Friday, June 14, 2019

Taking Your Dream

I am from, and currently live in, St. Louis. Two nights ago our long-suffering St. Louis Blues hockey team won the Stanley Cup, which is the National Hockey League championship. We haven't won it in the entire history of the franchise. We haven't been to the finals since 1970--we were in it the first 3 years of our history, as essentially the best of the worst. Back in 1967 when the league expanded, they stuck all the new teams in the western division. We were the winners of the western division title, and then got thoroughly pummeled in 4 game series (those would be best of 4's) each time.

And we never got to go back. We would often make it into the playoffs, but never to the final.

The Blues are our "other" professional sports team, of course. We have the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, which wins a World Series every decade or so, with 11 won in our history. We have a loyal fanbase, and I will go ahead and say our fans are classy, usually well-mannered, and convivial. The Blues fan is typically a whiter, rougher individual, although ticket prices have risen to the point that many fans no longer have those nosebleed season tickets in the old "Barn," the Arena that used to be the Blues' home ice.

I went to three home games this year, more than I've been to since the 1980s. I was even at a 6-1 loss to the Canucks that led to a fight at the next Blues' practice. Like two of our players fighting each other on the ice. A new low. They were last by January and then somehow things started to turn around. I watched the playoff series vs. the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks and they were riveting even on my little computer screen propped up on the ottoman.

We lost game 1 to the Bruins, a team many hockey fans hate even when their team isn't playing them. But then we won game 2, the first Stanley Cup final game we'd ever won. Lost game 3, won game 4. Won game 5. We were home for game 6, where we could have taken the championship, but we lost it, and badly. We weren't playing well and it felt like it was slipping through our fingers.

Back in Boston, game 7, and we reigned all over that ice. It was clean hockey, too--only one penalty all game, and that was for delay of game, not tripping or high sticking or anything aggressive. Boston couldn't keep up with us. And they lost. At home.

That must have sucked, being on your home ice waiting for the mandatory gentleman's handshake while the Blues' bench empties and gloves scatter and everyone goes out to hug the rookie goalie who just won his 16th playoff game, beating a record.

And then the cameras caught Brad Marchand of the Bruins starting to cry. The same Marchand who had taunted and made crying gestures with his hands at the Blues when they lost a game earlier in the series. The same Marchand who is famous for his dirty play, including tripping players from behind and ducking down to hit players in their torsos, knocking them off balance. He's been censured, fined, and benched for his techniques.

Back in the locker room, they interviewed the Bruins players. Patrice Bergeron said, "You know, we ultimately didn’t capitalize on our chances and they did. You know, we got to give them credit. They deserved to win, but it’s not going to change the way we’ve competed and the way that we’ve battled to get to this point, but then, it doesn’t change the result whatever we say right now."

That is a typical loser-of-the-big-game speech. We both gave our best but they got the better of us. It happens. It hurts and it sucks but they deserve the win. I've heard baseball players, basketball coaches, all kinds of sports players and managers say those words.

Marchand said, "You know, they just took our dream, our lifetime dream from us, and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives. It was 60 minutes away from that. You can’t describe it."

We took their dream.

Marchand and the Bruins won the Cup in 2011. It was the Blues' first win. Not only that, but no player on the Blues had ever won. The Blues were in last place in January. They had an interim coach and a rookie goalie and a bunch of players dumped by other teams. They were fighting each other during practice in December. Then they turned it around and started to play good hockey. This is their Cinderella story, Marchand, this is St. Louis' Cinderella story. While I'm sure it would have been epic to get your second ring on home ice and celebrate instead of sitting empty hearted in the locker room...the Blues didn't take your dream.

We didn't take your dream, Marchand, because it wasn't your dream. You were playing in our dream this year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Some good news

My oak tree is still dead, but I got a more reasonable bid ($4800) and a little home equity loan because otherwise it was going on a credit card and I can't have that happening. It's coming down June 24 and it makes me sad but I'm excited about what to do with a sunny backyard.

I have the rest of today and then 2.5 days left of school. Most kids didn't come back after Memorial Day. Right now I have two students in my first block class--and no computers, no books, nothing on the walls--they are each coloring and listening to music on their phones and yes, that is what happens the last week of school.

Maeve has been having a hard time with some friend stuff but this past weekend she had a grade school friend over and it was so nice. She said to me, "I'm so glad I'm not just sad up in the room on my phone tonight" and my heart kind of broke but I was happy too.

I've paid off her braces.

I've been binge-watching "The Great Interior Design Challenge" which is like Project Runway if the judges were nicer but also there are English houses!

I get to loop with my kids--and keep my partner after all! This taught me two things: 1) our boss really appreciates us and I think it mattered when we presented her with our reasons to stay together, and 2) worrying about this shit gets me nowhere. Right now my partner is all worried about her schedule next year but I haven't borrowed that trouble. I am over here, knitting a washcloth and packing up the room and figuring out how to show a movie during my next class but I can't worry about all that anymore because I'm learning that it will all change by the time the shouting's done and I'll have to live with it either way.

My parsley and cilantro reseeded themselves and came back on their own. And somehow, several lettuce plants. My garden is happy this year so far.

I saw "Come From Away" and cried the whole time. Such a good story.

So that's the update. Mostly good news, at least the balance of it.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Sophia's cultural exchange continues

We are 14 hours apart so I was well into my day when Sophia woke up in her tatami mat room where no shoes or suitcases are allowed. She is staying in a guesthouse run by nuns.

Here is their backyard:

And here is what Sophia has learned this morning: "Google Translate is helpful with the overly complicated toilets." Hence:

Sophia's Day One Notes

Sophia is in Kyoto. I can't believe someone so close to me is so far away right now, but if I think too much about that I will start to cry and instead I'm going to post Sophia's note from day one:

Day One

Got up at 4 Central Time, going to bed at 21:30 Japan time with only like two hours of nap in between (I have been up like 26 hours). Shortish plane ride to SFO was pretty chill. Long plane ride to KIX was considerably less so.

Airplane food is not good.

Japan has mountains! Like, I knew this but it never clicked.

I like Sisters and the people who work for them.

The two English native people who are helping us out are a guy from New Zealand named Alistair and an American named ____, who I am pretty sure is a leperchaun in disguise. Just trust me on this.

Japan is super quiet.

Our taxi driver made small talk with us about Catholicism. English was not his first language. Dr. Bohac is not good at slowing down. It was an interesting conversation.

I don't think I have seen anyone wearing clothes that reveals their knees.

The roads are so thin and the cars more boxy and short.

Their airport is so much more relaxed. Customs took less time than a TSA check in would.

Toilets are far too complicated.

The water tastes a bit like seafood.

Friday, May 10, 2019


My oak tree is dead.

My house was built in 1926. The oak tree was probably already established at that point. I'd guess close to 150 years old just by how many people it takes to wrap our bodies around it (Girl Scouts rule of thumb for deciduous trees: one person hugs the tree, 50 years old. Two people to hug around the tree, 100. Three people, 150).

The former owners had it trimmed back but the people they hired were butchers and topped the tree terribly.

Last year the tree seemed sick when it leafed out, but my forester friend John said to give it a few years, it could come back with some TLC.

This spring, a branch 8 inches in diameter and 15 feet long landed on my roof in the middle of a thunderstorm. The tree barely leafed out. It looked bad. I called some tree services who confirmed my fears. The tree's main trunk had hypoxylon canker. No bueno. The tree was suffering and a fungus was helping it die.

I got some quotes. $5600 from one service, $8750 from another. The tree has to come down and my yard, the actual grass area of my yard that is not a detached garage or the house proper, is only about 30 feet by 15 feet. There is no way to let nature take its course gradually as if we had a giant oak in the woods out is the main feature of my yard and it is a dying hazard.

In addition, my boss offered me the terrible choice of either leaving my kids behind and not looping with them to 8th grade, instead staying on the 7th grade floor which is being gutted by teacher and support staff attrition, or go to 8th grade with my students and leave my (sometimes truly annoying but effective) partner teacher behind to be partnered, each of us, with weaker versions of the other.

It's not a choice. My partner told me it's the price we pay for doing an excellent job this year--the boss wants to spread the wealth either to different teams or to different kids. It sucks.

And my allergies are the worst they've ever been and it's already settled into a brutal cough that I'm afraid will become a predatory infection.

But Sophia went to prom for the second time this year, this time with a group of friends to one of the local boys' schools. Maeve finished her first season of lacrosse this afternoon happy and feeling successful. Leo is seeing the Avengers movie and staying the night at a friend's. So it's not all lousy news!

The tree will come down this summer. I will adjust to whatever change the next school year holds, and each school year is like a separate life (ala Mali) so I know as this one dies, all I can do is help birth the next. And I'm young and strong so pneumonia probably won't catch me. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Right now (a periodically recurring post)

Right now I am overcome with worry about Sophia's jaw, which is locking. We've taken her to a TMJ dysfunction specialist, who made a very expensive splint, which seemed to make things worse, not better. We have been serving up too much modern medicine to her--it's like we are making up for her completely healthy childhood with continuous doctor and dentist appointments her last two months of high school. The specialist is puzzled, which always makes me nervous. What if it's something more? What if it never gets better? What is going to happen to her?

Right now my new roof seems to be holding just fine.

Right now my sump pump isn't working and/or the french drain system is not doing its job. I am hoping for a dry summer so I can get it fixed. Until then, right now, I'm using a towel and a dehumidifier to keep mold at bay. So far, so good. But not what I want.

Right now I'm waiting for three bids for tree removal.

Right now my brother just texted with a picture of him holding the cat he's about to put down due to some horrible thing called FIP that came on strong and is making the cat not be able to breathe anymore and I think about his past and present and future and I can forgive him of some things because his face is heartbreaking in that photo and look at how far he's come. Also sad for poor Mittens. "Mittens the Kittens" as he called her. Their other cats Noodles and The Dude will be bewildered.

Right now Maeve is being interviewed for the longitudinal alcoholism study my family is a part of (because all the reasons). I wish they would interview me some more. They pay well.

Right now Sophia has committed to Colorado State and I am happy and nervous. Very nervous.

Right now I am so exhausted by rain and the school year and burning the candle at both ends of the day that I could fall asleep right here next to Rosie, who received an extra treat today because life is short and pets die too soon.

Quotes from terrible adults

"I know I could pay the tuition, but I don't want to. You know? So I think the parish should give me money instead of having to pay." (said by a mom of two kids who go to a Catholic school and who admitted her husband's salary eliminated them from applying for financial aid)

"I have a house, I have a car, I have a masters degree and a son who went to college. What do you want with your life?" (said to a 14 year old girl with zero prospects)

"Ugh I just want to make more money and I don't want to have to work for it" (by a woman involved in a pyramid scheme multi level marketing sales thing)

"I looked around the classroom and almost said, girls, your only chance for survival is lesbianism, I mean, their prospects suck!" (actually this one was pretty funny).