Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Improper Poll: Word Nerdisms

Okay, I admit it. This might well be an Old Lady Thing—and a crotchety Old Lady Thing at that. But lots and lots of people mispronounce certain words, and then it makes everyone else think they’re mispronounced, so everyone else does it, too. But does that make it right? In the case of language, yes. When enough people mispronounce something, that eventually becomes the accepted pronunciation. So that just confuses things more.

The current one that I keep hearing is “pedophile.” When I first read the word, I looked it up. According to my beloved Webster, it is correctly pronounced with a long e: pee-duh-fahyl. And it makes sense. We take our children to the pee-dee-uh-tri-shun. Yes, “pee-duh-fahyl” sounds a bit…icky…but let’s face it, it’s an icky thing. So why am I the only person in the world who isn’t pronouncing it like the root word has something to do with feet?

Do you have a word that you keep hearing people mispronounce?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Improper Poll: Frozen in Time

Last week Kay said something interesting. She said that in her mind, she is 32 again.

I thought that was an interesting number. A few years ago, when my son read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and vampire books were all the rage, my children and I had a discussion about staying one age forever. My son made the assumption that, if we all had the choice to be frozen at one age for eternity, we would not only automatically snap up the chance, but we would all choose to be 18. He was shocked when I told him I adhere more to the wisdom of the beloved little Tuck Everlasting, and if forced, I wouldn't pick 18. I would choose something older, like around 32. Actually I was in my best shape ever at 37, but I did have a few Ugly Skin Things by then.

In dreams (the literal kind), I am always somewhere between about 25 and 35. How old are you in dreams? What age would you pick to stay forever if you could?

Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don't have to live forever. You just have to live. And she did. ~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sub Notes: Seen ‘Em All

I was standing in the high school library, subbing for the librarian. “Lookin’ good!” exclaimed the high school boy as he strode by. “Nice hair!”

I looked behind me. There was no one there. “No, the person behind you,” he laughed.

I was sort of horrified. Was he being sarcastic?

He seemed like a sweet, affable kid. Even though most people my age assume teenagers say horrible things about us, I don’t think they really do that much. At least not to our faces. In fact, I'm pretty sure most of them just don’t think of us much at all. Still, it was weird to have some high school kid tell me he liked my I-have-to-be-at-work-by-6:30 AM-hair.

Yet there was something so genuine about this kid. He will be a P.R. guy someday, this one. Or an amazing salesman. I shrugged and thanked him.

It wasn’t till later that I realized it: he thought I was the woman I was subbing for! Because to a kid that age, we really do all look alike. The woman I was subbing for is about my age, and we both have brown hair. That is where the similarities stop. In fact, her hair is much longer than mine. Which explains it. He thought she’d had it cut! I wonder what he thought when “I” showed up at work with long hair again?
I once had a high school girl mistake me for a teacher who is about five inches taller than I am and has short, poufy, red hair. Mine is droopy, shoulder length, and brown. But to a teenager, we were both female and have the same number of limbs. Close enough! After all, we old people are pretty much interchangeable.

So I’ve thought of a new job. Whenever parents of teenagers want to run away (which I’m sure happens often), I will hire myself out (for big bucks, of course) to fill in.  I won’t have to disguise myself at all because the kids will never notice I’m a different person. 

Middle school paper that proves spelling counts: "The man fell off a 
 hor   ." 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Improper Poll: Get the Tact, Jack

Tact is a foreign language to me. As someone who grew up in a family which spoke the more harsh Brutal Honesty, I admire the beauty of that other language even if I’m not fluent enough to fully understand it.I learned at a young age that the less I know a person, the more likely they are to speak that other nice language or its even more flowery relative, Bold Faced White Lies.

For example, here are the various responses to the question, “Does this make me look fat?”

Total stranger:  “Are you kidding? You are so emaciated, I think you should gain twenty pounds!  And I really mean it!”

Acquaintance: “Nooo! You‘re so skinny, nothing could make you look fat.”

Friend:  “I’m just not sure it’s really ‘you.’”

Relative:  “No, it doesn‘t make you look fat. You ARE fat. And what you‘re wearing doesn‘t help any, either.”

I sometimes see a dermatologist. I do this because I come from a long line of people who not only speak Brutal Honesty, but also get Skin Things. Some of the Skin Things are merely ugly, but some are dangerous and ugly, too.  So my dermatologist has the dubious job of telling me which is which.

There is something special about my dermatologist, besides his admirable ability to differentiate ugly Skin Things all day. Whereas Tact is clearly not a course requirement in many medical school programs, this doctor has a minor in it.This particular Ugly Skin Thing was on my back, so I waved over my shoulder in its general direction. “See it?” I asked.

Several seconds passed before he replied, “Can you find it in the mirror and point to it?” As I fumbled in the mirror, the translation came to me: Which Ugly Skin Thing are you talking about? They’re all over the place back here!

When I finally managed to identify the correct Thing, my dermatologist hesitated only a moment before giving me the name. They always have a long, official sounding name that means, essentially, “Ugly Skin Thing.” Then he told me they’re hereditary. No surprise there. At this point he spoke one of my favorite lines of Tact, ever. “They’re associated with having lived a nice amount of life.”

Don’t you love it? “A nice amount of life.”  I blinked while the translation sank in. “You mean it’s an Old Age Skin Thing?” I asked. He smiled kindly. I was stunned. At the time I was only in my mid-thirties. Mid-thirties!

He told me it could be removed, then gave a shrug which meant, “But why bother? Who would miss one in this giant field of Ugly Skin Things, anyway?” He handed me a pamphlet which I numbly stuck into my purse, and I slunk out of there.

When I got home, I took it out of my purse and was horrified. The model on the front, in spite of being quite fit and handsome, had lived a much nicer amount of life than I have lived. I would say his amount of life was twice as nice as mine. I was stunned. So I did what any normal person would do. I called my sister. This is because she’s lived a nicer amount of life than I’ve lived, and she’s generally had all of the Ugly Skin Things I’ve had. I described the Skin Thing and gave her the name.

“Oh, I have those,” she said. She told me which relatives had them, too. “Welcome to old age.”

This reminded me. Never ask a medical question of a relative. I will be asking my dermatologist from now on. Maybe I’ll even ask him if my pants make me look fat, too.

Do you have a euphemism that you love?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sub Notes: A Thousand Lashes

A little sixth grader raised her hand as I was walking around the classroom. She indicated the child in front of her. “Aren’t those the most amazing eyelashes you’ve ever seen?” I looked. Probably a sound came out of my mouth because I felt as if I’d been shoved backwards by the sheer wind force of those appendages.

They resided on a very masculine-looking little boy.

The boy blushed with the horror of his affliction. He looked down, and the lashes seemed to curtsy.

“He cuts them!” the little girl said. The agony, the envy, the indignation and the grief were painful in her voice.

“Nooo!” I grieved with her.

They were exquisite. They looked like an ad for mascara that is supposed to transform the eyes like magic. But these were ironically naked of trickery. They were real, and they were spectacular. They were glossy, sleek, raven-black, at least ¾ of an inch long. They were as uniform as the ridges on a feather, but they swooped upward in a unanimous arc that brought to mind the unfolding wings of a magnificent black swan.

When the boy looked down (with abject embarrassment at his deformity), I half expected him to lift off his chair a bit.

One thing I love about sixth graders is that they haven’t yet learned how to hide certain feelings. Yet they are old enough to try. So in those eyes—which I only caught a glimpse of when the protective wings lifted—I saw a simultaneous war of pride and shame.

“Wow, those are....” Fortunately I caught myself in time. “Those are very handsome,” I said.

 As I turned to walk away, the lashes took a modest bow.

High School Boy (while stroking fuzz on his upper lip): “Dude, when this mustache grows in all fat, I’ll look awesome.” 
High School Girl (overhearing): “Dude, when that mustache grows in fat, you’ll look like one of those porn guys.”