Zen and the art of Classroom Maintenance

Zen (noun) \’zen\

1a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation

2a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort

When Colin told me about his English teacher the other morning in the kitchen, he didn’t get very far into his story before I teared up and had to stop him.

As he was telling me about some classroom bullies and the object of their derision, I had a vision of a second- or third-year teacher, someone young looking enough that it wasn’t uncommon for other faculty to stop her in the hall and ask for her pass. Someone who didn’t yet have the chops to stand up to the jerks in her classroom, snotty adolescents who wore their earbuds through a lecture and made snide remarks about her under their breath.

She’d had a Zen garden, Colin told me. One of those kitschy palettes with sand and polished stones and a teeny rake I guess people use to do their teeny meditation sessions, stacking stones in teeny piles and raking teeny lines in the sand. One by one the stones went missing, and then the rake. Then one morning, students filed in to find sand scattered on the shelf and the floor below it, the palette overturned.

“I wonder what happened?” one of the snotty teens had the nerve to say.

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Travel Gadget Wish List

Midlife Sentence | Travel Necessities

Ten things I wish someone would invent to make traveling easier

One of my chic-iest friends posted an Instagram photo of a little, clear plastic clutch she’s going to start using for travel in place of the standard Ziploc the rest of us plebs employ to schlep our lotions and shampoos and other liquid stuffs onto airplanes.

At first, I thought “isn’t that just the coolest thing!” I mean, we’re all just one kitschy plastic tote away from either looking our put-together best or coming across like a crazed hoarder unloading a packed lunch all over the TSA belt. Amiright?

So, I whipped out my credit card and went to the website straightaway, and found out those cute, little totes the size of sandwich bags are a whopping $88 bucks apiece. Which is when I decided I’d stick with my non kitschy ways for a little while until I win the Lotto or something.

… But it made me think about other travel conveniences I’d come up with if I have the extra cash, a really sharp inventor brain, and some free time. Unfortunately, I’m a little short on … well all those things, but I’m going to share my ideas in case there’s an inventor type among you with the corresponding money and spare time.

Because, you know I’m a …. (let’s all say it together, now …) giver.

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You just don’t know when dental plaque is going to bring you closer to someone you’ve only just met

Midlife Sentence | Menopause and dental problems

First, you need to know I have a thing about teeth. My teeth, specifically. I’m not crazy about how they look and a little insecure about the big spaces in between them and their coloring and the overbite thing.

Oh, and you could land a Cessna on my gums, they’re so big. I’ve never been the kind of person to smile wide at someone and ask if I have anything in my teeth. I’m not insecure about much except the possibility I could scar someone for life with a stray spinach leaf lodged in my incisor.

You know, it could happen. Probably not, but maybe.

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Mom’s First Tattoo

Midlife Sentence | Mom's First Tattoo

Warning: This is not a good post for those who have issues with open conversation about private parts, i.e. I’m sorry for all the buttholes

If you’re wanting to be talked out of a tattoo, it’s probably just common sense that a 19-year-old isn’t the best person for the job, right? I mean, not that I expressly wanted to be talked out of a tattoo. I’d been thinking about getting one for a long time.

I had no particular reason why, but lately I’ve been feeling like if I was going to do it, sooner would be better than later, before collagen loss makes it near impossible to find a smooth stretch of skin anywhere on my corpus.

I actually almost got my first tattoo a while ago, at the tail end of a girls’ night out when we all know the best decisions are normally made. At the last minute I bailed on my friend Steph, as she was getting the teensiest of meansiest of little hidden tattoos of all time: a ladybug leaving a little trail of dots behind it.

It was an act of supreme bravado and massive chutzpah on her part – that little ladybug – and I’m sorry for my lack of participation. Still, Steph’s tattooing taught me a few very important things about true friendship:

  • That you shouldn’t abandon your friend at 2 am in a tattoo parlor if you don’t want to hear about it over and over again for the next ten years, and
  • Tattooists won’t work very hard to convince a person to not spend good money on a teensy, little ladybug tattoo even if said teensy, little ladybug tattoo is so small it’s going to eventually end up filling itself in and looking like a menacing freckle, and
  • Doing your homework and making the act of getting a tattoo a little more deliberate than ducking into the nearest ink shop after five hours with your girlfriends at Grainey’s is a good thing, as is not holding people responsible if they end up deciding to bail, Steph.

Anyway, back to my conversation with Jack about the prospect of a tattoo:

“Look, you’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” he said. “It’ll say something that means a lot to you, it’s going to look great and you’ll never regret it.”

I thought those were deep thoughts from someone who had yet to see his twentieth birthday and I told him so.

“Well, you’re a pretty big chicken for someone who’s already hit her fiftieth.”

Touché.

I figured if I was going to do this thing, I’d do it with him, our resident expert. When Jack was 16 and wanted to get his ears pierced, we knew the tattoo question was right around the corner. We leveraged the piercing thing against the tattoo thing in order to get a little advance notice about any tattoo plans and made him pledge to listen to whatever advice we might have about the design and the placement of said tattoo. … And long story short he now has five tattoos, and I don’t remember being part of a lengthy discussion about any of them.

We scheduled my tattoo session for right after a Rotary meeting and I couldn’t sleep the night before thinking about size and placement and fonts and what would happen if there was a typo and whether laser removal surgery was really as painful as I’ve heard. In the end, I went in and did it and I think it looks great and it only hurt a smidge.

Overall, it’s a very nice looking butt for business purposes.

My tattoo artist’s name is Gonzi (I have a tattoo artist now guys!), and he likes women’s butts. I know this because of the illustrations plastered all over his work station area. That’s his flash – what we tattooed folk call the stuff he specializes in. Turns out Gonzi really likes imagining women’s butts in all kinds of situations, clothed and unclothed and with or without flowers.

Midlife Sentence | Mom's First Tattoo

And while I think Gonzi is a very good artist, he needs a little instruction on anatomy, because even though I haven’t seen very many unclothed derrières from that angle, I can tell we have a little disagreement on where the butthole actually goes.

Gonzi’s business card is a drawing of a woman’s butt with flowers growing out of it. It’s thong-wearing butt, so thankfully no awkward conversation about butthole placement has to happen right up front when he’s making business connections. The flowers are confusing to me, but it’s an art thing, so I don’t need to understand, I guess. Overall, it’s a very nice looking butt for business purposes.

… And this probably constitutes a record for the number of times I’ve used the word butt in one post, a fact I’m sure has earned me another listing on one of those porn aggregators, and I can’t decide if that’s a bad thing because I don’t care to associate with people who search for porn, or an okay thing because I appreciate whatever drives up the ratings.

… And by the way, if you are here for the buttholes, may I just suggest this one post about pineapples which has nothing to do with porn, and very little to do with pineapples either, but neither of those things seems to matter to the porn aggregators, so I must be missing something. My stats show if you come here for the pineapples, chances are you’ll keep reading, which I like to think means that people who search for porn have more depth than I’ve given them credit. Or else they’re just really bored and looking for something to fill the time.

If you’re wondering what I had inked permanently onto my forearm, it’s my family motto: Aut Augere Aut Mori, which is Latin for “either action or death.” It’s kind of morbid, but something I’ve always thought was a good motivator for getting me up off my own butt when I’ve started to feel a little down in the dumps about anything.

Midlife Sentence | Mom's First Tattoo

A friend of Mike’s asked him why I didn’t have his family motto tattooed on my arm which led Mike to doing some research and coming up with nothing. No motto for the Markley clan. Now he’s telling people his family was probably out doing all the work and fighting all the wars while my family was coming up with the right way to describe all things in catchy, little mottos.

Which is probably a really good way to describe our marriage, now that I think about it.

Jack’s now looking forward to coming home from college for the summer because he said something about getting matching tattoos and I didn’t think to tell him I’m not getting any more. It’s not because the whole butthole flash stuff has turned me off, either, in case you’re wondering. I’m happy to recommend Gonzi.

It’s just if you want a woman’s butthole tattooed anywhere on you, you should be prepared for anatomical imperfection.

It’s just better for everyone that we know our limits

I’m not really a lot of help with house projects, which is okay because we don’t do them often.

We’ve always known we’re not “house project people” and are (or …. at least one of us is) entirely comfortable with that. We are the kind of people who would call professionals to change out light bulbs or the batteries in smoke detectors if there were folks who would do that sort of thing (spoiler alert: there aren’t).

Once, our friend Darin asked Mike “what’s your next house project?” And we both just gave him a blank stare. Darin’s the kind of guy who will knock out a wall with a sledgehammer because his wife, Angela, decides she’d like a longer couch and so the wall in question needs to be moved about six inches into the next room.

That’s not to say Mike isn’t handy. He can install a light fixture or strip wallpaper. He comes from that kind of stock. There’s more than one member of his family who could build an entire house or maybe even a space shuttle from scraps they have in the garage.

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Why I don’t get to write the ad for Craig’s List

Midlife Sentence | Craigs List

For Sale: Large, rustic-looking headboard with a story.

Well, not really a story, story, as in: lovingly-hewn-of-ancient-willow-by-handsome-woodsman-for-his-beguiling-bride kind of story. Nothing so dramatic. There is a story, just a tad humbler. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Said headboard is a handmade item, with slight imperfections and irregularities, and I’ll be honest, it’s a bitch to dust. I think it’s willow, or some other bendable kind of wood with the bark left on, although I’m no expert. This is just to say that no ancient árbol actually gave its life for the thing. It’s likely from a perfectly modern tree that’s fairly common and easy to grow back and not in any way extraordinary.

So, you can forget any notion of its being infused with druid spirits or anything.

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The Sublime Four Percent

Midlife Sentence | Bloody Babydolls and Halloween

Earlier this week, I was walking the dog and I came across the house of my new favorite neighbor.

I don’t know if he does this every year for Halloween, just started this year, or maybe someone new moved in and is  distinguishing him or herself as the new neighborhood Halloween master. I’d never even noticed the house before now. Up until recently, the house next to it, the one closer to the main thoroughfare, was much more noticeable, mostly for being a complete wreck.

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This could be uncomfortable for all of us

Midlife Sentence | Sex toys

I have a story for you guys, but first, it’s only fair to warn you. You may think you’re visiting what seems like a mild-mannered, sometimes goofy lifestyle/parenting/whatever-it-is blog, but you could be unwittingly putting yourself in the middle of some company you might normally avoid.

Or maybe not. Maybe you do keep this kind of company but just on the down low. I don’t know. I’m not judging, just giving you a heads up.

A few months ago, I noticed that one of my posts in particular was getting a decent amount of daily attention, and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s an okay piece, worth a chuckle, I guess, but not any more special than anything else you’ll find here.

I wrote it three years ago when my neighbor invited us to an open house and I noticed the little postcard invitation had a pineapple on it, which reminded me about a local urban legend about the neighborhood just over the hill, rumored to be popular with swingers. As the story goes, if you’re interested in a swinging evening, you look for the house (or maybe houses, I don’t know how many folks are into this, maybe you have a choice) with the pineapple on the porch.

I’m not sure what you do once you find the pineapple, if there’s any protocol for announcing yourself or what, which I guess was the point of the story – that and wondering if the neighbors were swingers, which I never found out.

So that post started to get some daily attention after a few years of none at all, which usually means someone with more traffic was driving that. After a little sleuthing, we found out who. The post has been picked up by a couple of aggregators – sites that pull content from all over the internet that fit a theme.

Which is how my blog seems to have become a popular search result for people looking for porn.

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You know who also shows up early? People like Shawn

I had the weirdest experience recently. I finished a meeting and had to be across town for another meeting right on the heels of my first meeting, only the first meeting finished early, so I got to my second meeting early. I’m rarely early. Actually, I’d give it about a 50% chance I’ll even be more or less on time to anything.

I have plenty of redeeming qualities. I can stick to a tight budget. I am probably the World’s Best at Parallel Parking (seriously, I should have a mug made with that). I talk to dogs. I cover my face when I sneeze. I stay hydrated.

I am also chronically tardy. Sometimes it’s only seconds late, sometimes a teensy bit more.

But not this time. This time I was maybe 15 minutes early, which kinda felt like I could fit another whole meeting in there. I thought I could use that time to check email, or else say hi to another friend in that office.

I took my stuff to the conference room, where any plans I had were thwarted when I was waylaid by members of the group I was set to be meeting with – in the future, mind you – who were also early.

This is where it got weird. I had the chance to witness first-hand what early people do with all the time they have when they show up early. This was a rare and valuable opportunity to witness another species in its natural habitat.

Ultimately it was really disturbing.

I mean, you guys, this is what they do: they freaking talk about being early. They revel in it. It’s weird.

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Things might not go the way you plan, for your kids or their fish

Midlife Sentence | kids don't always turn out the way you think, neither do their fish

Colin passed us both in the kitchen this morning, on his way out the back door. He had wet hair, no shoes and was carrying a clear, plastic cup with something in it. We watched him grab a shovel out of the shed and start working at something in a corner of the yard, his back to us.

“What’s he doing?”

“Probably collecting something for his tanks. Rocks? I don’t know.” Mike went back to his computer.

Colin returned the shovel back to the shed and came back in.

“One of my fish died.”

“Oh honey. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, I could see it had dropsy last night. I knew it probably wouldn’t live.”

Dropsy, he explained, makes a fish’s scales stick out like a pine cone, instead of lay flat. It’s also an indicator of liver failure.

“I guess I never thought about fish having livers,” I said.

“I knew fish have eyebrows, but not livers,” Mike said.*

I didn’t know about the eyebrow thing, either. Clearly I haven’t been keeping up.

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