Saturday, June 13, 2015

Live Well

For the past two school years, I give my students a 100 on my final assignment, then pass out the paper.  They keep the 100 if they don't ask for or give any answers.  In other words, as long as you put some answer down, you win.  I just want to know what they honestly think. 

The first question and some of their answers:

Now, some people get tattoos because they look cool, and that's cool.  The one on my left wrist, though, holds special significance.  My left wrist got inked on June, 14, 2013.  That would have been my cousin Eva's thirty-fourth birthday.  She'd been in heaven for six months. 

Eva was my first best friend.  Her mother watched me while my mother worked.  Eva and I walked to school together--down a road, around the corner, across Main street with the help of a crossing guard, and straight to Van DerVeer Elementary in Somerville, New Jersey.  She lived around the corner from us.  When we moved to Virginia, she spent summers with us.  During college, I spent half a year's weekends at her house, where we sautéed mushrooms, ate Cappucino Chocolate Chunk ice cream, and left for lengthy Target runs.  Eva and I curled each other's hair for our weddings and laughed through early motherhood. 

Eva had the same time attitude when she was a passenger as I learned to drive.  "We're all gonna die!" she'd scream from the back seat.  I attribute that behavior to my ability to ignore fighting boys while I drive now. 

I think it was September 2012 when I received the call from my mother that Eva had lymphoma.  I was at my in-laws house.  Josh and has parents watched as I dropped my head in my hands and cried.  Eva had two small girls and a July-born baby boy.  I cried for what she'd have to go through.  I cried when I realized how difficult treatment would be with a baby who didn't sleep through the night , a job, and two girls in preschool and gymnastics. 

One thing, I knew for sure, though, was that she would be fine.  Eva was ridiculously healthy.  She had competed in gymnastics growing up, then taken up pole vaulting in college.  She ran marathons.  As a professor, she'd stop by her track coach husband's practices and beat young men in pull-up contests.  She'd coached gymnastics as a camp leader, then as a twenty-something young lady before she began teaching at ECU.  Eva had learned to unicycle within days of receiving one for Christmas.  She'd driven with her leg out the driver side window after she'd had knee surgery. 

I was floored when she passed on New Year's Day 2013.  I'd gone down to say good-bye after an unexpected and quick turn for the worse in December.  I missed saying good-bye to her listening ears by twenty minutes.  She was still warm when I said good-bye, but if she heard me, it was from eternal paradise. 

That June, Cassie, our mom, Eva's mom, and our Oma got inked on Eva's birthday.  They were Hildie and Oma's first tattoos.  Hildie, a nurse, had warned Eva against tattoos for years--even before she'd learned of the permanent lizard between Eva's shoulder blades.  This was our way of honoring Eva and displaying her memory as well. 

Framed picture of our tattoos

My tattoo says "Live Well" in my mother's handwriting.  As an English teacher, I meant "well" two ways.  First, use your life well.  Eva did.  She leaped over obstacles with a joke and a smile.  Yet she'd admit to the difficulty involved.  Second, live a healthy life.  Eva did. She was sick the last four months, but the more-than-thirty-three years prior had included exercise, healthy food choices, prayer, and a good attitude. 

I fail at both meanings.  I fail particularly with the second meaning.  I need a constant reminder of the first.  Still, my left wrist reminds me to keep trying, so that others will remember a life well-lived and so that the lives I touch each day might be made better for having seen me. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

An Escalating Incident

Today was our first day of summer vacation.  We kicked off the reprieve from work (well, until Monday, when I return for curriculum writing) with some errand-running.  After a stop at the bank, gas station, dump, and paint store, we headed to Macy's. 

The boys were beyond excited when they realized we'd have to travel to the second floor.  This meant a ride on the escalator.  B has always hated elevators, and will climb any required flights of stairs to avoid them.  Escalators are a different story, though. 

As I was checking out and signing up for a Plenti card, I had to pause several times to politely scream at my boys to get out of the way of the escalators until I joined them.  I joined them as quickly as I could and stepped on the descending stairs just after G did. 

G looked down and saw that the "steps" turned into "spikes".  He instantly freaked out and retreated to my left.  He grabbed the top of the bannister and held on for dear life while his feet staggered backward against the tide of moving stairs.  B was frozen behind his screeching brother.  I turned, arms laden with my purse and purchase, and ascended towards him.

I was running in place, wishing again that I worked out more, trying to reach poor G.  I called to him to just let go and ride the escalator--it was fun!  Do you know how difficult it is to sound reassuring when you are running in place like an idiot in public?  The cashier had just arrived at the top of the stairs to help when G lost his grip and landed on his bottom in tears.  Now I was trying to reassure him while not step on him, and while dismounting the escalator backwards and without falling on my butt as well. 

B gathered himself quickly, put on a normal face, and joined us on the escalator.  As soon as I hit terra firma, I scooped G up and held him and held him as he twisted my hair and cried.  Big brother hit the landing, raised his arms in victory and began chanting, "Again!  Again!" 

Once we arrived home, I took a nap. Whew!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shoe Shopping

It was past time.  G has been complaining that several size eleven shoes "aren't  comfortable".  I consulted the closet for the next pair of hand-me-downs, but there was a gap.  While there were loads of size thirteens and above, there were no twelves.  There were no twelves at all.  

On the weekends, he's been sporting B's old size thirteen hiking boots.  I love the look of shorts and hiking boots, but I cannot allow him to wear that getup to school.  Besides, they are also technically too big.  Too-big shoes are dangerous.  G doesn't wear them because he often realizes it's "P.E. Day"--when he needs to wear tennis shoes. 

His only pair of comfortable size elevens have lost their aglets and come out of the shoelace holes.  We weren't concerned about the loss of occupation in the top two shoelace holes: those are for runners, according to the internet.  As the laces lengthened to way-past-safe for the shoes length, we've been contemplating buying G new shoes.  We just keep forgetting. 

Today, as we were running errands, we headed home earlier than I'd planned.  I decided to stop at Once Upon a Child to grab a pair of twelves.  G was agreeable; he is my shopper.  B drummed up an instant man-shopper whine.  I ignored it and towed both into the shop. 

Just before the school year began, G accompanied me as I went shoe shopping.  He followed me dutifully, suggested cute pairs I'd missed, and carried my shoeboxes.  I had no idea he'd be such a shopper for his own shoes.  He quickly determined that he didn't like either pair I'd picked in Once Upon a Child.  Next stop: Old Navy.  G: "I don't like any of these."  Off to Target we went with a overly tired man-shopper. 

In Target, I immediately spotted Avenger shoes in the correct size.  G wasn't sure the teachers liked "blinky shoes".  Note:  there are exactly two half-days of schools left.  Then G tried on all four pairs of size twelve sneaker I found.  He declared that each "felt funny.""  G is the youngest of my two sons, but the fifth youngest boy in the family, since Cassie and Tommy have three boys born before G.  B and I tried to explain that new shoes do feel funny until they are broken in. G had little point of reference, since he's only owned three brand-new pairs of shoes in his life.  Did I mention we often go to Once Upon a Child?  

After both B and I were totally exhausted, and after I was sure Josh would be mad that we were taking so long, I gave G a time limit.  He had narrowed out exactly one pair of shoes.  G went with his best decision-making strategy: "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.  If you catch a tiger's toe.  If he hollers, let him go.  Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.  My mom says to pick the very best one and you are NOT it."  One of three down.  As he pointed, there was no cyclical direction. Instead his pointer hopped from green shoes, over the Avengers shoes, to the orange shoes, and back. 

After the second round, which pair was left?  THE AVENGER SHOES.  Yes. The Avenger shoes that I'd picked out thirty minutes prior were the shoes the rhyme "picked".  Maybe I don't like shoe shopping with G after all.  Thank goodness the next several sizes of hand-me-downs are in the closet!