Friday, April 3, 2009

Folksy Musin's Flashback Episode

As a legend in my own mind, I am accustomed to hearing praise wherever I go. The fact that said praise occurs mostly in my head is, to me, irrelevant.

However, since beginning this blog, I have been hearing actual words of praise from people who take time roughly every other day to read my blog. They say things like, "You're so funny!" or "How do you think of these things!" I always smile and demur, not wanting to admit that I really have no idea what I'm doing and, furthermore, the first draft of almost every entry contains the word "booger" at least six times. And poop. Don't get me started on poop.

There is one question I've been asked many times, though, that I can answer: "How did you get started writing a blog?" Come with me through the blurry lines of the flashback episode....

Folksy Musin's: The Sitcom

[Kicky sitcom opening sequence, with a cheesy montage of me juggling groceries and trying to walk a dog. The song would be something like a cross between "Ride of the Valkyries" and the theme from "Maude."]

Tonight's Episode: The Beginning

Deb, a thoughtful, quietly attractive mom with a sharp wit and impeccable sense of style (played by Anne Hathaway)
Kristina, the adorable, wacky social worker with a heart of gold, with a wildly popular blog (played by Reese Witherspoon)
Sven, Deb's handsome loving cool talented amazing husband (played by Rob Pattinson or Seth Rogen, depending on who is available)

Act I: Pre-Blog Deb

Deb: Hey, Kristina! It's good to see you.

Kristina: You too! It's not at all strange that this script shows us having a face-to-face conversation even though we've never met!

Deb: I know, right? But we've been "talking" on the discussion board for such a long time, I feel like I know you!

Kristina: Me, too!

Act II: Kristina Makes a Suggestion

Deb: Hey, Kristina! I noticed you're not posting on the discussion board as much as you used to.

Kristina: You're right, I'm really into my blog right now.

Deb: You have a blog? Really?

Kristina: You should check it out. Have you ever thought about doing it yourself? You'd be really good at it.

Deb: Wow, you think so? Thanks!

[As laid-back acoustic indie rock plays, we see Deb sitting on her bed with her Macbook. She is reading Kristina's blog and chuckling to herself. She looks up, thoughtful, and hits "Create Blog" on the menu bar at the top of the page.]

Act III: After the Blog

Deb: Kristina, I can't thank you enough for helping me start my blog. It is so much fun and I'm having a great time.

Kristina: No problem. You know, we still haven't met. This isn't fact-based at all!

Deb: Look!  Angelina Jolie!

Kristina: Where?  [Deb runs away.]

Ending 1: if Sven is played by Rob Pattinson
[Deb sits on the bed, typing on her Macbook.]

Sven (entering, shirtless): {in a British accent} Deborah, love of my life, reason for my existence, have you seen my shirt?

Deb: No.  [She unobtrusively uses one foot to ease the pile of shirts out of sight.]

Ending 2: if Sven is played by Seth Rogen
[Deb sits on the bed, typing on her Macbook.  Sven enters.]

Sven: Are you writing that "blog" again? (Grimaces, waves hand in air behind him)

Deb: [gasping for air] What did you eat?

Sven: (laughing) Put that in your "blog." [Screen fades to black.]


So today, if nothing else, we have learned: thank you, Kristina. This is all your fault.

My Resume: Life Coach

Name: Deb

Age: 34

Weight: Undeterminable by human technology

Sign: Dip

Is seeking a position as a life coach to anyone whose picture has appeared on the cover of a major publication in the past 12 months.


1. Discretion. I am the very definition of the word. On my blog, everyone except myself is referred to a pseudonym that is virtually undetectable, except by the person I'm referencing and anyone who actually knows that person. Right, Calliope?

2. Past Experience: While I personally have never been a cocaine-addicted former actress whose latest movie was released on ABC Family to avoid the ingominity of the direct-to-DVD movie release, I did once kill a scorpion that was in my shoe and have manually unclogged several toilets. I think the parallels are obvious.

3. Knowledge: I personally viewed "Beverly Hills, 90210" in its first incarnation as well as "Melrose Place." Furthermore, I have the movie "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" memorized. What problem is there that can't be solved by one of those masterpieces?

4. Education: I dressed up like a giant duck in high school**. What wouldn't I do for a job?

5. What you should know about me: I am a people person, a dynamic, proactive go-getter who can synergize the matrix and make everything happen for you. I even know what that sentence means, in theory. Even if I don't know, I said it, which means I can sound like I know anything.

6. My specialty: Saying "no." I would say no better than anyone else, because I would insist on an ironclad 10-year contract at a fixed salary. Even if you fire me, you'd have to pay me, so it would be in your interest to listen to my advice. Here are some examples that is totally made up and are not at all true*: Let's say Playboy calls with an offer for you to pose. You are concerned that, if you do so, you may become known simply for exploiting your body. A fair concern, given that up to this point you are mainly known for the size of your behind and your "unauthorized" sex tape.

In this case, after your mother/manager advised you to do Playboy, promising you that you wouldn't have to be *completely* naked (and pointing out how much money she, I mean you, would make), you would come to me.

"No," I would say. "You're instincts are correct. You should not do Playboy."

"But my mom said I wouldn't have to be naked," you would say.

"Really?" I would say. "Seriously? It's Playboy. You will be naked. In Playboy language, a glass of champagne is considered modest attire."

"I don't want to pass up a good opportunity..." you would say.

"No," I would say.



"If maybe I-"

"Just no. Really. Now leave me alone, your behind is interfering with my ability to hear low frequencies."

So you can see what an impact I would make on the lives of these celebrities. I haven't even gotten into the example where a client asks whether she should marry her engaged back-up dancer, or get pregnant by her married co-star.

I am available to begin immediately, as long as you are willing to hold our meetings in my house. I have to get caught up on the laundry.

*My example is totally made up, unless you believe that Reality Shows are actually reality. If, like me, you believe them to be carefully crafted and scripted scenarios imitating real life, then that scenario is completely made up. Just not by me.
**Our mascot was the gander. I was the mascot for three or four pivotal football games and pep rallies, so I donned the giant gander suit many times. I did have to provide my own tights.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Quest, Continued

Sven's contest is over. It was not the triumphant, against-all-odds Oscar contender I hoped it would be. It was more like a Very Special Saved By the Bell (in which: Zac learns that you can't win 'em all). I suppose Rob Pattinson wouldn't have guest starred on Saved By the Bell...

To recap, Sven took his band to Contest yesterday. They were the second band, the non-varsity band, the young band with eyes full of dreams. Contest has two parts: concert (prepared music) and sight reading (music never seen before). Each part gets a rating. Here is the official rating system:

  • I: Excellent, really good, I was actually glad to hear you.

  • II: Not bad, still needs some work, but my ears aren't bleeding.

  • III: Okay, I understand why you came, but you still need a lot of work.

  • IV: Bless your heart.

  • V: Go away.

The good news? Sven's band made a III in sight-reading.

They received a "Bless your heart" on stage. :(

Sven says he knows why. One of his very young trumpet players "freaked out" under all the pressure and really bungled the first piece, the march. Sven said he recovered after that, but the judge's minds were probably already made up after that.

Furthermore, Sven's buddy, R-Dog, who helped organize the contest, says that the judges were unusually harsh on non-varsity bands this year, judging them by the same standards as the varsity groups. R-Dog said that many of the non-varsities got III's and IV's on stage. Especially the non-varsity bands from large schools, and since Sven's school is one of the largest in the region...

So Sven feels the IV was perhaps a little harsh, but he understands it. His primary concern, though, is for the kids.

The kids had a BLAST. They had a great time. They heard they got a IV and cheered. When Sven called me from the band hall after returning to town, I could hear the laughter in the background. It really made me see things from Sven's point of view: sometimes it is good to just go do things the kids will enjoy, and not worry about the scores. In 20 years, they may not remember the score they received, but they'll remember the trip and the good time they had.

(Your comments of encouragement have been very well received, as well. Perhaps, in the future, when Sven asks me if I'm going to turn something into an entry for my blog, I won't see the eye-rolling and sarcastic "air quotes" anymore.)

Sven is probably going to get a fair amount of "I told you so" from the more experienced teachers who told him not to go. But, being the man that he is, he will continue on his path, never ceasing from his endless quest to improve the lives of his students.

This does sound like a Very Special Episode. We've got to get a decent guest star for this one...what television actor can accurately portray the anguish, the decency, the...gravitas of Sven?

I've got it:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sven's Quest For Glory

For the secondary music teacher in Texas, there is no quest greater than Contest. (We always say Contest with a capital "C.") Once a year, our ensemble is judged on prepared performance and sight reading, earning a score from I (Awesome!) to a V (Seriously, what is it you do? Because you don't teach music.). The rules are strict, the standards are high, and every director, no matter how experienced, quails before the challenge, but they do it every year, some because they are required to, but most because of the thrill of competition.

I confess that I have a problem with Contest. Before Princess was born, I taught secondary level choir for several years. I took students to Contest almost every year, and we generally did well (I's and II's, mostly). However, the attempt to objectify and quantify something very subjective and intensely personal, like music, does not sit well with me. I recognize that we have to do something to hold our profession accountable and make sure curriculum is being taught, so to Contest we go, but I still don't like it.

Sven, on the other hand, has, in my opinion, a dream situation. He's an assistant band director, which means he's responsible for the secondary ensemble, or "non-varsity" group. (A third group is "sub-non-varsity." We're all about official terms here.) The second group can go, but doesn't have to. It's up to the directors to make that call. Early in the school year, it began, as it always does:

"I don't think my band is going to make it to Contest this year."

"I have no trumpets. No trumpets. There's no way we can go to Contest this year."

"I can't find music for Contest this year. I guess I'll have to write my own."

My response, as always, is a hopeful, "So maybe you won't go to Contest this year?"

Ha. Let me repeat: Ha. Because Sven ALWAYS goes to Contest. In his professional life, it is his reason for being. He always goes. He always does okay. This year, though, there have been several signs that perhaps he shouldn't go:

  1. His best players have been pulled to fill out the top band, as usual
  2. Several kids failed classes who usually don't, making them unable to participate
  3. His mother is in the hospital, improving but still ill, and he's the one who makes decisions for her
  4. We haven't done our taxes yet
  5. He is still rewriting some of the music for his players, some of whom he has pulled from the beginning band
  6. The contest is in Jasper, a 3-hour school bus ride away. Blech.
  7. The contest is tomorrow. April 1. April Fool's Day.

Sven was able to ignore all of these signs and perservere, as he always does. However, last night he received a phone call. I watched his face go from a smile to solemnity. I thought, "It's his mom. She's taken a turn for the worse." He continued to listen, his expression clouding more and more.

"Thanks," he said, hanging up. He looked at me, his face grave, and said this:

"A fat kid fell on my baritone player."

Apparently, in PE yesterday, his lone baritone player was getting a drink of water when a much larger student stumbled out of bounds and fell on him, forcing him into the water fountain and cutting his head quite severely. It seems that the student will be okay, but stitches were necessary and the cut made it necessary to cover an eye. No baritone player for contest.

Sven's going anyway. He's pulling a 6th grader up to take the wounded baritone player's place. I've told him this will either be a historic triumph (perservering against all odds) or a horrible cautionary tale (ignoring the signs).

I'll let you know Thursday which one it is. Either way, I think Rob Pattinson should play Sven in the movie.

Monday, March 30, 2009

45 Days

I happened to notice last night, when looking at the school calendar purely for recreation, that we have 45 instructional days left in our school year, counting today.

Okay, technically, it's 46 days, but two of them are early release days, so I combined them. But I want to stress that I'm not counting. I especially did not count twice to make sure.

I can almost taste summer. The freedom, the knowledge that the only children driving me crazy will be my own, the lazy nights in bed after the kids are's coming.

Is it crazy that now, as an adult, a teacher, "one of them," I look forward to summer more than I ever did as a child?

Princess and Sven Jr. have new swimsuits. Phase 1 of my post-winter leg-shaving has commenced. The movies have even started...I look at the trailer for "17 Again" and am instantly in the state of total mind numbness that only summer brings.

My vision will blur, so that I can't focus on a book, but somehow I will have no trouble with the print in Entertainment Weekly. I will develop a taste for seafood again. My clothing will become soft, shapeless, and completely dedicated to comfort. I will cut my hair short and never style it.

I will play with my children for hours at a time. I will read books to them, pretending I'm doing it for them, but really doing it because the plot of "Timmy the Tadpole" has taken on new significance to me. I will tell myself I will clean my house.

Bring it on. I am so ready for summer.