So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye

What’s your current verbal tic? You know, that word or phrase you’d adopted at first with intent, which then takes over to a point you don’t even recognize you’ve said it twelve times in two minutes?

My freshman drops whatnot into every third sentence or so. My husband is a yada-yada-yada guy. My baby points out “there thing” meaning, there is the dog, or questions “where thing?” to open most conversations these days. It matters not if the dog is actually present or even remotely relevant to our verbal exchange, it’s just what he says.  I can’t identify mine at the moment.  I’m sitting in a room all by myself, conversing with no one, and I’m totally tabula rasa about my current lexical frequent flyers.  In all honesty, and to my embarrassment just a touch, I’m overusing the word dick to refer to, well, to dicks and their shady behavior. I asked my husband, and he says my verbal tic is busting out into song. *Except it’s not technically a tic if I belt out a situationally-appropriate lyric every time, is it?*

I wish I could recall who, but I remember hearing a post-game locker room interview with a football player who said, “you know what I’m sayin'” so often, his message was devoid of content because, turns out, nouns and verbs carry meaning.  No, dude, I don’t know what you’re sayin’ because you’re not actually sayin’ anything, know what I’m sayin’?

When even I can identify what my tic is, I make a concerted, conscious attempt to diminish its use.

Lake Superior State University generates a list of words deemed in need of banishment at the end of each annum.  This is SO me.  LSSU doesn’t consult with me though, and I’m just salty enough to have developed my own list.

What say you?  For my liking, these nouns and verbs have run their course. Their time is done. Please go away. May I hold the door for you? Get out!

Curated:  If online clothing vendors are to be believed, they offer carefully curated wardrobe pieces for their customers.  Music streaming services curate a playlist just for you.  Stop it.  You know who curates?  Professionals who select and acquire items for display in museums or galleries.  Using it to sell services and goods feels like being sold a bill of goods.

Style:  It’s OK in every context except when your online clothing retailer emails you announcing “You’ve been styled.”  Nah.  You’re sending me some overpriced clothes you hope I’m too lazy to return and will like just enough to pay the invoice.

Unpack:  Popular in edu-speak these days, we unpack educational standards.  No. What we do is discuss them.  You know what gets unpacked at my house?  The groceries.  My suitcase after a weekend away.

Deep Dive:  If unpacking is overused in edu-speak these days, the ubiquity of deep dive cannot be overstated; let’s take a deep dive into our data.  How about we discuss our data thoroughly?  The only place I’m taking a deep dive is the ocean.

Optics:  Fancy, shmancy word spin doctors and talking heads use to describe how an event or happening appears.

Guesstimate:  THIS IS NOT A WORD

Listicle: Also not a word, but a portmanteau, combining list and article. Social media pushes clickbait listicles like Top 5 Reasons Your Man Is Looking at Your BFF!  Top 10 Things You Should NEVER Eat! 20 Things You Never Knew About Friends! Apparently listicles only work for me in multiples of five.

Conversate:  ALSO NOT A WORD.  You converse.  You say conversate to try to make yourself sound smart, when in reality, smart people laugh at your use of conversate.

Orientate: Related to conversate, and PS–my head just exploded. Orientation is the process of being introduced, getting an overview. I orient (a verb roughly meaning give direction) new SLPs all the time, but no one’s ever been orientated.

Onboarding: It means training, or perhaps an extended period of training for newly hired employees. Onboarding sounds fancier is all. I recently served on a university communication sciences advisory committee. One of the group members asked me what our district’s onboarding costs were per new hire.  I’m pretty sure she thinks I dawdle in the land of simpletons, flitting through life, so vacant was my face in response.

Tremendous: Tremendous coulda hung around forever had a certain high ranking government official not adopted its use in his insufferable, self-aggrandizing way.

Very: See tremendous above. Very works better verbally than in print, in my opinion, because when combined with facial expression and body language, you feel my “very” to the very bottom of your toes.

Leverage: Isn’t leverage a physics term? I probably should know that, except for my one and only physics class left me in a daily puddle of tears.  The nightmare of that course became my dream come true mid-senior year after my teacher asked my mother, “She already got into college, didn’t she?” suggesting it was time I drop the class. Leverage is in heavy rotation these days to describe the manner in which things get used. Business types leverage their relationships with clients to gain funding or favors. Leverage feels like a synonym for exploit.

Transparency: Means not to hide, to disclose fully.  Citizens demand transparency of this government agency or that political campaign.  Any CEO or candidate for office swears transparency in their business dealings.  Formerly known as honesty, see also integrity.

Stakeholder:  Parents, you are valuable stakeholders in your child’s education!  We are seeking input from all stakeholders as we move forward with the city budget!  Blah, blah, blah.

Polar Vortex:  I actually like this one, because science.  But I am sooooo over winter, y’all.  It snowed twenty hours straight yesterday, and we are making up six school cancellation days.  I’m just pouting.  Mother Nature, you and I need to sit down for a little girl talk.  Pull up your big girl panties, lady, and let’s move on from this tantrum you can’t seem to shake here.

 

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RIP

Rest in peace, Bryan Rodriguez.

I never met the man, and I arrived near the scene after he had already been transported to the hospital, but I want to acknowledge his service to the community.  Seeing a man’s blood in the street with your own eyes changes things from “some poor guy, how terrible” to “the man whose blood painted a picture that will stick with me for some time.”

Bryan Rodriguez worked for the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works.  Friday morning he was doing that day’s job, repairing potholes, following behind a truck laden with asphalt pellets, presumably with shovel in hand. At 8:15 AM, a car slammed into him.

I got to one of my schools shortly before 10:00 Friday, in advance of an IEP meeting.  An IEP (individualized education plan) meeting is a special education event where students, parents, educators–regular and special ed, and administrators convene to discuss a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and develop a plan to address the student’s identified weaknesses.  I don’t have a figure, but I estimate that by now, I’ve been part of no fewer than 5,000 kids’ lives in such a way.

I noticed a cruiser along with police tape blocking the street just beyond the school’s, but didn’t think much more of it as my supervisor and I entered school and ascended the first set of stairs up toward our meeting.  Crime and the ensuing police presence are so familiar to me that I’m not proud to admit I didn’t give it much more thought.  I hadn’t yet met this student whose needs we were to discuss, so my mind was fixed on what I had read about the student and what I was going to say.

My supervisor and I stopped at the stair landing where another teacher began cataloging for us the events unfolding in the street below, unseen to us until we reached the bank of windows overlooking Seventeenth Street.  She relayed the circumstances of the accident as she knew them.  The driver and passenger bolted after Mr. Rodriguez was hit.  I could see the car partially wedged under the city truck, the man’s reflective vest on the ground.  The car had no plates.  Speed and/or inattentiveness was a factor.  The mayor had already been on-scene.  No more needed to be said.  It was understood that the DPW worker had been killed.  There had since been a steady stream of Public Works trucks passing by the scene of the crime.  I wondered if my husband had been behind the wheel of one of them.

Last Wednesday a Milwaukee Police Department officer was shot and killed by a man at whose house a search warrant was being executed.  Officer Matthew Rittner was killed in the line of duty, and the city mourned.  Twice in two days now, the city lost one of its employees.  Like Officer Rittner, whose body was escorted to the coroner’s office by a parade of law enforcement vehicles, Bryan Rodriguez’s now lifeless body was trailed by a procession of golden-yellow DPW trucks.  I found myself oddly comforted by that.

You bet this accident hit close to home.  Not only was I a late witness to this tragedy myself, but all I could think was it could just as easily have been my husband.  A reckless driver has already caused one of his buddy’s fingers to be severed.  Some idiot has shot at guys up in the bucket trucks.

I understand accidents happen, but I am willing to bet they happen less frequently when people actually give a damn about human life.  When I tell friends and family about events such as these, a typical response is, “Wow, don’t they care if they hurt someone?”  The desperate, terrifying, fundamental truth that needs to be understood before that question even gets asked is this: They don’t care enough about their own life to consider the lives of others.

No one goes into public service for its lavish salary, and the days of what used to be a promise of benefits some-day-in-the-future in lieu of premium wage-today have long since passed.  Internet trolls have had their field days with the loss of these two men this week, asserting “coulda-shoulda-wouldas” to somehow assign a sliver of blame to the victims.  Trolls, you’re despicable.  This guy set his alarm Friday morning, probably happy to have the weekend looming, maybe he’d grab a good old Milwaukee Friday night fish fry, have a couple of beers, I don’t know.  But I’m confident he thought he’d have that weekend.  His family couldn’t possibly have thought he’d never make it home.

I do not believe he will get a formal send-off similar to what the first responders do, but I feel at the very least he should receive a thank you for his service.  Thank you, Bryan Rodriguez, may you rest in peace.

 

 

Wings

Wheels, actually.

Now that my son has mastered the County Transit System (what you would think of as a city bus) to motor to and from school, he’s taking his show on the road.  He SET AN ALARM on a Saturday morning, showered, stuffed in some breakfast, and slushed off to the first bus stop.  He’s not sure where he’s going exactly, but he’s flying solo!  His general destination is a popular retail and dining hub across town.

He began his campaign a week or so ago, and while every ounce of my motherly being was parked at “no,” he made a compelling case for “yes.”  Before I knew it, it was less my husband and me deciding whether or not we’d “let” him, and more us merely going along with his plan.  I know for a fact I never actually uttered “yes.”

He’s a teenager. He’s supposed to pursue a life outside our home, and we are supposed to let him. But we live in the city, not the idyllic ‘burbs, and much as I hate to admit it, I worry about his safety. He’s a good kid, a bit of a naif for sure, but his intentions are pure, motivated by nothing more than wanting to explore on his terms, and maybe eat too much garbage fast food at one of the many options in the area.  Just prior to his departure, I ask how much money he’s got in his wallet.

T: “$170”

Me: “Oh, hell no.”

T: “Too much?”

Me: (in my head) Sweet baby jaysus god, you are gonna get rolled by some bad dude, or some store manager is gonna see a dorky-looking teenager with a a wad of cash sporting a string backpack, assume the worst of you, you’re going to be accused of then arrested for nothing of your own doing, good thing your dad and I are home today so we can retrieve you from the police station, you’re gonna drop cash on the floor as you fumble through your wallet trying to pay for something and then someone’s gonna lie in wait for you and jump you as you exit, and you probably don’t even have my cell phone number memorized anymore, how do you have this much cash and can I borrow a few bucks? and, and, and. . .

Me: (out loud) “Yeah, too much.  Dial it back by at least $100, maybe more, m’kay?”

And off he went.

The modern marvel of Apple iPhone’s Find Friends app offers relief.  I straight-up tell him I’m stalking/not stalking him, and he’s OK with it.  Not like he has a choice in that matter, but his whereabouts aren’t unknown to me, well, his phone’s whereabouts aren’t unknown to me anyway. I watch too many crime dramas and read too many mysteries featuring serial killers, so, duh, I know any would-be assailants would toss his phone. Before long though, he texted his first update: “Apparently Uncle Bob and Auntie Anne are heading south on 76th Street, and they saw me just as I was getting on the southbound bus.”

I don’t believe winged angels hover over our shoulders, but I do believe there are forces at play around us over which we have no control.  I swear I’ve periodically seen a reflection of light where there should be neither light nor reflection when I open our side door.  In my over-active imagination, our once-elderly, now-deceased next door neighbor Irene visits in what looks to be the form of an orange-tinted aura.  Yep, sounds insane, but that blob of light is something I saw with regularity, but can’t explain. Sorry, this should be an entirely separate blog post. Ahem.

The universe has its inexplicable plan, and sometimes it places you exactly where you are meant to be.  In this case, it’s placed my brother-in-law at that intersection, and made Bob pay mind to some long-haired kid at the bus shelter on a random Saturday.  Thank you, universe.

I’d gotten updates from the music store (ooooh, that six-string bass is kickass), the sporting goods store (nothing a little Seattle Seahawks stocking cap can’t cure–Seahawks, really?), food court (Rocky Rococo’s for lunch), and of course, Kopps Frozen Custard, a local institution of deliciousness, to cap it off. It would seem his day had progressed just as he thought it should, as I’d hoped it would be for him.

That doesn’t mean I’m at ease with his newfound wings–you never don’t worry.  Even when he texted saying he boarded a bus which changed its route after he hopped on, I was cool that it was probably gonna be OK.  He’s a modern-day Magellan with the benefit of a brainful of maps Rand-McNally themselves would envy.  And an iPhone.

Me?  I spent part of my afternoon shopping for my dog’s girlfriend’s birthday party.  My husband recalled Petco welcomes your leashed pet while you shop, so he thought it’d be grand to bring Caleb along.  This is my life, you guys. We can never go back.  I did however write a glowing review of our Petco experience via the online survey they sent.  Did anyone provide excellent service?  Yes, everyone who didn’t judge me when my dog peed on the merchandise was excellent.  Pro tip: don’t buy anything kept on the bottom shelves.

Polar Vortex

It’s the fifth consecutive school day off.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, a boulder really, you know it’s downright frigid here in the Midwest.  Baby, it’s cold outside.  It’s cold inside too.

The frost is inside our kitchen. Inside!

When my babies were babies, Jody, their day care provider would usher them into her house with the warning that if they didn’t hustle, they’d “freeze their frips off.”  To this day, the exact meaning of “frips” remains a mystery to me, but I will guarantee that whatever frips you have would become fripcicles in an instant this week.  Bars are beer delivery are shut down.  IN WISCONSIN, you guys.  Delivery of the US Mail has been suspended, and workers whose jobs take them outdoors, like my husband, have been given the option to take vacation time instead of repairing streetlights, which this week is essentially a suicide mission.  Some vacay.  Well at least he’s still got his frips!

Cabin Fever has begun to set in however.  Ennui abounds (or lies there doing nothing, more accurately), and even my children, slaves to their electronic devices, want to go back to school.  They miss their friends.  That biology exam keeps getting pushed back, which sure, means more time to study, but let’s be honest about the fidelity of that process. . .  YouTube has lost some of its luster, and even my dear, dear roommates, the boys’ best TV friends, the Impractical Jokers guys, are enjoying a brief hiatus at Chez Weir.  Summer vacation is different–even when it rains, you won’t die going outside–there’s always somewhere to go, something to do.  You know the fever’s bad when the kids want to go to school.  And NOT until the end of June.  I’ll be curious to see how many of these days will be required to be made up and how the district determines just how it will make them up.

There are myriad activities to enjoy, or if not enjoy, then just do, when you’re housebound though.  I thought I’d share with you a few of the ways we’ve been passing the time this Polar Vortex.

  1. Yoga: I rolled out my mat Tuesday morning, and before I could remove my socks, my idiot dog had commandeered my mat, laid out, covering the whole thing in what I call his frog-dog position. *eye roll/sigh*  Caleb is better at downward facing dog than I am, but that’s only because his snout is in my face while I breathe deeply seeking zen.  Idiot.  I love him.
  2. Watching Bosch on Amazon Prime: I’ve faithfully read the entire Harry Bosch series from author Michael Connelly as he’s cranked out each volume, though ’til now have avoided the screen adaptation.  I’m one of those “it’s better in my imagination” types so I’ve stayed away, but they’re worthy mysteries.  I enjoy Titus Welliver’s embodiment of Bosch, and I like how the series has updated some of the details to lend a modern feel.  I love that Bosch remains an vinyl LP-spinning, old-school jazz guy, and that not every actor is a perfect physical specimen. I mean, they’re all TV-pretty, but not unbelievably so.
  3. Culling through stemware: As a rule, I’m a moderate-to poor housekeeper.  We don’t live in squalor, but I suck at making things pretty, and this includes my ability to display china and crystal.  I ditched three mismatched wine glasses (I’m guessing each the lone remnant from a one-time set of four), a couple vases and two candleholders. I purchased that Marie Kondo hold-onto-your-shit-and-see-if-it-sparks-joy book four years back.  It sat, spine barely cracked, on my nightstand every day since until I finally gave it to a coworker just last week.  You’d have to strap me down and tape my eyes open to make me watch the tidying up show.  Just not my jam.
  4. Culling through greeting cards: There is an excellent reason to keep some of these missives.  You’re reminded just how spectacular others believe you to be, even if only for a brief and shining moment.  It’s a happy stroll down memory lane mostly, with a few bittersweet moments–like the transition from the kids’ birthday cards being signed ” With love from Gramma Terry and Poppa” to only “With love from Gramma Terry.”  I held onto all our wedding cards, the welcome baby cards, and a few sympathy/support cards from when the big kid’s diagnosis was handed down.  I say this all the time, but you wish you had the friends I have, you really do.
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    In an example of my poor organizational strategy, I unearthed this photo, stashed in the greeting card drawer. Awwwwww. This is truly one of the best-ever photos of the tall one! So pure.

  5. Family Game Night:  There is nothing like a game of Sorry or Uno to learn exactly where family allegiances lie.  It’s generally agreed that the individual producing the highest volume of sass and trash-talk (my husband) is the common enemy.  I’m a little disturbed though at my children’s ease and delight in throwing down a Draw Four or Sorry card in my direction though.
  6. Reading a couple Harry Dolan books:  The two I’ve read are set in Ann Arbor, Michigan which is where my friend Kristen used to live.  According to her, Ann Arbor is cool (I’ve visited only once and had a lovely, murder-free experience), collegiate and literary like the novels, but not as vibrant with intrigue and killing.  Thinking about Kristen makes me think about how we met, through Barenaked Ladies (she, an uber-uber-uber-uber fan and pretty cool chick otherwise too), so there’s a totally weird connection that in all the world can only be made in my brain.  Then you can while away a surprisingly large sum of time thinking about the upcoming summer Barenaked Ladies tour, and the fact you’re not going.
  7. Baking a really shitty cake: You know those Pinterest pins and Facebook videos that suggest you can make a box-mix cake taste like a bakery cake if you simply add an extra egg, substitute milk for water, and melt butter?  DO NOT DO THIS.  Well, don’t do this unless you want a cake that rises, then settles like a brick.  We legit laughed out loud after we let it cool.  The “cake” did not retain even one inch of its height.
  8. Cleaning out the spice cabinet:  I have an entire kitchen cabinet of spices, not just what one might consider a spice cabinet, but a wall o’ flavor.  After our kitchen remodel, I organized them alphabetically, sorted by cooking vs. baking spices (nerd, and FYI, my closet is a rainbow, sorted by color).  Naturally, spice blends like Montreal Steak Seasoning, Emeril’s Essence, or Garam Masala occupied their own shelf.  Over time, I’ve come to just toss them back in (see Number 3 above for my statement about my housekeeping prowess), but now I’m good for another two years or so.
  9. Public Library Time:  I love spending time at the library, just hanging out, browsing amid the shelves.  I took the kids before the deepest segment of the deep freeze kicked in and the city closed the libraries.  I think about library patrons whose only warmth comes from an open public space, such as what libraries provide, and think I’m not as grateful as I should be for the good fortune of a thermostat.  And the house the thermostat serves.
  10. Preparing for my dog’s girlfriend’s birthday party: I’m just going to close with that entirely true statement here.

The one thing I absolutely cannot do is catch up on the mountain of work that was already a foothill of work before these days off.  When I left work last Thursday, I never in my wildest dreams believed I’d have a week off.  I can’t access any of my data, observation notes, or historical records from which to draft my reports. They are locked up nice and tight, safe and sound in my desk.

My kids wanna go back to school, a big enough shock to stand on its own merit, and *gasp* so do I!

Five Cents, Please

Nine-to-fourteen inches of snow was the prediction.  Grocery lanes were jammed with customers stocking their larders (if larders were a thing in 2019 urban Milwaukee) with the necessities a snowpocalypse demands.  Cancellations flurried in late Sunday afternoon, then dumped en masse and at the speed of light.  Kids rejoiced, then made a mad dash for sleds and snowpants.  School district superintendents pushed their social media campaigns for the most clever delivery of snow day school closings (the dude from Missouri Valley wins all, this week or last, hands down).

I was delighted not to have to set an alarm this morning and I’m relieved not to be navigating snow-covered, ice-crusted roads, not gonna lie about that, friends, but I expected more from “thundersnow.”  Though it’s picking up again, I believe they oversold it.

I spent a too-short weekend partially prostrate on my friend Ann’s couch.  Too short in part to my eagerness to avoid the impending doom of the snowpocalypse.  I really have become a wuss as my years on this earth advance.  Maybe I’m smarter too, but mostly, I’m much less a risk-taker than I once was.  Hoping to avoid an early arrival by Mother Nature, I hit the road before noon Sunday.

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Thank you to the inimitable Charles M. Schulz for his colorful characters with character.

In my little Peanuts metaphor, Ann is Lucy Van Pelt, dispensing psychiatric advice, and yours truly stars, or slumps really, in the role of Charlie Brown, trying to make sense of my anxieties.  I write about stuff here, but there, on her grey couch resting my head on the most calming, nuanced shade of coral accent pillows, is where I talked.  I won’t bore you with the details, but voicing the words, “I think I bordered on depressed for a few days” was cathartic.  Saying those words helped me realized I’m already rising through, returning to equilibrium.  Five cents, please.

Other thoughts from the couch. . .

Botox

No, I haven’t gone under the needle, but twice since Saturday and with two different friends, it’s come up.  My BFF just had bangs cut into her naturally platinum spiral locks–“cheap Botox” she claimed.  I wear my glasses more frequently, masking those deep, deep, deep furrow lines between my brow with chunky tortoiseshell frames.  I thought the laugh lines would be the most prominent as I aged, but it would seem I’m less jolly than I imagined myself, my face wearing worry or anger more often.  Boo.

I once proclaimed that I would NEVER consider plastic surgery.  I was 35 then, the hell did I know??  I am vain though, and I probably would shoot my face full of toxins if I weren’t terror-stricken that I’d become paralyzed, or worse, dead as a result.  I like my smile lines–wouldn’t change those.  And no, my lips aren’t as elastic as they’d been, but who wants to look like any one of the thousands of “Housewives” along with other celebrities, barely recognizable as humanoids anymore??  I mean besides the thousands lining up every month at their plastic surgeon’s office.  Stop the madness, ladies!  And gentlemen, for that matter.

The Next Revolution Renaissance

In education, we endure cycles of pendulum swings. In 2019 THIS is what’s best for kids, we’re told.  You’ve been doing it all wrong, y’all–THIS [insert new thing here] is the best approach to learning.  Stick around long enough and you’ve heard it all–Whole Language, Direct Instruction, Site-Based Management, Multiple Intelligences, School Choice (let’s just DON’T), Learning Styles, Problem Solving, Understanding a Framework of Poverty, Differentiated Instruction, Whole-Small-Whole Group Instruction, Full Inclusion, Common Core State Standards, Standards-Based Grading, Trauma-Informed Care, Social-Emotional Learning, Interventions, School-to-Work, College and Career Ready, Mindfulness, Every kid gets a Chromebook!  Geez, my fingers need a break from just typing!

Ann and I observed how the pendulum’s swing hasn’t quite returned to the opposite arc–instead it’s pinging at a near 90-degree angle.  When will we inch back to what teachers know actually works?  When will pedagogy be stripped from politicians and big-money publishing houses to be returned to teachers, you know, the ones who teach??  What will it take?  I used the term revolution; Ann more astutely remarked that we are lying in wait for the next age of enlightenment, the next renaissance.

I sometimes feel that my children are part of some half-assed social experiment.  Their time having been enrolled in formal education has seen more changes than in any period in my career. I eagerly await this Renaissance.  I’m happy this neo-Renaissance of which I dream comes with indoor plumbing and vaccinations though.  Science is real, yo.

Politics and the Government Shutdown

Nope.  Not touching it.  You know me?  You know where I stand.  I thank my lucky stars that I have Ann’s grey couch to dive deeply into ideas and ideals.  And lunacy.

Transgender Individuals

My son related to his father and me a conversation he’d had with a friend who is transgender about this individual’s identifying with the gender opposite the one at birth.  My son was working out the pronouns, and what I loved most about this chat was that his friend being transgender was really a sidebar to matter of this friend bringing “Cards Against Humanity” and “What Do You Meme?” to play during some free time after school, about which he was deeeeeeeee-lighted.  Those games are so inappropriate.  So stinkin’ funny though, and let me be your cautionary tale–they’re not games kids want to play with their parents nor parents with their kids.  I’m still blushing. . .

Brewers On Deck

My baby, the 6′ thirteen-year-old multi-sport athlete, through his baseball organization, had an opportunity to attend Brewers On Deck.  On Deck is a massive fan fest where Milwaukee Brewers baseball players are made to make themselves available for a day-long meet and greet.  Fans wait in line for autographs and photos.  The event sells out annually, and with a tuxedo-clad Christian Yelich having just received his MVP award the night prior, the kids’ entry was a premium!  The kid was ready to go, but begged off at the last minute.  He had a chance to meet his idol, Travis Shaw, but declined.  I’m told he crashed the boards and crashed his knee Saturday morning during his basketball game, so wasn’t at top form physically.  I can’t help but wonder if he has a touch of his mother’s anxiety though–he was petrified to meet Barenaked Ladies (granted, he was seven at the time) and he didn’t feel like it was OK to approach Alan Doyle after a show in Chicago a few years back either.  I think he’s an “I’m gonna admire them from afar” kind of guy.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that; there’s not.  But I don’t want him to throw away his shot.

2019 MDA Muscle Walk

Yep, I’m already ratcheting up about the timing of this year’s walk.  My younger son has a baseball tournament out of town that weekend, so I already know my husband and I are going to have to split time.  This year’s event is June 1, scheduled with hopes of warmer weather prevailing on walk day.  My son is “lucky” that his MD doesn’t come with the side dish of massive internal complications that many kids with MD endure.  But now I’m prematurely anxious/guilty about picking.  In missing one or the other, which child will be deemed  or feel more “worthy” of my attention, will all of us have all the right gear in the right city?

Anxiety is dumb.  But that’s the thing about anxiety–it’s worrying about something that might never happen.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t worry; you can’t help but worry.  It’s the very definition of anxiety.  I know I’ll be at the Muscle Walk, so why is this even a thing?

Probably I’ll figure that one out on my next visit down to Ann’s.  Miss you already, sweet girl.

Um, Hi

Being on hiatus sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  So academic.  Go on with your bad self, actin’ all fancy and on hiatus and stuff. I hadn’t felt that pull, that need to write here since I declared last month that it was time to take a break.  I’ve been a little emo, if ya know what I mean, and not the up, energetic kind of emo–the crawl under the covers, binge watch TV, and tell anyone who asks you’re just fine, just happy to sleep late kind.  Since I stepped away from the blog one month back, I’ve been bunny-hopping around the yawn of the rabbit hole.

I finally nailed my six-word memoir, writing tells me how I feel, then stopped writing.  Smart.  I stopped at what I felt was a pivotal moment: my kid was entitled to a certain expectation of privacy.  He is.  But I’m  also entitled, entitled to a certain expectation of not losing my mind.

While on break, I read a ton, discovered podcasts, celebrated nailing every word to “My Shot” from Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda, you are a genius), and I wrote a lot of stuff with zero intent of hitting publish.  The writing wasn’t good, nor did it check the compartmentalizing brain box for “writing it down-getting it out.”  Blah most succinctly captures the fun I’ve been to be around.

But if I had been blogging this past month, I’d have chatted about my new television BFF, Midge Maisel.  I am in love with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, starring Rachel Brosnahan as a ’50s-era housewife, living the Upper West Side life.  Midge’s husband was a schmuck whose indiscretion led to her on-mic rant on an underground club stage which led to her double life as a comedienne.  Her timing is surgically precise, off-the-cuff comic genius at its finest during a time women were strictly barred from the boys’ club.  She’ll never win a mother of the year contest, but MAN, do ya root for her!  I’d D.I.E. to play dress-up in her wardrobe, just once.  Those dresses!  The hats!!

If I had overshared my days and nights with you here as has been my pattern, I’d have shared with you this grocery store telephone exchange with my oh-so-attentive husband. 

I’d have told you my Yellowstone National Park otter story.  You have to read this in “John Cleese as hushed/whispery narrator of a nature documentary” tone until the end, where my tone totally prevails:  So they’re highlighting winter animals in the park, then of course, snow melts, the seasons change, and the river otters are seen frolicking in the spring mountain runoff.  We see that the male otter is looking to git a little somethin’ somethin’ from his gal pal because it’s his spring awakening, though the female’s a little meh about his advances. Enter John Cleese:  The male ottah (because he’s British)  attempts to woo the female ottah, but the female seems a bit distracted.  Me: Yeah, you know why she’s distracted?  Because she’s thinkin’ she’s gotta get groceries, make dinner, clean the house, do the laundry. . .  My husband:  Silently stares at me for a second, then admits it was pretty funny.  He didn’t admit I was accurate, but I’m sure it was implied anyway and I’ll take the victory.  No Mrs. Maisel myself, but my timing here?  Impeccable.

I’d have told you about how my freshman (and about 1/4 of his classmates) positively crushed their first semester grades.  There’s about a 98-way tie for valedictorian so far, and that is not typical Wendy exaggeration, but the incredible effort of these hard-working, high-achieving teens.  The child comes home, tends to his schoolwork promptly and without prodding.  If he coasted the rest of his years (and he had sure as heck better NOT), I’d still be knocked out by grade nine, semester one.

I’d have made mention of a little professional revelation I had that suggested to me it might be time to hang it up. When you’re ineffective, be it by circumstances external or within, you’re ineffective. Even I am tired of hearing my presentations and opinions, so too I would guess are the bulk of my colleagues. The beauty (beauty?) lies in knowing it before having to be told. The “quit before they fire me” school of thought. No, I’m not quitting or likely to be terminated, but I am evaluating my state of affairs anyway.

I’d have told you about my “little” kid’s first basketball game, which, in a real nail-biter, they took 27-1.  And yeah, everyone cheered for the kid who sunk that free throw.  My child is the one with arms like a spider monkey’s.

I’d have written about having seen The Book of Mormon, and the especially offended young woman who steamed through the lobby shouting “Sacrilege!  It was sacrilege!”  Ummm. . .  you bought the ticket with no clue that the dudes who created South Park wrote the libretto?  Were you expecting a fun little evening actually learning about the missionary work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?  Really???  I have an absolutely profane sense of humor, and even I blushed at some of the language and imagery.  Oh sure, I laughed until my face hurt because it’s wrong in all the right ways/right in all the wrong ways (and frankly a little terrifying in some of the truths which underlie the basis for the musical).  A super badass friend of mine is an ex-Mormon, and I respect and admire her all the more for her strength in having left it, but not Utah.  That’s her story to tell though, not mine. 

I’d have written a new mystery á la Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys with the working title The Mysterious Case of the Broken Staircase Spindle. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t my husband, and the dog doesn’t go downstairs. . . so, yeah, SO WEIRD that nobody broke it.

I’d have written about the kick of having discovered Snapchat’s ridiculous filters. Because while I LOVE my hair purple and my eyes blue, there are limits to the type of look a 50-something professional woman should want to cultivate in real life.  I don’t actually share snaps (am I saying that correctly, kids?), so if I die and someone goes through my phone’s saved photo roll, I’ll be judged for eternity as someone who thinks a little too highly of her self-portraits.  

It’s our family’s four-year MD anniversary, or crap-iversary if you’re my friend Cindy, who reaches out every year at this time with some wise or comforting words.  Or cake.  Four years. 

January 21, 201–still the day for me that began after. 

Four years of wondering if his outcome would’ve been different had we waited even one millisecond longer to have a baby.  Four years of tears striking at the most unexpected (and those you can totally predict) times.  Four years of gearing up and freaking straight the hell out at the MDA Muscle Walk.  Four years of meetings with school administrators, counselors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and teachers.  Four years of friends and strangers putting their best, kindest, most generous sides forward.  Four years of reluctantly raising funds for my kid and others with muscular dystrophy, to advance the science as well as social opportunities for kids with disabilities.  Four years of dreams dashed, then reconfigured and revised. 

Four years of writing these random musings.  I need this place to deposit the bad stuff in my head to lighten the load, to be me. Writing tells me how I feel. I want to feel more up–maybe I can write myself a happy ending.

 

Swan Song, First Verse

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! Though no longer a religious observer of the holiday, I do love that warm feeling Christmas brings as we’re blanketed under the generosity and kindness shown in great abundance this season. I hope you’re basking in the glow of the light of the season, spending time with your dearest ones, and maybe enjoying a cookie or two too many in celebration.

Because we’re assholes. It sounds so coarse, I know, but it’s not inaccurate.

I’ve received many gifts–material, sure, but not material is where I’m going with this–throughout the course of this year, but I have yet to pick out the perfect package for you, you terrific people, this Christmas.  It’s not Scroogean tendencies that leave me empty-handed; it’s that I’m parked at a fork in the road.  Or a really long red light.

Last week was my son’s third annual checkup since the day, since the diagnosis day, now almost four years past.  Time, she do fly. . .  Early in his diagnosis, I felt overwhelmed by, well, by everything.  Absorbing the diagnosis and making that fit into my vision for my kid’s life consumed me.  That’s not accurate; rather, I found his diagnosis incongruent with my vision.  It wasn’t denial, though it sure as hell wasn’t acceptance through which I wandered.  Everything I ever believed and hoped for my baby changed in an instant. When you hold your newborn, joy is the only word you know.  You count fingers and toes over and over, and you kiss his tiny head knowing he is the most beautiful baby ever to be born unto this earth.

Milestones pass or are missed, and the vision for your child morphs.  That vision becomes cloudy, then dark, black as coal sometimes. Other times you’re glass half-full, your tunnel vision allowing the tiniest sliver of light to be seen at the distant end of that tunnel.  Today, consumes is not the most pointed verb I use to capture my relationship with my son’s MD diagnosis.

I don’t write about MD every day anymore.  MD is never not served up on my dinner platter, but it feels more like a side dish than the main course, some shitty fruit cocktail-bejeweled Jell-O mold instead of a succulent beef tenderloin.

At this most recent appointment, I was thrilled when his neurologist announced she wouldn’t even recognize my boy on the street, that maybe even he seems better than he’d been the year prior.  My son talked about his success in school, beaming–positively beaming–when he boasted about his school’s third place drumline finish, to which she replied, “I’ve never had a patient be part of a drumline before.”  She put any muscle biopsy that, quite frankly, we’d quite been avoiding anyway, on hold, not necessary at this time.  He is stable.  With a note for the gym teacher about weakness and fatigue, and a brief chat about the potential for contracture of his hands, we were ushered out with a hale and hearty, “See you next December.”

The appointment forced me to admit to him that while he wants to keep MD a secret, I’d long ago told his teachers.  I wanted to ensure they were made aware that fatigue and weakness are not the same as lack of effort and poor attitude.  Physical Education can be hell on earth for able-bodied individuals, and I remain borderline-to-slightly terrified that even after our meeting with the gym teacher Thursday, my kid will still get a bad shake.  But that’ll be another post.

Or maybe it won’t be.  I have 28 post drafts saved.  Posts I drafted as early as 2015 to as recently as last month will be consigned to a multi-volume unfinished symphony.  It’s time to take a break.

Writing saved me from myself in the early days.  My soul felt annihilated, I didn’t know where to turn.  I wanted company, but only on my terms, and I was not great company. I was vehemently opposed to becoming part of the MD “family,” so I turned to the great unknown, the new millennium’s confessional: the blog.  Writing here saved me from the depths of motherly despair.  It’s not the finality of a death one experiences when a child receives a crushing medical diagnosis–it’s paralyzing grief over an altered or stolen dream. Like that vision, this grief morphs too, but it and guilt, my constant companions, never leave my side.

My little blog has lost its focus though.

OK, keeping it real? I’m a little *squirrel* on a good day, so “focus” may be not the right word to explain why a writing hiatus is appropriate. Politics and crime and education and inequity and poverty are suffocating my joy, and I want not to lead with anger and frustration here.  Sure, the blog was borne of maybe the saddest realization I’d had, but I wasn’t all “Get off my lawn, sonny!”  I was sad, not mad.

One of the material Christmas gifts I received was accompanied by a note. The note was as charming and clever as its author, a brilliant colleague, and a sharp reminder of how not fun I’ve become.

For a short time, I fancied myself a writer. You read the stories I wrote here–that’s writing. . . right?  You told me I made you laugh or I made you cry. Sometimes you felt outrage alongside me, you said, or gained perspective from a story I shared. You spent your time and read words I wrote.  You told me some of it was good.  I will never be able express what your many kindnesses have meant to me.

My observation and wisecracks about parenting, MDA summer camp, yoga, bicycling, stupid effing muscle disease, working in the inner city, my idols, the Barenaked Ladies guys, baseball, my idiot dog (you know I love you, Caleb Rawr-Rawr), my husband, my assorted physical shortcomings and injuries, my friends, the music that keeps me connected. . .  Each of these events, ridiculous and/or heartfelt—sometimes both—were stories I needed to tell, and loved telling.  Well, I loved telling the funny ones anyway.  I needed to tell you the other ones.  Thank you for reading them.

I’m terrible at goodbyes, even temporary goodbyes.  I’ll be back–my hiatus is temporary–but until then I’m going to miss this confessional.  Greater Than Gravity (first the song lyric, then this project) saved me when I needed to be saved.  YOU saved me when I needed to be saved, which apparently has continued for period of almost four years now. . .   Geez, Wendy.  Needy much?

Writing tells me how I feel  (My six-word memoir, BTW, I finally #nailedit).

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This.  Thanks, Nikki.

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The above shirt came wrapped in this. Do you know what’s weirder or more hilarious than opening a package to see your face alongside your favorite musicians imprinted onto wrapping paper? Because I don’t, I don’t know what’s weirder or funnier. But I also know that I laugh when I look at it, and it makes me happy to know I have friends who are amazing enough to want to create custom wrapping paper celebrating my concentrated hobby.  We should all be so lucky!

I have always believed that when faced with a decision to be made, you wake up one day and just know.  You just know it’s time to say yes (or no), to leap (or to sit tight), to stay in your job (or quit)—whatever it is, you just know.  I knew I’d wake up one day, knowing it was time to put my story to bed.  Thank you, good night.

You May Take The Floor

When you’re the problem solver for a good lot of people, those individuals expect performance.  The baseline expectation is that you’ll deliver, and historically, pretty much every time, I’ve delivered.  I suffer no delusions of self-importance; don’t misunderstand me–I know I’m not indispensable.  But when you ask me a question, I respond promptly.  When you ask me to get or bring you a thing, I tend to deliver in a timely manner, said item held out for your inspection.

Right now though, I’m not up to fixing mine or anyone else’s problems.  I want to marinate in an isolation ward. A mostly cheery, albeit smartass and bitingly sarcastic nature, is my norm though, right?

Here’s what I would like to share: success.  My son, my boy with this crap muscle disease, who’s becoming more young man than boy by the minute, help me!, competed in a team event.  He hasn’t engaged in a physical contest of any sort since around first grade probably, I honestly don’t even remember anymore.  For the past several months, he and his “teammates” under the tutelage of their band director and a cool dude experienced percussionist to assist-coach, have been rehearsing their behinds off for the district drumline competition.

Drumline is not for the faint of heart, yo, and the pageantry and air of competition made for a memorable, oh heck–historical, Saturday.  The two perennial faves did take first and second, but to see the excitement on our kids’ faces when they learned they made the finals in third place was more than I could have dreamed.  They scored the first music competition trophy in school history, and I couldn’t be more pleased for and proud of them.

They worked for months!  After school rehearsals a couple nights per week, and 4-hour mini-camps on off days and Saturdays, to learn cadences and choreography, and then rehearse their pieces while moving their parts.  My kid was beyond exhausted after rehearsals–trashed–but he persevered.  After Saturday’s first round of performances, scores were tallied, and the four finalists were named.  It was a moment.  As I often do, I marked this moment with tears.  Poor Cat!  My friend whose children attend two schools–older daughter in the top team and son, my kid’s close friend, had to deal with me crying in relief, disbelief, and joy.  Never once, since that horrible January day, if you’d asked, would I have imagined my kid participating in a physical contest such as this.  You’re thinking drumline is musical, and I must be confused, but surely it’s physical.  And it’s magic.

Drumline captain, are you ready?  You may take the floor.

You don’t have to, but you can watch their first round performance by clicking here. I’ll watch another time or two to remind myself that even when I want to fly solo, good things happen when you’ve got a wingman or twenty.

Stay tuned, friends–I’ll be back.

Neologisms

So I made up two new words this week.  You might think that in so announcing, I’m broadcasting my genius, my absolute trailblazing ways with the words.   Right?

No.  In yet another case of “I used to be smart, but since this very moment is the smartest I will ever be again in my lifetime, you’ll have to trust me on it, because WOW, I can truly be a dumbass, and it’s not likely to look up anytime soon.  Ever.”

See Those Numbers?

Case in point:  I completed The Library Book by Susan Orlean last night.  Her book came highly recommended amid critical acclaim, and through some miracle, the wait time for one of my library’s copies was minimal.  Feeling like I’d won the large-print version lottery (large print, BTW, is a sure-fire way to cut your wait time for any library hold but in this case was not done with intent, but with “Wow, apparently I can’t read small fonts on my phone anymore,” FURTHER demonstrating my cognitive decline, and actually the need for large print too), I began reading.  I promptly fell asleep. Next night, read about four pages, zzzzzzzzzzz.  Next night, the same. . .

My husband observed my lack of progress, inquiring if I actually liked the book.  When I’m pulled in to a story, it’s a challenge to drag me out.  As I obsess over music, so too can I with the written word.  I remarked that I was having a hard time finding characters I liked.  I met the protagonist right off, but hadn’t reconnected with her or felt a kinship with any characters really, so wasn’t feeling any emotional connection, despite the story being about libraries, books, library patrons, librarians, and the devastating 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Central Library–all of whom and which I find intriguing.

See, The Library Book is not a novel of historical fiction.  It’s not a novel.  The Dewey decimals along the spine should have been the first *ding ding ding* moment, but no.  I floundered for a good four days before connecting the decimals.  It’s history, you idiot.  Once I reframed my approach to reading, I dug in.  Four stars.

Of Teenagers and Zombies (Not to be used interchangeably)

A neologism is what you might think it is based on what you see if you have an inclination toward linguistics and the ancient Greeks: neo- (new) and -logos (word).  I invented two new words, y’all!  They’re considered neologisms until they’re widely used and accepted into common parlance and/or Urban Dictionary, whichever comes first probably.

Neologism is a speech path-y word to be sure, but it can be applied in the real world, so now your challenge is to work neologism into polite conversation at your next business meeting.  Go!  I actually do this with my co-workers–not using neologism, but when we are feeling a little full of ourselves or a touch sassy or annoyed, I challenge one of the girls to casually slide in a given word at our next meeting.  Christine almost never disappoints, but then I have to stare at my feet until the urge to bust into a giggle fit and high five her passes.

OK, they’re not new words per se, rather each a portmanteau.  Which in itself is another super cool, fancy word, isn’t it?  A portmanteau typically combines both word sounds and meanings,  like brunch, combining breakfast plus lunch, or Brangelina, combining, well. . . well, you know what makes up that one.  Regretfully, Brangelina is the one that first sprang to mind.  Anyway.

Broffection:  bros + affection–At my son’s sleepover last week, he and his BFF exchanged sentiments of best friend-dom, as they have done since K4.  My little one asserted that first grade was OK and all, but probably the worst grade because his BFF attended a different school that year.  His BFF responded that he hopes they’ll be friends until high school or maybe even college.  They sweetly retell the story of their meeting at least twice annually.  Broffection.

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Genesis, right here.

Zombiance:  zombies + ambiance–As we settled in to watch the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead last night, my husband turned off all the lights, proclaiming, “Ambiance.”  Enough neurons fired at just the right speed, and I replied, “Zombiance” in an instant.  Then I laughed too long and hard at how clever I thought I was, and forced my husband to agree I was an absolute hoot.  Zombiance, yo.  Too bad about Jesus though, huh??

You haven’t heard these before, have you?  I hope you’ll agree that they work semantically and phonetically, and that you’ll think of me when you use them.  You’re welcome, English language, you constantly evolving nut, you.  And if I’m not as clever as I think I am and you’ve heard these before, it’s OK, I know I’m not quick like I used to be.  Sometimes can’t even tell fact from fiction.

Gobble, Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!  Welcome to Greater Than Gravity’s annual compendium of things for which I feel gratitude.  It’s timed with Thanksgiving not only because Thursday is el día de acción de gracias ( I learned this at work yesterday morning, observing my new SLP in her Spanish-English bilingual classroom), but also because life is too precious not to take a moment to smell the roses.

Take time to notice good.  It’s out there.  Say thanks once in awhile for goodness cast in your direction.  You can Google a couple hundred quotes about how gratitude expressed is a gift for both you and the recipient, and they’re true, but I like to be more specific.

Taking that first step out of bed every morning is an act of bravery against the great unknown.  Some days the heavens smile down upon you, and some days you’re lucky to make it through the day with your heart still beating.  An eighth grade student in my district, Sandra Parks, was shot and killed in her home the other night.  Random violence.  Killed.  In her home.  Though my neighborhood’s crime escalates daily, we live in a comparatively crime-free, “safe” area, and that is a fact I do not take for granted.

I’m pleased to report Number One Son is succeeding in high school (except in Spanish class actually, which for reasons I attribute a little bit to stage fright, he seems to freeze like a glacier on evidences.  “Evidences” are what we used to know as “tests.” So if you don’t know, now you know–bonus points if you rapped that last line á la Hamilton).  He has matured some since August.  He does homework with almost no prodding; he gets out of bed and out the door in a much more timely fashion than he did in August; he has friends; he has extracurricular activities.

I’m going on record announcing that I’m thankful for my idiot dog.  Sure, I refer to him as my idiot dog, but that’s only because he is.  But he is also squishy-headed sweet, and his complete, utter adoration of my husband makes me giggle.  All the while he continues to steal socks, gloves, hats, slippers. . . and invading our personal space, Caleb makes me smile every time I see him, and that’s gotta count for something.

I have friends who tell me stuff like:

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This.

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This. Swabby!!

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Also this.

I’m grateful for my education. I was a high-achieving high school student, but I then equated grades with education–the realization that education included all of me applied in a real-world context came much later in life.  I attended a reputed university, earned two degrees, and came away with a career.  Education has provided me access to some brilliant people who challenge, enlighten, inform, and entertain me.

I’m grateful for travel opportunities.  Specifically this year, I’m grateful for 2018’s summer travel adventure to NYC.  My study partners in the ’80s and ’90s are incomparable travel agents in the new millennium.  New York allowed me two full mom-free days with bright, generous, accomplished women, my college friends.  I reconnected with a friend from whom I’d broken and drifted, but even after these many lost years, getting together again made studying for Neuroanatomy feel as though it had happened just last week.  I handled something badly back in the day, and in that space grew a crevasse.  Time and adulting are healing salves, and I have my friend back.  #nospeechpathleftbehind

I’m grateful for forgiveness.

I thank stars for music, and the geniuses with the talent and drive to write and record music for the rest of us. That a host of someones I’ve never met, and some I have, read my mind and set those thoughts and emotions to melody is magic. Nothing less.

I thank stars for books, and the authors whose words transport me to time and place I’ll never get to visit. To be lost, or to find myself in a story is also magic.  I love that with my Kindle, I can highlight sentences or passages that resonate in some way.  At least weekly, I’m so struck by something I’ve read that I tell a friend or my husband how wish I’d written this first.

It’s my baby’s birthday today.  I have two teenagers now, it’s official.  Pray for me.  I mean, if praying is a thing for you.  If it’s not, then I ask you understand more and judge little about my behavior.  My baby turns thirteen today, yet somehow has managed to avoid angst and drama, remaining the nicest boy you’ll meet.  Sure, he’s also the giantest slob you’ll ever meet, so before you have my boy married off to your cousin’s niece’s daughter, don’t say you haven’t been warned.  He’s the same down-the-middle pitching, pick-six intercepting, offensive touchdown scoring, dog loving, good grades achieving, still leans in to hug his mom, cheek-kissing kid he’s always been.  I had two miscarriages between his brother and him, and I’ve always believed the universe knew better–the world is a better place with this child in it.  Much better.

I don’t know that he’s the kid who’s going to cure cancer or hurl a major league no-hitter, but he’s the kid who’ll hug the cancer-ridden kid at his bedside.  He’ll high-five the teammate who drills the bottom of the ninth walk-off, as happy for the other guy as he’d have been for himself.  We got his report card yesterday, and three (three!) of his teachers described him as a leader.  I’m prouder of that than any home run he’s hit.  I screw up a lot–A LOT–but this kid?  I done good, I did.

Happy birthday, baby.  I know you’re just shy of 6′, and you’re not a baby, I know,  but you’ll always be MY baby.

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends, and Happy Thursday to the rest of you.  Thank you for being here for me, four Thanksgivings in.