'm learning a new language, but I'm also learning patience, perseverance and consistency. So while it might be frustrating de temps en temps, I'm not giving up. Or, as the French say, bonne courage (keep going!).

So, next time I head to France, you'd better believe I'll still be able to ask where the bathroom is...but with a little more practice, maybe I'll have the confidence to strike up a conversation with someone else that doesn't involve bodily functions.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

7/31: My First Class Pet

I've always wanted a classroom pet. I have fond memories of a guinea pig in elementary school, who I got to take home to babysit for a day. I remember my 7th grade science teacher's hissing cockroaches, which were simultaneously gross and intriguing. To me, a class pet was a sure sign that the teacher was awesome.

When I became a middle school English teacher, those memories stayed with me. However, my idyllic dreams of housing a live creature in my classroom were pushed aside in favor of the 95 other live creatures that populated my room each day: my students. Sure, I didn't have to feed and water them (most days), but they needed infinitely more attention. For the first seven years of my teaching, a classroom pet was simply not in the cards.

But I never stopped longing for one. As the years passed, I considered different options, but my sensible side always chimed in, pointing out reasons not to have a class pet. A beta fish? Who would take care of it on the weekends? A hamster? What if it died? Sea monkeys? Do those even count?

Everything changed on a summer afternoon visit to Lowe's. While my husband was busy looking at Adult Things like fertilizer and paint primer, I decided to pass the time by browsing through the "outdoor living area." Little did I know that this decision would lead me to my very first class pet.

As I wandered through the maze of patio umbrellas, brightly colored pillows and stepping stones with motivational sayings, a flash of bubblegum pink peeking out of a huge cardboard box in the corner caught my eye. Curious, I walked over to take a closer look. It was in this moment that I first met Floyd.

Floyd is categorized by Lowe's as a "plastic flamingo lawn ornament," but he's so much more than that. Floyd is silly. Floyd is whimsical. Floyd is very quiet and stays when told. Floyd requires no food, and the only aroma he exudes is a very slight plastic scent. He's unoffensive, quite handsome to behold, and, best of all, while he's not technically alive, he satisfies my desire for a class pet. Without a second thought (and without having to sign any adoption papers), Floyd went home with me that day

Today, Floyd sits on my bookshelf, guarding my books. I like to dress him up, and right now, he's sporting a single leopard-print glove from an abandoned FACS project as a "tail warmer" and a star-spangled scarf tied around his skinny neck. I smile when I see him because he's just so silly yet so right for my classroom.

So, if you find yourself longing for a class pet but think, "Gosh, those are way too much work," may I suggest a Floyd? Best $10 I've ever spent.

Floyd is stylish.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

6/31: The GIF Whisperer

Every day, I make a new agenda screen for my 7th grade English class. Every day, I include the basics. What to do when you walk in the door. What supplies you need to grab. What we're going to be doing today (despite including this vital information, I still have approximately 3.2 students ask me this very question each day).

But I always include something a little extra. A GIF. If you're not familiar, a GIF is an animated picture that loops the same 2-3 seconds over and over again. They're tiny snapshots of funny moments: a dog looking particularly cute, a person totally biffing it on a bike, a snippet from a popular TV show. I then connect the GIF to our classroom in some way with a pithy little caption.

I'd like to say I include the GIFs for my students, but really, I get just as much pleasure out of finding the perfect one each day. Sometimes, they match what we're doing in class. For example, today, we're kicking off our argument unit by discussing next year's change to daily PE, a shift that has a lot of students up in arms. Therefore, today, my screen simply asked which GIF matched their opinion:


Some days, my GIFs match the day of the week:

Are you an Oscar, a Darryl, a Kevin, or a Meredith?

Other times, they serve as lighthearted reminders:
When you tell Ms. K that you forgot your book in your locker...
Sometimes, they sum up what everyone's thinking:
Current mood.

But no matter what I pick, my GIFs always bring a smile to my face...and hopefully, they do the same for my students. After all, we could always use a little more humor in our lives...especially at school.

Monday, March 5, 2018

5/31: Hand Over the Sprouts

And now, an ode to the unsung hero of vegetables.

Often vilified as inedible and named as the weapon wielded by particularly punitive parents bent on making their children miserable, brussels sprouts are one of those things that seem to unify people in mutual hatred. At best, their presence on the dinner table elicits thinly-veiled sighs of disappointment. At worst, they cause outright disgust.

Few want to give these leafy baby cabbages a chance. They call them "disgusting" and "smelly" and "hard to chew." They take one look at their intimidating whorls and layers and pronounce them as only fit for a garbage disposal.

Not me. When I see brussels sprouts, my mind goes places. To sweet chili sauce and soy sauce mixed together and smothered all over those roly-poly vegetables and roasted at 425 for 20 minutes until their outer leaves have that perfectly caramelized crunch.

To a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of olive oil, a fine coating of garlic, salt and pepper.

To finely-shredded leaves combined with wheat pasta, spicy Italian sausage, parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Really, the possibilities are endless when you've got such a wonderfully tasty subject to work with.

So you can have your broccoli. I won't deny you your cauliflower, your kale or your asparagus. But as for me, I'll be over here munching on my brussels sprouts...and before you hide yours in your napkin or try to feed them to the family dog, hand 'em over. I'll eat yours too.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

4/31: One Rotten Apple Spoils the Bunch #sol18

I plug my iPad into my Macbook, crossing my fingers that, this time, it will work.

Click. Click. Click.

Nothing. Forehead meets keyboard. I take a deep breath and try another method. I have to get these videos off of my iPad and on to my computer. I take a look into the mystical "cloud" (what IS the cloud anyway? I'm starting to think it's just a nice idea and not a real thing). Outlook foggy. I don't see a thing. Well, scratch that. I do see a bunch of questionable selfies from 2013 (note to self: blonde isn't a good hair color), but I don't see the three videos I need.

I'm starting to think I have a rotten Apple. iCurse and iGroan and iFume. My Windows-loving husband raises his eyebrow in an "I told you so" manner as he watches me work. Click. Click. Click. I announce that I'm calling in reinforcements and pick up my iPhone (I'm nothing if not consistent in my bad choices) and dial the number for Apple Care. The automated voice kindly informs me that I can choose my hold music. I select classical. Maybe that will calm me down.

Warbly violins burble out of the phone's speaker. I still feel anxious. 5 minutes pass. Never one to have a lot of patience, I continue to clickclickclick in hopes that, this time, it will work. At 12 minutes on hold, I begin to feel despair. At 17, I'm desperate. Desperate enough to admit defeat and let my husband disconnect my iPad from its dysfunctional fruity brethren and plug it into his computer.

Unshockingly, he owns a Windows.

He sits down and grabs the mouse. Click. Click. Click. The three videos sit on the desktop, just like that.

Forehead meets palm. I sigh in relief. Just as I turn to thank him, the tinny concerto on my phone abruptly stops. "Thank you for calling Apple Care, how can I help you?"

I shake my head. It might be time for this fruitarian to diversify her technological diet.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3/31: A Bi-Yearly Appointment #sol18

8:00 AM. I open the door, tell the receptionist my name and wait.

After a few minutes, I’m ushered back. I take a seat. Nervous. I lick my lips and shift in the chair. The assistant comes in. She hands me a pair of sunglasses and leans me back. “Open up,” she says. I smile big. Shiny metal implements. Minty cleaner. Thin string pulling and prodding. I wince in pain. Once every six months, just like clockwork. I’m always on time, but I’m never ready.

 “A little wider,” she prods. Spray of water. The snap of gloves. Chair leaning back up. I hold my breath and wait for the final proclamation. I run my tongue over my clean teeth. The receptionist eyes me, sizing me and my smile up. She thrusts a plastic bag brimming with toothpaste samples and floss into my arms and leaves me with these parting words:

“You need to floss more.”

Friday, March 2, 2018

2/31: The Unexpected Gift #sol18

I scurried down the hall, a list clutched in my hand with the names of the 50 kids who would be filling my room in approximately 10 minutes. I had donuts to hand out, chairs to rearrange, tables to wipe mental list grew with every step.

I darted into the main office and handed the list to our attendance secretary, told her quickly about the Slice of Life challenge, and turned on my heel to head back to my classroom. As I passed by the staff mailboxes, my eyes immediately gravitated to my own box, which is usually empty. Today, however, it was stuffed to the brim with a very full manila envelope.

I paused. I knew I should keep moving, but curiosity overwhelmed me. The outside didn't give any clues. It just had two names on it: mine and Ashley's, the math teacher on our team. Glancing at the clock, I made a quick decision: I was going to open it. I pried open the silver prongs holding the envelope closed and slid out two tiny packages. As soon as I saw what they were, a huge smile took over my face. I knew exactly who had sent them.

For this entire school year, Tracey, a teacher at the 6th grade center in my district, has been harassing asking me and Ashley to come up with a good name for the bow tie business he's starting with his 6th grade students. We had a lot of failed ideas:

  • Knot Your Average Tie Company
  • Backstreet Bows
  • Beaus and Bows
None of them satisfied Tracey. As the months passed, he kept asking and I kept failing at coming up with a witty and clever business name. When February rolled around, I had pretty much given up. But, as with a lot of things, when you stop trying, it happens. At a teaching conference, as I doodled in my notebook while waiting for a session to begin, it hit me. I had Tracey's perfect name:

The Notorious TIE

Immediately, I emailed Tracey and Ashley my idea, and he loved it. Liz, my teaching partner who was attending the conference with me, suggested making the first word a pun, changing it to "The Knotorious TIE." It was a perfect fit. The pleasure of finally naming Tracey's company was enough, but a few weeks later, a package arrived in my teaching mailbox on one of the busiest mornings I've had in awhile. 

Inside, two bow ties sat nestled in adorable cardboard boxes. One was a gorgeous blue floral print, whimsical and quirky...just right for me. The other was a deep green with gold swirls parading across it, a perfect complement to Ashley.

I slid the bow tie out of its box, grinned at the personal note Tracey had included, and clipped it on right at the neckline of my T-shirt, where it contrasted jauntily with the gray fabric.

I took a deep breath, and hurried out of the office into the busy-ness of the day with two new accessories: my fabulous bow tie and a huge smile on my face.
Bonnie modeling Ashley's custom bow tie
My beautiful bow tie 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

1/31: Curiosity Soaks the Cat #sol18

My cat has a water problem.

And it's not a fear of water, like you might assume. After all, cats HATE water, right? Not mine. My cat is special.

Tiberius loves water. Like, loves it. A slowly dripping faucet will entertain him for minutes (which, if you have ever had a kitten, is a huge feat) as he tries to catch the drops in his mouth and with his paws. Because of this adorable but messy habit, my bathroom mirror is so dotted with water splotches that looks like it was used to film one of those dramatic face-washing commercials where a weirdly cheerful girl splashes water on her face haphazardly. 

Tiberius's obsession affects everyone. I can no longer shower alone. He will cry as I try to quickly shampoo my hair, begging to be let inside The Fascinating Cube of Water. When I finally turn off the faucet and open the door, he rushes inside to lick the shower floor, leaving his tiny wet paw prints across the bathroom tile.

When my husband closes the door to try to shave in peace and quiet, Tiberius paws at the door, begging to be a part of the fun. Toilets must have their seats down at all times. The few times I've forgotten have Tiberius sees a toilet and thinks, "Oooh! A cat-sized pool!" 

And his addiction is only getting worse. Lately, he's started curling up in the bathroom sink so that he has easy access to his beloved drips. I cannot brush my teeth without bumping into his furry belly. If I try to move him, his plaintive and extremely heartbreaking mews make me stop. I've taken to using the kitchen sink. With my mouth full of sudsy toothpaste, I wonder to myself, Who owns who? 

Oh well. Good thing he's cute.

**My husband, Scott, named Tiberius after James Tiberius Kirk. He's a Trekkie. I had no say.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Slice of Life Tuesday: The Literacy Cabaret

The scene: Tan Tar A Resorts, in the spacious ballroom, dotted with round tables covered in thick maroon tablecloths.

The carpet: a bad '90s design of interlocking circles and squares sprawled across golf course grass green.

The people: English teachers from across Missouri, armed with their ink pens, blank notebooks, and enough snacks to power a small country.

The event: Barry Lane's impromptu afternoon keynote at the Write to Learn festival. Actually, scratch that. Barry Lane's Literacy Cabaret performance. And yours truly had been selected to be a member of Mr. Lane's infamous entourage of English teachers.

Barry Lane: delightfully quirky, and he is also quite persistent. I wouldn't say he asked me to be in his literacy cabaret, but really, who could say no to him? He's also surprisingly well-prepared for unexpected performances, as the scheduled speaker was unable to attend at the last minute. Despite the short notice, he had all the accoutrements necessary for outfitting me for my spin on the stage: filmy scarves, quirky sunglasses, interesting headpieces, and more.

My role: Gail from Versailles (which, if you're not familiar with Missouri's penchant for butchering French words, is pronounced Ver-sales). Barry described my role as a "long-suffering but genuine teacher," so naturally, for my costume, I selected a gorgeous peacock blue scarf, star-shaped sunglasses and a beaded headpiece worthy of Cleopatra.

Show time: Barry strummed his guitar, gestured to me and my fellow literacy chanteuses, and with a toss of our scarves, we swanned gracefully onto the tiny stage, blinking under the bright lights, trying not to dissolve into giggles.

English teachers: we're all just waiting for our moment on the stage.