Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

We finally went to the movies this summer. With all the fun movies that have come out, we just haven't been very good about getting to the theater. #thesummerfantastic

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Folder 5 of 5. Look at the top right-hand corner. Do you see it? I went to a small, small Catholic school through 8th grade. Isn't this folder totally appropriate for that class? I think? In its second life, this folder will represent my 7th grade yearbook class because working on the yearbook, well, it's just like keeping your head above water as you're being attacked by a White Water Rapid Creature From the Black Lagoon. #sorad #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Folder 4 of 5. Because 7th graders are on their way up. And 8th graders are still able to put them in their place. I also tend to love the 7th graders just like I love pterodactyls and rock climbing. #sorad #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Folder 3 of 5. This one will be OTHER 8th grade folder. For newspaper. Because 8th graders are tough. And we need to be afraid of them. Also, my shoe size hasn't changed since 8th grade. I've been wearing size 9 since my voice changed. #sorad #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Folder 2 of 5. You need to understand, these folders were from when I was in middle school. Obviously, I'm not going to use it for science. I think the tiger tearing into the football is perfect for my 8th grade yearbook class because when they Snapchat, this is obviously what they think they see. #sorad #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Folder 1 of 5. While getting rid of old supplies from an art bin, I came across old Trapper Keeper folders. They're in pretty good condition, and I'll be using them in my classroom. I think this one symbolizes 6th graders rather well, right? #sorad #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Ghostly outtakes. I put the camera on a tripod and turned the shutter speed way down. With the help of my remote and candlelight, I thought ghosts might appear. They did. #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

The power didn't come back on until 3 a.m. We broke into our stash of candles we still have from our wedding 11 years ago, which was candlelit. #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

There wasn't much to do with no power and (weirdly) no phone service. So, I went ghost hunting. And found one. #thesummerfantastic

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

As we cleaned out our closets and separated clothes for Goodwill, I told @wifefriend that I would wear this shirt because it was a large. She was in the show when she was 14. It's 21 years old. This fall, well have been in each other's lives for 21 years. #thesummerfantastic

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

There are a bunch of sunflowers around the park sign. I bet your park signs don't have a bunch of sunflowers growing around them. #thesummerfantastic

Saturday, July 09, 2016

I'm staying at Camp NaNoWriMo for the month

There's a month of writing insanity. It happens in November when the doldrums of winter begin to rear its ugly head. It happens right at the beginning of the holiday season, which tends to spur even more insanity. I've written about National Novel Writing Month before, have taken part, and I've also "won" (met the 50,000 word count minimum) twice out of the three times I've done it.

I know, I know, writers talking about writing. How meta can you get?

More like meta-cognition, am I right?


Well, crickets are appropriate because November is a long way off -- let's hope it stays far, far away. Like, I don't even want it to exist right now as we head toward the middle of July.

Crickets are the nocturnal symphony of summer. You go outside after the sun has disappeared from the horizon, the stucco orange and bright Crayola magenta of the sky cooled off to that evening blue, and as the lightning bugs (or fireflies, depending on your locale) dot the yard with yellow, you hold your glass of red wine and sigh.

This is it. The openness of summer. Limitless green, biting mosquitoes, fireworks long after the Fourth of July, sponge-like air, and the soft nighttime breeze.

It turns out, in all this openness, the people at the nonprofit NaNoWriMo do more than just promote writing during the month of writing. They promote it all the time, and during the summer they host Camp NaNoWriMo.

Now, I've never been to camp. I can't compare the experiences.

But, I've signed up for camp this July, and I've been at work writing, writing, and more writing. I'm a fake writer because I lack the discipline needed. I need things like Camp NaNoWrimo and November because it forces me to be disciplined. If I'm going to take it seriously, which I tend to, I will actually sit down daily and write -- something I need to do.

I feel a little bad because I've shelved my most current work -- editing, that is, so I can start finding readers and an agent.

I'll pick it back up here shortly, but for now, I'm detouring.

I'm currently working within a world I've already created. The book I'm currently editing, and hoping finds an agent, just gained a sister novel. Well, by the end of July it will have a sister novel. Not quite a sequel because it's not a continuation of my previous book, but they will go hand-in-hand. They exist in the same world.

The first story I wrote almost two years ago takes place in a land the characters call Can-tacky -- which sounds very similar to Kentucky, doesn't it? This current story is more local. It's happening about ten minutes away in the land the characters have dubbed Pandletum-Indyama.

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

She so badly wants to go outside, but we haven't finished our coffee yet, nor eaten. #bepatient #thesummerfantastic

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

This thing is tired today, and the gloomy weather is not helping. She's stuck watching the world through the window. #thesummerfantastic

Monday, July 04, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Waiting for the fun to begin. #fourthofjuly #thesummerfantastic

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Remember to only let the adults light the fireworks, and for some of you adults, let real adults light the fireworks. If there aren't any real adults around, just watch the Macy's ones on TV. #thesummerfantastic

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Meet Jeb and his sister Mavis. They just witnessed something that has changes their lives, but what will happen next? #thesummerfantastic #whenthewavescamein #amwriting #editing

Once more I sit down to Write an Essay

When I sit down to write an essay, I think about E.B. White's "Once More to the Lake," and feel inadequate. It ruined me by being quintessential. I feel like essays should always have that introspective opening, with lots of description throughout, and unbeknownst to the reader, the writer becomes a wiley ninja, whispering a life lesson to the reader in the last few paragraphs.

The reader clutches said essay to his breast, looks up to the sky and yearns.

This is why I can't write an essay. I feel like I will never be able to make someone clutch and yearn.

When I try to write an essay, there are usually directions or writing prompts. Please take your experiences about being human and blow them wide open so the reader can be all, "That was so brilliant. His mind goes places mine never does." So, if I, the writer, were to live in France, even though I'm an American, they'd say, "That's why he lives in France and we don't."

Not that I'd want to live there. The only city in France is Paris, and I hear Paris is filthy.

The rest of France must be fields with cows in them.

When I try to write an essay, I believe one must be like a Fitzgeraldian alcoholic or kill himself ala David Foster Wallace, and then write about it.

I so badly (but not badly enough) want to be an all-powerful literary person. To be all kinds of well-read while being blissfully unaware, but softly Joan-Didion-esque.

"He knows what he's doing," the reader would say.

"He must be so literary," another would say.

"He's better than Jonathan Frazen."

I would retort: "Oh, 'The Art of Fielding' you say? Blah, blah. Should've won a Pulitzer. 'The Marriage Plot'? Yes, yes, so I've heard."

(All I know is they both use the same font style on their covers and that means it's the same story and therefore I won't read either of them because, in the eye of my brainstorm, I feel like both writers cheated off each other, even though they didn't design the book covers.)

When I try to write an essay, I want to guffaw at the list of books that blogs post that every writer needs to read. Instead, I want to write about how I am well-read in what I want to read. It's not very literary, nor is it Canonical. Is this bad?

This is where I would quote someone, even my grandmother, about being unapologetic for liking what I like and that my perceptions are not bad.

Then, I would uplift my statement by saying "Hey you, if you feel the same way, you can put down all that 'fine' literature." You can put down "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen or "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and start reading "The Walking Dead" instead.

Like, it's OK now because I was that someone out there that said you could watch "Falling Skies" instead of "Mad Men." That you don't have to feel bad you're not watching the latest Aaron Sorkin TV show because you don't have HBO. That TNT dramas are just as good.

I want to write an essay that lets the public know that it's OK. You don't have to try so hard.

Instead, when I try to write an essay, a snobby old white man comes out of my mouth. He burps boring words onto the page that talks about my benign, middle-class existence. He tries to make it timeless, without mentioning titles and brands, and then he slithers away out of the room like Nagini, and I wonder "Why didn't I write 'Harry Potter'?"

I tell myself, this is why you dwell in fiction and not the essay. It is a far easier making. Otherwise, I sit up up at night trying to find truth in my indecision to wash my face before bed or why I choose not to watch "Mad Men."  

When I sit down to write an essay, I think about modeling the style after another essay out there, so it will be timeless, so I look up classic, well-written essays, and there it is, reminding me that it's an essay, just like the Duggers remind us that they have children: "Once More to the Lake."

And, once more, I sit down and try to write an essay.

"Library of Souls" by Ransom Riggs

Ransom Riggs has put himself in line with the darker, but not too dark, realm of Neil Gaiman.

Using old black and white photographs to aid in his story, if not using them to give him ideas, Riggs has set up a storytelling technique that could follow him into other books. He could set up new worlds, using old photos, or he could return to the world of the Peculiars that he has created. Either way, if he abandons the old photos used in his stories, I will be sad.

Like, I get it. As an author, he probably wants to go write other things, use new ideas, but as far as I know, other writers aren't using real photos (that are definitely altered and Photoshopped before computers and Photoshop were even a thing) to help tell the story.

In the past three books we've learned that there's a secret species of humans that have abilities called Peculiars, and the best part of these abilities is that some of them are absurd. A girl that has to wear heavy shoes, otherwise she'll float away. A boy that can control bees, and keeps them in his stomach. A little girl that has two mouths...one of them is on the back of her head. A dog that can talk. Instead of being like superheros from the Marvel or DC universe, these characters feel more like discarded circus folk. Sure they could use their unique abilities to save people, but really, they wear the world around them like an itchy sweater.

We've learned that there are women who are the leaders of these Peculiars called ymbrynes. They can change into birds, but they also have the unique ability to stop time around them and create a loop where the Peculiars can live (forever, because they stop aging) safely.

We've learned there are plenty of different loops, in all different time periods, that the Peculiars can find.

We've learned that the bad guys, one of them related to the well-known Miss Peregrine, has decided that it's time to take back power and let Peculiars be the superpowers they were always meant to be.

The title of "Library of Souls" finally makes sense because, apparently, this Library really does exist and by finding it means ultimate power.

So, in the final installment of his Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children trilogy, our heroes, Jacob and Emma, are alone in rescuing their captured friends. Stopping the Big Bad from finding the "Library of Souls" and venturing into a crazy loop called Devil's Acre, a loop in the grimy parts of Victorian England, that houses the Whights, Hallowgasts and adult Peculiars who are also criminals.

We find out Jacob's ability to see Hollowgasts is more than that, he can control them, which will give him the edge he needs, but it's not enough. He needs the help of new friends he meets in Devil's Acre. He also must battle with his place in the world. Where does he truly belong? He continues to fall in love with Emma, the girl who can create fire (the most underused ability in the book -- like, she could've burned many-a-bad guy). He continues to feel bad for leaving his parents behind in the present.

Obviously the book ends well, and Riggs does a lovely job of throwing you off course for a few pages, and then really giving you the ending that you're glad to see happen.

With the first book becoming a movie this September, I'm curious if Tim Burton will take on the other two books. I would be OK if he doesn't, seeing how "The Hunger Games" just carried on and became irrelevant. Like, I never did see "Mockingjay, Part 2" because I was like, "I'm over it, sorry 'boutchya."

I also wasn't in love with "The Hunger Games." It was good, but not weird enough. I like weird.

Miss Peregrine's kids are weird.

And I love them for it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Liveblogging Event: Jurrasic Park

We start with the delicious summer soundtrack of crickets in the background and the "aaaahhh's" of the chorus. Remember, for an epic movie of this stature, we must first start with some ominous action.

The trees separate.

The men with their hard hats wait.

An Australian holds a tranquilizer gun.

It seems either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton has been delivered in a cage. He/she squeals from inside. All the men in orange hard hats take precaution. The Australian puts another shrimp on the barbie. A gate is raised, but wait!

Trump or Clinton is just too strong for the all these men. He/she kicks back the cage and attacks!

Crocodile Dundee shouts "shoot her! Shoot. Her!"

It was Hilary Clinton!

This adventure movie was 65 million years in the making
Cut-to: We're brushing sand off a bone. Oh, look! We're at the Children's Museum Dino Dome!

Wait. Just kidding. It's Sam Neil and Laura Dern, our Dino Divas. We just shot some kind of camera thingee into the ground to look at some velociraptor via X-ray. As they look up at the screen, talking about how the raptor is related to birds, a bratty kids shows up all middle school and says:

"That doesn't look very scary to me! Like some giant turkey."

And Sam Neil, with the eyes of a raptor, approaches the brat, pulls out a claw, and shows exactly how the dinosaur would gut the kid.

And that my friends, is how you discipline middle schoolers! Where can I find a velociraptor claw? I'll wear it around my neck like a shark tooth.

OH NO! John Hammond, Mr. Spare No Expense, has arrived! Let's start the game: every time John Hammond says "spare no expense," take shot.

His helicopter is blowing sand all over the place, destroying the fossils. But, it's OK, because somehow Hammond is important because Neil and Dern are impressed, and he's trying to sway them to come visit some kind of park.

"I've spent a gajillion dollars, Spare No Expense!"

Take a shot.

The Dino Diva's don't seem so impressed. Like, why would they want to go to some park like Disney World, huh? Wait, what? He's bribing them by funding the Dino Divas' dig for three years!

That is, if they make it out alive.

Now we're at some shack on an island with Neeewman. He's sketchy, obviously, and smarming-it-up in his Hawaiian shirt.

"Derp, derp, derpidy, derp," he says, spitting everywhere, pit stains flying. "I'll bring you back your dino embryos, along with a gallon of danger."

And so, we now have a villain. He's going to take his can of shaving cream back onto the isle of Jurassic Park, steal some contraband, and die.

We return to the Dino Divas as they fly a helicopter onto the island with Mr. Hammond and Jeff Goldblum. This helicopter ride is a bit rocky, but little does he know, he'll be flying a space ship next summer, saving the world from aliens in "Independence Day."

My question Mr. Goldblum is...how does one go from surviving a nightmare trip to an island with roaming dinosaurs and an alien invasion, the next summer, to being the spokesman for Apartments.com? Sadly, Netflix doesn't give me the ability to access the commentary to help explain Goldblum's decline.

I mean, sure he's going to be in "Independence Day: Resurgence" but since Will Smith isn't going to be in it, the movie doesn't even matter.

I digress.

So, we've almost got our entire surviving cast together, but first, we must make a pit stop in our Jurassic Park Jeep to look at brachiosauruses eating their salads. The Divas are having Dinogasms as they watch the long-necked herbivores munch on tree leaves.

"I also made the terrible decision to create a T-Rex, too," Hammond says.

"You've got a T-Rex?" Sam Neil asks.

"I've got a T-Rex," Hammond says. "Why wouldn't we invite the meanest girl to the dinosaur party?"

It really is just reptilian "Mean Girls." If T-Rex can't be the most popular dinosaur on the island, then no one gets to be popular. And there you have it, the overriding theme of this movie. It's not about whether man should play God, but what happens when the most popular can't be the most popular.

They kill.

Exposition time: instead of our characters saying things, we're going to have an animated piece of DNA tell the story. This is all true, by the way. Scientists really did stick a needle into a piece of amber that had a prehistoric mosquito in it. Then, they took the DNA of a frog mixed it with the DNA of a dinosaur in a Dixie Cup and wallah! Instant velociraptor.

It's better than Cup-A-Soup.

And bloodier.

"Those aren't noodles," Hammond says. "They're entrails."

Spare no expense!

The Dino Divas are not happy with passively sitting around on their ride learning about how dino babies are made ("You see, Jimmy, the egg is delivered by a pterodactyl..."). Instead, they break free, go into the lab, and watch a baby dinosaur push it's tiny head through an egg, covered in goo. It pops out, claws, squeals, and it's just so tiny.

That little dinosaur is just so adorable. It's just so tiny. It's just so... Veruca Salt storms in: "But, Daddy, I want a little velociraptor of my very own!"

And all the dinosaurs on Jurrasic Park are female.

Oh, that's right! Jeff Goldblum is a Chaos Theorist...or whatever. He's all, "It doesn't matter if the dinosaurs are all female, nature will find away."

But it doesn't matter -- Hammond has spilled the beans. There are velociraptors on the island. Who cares about the T-Rex. The real Dino Diva in this movie is the velociraptor.

No wonder the T-Rex is jealous.

And Crocodile Dundee is not amused. "And that's why they should all be killed."

"Now, now," Hammond says. "No dinosaur needs to be killed over popularity."

Cut-to: Lunch

There are quite a few mixed emotions. The lawyer that was super-skeptical is now going on about how people would pay $1,000 to come to the park. He's salivating. He can't wait to make t-shirts and key chains. He's all on board with coupon days, too!

Jeff Goldblum is not happy about the dinosaurs. They had their chance. Skepticism abounds. And no one is eating. That Sicillian Sea Bass looks absolutely scrumptious, and they're all worried about whether dinosaurs belong in the 20th Century or not. Like, c'mon people, where are your priorities? That, and you need to eat.

Seriously. Why aren't you eating? Stop talking about whether it's ethical or not and take a bite of the delicious food. It's probably $500 a plate, and you're just holding onto the table, furrowing your brows, spewing doom and gloom all over John Hammond.

Fine, then. When you get stranded in the park, while hiding from the jealous T-Rex, and your stomach starts to growl, don't come cryin' to me.

By the way, Laura Dern has Harry Potter glasses. She'll get a lightning bolt scar at some point, probably while being chased by the velociraptor.

I mean, that's how I got mine.

If John Hammond wasn't irresponsible enough, creating dinosaurs from a box of Jiffy, he's invited his grandchildren to tour the island. Some of you worry about your parents buying candy or toys for your children, or accidentally buying a violent video game.

Hammond's grandchildren get chased by a 9 ton T-Rex.

Makes your parents look pretty good, doesn't it?

The tour jeeps have just arrived to send the innocent people to their tropical doom.

"Spare no expense."

Take a shot.

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, the Lion Got Eaten by the T-Rex
We are now approaching the epic wooden doors. They're opening, and they look like the garage door for the Ark.

Hammond is not with all his victims guests as they traverse through the cloudy jungle, but he's going to be the narrator. He's all giddy with ego.

"Spare no expense," he says into the microphone.

Take a shot.

Ladies and gentleman, you'll see the Dilophosaurus, or the Dollypartonsaurus, or whatever, on your left. It's beautiful and deadly, but sadly, you don't get to see it. Now, press your faces against the glass and be completely bummed, but don't worry. You'll be able to experience the park in all its glory in just a few minutes.

The clouds descend from the sky as Tropical Storm Trump begins to move in. The Jeeps come to a complete stop, and the stage is set for dinner. Poor Billy Goat Gruff is stuck on a chain, waiting to be eaten, but Sam Neil, with his velociraptor eyes, tells us all that you can't just feed a T-Rex. The T-Rex wants to hunt.

And guess what T-Rex, once Tropical Storm Trump hits. You will.

Why, I've got a nice lawyer ready for you.

*slaps claw back*

No, no, no! Not yet. You need to wait until the lawyer is sitting on the toilet, then you can eat him.

We've hit a lull in the movie. Jeff Goldblum is flirting with Laura Dern, Sam Neil is trying not to be jealous like a T-Rex, but then Sam Neil just hops out of the car.

Cut-to: John Hammond saying, "How many times have I told you that we need locking mechanisms on the car doors."

Really, Hammond?

Worst. Grandpa. Ever.

Luckily, we're not in any danger, as we all hop out of the car, playing follow the leader with Sam Neil. It's just a gigantic pile of triceratops poop.

"I'm feeling kinky," Laura Dern says, giggling, as she puts on a long plastic glove and sticks her hand in the giant pile of dino bowel movement.

Like, how does she know what's wrong with a living, breathing dinosaur when all she's ever done is study plant fossils?

"Hey, Sam Neil, don't just lay on the dinosaur! It's sick! You'll catch it!"

*thunder in the background*

While all this is happening, Neeewman is hacking the Jurassic Park computer system. John Hammond, didn't you check his Facebook page before you hired him? I'm sure his Instagram is man-trampy.

While Neeewman steals some dinosaur embryos, and the computer systems all start shutting down, and Tropical Storm Trump sails in, and the ominous John Williams score crescendos, T-Rex is in the bathroom getting ready for her big reveal. She's putting just the right amount of goat blood on her lips to make them voluptuous.

Now, Neeewman takes his stolen embryos, steals a Jeep, and runs into the sign that points him to the dock where his boat is waiting, all while "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay" was playing on the radio.

"This is the perfect soundtrack to die to," he says, tapping the steering wheel.

While Neeewman works toward his inevitable end, our guests are stuck back at the T-Rex exhibit, waiting for her big reveal for "What Not to Wear: Jurrasic Edition." After the Dino Divas have gone through her closet, getting rid of all the terrible over-sized, animal prints, the rest of them wait to see how fabulous T-Rex looks with some form-fitting Triassic Leather.

As she's about to show her sassy new look, a goat leg just hit the sun roof of one of the Jeeps!

While this is all well and good, the lawyer just can't hold it anymore. He hops out of the jeeps, runs to the bathroom, and screams, "I can't hold it anymore!"

Then, with loud foot stomps and siren-like wails, T-Rex is about to make her grand entrance.

Wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...

And, ta da! T-Rex is here, girlfriend, and she is HONGRY.

But the big reveal is going all wrong. She's not happy at all. In fact, she's P.O'd that they made her get rid of all her animal prints and get a make-over.

She's going to kill all her guests!

I am so upset. I had almost finished editing the entire post when my browser froze. For some reason, the blog program I use decided that 6:18 p.m. was the last time I worked on the post and not 10:40 or so. In the YEARS I have used Blogger (and enjoyed the autosave), this has never happened to me.

What bums me out was that I had some pretty good jokes, too. I had Goldblum and Neil discussing the Jurassic Park sequels they were both involved with, I expanded on the ridiculousness that is the velociraptors. Oh well, maybe some day I'll watch the second-half of the movie and re-finish it. But today's not that day.

But there is one part that I remembered, so I will leave you with this:

There was this one bit when Sam Neil and the kids sit in the tree with the bronchiasauruses, so I introduced Grandma Bronchiasaurus, who put on her glasses and opened up "Goodnight Mesozoic Moon":

Goodnight Pangea, Goodnight gymnosperm
Goodnight Stegosaurus, Goodnight Invertebrate worm

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Mr. Squid, since you're an aquatic animal, what was up with tonight's rain? I mean...flooding in the front yard, tree limb just sitting on the power line connected to our house, not falling, not moving. You're stuffed and probably don't conduct electricity, so could you get the limb down please? #thesummerfantastic

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Goodbye old garage refrigerator. You've helped make me dependent on two fridges. #thesummerfantastic

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

Uh-oh, I got a selfie stick! They must not be a thing anymore because I got it for $5. #thesummerfantastic

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

I muddled mint and watermelon together and then added lemonade. Then wished I had a gallon of it. #thesummerfantastic

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

She starts her days out of the gates running. When we have to get up early, it catches up to her. #thesummerfantastic

Friday, June 10, 2016

I was a coach one...of tennis

It was toward the end of my first year of teaching. Things were going well. I was helping students make the ugliest yearbook ever (not on purpose, but you've got to start somewhere, right?) when I was approached by one of the seventh grade science teachers and the athletic director.

"We've got a proposition for you..." Athletic Director said.

They didn't seem angry, so I know I didn't do anything wrong.

"We were wondering," dramatic pause, "if you'd be willing to help coach tennis next year."

"Whaaa?" I started to say. "I took tennis lessons, like, once back when I was a tadpole."

"Since the other coach's wife is having triplets and is taking the season off, we thought you'd be a fun and energetic assistant coach. It will be just for one season."

I mean, I was already rockin' it as a track coach, right? Why not throw myself at the mercy of Tennis Moms in their skorts.

"Um, sure?" I said.

I mean, this was the end of my first full year of teaching. I survived. Staff members seemed to like me. I finished advising my first yearbook ever, and no one died. I was coaching track for the first time, right out of the gates, so why not add another sport I knew nothing about. It was like Russian Roulette.

"Which sport will I coach next?"

Spin the wheel!

"Camel Wrestling!"

Like, how bad could it be?

It's the same question Daniel asked himself when he walked into the lions' den. He became a hero. I made parents dislike me. The only similarity to the story is we both came out alive.


So the August of my second year came around, and just as I was sinking into the groove of another year, aiming to be better than I was the year before, my first quarter, one of the most important quarters of the year, was infiltrated with tennis. I didn't get the chance to stay in my room right after school and plan or work uninterrupted. Instead, I had to head out to the tennis courts. In August.

You've met August, right? It's the month your face melts off.

Here's the thing about track -- sure, we've got 200+ kids participating. It's a no-cut sport. If a kid will compete at varsity level, the time won't lie. The height or length they jump won't lie. The distance they throw a shot put or a discus isn't a ruse. There are hard cold facts staring us in the faces as a track coach. It's easy to tell who is the best. And the best part is, it can change.

Tennis is a cut sport.

Apparently, there are good tennis players and there are bad tennis players. There are levels of good and there are levels of bad. I can easily tell you what bad looks like. I cannot tell you what all the levels of good look like.

And, based on my ignorance of the sport, I had to form a boys' team.

I sat and watched them play against each other and decided that these kids right here were the best players, while those players over there will talk to their parents so I can get phone calls because they didn't make the team.

I created my roster. I made it known. And then, I found out a I cut a player that made the team the previous year. There was definitely a phone call about that. The smart thing to do would've been to look at the previous year's roster and then form the team based on that, and then fill in the gaps, right?

Nope. Not me! I just threw tennis balls at kids. If I hit them, they were on the team!

Best. Team. Ever.

Of course, we let that cut player join the team. I had no qualms about that. I think there were almost 18 boys on the team that year. There were normally, like, 10 or 12. I was like Oprah handing out positions:

"You get to be on the team! You get to be on the team! Everybody gets to be on the tennis team!"

It had to be obvious I had no clue what I was doing. I followed the other coach's lead, and she was wonderful to coach with, but you can't make up for ignorance. I knew I was a warm body for just one season, but that didn't make anyone who took the game seriously feel any better.

The rule of thumb? Don't let on. I desperately tried, but letting on and not letting on is a slippery slope.

Someone's going to catch you.

If there were phone calls or nasty comments, I never heard them. None of the parents had the gall to come up to my face and tell me.

I would've just agreed if they had.

"You're the worst. You have no clue what you're doing. Your coaching is worse than sub-par. You coach tennis like a centipede dances. You smell like feet!"

"I know! You're right!"


Instead, they went to the other coach and complained about me. I don't think there were very many -- maybe just one -- but she was one of those moms...

Oh, you just knew.

Luckily, I had the athletic director behind me (it was her idea for me to coach!) and I had the support of the girls' coach. Nothing could hurt me!

To some of the parents, I just wanted to say: "You have no power here. Be gone, before a house drops on you!"

This ain't the Olympics, yo!

But you dare not say that to Suburban Parents Where One Sport Will Rule Them All.

Instead, I kept my head down, said "yeah! Go team!" and kept my head above water, both in the classroom and out on the tennis courts. Teaching and coaching do not get easier during the second year. It's almost worse. You stop being naive and begin to realize your inadequacies.

Feeling inadequate is pretty brutal.

I came to find out later that year that the other coach, the one with the triplets, was going to take a second season off. The athletic director and the other coach asked if I would do it again.

One season was enough. I politely declined.

But, at the end of the season, the players (both boys and girls) got both of us coaches a giant tennis ball and signed it.

I keep it showcased on the top of a bookcase at school like a "Survivor" trophy. And if a student asks where it came from, I just say, "Well, for one season and one season only, I coached tennis."

"You were a coach?"

"Am a coach," I say. "I am a coach."

"What do you coach?"


"I didn't know you were a track coach..."

And let the circle be complete.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Photo Post the Summer Fantastic

First rule of carnivals: You ride the ferris wheel. Second rule of carnivals: You ride one of the airborne shoe-ins that could cost you a broken bone or lost limb. #thesummerfantastic