Class Rank

The conversation started out innocently enough. We were talking about the grades my daughter earned in the third quarter, which ended on Friday. Of course, nowadays, with programs like PowerSchool, there really are no surprises when it comes to grades. If parents open that report card and don’t know what their kids’ grades are, they’re not paying attention.

But then my daughter stared talking about a student in her AP English class who was missing much of her work for last quarter because she just didn’t hand it in. Or something. This particular student was ranked number one in the class last year, but this year… not so much.

If you’re wondering why a child would choose to slack off junior year—the year that is probably the most important, as far as college admission goes—read on. The rest of the conversation is quite telling. While the subject continued on grades and class rank, the focuse shifted to my youngest.

“I’ll bet you’re valedictorian in your class,” my daughter said to her brother. Her tone was almost accusatory.

“No I’m not,” he assured her, and he named the student who is.

“Well, you’re just a freshman,” she told him. “Your classes are easy and you don’t even do any homework. Wait until junior year. The people who are working hard now will get overwhelmed and start to struggle. Then you’ll be valedictorian.” She seemed pleased with her logic.

There was a pause in the conversation, and I thought it might be over. Then she said, “But if you’re valedictorian, you’ll have to give a speech, and you won’t want to do that. You’ll have to slack off a bit. But not too much because you don’t want Guidance to notice and ask you what’s up.”

“If I’m a junior and I’m number one in the class, I’ll have to slack off more than just ‘a bit.’”

“No you won’t,” I inserted myself into the conversation. “The top few students are really close. If one grade slips just a little, you’ll slip to number two with no problem.”

“But you don’t want to be salutatorian, either,” his sister cautioned him. “There’s really no point. If you aren’t number one, may as well go for third. Then you won’t have to give a speech, and you won’t have to be second.” If there was such a thing as an audible wink, she would have inserted one here.

And that explains why the top student in the class might slack off junior year—apparently, it’s all about the speech. And this is where I insert an audible groan….

 

Saturday Wanderings

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Back when he was in fifth grade, maybe sixth, my son created a simulated Black Hole for a project for science. Now, this was not just a table-top diorama. No. When my kid creates a Black Hole, it is going to be a big one.

He thought long and hard about how he would complete this project. On Amazon, he discovered that he could purchase a large sheet of black lycra. He set about to create a frame for the material, and he used PVC pipe and joints.

Actually, the finished product was pretty impressive. He carried it to school unassembled in his sister’s duffle bag. When he put it all together, it was three feet tall and four feet from one side to the other. His teacher was impressed. But as impressive as this project was, it is not the point of this blog post.

Fast forward to this past fall. The large sheet of lycra had been hanging around my house for awhile. We all knew it belonged to W, but it was in the living room; it was in the bedroom; it was in the basement. It really hadn’t found a home. After it had kicked around for too long, W picked it up one day and said, “Do you think I could make a hammock out of this?” And the next thing I knew, I had a hammock hanging from the beams above the ceiling tile in my basement. The best part was that the ceiling tiles had to be pushed aside to make this work.

But then he decided he wanted to make it into a real hammock rather than just a piece of lycra tied to some rope tied to the beams. He spent the better part of a day pleating the material and stitching it together on my sewing machine. The parts that were too thick—where he looped the lycra over and connected it to the rope—were sewn by hand. His newly reconfigured hammock passed the basement test with flying colors.

So last weekend, he took the hammock on a camping trip to test it out for real. Yes, it is February, which means that here in New Hampshire, it is the middle of winter. Personally, I am not sure if I would rather sleep on the frozen ground or in a hammock at this time of year. When I was discussing this issue with my daughter, she had the same first response I had. “Bridges freeze first!”

(And that, my friends, is a clear indication that if nothing else, my daughter learned one important fact in her Drivers Education class, and it is one that she will never forget!)

The argument on whether it’s warmer to sleep on the ground or in a hammock (if you must sleep outside in the dead of winter) is still out for debate, but here’s what I did learn. Getting out of a hammock in the middle of the night in the dead of winter to use the latrine is not too much fun.

[Image credit: FreeImages.com / Orlando Alonzo]

Tissues

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These days, I don’t venture far from home without tissues in my pocket or somewhere on my person. I never know when the tears will start, either just enough to spill out of my eyes, or an entire flood. It might be sparked by a song that I hear playing on the radio or the sound system of the mall; I might see an elderly man in the grocery store who has a similar posture and gait to Dad, or a young father with his child; or I might catch a glimpse of a rainbow in the sky.

So tissues. I have one or two tissues in all of my pockets, travel packs in my purse, full-sized packages in my car. And I have been pretty good about checking pockets before I do the laundry. (It’s a habit I started after one too many crayons slipped through undetected before they melted in the dryer, ruining an entire load of clothing ….)

Sunday night, I washed the down jacket I have been wearing every day, and I threw in a couple of new shirts that J had recently acquired. I checked the pockets of my jacket, but somehow, a tissue slipped just beyond my touch and escaped notice.

When I opened the lid of the washing machine, I was immediately aware of my oversight. Fluffy shreds of tissue clung to the clothing, stuck there by dampness and deep tissue magic—the kind that doesn’t let go.

A faint scent of detergent wafted from the clothes as I painstakingly picked at the pieces of tissue. I sighed. The fragile fibers so effective at wiping away tears were no match for the washing machine. But I’m pretty sure this is not the last time I’ll learn that lesson.

Snow Day Hyperbole

 

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Tuesday was a snow day for us. When I woke up in the morning, the radio mentioned school cancellations, but I was half asleep and didn’t believe it. Through my five a.m. fog, I reached for my iPad, pulled up the local television station website, and scrolled through the cancellations. Sure enough, our town had cancelled school. The town in which I work had also cancelled school, though there was nothing yet from the university.

I stumbled to the kids’ rooms in the dark to turn off their alarms, trying my best not to disturb them more than necessary. I went back to bed, armed with my phone to take the “alert” calls that would inevitably come. Nowadays, it is so easy to tap into the school cancellation list, and with multiple schools and school districts involved, that can be a good thing.

But later that morning, when I finally looked outside, we had about two inches of snow. Two inches. And a snow day? Clearly, this must have been an oversight on someone’s part. A day off means, the kids will have an extra day tacked on to the end of the school year. Sigh.

In a text to my sister, I told her I suspected the world had grown wimpier since we were kids. I remember schlepping through snow up to my thighs (though I will admit, I was a bit shorter then) to get to school. Occasionally, my boot would become lodged in a snow crater when I tried to step, and I would have to reach my arm all the way into my leg-long footprint to retrieve it. Once, a storm closed school for two consecutive days, but that was a memorable spring storm one April when winter was supposed to be over. That storm dumped three feet of snow, and I can still tap into the feeling of wonder and excitement I had walking through the labyrinth of shoveled pathways.

On days when the world seems wimpier than in years past, I tend to become one of those parents, just like my parents before me, and their parents before them. You know the ones I mean…. Back in my day when life was simpler, we trudged through three feet of snow every day to get to school. Maybe it was a two-mile walk to get there. And it was definitely uphill both ways. And maybe it was 10° below zero every day during the winter because back then, it was commonly believed we were entering the next Ice Age.

Or maybe—just maybe—I tell hyperbolic stories because here in northern New England, a snow day for two inches of snow feels ridiculous, and it’s not something responsible adults feel the need to encourage.

And even though my children roll their eyes at my stories, there is no doubt that 20 or 30 years from now, they will be telling their own hyperbolic childhood stories to their own children, their nieces and nephews, their students. Because this…. this is the way we express to the next generation that we think they are getting too soft around the edges and too wimpy in the middle. And this is the way we let them know that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t quite as bad as they like to believe.

Seeking Inspiration

I am trying to write. Something funny, something creative, something inspiring. but my mind is overworked, active day and night as it deals with life and loss and moving forward. I am looking for inspiration and something to sink my words into. And then there was this:

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Hardly an invitation to creativity.

This book appears to be as uninspiring as any book I have seen, despite the claim on its cover. I am wondering about the conversation in the design room the day this book was being completed. “Hey Boss, I need a cover for this textbook on creativity….”

“Yeah. It’s a textbook. Make it look like one.”

“But Boss, it’s a handbook. Of creativity. Shouldn’t it be fun? Creative, maybe?”

“Nah. It’s a textbook. Make it look like a textbook. Throw some color on it if you want.”

Hmm.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some much more appealing textbooks. I’ve seen some downright fun textbooks. Most even have pictures or designs on the front cover. Just because a book is designed for learning doesn’t mean it has to be boring. In fact, a splash of color on the cover might make the reader more excited to read this book. I know that for me, the appeal of the cover definitely affects my interest in a book, but apparently, this is a centuries old debate, as indicated by the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” You know, the whole first impression thing….

But then I have to wonder why it is that we are so quick to judge based on what’s on the outside. There is much information held within the pages of this book. The fact that the cover is dry and stilted and downright uncreative is of little import to the material contained within the book. It just seems to me that a handbook on creativity should be… well… CREATIVE.

But I am trying to creative-ize my mind and clear the fog that has been hovering there. Perhaps the words of this book might inspire me. Or maybe they’ll serve to distract me just enough that creativity can slip back in.

Altered Messages

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I have a set of “grown up” alphabet letter blocks as part of my living room décor. With these blocks, I can create a wide variety of sayings and greetings—pretty much anything that can be said in 18 or fewer letters. I have had the letters for many years, though I don’t remember which mail order catalogue I found them in. After my initial set of letters, I asked for the images and numbers for Christmas (or my birthday) one year. Over the years, I have used the blocks for greetings, holiday sayings, birthday wishes, announcements, etc.

The sayings have a spot on the top of the shelf-unit where the television sits. The shelf is six feet high, so I create the sayings on the living room rug, and move the words to their perch one at a time. I move the bottom word first and work in ascending order, placing one word on top of the other until the message is complete. For many years, I could create a saying, place it on the shelf, and not even think about it again until I it was time to change it.

Lately, however, I have noticed that the sayings I write are often … well, altered in some subtle (or not so subtle) way. For example, my Christmas message: Joy, Peace & Love morphed over time. After only a couple of days of sitting on the shelf, it suddenly read: Joy, Geese & Love. Hmm… because everyone hopes for geese at this time of year…?

Now that everyone is tall enough to reach the block sayings, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the message will change from what I write, but there is no doubt that it will be altered in one way or another. I can only sit back, relax, and anticipate the changes. Certainly, the message I put on the shelf makes sense. At least for the first day or two….

Mack’s Mingle & Jingle

Mack is hosting a great meet and greet, a holiday Mingle & Jingle, on her site. You can find the party here: https://mackmarie.com/2016/12/06/mingle-jingle/

She has some great holiday treats (complete with recipes) and music. Come on over and join the party!