Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

VCFA Rocks

I love my school! The latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine lists Vermont College of Fine Arts as the #1 low-residency MFA program in the nation.

See the proof here: Poet & Writer's Top 10 Low-Res MFA Rankings

And you can check out my school here: Vermont College of Fine Arts.

I'll be sad to leave when the semester is over (but will sure enjoy having my free time back!).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flashback Tuesday

I got an e-mail today from a friend looking for the name of my piano tuner. I remembered his name was Paul... but blanked on the last name. Remembering that I'd written a column about him, I did a quick search of my computer and got my answer. (Oh, the wonder of technology.)

I also re-read that column, which reminded me (1) that I need to make an appointment to get my piano tuned; and (2) that as long as Paul Chick is working, he will be the only tuner I will ever call.

Here's why, from the files of Jen's World 2007:

* * *

Last week, piano technician and tuner Paul Chick proved to me again why he is a man of integrity. But before I tell you why, I need to give you a little back-story.

Last year, I got a free piano. A neighbor was moving and didn’t want the instrument in the new house.

This, of course, should’ve sent up a red flag. But I wasn’t thinking clearly, because from the moment I’d heard “free piano” I’d been playing the scenarios in my head: My children glued to my side as I taught them scales. My family lovingly gathered ‘round, singing carols. Dinner guests entertained by my masterful playing.

We drove the minivan over that night, wild with anticipation. But it quickly became apparent why our neighbors didn’t want the piano in their new house. It was chipped. The legs were twisted. It was missing the entire front portion of its wooden case.
It also became apparent that this was not a minivan job. The ancient upright would, as my four-year-old is fond of saying, squash my van “like a grape.”

Plan B: It had wheels. We lived two blocks away. We could do this.

So there I was, knocking on any house with a light on: “Do you have a few minutes?” I’d ask. “Want to help move a piano?” (A little advice: It’s imperative that you determine that people are indeed free before you tell them you need help rolling a 700-pound piano down the street.)

Ten minutes later, my husband and six neighbors who were unable to come up with an excuse were pushing the piano ever so slowly down the middle of River Court. I followed in the van, my headlights leading their way down the dark street.

Our cluster made it halfway down the first block when we were abruptly stopped. A wheel had fallen off. Determined the rolling part of our adventure wasn’t over, I ran home and returned to the scene with two dollies and my seven-year-old’s X-Men skateboard. The skateboard worked.

A block-and-a-half later — after much giggling on the ridiculousness of the situation and some photo ops (“OK, stop — you can’t stop? Well, ok, everyone look up — Brian, stop grimacing! — and smile!”), I had a piano.

It looked bigger and uglier in my living room than it had in the neighbor’s garage. But I didn’t care. As soon as the crowd dispersed, I began to play. Due to the gaping hole in the front, I was able to watch the hammers strike the strings as I launched into the only song I knew by heart anymore — my ninth grade recital piece, Invention No. 2 by Bach.

Some keys didn’t work. Some stuck. Some played entire chords. All were off key.
Still, I’d play for hours in the evenings. “I’m not making mistakes!” I’d yell to my husband over the din. “It’s the piano. Some of the keys are off!”

When my children began saying things like, “That song gives me a tummy ache,” I called Mr. Chick — who told me that fixing my piano would be like putting a new transmission in a 30-year-old, rust-bucket car. “I could do it,” he said, running his hand along the keys. “But I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

That’s when I first knew Mr. Chick had integrity. But it was last week that he left me truly impressed.

A few months ago, he helped me find my piano’s replacement — a used, but infinitely prettier and better sounding model. At the time, he told me he’d come back to tune the piano once it settled into its new home. I forgot. He didn’t. He not only took the initiative to set last week’s appointment — but he even made a couple of repairs when he was done tuning.

When I asked him what I owed him, he said, “Just put a little extra money in the offering plate on Sunday.” And I will.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm Burly

Tomorrow, I'm going camping in South Dakota. In a tent. With my kiddos. And without my husband, who has to stay back here to work.

This will be the first time I'm putting our tent up by myself -- which may mean that we'll be sleeping in the car that first night. You think I'm kidding, but I actually made the kids come out to the car yesterday so we could do a test run. "Okay, everyone in," I said. "Let's see how we'd all fit if we were to sleep in the CR-V."

It more-or-less worked.

But I must have high hopes because today I made a Target run to buy an air mattress. And I'm pretty sure we won't be able to inflate it IN the car...

I've been packing all night. I'm getting close. I've packed flashlights and snacks, towels and swim suits, rain ponchos and itty bitty book lights. But I haven't packed my laptop. And I'm not going to.

The campground has wifi -- and I know myself too well. Leaving the computer at home is the only way I can guarantee that I won't succumb to Facebook -- or worse, People.com -- while sitting around the campfire.

No, this vacation is going to be nothing but kid-centricity. I'll check in with you when we return next week!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Video... Monday

Hola! Here's what I was doing at midnight last night... a bazillion times in a row.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's 11:30 a.m. and I'm Still in my Pajamas

It's one of those days. I mean, it's not a bad day -- but it's one of those "I've got a nine-item to-do list and can't even seem to get past No. 1" days.

See, here's the deal. I have no plans today. At our "morning meeting" over breakfast this morning, the boys and I decided to axe all of our plans and veg at home.

"Veg!" said Christian when I called for the vote.

"Veg!" said Bergen.

"Wonderful!" I thought. "I'll get so much done!"

And then we cuddled up and bed and watched Let's Make a Deal.

It turns out I work best on deadline. If I had appointments today? Reasons I had to leave the house or finish a project by, say, noon? I'd be ON it. I'd be on top of it. All that.

But no. I'm still in my pajamas, e-mailing my sister and checking Facebook with a stack of papers next to me just begging to be completed or organized.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Video Tuesday

Here's my PB teaser for tomorrow's Jen's World. It's another one of those "no make-up, no hairstyle" deals. Be forewarned.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It Must Be Pretty Good

I had ANOTHER person recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein to me today. This must be one fantastic book. I was going to wait until I finished my semester to read it, but I may have to squeeze it in before that.

Jen's World: 20-Year-Reunion

Last week's column can be found HERE!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Mom Forgot Her Camera at the Cabin....

...so my sisters and I left a few surprises on there for her. A little something she can show her friends when they ask how her kids are doing.

Oh, we crack ourselves up.

Ends and Odds

I sit here tonight, fresh off five days at the cabin (with no wifi -- or any kind of "fi" for that matter), writing the coming week's to-do list. Here's what I've got so far:

* Call the a/c service people. I am quite literally sticking to my couch as I type this. Our a/c has been out for a week, but since we were heading out of town, we put off that phone call. Can you say REGRET? We're all sleeping in the basement tonight with fans blowing directly on us. And I'm not even a fan person. In fact, I'm SO not a fan person that I've written a column about what a fan person I'm not. I was going to post a link to that column here, but I just read it for the first time in years and decided it's kind of sucky.

* Go to the pool. See above.

* Watch school board candidate videos. The primary election is being held on Tuesday. If you live in Rochester, you know the school board election is a big deal this year. Videos (taped at a League of Women Votes forum) are available on the Rochester Public Library site here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=rplmninfo#p/u/14/aHJjFpC9TP4

* Call the a/c service people back.
And ask them if they can get here any sooner.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Odds and Ends

Oh my goodness, what a whirlwind. I wouldn't have it any other way, but still...

Since my mind is full of random bits of information this morning, I'm not going to force it into any single cohesive post. Instead, here's a look inside my brain:

(Warning: Did I mention I'm fairly certain I suffer from adult ADD?)

* I did yoga for the first time in years yesterday. My stomach HURTS today. But, wow, it was incredible. Hope I get back there.

* Slept in a tent in the backyard with Bergen last night. Was so wonderful to hang with my son and hear all about Pokemon from the Sinnoh region. I mean that.

* Brett Favre?! Retired for real? No way! We'll see...

* Hosting Christian's birthday party in just over an hour and I haven't showered yet.

* Also, his birthday was in June.

* We really need to weed wack.

* Neighborhood Night Out picnic tonight and I was supposed to make something in the crock pot. I think that's not happening. Hello big container of Boy Scout popcorn in my pantry...

* Dangit. I just remembered I have to make one of those videos for the P-B today. Suppose I should wait 'til after I shower. Better get to it.