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lettersWelcome to the scavenger hunt at our house! I’m sure you’ll enjoy rifling through the eclectic collection of special treasures we have thoughtfully gathered in our home. Do your best to find all 10 items and you will win an exciting prize to be announced later.

1. One letter, number, or shape magnet that has been peed on. Don’t worry, you will not need to pee on any magnets yourself. You can find a whole bucket of said magnets, previously peed on, in the hallway. They were peed on by Zeke after his bath while I was searching for the diaper ointment. Randy put them in the sink to wash them off, but then he put Zeke to bed and didn’t get around to washing them off. I moved them into a bucket so Zoe could brush her teeth in the sink. No one has gotten around to washing them off yet. Bonus points if you volunteer!

2. A trail of cornstarch. Did I mention Zeke’s diaper rash? One of the remedies suggested by his babysitter is sprinkling cornstarch all over his parts. I have not yet found any targeted way to sprinkle cornstarch. But I did discover tonight after Zeke apparently somersaulted into Zoe’s bike chain (because Zoe’s bike is in the hallway) and got bicycle grease all over his beautiful new sweater that he wore for the first time today, that you can use cornstarch to remove bike grease from clothing! Generously sprinkle cornstarch all over the grease and let it absorb the grease. Then later, scrub off the grease with dish detergent. It works! You’re welcome to bring your own Ziploc bag or tupperware container and take home several spoonsful of cornstarch for your own personal uses. We easily have a year’s supply in the one tub we purchased. Actually, no need to bring your own container. Move on to #3

3. Tupperware with a lid that fits. We have a whole cabinet full of plastic containers and lids. If you can find a container and lid that go together, they’re yours! Use them for the cornstarch, or #4

4. Leftovers. The way food ingredients are sold and recipes are written, we typically make dinner for four people. While there are, in fact, four people in our family, one of them eats very little, except of course when he eats a lot. But you never know. We almost always end up with half a serving of food left. Or maybe one and a half servings. Or maybe three pieces of fish but no sides. Or a pint of couscous. We are not good at eating leftovers. Call us lazy, or excessively picky, or just call us when the dinner you’ve prepared is ready for us to eat. But we don’t want the leftovers. You can have them. Please fill up your containers.

5.  Things for Sale or FreecyclingWe have a lot of things we are trying to get rid of. We just have a lot of things. And a small house. And we don’t need all the things. We donate a lot of things to people and organizations. But we also would like a little extra cash, so sometimes we try to sell things. We post them on Craigslist and we get snarky replies from jerks. Occasionally someone buys something. But we have stuff that we just don’t want to throw away because someone might want it and someone might pay money on it and surely that Smurf or ET stuffed animal from the 80s will be super valuable on eBay. Really, we just want to make some space. So if you see anything you want to buy, just make an offer. Even if it’s not one of the things we’re trying to sell. Bring cash. Or just take what you want. We probably wouldn’t even notice it’s gone.

6. A Mixed Media Collage of Your Creation. This is where the scavenger hunt deviates from those you may have participated in in the past. Here you actually sit down and make art, using the wide variety of available materials. Some of these materials date back to the 1970s, but they’re still useable, because anything can be art! Create with clay, yarn, foam stickers, unused Valentine cards, rubber stamps, glitter glue, puffy paint, crayons, markers, pastels, watercolors, tempera paint, old postcards, construction paper, old Christmas cards, tax returns, receipts, cookbooks we haven’t used in years, and more. Just ask if it seems like it might be valuable before you start gluing.

7. Lint. Again here you will enjoy the opportunity to express yourself artistically by creating a lint sculpture. Bring home a treat for the kids when you can craft a lint doll or stuffed animal to snuggle with at night. Or, for the more pragmatic among you, weave a lint blanket to keep in the car for emergencies. If you’re particularly ambitious, gather enough lint to insulate the new addition you’re building on your house. We had to get a new washer and dryer last year after our dryer conked out and the repairman declared it impossible to resuscitate after three visits. Our new washer and dryer work great except for the lint filter in the dryer, which is not entirely willing to do its very basic job of collecting lint. Some of the lint is just free spirited and follows the advice of Fleetwood Mac and insists on going its own way. I feel like this wild lint is probably a fire hazard, so if you would collect it for us, that would be a huge help.

8. Laundry. You might say you have your own laundry and you don’t need ours, but you would be wrong. We have so much laundry that we are certain there’s something in there you would like. Any time of day or night that you happen to come by to participate in this scavenger hunt, you will find some laundry in the living room. This will be clean laundry. It may or may not be folded. Not to worry, the dirty laundry is in hampers or at least in a pile on the floor in front of the laundry closet, so you won’t accidentally pick something out from the dirty laundry, unless that’s what you’re into, and we’ll just pretend we didn’t see it. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time poking around in the unfolded laundry, you can look upstairs in one of the bedrooms or maybe even the hall and just pick up a bin filled with already folded laundry! Don’t even look at it–just take it and then when you get home you’ll be surprised by the contents. Will it be size 3T t-shirts, shorts, socks, and pajamas? A sleepsack you can hide your cat in? Or a kids’ martial arts uniform? Or grown-up jeans and dozens of t-shirts advertising computer programs, 5Ks, or our favorite bands. Anything you get you will love, I promise.

9. A Mouse. Ok, this might be tricky. I’m not really sure if there are any mice still living in our house, but if you find one and take it with you, then we will be sure there is one less mouse sharing our space. If you can’t find a mouse, I will accept a mousetrap and still give your credit.

10. Something We’ve Lost. This is kind of tricky because you don’t really know what you’re looking for, but if you can look behind and under furniture or in the tops or corners of closets and you turn up any object that any of us has been looking for a while and hasn’t been able to locate, you definitely win. If you come up with something that we wanted, we will keep it. If you find something that we didn’t even realize was lost and we really didn’t miss it, it’s all yours. We insist.

Found all 10 items? Hooray! Congratulations! You are like Sherlock, but not a sociopath (probably). And your prize is already right there in your arms, or in your complimentary tote bag that we gave you on the way in. It’s all yours! You found it, you keep it. Enjoy! And thanks for making our house just a little more livable. We’ll be happy to come to your scavenger hunt soon. You probably have some really cool stuff that we’d like.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.56.11 PMMy grades came yesterday. They were worse than I thought.

I am not in graduate school or even taking a class at a community center. This was my college transcript, from roughly two decades ago. In those 20 years I have built a successful career as a writer, editor, and communications consultant. I’ve worked as in-house communications officer for two organizations and launched my own business 10 years ago. People hire me because I am an excellent writer and editor and no one has ever asked about my grades from college.

Until now. I recently had this idea about becoming a substitute teacher at my daughter’s school. I asked Zoe’s teacher and our preschool director for letters of recommendation. I requested my transcript from William and Mary. And when I opened it up, I sighed. My grades were even worse than I remembered. I got a D- in a biology class my first semester. I remember going to talk to the professor after failing the first test, and his words of wisdom were, “you’re an English major, aren’t you?” as if my fate was sealed and I was wholly incapable of succeeding in his class. Things certainly improved from there, but there were many classes in which I earned grades that I did not feel reflected what I had learned. Granted, it’s a tough school, but I had plenty of friends who earned 4.0s or close to it. An illustration of their standards: when I studied abroad for a semester at Oxford University, there was extensive discussion back at William and Mary about whether to accept my transfer credit for a class in British literature. Because, you know, what if the Oxford don doesn’t know as much about British literature as the professors at William and Mary.Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.59.03 PM

Perhaps I sound bitter. I don’t mean to. I had a stellar college experience. I enjoyed my time at William and Mary immensely. I dedicated many hours to working on the school paper, which probably helped me in my current work as much or more than many of my classes. I volunteered at the campus child care center and the mental hospital off campus, both for my psychology classes, and helped a Japanese woman improve her English. I went on a work trip to do hurricane relief with my church group. I babysat for and developed strong relationships with families in the community. I made wonderful friends. I obsessively attended a cappella and improv theater performances. I took weight training as a freshman girl with my roommate and a bunch of football players. I rappelled down the back of the stadium in adventure games.

I do not regret not studying more. I enjoyed most of the classes I took. I learned a lot.

So why do I feel so disappointed in my grades? No one but me is judging me by my transcript.

I remember on one of my first days of college when our entire freshman class was gathered in William and Mary Hall. Some administrator welcomed us and talked about how collectively amazing we were. She named how many class presidents, newspaper editors, varsity athletes, valedictorians, etc etc were in our class. She held up one hand in the air, palm down, saying, “in high school, all of you were up here. You were the best of your class.” But any group has to have a spectrum, so now at William and Mary, some of us would be up there, and some of us would be down at the bottom, and some in between. I remember thinking, of course I would still be at the top. But I wasn’t. At least in terms of grades. Are the people who were at the top, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, any happier or more successful now? I know some of them, and I would venture to say no. Not that they’re unhappy, but they have varying amounts of job satisfaction. They have families and houses and good lives. There’s very little about my life I would change, and anything I would change is completely unrelated to my poor performance in biology.

Apparently I made the Dean’s List one semester. I totally did not remember that. But I don’t think that matters anymore, either, if it ever did. If you want to discuss the psychology of humor, or poetry, or women’s history, however I’m down with that. And I did end up acing my writing classes. And I am a writer, so there’s that.

It may seem unrelated, but I am also struggling with my disproportionate shame about the state of my house when service providers come to fix things. I’m pretty sure they don’t care if we are messy and it makes no different to them as long as they can do their job and get paid. I know this is all in my head, but I’m not sure how to get it out.

In 10 days I will have a birthday. The big milestone birthday for the decade was last year, so this year isn’t anything special, but I’m sure at 41 I should be mature enough not to care about these things. Something to work on for the next 10 days. Or weeks. Or months. Then next year, I’ll be 42 — the secret to life, the universe, and everything, so surely I’ll have figured it out by then.

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