Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Summer's End

Today our public school students go back to school.  The summer has zoomed by.  When I think about this summer, I may see it as a lost summer.  I didn't swim much.  I didn't get away to my sister's sailboat.  All the books I thought I might read still sit on my books to read shelf. 

But we have made a lot of progress on the home repairs that needed to be done.  I knew it would take a lot of time and energy--and mental space, in terms of planning and organizing.  There's a reason why I procrastinated.  It is good to get the work done, and it has taken much of the summer.

Maybe I will remember this as the summer of the watermelon tubs.  At least once a week, I've gone to Doris' Italian Market, where they have huge tubs of watermelon for $4.99.  I thought it was a sale early in the summer, but it's been the price all summer.

Yes, I could buy a whole watermelon for five dollars--but then I'd have to cut it up.  The watermelon in the tubs has been consistently delicious, unlike the cantaloupe that I bought on sale at Publix.

I'm always looking for ways to get more fruits and veggies into my diet, and this has been a sure-fire way.

It's strange how the cycles of the school year don't really apply to me anymore.  My job is year round, and my school is on a quarter system, so there's never a whole season off.  But much like church seasons, which got soaked into my circadian rhythms very early, the school year cycle is the same.  I still feel the urge to buy some new school supplies each year.  I know that it will be months before our weather changes to anything that would require a sweater--but I want to change out my closets nonetheless.

As school buses begin their trundle through the day, let us say a little prayer for everyone who returns to school today.  Let's pray for students and teachers--but also for the non-teacher staff members who do their best to keep everything running smoothly.  Let's pray for the rest of us--may we be careful drivers as we approach buses and schools.  Let's pray for what used to be so common we didn't even think of it:  may we have a school year free of gun violence. 

And while we're at it, let's pray for the larger world, which is in such need of the kind of inspired visions that the best education encourages.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

AWP 2019: Portland Here I Come

In the past few weeks, when I haven't been thinking about home repairs, I've been thinking about the 2019 AWP conference.  Could I really get myself to Portland?  Could I be gone for part of the week before the Spring quarter start?  Is this conference really worth the effort?

I decided that it is worth the effort.  When it comes to deciding the best time to be away from work, the time when I'm least likely to be needed, the only time that's clear is the week between Christmas and New Year's Day; in short, there's no great time to be away, so it's important to make that time happen when possible.  And it's important to model good behavior:  taking time for professional development.  And for now, there's still travel money.

So, last week, I went ahead and registered for the conference.  Then I researched hotels.  I learned from various comments on Facebook friends' feeds that there's really no conference hotel that's close to the convention center, the way there was in Tampa.  And yesterday, when the availability of conference hotels was released to those of us who aren't presenting, I didn't see anything that jumped out at me.

I made reservations at the Embassy Suites, the one that's at 319 SW Pine Street in Portland, Oregon. In Tampa, I was so impressed with their breakfast buffet and evening happy hour (free alcohol! free snacks)--and no hotel is really close to the Convention Center. This one is 7/10 of a mile away--but the Marriot was almost a full mile away. I decided I'd walk a bit further, to be able to have free food in the morning. Plus the location is much better--right by Voodoo Donut and Powell's Bookstore.

The good thing about this hotel reservation--another reason I chose this hotel, instead of the others listed on the AWP site--is that I can cancel or change the reservation without penalty 2 days before the check in date. I decided to go ahead and hold the hotel room instead of waiting until I was absolutely sure about the arrival day.

I became a rewards member so that I could get free wi-fi at the hotel.  And then I called to see if my March stay could count for the points.  I was still in the 6 month window--hurrah!  I have no idea if I'll ever accumulate enough points to be worth anything.

Now to see if I can make magic happen when it comes to airline travel.  How I hate airline travel.  And I'll need to travel with luggage.  Ugh.

I find myself feeling both excited and scared at the thought of this trip.  It will be good to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Thirty Years Married

Today we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary--30 years! It feels like just a blip.

Thirty years ago, we'd have been in Greenwood, South Carolina. I'd have slept in the house that used to be a parsonage where my grandfather served a congregation for many years. Thirty years ago in that house, my grandmother ironed my wedding dress. Below you'll see my grandmother, with my aunt Joyce helping.

Yes, I had a long, white dress. We got married in the same church in Greenwood, South Carolina where my parents had gotten married in 1962, the same church where my grandfather had been the pastor. We had the ceremony at 11:00 in the morning, so that our out of town guests with long travels home would have plenty of time.  We tried to keep the ceremony and the reception relatively simple. For example, we chose daisies for our bouquet. Our reception included sandwiches, so that our out-of-town guests wouldn't have to buy lunch on their way out of town. We had the best wedding cake I've ever had.

In many ways, we're still that same couple: we try to keep life simple, while at the same time, keeping a commitment to hospitality. We are hyper-aware of our blessings, and the fact that much of the world will never taste the extravagance of a wedding cake. But we don't deprive ourselves--we stop to admire the daisies.

Here you see a picture of us on this day in 1988, and the two of us at our 25th anniversary dinner:

Here's my final thought for an anniversary morning. I'd expand the thought to include not just our spouses but also our friends and colleagues and family members.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hurricane Recovery Report: First Half of Flooring Almost Done

I don't have great pictures that show the fake wood flooring that was in the front two bedrooms when we moved into the house.  I don't have pictures of the thresholds between rooms that were uneven and caused me to curse every time I vacuumed.  I don't have pictures of where it had begun to peel.

But here's a picture that will give you an idea:

We had the flooring guys rip it all up, and to our great delight, the subflooring looked to be in good shape.

We chose a red oak in a 6 inch plank to match the flooring in the other half of the house.  Here it is before it was stained.

And here's how it looks after the first coat of sealer:

The pictures don't do it justice.  You can't see the golden glow.  I can hardly wait to see how the whole house looks with these floors.

And here are some pictures of how we've been living.  It's not as bad as it looks.  I want to think it looks like a bohemian apartment in New York or Paris, but it probably just looks messy.  I'll be glad when it's all done.

Our flooring guy has to finish a job in Miami so he won't be back until the first week of September.  We'll use that time to paint walls and ceiling--and move the furniture into the two finished bedrooms.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Taking Stock of Successes

It's not unusual at work for me to have a day where I marvel at what my professional life has brought to me.  Some days, the marveling is along the lines of feeling lucky.  Other days, I mutter, "Grad school did not prepare me for this."  Yesterday was a work day that brought many joys.

Because Fridays are usually quiet, and because a friend was in the area at a different school getting ready for the new term, I was able to meet her for coffee.  It was great to catch up.

Later in the afternoon, the Director of Admissions and I went to a local ice cream shop to hammer out a deal for our ice cream social that the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce is holding to raise money for education scholarships (our school is a member of several Chambers, including this one).  We tasted spoonful after spoonful of homemade ice cream so that we could narrow down our selection to 6 flavors.

I know, I know, it's a tough gig.

I finished the day by composing an e-mail in response to a request that I send a list of all the charitable/benevolence activities that our campus has done in the past year.  I was amazed at the length of the list. 

When I'm creating a food drive or when I hear about students administering in a health screening or going to a wildlife rescue center to assist, I'm happy.  When I see the complete list, I'm thrilled--especially because I often wonder if our campus is doing enough to give back to the community.  It's certainly plenty, of course, to do a good job educating students and giving them a chance at a better future--but we have resources to share beyond that.

As in many areas of life, it's good to take stock occasionally and to realize that we're doing more than we may think.

I finished the day by coming home to our lovely new floors, now stained to a golden color, shiny with the polyurethane protection.  After a supply run, we finished the evening by sitting on our front porch, watching the rain as the day ended--a satisfying end to a satisfying day.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Canvases for Creativity

In later years, when I wonder why I accomplished so little creatively this summer, let me remember the other creative projects--specifically, the house.

Yesterday I wrote an e-mail to a friend.  We both live in the same county, but it's harder and harder to carve out time to see each other.  She and her spouse share a car, and they're both working, and my job requires more and more hours.  So we e-mail each other, as if we lived hours away.

As I made a list of all we've been doing in terms of the Great Housing Project, I thought, I have been creative, but it's seldom been my writing in the past two months.  We spent a chunk of time yesterday contemplating wood stain colors.  Over the week-end, we spent a chunk of time thinking about Corian countertop colors and ordering some samples--when they arrived yesterday, we spent time last night moving them around and staring at them.

Soon, this phase of the Great Housing Project will come to a close, and we'll spend days moving the furniture again--but at the end of that moving, I'll be back to having a writing space where I can have the lights on in the morning.  I didn't realize how much parts of my writing and revising process requires the lights be on.   I still draft my poems on paper first.  I revise my fiction by looking at the rough draft on a page and making handwritten notes to be typed in later.

This week-end, while I'm still drafting in the dark, let me return to a short story that I'm writing.  My past week of blogging has showed me that I can write this kind of draft without the lights on.  I have a few weeks before the pace of my online classes picks up again.  I'd really like to get something new written.

During these past weeks of upheaval on the home front, I've really been grateful for creative time at church.  A few weeks ago, we painted canvases to prep them.  It was so satisfying to blend different shades of green together.

I am now surrounded by walls and a ceiling that need paint, but that won't be the same kind of thrill.  I don't think I'm brave enough to experiment with the canvas of a house as I am when it comes to my sketchbook or a canvas. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Living in the reconstruction has begun to wear on me.  At first, it was fun, like camping in the house, only with electricity and indoor plumbing.  Now our campsite is feeling cramped and dirty.

We moved into this house 5 years ago, with many of the repair projects not yet done.  Our kitchen was supposed to be temporary.  People asked me how I could live without a dishwasher or an automatic ice maker, but I've spent more of my adult life without those things than with them.  I used to joke, "Oh, I'm just pretending like we're stationed in some exotic outpost."

I know that our exotic outpost will get worse before it gets better--that's a bit wearing too.

Let me record some other aspects of recent life:

--Last night, I dreamed I was in the last months of pregnancy, and that I hadn't created a nursery or bought diapers or read What to Expect When You're Expecting.  It doesn't take a trained psychiatrist to analyze that dream!

--Yesterday a much younger colleague at work said, "He commented on my jacket and said something about Sergeant Pepper.  Who is Sergeant Pepper?"

I said, "You've never heard of that Beatles song?"  And then I sang a bit of it.  He said no.  I felt very old. 

Later in the day, we looked up the song, and the album cover was there with the YouTube recording.  I pointed out the similarities between his jacket with its mandarin collar and longer length and the jackets of the 4 Beatles.  I said, "Yours is less psychedelic though."

As we chatted, I had a memory of getting the 1978 album of the same name, with the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton covering the same songs.  I haven't thought about that album in a long time.

--As I've been reading Peter Brannen's The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions, I've wondered why these time periods of the planet aren't familiar to me yet.  Don't I spend a lot of time reading about these mass extinctions?  But when I stopped to think about it, I realized I really only return to this topic once a year at the most.

It has been interesting to read the book and realize how different the planet has been at different points.  It will be different again, and this time, humans are functioning as the triggering event.  We are the asteroid that hastened the end of the dinosaurs.  We are the giant trees that changed the atmosphere which led to the Permian extinction--but am I remembering the correct extinction?  I've already returned the book back to the library.

--As I listen to coverage of the California wildfires, it does feel like the end times.  But humans have often felt this way.  At my theology blog, I wrote a post about the atomic explosion that destroyed Nagasaki on this day.  I think of all the ways we've envisioned the apocalypse, from pale riders on pale horses to a mushroom cloud. What will the twenty-first century choose as its apocalyptic icon?

Now I need to take my walk--the day begins!