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.

We Are SO Not Popular

Ours is the two-story Lannon stone on the corner.  We don’t own a mammoth lot, but we are responsible for snow removal for quite a good number of linear feet.  My husband takes meticulous (read: freakishly OCD-level) care of the snow surrounding our house and alley. Tom lovingly tends the sidewalks, alley, alley apron, and the streets, yes, he blows snow from the street IN THE STREET.  See, he likes a nice straight line, so after the city plows roll through, my husband “fixes” what they’ve sullied in their pedestrian attempts to clear city streets.  Your protractor can’t create the crisp lines and angles my husband carves with a snowblower and shovel.  I am not exaggerating.

Sometime last August, the neighbors held a block party.  I’m a shitty neighbor, so I dropped in to the soiree only briefly.  Tom was working and I suck at social mixers, alone especially, but I’m a decent human, a mostly go-along-to-get-along kinda gal in neighborhood goings-on, so I went.  Plus the neighbors I do know?  They’re wonderful people.  I missed the part of the afternoon where they discussed winter snow removal, so weeks later, someone mentioned to me that a bunch of residents wanted to chip in to hire a plow service.

My hubby is the rare weirdo who enjoys snow removal.  He savors the alone time snowfall allows him.  He’s genuinely happy shoveling or blowing snow, and takes immense pride in a job well done.  Before Izzy died, Tom would spend too long a time out there amid all types of wintry precipitation, reveling in the silence with his loyal canine, who never left his side.  Caleb the Wonderdog can’t be trusted not to wander off yet, so he is forced to fly solo this winter.  The man takes his snow removal seriously, y’all.

You thought I was exaggerating when I wrote that Tom plows the street, didn’t you?  Shame on you for doubting me!   Here he is, mere hours ago, clearing the alley from the street.

So I was sure Tom wasn’t interested in the neighborhood deal, but presented the idea to him nonetheless.  He said he’d take care of replying to the neighbor with a “thanks, but no thanks.”  Instead he responded with an email that quite frankly, made him sound like a dick.  You might think he’d ask me to read it (’cause, you know, I’m a competent writer/editor) or maybe ask what I thought before he fired it off, but no.  I was slightly horrified when he showed me what he wrote.  He sounded like a total dick (sorry, Honey, but I said it to you then, and I’ll say it now–you sounded like a jag).  I successfully blocked this from my consciousness until this week.  Do read on.

Flash forward a few months, he’s out walking the dog the other day.  A neighbor, with whom we have yet to exchange one single syllable, stops him to inquire why he was unwilling to participate in the collective.

My husband seemed surprised that this guy we don’t know knew about his plowing non-participation, and I’m like, “Of COURSE he knows about it.  The  whole neighborhood knows about it.  Your original email was probably forwarded up and down the block, and now probably the whole neighborhood thinks we’re assholes.  Were you a dick to this guy today?”

“No, I wasn’t a dick to him.”

“No. I mean, not do you think you weren’t a dick to him, but really, were you a dick?”

“No, really I wasn’t a dick to him.”

And yes, this is exactly how the exchange went.

So now we’re the Taylor Avenue pariahs (it’s possible I’m overstating things).

As my husband would say (and has said, which is not the most neighborly phrase to use in an email to your neighbors, FYI): so be it.  Guess what?  Since 2005, my husband has been out there before the ass crack of dawn, plowing razor sharp lines, clearing the alley apron so cleanly you could eat from it.  He not only clears our portion, but often plows neighbors two and three deep down the block.  You’re welcome. Wait, we can’t say “you’re welcome” because no one offers a thank you (except Jodi and Jeff and Maren, and maybe one other–you are good souls and supportive, generous, and kind neighbors!).  We have personally footed the bill for the south end of the block’s snow removal and alley clearance for 11 years.  He’s plowing before you even know it’s snowed–you’re still sleeping while he’s helping our ‘hood under cover of darkness.  Then he’s blowing snow immediately upon returning home from having worked in the frigid outdoors all winter long so you can drive right in when you get home from your workplace.  Acknowledged: his motivations are self-serving as well as serving the greater good.  He does sincerely enjoy being outdoors in and after a brisk, bright snowfall, and our family directly benefits from his snow removal, obviously.

My husband is a good, hard-working man.  He has done more than his fair share for over a decade.  Hell, I’ve squawked about his helping too many too much too often (See? I really am a shitty neighbor).  Even when he was unemployed for those really tough periods of years, he was blowing through oil derricks of petrol because he’s a decent guy.  He does the right thing because he believes it’s the right thing.  Even when gas was up near $4 a gallon, he was out there clearing our end of the alley in a way some hired gun won’t take the care to do.  And I guarantee he’ll be out there this winter (see photo insert above), even though all y’all are gonna give us the stink eye, cleaning up what the truck misses.

So I’m braced for the stink eye you’re going to give, but dear nearby residents, I ask you to engage your long-term memory, and remember how your vehicle never got stuck on our end of the alley.  If you were late for work, it wasn’t because you couldn’t get down the alley on our end.

Rant off.  You may resume humming “Let It Snow” now.  It really is beautiful out there.

PS–If it were up to me alone, I’d have kicked in.  Snow removal is not my special gift, but you see, compromise. . .