"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Letter From an Angry Parent

Thank you to everyone who participated in my Mad Lib experiment!  I enjoyed reading all the submissions and have decided to post two different versions of the story.  Thanks to Maggie W. and Sarah D. for your winning contributions.

[The following blog entry is a work of fiction.  Names, places, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or emails sent to me by parents is entirely coincidental.]

Letter From an Angry Parent

Dear Ms. Wit (or should I say grandiose idiot),
            As you are aware, my daughter Ima is a student in your 7th grade language arts class, and I am writing to tell you that I am appalled by your teaching methods.
            First of all my subterranean child is obviously extremely dinky.  She writes lovingly and scrambles with such maturity and excitement that anyone should be proud to have her as a bottle.  When my good friend Denzel Washington read Ima’s poems, he said, “Racklefratz!  These should be tickled immediately!”  And yet you gave her a grade of 7 on those assignments.  It breaks my belly button to see Ima’s talent go unappreciated like that.
            And in regards to her behavior in class, I instantly became cerulean blue in the face when I received your email saying my cavernous little girl served a 13-minute detention for perambulating koalas in class and acting foppish to you.  She was simply expressing herself!   How dare you infringe upon her right to freedom of basket!  When my dear friend Meryl Streep heard of this, she said, “Oops!  That behavior simply shows she is creative and surly!”
            Ms. Wit, I graduated number 3 in my class from the University of the Mountains, and I will not tolerate my child being cavorted by such vigorous lips.  That is why I have created a petition to have you meandered.  I have already received 1 signature.  Expect to hear from my street sweeper soon.

Parent of a Perfect Child

Dear Ms. Bach (or should I say stinky idiot),
            As you are aware, my daughter Willow is a student in your 7th grade language arts class, and I am writing to tell you that I am appalled by your teaching methods.
            First of all my shy child is obviously extremely hideous.  She writes perfectly and dances with such maturity and distress that anyone should be proud to have her as a squirrel.  When my good friend Prince read Willow’s poems, he said, “Cheese Pizza!  These should be swum immediately!”  And yet you gave her a grade of 4815162342 on those assignments.  It breaks my armpit to see Willow’s talent go unappreciated like that.
            And in regards to her behavior in class, I instantly became chartreuse in the face when I received your email saying my rotund little girl served a 7-minute detention for bouncing scissors in class and acting sticky to you.  She was simply expressing herself!   How dare you infringe upon her right to freedom of bookmark!  When my dear friend Zoey Deschanel heard of this, she said, “Geronimo!  That behavior simply shows she is creative and sweet!”
            Ms. Bach, I graduated number 806 in my class from the University of the Land, and I will not tolerate my child being smelled by such a shiny kneecap.  That is why I have created a petition to have you phoned.  I have already received eleventy signatures.  Expect to hear from my time lord soon.

Parent of a Perfect Child

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fill in the ______

Who doesn’t love a good Mad Lib?  

To complete my next blog post, I need your help.  Fill in the missing words from my story and email them to cariejuettner@gmail.com.  On Tuesday, I will post my blog using the best set of words that I received.  Please remember that I’d like to keep my blog PG-13 and have fun!

1. Last Name ________________________
2. Adjective ________________________
3. Girl’s First Name ________________________
4. Adjective ________________________
5. Adjective ________________________
6. Adverb ________________________
7. Verb (present tense) ________________________
8. Emotion ________________________
9. Noun ________________________
10. Celebrity ________________________
11. (Same as #3)
12. Exclamation ________________________
13. Verb (past tense) ________________________
14. Number ________________________
15. Body Part ________________________
16. (Same as #3)
17. Color ________________________
18. Adjective ________________________
19. Number ________________________
20. Verb (ending in ing) ________________________
21. Plural Noun ________________________
22. Adjective ________________________
23. Noun ________________________
24. Celebrity ________________________
25. Exclamation ________________________
26. Adjective ________________________
27. (Same as #1)
28. Number ________________________
29. Place ________________________
30. Verb (past tense) ________________________
31. Adjective ________________________
32. Body Part ________________________
33. Verb (past tense) ________________________
34. Number ________________________
35. Profession ________________________
36. Adverb ________________________

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Retiring Some Old Friends

I get attached to things.

Dilapidated furniture that I no longer sit on but which I loved back in college.  Keys to places where I used to live.  Old mix tapes that I don’t even have a way to play anymore.  (That is rather alarming now that I think about it.  Note to self:  Must get cassette tape player and spend one more glorious night pretending it is 1988.)  Sometimes I get attached to things simply because of the memories they bring with them.  I keep my copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary, not because I loved the book, but because the book reminds me of my flight to London to meet my cousin and on-again-off-again boyfriend for the Reading Music Festival.  Looking at that book reminds me of driving to Walmart at 6AM to buy a tent (long story) and the hour-long delay on the plane waiting for it to take off.

So hopefully this will help you appreciate why getting new hiking shoes is (for me) more than just an errand.

Today I walked into the New Balance store on Burnet Road, held up a pair of dirty, frayed, literally falling apart hiking shoes and said to the salesman, “I bought these shoes here in the spring of 2001.”

“And… you want to return them?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “I love them.  I want to take a time machine back eleven years and buy another pair.”

Instead, he showed me the current version of my beloved shoes and, after a record low number of times trying them on, I bought them.  (They are on my feet now and my feet are happy.  My feet had forgotten what cushioning felt like and are hurling muffled curses up at me for not going shopping sooner.  My feet, oddly enough, do not get as attached to things as I do.)

Now… what to do with the old pair…  (If your brain just said, “Uh, throw them away, DUH,” then you have no soul.)  No, I think I’ll toss them in the trunk of my car and tell myself that I’ll be happy to have them some day when I stumble upon the perfect hiking trail while wearing flip flops.  I’m pretty sure there is a 20-year-old pair of Converse in there somewhere to keep them company.

But I can’t retire these old friends without first reminiscing a bit about the memories they bring to mind. 

I bought those shoes during my second year of teaching, a few months before I took a two-week trip to Peru with my friend Maggie, my friend Emily, and a tour group that included five high school girls.  I bought them specifically for that vacation, knowing that I needed something sturdy and supportive and comfortable for all the walking and hiking we would do.  Those shoes traversed the streets of Lima and the stones of Pisac.  They carried my feet through the Amazon jungle and up the steps of Machu Picchu.  I wore them on planes, trains, busses, and boats. And they were perfect.
Me laying in a grave in the
Museum of History and
Archaeology in Lima...
wearing the shoes

Me hiking at Machu Picchu,
wearing the shoes
Me getting healed by a
curandero, wearing the shoes
There was one Peruvian memory that only my shoes and I knew for quite some time.   Thinking about it now makes me laugh, but when it first happened, for some reason I was embarrassed to tell it. 

Me holding a sloth
in the Amazon
and although you can't
see them, I can promise
you that I was
wearing the shoes.
It was about halfway into our trip.  I was having a great time, but was having trouble absorbing it all.  Every day was jam-packed with sightseeing and cultural activities and we never stayed more than one night in a hotel before moving on to somewhere else.  My friend Emily and I shared a room most places and generally hung out together, but on this day we split up.  She went to the hot springs with some others and I went back into town to do some more shopping alone.  Afterwards, I headed back to our hotel to put my stuff away, change clothes, and meet the group at the springs. 

When I got to the hotel, I realized we had only been given one key to the room and Emily had it.  I explained the situation at the front desk and the lady said “No problem” and asked for my room number.  I told her 217 and she gave me the key.  I had been in a rush, but the moment I stepped into the room, I thought about how nice it would be to just sit down for five minutes and relax by myself before meeting up with the others.  So I sat down on my bed and took a deep breath.  Then, several thoughts entered my brain in rapid succession.

Why did Emily put HER backpack on MY bed?  I didn’t realize Emily was reading THAT book.  Where is MY book?  What’s that sound?  It sounds like a shower.  Why are there men’s shoes in our room?  Wait, no, that was the sound of a shower turning OFF.  OH MY GOD THIS IS NOT MY ROOM IT’S SOME GUY’S ROOM AND HE’S ABOUT TO COME OUT OF THE BATHROOM!!!!

My new hiking shoes had never moved so fast and so quietly.  I grabbed my shopping bags and the key, leaped to the door, snuck out, shut it as silently as possible, sprinted down the stairs and then, with my heart pounding in my ears, forced myself to calmly walk up to the desk and say, “Actually, I just remembered, I’m in 712, not 217.  I got the wrong key.”

“No problem,” she replied and handed me the key to MY hotel room.

I will never know who was in that shower or what might have transpired if he had walked out of the bathroom and seen me sitting on his bed leafing through his book.  I may have altered the entire course of my life by high-tailing it out of that room at that moment.  But that’s ok.  Because things have worked out pretty well for me.   Here I am on a gorgeous spring day in Austin, Texas, and the biggest problem I’ve faced today is how to appropriately honor an old pair of sneakers.

I mean really, put yourself in my shoes.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On a Lighter Note... Oh What an April Fool I Am

[Thank you for all of your comments and kind words about my last blog post.  I appreciate all of the support I have received.  But now it’s time for a chuckle instead of a cry.]

This morning at 6:43AM I awoke to my husband shouting, “Get up!  Broken glass!”  Thinking that someone was breaking into our home, I opened my eyes and began searching my mind for a weapon / defense mechanism / plan and (sadly) came up with nothing.  It’s nice to know that in my state of sleepy panic, I could not think of the baseball bats in the corner, the ferocious hound snoring in his crate, or even the cell phone on my night stand.  Nope, I drew a blank.  It didn’t matter much anyway because my husband was already opening our bedroom door and confidently striding out toward whatever horror lay beyond without hesitation so, with some vague notions of We are a team, we must stick together, I followed him.

Don’t worry.  The only terrorists in our house were the ones who live here.  Our cats had knocked a basket containing random crap off our kitchen counter onto the floor, sending screwdrivers, old cameras, jar lids, binoculars, and cell phone chargers scattering across the hardwoods.  (See?  Random crap.  Why, what do you keep on YOUR kitchen counter?)

Hubby sighed and said, “Whew.  It was just this.  I thought they had broken a glass and maybe someone got cut.”   He started cleaning up the mess until he noticed that I was in a teary ball on the floor, trying to grasp the concept that I would, in fact, live to see another day.

This led to an early-morning conversation between hubby and me in which I stressed that he should probably insert the word “cat” or maybe even “minor non-life-threatening incident” into his next wake-up call, and he pointed out that, A) he can’t believe that I slept through the sound of a crash ten feet from the bed, and B) if someone does ever break into our home perhaps I should call the cops instead of collapsing into a ball on the floor.

Me:  “Whatever.  You scared me.”

Him:  “Pretty good practical joke, huh?”

Me:  “Do you even know what today is?”

And then we both laughed, because of course, today is April 1st, the day of foolers and fools, and my husband got me without even meaning to.

The reason why that annoys me so much is because in my family, April Fool’s Day is not taken lightly.  It is planned for, developed, schemed, and executed.  If you have to take a day off work, so be it.  If you have to hide in your car between the hours of midnight and 3AM to make it work, that’s what you’ll do.  It’s serious business.

Last year on this day, my dad (the original prankster) and my brother (perhaps the most dedicated) spent their time double, triple, and quadruple crossing each other up in Dallas, while I (4 hours away in Austin) convinced myself that I was their target and spent the day trying to discern truth from lies on the telephone and flinching every time I opened a closet door.  I basically, after a lifetime of having to be on my guard, pranked myself.

But my husband comes from one of those strange families who don’t scare each other or lie to each other or try to make each other look like idiots.  (I feel sorry for him sometimes, thinking about what a sad childhood he must have had. ) So he doesn’t get into these holidays, never thinks to pull a prank or plan a trick.
And that’s why it irks me that he scared me so bad this morning.

That’s ok though.  The joke’s on him.  Because when he finally wakes up and tries to get dressed, he’s going to realize that he can’t find any underwear.  Nope, the only ones left in the house are the comically small Spiderman undies that I once bought him as a gag.  Guess he’ll have to be my superhero today if he ever wants to see his boxer-briefs again.

“We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”  
~Japanese Proverb