Blind Date

Blind Date

“She’ll like him,” he said.

“He’s good looking,” he said.

“Ask her,” he said.

So I did.  He was a boyfriend I had in high school named Ed.  He was a few years older and in college.  He was studying accounting, but he should have been in advertising or marketing.

She was my twin sister Karol.  Ed wanted me to help him arrange a blind date for his supposedly attractive friend named Ted and my sister.

I begged her, and the deal was sealed.

When they arrived, Karol and I were both surprised.  The tall, dark stranger we had both envisioned was shorter-than-us and red-haired, and, sadly, please-put-a-bag-over-your-head unattractive.

The guys were in the kitchen making small talk with our mother, and Karol dragged me bodily into the living room.  She hissed, “I am not going out with him!”

I replied, “Ed said he was good looking.  I can’t help it.  We can’t turn back now.”

After more whining, she was resigned.

In the car, I sat up front with Ed, who I had dated a couple of times, and she and Greg sat in the back.  We went bowling.  I don’t remember the game, but I was still in the throes of new-found love.

Karol apparently had had enough though.  When we got the Pizza Hut, she suggested we go to the bathroom, which was sister-code for “we need to talk.”  Slyly, she playfully suggested we “trick the boys,” by switching clothes and pretending to be the other.  Oddly, as identical twins we had never done this–assumed each other’s identity.  Somehow, she made it seems like fun without any negative consequences.

We proceeded to switch everything: shirts, jeans, shoes, belts, jewelry.  A total transformation.

As we approached the guys, she said I should sit on the booth side with Ted and she with Ed.  We sat down.  All seemed fine.  Until we tried to talk a little, and that gave us a way.  Ed noticed right away.  This probably would have worked on a first date, but not a third or fourth.

In my mind, I was thinking it was time to switch back, but Karol apparently had not thought the same.  She may have had an ulterior motive.  So we remained in our new seats all through the meal.

Then, quicker than me, she rode shotgun on the way home too while I brooded in the back with Ted.  Thankfully, she wasn’t interested in Ed, only in getting away from Ted, the red-headed blunder.

Somehow, Ed must have known.  He never asked her to double date again.

Lesson:  Be careful of what he said and of what she asked.

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I am buying books!

Books, oh my!  I am buying so many books I want to read because of the LMWP.  I have gotten three in the mail: Stephen King On Writing, Bird by Bird, and Everything’s an Argument. 

I have also started a “Wish List” on Amazon.  Some of those are Pathways to the Common Core, Note and Notice, and A Sourcebook for Responding to Student Writing.

This writing project has reinvigorated my professional development/reading–my craft.


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Poop Matters

Poop Matters

I come by it honestly.  It being constipation.  My dad suffers with it and his father before him.  And if you’ve ever had it in its chronic form, you’ll know it is a suffering.  It runs in my family.  (Pun intended.)  My twin and I have both been diagnosed with IBS, but she with the diarrhea kind and me with the constipation kind.  Sadly, it looks as though it is genetic, as my daughter is showing signs of the constipation kind.  (She’ll kill me for writing this.)

I have a doctor friend who says every conversation ends with poop.  I tend to agree.  A lot of my thoughts center on bathroom functions.  (Ask me about my bladder surgery–that’s another story.)

You don’t truly know what constipation is like unless you have sat on the toilet, sometimes for an hour, hoping for a product, and if you achieve one, you evaluate it, sometimes with earnest pride. There is nothing like the relief of a substantial stool.  Not little rabbit turds, but a big long cucumber in shape and mass.  I want to tell others; take a picture.

Those who seldom suffer ask about what I have tried.  They says things like, “Oh, I eat a handful of green grapes and I am good to go.  You should try it.”  I hate to belabor the point about all the remedies I have tried, trust me, dear friend, I have tried:  fruits, cherries by the pound, prune juice with pulp, milk of magnesia–cherry flavored and cold from the frig–psyllium husks gelled in water or juice, senna tablets, cod liver oil, over-the-counter laxatives, and prescriptions, including my current choice–Polyethylene Glycol, the gentle laxative–until it doesn’t work.

One good point about this ailment is that it was good preparation for childbirth.  Yes, I know that anatomy is different, but the pain can be comparable.  I have actually passed out, sweaty on the toilet, head slumped over in the middle of the night, trying to be “productive.”  At least in childbirth, others surround you with care and drugs.  You aren’t left alone using your Lamaze breathing to stave off a faint.

Curiously, I find myself envious of others’ colonoscopies.  The two I have had have been the only time I was truly cleaned out.  Oddly, I loved them.  I don’t know why they make you wait every ten years to have one.  I’d love for it to be apart of my yearly physical, like a spring cleaning.

So, it you can poop, be thankful.  Like the asthma association’s motto says, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”  The same can be said for pooping.

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Candy Store

Candy Store

Until I was six, we lived on the main street of Sand Lake, a little town nestled north of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My memories of this time are like blurry snapshots, yet several memories revolve around walking on the sidewalk to the store and school.  Today, when I drive the by that route, I really am surprised how long it is, probably half a mile or more.  I cannot image allowing my 4 or 5 year old walk such a distance without adult supervision.  But as they say, times were different.  It was 1971.  Plus, I was never alone.  I am a twin.  My sister was always with me.

My earliest memory of this route involves my sister and I, still preschoolers, walking hand-in-hand in our matching, mother-sewn dresses to the variety store at the end of the street.  We were each given a dime, and with this treasure we could purchase penny or cheaper-than-penny candy, so 15 pieces or more!  The store owner had twenty or so large, wide-mouth, tilting glass jars displayed on shelves from counter height to the floor—at perfect child level.

My sister and I, with our sweaty dimes in hand, would labor over our choices.  Hard candy of all colors tempted us: butterscotch and root beer barrels, Bull’s Eyes caramel creams, Necco wafers, white jelly bean nougats, Neapolitan coconut taffy, Double Bubble gum, Mary Jane peanut butter candies, and wax mini pop bottles.  I can now imagine that we took our sweet time to make our selections.

Finally, my favorite time was when our individual purchases would be put into a crisp tiny paper bag, probably the same ones used by hardwares to put individual nail and screw purchases in. Maybe it was a twin thing, always having to share, but I loved having my own bag of sugary delights.

Funny, I don’t remember any adults in these snapshots.  None on the the walk there and back, none at the store.  No even my mother at home.  It was our first taste of independence paired with confectionery delight!

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Middle Age

What I Know About:

I know about middle age, or better yet, I am learning about middle age.  Maybe it can’t be known until you go through it.  Middle age isn’t like being a teenager, which is easily defined by a number–a teen, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.  When does middle age begin?  In one’s thirties?  Forties?  Or if you die at 50, was it 25?  Maybe you don’t know until you are dead.

Well, I have decided my middle number in life is 44.  I plan to exist until I am 88 years old.  I graduated from college in ‘88 and was married in ‘88.  Meijer, where my husband worked, had printed t-shirts which read, “Great in ‘88,” so jokingly that was a motto that year.

88–That seems like a good, long life.  Although I have noticed that “older” is a moving target.  Now when someone dies in his seventies, I think, “Oh, he was so young.”  Longevity also runs in my family.  My 94-year-old paternal grandmother is doing quite well, especially after her quadruple bypass ten years ago, so 88 should be quite achievable.

At 46, I like to think I am on the downhill slide.  You know, the old life if a hill thing.  I always thought this phase of life would be easier.  I’d know who I was and where I was going.  After all, my parents always seemed put together.  But I am still 18 trying to decide my college major.

At the dollar store, I saw a book title, Going Gray. Somehow I was too cheap to buy it, and secretly aghast that someone’s published efforts, hard cover no less, were on sale next to the 50 cent cards and China-made 3/$1 note pads.  Apparently, the book is about a woman who is 50ish and stops coloring her hair.  Again, aghast!  Yes, my neutral light brown hair, number 7N comes from a box and is refreshed every four weeks out of necessity–not vanity, mind you.  So many of my girls, my teenage students, color their hair.  I ask myself, why?  They don’t realize soon it won’t be a fun thing, but a chore.

I ask myself, “Can I teach teenagers and be gray?  When do I go gray?  After I retire?  But is 60 to old to be brown headed?  Will people treat me differently with gray hair?  Will I be different?  Freer, maybe?”  You know you are as old as you feel, which is pretty darn old sometimes.  Then there is my 66 year old mother.  Can I go gray before her?  I have tried to talk to her about lightening up, but she’s a brick wall.  So dad is white and she is dark.  Hmmmm.

Somewhere in here, the doctors have changed too.  Now they say things like, “It is expected at your age?” or “No, there is no cure, only a treatment.  Yes, it will get worse.”  I start to look at my parents and older relatives’ ailments and realize they will be my own.  I am no longer laughing at my dad’s trifocal glasses as I navigate my progressive lenses.  There is nothing progressive about only being able to see out of the top or bottom portion of my glass’s lenses.  With a slight tilt of the head, everything can become blurry, and stairs become spongy and elusive, especially with teenagers whipping by me two stairs at a time.

I think some of the sting I feel about my age is heightened by my work.  A character is a short story I once read called a teacher’s students “perpetual youth.”  The teacher ages each year, but the students do not.  They are perpetually the same age—forever 17.  Twenty-five years ago when I started, I was 22 and young too, turning down dates from students and reminding them I was married.  Then I became their older sister or favorite aunt.  Now I am their mom, or as they like to put, older than their mom.  Not grandma yet, though.

That’s another thing.  Grandparenting.  When did my friends become grandparents?  Just today on Facebook, one was wishing her grandson a happy tenth birthday!  Tenth!  I told her she was old, and you can imagine what she told me!  Yes, I was a little of a late bloomer, but also more educated and stifled by infertility.  But, it it all works out, when I retire, Karlee will be 29, and I’ll have grandbabies to coddle, a second chance.  A second youth in my second summer.

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Things Karlee Will Never Know

Things Karlee Will Never Know

I have tried to give my daughter Karlee everything I had as a child.  Some things, though, are  preserved by time, like a curvy-edged black and white photograph capturing a decade in time.  I was born in 1966 and was a child in the ‘70s. She was born in 1997 and a child of new millennium.  Some things have disappeared from my childhood to hers by modern invention and others by convenience, my choice.

For example, my daughter has not experienced black and white television, with its required warming up time and its concluding with a circle that becomes smaller and smaller until it is a micro dot in the center of the screen.  She came after the TV’s turn-style knob, which was used before remotes.  When changing the channel involved exercise, or when three channels was a choice, and having one set meant Dad controlled the TV on Monday, football nights.  She has never been up at 6:00 a.m. to watch a flag swaying in the wind as the national anthem plays before TV comes on for the day and the Lone Ranger rides out.  She’ll never know of the anticipation of  popcorn made on the electric stove with a full stick of butter and Sunday nights with Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or with Bobby Vinton, the Polish prince and his polkas.

She’ll never know the automobiles of my youth either.  Those with vinyl seats that burned the back of my legs in the summer and were stiff with cold in the winter.  She would never think of riding with the window down and her arm stretched out, waving to passersby.  I wouldn’t let her, remembering Dad’s story of a man who lost his hand.  She has never seen full-service at a gas station.  When the attendant filled the tank, checked the fluids, and washed the windshield, and everyone paid with cash.  When no one went inside and bought a 32-ounce fountain pop. Rather, it was a treat to smell the gas as it wisped in through the cranked-open back window.  Unlike her, I was not restrained by a car seat, booster or any other contraption.  We rode on the floor and in the back window or four or five on the bench seat of the truck, or, dare I say, in the back of the truck bed, sitting on the sides, anticipating a swimming trip at some lake.  Air bags were talkers, not protection.

I call my daughter the air-conditioned kid.  Her home has always had central air, as has her transportation and classroom.  She has never had a sleepless night because the humidity has made her bedroom too oppressive.  She has never had my dilemma of a single sheet making me too warm, but needing a covering nonetheless.  Nor has she has ever taken blankets to the basement to sleep on the floor with her sisters to escape the summer’s heavy hand.  Neither has she has ever looked out the classroom window, wishing for a breeze as September mimics a second summer and her classmates glisten with perspiration.

It’s my fault, but she’ll also never know the pleasure of hanging clothes on the line.  The satisfaction of towels, shirts, and sheets lined up in order, longest to shortest, some even by color.  Towels smartly hung by corners and shirts from the bottom, never the shoulders. She’ll never share in the pride and snobbery of my mother’s, sister’s, and my knowing the proper way to display laundry or of our disdain for those who do it improperly.  She’ll also never know the feeling of sliding into crisp sheets on a summer’s night and smelling their springtime freshness.  She’s never reached for a towel after a bath, not a shower, for a towel stiff from drying outside.  Her laundry is electrically dried and even softened with conditioned air.

She has never labored in an acre-sized garden, row after endless row, pulling weeds, watering tomato plants, or picking potato bugs to put into milk jugs filled with an inch of gasoline.  She hasn’t walked down rows of corn with only the sky for direction.  Her arms haven’t been scratched by sharp leaves.   She hasn’t spent hours, days really, blanching corn to freeze, pitting cherries or peeling tomatoes to can.  She hasn’t looked with satisfaction at the day’s labor in colorful quart jars ready to put beneath the stairs to use next winter.  She hasn’t triumphed for hours in the blueberry patch, hiding under bushes and playing hide-and-go-seek with cousins.  She’ll never be in trouble for eating all of her great-grandma’s sour, wine-making currant berries.

She hasn’t incubated eggs to chicks and fed them weeds and grass in the pen out back;  she hasn’t had her dad chop their heads off on the end of her swing set slide and watched in mixed horror and surprise as they ran headless around the yard.  She hasn’t hauled slop to great grandma’s farm to feed the pigs with endless appetites.  She’ll never see her father ride a snowmobile and with a shotgun and shoot an offending runaway pig.  Her mother’s Mother’s Day present, a billy goat, has never butted her from behind or thought it was a rabbit with whom it shared a pen.  She hasn’t spent Saturdays stacking wood; sometimes 15 truckloads in a day with her family close by, talking of plans and futures.  Making two fuels, the heat of work at hand and the heat of burning wood in the winter.

Karlee has never had home-sewn clothes either.  Polyester knit, iron-clad clothes.  Clothes I was proud of and often used for show-and-tell.  My dancing, top hat, Planter’s peanut pants and my freshly-hatched chick pants, the ones that gave me a connection with the The Partridge Family TV show.  She’ll never have a  twin with matching attire, a daily look alike.

Unlike me, Karlee has never had a mother who didn’t work outside the home.  At six months, she went off to daycare, and I back to work. Unlike my mother, her mother did not bake cookies and be at the ready when she walked home from school.  Her mother was never the “room mother,” the Christmas party planner, or the field trip volunteer.  Rather, Karlee brought pre-packaged treats to school in March to celebrate her birth.  I was someone else’s teacher.

And my deepest regret is that she will never meet my grandmother, my mom’s mother. My favorite grandma, Grandma Mary, who died before Karlee was born.  I did introduce them once though.  I brought Karlee as an infant to the cemetery once.  We stood by the headstone and I did the talking.  I wish Karlee could have spent the night at her house as my sister and I often did.  She would have delighted herself in Grandma’s silver-dollar-sized pancakes, never large ones like my mom’s were.  There was no hurrying at Grandma’s.

Karlee could have watched Soul Train with us and giggled at the alien, provocative dance moves.  She could have been entertained by Lawrence Welk and the Lennon sisters singing and waltzing to the bubble-making machine.  Knowing Karlee, she would have fought with me for a turn to stand behind Grandma in the reclining chair to brush her graying, permed hair.

Karlee will never sit with Grandma in the pew on Sunday and rifle through her thick, ribbon-laden, large-print Bible.  She’ll never share a hymnal and sing “I Come to the Garden Alone” or share a meal with her at Ponderosa–salad bar and all. She won’t remember Christmases with an adult and kids’ table or the frequent beef roast and potato dinners.  She’ll never have toast with sweet jam after Trufant’s Thursday flea market or admire Grandma’s newest quilt.

But Karlee does have me, not my childhood, but the woman, wife, and mother I have become.  In our air-conditioned home with our supermarket vegetables and store-bought clothes.  She’ll have me and my memories while making her own.

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My t-shirt argument!




First, I suggest we use a short, succinct quote.  I hate t-shirt sayings that are too long and difficult to read. (I know we are writers, but remember the audience and the exigence.) The saying needs to be like a billboard saying that can be read when someone is driving by at 75 mph or in our case, walking by you in the mall.  

It also needs to be a saying we believe.  LMWP has taught me that I am not just a teacher of writing but a writer.  Remember what we were suppose to say if someone asked us what we were doing on the Writing Marathon.  This happened to us, and Ben promptly replied, “We are writers.”  And for the first time I was comfortable with that description of myself.  

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