Saturday, August 31, 2013

Civil Rights Then, Civil Rights Now

In this week where we've looked back over 50 years to see how we've evolved since the March on Washington, my thoughts have returned to gender.  For people who say that nothing essential has changed, I would argue vociferously.  Not only do we have a black president, but we see more and more women moving up into lead positions in churches.  My own church, the largest brand of Lutherans in the U.S. (the ELCA), just elected a woman to be our bishop, to lead on a national stage.

It seems to be my fate to be away from the Internet when big things happen at our ELCA national assemblies.  In 2009, I was at Hilton Head when the national gathering voted to be more inclusive on issues of sexuality; I wrote about it when I returned in this blog post.

And then, in the weeks after the move, when my home Internet access has been limited, I heard news of a female bishop to lead the ELCA.  The possibility wasn't even on my radar screen.  I had no idea until my mom wrote an e-mail asking me what I thought of our new woman bishop.

I did some Internet searching, and honestly, several weeks later, I'm still not sure of what I think, although I am struck by how little information is out there about her.  I love what the outgoing bishop said when he talked about it not being an election, but a call that will be accepted.

I would have predicted that a woman would never be elected bishop, given the elections that I witnessed in my Synod Assembly back in May (I wrote about it in this blog post).  I would have predicted that a woman, or maybe several women, would make it to the final rounds, and then we'd draw back and go with a choice that felt safer, in other words, an older, white male.

I'm glad to be proven wrong.

You could argue that we're not being particularly edgy in our choice.  Is it really so groundbreaking to elect a woman?

I would say that it is, still, even in this day when we've had plenty of women in a variety of leadership positions.  We still don't see many women in the TOP leadership position.

I am old enough to remember a time when women couldn't even be pastors, and there are still plenty of churches out there full of members who will tell you why men make better pastors.

But honestly, I'm old enough now to believe that we've all got important gifts.  Why should we deny anyone the chance to use those gifts?  Even people who have been deeply wounded can make a huge difference; out of the wound comes their strength.

In some ways, by focusing on gender in such a binary way, we're being very 20th century.  I predict that there will come pitched battles in the not-too-distant future about the transgendered and inclusivity.  We will look back with longing at the battles fought over gender, and perhaps homosexuality.

I think of my grandfather who was a pastor in various southern states in the U.S. during much of middle years of the 20th century.  My mother remembers that the pastors of the communities--all white, all male--would gather to discuss what they would do if a black person or family arrived to worship.

I'm fairly sure I don't want to know what my grandfather would have done.  It was a different time, and the emphasis was definitely not on diversity, the way it is now.

Now it seems quaint, this old discussion about what to do if a black family came through the door.  Now it seems impossible to believe we ever would have worried about such things.

I predict that in 100 years, maybe less, we'll feel the same way about gender.  We'll marvel at the fact that it took so long for women to be allowed to preach, for a woman to be elected Bishop.

This week, as I watched the documentary about the Freedom Riders, I got an idea for a short story.  My grandfather and his fellow pastors worried about what they'd do if a black family came to church.  I know of some churches who have had to wrestle with the issue of gay people attending church.

And how would your church respond if someone who is undergoing a gender transition came through your doors?

I plan to write a short story that juxtaposes the two time periods, the 1960's pastors worrying about black people coming to church and a more modern church wrestling with issues of transgendered parishioners.  Let's see if I can pull it off.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Feast Days of Mary and Molly

Those of you who read my theology blog know that I always have one eye towards feast days, and towards those exemplary humans who should have feast days dedicated to them.  If I was creating a calendar of feast days for English majors, today would be an important one.

Today is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's birthday. And interestingly enough, it's also the birthday of Molly Ivins, who was one of our wittiest writers/commentators/op-ed crafters, well, I would say, wittiest ever. Yes, ever--let the pondering begin. If you can think of any writer, male or female, who is as clever and smart and witty and warm as Molly Ivins, I'd like to discover him/her. When she died of breast cancer, I felt like someone punched me in the gut. She felt like a constant friend throughout the Reagan years, when I knew very few people who thought Reagan had a few screws loose. But she did, and she expressed it all so much better than I could hope to do as an adolescent/young adult.

I discovered Mary Shelley later, in graduate school. My undergraduate training as an English major was fairly traditional: lots of dead, white guys, with a token female here and there, and even fewer token minorities.

I loved Mary Shelley once I discovered her. And my students have loved her too. Frankenstein teaches really well, even for non-majors (not many 19th century works can make this claim). I've had the most resistant readers lose themselves in Frankenstein--it still seems so relevant, whether it be in what it has to say about creativity, motherhood, science, God, or relationships in general.

My dissertation director, Paula Feldman, did important work on Mary Shelley, and she had a portrait of Mary Shelley on her wall. I remember meeting with Dr. Feldman, handing her new pages, and feeling agonizing stress watching her read them. I'd focus on the portrait of Mary Shelley that hung on the wall beyond the desk. I'd imagine Mary Shelley saying soothing words to me. I'd think about Mary Shelley's life and reflect on how much more fortunate I was, even though I had a dissertation to write and an uncertain job future--until recent years, the 1991-1992 hiring year, the one in which I finished my Ph.D., was the worst in history.

I love that we live in a time period where we no longer have as fierce a fight in justifying that women and minorities can write as well as men. We forget that we haven't been living in this time period very long. I could make a solid argument that Mary Shelley wrote novels that were every bit as accomplished as those of Charles Dickens--I could probably make the case that her novels were stronger. I can say what I said about Molly Ivins without fear of sounding silly. Some forty years ago, I'd have had to fight a fiercer battle to prove that women were capable of writing anything of worth at all.

We're not where I want to be just yet. Look at who has the majority of the full-time jobs in English departments--still men, mostly white. I know that if we did some comparisons, we'd find out that the creative writing of men finds publication more readily than that of women.  I'm fairly sure we'd find out that more men win book publication competitions than women--I know, I know, they're judged anonymously, so I can't prove any sort of bias. Well, not with the time constraints in my current life I can't. I'll leave that to intrepid exploring journalists, like the kind I fancied that I was while I was in undergraduate school.

No, we're not living in the world I'd love to see ideally. But we're closer--and the works of writers like Mary Shelley and Molly Ivins have helped move us there.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Day After the March, the Years After the Freedom Rides

I've spent some time this week thinking about inspirational speeches and social justice movements.  I've thought about the March on Washington fifty years ago, and I've wondered what people did the morning after the March.

I know, I know, they went home.  And then what?

Based on how much society has changed, I assume they kept working to transform their society into one that arcs towards justice, to use King's phrase from a different speech.

Last night when I came home, we watched the end of the PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders.  How I love those crazy kids who said, "Hey, why shouldn't we eat lunch together in public?  Hey, why not ride a bus together through the deep South?"

It's hard to imagine how reviled they were for having those thoughts and following through with action.  And now, I routinely go out to lunch with friends of different races.  We could ride a bus together across the nation if we had the stamina.

It makes me think of what social justice issues we struggle with today and which ones will be solved in relative terms in 50 years.

It makes me think of how those changes are won.

When I was 19 I complained bitterly about the slow pace of change.  I was counseled by my wise elders to just keep slogging because change seems to come slowly, but it's happening even when you can't see it.  I sighed with the impatience of the young.

And then Eastern Europe was set free, and Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and lived to tell the tale--and to be elected president of South Africa.  My 1984 self would not have believed that possible.

And now we have a black president.  My 2001 self would not have thought she'd have seen that day for another 30 years.

I heard a commentator on a Public Radio show say that life is just as bad for a majority of minority citizens now as it was 50 years ago.  But I must disagree--vociferously.

It was interesting to watch the footage contained in the Freedom Riders documentary:  people felt free to appear in public in their KKK robes, and people knew they could kill black people with impunity and no fear of jail.  Access to a better life for minorities was much more restricted--it could be done, but it was much more of a battle. 

I'm not arguing that we've achieved utopia--I know that our educational system is still quite skewed, for example.  But we agree that we should keep fighting to improve it so that everyone gets a good education.  We didn't have that consensus in 1961.

What I most love about this country is the idea that we can change it.  We don't have to live life as we've always lived it.  And I agree with those who have pointed out that each generation seems more committed to fairness for all.

I suspect that in decades to come, we won't recognize our country.  I hope that we won't recognize it because more people have more options to live a full life than we ever thought possible.  I hope that because more people are striving towards their dreams, we'll all wake up to say, "Wow.  We've achieved more than I would have thought possible."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Still Dreaming, Fifty Years Later

Fifty years ago today, a variety of Americans gathered at the Mall in Washington.  There had been fears of violence.  All the police were ready.  But peace prevailed.

The day has become famous for Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.  It's a speech that stands up well. 

When I first started teaching college English classes (25 years ago--gulp!), we had students write a variety of argumentative essays.  We had them read widely from the genre, both the classics and the op-ed pages.  We had them think outside the genre, looking for arguments everywhere.

Were students impressed with King's speech?  Some were, some weren't.  Some saw it as too long.  Some liked it better when they heard it, which led to valuable discussions about oral arguments and written arguments.

We had great discussions about the dreams we might have for the nation's future.  I was only a few years older than the students, who were mostly 18 and 19, fresh out of high school.  When Dr. King delivered his speech, he was only a few years older than we were then.

If I taught the speech now, I'd point out that it takes people articulating these kinds of visions to begin to bring them to reality.  I'd point out that King's dreams would have seemed very unlikely to his audience.  People would have thought them impossible.  Even today, we've had plenty of voices pointing out that we've still not quite arrived at the fullness of his vision.

It's important to remember that we've come much closer than we would have if we hadn't had people like King calling us to a better future.

And it's important to remember how much progress was made in a very short amount of time, or what seemed a short amount of time.

It's crucial to remember that there were years, decades, of important work done before the rest of society caught up to the thinking of the Civil Rights movement- -much like the recent gains in gay rights.

We can't always know that progress is being made when we work for social justice.  We proceed in faith, trusting that our work will not be done in vain.  Perhaps that's true of any big project:  books that we write, children that we raise, students that we educate, long-term relationships of all kinds.

Today is a good day to take some time to envision a better future, for ourselves, for our children, for future generations who will marvel at what's been done.  What dreams do we have?  If we believed that anything was possible, what would we want to see?  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Anniversary Dinner as Metaphor

Two weeks ago, we'd have been celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  It called for something special.  We thought we had it all planned out.

Early in the summer, my spouse saw one of those TV shows where people go to local restaurants and give their opinions.  He made a reservation for a chef's table at one of the restaurants.  It sounded wonderful.

Unfortunately, we arrived at the restaurant to find out that they'd closed back in mid-July so that they could give their attention to some other restaurants they own; we discovered this by reading a sign.  Why they didn't call people who had reservations is beyond me.  We certainly weren't in a mood to go to the other restaurants after being treated shabbily.

We got back in the car:  all dressed up and no place to go!  We deliberated.  Should we go home and make plans for a different day?  Go to some place less fancy/expensive?

My spouse said, "I could go for a steak."  I agreed.  We decided on a high-end steak house, since several were nearby.

We headed to Morton's, near downtown Ft. Lauderdale.  We never could figure out how to get to the valet parking, and the garages in the same block had exorbitant rates.  So we parked a few blocks away, in a city parking garage.

As we walked to the restaurant, I said, "This reminds me of our first date."

We had been together for awhile before we went on a real date.  We met in college, a tiny school in a small town with very little to do in terms of traditional dating.  So, one night, we headed to Columbia, South Carolina, to go to a steakhouse that my then-boyfriend had loved when he went there a year ago.

We got there only to find it was closed.  So we went to a different steak place, on a hill with a wall of windows that made me feel like we were dining in a classy treehouse.

And so there we were, 29 years later, once again headed to a steakhouse when other plans had failed.  Then, as now, I was happy at our ability to improvise.  I was glad that we didn't blame each other for the ways in which our plans fell apart.

And two weeks ago, as with our first date, we had a lovely evening.  Had we just admitted defeat and gone home at the first sign of adversity, we'd have missed out on that.  Of course, we might have had a lovely night at home.  But I'm glad we came up with an alternate plan.

In so many ways, our anniversary evening seems an apt metaphor for marriage, and perhaps most long-term relationships, from parental to child to friend.  We begin with a map and a plan and a way we think the relationship will go.  We will likely end up in a land we never envisioned when we started.  Along the way, we make revisions and corrections, but we still end up in a different place. 

And if we're lucky, we realize that we're just as happy as we would be had we followed the original plan.  If we're really lucky, we're even happier than we thought we could be.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Pleasures: Good Food and Good Books

On Saturday, I got up early and got started on the baking.  Interesting that even in this age of air conditioning, I still have that poor grad student habit of doing any activity that generates heat (baking, washing and drying clothes) early in the morning in the summer.

I got out my battered copy of Moosewood Cookbook.  It wasn't my first vegetarian cookbook.  It's not even the one I use the most often.  Well, I don't use many cookbooks these days.  I've been cooking so long that I've internalized my favorite recipes.

In fact, these days, when I cook, I often start by looking at what's on hand and thinking about how they'd best go together.  I think about what I want to eat and how to approximate that by using what I have.  Many days, I'll do a lot of improvising to avoid having to go to the grocery store.

On Saturday, I pulled out the cookbook because I don't often make pound cake.  A dessert that takes 4 sticks of butter?  It's just not wise to make that kind of dessert regularly.

I think of one of my South Carolina friends who had an elderly aunt who made pound cakes on a regular basis.  My friend kept her freezer stocked, and when I'd go to visit, she'd often give me a pound cake as I left.  They weighed more than a pound, and oh how tasty they were!

On Saturday, I made the pound cake and then went to spin class.  I came home and had cantaloupe and honeydew chunks for breakfast.  I thought of another hot morning, when a friend and I had run the Charleston bridge run, a 10K race.  We ate at a French restaurant in downtown Charleston, where I had a bowl of mixed fruit, mostly melon, topped with trail mix.

I didn't have any trail mix in the house on Saturday, so I topped my melon with raw oatmeal and pecans.  It was tasty!

Of course, I was eating by the pool while I finished reading Penelope Lively's How it All Began.  What a delightful book--set in modern London, with a variety of believable characters.  Lots of twists and turns, with a gentle satirization of some of the more pompous characters, a bit of zinging critique about both academia and television cultures.  And it's fairly short (just over 200 pages) so manageable for most of us.

I've now moved on to Steven King's time travel novel, 11/22/63.  I'm not very far in, but it's an interesting set up, already with a plot I can't quite imagine how King will work out.  But that's what I love about a Steven King novel--I can relax, knowing I'm in the hands of a master narrator.  I don't read every one of King's novels.  These days, I can't always take the darkness.  But this one sounded too intriguing to pass up, and it got great reviews.

Saturday night we had pound cake topped with real whipped cream and mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries).  It was as fabulous as I remember. 

Most of us still have a few weeks of summer weather left.  Why not make a pound cake before summer slips away.  It's been a long time since I posted a recipe here.  So, for your cooking pleasure, I present the recipe as found in Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.

Pound Cake

1 pound butter

3 C. sugar

6 eggs

1 C. milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 T. baking powder

4 C. flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a flour a bundt pan, a tube pan, or a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Mix the butter and sugar together and then beat in the eggs.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk and vanilla together, and in a different bowl, mix the baking powder and flour together.  Alternately add the milk/vanilla and the flour/baking powder to the butter/sugar/egg batter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Put the batter into the buttered and floured pan and put it into the oven.  Cook for an hour or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean (it usually takes me 70 minutes).  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and cool completely.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Snippets: Friday Funerals and Summer Gratitudes

--A week ago, our realtor had our first open house.  We got an offer, negotiated, then the buyers decided to wait until after they returned from vacation.  They knew they were risking that another offer would come along.  Yesterday, we got another offer--and a signed contract with a deposit.  Here's hoping!

--Right now I have a pound cake in the oven--first baking in the new house.  I've written about summer pleasures and how many of them I've already missed.  On Thursday, when I went to the grocery store, I saw that raspberries and blueberries were on sale.  I remembered a distant dinner party on a summer night, with pound cake and berries and real whipped cream.  I splurged, and today we'll splurge on a calorie dense, high fat dessert.

--I also bought a honeydew melon and a cantaloupe--the perfect summer breakfast!

--Yesterday, I met one of my poet friends for lunch.  We had been meeting regularly until my schedule imploded in June.  I'm always grateful that she forgives me for my bursts of business. 

--She's considering moving to San Francisco.  I feel both envious and happy that I'm not considering a move across the country.

--I spent the afternoon unsnarling a scheduling knot, a knot which is too complicated to dissect here.  I hate having to undo a perfect schedule and upset faculty schedules.  But there is some part of me that loves when my brain starts zinging and seeing new possibilities, new ways the puzzle pieces can fit together.

--So far, the faculty affected have been gracious.  I am grateful for gracious faculty.  Yesterday, one of them came in on a day that she doesn't have to be on campus--we were going to discuss changes to her schedule.  She appeared just as I realized I wasn't going to have to touch her schedule.

--As I said, I'm grateful for gracious faculty.  She was halfway expecting much worse news, like job loss or job reduction--even though I tried very hard to make clear that we were just changing schedules, not lives.  She did not berate me for making her drive across the county for a non-appointment.  She was SO happy that her schedule would remain the same.

--I finished my Friday by going to a funeral.  Occasionally, as a church member, I go to funerals of older people whom I only knew because of our shared church going.  Last night was one of those kind of funerals.

--So why did I find myself so weepy?  I found myself missing my grandmother and my mother-in-law; I found myself missing people who are still alive.  I had that sense that I often get at funerals:  "Does it really all boil down to THIS???!!!"

--We sang a lot.  I wish they had been hymns I like.  Instead we sang the one about coming to the garden alone in the evening.  We sang "The Old Rugged Cross."  It was a blood of the lamb redemption/humans are so unworthy kind of songfest.

--At one point, the parishioner had gone to a more evangelical expression of the Lutheran faith.  At one point, we held hands and raised our arms to sing the Lord's Prayer.

--I do not have the upper body strength to be an evangelical.

--I know it's unusual, going to a funeral on a Friday.  It's much more traditional to go to happy hour, after all.  I love the relaxation of a good glass of wine at the end of the day/week.

--But I do wonder how our lives might be changed if we ended every week by going to a funeral.

--It's good to be reminded that we will not be here very long.  It's good to be reminded that much of that time has already slipped away.  It's good to think about what's important and what's not.

--Funeral as recalibration!  We need more of that, not less.  I think of the stories (or was it James Joyce?) of monks who slept in their coffins every night, so as to remind themselves of their mortality.

--I don't want to sleep in a coffin, but I do want reminders of the preciousness of our time here, of the importance of keeping our priorities in order.

--Art is one way to do that, the creating of art.  I'd also like an object or an artifact made by my artist self to keep mortality in mind.

--But for now, it's off to spin class as I try to keep my mortal body in fighting shape for as long as possible!

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Very First Published Work

I wrote my first poem in the new house yesterday!  Is it my best work?  Probably not.  Is it ready for a public appearance?  Not yet.  But it makes me happy to return to poetry.  I wrote one poem in July, and several in June.  I've had other summers where I wrote nothing and was able to return to good habits, so I wasn't too worried.  Still, it's a relief to feel some poetry juices flowing again.

Instead of sharing yesterday's poem, let me share a much older poem.  I've been going through my files, and I'm astonished at how much I've written through the years.  When I castigate myself for not writing enough, let me remember the boxes of material. 

I've kept some of it, but most of it exists in computer files, which are stored in duplicate in several locations--and so, I threw away a lot of hard copies.

I also came across old literary magazines from undergraduate school.  And so, I'm glad to share with you my first publication as an adult.  I'm typing it in as it appeared then, even though I suspect the repetition of "and blankets" is a mistake.

I was amused to see that I was beginning every line with a capital letter, just like I'd been trained to do in high school.

People familiar with my work will note a familiar theme.  Does it work in terms of other poetry qualities?  Not much figurative language here.  A bit too obvious for modern tastes, I'm guessing.  Too prosey--an accusation I hear about my work occasionally.  Not much musicality here.  A bit too blunt in terms of message.

But I'm fond of it.  I remember the girl who wrote that poem.  She was fierce.  I need to start channeling her more often.

So, here's the poem, which first appeared in the 1984 edition of The Kinnickinick. 


Sure, I could build
A bomb shelter.
I could dig deep into the earth,
And line the hole with lead.
I could stock it with food
And lots of bottled water and blankets
And blankets
As protection against the "nuclear winter."
And of course,
Firearms with which to protect my haven.

But when the Bomb struck
I would be at the grocery store.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Job Losses and Gains

A year ago, we'd have been about to return from our sailing trip.  I was feeling off-kilter for a variety of reasons.  We'd spent the night anchored to a mooring ball in the Annapolis Harbor, and I woke up feeling seasick.  It's always a bit discombobulating to return to regular life after vacation.  And I find a similar discombulating effect every time I fly, like I'm waiting for parts of myself to catch up.

A year ago, in the afternoon, I'd been home from the airport a half hour when the call came from my boss.  Technically I was still on vacation, so I knew that something big was in the works.  I was about to feel more seasick.

We had endured a round of lay-offs in March of 2012.  I lost key faculty members.  The dean told me that I was about to lose more, half of the rest of my full-time faculty, in fact.

And the most discombobulating new:  I was losing my job too.  I had better news than my downsized faculty.  The school was being reorganized, and I could apply for a version of my job in the new structure.

Of course, anyone else in the nation could apply too.  I tried not to think about that, as I got my materials ready.  The time from being told about my job loss/opportunity to being offered the new position took about a month.

My story has a happy ending of sorts.  I did apply, and I was offered the version of my job in the new structure.  I'm the supervisor of Humanities and Communications classes and faculty.  I also received the duties of the transfer credit analyst, who lost her position.  I no longer supervise Math, Science, or Computer Science classes and faculty, but we don't have as many of those.  In some ways, analyzing transcripts to see what classes will transfer takes more time than the supervision of extra classes and faculty would take.  Ah well.  Most weeks, I find the transfer credit process fascinating.

As I think back to a year ago, I remember that one of my first reactions to the lay-off news was to look for job possibilities.  And then, even after I accepted my job offer, I felt like I should be applying for other jobs.  But I also felt weary.  A friend told me that I'd suffered a trauma, and I should rest for a bit, check in with myself, see what I wanted to do next.

I continued to look at job ads but couldn't muster the energy to apply.  And so, I followed my friend's advice.  I stopped looking for other jobs.  I checked in with myself and my spouse.  We had a lovely dinner with friends, a progressive dinner, where we traveled from house to house.  We thought about moving to a new neighborhood, not a new job.

But was that wise?  In some ways, the experience losing my job gave me courage.  We're not living in a safe world.  If I wait until I feel economically secure, not just now but for all time, I'll curl up in a ball and never do a thing.

I realized that my spouse really LOVES living in South Florida.  I also realized that no matter where we live, I'll always be wondering what it would be like to live elsewhere.  Metaphorically, I keep my sandals laced, my possessions thinned, and my horse saddled; I'm mixing metaphors, but you get the idea.

We made the decision to stay put.  My job is safe for now, but that could change at any moment--that's the truth for almost all of us in this new economic reality.  I sing that old song that begs hard times to come around no more--but if they do, I'll figure out what to do then.  I'm not sure we can really plan for job loss once we've done the basics, like salting away a rainy day fund and getting more skills as we're able.

Some people think we've lost our minds for moving to a house that has a bigger mortgage, but in the long run, we're hoping it will be a better investment, as well as a better location from which to enjoy all that South Florida has to offer.

In terms of my job, the process of losing it and gaining it again has given me a sense of gratitude.  Sure there are still days of drudgery, but most days are like the one that I wrote about in yesterday's blog post.

I predict that in a few decades, when I look back over my life, I'll see the year of 2012 as one of the tough ones.  We had job loss, my spouse's severe pain all year, all sorts of difficulty and uncertainty. 

But that adversity has led us to this year, which is a much better one.  Hopefully, the decades to come will contain similar improvements.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When Peacocks, and People, Dance

--Yesterday, I was sad to hear of the death of Elmore Leonard.  Part of me thinks, why should I be sad?  After all, he had a full rich life; he was older than I realized.  Still, I always feel a bit sad when a good brain leaves us. 

--This article in The Washington Post is full of insights, including Leonard's habit of getting up very early to get the writing done, and how he re-invented himself and his writing several times.

--Here's my favorite quote from the article:  "Mr. Leonard liked to quote the review from a librarian at a Connecticut prison: “'While you ain’t caught on with the crack and cocaine heads, you have got a following amongst the heroin crowd.'”

--Now there's a recommendation!  I immediately started thinking of the kinds of reviews I would like to garner.

--As I was sorting files, I came across one of my favorite student evaluations which said that she so enjoyed the way I taught that she'd like to read a book that I wrote some day.

--If I'd been smart, I'd have been keeping a file with student names and contact info, so that as books emerge from my brain, I could let them know.

--Speaking of books, one of my good friends came by my office last week.  A third good friend took this picture:

A few minutes earlier you'd have seen us literally jumping up and down in our joy.

--My friend's poem appears in this anthology, The Dance of the Peacock:  An Anthology of English Poetry from India.  It's such a beautiful book, and I don't mean just the work in it.  The pages are thick and creamy.  It's well assembled.  The cover, as you might can see, is beautiful.

--It's good to remember these moments of joy.  And when I'm mired in administrative drudgery, like the schedule that I'm redoing for the umpteenth time through no fault of my own or the assessment report requirements that change mid-cycle, it's good to remember that my administrator days are not usually drudgery days.  They're usually days of quiet contentment with bursts of periodic joy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits

--I feel like I should have more to say about John Hollander.  But I'm not coming up with much.  Happily, there are other poets out there who can fill the gap.  See this post by Sandra Beasley which makes me want to explore his works more than I have.

--Her post also makes me want to get back to writing poems.  It has been a dry summer in terms of writing poetry--well, in terms of most writing.  I'm grateful for blogging, which has at least served as a writing maintenance program; I'm not starting from scratch as much as I would be if I hadn't been blogging.

--It's also been a dry summer in terms of poetry reading.  Time to get back to those habits.  I started on Sunday with Bernadette Geyer's The Scabbard of Her Throat.  What a treat of a book!  Lots of fun with fairy tales, interesting twists on modern life, the interesting viewpoint which means I'll never look at a subject the same way again--in short, all the things I love about what a good poem can do.

--Yesterday, I was cleaning off my desk and realized that I've spent the whole summer not submitting poems.  It's time to get back to that again too.  There have been some years where I've been impatiently waiting for September 1, when so many journals start accepting submissions again.  This year, I'm astonished to find that we're almost to September 1, when my writer's mind still thinks it's May.

--Our buyers decided not to sign the contract.  They were feeling too much pressure trying to get it all done before they go on vacation to Seattle.  We're hoping that they'll return and still want the house (they say that is their intention)--or, since the house stays on the market, we're hoping that they return home to find that someone else snatched it up.  Not much we can do, of course, although we did lower the price on the house to see if we could attract a different buyer.

--After our we got the call about the buyers, I decided it was time to walk to the beach.  I had some sort of energy to burn off, and I'd already done aggressive house sweeping.

--I'm glad I went.  I got to see a toddler dancing to Bob Marley singing "No Woman, No Cry."  That would have been worth it alone.  I saw lots of folks taking pictures of the full moon.  I met a happy, little dog on the walk back.

--Most important, the walk reminded me of all the reasons why this house moving process has been worth it.

--And the moon!  The moon is so beautiful.  Last night, its light had a hard, crystalline quality.  This morning, it had a soft, milky quality. 

--I had strange dreams all night.  In each dream that I remember, I was in a different house, all of them mine in dream life, but nothing like my waking life houses.  Each house needed renovation work, and each one in each dream was different.  I was both happy to wake up and sad--some of those houses were neat, and some had land that had possibilities.

--A psychologist would have a field day with my dreams of houses that need work.  It doesn't take much analytical work to think about what those dreams might mean:  self-improvement work or literal home improvement or relationship repair.

--And now it's off to the world of the literal, my administrator life.  But let me remember the various vistas I've seen in the past few days.  Let me remember that it's time to move back towards poetry.  Let me start crafting a short story; Jeannine's post makes me yearn for similar enchantment.  Let me remember what I was doing with the memoir.

--And let the world be a better place because I moved through it today.  Let me solve problems.  Let me think about what at first glimpse seems impossible.  Let me not say "No" too quickly.

--Let me remember to smile.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Post in New House

I don't have much time to write, but I couldn't resist writing the first post in the new house.  I've had the computer set up for almost 2 weeks, but I've been waiting on the wireless adapter, since the computer on which I work is not set up for wireless Internet connectivity.

It wasn't quite a plug and play application, but finally, I got the device to work.  Hurrah.

It's been a whirlwind week-end.  Our house has been on the market for a little over a week now.  On Saturday, we had an open house.  I stayed away--after all, that's why we have a realtor.  On Saturday, she wrote to tell us we had an offer.

It was a little lower than we expected, so we negotiated.  On Saturday we had an agreement.  But because of various mortgage requirements, that agreement wouldn't work for the buyer.  On Sunday, they came back with a different offer, the original offer, plus no repairs.  We said yes.

We could leave the house on the market longer to see what happens.  But I imagine that what would happen is that after many months, we'd get an offer that was in that ballpark anyway.  And we'd have paid a lot in taxes, insurance, electric and water.

Our buyers want to a close date before Sept. 30.  Hurrah!

I'm still keeping my fingers crossed and praying and hoping--after all, much could still happen to derail this process.  But the buyers are pre-qualified, so the first hurdle has been leapt.  And we're eager sellers--very eager sellers.

And I'm a woman who has to get ready for work and get to spin class.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Second Act for a Wedding Dress

A few days ago, I wrote this post about my wedding dress and other clothing metaphors.  I've also been writing about sorting and discarding.  I hardly have enough room in my closet for clothes that I wear all the time.  I knew that my wedding dress would have to go.

I have a friend who's working on an MFA in the visual arts.  She's doing all sorts of cool projects, and she's also working with an MFA student who's doing film projects that sound interesting.  She said, "We need a wedding dress for our project.  I'll buy your wedding dress from you."

I said, "You don't need to buy it.  I was just going to throw it away.  I have to warn you though, it's not in great shape.  It's got lots of spots on it."

She said, "That's fine.  It won't come back to you in the same condition.  We're going to make art with it, after all."

"I don't want it to come back to me at all," I said.  "Do whatever you like with it."

Yesterday morning, we met in a parking lot--no need carrying a wedding dress around buildings, although that might be an interesting sociological experiment or an art project of a different sort.  While I waited for my friend, I shook out the plastic and the dress.

My friend came to our cars and exclaimed over the beauty of my dress--even in its less-than-pristine condition.  Once again, she warned me that it would be used for art.

I said, "The idea of this dress being used for art makes me so happy.  It's better than having it molder in a landfill somewhere."

I can hardly wait to see what they do with my dress.  I love the idea of it being made into something new.  I love the recycling/repurposing element.  I'll plan to do a follow-up post or two, once they do their art.

I like the idea of wedding dress as art as a metaphor too.  My spouse and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage; like the wedding dress, our marriage is not the same as it was 25 years ago.  It hasn't changed so dramatically that we don't recognize it.  But it's different.

My dress is different now, and I expect it's about to become more different still--much like the two of us as individuals and much like our marriage.  It won't surprise me if I like my wedding dress as part of an art project better than I liked it as a simple dress.

Our current incarnation of our marriage is better now in so many ways than the marriage we enjoyed in the early years.  Marriage as art form--ah, so much could be done with that idea.

It will probably not surprise faithful readers that I've written a poem that covers this idea.  It has yet to be published, and I wrote it years ago.  So, here, published for the first time, I think, is a poem that celebrates the many kinds of marriages we're all likely to experience, if we stay with it for long enough:

The Art of Marriage

I am tempted to say, as everyone says,
“Marriage is hard work.” And everyone leaves
the matter at that, as if all is explained.
Hard work—evokes factory lines and mind numbing
routine, which marriage can certainly be: the factory
work of the same old argument that a couple has at least once
a quarter, as dull and repetitive as bolting
part after part to automobile after automobile.

Thankfully, my marriage doesn’t involve
much of that kind of work. Some years, the work of marriage
breaks my back, like clearing land for a garden.
I lie awake and sweat out possible solutions
to our problems, how to keep the family fed
and sustained until the present trauma subsides.
And if I can endure the pain, the flowers
bloom beautifully, and our love feeds on fresh vegetables.

Too often, if I’m not careful, my marriage resembles
the kind of work most of my friends do.
They show up at an office, keep their seats warm
for the requisite hours, and claim their paychecks.
Nothing heartbreaking, but no passion either.
A companionable way to fill the hours.

At its best, marriage is an art form,
the musician bent over the instrument,
the artist splattered with paint,
the poet drunk with words.
I submerge myself in my art,
lose track of time, and look up to celebrate
my fifteenth anniversary.

And now, 25 years!  Hopefully, we'll have many more, and hopefully, they'll be healthy years that are full of happiness.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sorting Boxes from the Closet of Doom

I spent some time yesterday sorting through boxes from the closet of doom.

Yes, the closet of doom.  I had one.  You probably do too.  Maybe you have several.  Maybe you have a whole storage shed or a rental unit of doom.

It has been the last closet I tackled.  About 7 years ago, we sorted stuff into boxes and threw a lot of stuff out, like undergraduate notes.  We reorganized a closet and put the boxes into the closet.  Until lately, I couldn't have told you for sure what was in there, except for some memorabilia and photo albums.

I've been sorting and sorting and sorting.  We have more types of paper than I expect to ever use.  Paper with granite-like nubbles, paper with high cotton content, paper in colors, and of course, reams of regular paper.

My spouse and I both had several boxes full of grad student papers, notes, syllabi--all sorts of detritus.  I sorted through those boxes yesterday.  Why did I keep every syllabus I was ever given?  Why did I keep all the papers I wrote, even the ones I didn't particularly like?

When I was in grad school, it must have been fashionable to have students all share their various bibliographies with each other.  I have several folders that had those bibliographies, compilation after compilation of secondary sources of authors I vaguely remember.

Notebook after notebook after folder--boxes and boxes of these things.  I have thrown them all away.

I have also thrown away lots and lots of rough drafts:  handwritten versions of poems that would later be typed into the computer with very little changes.  Not much need to continue to hang onto those.  I get the same thrill of recognition from reading the finished draft as the rough.

I must confess that there aren't a lot of changes as the poem moves from rough to finished draft.  No need to keep the originals.

I did keep paper copies of manuscripts (bad novels, mostly) that were written on computer equipment that no longer exists. 

Now it's on to the harder decisions.  So much memorabilia from childhood:  a troll with neon hair, various pieces of jewelry (first ear piercing--that kind of thing), race numbers from road races that I ran, scrapbooks and on and on it goes.  I may just box it up and keep it.

If I can only figure out where to put it. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Zooming to the End of Summer

The other night as I was driving home at 7:30 p.m., I noticed that the light had changed.  It was a much closer to sunset light.  It made me realize, in a way that outdoor temperatures really don't, that we're getting very close to the end of summer. 

Here are some other close to the end of summer observations:

--Down here, our public school teachers are already back at school.  Students go back next week.  This seems early to me, but I know that some districts in other places have students return this week.

--It takes me back to my time at Lutherock, a Lutheran church camp we visited a few weeks ago.  My parents met us there for the whole week-end, and my uncle came up for Saturday afternoon.  We talked about summer being over, effectively.  We arrived on the last day of a regular camp week, August 2, which again, seems early to me.  But as I've written before, if you're returning to school mid-August, you're not going to camp in early August.

--I feel like I've lost this summer.

--But it wasn't really lost.  I just worked on goals that I didn't know I'd even have, way back in January when I was thinking about goals for 2013.

--My younger self used to scoff at the idea that moving was one of life's most stressful events.  My older self knows this to be true.

--My younger self could get her possessions moved into a new apartment in a day and be unpacked by the end of the week-end.  What did she know about the stress of moving?

--Yesterday morning, I saw a woman carrying a plastic container of watermelon chunks; I assume it was her lunch.  I thought, wait, I haven't eaten any watermelon yet this summer!

--But I've had other summer joys:  swimming in a variety of swimming pools, walking at the beach, sailing the Chesapeake Bay.

--And it's only the middle of August.  There's still time for summer joys.  I must remember to get some watermelon.

--And truth be told, I love the time of year from October to Christmas.  I don't get as sad about the end of summer because know great holidays are approaching.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Golden Anniversary: Clothing as Metaphor

It's a shame that I don't have my Internet hooked up to my desktop computer or the scanner hooked up either.  I've been sorting through box after box, and I've come across many a wedding photo.  It would be neat to be able to share them here.  Of course, there will be future years.

Twenty-five years ago, I'd have been getting ready to marry my college boyfriend, Carl.  And here we are, all those years later, still together.

There are pictures elsewhere, most notably in last year's post that commemorated my anniversary.  I especially love the one of my grandmother ironing my dress.  Honestly, it wasn't even wrinkled.  And I was just going to be dragging the hem everywhere.

But I never shared my grandmother's view of the necessity of ironing.  Now that I'm older, I'm more appreciative of all the efforts that she made for us, even if I didn't see the wisdom at the time.

I wore that dress and dutifully took it to be cleaned at a French cleaners.  Someone told me it was better.  They asked if I wanted the box which would protect the dress against everything short of nuclear war.  I was a grad student with no money to spare.  I said no.

I got the dress back in a plastic bag, which I've taken with me across numerous state and county lines.  This may be the anniversary where I cut a bit of it to save and throw the rest away.

Twenty-five years have not been kind to that dress, and the plastic got a hole somewhere along the way.  The fabric has strange spots.

Plus, I hardly have enough closet space for the clothes that I can wear.

The headpiece and veil that my mother made for me has stood up surprisingly well.  I may hang onto that one a few more years.

Of course, I could ask myself why.  I don't have children.  Even if I did, would the next generation want that headpiece and veil?

I'm thinking of metaphor, the fancy dress and the simpler headpiece.  The headpiece and veil have endured perhaps because they weren't made of high end materials, like silks and velvets.  They're artificial:  nylon netting and a plastic comb to hold the headpiece in place and plastic beads and cloth flowers.

Maybe what saved it was that I didn't wrap it in plastic.

I like that headpiece and veil as a metaphor for marriage.  Marriages are meant to be unwrapped, to be lived in.  You can't go through a marriage worrying about ruining the fancy materials.  You can't wear that wedding dress every day.

Of course, most of us don't wear the headpiece and veil every day either.  So, perhaps I need to think a bit more about this metaphor.

Or maybe go in a different direction.  Let me record a  different clothes-related anecdote that may shed light on my marriage.

We've been doing a lot of moving this summer, moving all of our possessions from one place to another.  When I'm not dressed for work, I'm wearing clothes that are the worse for wear, no make-up, and all my hair pulled back.  I don't think it's my most attractive look.

At one point, I apologized for looking so dreadful.  My spouse gave me a kiss and said, "I don't see it that way.  I think you've been looking more like yourself."

It took me back to the me I used to be:  a backpacker, a woman who loved her favorite clothes into shreds, a woman who was happy to wear the threadbare clothes of others whom she loved.  I never wore much make up, not even for special occasions.  I cut my own hair or just wore it long and pulled back.

And that's the incarnation of me that my spouse first fell in love with twenty-five years ago.  So, perhaps the better clothing metaphor for marriage would be a torn pair of jeans, a shirt loved threadbare.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fragments from a Fragmented Week

I still don't have my computer set up at home, and it still doesn't have a wireless network adapter so that's why blogging has been sparser than usual. I'm hoping to get things more settled in this coming week so that I can get back to some productive writing patterns.

But in the meantime, some random thoughts, collected from the past few days:

--On Friday, we met with a realtor.  The old house is on the market!

--On Saturday, we moved all the remaining stuff out of the old house and cleaned.  It's a good thing we did that because the house was shown several times on Saturday.

--I continue to marvel over how much stuff we've accumulated.  Once I could fit everything I owned into the trunk of a car--then it took the whole car.  And we don't have children or pets or any of the other family members who would make the scaling back even more difficult.

--I was the judge of a chili cook-off yesterday.  Does that sound prestigious or simply odd?  It was an event at my church, so it was not a high-gloss affair, but it was still fun.  One of the contestants had wild boar as an ingredient--quite tasty.  All in all, it was a great time and a good way to get some solid food.

--Not only are my writing patterns off, my eating patterns are off.  I get right to work moving stuff early in the morning, and before I know it, it's lunch time, and I haven't even eaten breakfast.

--It's a great weight-loss plan.  And I have plenty of stored calories (regular people would call it body fat), so I'm not in danger of looking gaunt.  I should start taking a multi-vitamin if I'm going to continue to eat this way.

--I do need to get back to eating vegetables.

--We're still working on getting used to the kitchen.  It's a small, galley-type kitchen.  But if I pretend I'm on a sailboat, it feels huge. 

--I also remind myself that it's a larger space than many people have.  Maybe I should pretend that I'm stationed somewhere exotic.

--In a way, I am.

--One advantage to having less computer and Internet access:  I'm getting more reading done.  John Irving's latest book, In One Person, is intriguing.  Ayelet Waldman's Red Hook Road is a great exploration of family and class.  And Ron Rash writes so gorgeously.  Don't miss The Cove.

--Each day, I'm also trying to do some of the activities which made me want to move to the new house:  swimming in the pool, walking to the beach, that kind of thing.  On Saturday night, we walked to the lake that's only a few blocks away.

--We've been outdoors a lot, but we haven't seen any meteors.  We're not in a great place for that.

--We got all our pictures hung.  The house feels more like our home now.

--I'm ready to be more settled.  Having the option to take our time with moving has been both a blessing and a problem.  First world problems, I know.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Signs on a Mountain Drive

A week ago, we'd have been making our way up U.S. 221 in North Carolina.  It's fascinating to leave the Interstates, to see how the U.S. is living.  I'm always struck by how much more manufacturing I see than I would expect to see, given all the talk about how factories have moved overseas.  But there's still plenty of manufacturing here, albeit much smaller operations; in other words, this manufacturing won't save the country.

I saw plenty of houses for sale, some of the same ones that were for sale last year when we made the same drive.  That strikes me as a possible bad sign.  We saw lot after lot of manufactured buildings, mainly sheds and playground units.  One playground unit had a "Repo" sign on it--does that mean that the structure was repossessed?  And if so, why would a new buyer care?  Would it be a better deal?  Would it be less safe in some ways?

I also saw a business establishment for sale, with "Ephesians 3:3" on the for sale sign. I was intrigued, and I looked up the Bible verse when I got home:  "and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words."  It's not the Bible verse that I would put on a for sale sign.

The last McDonald's in South Carolina had a reference to Jeremiah on a sign that advertised the McWrap.  I didn't write down that verse, but an Old Testament prophet is not what I would have expected.  Jeremiah would probably have choice words about McDonald's, but probably not words that would sell Big Macs.

We saw all sorts of great signs.  My favorite:  "Avoid a litter, spay your critter."  Or maybe it was "Consumer Advocacy Employment Center" with a For Sale sign on it.  Or maybe "Appalachian Outhouses."

There were lots of references to minerals and mining and hot springs, like Isothermal Community College and Thermal City UMC church.  There were several spots where one could "mine" for gems.  I might have thought about going to Linville Caverns, if I wasn't so afraid of closed in spaces.

In short, it's a very different world from the South Florida world where I spend so much time.  I could feel my eyes and my brain drinking it all in.  When I complain about how long those drives take, it's good to remember that there are benefits.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Back Down from the Mountain

I have been away, although you might not have realized it, because I left behind some writings to post while I was gone.

I've been up to one of the higher points in the southeast U.S., the Grandfather/Sugar/Beech Mountain area in North Carolina.  It was chilly!  I'm glad I threw in my fleece jacket at the last minute.  Down here at sea level, it's been hot so long that I don't remember what cold feels like.

I may write more about my trip in coming posts, but suffice it to say, I had a great time being off the grid.  I read, I spent time with family, I hiked, and then I read some more.

I returned home, and I still feel a bit off the grid.  Our phone number had yet to migrate to the new house.  So, more hours on the phone with the telecom company.  It seems to be working now.

I have a computer that needs to be wired to get Internet connection, and the modem is several rooms away.  I'm still working on that issue.  Maybe it's the universe telling me it's time to buy a laptop (or get the old one fixed).

And then, there's the issue of the unmoved stuff and the old house that needs to be on the market, if we want a buyer--and we do, we do want a buyer!  Slowly but surely, we're making our way towards completing those tasks.

I'm beginning to feel that despair that's never far away:  the despair that says I'll never write again, I'll never be settled in the new house, I'll never sort through all these possessions--and how did I come to accumulate so much stuff anyway?

But I remind myself of all the other times I felt that way:  sooner or later, these things sort themselves out.

And I remind myself that I have been writing:  I've been working on projects that actually pay money.  I could get back to poetry.  And I will.

Before Monday, I will write a poem about house possessions that references those creepy movies that came out in the 70's.  But it won't be a house of horror.  No, the house in my poem will seduce.

And I'll continue to enjoy this down time.  The advantage to having a computer that has yet to be configured is that I can read in the early morning hours. 

I'll read, once I get a poem written.  Then I'll feel like my old self--or at least a little closer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Heaven on Earth" Finds a Home Again

Last week, I got a phone call from the poet laureate of Virginia.  She's putting together a book of the favorite poems of Virginians, and she wants to use one of mine.

Oh, let me be completely honest here.  My dad wrote in and nominated my poem.  I am so lucky to have such supportive people in my life.

I am amused and amazed at how many people have liked this poem.  Of everything I've written, it seems to resonate the most with people.  I'm amazed at its ability to connect with such a diverse group.

I'm amused because I almost didn't write it, and when I did, I almost didn't send it out.  It felt dangerous to me.  I could see how people would see it as profane, even though I was trying to comment on the down-to-earth ministry of Jesus using modern metaphors.

I've read advice that says that if a poem scares you, you shouldn't run away.  I'm glad that I've sent the poem out into the world to see where it goes.  Garrison Keillor read it years ago on The Writer's Almanac--that was a highlight of my writer's life so far.

So, here again, for your reading pleasure, my poem "Heaven on Earth."  It first appeared in Coal City Review, and I included it in my first chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Heaven on Earth

I saw Jesus at the bowling alley,
slinging nothing but gutter balls.
He said, “You’ve gotta love a hobby
that allows ugly shoes.”
He lit a cigarette and bought me a beer.
So I invited him to dinner.

I knew the Lord couldn’t see my house
in its current condition, so I gave it an out
of season spring cleaning. What to serve
for dinner? Fish—the logical
choice, but after 2000 years, he must grow weary
of everyone’s favorite seafood dishes.
I thought of my Granny’s ham with Coca Cola
glaze, but you can’t serve that to a Jewish
boy. Likewise pizza—all my favorite
toppings involve pork.

In the end, I made us an all-dessert buffet.
We played Scrabble and Uno and Yahtzee
and listened to Bill Monroe.
Jesus has a healthy appetite for sweets,
I’m happy to report. He told strange
stories which I’ve puzzled over for days now.

We’ve got an appointment for golf on Wednesday.
Ordinarily I don’t play, and certainly not in this humidity.
But the Lord says he knows a grand miniature
golf course with fiberglass mermaids and working windmills
and the best homemade ice cream you ever tasted.
Sounds like Heaven to me.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cheap Pizza Poolside

It's hard to believe that just two weeks ago, we'd have been getting up early and heading over to the U-Haul place.  I've written before about that day and how well it went.  I've written this post about moving day gratitude.

I didn't write about the end of the day, which was also lovely.  We moved one last load by ourselves and returned the U-Haul.  We loaded up the car at the old house and headed to the new house.

We unloaded the car, and then we changed into our suits.  I thought I had brought cheese and crackers, which I did, but I didn't bring a knife.  I managed to saw a hunk of cheese with a plastic knife, and we floated in the pool.

My spouse really wanted pizza, but we had no phone to call for it, no Internet to place an order.  I offered to go to Little Caesar's to see if they had their $5 special or if that was just on week days.

I was inordinately thrilled to find that the offer was good every day.  I got a large cheese and a large pepperoni. 

After we sprayed ourselves with bug spray to keep the mosquitoes away, we opened a bottle of wine and sat by the pool.  The seller had left behind some mismatched plates, and we put a paper towel on them and ate our pizza.

Was it great pizza?  No, of course not.  But it was hot and cheap and the Little Caesar's workers had been in a cheerful mood.  I tend to think of all commercial pizza as somewhat industrial, so getting a commercial pizza for just $5 made me happy out of all realms of proportion.

With food in our stomachs, it was fairly easy to get our bedroom set up.  We left the other rooms for later and fell into a deep sleep in a house that already felt familiar.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Exorcisms and Additional Baggage

It's hard to believe that the month of July has just zoomed right by.  I'm going to indulge myself and over the next few days, look back a bit on this whirlwind of a month.

Four weeks ago, early in the morning of July 4th, my spouse and I got up and headed to the airport.  We were headed off to Maryland for a sailing trip.  I love packing for those trips--it's low key and easy.  No need for dress up clothes or a different outfit for every day.  Just an extra outfit (shorts and top) and a swimsuit and socks because I can't sleep with bare feet.  I also took a long-sleeved shirt, but lost it somewhere between the parking garage and the airport.

As we waited to board the plan, my spouse heard the woman call forward anyone who needed extra assistance.  He looked at me with arched eyebrows and said, "For a minute, I heard her say, 'Anyone requiring an exorcism.'"

We fell into serious giggles, imagining the airlines being quite strict with the stowage of demons--after all, most airlines won't even let you bring an extra carry on bag.

But we were flying Southwest, so maybe they would have.  And then we thought of the movie possibilities.  If you can have snakes on a plane, why not demons?

We continued to have fun with that kind of hilarity for our whole miniature vacation.  I love this kind of family time:  relaxed, laid back, sailing the Chesapeake.  It was great to take a break from our house buying activities.  We could rest easy in the knowledge that it was a holiday week-end, and nobody would be expecting us to answer e-mail, send documents, send additional information, or move money from place to place. 

In short, it was an idyllic vacation, even with the heat and the occasional jellyfish sting.