Continuing my theme of a memoir encyclopedia, I present my Letter G entries.
When I say I’m a game player, what comes to mind? Maybe you think I’m a gamer, a video game junkie sitting in front of my TV screen for hours, battling imaginary foes and collecting points. Or perhaps you think I play games with the heart, you know, those people who play the dating game so well that they have swarms of people falling for them. You might even think I relish in the thrill of a competitive athletic game, a sporting match where I’m a member of a team seeking the next goal to win the game.
Well…hate to burst your bubble, but I’m none of these. I’m a board game player, and I enjoy a good game night more than your average person. My go-to board game is Settlers of Catan, and unless I’m playing against someone who’s really good, I usually win. I’m not trying to brag, but it’s true. I also enjoy a raucous game of Cranium or Quelf, but for those, you need a large group of people who want to play it. Half-assed Cranium is worse than no Cranium. Dice games are great, too, and don’t require a lot of prep work. At the moment, Quixx and Liar’s Dice are my faves- Quixx is better for small groups and Liar’s Dice for large ones.
The ultimate party game is Cards Against Humanity, and it’s a definite crowd pleaser. Someone’s bound to ask to play it at one of my parties, and then the fun really begins. Other than the sixth expansion that recently came out, I have the original Black Box and all the expansion sets, plus some hand-written doozies that I’ve gathered over the years…mostly inside jokes, but when you’re on the inside, they’re pretty side-splitting. If you’re not okay with being offended, Cards probably isn’t for you. You’re better off playing it’s milder cousin Apples to Apples, which is fun, too, but definitely doesn’t get the people going like Cards does. A relatively new game that I absolutely love is Codenames, which I love so much that I’ve bought three versions of the game. Codenames is a game in which two opposing teams are trying to guess words based on one-word clues given by the clue giver. I love this game because it requires you to be creative with your word choices and because every game is a new challenge. However, I find it’s better when you play with people you know, because they just get you and are more likely to guess based on your clues. Playing with new people can be fun, too, but it’s more tricky.
I’m always on the lookout for new games to try…any suggestions?
I was the kid who always got good grades. For me, a B on a report card might as well have been an F, because earning one was like I had failed at life. I’m pretty sure my obsession with getting good grades came from my parents’ high expectations of me. They knew I was capable and wouldn’t accept anything less than the best. Their pressure was sometimes overt, but mostly it was this unspoken expectation that I needed to always do my best, and my best was an A.
School was my thing, and more than anything else, it was how I identified myself. Other people identify as soccer players or piano players, but My identity was rooted in the fact that I was good in school. I enjoy learning for learning’s sake, but in school, it was more about getting the A. I knew how to play the game. I knew how to do just enough to earn the A. I have a photographic memory, so I would cram the night before and ace the test the next day, relying on my memory and deduction skills to get me through. A couple of weeks or months down the road, I didn’t really retain the information, unless it was something in which I was actually interested. In a way, I wish school hadn’t come as easily for me, because had I had to work at it more, I would be smarter and more knowledgeable now.
I carried this pressure to earn top marks with me into university, and while no longer pressured by my parents to earn good grades, I found myself stressed as I put more and more pressure on myself. I struggled a little bit, something that was brand new to me. High school was a cake walk, so when thrown into university classes where I was 1 in 100, where the professor didn’t know my name and couldn’t care less whether I came to class and succeeded, and where I actually had to study, I was out of my depth. Never having to struggle in high school meant that I was ill-equipped for the steep change in content and expectations. I faltered at first, earning my first D in a government class, which nearly killed me. Luckily, I was able to adapt to my new environment, and this early setback was just that, a setback. This bad grade made me work harder, and I ended up graduating Magna Cum Laude. Believe it or not, I am glad the D happened when it did. It put me in check knocked me down a peg or two, and was the lesson I needed in order to change.
I began grad school more out of boredom than anything else. I had been teaching for four years in the same grade, and I needed a challenge. I’m not one of those people who is content doing the same thing forever. I like change, and I thrive on challenge. It seemed like a logical step that I’d go back to school. At first, I enrolled in the Curriculum & Instruction Master’s program, with the intention of becoming a Curriculum Coordinator in my school district. Shortly into my program, I had a conversation with Ann Smith, a trusted colleague and friend, who had recently been promoted to the Science Curriculum Coordinator position. Her recommendation was that I change my major to Educational Leadership, since it was a higher degree, and most likely one I’d need to have anyway for that position. But, I don’t want to be a principal. She assured me that I could still be a curriculum coordinator with that degree. Based on her recommendation, I enrolled in the Educational Leadership program.
Going back to school was enjoyable. I approached grad school with a more learning for learning’s sake perspective, and while it was tough, I excelled. Most classes were relatively easy for me, especially because I was actually interested in the content. I earned good grades, and which only fueled my desire for more A’s. One semester, near the end, I was under a lot of stress. I was working full time and taking a full course load. One of my classes was School Budgets, and it was kicking my ass. It was, by far, the hardest course yet. I can remember spiraling out with anxiety over an assignment one night. I was stressed to the max and I wanted to quit. I called my mom, and while pacing in the driveway with tears streaming down my face, I told her I was going to just drop out of grad school. This class was too hard, and there was no way I was going to get an A, and not getting an A would mess up my perfect 4.0 I had so far. She told me that it was okay if I didn’t get an A. She told me she was proud of me. And she told me that there’s no way I was going to quit; I was nearly done, and it cost way too much money. I finally calmed down, my mom having put things into perspective for me. I ended up finishing the assignment, and I actually did well. I made the A, and kept my 4.0.
Granddaddy and I had a special relationship. I was his baby girl, and he would have done anything for me. He and I were as much alike as we were different. Neither one of us ever met a stranger, and were known to strike up a conversation with literally anyone who’d listen. He was a country man at heart, and while I enjoyed it as a child, I’m more of a city girl.
I can remember riding in Granddaddy’s beat up old pick-up truck, sitting in the middle seat next to him. His favorite thing to do was to grab my knee, and using his thumb and pinky fingers (the only fingers he had left on that hand), he’d push as hard as he could, tickling me to no end. I’d laugh and squirm and beg him to stop. And he would. Until he did it again when I least expected it.
Grandaddy had a major sweet tooth and the table next to his recliner was always stocked with Tootsie Rolls, a box of Nilla Wafers, square caramels, M&M’s, and fun-size Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Baby Ruth candy bars. Mamaw would get on his case constantly about it, but he’d just laugh and pop another Tootsie Roll in his mouth. Andrew and I only had to ask and he’d share with us in a heartbeat.
Growing up in the Great Depression, he was thrifty. He would reuse anything he could out on the farm in order for him not to have to buy it new. He’d wear his clothes until they were threadbare. It didn’t matter that my mom was always buying him new clothes- he wouldn’t wear them until the old ones were wore out. I remember being embarrassed of this quality as a pre-teen and teenager, when brand names and newness were so important to me. One day, my Granddaddy saw a pair of shoes that had been thrown out, and deeming them good enough to wear, he picked them up out of the trash heap and wore them. It didn’t matter that they were two sizes too big.
There wasn’t anything my Granddaddy couldn’t do. He was a great carpenter, and could build or fix anything. After their house burned down after an ex-employee set it on fire (in the middle of the night with me in it), he built their next house almost all by himself. My most favorite gift he ever gave me was a playhouse he’d built for me, complete with a door, siding, a window, and a real roof. It was very special, and I have many sweet memories in that place.