Part III: 2Bs

March 9, 2016 at 1:23 am (Uncategorized)

Have you noticed that derivations of the word “bitch” showed up in my past two posts? This one includes that word, too, though more subtly than in posts I and II.

People kindly ask me what I’m doing these days. These are the folks who know that I have a master’s in journalism and worked in both newsrooms and freelanced for years. These folks know, too, that I had part-time jobs in development in higher education and that I no longer hold those posts.

“So, where are you working these days?”

Here’s my exciting answer: I’ve started a business. With fellow Portland-based writer Merridawn Duckler, I’ve put out a digital shingle and created the LLC 2B Writing Company. Sounds kinda Shakespearean, doesn’t it? (2bwritingcompany.com exists but isn’t fully fleshed out. It will be soon, though, so don’t hesitate to visit often. As for the operating digital part of the business’ shingle, email to 2bwritingcompany@gmail.com.)

What do we do? Merridawn is more the poet and creative-writing expert; I’m more the reporter/journalist; and we both edit with red pen in hand and great results in mind. We both have years of PR/publicity experience, too, and already have had the chance to put some of these business bullet points to the test with initial clients (who are both brave and satisfied).

About the more-subtle use of the accurate word for a female dog, well, when you really think about it, what might 2Bs actually stand for? (Pause) You’re correct: Good ‘ole Will has very little to do with it.

 

 

 

 

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Post II: bitchin’ language trip

March 8, 2016 at 11:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Alyssa and eight other students in her 8th-grade French language class are abroad through the middle of this month. The Spanish-language students are in Granada, Spain, and the Mandarin-language students are in Nanjing, China. The French-language students are not in France or even Quebec, Canada. They are in the Caribbean, on the island of Martinique, an “overseas region” of France. Way back when, the French just wanted the island’s sugar, timber, and rum. Today, folks in cold climates just want its sun. So I’ll admit that it sounded like a bit more of a vacation than the seeming foreign-language immersion trips the French students’ Spanish- and Mandarin-learning counterparts would be embarking on.

A close reading of the students’ itinerary for their 10 days on the Lesser Antilles’ island of Martinique, however, reads like an incredible journey into the past, with a number of educational opportunities that point to the U.S.’s own slave history. The students will visit the site of a now-dormant volcano that in 1902 wreaked havoc on a city then known as the “Paris of the Caribbean” (St Pierre); they will visit a museum dedicated to the growing and harvesting of bananas; and they will visit, too, a museum about slavery and cocoa production.

I will admit, though, that my sense that this immersion trip would be an amazing cultural — as well as linguistic — experience waned a bit after Alyssa posted a photo from a weekend trajet with her host mom and her daughter. Upon arriving on a Thursday in Fort-de-France, Martinique, Alyssa had informed us via a brief text that she would spend the weekend “at a hotel” with her host family (whose daughter we’d hosted in late-January and who is a simply wonderful girl).

That seemed pretty generous of the host family, considering their apartment already is in the tropics and near — I’m just certain — a large swath of sand. At the end of Alyssa’s “hotel stay,” she posted to Instagram some photos from her ping-ponging, pool-swimming, feral-cat collecting, yummy-food eating, paddle-boarding experiences … at Club Med. Instagram has this feature (both good and bad) whereby any posted photo notes where said photo was shot. Her photos were tagged “Club Medi, Les Boucaniers,” The Buccaneers. Dave and I about fell over. Yeah, guess that’s some hotel.

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Post I: Bitchy judges

March 8, 2016 at 11:06 pm (Uncategorized)

I have some things on my mind and felt like getting them out via this forum. I’ll do so in three parts. Lucky you.

Regarding gratitude and its necessity:

Hayley is a competitive gymnast; this means — among other things — that when she and her teammates compete at their home club, each family must volunteer 16 hours for each gymnast. Volunteer duties include everything from moving very heavy equipment, like the uneven parallel bars and balance beams, to selling raffle tickets to timing warmups on the floor or on the vault. The families with three children — two of whom don’t compete — are in the best spot, as the two parents and two kids can each take a four-hour shift and call it good. But for families with our makeup — with one competing gymnast and only three additional sitting ducks — that means one of the three gets two shifts, or an eight-hour volunteer commitment. All in the name of supporting the club and, more important, the individual gymnast.

I am no stranger to volunteering, nor to coordinating volunteers. I know the elation that comes with working with people who are serious about their commitments and making them happen while smiling. And I know far too well those who say, “Sure, I’ll help,” only to flake at the last minute or do only a half-assed job. I know, too, how lovely it is to volunteer alongside paid personnel who are grateful for the volunteers’ time and gracious toward them; they respect that free, indeed, is a very good price.

Case in point: Our club hosted a huge girls and boys’ gymnastics meet over the three days of President’s Day weekend. Dave took on two shifts, and he and I somehow roped a decently willing Alyssa (read: only a little moaning, no temper tantrums) to help out with the fourth and final of the Knudsen family required volunteer shifts. On Valentine’s Day, Hayley competed while her three underlings volunteered: Dave helped time bar routines; Alyssa timed vault warmups; and I helped time beam routines. Quick primer: In the world of competitive gymnastics, not only must every toe be pointed and every errant hair slicked into place, but the gymnasts’ actual routines must be completed within a certain time period. Completing a routine on beam, for example, after the time limit (about 1 minute) results in docked points. Who docks these points? Why, the judges, of course.

In my case at this meet, the judges to whom I was assigned docked more than points from the gymnasts; they docked layers from my self-confidence.

I mentioned I’m no stranger to volunteering; in fact, I’d volunteered already at my fair share of gymnastics meets, and on this Valentine’s Day, I felt somewhat confident as I strode up to the judges at the balance beam station to await the task they’d assign me. I politely introduced myself; the head judge simply proceeded to fix me with a steely eyed look over the rim of her readers and did not introduce herself back. Instead, she quickly barked my instructions. I should have cried uncle right then.

Rather, I remained at my post; even though my gut triggered a PTSD reaction rooted firmly in my junior high days, I remained with the head judge and her equally snotty counterpart throughout my four-hour shift, dealing with their unkind looks, lack of patience when I screwed up once with the timer, eye rolls to one another about my mess up, and a derisive “OK” when I, at long last, had to take a potty break before my sentence was over. (I barely make it through a 90-minute movie without a potty break, let alone a 240-minute exercise in being figuratively chained to two unpleasant people and their snarkyness.) And when my shift did mercifully come to an end, the two judges did not thank me for my (free) time; indeed, they did not even make eye contact.

In a bit of a controlled huff, I went over to the volunteer coordinator who, I must say, did a Herculean job filling up the dozens and dozens of required volunteer slots and making last-minute adjustments for the inevitable scheduling glitches that occurred. I complained to her about my experience, noting I didn’t appreciate being treated like an unwanted and unskilled cog in those judges’ otherwise well-oiled wheel. Those judges in their prep-school blue blazers rely on volunteers; they should, as a matter of course, demonstrate their gratitude. Even a whispered “thanks” would have placated me a little bit. Instead, I released some steam by calling them bitches in Hayley’s presence. Not my best parenting moment. But I was miffed.

Taking a page from my own pontificating, two days later, after I’d cooled off, I penned a hand-written note to the volunteer coordinator, sincerely thanking her for her time and work on behalf of the gymnasts, other parents, and our club. Doing so helped unknot my proverbial knotted undies. But not all the way: When I learned a few weeks later that the sharp-eyed head judge got a talking to (not her first, I understand) about her attitude toward meet volunteers — and on Valentine’s Day no less — my undies at last relaxed.

Moral: Thank those who help you out, whether it’s required or not. Their only compensation is your show of gratitude. Reality check: I hope the rude judge to whom I’d been assigned rips a seam in her blazer. If ever assigned to her event again, I’ll ask to be reassigned to another judge. The pay just ain’t worth it.

 

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