I Have Become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principal

First, let me get it out of the way in saying that I have the utmost respect for Mr. (Matt?) Mitchell and in this piece I mean him no harm. If there is any “shade” being thrown here it is all internally focused. You, dear reader, will also note that I am unsure of Mr. Mitchell’s first name. These are recollections from more than 30 years ago. All the more interesting that I have now become my Middle School Assistant Assistant Principle some 30 years on.

I have talked about Scioto County before; my birthplace in the Appalachian foothills in the Ohio River Valley. I love my home, so it is with perfect clarity that I see it for what it is: steeped in tradition, conservative, protestant, hard-working but not ambitious, provincial, suspicious of outsiders, rural, local, and individualistic. With two feet in the Midwest, but leaning hard to the American South, our people put practicality about 30 feet higher on the priority list than presentation.

My wife and I noted this on our last trip to Europe in which we sailed up and down the Douro River in Portugal. Even Europe’s squalor is classy. Old homes lay in ruin along the Douro, but all that is left is the timeless stonework. It looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover, mystical and legendary. No plastic flapping in the wind, no garbage strewn about. That cruise could never happen on the mighty Ohio River. Both the Douro and the Ohio are working rivers, but the scenery is not comparable. On the Ohio, manufactured homes with blue tarp serving as replacement shingles and plastic flapping from windows mar the otherwise picturesque greenery. I have digressed.

However, this practicality-over-presentation is exactly the point I want to illustrate. Mr. Mitchell held the position of Assistant Assistant Principal. Yes I know that sounds weird. This was the time when corporal punishment was still common in public schools. I am pretty sure that Assistant Assistant Principal was the school’s way of not calling Mr. Mitchell the “Corporal Punisher.” Mr. Mitchell was a HUGE man. A former football player, it was clear that he lived for the former glory. He was a coach on the all-important middle school football team. The only thing more important in the community than this team was the high school football team. Mr. Mitchell dressed like a coach. Every day. Polyester coach’s pants, white socks, all black training shoes that could be used for refereeing, coaching, or – in many cases around Scioto County – comfortable office shoes. On hot days, he would swap out the coach’s pants for coach’s shorts: same polyester cut with double snaps at the waist, just cut above the knee to display calf muscles that could (and probably did) move automobiles.

As I dressed for work this morning, I slipped into my pro-golfer branded “Traveling Pants.” It was my wife and better half who pointed out that these are essentially the same as the 1980’s polyester coach’s pants. And yes of course, to help protect my feet from the day-to-day pounding I give them while running, climbing, biking, etc. I have paired my Traveling Pants with all black trainers. I don’t wear my all-black athletic shoes all day at the office, but I wear them to- and from- the office for comfort and to protect my office shoes from the often harsh Ohio elements. Practical. So this morning, I paused in front of the full length mirror to offer one last check before heading out the door and confirmed it. I have become my middle school Assistant Assistant Principal, only much less imposing.

Louisville Travel Review

We decided to take our two youngest boys to Louisville, KY this year for a long weekend as their vacation over the summer.  Our older two have scheduled their own adventures and my husband and I went on an amazing trip to Portugal earlier this summer.  Earlier this year, the boys and I went to Williamsburg, VA for spring break, so this was a bonus trip.  I selected Louisville because I am super interested in the National Parks right now, which I have only visited one starting last year.  Also, I think they (13 and 11) are at the right ages for history and National Park style vacations.  Also, Louisville is only 4 hours away by car.  This is an easy drive but still feels different than home.

Thursday: Louisville Slugger Day

The adventure begins with leaving at about 9:30 am.  If you know me, the old me would be through the roof with frustration trying to get my family on the road by 7am so we can maximize our time in the location.  But, I have learned over the course of being a mommy, my tweens and teens don’t want to move at my pace and they don’t want to get up early on summer vacation.  Since this vacation is for the boys, we started at a leisurely pace and planned only 1 activity per day.  I joke that kids don’t really change.  You are limited by their ability to take in new.  When they are toddlers and babies they need naps.  When they are tweens and teens they need electronics time to not be grumpy.

We arrive at stop #1 Cincinnati, OH around 11:30 am.  We needed to get lunch and gas.  I also did my research and found an awesome climbing gym (mosaic climbing) to break up the drive and get in a workout.  We climbed until about 2:00 and then hit the road.

We arrived in Louisville to stay at the Galt Hotel (eh, i wouldn’t recommend) around 4:00.  We settled in and headed over to the Louisville Slugger Museum (a must see).  We learned that after 6pm the cost is 1/2 price, so we chose to wait until 6:00 to take the factory tour and see the museum.  Jackson, my baseball player was in heaven.  We bought him a personalized bat and went to dinner while it was engraved.  We ate at Proof on Main.  This is the second time Troy and I have been here and we have loved the food both times.  They also have children’s menus making it simple for the kids.

After a little stroll along the Ohio river, we took the boys back to the hotel and let them have their veg time.  We slipped downstairs for a drink at one of the many speakeasy’s for a nice relaxing “we” time before bed.

Friday: Mammoth Cave Day!

On the drive to Cincinnati, I did research to determine which tour we wanted to take at Mammoth Cave.  I figured out how to purchase tour tickets online.  It seems this is the way to go because there were no tours available when we arrived on Friday.  I selected the Domes and Drips tour.  There are a TON of tours, but this seemed about the attention span of the kids at 2 hours total.  Plus, I personally wanted to see some stalactites and stalagmites.  Troy and I woke up early and ran.  Louisville has a great pedestrian bridge across the Ohio that is an old rail road bridge that has been paved.  It’s perfect for a nice view of the city while running.  The boys slowly woke up and were ready to go around 10am.  Our tour time was for 12:45, so no stress.  A couple things about Mammoth Caves:

1. It’s in central time zone – this is an hour later than Louisville

2. It’s really busy in the summer – about 100 people were on our tour

3. Unlike other national parks, it is very “danger free” … meaning there are hand rails and concrete walking paths within the cave

My impression of the whole experience is, I didn’t realize how crowded it would be.  I was disappointed at the safety rails and man made walking path.  I was expecting more of a hike.  At least on the tour we took, it’s just like walking on a sidewalk and looking at the cave.  The cave was impressive, but I was hoping for a bit more interaction, wilderness, need-hiking-boots, type experience.  I’m going with, it was just alright and I plan to go back at a less busy time.  However, my 13 year old, leaned over and said “Mom, this was totally worth it” during the tour.  So, at least his expectations were exceeded.

On the way back from Mammoth Cave we stopped at the World’s Largest go-kart track to let the boys have some fun practice driving.  They also chose to have a quick dinner and veg the rest of the night versus going out to dinner with us.  Once we got back to the hotel, Troy and I let the boys reconnect to the outside world via electronics while we had a nice dinner.  Although, I don’t recommend the place we chose, so no endorsement there.

Saturday: Headed home

After discussing with the boys if they had anything else they would like to see, we decided to head back to Ohio.  It was a nice trip and everyone wanted to get organized for the upcoming week.  But first! Climbing 🙂  We visit NuLu Climbing in Louisville as soon as they opened.  Troy requested a late checkout so we could climb then shower before getting on the road.  The gym was amazing.  It is 100% bouldering and huge!  Jackson, Troy, and I had a great time and felt ready to sit in a car for 4 hours.

Why I Hate Home Improvement

You read that right. I hate home improvement. Yes, yes, I enjoy watching The Property Brothers and Chip & Joanna just like everyone else. But when it comes to actually doing home improvement, I find that every project takes twice as long and costs twice as much as the most conservative estimates. Not only that, this latest “simple” repair nearly broke me.

The Role Model

My father-in-law is my role model. In his early 70’s, he is fitter than most through brute force of effort. His goal is to walk 10 miles a day, and unless he’s got some project going on, he does it. Jimmy, as he is known by those close to him, also goes to the gym. He has perhaps the calmest demeanor I’ve ever seen, and this from a man who survived the front lines as an infantryman in Vietnam. He is also quite handy. A now retired electrician, Jimmy makes short work of plenty of home improvement projects. I can only aspire to such great heights.

The Problem

This past weekend, Jimmy came to visit to watch our youngest play in his baseball tournament. He got to our house while we weren’t home and discovered the half-bath ceiling vent had stopped working. I had heard the motor begin to whine over the past few weeks but I figured I’d let it completely die before replacing it. Springing into action, Jimmy quickly disassembled the offending fan and performed some diagnostics. He reported, “I got the fan spinning again, but the motor is fried. Just take it to Lowe’s and tell them you need a replacement motor.” Simple, right?

The Project

Not even close. I went to Lowe’s and found the “right” motor. Only it didn’t turn out that way. It was the exact opposite of everything that I needed. Mounting screws on the wrong side, shaft spinning the wrong way, it was made to be right side up and I needed upside down. I could take it back, but this was all they had. Then I’m off searching for another motor on the internet and the experts at the hardware store knew this one was right for me. What would Jimmy do? Jimmy would take it and the previous motor apart, change the mounting screws and make other minor adjustments to make it work. So let’s get started!

The Complication

I don’t have the tools to change the mounting screws. The previous motor’s mounting screws were simple hex heads, whereas the new one requires a star head driver. The drivers are cheap and I will probably need them in the future so I decided to go get them. It was the weekend and traffic was bad. The hardware store is on the bike path, so I decided to mount up and ride over to pick up the tools. Why not channel my inner Jimmy and get some exercise while home improving? This decision would prove painful.

The Crash

I made it to the service road without incident. Checking behind me for traffic as I turned into the parking lot, I started to crank down on my pedals to get up to the building and find a spot to put my bike. Right then I hit a bump. I hit it with my front tire which caused me to lurch forward and when my back tire hit, it lifted my back wheel off the ground. The next few split seconds played out in slow, teeth-gnashing motion as I attempted to shift my body weight backwards and pull on the back brake handle to slow down. Best I can tell, shifting my hand on the grip caused me to lose control of the front because the front wheel turned and I went toppling over the handle bars in a heap. I lay on the hot asphalt for a moment taking stock. Bruised and a little bloody, nothing seemed to be broken at the moment, so I got up to finish the job. I’m sure I looked a mess as I limped around the hardware store with a road-scarred shirt and shorts grimacing from the new aches and pains.

The Conclusion

The new exact-opposite vent fan motor cost me about $20. The new tools cost me $14. However, when I add in the new bicycle seat since mine was busted in the crash, my additional cost goes up to $32 – more than double the cost. Had the motor been correct, I could have replaced it in about 25 minutes. After changing the mounting screws, reversing the armature, having to use the bushings from the old fan motor because of the upside down mount, and three attempts before getting it right, I had nearly 3 hours of labor in this “simple” project – more than 6X the time. As I write this, I am still finding new bruises from the bike crash. I hate home improvement.

Area Man Just Wants to Work On Golf Game

No, not me. I couldn’t care less about golf. But I love The Onion (Warning: The Onion sometimes mixes in strong language). These Onion-esque headlines run through my head all the time.

This morning, I walked to the store and some young lady in a white SUV came barreling toward the crosswalk when I stepped into it. She stopped with plenty of space, but I couldn’t help but flash a spontaneous headline through my head, “Suburban SUV driver intentionally stops late near crosswalks just to keep pedestrians on their toes.” It is a guilty pleasure.

I think what I love most about The Onion is that it strikes so closely to the essence of human behavior while carrying a wry smile. Not malicious, but certainly not innocent. The original, ah hem… “real?” fake news, articles on The Onion are very short. They remind me of creative prompts in writing class. They prompt just enough interest in a topic and then wrap up without really going anywhere in particular. I suppose we could say it is small talk for introverts.

If you happen to run across me in public and I look as if I’m sharing an inside joke, I probably am. It is just me writing Onion-like headlines in my head as I observe the world around me. And so I’m off. Boldly going, occasionally delusional.