Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Coming through - 3.31 #sol20 Story Challenge

"Run through."
Words urged
by my
high-school
cross country coach.
Atop a tough climb
when I might feel
the need
to ease the pace,
his phrase
transforms punishment
into achievement.

"I crawl through it,"
A. S. King book
about harrowing
times teens
and we
can survive.

"Only way out
is through."
Macbeth's notion,
Frost's poem;
rock lyrics
mouthed by
Alanis Morissette,
belted by Bush.

Through lines,
splicing our slices
to viruses,
together flattening
a Story Challenge's
once-steep curve.


Monday, March 30, 2020

FFT - 3.30 #sol20 Story Challenge

Sunday night, I read about FFTs -- an initialism referenced here by BrenĂ© Brown. (The language is salty, so I'll leave you to do the looking up yourself.) Compared to the situations blogged about, I had a much milder first time earlier in the day. Following a lifetime wandering grocery aisles with my basket or cart, collecting items on mental or written lists, scouting the produce with my own eyes and hands, caving to impulse buys (managers' specials!), I made my inaugural online grocery order for pick-up.

I arrived at the appointed time Sunday afternoon and slid my car into one of the appointed spots. I called the number posted where a no-parking sign might otherwise be. A cheerful voice answered on the first ring and asked my name. Minutes later, another employee rolled out a narrow pallet stacked with four milk-crate sized containers. She explained that the store had most of my items, but several were out of stock. I understood and had purposefully deselected the checkbox next to "Permit store to make substitutions" when I placed my order. I feared the unintended consequences that low inventory might invite. In this case, the market delivered on about 75% of what I'd requested. Better than I thought, and I was grateful that someone, flouting my parameters, made the executive decision to substitute available organic carrots for out-of-stock conventional ones.

The employee and I checked the order as I shuttled items from crates to bags, two I had brought and two more that were provided because I was operating under the erroneous assumption that bags from home were now frowned upon. My only complaint, really, was that I might've picked a more comparably sized pair of yams than my anonymous shopping proxy. On balance, though, I'd call that (apologies) small potatoes. The clerk took a few coupons I had on hand, said these would be deducted from the total, and the new amount would be billed to the credit card I had provided online. Emailed encouragement from the store later estimated I had saved 30 minutes making this transaction versus traditional shopping. Not even close to an FFT; more like EZPZ.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Showtime - 3.29 #sol20 Story Challenge

My partner and I escaped into a musical last night, watching The Greatest Showman on cable TV. It was cheesy and ridiculous in the ways that most musicals feel to me. The story's overstuffed melodrama swelled predictably only to be resolved with cartoon ease -- which, I'd argue, was just what the proverbial doctor of wellness ordered.

One song from the score is called "This Is Me," and hearing it reminded me of a clip shared years ago at a staff meeting. In that setting, its purpose now dim in my memory, the moment felt like a cheap, manipulative pep talk. It still gave me goosebumps. (Count me among the suckers born every minute, a sentiment though not a quote attributable to P.T. Barnum himself.)

In our present circumstances, I figure who couldn't use that feeling of shivery exhilaration. So, if you haven't seen this short before or even if you have and you just want to experience it again, watch this when you're ready.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

I can't believe it's not a run-on sentence 8 - 3.28 #sol20 Story Challenge

"O brave new world / That has such people in't," proclaims Miranda in the fifth and final act of Wiliiam Shakespeare's The Tempest, a thought I find myself echoing in a corner of my own brain as I sit in front of a laptop, enjoying this digital Hangout version of a Friday Afternoon Club more than I thought I would -- our socially distanced group of 14 colleagues sipping BYOB drinks and catching up on our unprecedented weeks, all while some fold laundry or unpack from a recent move or prep dinner or tend to their beloved pets, chores that would no doubt be frowned on or deemed downright off limits at local watering holes; plus here in the strange isolated comfort of our abodes, connected to and through our devices, we can actually hear everyone talk.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Where I'm calling from - 3.26 #sol20 Story Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic seems like a mixed blessing for the video conference industry. On one hand, many of us are now Dick Tracy with a gee-whiz wristwatch while, on the other hand, spotty picture, sound, and connectivity -- to say nothing of this brave new world of etiquette pitfalls -- are regularly proving the genie not quite ready for this abrupt release from its bottle.

Just yesterday, I enjoyed a pleasant one-on-one call with a willing eighth-grade volunteer. The technology afforded a welcome moment of paradoxically remote connection. We got a little work done, sure, conferring about a piece of writing the student started for fun before this long pandemic pause, but the highlights for me were an impromptu tour through his house to see a bathroom renovation in progress and a hands-on tutorial about a board game called Galaxy Defenders, in which the student and his brother have been losing themselves lately. To get to those worthy points, I realized at the call's appointed start time -- when I remained all alone -- that I actually needed to teach the student how to join because a link embedded in a calendar invitation is not necessarily intuitive for most tweens.

Later in the day, I had a call with a colleague and another group session with a dozen far-flung family members. Those tries were fraught compared to the student conference. When available, video signals came across blurry or pixelated; microphones failed to deliver reliably; internet connections bucked and reared, throwing us off our calls. (My brother-in-law, whose routine is remote work, reported, "I heard Zoom's telling employees not to host calls that start at the top or bottom of the hour, to ease off on bandwidth demands.")

With our routines upended by social distancing and an increasing number of shelter-in-place orders, we find ourselves between the proverbial rock and hard place. It's where we're calling from, to borrow a short-story title from writer Raymond Carver.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Just dance - 3.25 #sol20 Story Challenge

When it comes to my life's potential partners, dancing sits against the wall, pressed into a corner far outside my comfort zone. Music, I enjoy listening to, but releasing my body to those rhythms and melodies is never something I've embraced.

In fact, for our wedding, I tricked myself into dancing by approaching the endeavor as an odd cognitive exercise. (Which, when I write it that way, sounds shamefully unromantic.) My now wife and I enrolled in a semester of dance classes, with four other couples' worth of friends and an instructor who was fittingly a moonlighting college professor. The professor taught us principles and steps, which I learned like recipes. "Put your hand here and here. Your left foot goes there, your right foot, like so. Now do this." Et cetera. We already had a first -- ahem, only -- dance song in mind, one that made us laugh self-deprecatingly, and the professor programmed us with a routine that synced our kinesthetics to the tune's aesthetics. Like a player piano, we followed the mental equivalent of a perforated music roll, over and over.

At the wedding reception, 13 years ago today, we carried out the plan we had practiced. We danced a tango to a cover of this song about tangoing. We smiled at each other all the way to the last choreographed dip, our assembled friends and family grinning in amusement. Whew.