Friday, May 22, 2015

Damn Glad to Meet You

[My latest South Roanoke Circle Article!]

So Tim and I were grocery shopping when a man came up to us. He reached in to Tim for a hardy handshake and a jovial “How are you man?” Then he made a pivot to me and it was “So great to see you!” and hug time! As he walked away, Tim said, “Who is that guy?” Stunned, I responded, “I thought you knew him.” Baffled, we discussed the odd encounter. Not being the huggiest of people, my embrace of a complete stranger confused both of us. But it was determined that happened because of the Wilton incident.

Months prior, I was happily enjoying an adult beverage at an Oktoberfest party when new attendees arrived. A fellow started talking to us and after a few minutes, I said, “I’m not sure we’ve met before. We’re the McKernans!”

And there was silence. 

Tim and my “new” friend looked at me with disbelief, in the former’s case, and bemusement, in the latter’s. Tim broke the silence with, “Really Katie? That’s Wilton.” It sounds bad, clearly I should have known who he was, but it is even worse when you get all the background. It was Wilton, whose house backed up to our old one on Wycliffe, whose daughter had babysat for an infant Morrigan, and best of all, who I had seen just a few weeks prior at a concert. I had just introduced myself to someone I had known for 14 years. Needless to say, I was without any sort of explanation and completely mortified.

Luckily, Wilton, in addition to all the other things I’ve mentioned, also has a good sense of humor. But the whole encounter left me emotionally scarred, possibly permanently. What I knew definitively, was that I was never ever ever going to have a repeat of that moment. 

Which brings us back to our hug and run friend. Only after his, albeit friendly, accosting in the water aisle, was it clear the damage was so great, I was willing to hug weird guys just to make sure no one ever again found out about a memory lapse.

But it was worth it to hear the varied theories from friends about what was going on here. The more suspicious inquired if we still had our wallets (we did.) There were optimists who found the run in “awesome,” (notsomuch.) Those who looked at the bright side, commenting, “At least he didn’t slap you.” And one of my favorites, and infinitely plausible, the idea that Tim had saved his life at some point in the ER and he was overcome with emotion when he saw him. (I really like the thought but it really doesn’t cover why I had to be involved.)

And then there was the suggestion that struck fear in my heart: he was playing Rejection Therapy.

Basically, it is a game designed to help people overcome the fear of rejection. The main rule, as stated by their website, is that “you must be rejected by another person at least once, every single day.” They go on to elaborate on what counts - “you have to be in a position of vulnerability but allow the respondent to be in a position of power.” The cards include a multitude of suggestions such as “Sit beside a stranger. Strike up a conversation.” and “Challenge a stranger to a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.” 

As an ├╝ber extrovert, just mildly forgetful sometimes, I have no need whatsoever for such a game. But let me tell you, I live in constant terror of it, and the card “Convince a stranger you know them,” catching on. But in the good news department, I’ll never be short hugs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Quest To Escape Gym Class

Let me tell you about how I am going to complain about my decidedly 1st world problems and you are going to listen, dammit. I spent the hours between 3:15 and 8pm shuttling children to forensics tryouts, swimming, and a meeting about YFit or "how to escape gym class in high school." This does not sound like lots of driving, but let me tell you, I was in the car for hours today. You're lucky I am sparing you the details.

But suffice to say, we now have Morrigan signed up to complete a Health class online this summer and participate in YFit, which will take the place of gym. As one who was a hater of PE, this exemption was of utmost importance.

The meeting was informational and a sign up. I had a brief moment of panic when I realized that Morrigan had from June 1st-July 24th to complete 70 hours at the Y, and she is at camp for two of those weeks. The idea that my bookworm was suddenly going to log 1.75 hours of exercise each and every single day until she left for camp on July 12th was laughable.

But fortunately, if it is an active camp, it counts as 20 hours, meaning she is starting out with 40 hours and only has 30 left to complete. Much more plausible. Her fencing class is also at the YMCA, meaning that time will be included. Bonus!

I was reminded of how fortunate we are when we went to pay for the classes. The online health and YFit were $240 altogether. The cashier asked if I needed to set up payments. Baffled, I asked her "For what?" Duh (she didn't really say that) the class. "Can't I just write a check?" Indeed I could but it seemed I was in somewhat of a minority by being prepared to pay on the spot.

Morrigan's days of leisure will be quite busy, but she will have two classes complete when she walks through the doors of Patrick Henry High School this fall!

I'm Not Even Apologizing

We're on record for the lowest number of posts ever in a month and I'm not even apologizing! I spent a few weeks working like crazy to get our house ready to go on the market, sure we had found the house to which we wanted to move. Sadly, it didn't work out but on the plus side, my house is looking better than ever!

We've also been deluged with end of the year activities. Maggie had a band concert.

She's not sure if she wants to continue with band, possibly opting for something more "practical" that would aid in her current goal to be a dermatologist. We told her she could do whatever she liked, but music could be part of a path to a career in medicine too.

Mags has also started back up with swim team. We are at a new pool and she's making friends and getting back into fighting shape. Two practices in and she's all smiles.

Eion's class was part of a project where the kids wrote and performed their own songs. He was so nervous the morning of that he didn't want to go. His classmates insisted they NEEDED him and he overcame his fears. The result was cute. And it did seem they needed him!

Sorry for the crummy video but you get the idea.

Morrigan has been going to Patrick Henry HS everyday after school to try out for the Forensics team. I'll keep you posted but fingers crossed she makes the team. It seems like such a good fit for her!

Last piece of news - I am employed! Shocking, I know. I start tomorrow as the assistant to the Executive Director of Mill Mountain Zoo. I'm looking forward to the increased activity and challenge.

Hope your May is full of updates too!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Just Checking In...

So I've kind of gone nuts with spring cleaning and have been a busy bee clearing out every nook and cranny of the house. But also managed to fit in a few less mundane activities!

A Kentucky Derby Party

I went with E's class on a field trip to Apple Ridge Farm. It was a beautiful day and the kids had a blast collecting tadpoles and other slimy creatures from the creek. Apparently, this helped cement the notion the "Eion's Mom is at school all the time." (In a positive way.) I could only laugh when several moms told me their children admonished them for not being more like E's mom. Clearly, they hadn't asked Eion about my super mom status.

We have wee baby birds that hatched in a nest in the garage.

A fun progressive supper party down the street.

And the opening of the pool season!

We switched pools this year and Eion was delighted that one of his best buds was also there. The girls are still adjusting but we hope it is a good move for us all!

The spring cleaning is reaching an end, leaving time for more fun activities!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Little Mermaid!

Yippie! It was the the big weekend - The Little Mermaid performances. Being a theater geek from days of old, I was excited and immediately signed up to help sell tickets each night. While it requires an early arrival, the move was also a bit selfish, it lets me see, and talk, to everyone. Not to mention you get to reserve your seat so I was able to be well positioned for photography.

The girls, and their eel counterparts, did awesome!

They were paired with an Ursula who had a big stage presence and all their scenes were great, in my naturally unbiased opinion. The eels, courtesy of Uncle Dominick, were well received and got lots and lots of compliments.

So I have to admit something here. When we were done with the costumes over break, I adored the eels. They were perfect. But I had doubts about the costumes the kids were wearing. They were designed to look like the sea floor. In person, they trend a bit garish. But after all the work we put into them, I was not about to change course. And a little part of me said don't doubt the professional costumer.

I'm very glad I listened to that voice since, once they were on stage, the costumes were The Bomb! Silly to have doubted but I wasn't the only one. 

The kids maneuvered the eels well, improving each night. By the last show, they had it down pat. And while they were not the draw of Ariel, kids came up to them after all the shows, wanting pictures and, I kid you not, autographs! It was fun to see.

Mom and Dad came to see the play. Dominick was working and couldn't make it. Not even free plane tickets could change that. But between all of us, we had a contingent at each show, several of which were sell outs, making all the kids excited and proud.

The whole cast in Under the Sea.

The eels take a bow.

The last night, they came out in costume with the Flotsam and Jetsam to mingle in the audience.

It was fun to see the young and adult alike reach out to touch them and want to look closer. The kids ate it up. After their victory lap, we eventually got out of there. We had designs to keep both the eels, as there were hundreds of hours of sweat equity in them. But the boys really wanted one too. After checking with Dominick to see if it was ok with him, we told the other family one was theirs. While we hate not to have the set, they really are too special not to share!

It was a great weekend leaving both girls with plans to be in the productions at their schools next year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

That Time My Basement Became a Sweatshop

[As we are only two days away from The Big Show, I thought I'd run this article, which was in the SoRo Circle, but I forgot to share here!]

One of the things I love about James Madison Middle School is the spring musical. The principal, Whitney Johnson, started the theater department a few years back and in April, their third production, The Little Mermaid, will be performed. Kids can learn so much from being part of a cast or crew - teamwork, conquer a fear of public speaking, not to mention, have a lot of fun. And JMMS makes sure that if you want to be involved, they will find a place for you. 

As an old theater nerd myself, I was glad the girls wanted to try out. They came home from the tryouts smiling. Maggie decided against the counsel of 6th grade girls and sang Let It Go while Morrigan, ever the individual, opted for Carry On My Wayward Son.

When the morning of the Release of the Cast List came, my excitement rivaled the girls’. Any part, from Sea Urchin 7 to Ariel would be a-ok with me, though I was pulling for one with an interesting costume. To their delight, the girls were cast, along with Joshua and Nickolas, in one of their first choices, Flotsam and Jetsam, the evil eels. Clearly fun parts to outfit!

The first text was to my brother, the girls’ Uncle Dominick, who conveniently happened to be visiting over the holidays and is, as an added bonus, a professional costume designer. (You know those Muppets in Sesame Street Live? He makes those.) With great enthusiasm I told him about the play and the girls’ parts and asked if he would help make killer, in all senses of the word, eels. Without a moment’s hesitation, he was in. It was only after this whole exchange that the realization came that I had conscripted my brother’s labor while he was on vacation, and away from his husband, to do the job he does all year. 


Luckily he was very good natured about it and assured me he was happy to be involved. When he arrived a few weeks later, he came bearing some supplies and ready to work. Now, in my mind, Dominick, my Mom, and I were going to work on this for a couple of days and produce something much better than my costuming skills would have produced, but not too complex. It was only later that what Dominick had in mind became clear.

We went to fabric stores and hardware stores to procure all the components. Lots of components. This was going to be a production. 

We set up our base of operations in the lower level of the house. It seemed only prudent to remove the chaos from the main living area. Indeed after a few long days of work, there was so much glitter in the basement, it looked as though we had massacred fairies. 

By this point, massive guilt had overtaken me, coming to grips with the enormity of the project and realizing that none of us were going to escape that basement all week. I was running a sweatshop. But then I looked around at what was going on in my forced labour camp. Dominick and I were introducing Mom to all sorts of new music, which she was delighted by since Dad is stuck in the 1990’s. Note to Dad: move on from Collective Soul and the Dandy Warhols. The kids would come down and hang out. Morrigan especially liked playing Skyrim with her Uncle, well versed in the game, at her side providing tips on who to kill and rob. (It’s a nice wholesome game.) I was able to relive my youth as Mom, joined by her protege son, wove an occasional tapestry of obscenity. Granted, it was usually after an injury - but not always!

We were getting close to done when the kids went back to school, Tim to work, and Mom and Dad headed home to Indiana. With mostly hand sewing left, we relocated to the family room, better tv there, and completed the finishing touches. That last day was a long one, but it was delightful. Dominick and I have lived far apart for 15 years with me in Roanoke and him in Minnesota. Family get togethers are expensive and hard to coordinate. It had been ages since we had a whole day to ourselves to talk about everything.

Dominick worked up until the morning of his departure, swearing that adding eel teeth was the very last thing he was going to do. Taking the last few hours of his visit off from sewing, we went downtown, had lunch, and shopped. We chuckled about how out of control the project had gotten and staunchly refused to do a hard estimate of the number of hours involved. I promised that he was safe coming back to Roanoke and next time I would even let him out of the house. But he just laughed and told me it was truly fun. “Some families make puzzles, we sew giant eels.” 

I waved goodbye at the airport, knowing when he got home, Dominick was likely to need a vacation after his vacation. But I was smiling as I swept up the sparkles and sequins, thinking how lucky I was to have a brother willing to sacrifice a week for his nieces and how this week was likely to become The Week Katie Enslaved Us All in the Veldman family lore. 

Post Script: If you are free April 23rd, 24th, or 25th, come check out The Little Mermaid. All these kids are sure to bring down the house!