Monday, July 1, 2019


I had a lengthy conversation with a man from Zambia this evening.  From his accent when we exchanged greetings, I could tell that he was African, as opposed to African-American, and I soon learned that he had been educated in the U.K. but had lived in the U.S. for many years.  I initially guessed that he was from Kenya. He was gracious enough to tell me that I was close!  Zambia is just on the other side of Tanzania from Kenya, at my family would say regarding the accuracy of my guess, “right church, wrong pew.”

I was standing at a local park watching Petunia’s soccer practice when he strolled by in the course of his evening constitutional.  As a side note, I strongly suspect that I could stand at that park for, oh, another 50 straight years or so without encountering another Zambian (one unrelated to him at any rate), this area not being a hotbed of any sort of diversity, but I digress.

Of course, I had to ask how he ended up in my neck of the woods.  He told me that he trained as a chemical engineer, and while in the U.K., received a six month contract to come to the US and help an American contracting firm with their design for a pharmaceutical facility to be built in Ireland.  Specifically, they needed him to make sure that the American units of measurement in the design were correctly converted to their metric equivalents for the benefit of the construction crews in Ireland!  If the fact that they had to bring in a contractor from the U.K. to do that isn’t a sweeping indictment of the American educational system, I don’t know what is, but regardless, he came to do the job.  Two weeks into the six months, he was done.  He asked his boss if he could now take a five and a half month vacation, and the boss laughed and gave him a small part of another project to manage.  One thing led to another, he was hired on permanently, and his youngest child just graduated from a nearby high school.

It was a lovely conversation, and not for the first time, I was grateful for whatever element in my looks or demeanor makes complete strangers comfortable talking to me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Thing One and I encountered a behavioral situation in a recent taekwondo class that resulted in me needing to talk to the parent of one of our young students after dismissal.  Not a big deal or remarkable in any way, except inasmuch as the parent in question happens to be a teacher at my kids’ school.  Finding myself talking to one of the teachers about the behavior of her own child in a class that *I* was teaching was one of those slightly what’s-wrong-with-this-picture? moments that keeps life interesting.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

I Know, It's Been A While

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom-type figures out there!  All sorts, no exceptions.

Speaking of which, these days it seems like a lot of the things I might write about have to do with my own kids, and the older they get, the more like it seems like an invasion of their privacy to write about their lives.  God knows the three of them have enough going on, but I have to be considerate.  So, in honor of Mother's Day, after I give a shout out to my own seriously awesome mom and MIL (honestly, how lucky can one woman be to love and respect both her own mother AND her spouse's??) I have to tell two soccer stories.  Because of course I do.  I'm a soccer mom.  (And because I have spent every %&$#^$ Mother's Day since 2011 at a soccer field somewhere, since the travel soccer powers that be don't respect it as a holiday.  Ahem.)

Since the moms of virtually all travel soccer players DO find themselves at a field somewhere at least once on Mother's Day (as opposed, to say, sleeping in, or sipping mimosas at the latest hot brunch spot) the coaches often try to forestall total maternal revolution by bringing a bunch of flowers to the field and giving each child one to present to his or her mom after the game.  It's a very nice touch, and at least demonstrates that the coaches appreciate that the moms are spending Mother's Day in a way that might not be their top choice for some strange reason.  However, I came across a new twist on that yesterday, and it blew my mind.

Like I said, getting a flower from your own coach to give to your mom is a fairly routine gesture.  Enough so that when Thing Two arrived home yesterday afternoon (my FIL had taken him to his game for divide-and-conquer-type reasons) bearing a perfect coral rose, I assumed that was what had happened without specifically asking the question.  Then this morning, he offhandedly mentioned that it had not been given to him by his own coach, but by the other team's goalie.  Wait, what??

Turns out that the opposing coach brought roses for not only the mothers of his own players, but for the mothers of OUR players as well.  My three kids have been playing on Mother's Day weekend for eight, six and five years respectively and I have NEVER seen that happen before.  What a classy, thoughtful thing to do.  And the game in question was between two teams of thirteen year-old middle school wasn't like they are in kindergarten.  Think about the example that set for them.  I was impressed.


As it happened, I was not at Thing Two's game because his older brother Thing One had a *Very Important Game* at roughly the same time in a different place.  Murphy's Law is a beast.

Thing One's team was not expected to be playing in that game, to start with.  The event in question is a sudden death elimination tourney of sorts and in both of the past couple of years, they were knocked out two rounds earlier.  To add insult to injury, the opposing team is one of the best in the state, and top 20 in the country.  Thing One's team is pretty good, don't get me wrong, but not in the same category as these other boys by any measure.  Any objective observer would have rightly predicted a bloodbath going in.

And we looked ugly, I have to tell you.  Really ugly.  Our game is a passing game, and these other boys were so much bigger and faster and stronger that they kept our guys from connecting passes.  Without the ability to get an offense going, our defenders were on their heels for maybe 85% of the game, struggling desperately and valiantly just to keep the ball out of their own net.  But they succeeded.  They couldn't get any offense going for the first 89 minutes of the game, but at the 89 minute mark, the score was still 0-0 because of the blood and guts left out there by our defense.  And with 45 seconds left in regulation, the other team had one defensive breakdown.  Just one lapse, but that was all it took.  Our center mid drilled the ball into the back of their net, and it was over.

1-0 final.  A win for the ages.  Epic upset, on the order of David vs. Goliath.

Thing One and the other centerback (central defenders) played every minute of that game.  He staggered off the field after the game glassy-eyed, streaks of dried white sweat lining the grooves of his face, too exhausted to even smile.  It took everything those boys had to hold the line, but they held.

As he told me later, if they were to play that team a hundred times, they'd lose 99 times.  They were better in quite literally every way, but our boys wanted the win more.  That was one of the most amazing triumphs of sheer will over adversity that I've ever seen and it was my honor to witness it.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

You Have To Wonder Why Anyone Wants To Be A Teacher Anymore

As a longtime school board member, I have some real, serious issues with the teachers’ union in my state and their slimy, underhanded negotiation tactics, but my experience with rank and file teachers has been good overall.  They have legitimately done a solid job (in some cases, outstanding and with effort well beyond the job requirement) of educating my kids.  Full props to them.

Scenario the First: I teach two consecutive taekwondo classes every Friday afternoon with another adult instructor and Thing One. We have one class of 5-7 year-olds and the other of 7-11 year-olds (the higher belt kids are older, the first class is the introductory level.)  Thing One is now a paid junior instructor (his first official job!) and since he and I are there anyway, I generally bring my other two kids to help as well since both are also older and higher belts than the kids we are teaching.  To say the least, it has been an eye opening experience for all of us, particularly the class of younger kids.  There are a lot of kids in that class, 25-30 on a normal Friday. I would also say (I’m just guessing, none of the parents have talked to me) that a good four to six of those kids either have something like ADHD or are on the autism spectrum or both.  We have them for only 45 minutes, but those 45 minutes are exhausting.  Last week it took me and all three of my children to keep a subgroup of 12 kids orderly (luckily we had a third adult in class that day.)  And all we were doing was trying to get them to stand in two lines and kick padded targets without injuring each other. As my daughter observed, imagine having to teach kids that age to sit still and read or write, and all day every day, not for only a few minutes a week.  It would take a real gift, sincere dedication and probably more patience than I will ever possess.

Scenario the Second: a friend of mine from soccer, who used to be a middle school history teacher, quit her job in frustration this year and has just finished retraining as a flight attendant.  She got tired of teaching to standardized tests, dealing with paperwork and the kids not having to think anymore.  She says being a flight attendant is much easier and also a whole lot less stressful. (!!)

Scenario the Third: last but not least, the stories I hear from school administrators (they aren’t talking out of turn; as school board members we need to know what’s going on.  We aren’t told individuals’ names or other identifiers though.)  Some kids can only be released to one parent and not the other because of court custody orders and previous attempts by noncustodial parents to abduct the kids from school.  Some kids have parents who abuse or exploit them or seem legitimately mentally ill.  Some kids have such chaotic home lives that school is the only safe place they have.  And some parents are of sufficient concern to the administration that the topic of having town police at our board meetings has come up more than once.

It’s a crazy crazy world.  You have to wonder what kind of person looks at this and says “Yep, that’s for me. Sign me up!”

Friday, March 8, 2019

Not Even Close

If you have a few extra minutes on your hands, go here and take this New York Times quiz.  Supposedly, it tells you where in the US you are likely from (i.e., what regional dialect you speak) based on the words you use for certain objects and situations.  I took it just now, and while it was very interesting, I’m curious as to whether others find it more accurate than I did.

Although I lived overseas for most of my childhood, I was raised by Midwesterners.  I went to college in the Midwest, lived in Texas for the six years of graduate school and have spent most of the last 20 years in either the northern half of the East Coast or Midatlantic regions.  So...why this thing says I am likely from Florida is a bit confusing.

Especially since one of the key things they apparently used to make this determination is the fact that I call the shoes one typically would wear to gym class at school “sneakers.”  I thought that was a fairly generic term.   How in the world does that make me from Florida??

Thursday, February 28, 2019

On Weird Cats And Power Outages

Fortunately for my sanity, the power finally came back about 9:30 last night after being out for 2 1/2 days. When I returned to the house, I discovered this surprise waiting for me on the kitchen counter.  In case it isn’t clear from the picture, this is a perfectly unoffending loaf of sandwich bread that has been viciously attacked by a cat.

 Cats are obligate carnivores. Neither of my two should be remotely interested in bread! Darcy understands that he’s a cat, but we are not nearly so sure about Bingley. He appears to think he’s a dog and begs for everything that our dog wants.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that he absolutely loves marshmallows, which has our vet just shaking her head. Unfortunately, unlike the dog, he can jump up on the counters, so I guess we now have to start putting the bread in the refrigerator. *headslap*

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Why It Rocks To Have Friends When You Live In The Sticks, Part Zillion

 Our house has been without power since Monday morning sometime. You may recall that when my house has no electricity, it is basically a nonfunctional shell because the water pump, the heat and air conditioning and the stove all run on electricity.  The power company that serves our lines has the distinction of being probably the worst for competence and communication in the entire continental US. If you think yours is worse, you’re wrong. I would bet you.  I live on the main county road for our town. Our road has been closed for three straight days because just north of our house, three powerline poles snapped off at the base in high winds on Monday and fell into the road.  Local people have been managing to detour around the road closure, even though it’s a pain. However, last night, a house not too far from us burned to the ground partly because fire trucks from other towns couldn’t get around the detours fast enough.

 The children and I stayed in hotels the last two nights. My husband, bless his heart, stayed at the house to take care of the pets. It’s cold. It hasn’t been fun for anybody. But this is where the friend thing comes in.

One of my fellow school board members heard me mention at last night’s meeting that I was taking my daughter back to a hotel and offered me his generator on the spot. I mentioned to the three guys we carpool with to Thing One’s soccer that he might not be at practice tonight because he might not be able to shower afterward.  All three of them texted me back within five minutes, one offering me a generator and the other two offering their homes to charge devices or shower or get warm, whatever is needed.  Two other friends have been texting me for the last couple days offering help with anything necessary. I just dropped a bag of laundry off at my best girlfriend’s house around the corner, because she got her power back today and offered to do laundry for the kids while I’m out running around tonight.   I’m not sure what I did to deserve this tribe, but I am one lucky lady and I am grateful.

Oh, and the people who run our power company? You guys can kiss my lily white butt. Your linemen are awesome. They work outside in freezing conditions all night long and they get the job done. Whomever didn’t see the storm coming and plan ahead for it, however, or organize the response once it hit, you’re dead to me.


I had a lengthy conversation with a man from Zambia this evening.  From his accent when we exchanged greetings, I could tell that he was Afr...