Monday, April 30, 2018

Defensive thriving

My wife and I built two pieces of Ikea furniture last week. As a defensive pessimist, I entered the experience determined to keep my expectations comfortably low.

Forty-five minutes spent on hold trying to pin down over the phone a delivery time left me stirred up by dire recordings. Improperly anchored furnishings, I was told repeatedly, might fall and crush me or those I loved. (Turns out this direness may be deserved given the scope of a nearly two-year-old recall...) Thankfully, our low-slung models provided little or no danger.

I proceeded to a new gripe. "There'll probably be pieces missing," I scoffed. Turns out there were, specifically the mattress for the bed, but my wife's persistence rectified that glaring oversight.

Our woes proved to be predictable and easily overcome:
  • One poorly machined screw that we could hand tighten in an easy-to-reach spot
  • Two metal rails whose screw holes didn't align with the unintuitive diagram ("Why don't they use words?" my wife asked.) until we realized that we needed to reverse their sides in the bed frame
  • Fabric wrinkles smoothing themselves out as we speak since we skipped the optional ironing step
We finished our projects slightly ahead of schedule -- a daybed, a desk, and our relationship intact. (Yay, zeugma!) Defensive pessimism never felt so good, or at least not so bad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Triangle trade

I spent March writing daily as part of Two Writing Teachers' annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Then, 11 days ago, I learned that luck broke my way: I'd be receiving, as a prize for my participation, a bundle of picture books donated by MacMillan Publishers. Those books turned up at school Monday in a burly bubble envelope. This morning, I felt the joy of dropping by our school library to donate the titles. Our librarian beamed as only librarians can in the presence of new books. She flipped through the pages; she gave them a smell; she pronounced herself delighted.

Let's stop and think about that for one more moment... The words I informally published in virtual spaces led to formally published words occupying actual spaces (and, hopefully soon, young hands), leading me to dream up yet more words to describe these dizzying literacy transactions.

One of those words ought to be: Thanks, directed at those who lead the TWT blog as well as the donors who've generously incentivized challenges.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Regimen meets regiments

The weather in these parts has lately served up (sporadic, unreliable) springtime, so I hopped on my bicycle to pedal to school Monday morning. Another factor in my favor: Multi-use paths web my town, and they're delightfully uncrowded around 6:30 in the morning. Usually.

First sign of trouble: A man standing on the side of the path holding what I surmised to be, as I whizzed by, a stopwatch. Having encountered this scenario before, I knew to expect runners. Seconds later, I came upon the first mob stampeding my way, wearing yellow t-shirts marked with big block blue letters: N-A-V-Y. The Reserve Officers' Training Corps from the nearby university was getting after it this morning. [Side note of interest to English teachers and other word nerds: Corps has the same form whether it's singular or plural, but the pronunciation varies from the singular kor to the plural korz.]

The side note is relevant because it turned out I had more corps with which to contend. [I will avoid a side note editorializing about stilted constructions that result from trying not end a sentence on a preposition.] Having just gotten clear of the yellow fellows, I noticed ahead a group of 50-plus in sporty garb massing impenetrably across the path. ("I need to get a bell," I thought to myself.) I shouted a hearty, "Good morning," which was answered by echoes of: "Bike!" "Bike!" "Bike!" The drab green sea then parted for me to coast through. [Side note: I'm leaving that last preposition right where it is.]

My bike and I gathered speed for a moment until we encountered a third battalion. These young soldiers had on full fatigues, heavy packs, and clomping boots that echoed mightily as they shuffled down the path in time.

"Might the Air Force be somewhere overhead this morning, unseen?" I wondered, picking up my own left-left, left-right-left cadence.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The temperature today

You know that temperature?

The one where it rains early -- snows even --
then clears by midmorning so the world feels rinsed shiny-clean
and the spring sun gleams impossibly bright?

The one where the air is Peppermint Patty cool,
yet you can still feel warm solar fingers on your face?

The one where, if you go out running on a trail that has just had enough time to dry out,
you can't keep from smiling.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Play ball or something else

Before I was a teacher, I was a sports writer, and I still have a softish spot in my heart for that section of the newspaper -- for newspapers as a whole, truthfully, give or take the business pages.

This appreciation for artful writing about games's predictable unpredictability lands April, with its sports smorgasbord, as my favorite calendar month. Among its offerings: the new professional baseball season being unwrapped even as the closing moments of March Madness overrun their eponymous bounds; top-level basketball and hockey leagues upshifting from tedious regular seasons to high-stakes playoffs; and football, which seems to lack any off season of note, ramping up to its annual draft. I might even turn half an eye to the Masters, though golf doesn't rate much above the business pages in my sometimes curmudgeonly estimation.

Yup, it's a heady month to be a sports fan.