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How to lose even when you’re winning

Earlier in the year I wrote that this would be the year that I finally finished reading The Brothers Karamazov. At the time I felt certain it could be done. “If I read 3-4 pages every day I’ll be done before the year is over!” Well, best laid plans and all that. I keep saying I like the story and that is true but given my atrocious reading habits for the past, well, decade and the fact that we are still living through a pandemic, even just 3 pages of a Russian novel a day has proven to be too ambitious.

Which doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. As the image shows, I’ve actually surpassed my Goodreads reaching goal for the year. That hasn’t happened since 2015. So reading isn’t the issue. It’s reading something that actually requires the brain to really think that’s the problem. At the end of the day, when I discover that I’ve watched everything there is to watch on Netflix or Hulu, I turn to reading books that flow, that entertain but don’t tax the already overly taxed brain.

The Brothers Karamazov shall have to wait. Maybe next year. See, this is the good thing about books. You can literally shelve them and they never get upset, they don’t complain that you’re neglecting them. They don’t vague tweet or Facebook post about how you’ve ghosted them because you’re a mean mean person. And they smell good. So really there is no downside to books. You heard that here first. I’m sure.

Posted on 10/17/2021 in Books | 0 comments

Writober: Class is in Session

A coworker was telling me the other day that a teacher in her child’s elementary school was her high school science teacher. Because I am now old, my first thought, and what I said to her was, “Oh, wow. She must have been young when she taught you!”

She thought about it and then nodded, “Yes, she was actually.” That sent us down a short path of trying to figure how many teachers we remembered. We each decided that of all the teachers we’d had through the years, we could only remember a small handful.

So here is my list:

  1. The teacher in El Salvador who invited my brother and I to her dog’s birthday party. Yes, party. There were other four legged guests and a piñata that consisted of raw meat on a plate that was pulled up and down on a rope as the dogs jumped around, trying to grab it. Don’t ask me what I learned from her in school. The lesson outside of it is much more important. Parties can be for anyone and anything for any reason. If that isn’t a life lesson, I don’t know what is.
  2. Mrs. Houser, who was visibly pregnant for much of 4th grade and who ended each of our days by reading to us. James and the Giant Peach. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I don’t remember if the other kids listened as intently as I did but, oh, did I love those afternoons.
  3. The substitute teacher who took Mrs. Houser’s place when she went on maternity leave. The teacher who, as punishment, would make you squat, put your arms out and then she’d add several heavy books. You had to hold this position for endless minutes.
  4. The history teacher in 7th grade who had had polio as a child so his left arm was always in a sling. In his right hand he always carried a long wooden stick that he used to point to things on the chalkboard. Or, if he felt you weren’t paying attention, he’d slam onto the desk. I never heard of him accidentally hitting anyone with it. Which is good, because he was funny and I really liked him. The last week of school he would put a big tall globe on a desk and tell us as long as our heads didn’t pass the top of the globe, we would go anywhere in class and hang out with our friends. Oh, and he taught us how to take better notes. A lesson I still use to this day.
  5. The 9th grade English teacher who pulled me out into the hallway to tell me I was talking too much and that I had to let the other students have a turn at answering her questions. I suppose I should be glad she told me that in the hallway. At the time I was just hurt. Hurt enough that days later when she got tired of none of the other students actually engaging with her, I looked away and said nothing when she looked my way, wanting me to respond.
  6. The 11th grade English teacher who didn’t like my writing. The teacher who, I’m embarrassed to say, the entire class banded together to bully until she just stopped coming to work one day. Teenagers are assholes.
  7. The 12th grade French 5 AP Literature teacher who had to be sent to a crash course over the summer to learn how to teach French 5 AP Literature. The crash course didn’t take. By the end of the year, only 7 of us remained in the class - 5 because we couldn’t change our schedules and 2 who had to stay in the room but were allowed to treat the time as a study hall. That couldn’t have been fun for her.
  8. The 12th grade civics teacher who gave me an A for the year even though I had basically tanked the 4th quarter. “But,” I said when he told me, “I didn’t earn it.” “It’s clear you were going through something,” he said. “And you are more than capable of it. So that’s the grade you deserve.” Life lesson - some people care even when you don’t say a single thing. I tracked him down a couple of years ago and sent him a long thank you for that gift. He told me he shared my message with his family and that they all were touched by my words. If I’m ever in Boston, I’m supposed to look him up.
  9. The creative writing professor in college who gave me an A for the year and wrote me a note to say I should be a writer. I had illusions back then of maybe one day trying to write fiction professionally. But it was just nice to know someone thought I was adept at stringing words together. I don’t write fiction every day but I craft some nice emails and memos. And I can edit like, well, I’m being paid for it, which I am, so, you know, same thing. 😊

And there we have it. There are a few more but the above are the ones that I think about most often - some with fondness, a couple with regret. Except for the horrid woman in 4th grade, I’m sure they all were doing their best.

Posted on 10/13/2021 in Writing | Writober | 0 comments

Writober: Remember to Buy Yourself a Nice Lamp

A month ago, while visiting my dad, he said to me, “We’ve done well as a family. When I think about where we started … sometimes by the middle of the month, we didn’t have any more milk for you and your brother and I had no idea where we would get more money. Now look at you, your brother and sister - if I hadn’t had an opportunity to come to the United States…”

“I know,” I said. “We have done well. I’m definitely really aware of that. Sometimes I think maybe I haven’t tried hard enough but then I think, from tin roof shack with a dirt floor to getting to sit in front of a computer and get paid to think for a living. Sometimes I don’t understand how it happened.”

He smiled and we moved on to another topic.

On Saturday I was listening to NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! RZA from Wu-Tang Clan was on. He was talking about his love of all things HGTV. Someone commented that the problem with watching home improvement shows is that it makes you unhappy with your house and makes you want to go out and buy a whole new house.

Or, he said, you buy a nice lamp.

Our family, for sure, is good at buying nice lamps.

I’m thankful for that.

Posted on 10/4/2021 in Writing | Writober | 0 comments

Blog Lapse

Part of the desire to blog is because my memory is awful. We could blame my advancing years but in truth my bad memory has been a problem for decades. For a while I had a reputation for taking meticulous notes at work and people, I believe, prescribed that to work ethic or quality work. Those were great by products but really the notes are just necessary in order for me to do the job properly. Sadly, I’ve never been good about bringing this habit to my personal life. On and off I’ve tried to rely on the blogging to fill that need but we can see from my inconsistent posting how well that goes. Maybe if I paid myself to blog that would do the trick?

Let’s do a quick recap of this year’s doings, shall we?

After a couple of years of contemplating buying a home for the kiddo and myself, in February of this year I got serious about it. I knew the location I wanted, which limited things a bit but I prioritized the kiddo being able to walk to grandma’s over square footage. We moved mid-April, which I’m told is fast in terms of home-buying but this is the first (and hopefully last) condo I’ve ever purchased so I have nothing to compare the process to. It’s a nice place; has some good and bad aspects to it. The most annoying of which, because of the humidity of the area, means some of the wooden floorboards are peaking. Home ownership, gotta love it, no? Last week, after picking the kiddo up from daycare, she refused to come into the building. Instead she took my hand and led me on a walk to grandma’s house. That she gets to do that whenever she wants was the point of the purchase so that makes the annoyances less annoying.

Speaking of daycare, even though the anxiety is tough to deal with, she’s back in daycare. Now that she’s 2, she needs more structure than I can provide while also working from home. And her excitement at seeing other kids whenever we would go for walks or to a park made it clear that she wants the company of other kids. That doesn’t mean the return to daycare has been seamless; she’s struggled a bit and as a result has been more clingy than is her usual. Prior to daycare, nap times and bed times were pretty easy going routines. Once daycare started, she started crying at every single nap time and every single bed time. Even if I stayed in the room with her, she wasn’t always happy. After a month and a half things seem to be calming down again. Which is such a relief. The moments weren’t fun for either of us.

Work in the office was supposed to resume this month, but that’s been pushed back to mid-October. Thankfully we’re only expected to work in the office two days a week. I remain forever grateful that during peak times of this pandemic I had a job that allowed me to stay home and keep myself and the baby safe but that doesn’t mean I was looking forward to going back to the office full time. It’s the introvert in me, I suppose. I’m perfectly fine with keeping in touch with folks via email and video chats. I don’t need to be in the same room with someone to feel as if I’ve connected. Maybe that comes from years of keeping online friendships going via those same methods? Either way, I would have been fine staying home indefinitely but two days a week is fine too. Better than the alternative.

I think that’s a good enough update for now. Let’s see if I can’t be a bit more interesting and timely with the next post, no?

Posted on 9/5/2021 in Dailies | 0 comments

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