Friday, July 20, 2018

Tomboys Forever!

Before I tell the story of yesterday morning, let me spoil the suspense by telling the ending:  I am not hurt.  It could have been otherwise.

Yesterday during my walk to the beach, I fell.  The sidewalk was just the tiniest bit uneven, and my shoe got caught.  Down I went.  Happily, I didn't hit my head, but I did land on my hip that had already been hurting.

My first thought:  Damn, I bet I broke my hip.  And even if I didn't break it, it's only a matter of time. 

And then I had to laugh at myself.  I've been tripping over pavement since I was 8 years old, and while I don't have skinned knees as often as I did when I was a child, it's not an unfamiliar feeling.  I took a quick inventory of my wounds and kept walking.

While I did skin my knees, it's my thumb on my right hand that hurts worst of all of my body bangs from yesterday.  I managed to rip a corner of my thumbnail, so every time I tap the space bar on the keyboard, I feel it.

I want to say it was my years of drama training that taught me to fall.  Or maybe it was the years of clown ministry (ah, the 70's and early 80's!).  Or maybe a self defense class here or there.  Most probably it was a matter of luck that I didn't rip the skin off my palms and then take the brunt of impact on my elbow.

I have a vision of an internet meme, if only I knew how to start one:

Age 53 and still skinning my knees!

Or maybe this slogan would be catchier:  Tomboys forever!

So let me count up my gratitude:  I'm grateful that I could take a tumble and continue my walk.  I'm grateful for strong bones.  I'm grateful that it was a reason for falling that doesn't necessarily presage disaster:  it's not a stroke, heart attack, or something dire.  I'm grateful for parents who let me be my tomboy self as a child, so skinned knees are nothing that seems disastrous to me.  I'm grateful for a safe neighborhood where I could fall down and sit on the sidewalk for a few minutes without human predators swooping down on me.  I'm grateful for blood that clots quickly and skin that knows how to heal itself.  I'm grateful that I can fall and get myself up, dust myself off, and kiss my own wounds (O.K. that last was metaphorical--I didn't really kiss my skinned knees, but I did think of how we train our kids and ourselves that a kiss can heal an owie).

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Farewell to the Dining Room Table and Chairs

On the porch, my grandmother's dining room table and chairs sit, waiting for pick up from Out of the Closet, a thrift store that raises money to support gay and lesbian causes.  My spouse chose that destination.  If we were characters in a novel, this detail would surely presage a plot point, depending on the kind of novel we were in.  But I'm just hoping that they actually take it.

In 2003, my grandmother had to leave her house.  It's amazing that she survived the incident that sent her to the continuing care facility:  during the heat of the summer day, she went to take clothes off the line and had a heart attack.  She lay there under the unmerciful sun until neighbors came to look for her in the evening after she didn't answer the "Are you O.K.?" phone calls that she and her friend made to each other in the morning and in the evening.

She had to leave her house, which meant that much of her furniture couldn't come with her.  Although I was only interested in a few pieces, it cost the same to ship a little or to ship a lot, and so I took much of what she wasn't taking with her.

The dining room table expands to seat 3 on either side, and only when it's expanded do the chairs push all the way in--so either way, it takes up more room than I realized.  It's the kind of design that has all sorts of places that catch dust, plus it's hard to dust.  The top is easily scarred and marked.  I have no idea how my grandmother kept it in such good condition--probably because she didn't use it often.  Her dining room was so cramped that it was hard to use it at all.

I hope someone else finds it in the thrift store and loves it, but it's not the kind of thing that fits modern tastes.  I am willing to let it go, but I hate the thought of it going to the dump.

We are in the sorting phase of the great flooring project.  We're realizing how many things we've kept.  My spouse has at least one box of papers that his mother kept--papers that relate to her grandfather, papers that aren't going to be interesting to other relatives, since they didn't know the man.  It seems a shame to toss them--and yet, that's what will happen eventually.

I always knew this sobering reality, but here I am, chastened again by how little it all amounts to, in the end.  A box of papers about a life--including a book of funeral guests, all unknown to us.  It might matter to a historian some day, but it likely wouldn't.  Our relatives were just ordinary folks--important to their immediate circles, but not changing the course of history, except in the ways that ordinary folks leading regular lives change the course of history.

I want to be more ruthless in sorting through my own papers, but it's likely too early to be that ruthless.  I have no children who will be interested in the inner workings of my life or the outer trappings, but I still hope to have decades on this earth.  Still, it's time to think about what I need for those decades:  financial papers yes, dining room table no.

So good-bye, dining room table.  May you find a home where people continue to gather around you to enjoy delicious food and fellowship.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Building Community through Food

Today is National Hot Dog Day; at my school, we'll be celebrating by having hot dogs staying warm in crock pots available for students all day.  We'll also have salad for those who don't want hot dogs.

I went to Gordon Food Services, a much smaller version of Costco or BJs or Sam's.  It's closer to my campus and doesn't require a yearly membership fee.  People commented on the quantity of hot dogs that I was buying, but I worried that I wasn't buying enough.  I can always come back, if people eat more hot dogs than I'm anticipating.

As I loaded the groceries in the car, the man beside me told me about his dogs and how well they eat and how he drives in this junker of a car so that his dogs can eat well.  He also told me about the documentary that turned him against hot dogs.

Have I been having more strange encounters lately or am I just more aware of them?

Yesterday before I went to get the hot dogs, we had a pot luck for the faculty and staff who work at the school.  It was delicious and bountiful, the way a pot luck should be.

In the background, my brain returns again and again to the closing of the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.  I remember a National Hot Dog day of a past year when I was surprised at how popular the hot dogs were; the administrator team handed them out, and I was surprised by the gratitude of the students.

It was a time of increasing desperation:  how can we improve morale?  There was much scoffing at the idea of hot dogs as a cure, but the years where we had more of those kinds of activities were years that students and faculty alike seemed happier to be there.  It couldn't erase the pain of the periodic staff reductions, but it was better than the years when we couldn't find money for events like a hot dog day.

I feel fortunate to be at a school that has the money for these kinds of events.  I know how important they are for building a school that is more than a school.  I'm working to build a supportive community:  food events go much further towards that goal than I originally thought.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Strange Streets and Surreal Times

Yesterday was a bit surreal:

--We have a U.S. president who seems more willing to trust Russia than to trust our allies of 50 + years.  Hearing the news of the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki was just bizarre.  I found myself thinking of a classic episode of The Simpsons that has Homer in Cuba saying, "I think we can trust the president of Cuba" as all of their valuables are taken by the government.

--As I went to pick up one of our college friends who was in town, I heard news of an exchange student who was a secret agent.  It's enough to make me wonder what year it is.  But it's clearly a year that has never existed, if we have double agents making connection with the NRA as our U.S. president has a meeting with the Russian president without anyone else present.

--I'm glad that I'm not a writer of thrillers.  How does one compete?

--My college friend had said he wanted to go to an Armenian restaurant, so I had researched a possibility.  In the car, he said, "Are there any restaurants from Hungary?  I could be wanting some Hungarian goulash."  I suggested Old Heidelberg, a German restaurant that has several kinds of goulash.  I didn't think we'd actually end up there, but we did.

--My friend loves to order appetizers for the table, but the Germans don't really have the kinds of appetizers he likes to order:  no jalapeno poppers, no crab-filled puffy things.

--I had envisioned a lovely night of half price appetizers in downtown Hollywood--but I was also expecting to end up someplace totally different--that's what happens often when we're with this particular friend.  But to end up at a German restaurant?  I wouldn't have thought that would happen.

--We had a very leisurely meal, and so, it was strange to drive home through the dark streets.  At a stop sign, there were several groups of unruly people.  At a stop light, a dark-skinned man staggered into the stopped traffic and said, "I want all of these cars."  I'm not sure how we caught his eye, but he lurched to us, pounded (lightly) his fist on our car hood, and said, "God bless you."  My spouse rolled down his window and said, "Brother, God bless you too."  The light changed, and we all drove away.

--It's the kind of scene that could have ended very differently.  I'm glad that it ended with blessing.  My spouse heard the man say, "Some folks don't see it (or Him?)" as if to say, "You and me, we see it."  I heard him say, "Some days, I just don't see it"--as in, some days I feel God's presence, and some days I don't.  Regardless, I felt an odd moment of connection with a man who most of us would have perceived as threatening.

--I wanted to go home, cook a meal or cookies, and bring it back--but I know how many ways that could have gone wrong.  Instead I said a prayer for us all, out there on strange streets, looking for connections where they may or may not be wise, including our president.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Week-end Wrap Up

In so many ways, my week-end was not what I expected.  Let me capture my memories of the week-end, while they are fresh:

--My spouse and his brother had Saturday plans to either go to a gun range or to ride motorcycles.  But my spouse had a splitting headache, so they changed plans abruptly.  We walked to the beach to have a birthday lunch at the organic brewery.  It was delightful, although a very hot walk.

--My spouse and I spent a lot of time in the pool in the evening Saturday--was my deeper sleep a product of this swimming time?

--I did get all my grading done, although not all on Saturday, like I expected.

--I also thought I might get lots of packing done on Saturday, while my spouse was out.  As with my grading, I did get packing done, but not on Saturday.

--You may ask why I'm packing.  We expect the great flooring project to begin in a few weeks, so we need to get as much off the floors as possible.  If I don't think about the enormity of it all, if I just focus on the one box that needs to be packed, I can keep going.

--I have started watering the plants in the evening.  Once I saw this as yet another caretaking failure.  I've always heard that one should water the plants in the morning and that watering in the evening leaves the plants exposed to rot and pests.  But the plants can't be any worse off than they are now--and they seem to respond well to evening watering, perhaps because our overnight temps aren't very low.  Maybe my green hydrangea blooms will finally turn a color.

--I think it's interesting that I see my plant caretaking as a failure because my petunias have turned spindly and my hydrangeas aren't turning blue or purple.  Petunias are one season plants, and I've kept them alive since I bought them in February.  I've never kept hydrangeas alive as long as I've kept these two plants alive.  I should be bragging, not feeling bad.

And now, on to a new week.  Let me keep watering my plants at night.  Let me keep tackling the great flooring project, box by box.  Let me stay calm and centered, no matter what comes my way.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bastille Day Bits

Today we have another chance to celebrate independence, liberty, and equality: Happy Bastille Day to us all!  Bastille Day is the French Fourth of July, and you could make a strong case that both revolutions should be celebrated in tandem. The French began their revolution in the decade after the American colonies broke away, and for the next century, maybe 2, abusive leaders worried about the example set by these revolutions.

I remember very few dates without having to look them up to be sure, but I do know that the storming of the Bastille happened in 1789--and by reversing those last 2 numbers, I can remember that Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads in 1798. I can make the case that both events forever shaped the future.

Let me collect some Bastille Day thoughts:

--I took a sunrise walk to the beach.  If you hear about a crazy lady at the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk wishing everyone a Happy Bastille Day, that was me!

--Longtime readers of this blog know that Bastille Day is also my birthday--and that I was born on a U.S. Air Force Base in France.

--I think of myself as someone who doesn't care about my birthday.  I have never cancelled class so that I could celebrate all day, for example.   I don't plan trips.  But I often feel a bit melancholy if we do absolutely nothing, even if I've requested that we do nothing.

--So if it's Bastille Day, it means I need to think about whether or not we're going to do anything special for my birthday.  Some of my favorite past birthdays:  going to an art museum, going to a French restaurant, having a group of VBS kids sing happy birthday, a spin class done to the Tour de France.  Clearly some of these are more doable than others.

--I can only sing a bit of the French national anthem.  This past week, I came across this version played on the ukulele.  It's quite lovely on the ukulele.

--If we're going to celebrate with music, let's bring out the music of Woody Guthrie, who was born on this day in 1912.  Woody Guthrie came of age in the Great Depression, which means he didn't have basic advantages like a stable home or an education. He didn't always have food.  Yet he was able to persevere. He didn't have musical training, yet he was able to learn what he needed to know. He couldn't write music to go with his lyrics, so he used the music that was out there and available. Perhaps that's why his songs feel so immediately familiar.

--Maybe you're like my students who think they don't know any songs by Woody Guthrie.  But most of us do.  Let us pause and sing "This Land Is Your Land"--much more singable than either the French or the U.S. national anthems.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Barren Brain

Many weeks, I have more blog posts than I have days to write them.  The ideas bloom on the hydrangea bush of my brain.

Some weeks, the calm surface of the river of my brain hides many currents swirling beneath.

These past few days, my brain has felt more like a field of rocks, all similar, nothing beckoning me to linger long.

I look into the monotones of my thought, just in case some life would appear.

I stack the stones into a form that says, "We were here."  I want to see what my brain does with that cairn.