Who Stole My Keys?

Everyone loses keys and teachers are notorious for it, but to prevent misplacing mine, I devised a foolproof plan. I wear them. Like charms on a necklace, my bike, car, house, locker, and school keys hang on a lanyard around my neck.

Since I literally run between three departments –English, PE and learning support – my keys open every gym, storage facility and classroom in 5 different buildings. I was dumbfounded when in the blink of an eye between unlocking the changing room door for the PE students and locking up equipment after class, my keys vanish into thin air.

Five teachers help retrace my steps on the great missing key caper. We empty wastebaskets and look behind toilets, under shower stalls, in sinks, on wall bars, under trampolines, on top of shelves and beneath ball bins.

When our search turns up empty, I deduce – someone grabbed my keys out of the door while I chatted with another student. I drag my burly colleague, a former rugby star, to the cafeteria to interrogate the suspects. The boys told us to check with the girls outside at the picnic table; the girls sent us to the smokers’ corner off campus. One guy took the cig out of his mouth long enough to say, “Pas moi, madame” and dump out his book bag as proof. He suggests I see the rest of his class that would be heading to history.

Panic set in. I made a mental, to-do checklist – empty locker, remove valuables from desk, see janitor to deactivate keys to the gyms, department offices, and equipment rooms. Frantically, I call my husband to explain insisting, “Change the house locks. Sell my car before it is stolen.”

“Why would you carry every key you own?” my husband asks.

“So, I won’t lose them.”

“But they are lost.”

“Not lost, stolen!”

I am hyperventilating when I walk into the history class and plead to the students, who I had just confronted in my PE lesson. “Don’t say anything now. No questions asked. Just bring my keys back; my life is on that key chain.”

Désolé Madame, we haven’t seen your keys.”

Dejected, I walk back to the gym where a younger colleague with better eyesight is locking the gym door and shaking his head. No luck. I urge him to search one more time.

So we repeat the process. While I peek under gym mats, Frederic strolls out of the storage room swinging a hook filled with red bibs. Low and behold, behind the bibs dangling from a black UWSP lanyard is a beautiful set of keys. I hug him and then take off.

“Hey,” he hollers. “Where are you going?”

“To apologize to those kids.”

“Wait! Don’t forget your keys!”

I grab my keys, race across campus, knock at the classroom door and eat humble pie as I appeal once again to the students asking for forgiveness.

Then I stroll back to the gym smiling. My faith in humanity is restored by my colleagues’ kindness and my students’ integrity. With my keys jingling ‘round my neck again, all is right with world.

Happy Halloween Shake Dem Bones

HalloweenHalloween is one of my favorite holidays. When I was a child, I ate bags full of candy in one sitting and then stole from my little sisters’ stashes. This year I plan to dress up as a skeleton. My limbs are aching, but I keep shaking cause dem bones were made for dancing.

Anyone who suffers from chronic illnesses and injury can relate to crushing bone, joint and muscle pain. This old carcass has carried me across the globe. Broken, bruised, battered, the bones on my slender frame have taken a beating. I hit a brick wall chasing a basketball, flipped off a bicycle careening downhill, and flew out of a car crashing out of control on an autoroute.

I can no longer remember a day without pain, but the secret to outsmarting the soreness is to keep moving. Anyone plagued by any of the myalgias knows that everywhere hurts. Joint pain in the knees, hips and shoulders reign, then migrate to the ankles, wrists, fingers, toes and infiltrate every spinal notch where muscles and ligaments attach to the vertebrae.

I don’t have a flexible cell in my body, but I dared to learn yoga in my fifties. I still can’t touch my toes, but I keep trying and that makes all the difference.

Jim's walking sticksI follow the examples set by my eighty-four year old dad who walks daily even though his legs are tingling and heavy from neuropathy and my Grandpa Coach Mac who defied the odds by continuing to help coach college football in his late 80s and early 90s.

As soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning, I start humming Dem Bones to keep me going.

As kids we sang Dem Bones, which we thought was a funny children’s song, designed to teach us the parts of the skeleton. However, Dem Bones, is actually a popular spiritual, composed by African American, James Weldon Johnson, and inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14.

skeletonToe bone connected to the foot bone

Foot bone connected to the heel bone

Heel bone connected to the ankle bone

Ankle bone connected to the shin bone

Shin bone connected to the knee bone

Knee bone connected to the thigh bone

Thigh bone connected to the hip bone

Hip bone connected to the back bone

Back bone connected to the shoulder bone

Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone

Neck bone connected to the head bone

Now hear the word of the Lord.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around.

Now hear the word of the Lord.

Boo! Now scare those old limbs into action. Celebrate the season. This Halloween put one foot in front of the other. Join those pint sized ghosts and goblins creeping and peeping around your neighborhood. Get up. Get moving. Shake your booty. Dem bones were made for jiving.

Happy Halloween to you and all the cute lil’ pumpkins in your life!

Sneaker Chic Fashion Finally Catches On

thumb_IMG_0322_1024When you stand nearly 6 feet tall, and suffer from sciatica, jumpers knee, and hammertoes, sneakers are your best friends. I wore high heels once in my life- at my wedding. Big mistake! At the aisle just before exchanging vows, the Frenchman hissed, “If you complain about your aching back once more, I am out of here.”

I’ve always been a trend setting, do-it-myself, kick butt kind of girl marching to my own beat.

Fashion finally caught up with me. Sneakers made a comeback and top models, movie stars and celebrities are wearing them down the red carpet.

Sneakers aka athletic shoes, trainers, kicks, tackies come in umpteen designs – low top, high top, slip-ons, wedges, air soled – and are made out of every kind of fabric: synthetic, leather, and textile like canvas.

In a mind-boggling selection, you can pick from Vans perforated black, Steve Madden leopard print, or retro look Nike Vintage Waffles, platforms and wedges. Big heels stuck on sneakers? Not for me, but then I never needed that extra leg length.

In the sixties, we had two choices – black or white, canvas Converse All-Star Hi-Tops, or those flimsy PFlyers. Now Converse All Stars come in every color of the rainbow.

Today you can pick from the top-selling classic brand names to every kind of cool from Vans slip-ons to Nike florals. All are guaranteed to make you jump higher, run faster, and hike longer. A sneaker design exists for every activity under the sun: biking, boating, walking, cross training, skate boarding, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, tennis, aerobics, and others. One day I bet a weight loss shoe will help you drop pounds by just tying up the laces.

I don’t own a pair of dress shoes; I have kicks for every occasion. My collection consists of twenty some pairs spread across two continents. Most of which I never wear because they make my back hurt due to tender toes and high arches. On a whim when I tried to switch brands, I bought purple trimmed Nike’s, turquoise Adidas, and fuchsia Reeboks. They always ended up at the back of the closet. I am most at home in ASICS.

At last, fashionable footwear made for comfort can be paired with leggings, jeans and even skirts. Black and white Adidas, Sketchers Sweet Spots, Forever 21 Floral Slip On and Converse All Star Plaids are the rage. Top independent shoes companies with names like IPath, SeaVees, Pointer Footwear, Newton, Scora, Supra, Black Spot, Under Armour, Etnies, Superga, Visvim, and Clae are in vogue. Don’t feel bad, the only ones I’ve heard of are New Balance and Under Armour.final four

Since Michael Jordan’s signature epic Air Jordan, elite athletes have elevated the tennis shoes to lofty levels. Finally in 1996, much to my joy, Nike launched Air Swoopes, named after the female basketball star Sheryl Swoopes. National sports heroes in every country have their signature shoe. Switzerland’s Roger Federer’s Zoom Vapor has long been a favorite of tennis players. For a retro look, designers also brought back tennis shoe models from Arthur Ash and Yannick Noah’s (French father of Chicago Bulls star center, Joakim Noah) playing days.

Countless brands lead the global scene. ETQ Amsterdam, the Netherlands footwear, is at the peak of the luxury sneaker culture. Kahru, which means bear in Finnish, makes original and running shoes. Fred Perry, an English menswear brand, turns the sneaker into high fashion. Norman Walsh Made in England has the British flag as a logo. Le Coq Sportif, founded 1888, is one of the oldest brands. It’s named for the French national team symbol, a rooster. Diadora’s Italian brand and Etonic’s, founded in 1876, are also making a comeback.

But I am a simple gal, my go to shoe – ASICS 180 gel cross trainers. With my funky feet finding a shoe to fit is as likely as seeing an elephant hanging out in the North Woods.

High heels take a hike. Give me my tennie kicks any day.

Fanny Packs Offer Freedom

FB2Even though they went out of fashion decades ago, I am a great fan of fanny packs. Actually the name is a misnomer. They should be called crotch concealers; no one wears the pack across their backside. Instead the little kangaroo pouch hangs front and center providing you with instant access to keys, passports, wallets, lipstick and gum.

These waist wallets make ideal travel companions especially for flying in the 21st century when seats have shrunk to the size of chamber pots and overhead luggage must smaller than a Barbie doll suitcase.

Fanny packs also provide agility to navigate through countless airport screenings where you must scan everything except your underwear. Best of all, fanny packs allow you to have all hands on deck at all times. At every security checkpoint, the added dexterity allows passengers to untie shoes, unbuckle belts, and unpack iPhones, iPads, and laptops in record time.

To add to your anxiety, in the age of terrorism, the voice of the Transit Security Authority booms over the loud speaker, “Do not leave your baggage unattended!”

You can breath a sigh of relief knowing that your fanny pack will never get left behind or misplaced.

These money bags are ideal for long haul layovers crossing time zones when your body lands in London and your head is still back in LA. During transit, when trying to stay awake to protect your belongings until your next flight is impossible, the fanny pack offers you the luxury of dozing off. Flip it over and slip it around your neck to use as a little pillow.

This carry on item is also perfect for touring European cities where pick pockets prey on tourists. You can outsmart the purse-snatchers and pocket thieves with this versatile pouch wrapped securely around your middle. Buckle up for extra safety on buses and trains.

The bum bag is by far a woman’s most underrated accessory. Handbags are hard to hang on to in crowds. Shoulder bags force you to walk lopsided. Backpacks pull the spine. Totes take a toll. Fanny packs are synonymous with freedom to move unencumbered.

In 1962 Australian Melba Stone invented the fanny pack, which became as popular as shoulder pads in the late 80s and peaked in the 90s, but since then it has gotten a bad rap. In Europe wearing one is considered a faux pas. French view it as part of the fashion depraved tourist attire of those “ugly Americans” who dare stroll down the Champs Elysées clad in tennis shoes and baseball caps.fanny pack 1

But leave it to the Americans to favor functionality and comfort over fashion, especially on vacation. For all practicality, there is no better extra. The waist pack allows you so much dexterity, leaving hands free to round up stray kids, sip drinks, give out snacks, hold books, and hug your honey.

With the Nineties fashion revival in full swing rumor has it that the fanny pack is making a comeback. Models are strutting down the runway with designer pouches slung around their skinny waists. Listen to the advice of the ultimate trendsetter, moi, for a real “groovy” holiday, leave your purse at home instead pack a bum bag!

Smart Phones For Dummies

smartphone-junkie-man-49871925While most people have been using smartphones for ages, I finally inherited a hand-me-down iPhone 5 from my husband’s secretary. At long last, I possessed that amazing little gadget that can do everything but wipe my backside. I can get organized, share FaceTime with family (here is an explanation on how to use it on any Android machine), text message friends and dance my heart out to iTunes. Just one problem, they don’t make smart phones for dummies.

Case in point ME. When I went to phone store center to trade in my antique Nokia, the clerk laughed out loud. “Wow, it’s been eons since I have seen one of these.”

Within 48 hours of activating my phone chip, I made so many gaffs the Frenchman threatened to confiscate it.

While walking home from school, I tried calling the hubby at his printing office in Lausanne; instead I rang my daughter at her pediatric clinic in Minneapolis. That went down real well.

In PE class, I thought I was recording students’ lap times; instead I was setting the alarm clock.

“Who’s calling?” I screamed waking up that night.

“You!” the hubby grumbled. “You set your phone to ring at two a.m.!”

When it comes to technology, I am one step behind and a term or two off beat. When my students told me about that instant messaging thing, I said, “Cool! I need to get what’s up.”

They laughed me out of the classroom.

“It’s not what’s up,” a student said, ‘it’s Whatsapp` an application for free messaging.”

Application? One uses an application to seek employment, to enter university, and to do calculus. What does “application” have to do with finding out, “What’s up, bro?”

It gets worse. During a staff meeting my sweatshirt pouch burst out singing in Janet Jackson’s voice. I swore I turned off my walking-to-school music. Savvy colleagues explained that moving around with an iPhone in your pocket could turn on iTunes.

Texting is a whole other ball game. Seriously, how can anyone text and drive? It’s like diving off a cliff with your hands tied to your feet. Even at my desk with both hands on my device, I have yet to text without falling off my chair. Besides by the time I punch in the correct letters, my brain’s faulty memory bank has already forgotten the message. Even my 81-year-old, nimble-fingered mom can text faster than me.

Stranger things keep happening. Yesterday all by itself my little iPhone burst into song and dance, playing Walk the Line by Johnny Cash…. I don’t even like Johnny Cash. Next thing I know Sandra Beckwith, a marketing guru, is telling me how to sell more books – from a class I took five years ago. My husband, who was watching Netflix on TV downstairs, explained that sometimes it sets off iTunes when the computer nearby is on the same network. Well, how dumb is that?

Worse yet, every time he receives a call for another crisis at work, my phone rings too.

And if these phones are so smart, how come they get lost all the time? Mine has little electronic legs and never stays where I put it. When I misplaced it at school, I stayed up all night worrying that a techie teen would crack my code and access my top-secret contact list.

But you know me; I am always willing to give it a go. So send me your cell number and I’ll ring you the next time I’m in your neighborhood, if can catch that darn phone that keeps running away from home.

Meanwhile my brain becomes more muddled; numbers scramble, fingers freeze on the keyboard, … applications, smapplications, crapplications…will I ever understand that mumble jumble tech speak?

I am convinced my iPhone 5 is possessed, so I am upgrading as soon as they invent that smart phone for dummies.

Log Out Tune In

IMG_4535_copyDo you wonder what happened to me? I logged off Internet and tuned in to life. I didn’t plan to be away from social media for the month of August, but things kept getting in the way – a bad back, an ongoing illness and a big family.

Unlike wine, the spine does not get better with age. Twice a week, I went for treatments to relieve the pain of bulging, herniated, degenerating discs or whatever you want to call smashed vertebrae. I rode the rollercoaster of a chronic disease searching for ways to balance my lifestyle during the flare-ups.

I devised a back plan – swim, walk, stretch, recline, ice, baby, ice – in attempt to retain mobility. With age, it is a losing battle. Gravity pulls my body parts earthwards but I refuse to go down without a fight to stay upright.

I tweaked a medical plan -pulsed antibiotic regime supported by dozens of vitamins, supplements, anti fungal pills, and probiotics – to keep the bug that outsmarts modern medicine at bay.

Most importantly, I filled a memory bank with traditions: sipping coffee with my mom, reminiscing with my dad, swimming with my daughter, niece and sister, walking with my sibs, sailing with my sweetheart, hiking with my son, kidding with my bros, yakking with my gal pals, and laughing so hard my ribs hurt.

 

Our beloved cabin needed a revolving door to accommodate the traffic coming and going. On weekends it felt like we were running a B & B as our young adult « kids » and friends drove up or over for a few days of solid comfort in God’s Country.

Technically I wasn’t « working », but I kept a hectic pace. I drove to doctors’ offices and cruised grocery store aisles. I grilled boatloads of brats and burgers and boiled bushels of corn on the cob. I baked dozens of cookies, whipped up hundreds of salads and washed thousands of utensils. I fed the « vultures » that swooped into the trouth (aka kitchen counter) at meal times and soared back to the lake before dish duty. TGIP – thank God it’s paper plates again.

No time for napping. Like Laura Ingalls, I always had another chore to do in our Little Cabin in the Woods — water jugs to fill, bedding to change, laundry to wash, floors to mop, garbage to dump, towels to hang, cans to crush, meals to prepare.

In exchange, I started every morning stretching on the dock in front of a mirror of glass. To the background beat of wailing loons, rustling chipmunks, and knocking woodpeckers, I did the downward dog and breathed in the peace.

And as the setting sun burst into a flame casting a golden glow over my day, I ended every evening in a prayer of gratitude.

I didn’t get anything done on my summer -to -do list. I didn’t journal, post blogs, grade papers, plan lessons, or research articles. I didn’t take an online class, join another social network or write a bestseller.

Instead I logged out, tuned in and attended to life.IMG_4937_copy