Sunday, September 30, 2018

Saturday Sanding

Yesterday was a day that felt like we fell out of time.  We began as we usually do on Saturdays these days:  a discussion of what needs to get done.  But unlike most Saturdays, we didn't get around to most of the items on the task list.

It was a strange day because we had the flooring guys in the house.  It's much easier having them there on work days, where we have a place we need to be.  But we're at the point where it will feel good to make progress, so we said yes to having them work through the week-end.

We had to stay outside of the house most of the day because the guys were sanding the floors--I can't believe how noisy that is. We moved our chairs to the back parking area outside the cottage, about as far away from the house as it's possible to be--we could still hear the sanders, but it wasn't quite as loud. 

It was more pleasant than I thought it might be.  There was still some shade, and we faced a variety of vegetation--along with some butterflies! We spent a lot of time talking about the possible approaches to the house. We're really liking the uncluttered feel of the rooms as they get sanded. We're thinking of getting rid of a lot of the heavier furniture.

We may get rid of all of it.  We've inherited a lot of furniture from a lot of places and settings.  We no longer have room for most of it.

So, we spent many hours in the shade of the back parking area talking about possible approaches to furniture. It was pleasant. By the time we were done talking, I didn't particularly want to run errands with the masses of humanity that were sure to be there.

Today, the floor team comes again. There's more sanding, I think--I think that, because they left their sanders here. And then more staining. And then, the polyurethane. They think they may be done by tomorrow. Amazing.

And now, we must move on to the next project: the kitchen. Time to make some cabinet decisions. We may go to Lowe's after church. Our contractor's cabinet guy doesn't have what we want.

It is hard to believe that this work of hurricane recovery will ever be done--but slowly and surely, we are making progress.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Let me capture a few thoughts before the flooring folks get here to sand and destroy the quiet of the day.  My spouse asked me what I thought about them coming on the week-end.  I said, "Let's do it."  I'm ready to be done.

Here's a shot of what the living room looks like now:

I've now spent lots of time thinking about the emptiness and how much I like it.  How could we preserve it?

Let me stress that these floors aren't finished.  When they're finished, I suspect I'll be even more loathe to move back in all of our stuff.  Here's a close up of the in between:

Yesterday I ate lunch with a friend.  She talked about the books on her shelves that she rereads when she can't get to the library.  For years, I've kept books for that very reason.  But lately, when I return to them, I've wondered why I kept them.

Yesterday was the first day when I was tempted to just give away all the books that I have in boxes.  It would free up a lot of space.  I just don't read most of my books anymore.  Once I read them periodically.

Once, they also gave me comfort to see them on the shelves.  That's still true for some of them--but likely not the way it once was.

There's a batch of books that are underlined--perhaps I'll keep those.  I value the window into my past self that they give me.

It's been an interesting time.  I've gone from worrying about flooding rains while we have stuff stored in the cottage to a vague wish that the decision would be made for me.  Once I became aware of that wish, I've been trying to reflect on what it means.

I confess that I'm not sure yet.  Let me continue to ponder.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Fragments of Happiness

Yesterday's hearing in the Senate (to investigate the new charges that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted a women when both were in their teens) was worse than I thought they would be--and I didn't even watch them.  As I was driving home at 5:00, NPR was broadcasting live from the hearing, so I did hear a little of the nominee's testimony--or was it an opportunity for Senators to blab on and on?  I switched to a CD of Mavis Staples.

So, to make myself happy, let me make a list of what has made me happy this week:

--Yesterday morning, I met a friend for coffee.  How wonderful to have a friend with whom I can have coffee, and we can pick up right where we left off, even though we haven't seen each other in a month.

--There have been many moments at school where I have had opportunity to reflect how lucky I am to work where I do.  Yesterday afternoon I had a long conversation on the phone about accreditation requirements--and it was a joy, not a chore.  This week has had lots of good moments:  New Student Orientation, videos that I took at the Orientation that turned out to be better than I thought they might be, work on various projects, planning for future projects, and reminder and reminder of how wonderful my colleagues are.

--Yesterday after work, we went to our neighborhood friends for our regularly scheduled cheese, crackers, wine, and good conversation.

--We brought a bike for the daughter of these friends.  Her joy at seeing this bike that had been festooned with glitter and fake jewels made me so happy.  That bike was left behind by the last person who lived in our cottage.  I'm glad that we kept it.  If our friends' daughter wants to keep the bike, I'll be happy to let her have it.

--Our house has level floors for the first time since we have lived here--hurrah!  The remaining wood planks for the floor came in and yesterday, they were installed.  All this blather about trade tariffs has made me anxious to get all of our home repairs done.

--At the end of the day, I watched the reboot of Murphy Brown.  I loved this show when it was first on the air.  I'll keep giving this show a chance, but by the time it aired, I had already heard or read the good bits in reviews and previews.  I have to admit that I wasn't as much in love with the show as I once was.

--The show made me remember Monday nights in grad school.  A group of friends would gather at our apartment where I'd have made us all a vegetarian meal.  We'd eat and talk and finish the evening by watching Murphy Brown together.  I feel fortunate to have had that group, and I'm also feeling lucky to have similar community now.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Self Care on a Day of Many Triggers

I will not be watching or listening to the Senate testimony today.  I'm fairly sure I know what the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser will say.  I don't get to vote, so I don't feel the need to watch this coverage.

But I also confess that I am weary.  I am tired of these constant reminders of how brutal we can be too each other.  I do know that I enjoy a certain amount of privilege in that I can choose to look away.  I don't want to look away for too long.  But I also need to exercise some self care.

Recently I told a friend that no other administration had made me feel so unsafe.  But then I reflected.  Under the second Bush administration, I felt unsafe, but it was something different.  I felt a distinct threat from my government, as an activist, even as I admitted that if the national government was coming after such a small-time activist as me, then times would be pretty grim.

The current administration makes me feel unsafe in a completely different way.  Every day's news coverage reminds me of how unsafe the larger world is for many of us, and reminds me of how hard it is to find justice when the rich and the privileged are involved. 

It also makes me feel unsafe because something about this administration seems to make larger-than-usual swathes of the population feel like they've been given permission to act in unsavory ways.  I know that many of us in the U.S. have always been subject to this cruelty.  Again, I recognize my place of privilege, past and present.

I'm feeling a strange mix of anger and resignation.  How can we not be any further along towards a vision of a just world than we are right now?  How can we be decades after the Anita Hill hearings and still be no better at handling these kinds of allegations?

But let me also remember that these times are not those times.  This year, 2018, is still a better time to be a woman than 1918 or 1818--or even 1991.  A woman can bring a charge forward, and she has a better chance of being believed.  We are better at knowing what boundaries should be, even if those boundaries are not always respected.  There are laws that might protect us all--once those laws didn't exist, and the idea that they should would not have existed.

Still, we have not yet arrived at the future that I hoped for when Anita Hill testified, and I was a younger woman in grad school.   Let me hold onto that idea of a time when people's bodies are respected, when boundaries are maintained, when people will not trespass even when we are unconscious, when the powerful do not prey on the weak.  Let that time come soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Reading N. K. Jemisin in this #MeToo Moment

I spent my time in airports and airplanes this week-end devouring N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, which is the first book of a trilogy--and it's a trilogy that's already complete, hurrah!  Each book has won the Hugo award for best novel, so I was intrigued.

Why have I not heard of Jemisin?  I listened to this episode of the NPR 1A show, and her books sounded fascinating--I was making an Amazon order, so I decided, why not?  The Fifth Season sounded right up my alley:  apocalypse mixed with race and gender analysis, and a different planet.

It was all that and more.  It reminded me of the best of Octavia Butler, with a splash of Toni Morrison thrown in.  But the world that Jemisin creates is so intriguing, with its similarities to our world, but its vast differences.  I can't imagine what it must take to create an alternate world like this one.

As I was reading, news was swirling about the Supreme Court Justice and the woman who claims he sexually assaulted her during their teenage years at a party.  It was interesting to read this book as a conversation about what and who oppresses us and how we are groomed to participate in that oppression.  In the novel, the oppression is about a race of people, but it also applies to our current time.

And again I ask, why have I not heard of Jemisin?  And there's that lurking fear:  who else have I been missing?

And then I did what I always do after a good book:  I did a search for author interviews and book reviews.  Here's a great interview that takes place in Feb. 2016,  just after the publication of The Fifth Season.  It's an interesting look at her evolution as a writer; she now works part-time and writes.

I will be ordering the next 2 books in the series too.  I decided not to check them out from the library--let me support a fellow female writer.  Plus I want them in time for my next autumn travels.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Disappearing Free Time

Over the week-end, one of my retreat planning friends turned to me and said, "So what do you do in your free time?"

My first thought was, what free time?  And then my next thought was that my free time activities sound so dull:  writing, reading, cooking (at times when my kitchen hasn't been removed from the house).  Most weeks, I also do some abstract work with my Copic Sketch markers.  Here's a recent one that I like:

As I was thinking about space, I was trying to make little round shapes that look like planets.  But I was also thinking about interior space.

I don't do as much with fiber art as I once did.  I don't do as much with anything as I once did.  I really am spending more of my waking hours at work.  If I'm not at the office in my day job, I'm also teaching online, which requires huge chunks of time during most weeks.

That's why I'm grateful for time away.  On Friday, it was very warm in the cabin after I arrived at Lutheridge.  So I spent the afternoon taking a very long walk.  And then I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and sketched:

I thought I didn't like the image, but I looked again this morning and was pleasantly surprised.

I've spent the week-end reading a wonderful book, The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, which I may write more about later.

I heard Jane Fonda talk about her life on yesterday's edition of All Things Considered.  She talked about how many people have lots of experiences, but few people contemplate the meaning of it all.  But lately, I've been wondering if I need to have more experiences--but part of that may be the all-consuming nature of these last rounds of home repairs.

But let me think about the giant leaps we took in terms of home repair last week:  the fence passed final inspection, the problematic self-piercing valve was removed, all of the flooring on hand was installed, the kitchen floor is more level than it's been since we've moved in--no wonder I'm a bit distracted.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Travel Inspirations

Yesterday, I finished writing the blog post and decided to try my hand at flash fiction, a super short story.  I had the idea on Friday as I traveled, and after letting it percolate, yesterday I decided to give it a try.  The story came in at just under 500 words.

My spouse and I have been talking about how much we like the empty parts of the house, and on Friday, as we discussed kitchen cabinets, we talked about how much bigger the kitchen looks without anything in it.

As I walked around Lutheridge on Friday, I had an image of a woman whose spouse dies when the old kitchen has been demo'ed, but before the kitchen cabinets have been ordered.  She decides to keep the kitchen empty. 

As I continued to walk, I had a vision of the ending, where she breaks the china.  She's the type of woman who has several china cabinets, because she's inherited so much family china, in addition to her own.

Now I will go back and add a few details here and there.  What fun!

I also have a vision for a poem:  Noah, after the flood.  Noah looks at the wrecked landscape, thinking about how we long for a fresh start, never thinking about the mucking out process that must happen with every fresh start.

It's been wonderful being away--I can't always travel when I feel the need for inspiration, for a different way of looking at things, but when I can, I'm happy about the ideas that come.  I can't always pull them off, but it's good to have some fresh ideas.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Retreat Planning Wrap Up

Yesterday was a great day of retreat planning.  For those of you who have never done this kind of work, you may imagine that we sit there and discuss the schedule or what we plan to offer.  While we do continue to do some fine tuning of the schedule, this retreat is almost 20 years old, so we keep the schedule the same from year to year.

We do have some discussion about the workshops and drop in stations that we offer, but the larger conversation is about the Bible passage that will shape the retreat.  Once we offered every workshop or drop in station that people volunteered to teach, but now we try to offer the majority of creative activities that will tie into the retreat.

At the planning session, we also plan for the retreat for the year after the year of the upcoming retreat, so yesterday we turned our attention to 2020.  We have a 3 year cycle where we focus on a different aspect of the Trinity, so by 2020, we'll be back to God the Creator.

I suggested that we do the Annunciation story, God as Creator of the baby Jesus.  I suggested that if we felt very daring, we could have a conversation about sex and God.  We backed away from that, not because we're cowardly people but because in 2021, we'll be back to a Jesus year.  It's an interesting question:  is the Annunciation story more about God the creator, or the baby Jesus, or Mary?  Yes, to all of those.

I suggested we study Noah and the flood.  In 2011, we focused on a difficult aspect of God when we explored the second Genesis story, the expulsion from the Garden.  I said it might be time for a difficult subject again:  what do we do when we're surrounded by wreckage?  How do we create again?

Much to my surprise, we decided that we liked that idea.  So many of us will face such deep losses in a normal lifetime, not to mention the deep losses that some of us will experience in addition to the normal losses.  How do we reclaim our lives out of wreckage?

We kept planning the 2019 and the 2020 retreat until 3.  Then a group of us headed over to Hendersonville for a gallery hop.  Actually, we didn't hop much--we mainly wanted to see the display of one of our Create in Me potter friends.  At some point, maybe I'll post some pictures that I took; she's a very talented potter and assemblage artist.

After that, we went to the Sierra Nevada brewery; I think of them as a western brewery, but they actually have a huge brewery near the Asheville airport.  They also have a beautiful brewpub, where we had the kind of dinner I like best:  we kept ordering everything on the menu that looked good, sharing them until we were full.  I had 2 beers and tastes of everything that looked interesting on the menu, all for $35.

I am trying to walk 10,000 steps every day in September, so some of us went for a moonlight/flashlight walk when we returned to camp.  It was beautiful.

Soon my kind friends will wake much earlier than they would otherwise to take me to the airport.  It's been a good trip here, but it's time to go back.  I'm interested to see how much progress has been made on the floors.  I'm interested to see if my spouse has made any decisions about the kitchen cabinets.  I need to get ready for the week ahead--the week before another quarter starts at school.

But for now, let me keep breathing the mountain air.  Let me rest in the comfort of camp for just another bit of time.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumn Arrivals in the Heated South

Today we mark the arrival of Autumn--ah, the autumnal equinox.  I don't have lots of memories of this "holiday"--but I do remember an autumnal equinox in the Wellness Center for a Monday evening class.  The Wellness Center has windows in every direction, and it's on the 8th floor of a Ft. Lauderdale doctor's office building at the hospital.  We looked to the east to see the full moon rising, and we looked to the east to see a blazing red sun sinking towards the horizon--glorious.

This morning, I'm writing in Carla cabin at Lutheridge, while the sky is slowly lightening.  I managed to sleep until just after 6--wow.

I got here yesterday afternoon, after an easy flight on Allegiant Airlines.  Once Allegiant flew to Asheville only once or twice a week from Ft. Lauderdale; now they fly daily, although that may be a seasonal shift.  Since I had to pay in advance to choose a seat, I decided to treat myself to an exit row seat for $18, a good decision.

I had thought I would buy a meal at the airport, but nothing appealed.  I decided to buy snacks on the plane, pricey, but a treat.  Plus I was hungry, and I knew the plane would land at 3:15, which is a long time until 6:00 dinner.

I am happy to report that I lost myself in a wonderful book:  the first of N. K. Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, which I heard about on this episode of 1A.   How have I not heard about this author and this series?  As I heard the show, I wondered if it would be a sci-fi book where I just couldn't get into the alternate world, but because it won so many awards, I decided to give it a chance.

As I walked through the Asheville Airport, I heard, "Welcome to the Asheville Airport y'all. Please enjoy some free ice cream"--how I love airports in small (smallish) Southern towns!  They offered a choice of 8 flavors--wow.  I am happy to report that I had the Cappucino Fudge Crunch.

When I got to Lutheridge, I was amazed at how hot is was:  85 degrees.  Carla cabin doesn't have AC, so it was stuffy, so I spent lots of time walking Lutheridge, thinking of how much the place means to me, all the times I've been here, all the people I miss.  I prayed as I walked, as I do in these spiritual places.  There's not much fall color, but that's O.K.  I'll be back here for a retreat in October.

We had a great night of planning the 2019 Create in Me retreat.  And then it was off to a peaceful sleep--although I did wake up at 3 in the morning to hear a distant chainsaw (or was it a motorcycle?  It lasted a long time and didn't seem to move like a vehicle would).  But I was able to fall back asleep.

Today will be another great day of planning and hiking the loops of Lutheridge--plus, perhaps some other fun events.  I feel lucky that I could be here to plan, unlike past years when a hurricane has been over my head, or I've been starting a new job and couldn't get away.  I feel lucky that I found a cheap airline ticket, so that the trip didn't wear me out.

Most of all, I feel lucky that I could be here for a time of renewal, even though it will be brief.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Fragments: Creativity, Anxiety, Travel, and Possessions

--Every morning as I blog, I wonder if I should be doing a different kind of writing.  But I also wonder if I'm creating and perfecting this form of writing--and will anyone care?  I think of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, and I think she'd be a blogger, if she was living today--although her poverty might have kept her offline.

--I am trying to think about my successes, not my failures.  In the last few weeks, I could have sent out more of my creative work.  But let me think about the fact that I've done some actual writing.

--I'm listening to the On Point interview with Ethan Hawke.  He talked about working on Boyhood, the movie that was made over 12 years.  He talks about it being a movie that was made without the element of having to sell it.  He says it was like being in your room painting watercolors with your friends or making music on Christmas Eve.  I love that way of talking about making art.

--Yesterday was one of those days when I felt frustrated about the roles I was asked to play at work, and I realized I was frustrated not because I felt they were beneath me, but because they weren't working for me.  I was trying to make technology behave for the people who couldn't come to an Advisory Board meeting and tried to call in.  It took an inordinate amount of time to set up the GotoMeeting software (is it software?), and then the sound didn't work right for the callers, and on and on.  I kept thinking, "Don't we have a tech person to help?"  We used to--that's what's frustrating.

--But we carried on, and we had a meeting that worked as much as it needed to--and eventually, one of the onground participants figured out how to fix the sound.

--Last Thursday night was more fun because it had less glitches.

We had an ice cream social at school to raise money for the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund that gives students scholarships for college.  There was plenty of opportunity for glitches, but I somehow managed not to stress over it.  Yesterday I felt mildly anxious all day.

--Another possible source of my anxiety:  I'm traveling today.  I'm flying to Asheville for the retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat.  I got a cheap ticket on Allegiant Air.   Part of me is thrilled to be able to zip up there.  Part of me misses the meditative aspect of the 12 hour drive (but I'll get that in October and November).  Part of me dreads the security line.  But I am also looking forward to the chance to read a book.  I'm taking N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season with me.

--Later this morning, I'll need to dig the suitcase out of the cottage.  During the July prep time for the Great Flooring Project, I used the suitcases to pack away some off-season clothes that I wouldn't need.  I assumed that the Great Flooring Project would be done by the time I needed them.  Luckily, I know exactly where they are.

--It's interesting to reflect on this time of house reconstruction.  My books have been packed away in the cottage since July (some since late May).  The CDs were packed away too.  I hesitate to admit that I don't miss them in the way I thought I would, which leads me to ask, "Do I  really want to keep them?"

--But I also have this vision of being a little old lady, the one who outlives the rest.  Will that little old lady want to read these books or listen to these CDs?  She might.  What will bring me comfort?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Shelter Week and Beyond

A friend asked me how we're eating, now that our kitchen has been dismantled.  So far, we are doing most of our cooking on the grill--the stove was moved into the front bedroom 2 weeks ago. Now that we have dismantled the sink, it gets a bit harder. Plus, I didn't realize how much I need countertop space until I didn't have a counter. So, we're eating simple things. My spouse made a pot of mac and cheese on the burner that's part of the gas grill--like having a one burner stove top ring to the side of the main grill, so that's been handy. I eat a lot of cheese and crackers and wine for an evening snack--my favorite, and if I added some veggies, I could almost count it as a meal.

During most weeks of the year, we don't have a regular evening meal every night, like some families do.   During regular weeks, I'll have more of a snack than an evening meal, so our current life doesn't feel too different--at least in terms of dinner.   Making coffee is a chore--I have the coffee maker set up on a small table that's usually an outdoor table.

I am in that summer phase of eating, where it's just too hot to eat, and I'm hungry but nothing sounds good. Sigh. So, having the kitchen dismantled isn't making me too grumpy. Later, when I wish I could bake something, it might.

But I have a house. I have that on the brain because my church is doing a shelter week this week. It's this program where area churches serve as temporary shelter for homeless families that are in transition to having a home. So families come to the church for an evening meal and to sleep the night. Church members sleep there too, just so that everyone feels safe.

This week, between two families, there are 7 children, all of them under the age of 4, except for an 8 year old. I went over after work Tuesday night. I changed out of my work clothes and helped get the kids fed, and then we did some reading together.

I had planned for this.  I had gone to the used bookstore that is near my school to pick up some kid's books--they had a great selection, so I bought a lot. It was a treat to shop for them.  I also picked up some used books that I have in mind for a Halloween display at the school library.

I envisioned that I would read and all the kids would gather round. Nope. But the bright girl who was only 3 years old "read" to me--she looked at the pictures and made up a story, with book after book. It was a delightful, though exhausting, way to spend an evening.

I know that I am lucky--I have a house to go home to, even if it's under reconstruction.  If I need a quiet evening, I can plan it.  I can't imagine being a single mom in charge of 4 small children with no home.

I am also thinking of all the people in the Carolinas who will be displaced by Hurricane Florence.  Some will rebuild; some will never recover.  I listened to the clip of President Trump yesterday promising that residents will have every resource that they need and promptly.  I tried not to laugh with bitterness.

I'm lucky.  I had savings, so I didn't have to hope that the government could help me.  The government wasn't going to help me, because I had insurance--again, I'm lucky.  My damages may end up costing me more than the insurance paid--we're trying to be frugal, while getting everything done properly.  But I stress again:  I'm lucky to have savings and other resources. 

I'm most lucky in that my house has been a livable structure while we've been working our way through these repairs.  The flood waters didn't swamp the main structure.  The rest of my South Florida community wasn't so damaged:  so I could work, and I could get supplies, and my friends didn't all move away.

I have these things on the brain today, the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.  I know that my experience could have been worse.  And the ever present fear:  that there may be a worse time coming.

But let me try to move my brain away from that idea.  I've spent a lot of my life worrying about stuff that never came my way.  Let me stay as prepared as I can, while living my life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Triggering Times

So here we are, another Senate Judiciary Committee preparing to ask a woman about her claims of sexual misconduct (such a polite word for the behavior) at the hands of a Supreme Court nominee.  Now, as in the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, the panel will be white and male.

Now as 27 years ago, we are having a national conversation about what behavior is O.K.  I am startled by the behavior that some people see as normal.  Have I led that sheltered a life to be so shocked at this idea that boys will be rapists, and we should see this violent behavior as normal?

Let me stress that I'm not judging the Supreme Court nominee or his accuser--either now or in 1991.  I am judging the national conversation.  I don't think that adolescents of either gender get a free pass to behave in aggressive ways just because their brains aren't fully developed.  We train 2 year olds to behave differently, and I don't suspend those expectations once the child hits puberty.

It's a very strange time we're living in, with a variety of accusations of sexual awfulness swirling in the national news:  from priests to presidents to so many people across a variety of entertainment industries.  A few weeks ago, as the details of the Pennsylvania predator priests dominated the news, I told a friend that I was finding the coverage to be very triggering.  I said, "And I've never experienced that kind of abuse.  Just the normal stuff:  people hollering at me from cars when I'm out for a run or following me . . ."  And then I realized what I was saying--that I accept that behavior as normal.  I expect to tolerate it, just because I'm a woman out and about in the world.

I tend to dismiss it, even as those incidents make me feel a bit nauseated and distinctly threatened.  This summer has also been the summer of the missing college girl who turned up murdered in the trunk of a car of a man who wouldn't take no for an answer.  It's a reminder of the price of being female in the world.

When I was younger, I read all sorts of books about developmental psychology.  I was intrigued by the stories of women at midlife who reacted in various ways.  I read about women who felt invisible and wanted to prove their continued attractiveness.  I read about other women who finally felt free to evolve.

I have always felt a bit invisible when it comes to the male gaze.  I have a type of attractiveness, to be sure, but it's not the type that we see as valued across popular culture.  It's an attractiveness that I think of as sturdy, as opposed to bubbly and cute.  If you wanted a companion to homestead Mars, you might choose me.  If you need a woman on your arm who looks good in designer duds, you'll likely choose someone else.

Throughout much of my life, I've been O.K. with that, while at the same time knowing that this invisibility doesn't insure I am protected from the threats that come with existence in a female body.  I am yearning for the time when these sexual assaults are no longer front and center news stories.

I yearn for the time that they aren't front and center news stories because they no longer happen, not just because we outraged about something else.

Heart heavy sigh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fence Finale!

Those of you who have done home repair/restoration/renovation may recognize this syndrome:  you plod along, or worse, you take 2 steps forward and something happens and you're back five steps--but then the day comes when you see the progress.  You may not be done, but you feel closer to that point.

This process perhaps describes more of my life than I like to think.  Hmmm.

Yesterday was one of the days of the "Wow, progress!" response.  How I wish I had more of those, but let me savor yesterday.

A year ago, Hurricane Irma destroyed our fence.  Actually, Hurricane Irma completed what the garbage truck workers had begun; in any case, after the hurricane, it became clear that we would need to replace the fence sooner rather than later.

Easier said than done.  My spouse knew what kind of fence he wanted, researched the fence companies who said they could install it, and waited for the estimates/proposals.  This process took several months.  As with so many housing decisions, we went with the company who returned our phone calls.

We needed a site survey to get the permit.  Another round of phone calls and waiting.  Then we had to wait for the historic rains of May to pass.  Then we had to wait for the city of Hollywood to grant the permit.  These processes take many more weeks than one would expect, if one has never tried to get a permit.

At the end of August, we had much of the fence installed, but with some problems, like a huge gap in the front, where the gate meets the post.  The problems were fixed, and we waited for the final inspection.

Last week, the fence failed the final inspection.  I was so exhausted that I just shrugged.  The fence company came out to do the adjustments.  The city inspector was going to come on Thursday, but then the appointment was moved to Monday.

And yesterday, sweet success!  The fence has passed the final inspection.  Onward to other projects!

Last night I made this Facebook post:  Some women have men who bring them flowers. Some women have men who wrestle the kitchen countertop and huge cabinet into the backyard all by themselves so that the women don't return home from work to have to help with this last step of getting the space ready for phase 2 of the Great Flooring Project. I am that lucky woman #2!

Here's a picture of what he moved, all by himself:

Here's a picture of the space where eventually, a remodeled kitchen will be:

Will it all be done by Christmas?  Is that too much to expect?  We should have all of the floors done by the end of September.  But we haven't ordered the cabinets or the countertop yet--if those items go into back order . . . but let me not think about that now.  Let me rejoice in the completion of the fence.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Medieval Monastics and the Work that Must be Done

Today is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen; go to this post on my theology blog if you want to know more about her.

She's probably one of the most famous female monastics from past centuries.  A few years ago, someone told me that the Hildegard of Bingen channel on Pandora was one of the most popular. Then, as now, I doubted that fact.  And yet, it does speak to a yearning that so many of us have.

I think that many of us look to monastic communities past and present and idealize them.  But as I think and read about the lives of medieval monastic women, I try to think about what's left out.  Even as life in the abbey brought medieval women some freedom, they were still controlled by men, who may or may not have let them go in the directions that they thought would bring the most success.

When I think about their creative lives, I wonder if they created the art that most moved them or if they did the work that their communities needed:  music for the worship services, herbs that had medicinal/culinary value, weavings to cover cold walls.  What would they have done if they could have followed their true passions?

Very few of us have the luxury to follow our true passions.  Perhaps we don't really know what those true passions are, so shaped have we been by what our societies tell us our true passions should be.

Most of us have to balance many aspects of our lives, and many of us feel frazzled at this constant effort.  We will never achieve that true balance--attention to one aspect means that others go lacking (or waiting until later, whether it's a day later, a month, or years).  The lives of medieval monastics show us that it's always been this way.

We all face constraints of various kinds, and the life of Hildegard shows what could be accomplished, even during a time when women did not have full rights and agency. She was an abbess, and because being in charge of one cloistered community wasn’t enough, she founded another. She wrote music, and more of her music survives than almost any other medieval composer. She was an early naturalist, writing down her observations about the natural world and her theories about how the natural world heals us. She wrote to kings, emperors and popes to encourage them to pursue peace and justice. She wrote poems and a morality play and along the way, a multitude of theological meditations.

My theory: in the day to day, we feel we aren't doing much. But when we take the full measure of a life, we see how much a life can encompass.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


As we have been working on hurricane repairs, we've also been thinking about the maintenance that modern life requires.  There's all the maintenance that goes with a house, of course, but there's also other types:  relationship maintenance, car/vehicle, pets, friends, family.

I'm exhausted just making this list.

Yesterday, in the midst of getting ready for the second half of the Great Flooring Project which should begin this week (yes, it was supposed to be last week, but we had delays), we decided to have hamburgers for lunch--it would be quick and grillable, and we could keep working.

My spouse went out to light the grill, and I didn't see him for awhile.  Come to find out, the gas tubes in the grill are showing corrosion and decay.  We managed to get the grill going, but thank goodness we weren't planning to grill a brisket or something that would take all the burners and a long time.

I called Weber, and happy news!  We're still in the warranty time period of those tubes.  And the woman reminded us that we're near the ocean, and so we will have more corrosion than other locations.

Still, it's discouraging--and perhaps because we're just aware of how much decay and corrosion our house contains.  For example, our kitchen sink seems to have stopped draining properly.  Luckily, we have a bucket under the sink, and we're redoing the kitchen soon--but as I carried the second full bucket of water out to the pineapple plants last night, I felt a weariness.  Every other day, I empty the dehumidifier that runs all the time in the cottage. 

Some days, my life seems like an endless emptying of buckets.

The other day, I thought of one of my favorite Ann Lamott quotes.  Her quote from her friend John is one I come back to again and again: ". . . if you have a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, you don't have a very interesting problem" (Traveling Mercies 259).

I first came across that quote when I didn't have much money, and I thought about how not having money does make the problem more interesting.  And yet, it's better than having a health issue that money can't solve.

This past year, I have been surrounded by problems that could be solved by throwing money at them, and I do have the money--and yet, it's not as easy as it sounds.  It still requires a crew of workers and supplies and lots of disruption.  It still requires lots of coordination and creativity.  It still requires lots of patience and the courage to continue. 

No one talks about the exhaustion of it all, even if one is lucky enough to have a problem that money can solve.

But I keep my wits about me by remembering that eventually, these problems do get solved or they go away or other problems rise up the priority list.  It could be much worse.  Many people in the Carolinas will be waking up to problems much worse than the ones that I face; I keep my perspective by remembering that.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dispatch from the Night Watch

I've been awake since 2:00 a.m.; of course, I did go to bed at 8 p.m.  My Fitbit tells me that I haven't been getting much in the way of deep sleep in the past week or two, which isn't a surprise to me.  But I have been getting writing done, a surprise to me too.

My spouse has managed to keep sleeping, although he went to bed at 7 p.m.  We are a worn out pair of people!  So I can't do much of what needs to be done today to get ready for the part 2 of the Great Flooring Project.  In a way, I'm not sad.  I love this very early morning writing time.

At 4 a.m., I went outside to look for the moon.  I had misread the moonrise chart--the moon won't be up for hours.  As I have been many times this summer, I was struck by the lack of any breeze at all.  I heard some dripping, but I think it was coming from the neighbor's house.  I'm always on the alert for leaks--so much damage can come on so quickly.

I heard distant noises from people who probably hadn't gone to bed yet:  motorcycles and some voices and a car here and there.  As I walked on the driveway, I thought about not getting too far away from the safety of the house.  I also carried my favorite Lutheridge mug, one that was created in 1985 to celebrate 35 years of camping.  I thought about the unwiseness of carrying it outside.  I try to take a Zen approach to possessions (the glass is already broken, so enjoy it while you have it), but I'm not very good at it.

I think of my fellow citizens further to the north, the ones listening to the rain and worrying about the floods that are coming (and have already come) with Hurricane Florence.  I told a spin class friend that I'd almost rather deal with wind damage than water damage.  You think you have water damage cleaned up and then, days/months/years later, you smell mold.  I don't know how we'll ever get the cottage back into livable shape.  But that's a project for a different year.

I have been listening to all the various programs taking a look back on the Great Recession of 2008, which many say began this week 10 years ago, when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy--in fact, it was on this very day 2008 that it happened.  I remember reading reports of markets falling and thinking that I was witnessing history, the type of history I'd prefer not to witness.

I've heard many commentators say that at any point that there's lots of leverage/debt out there, we're in danger of this kind of crash.  I'm seeing lots of leverage:  high student loan debt, high debt that governments take on, and I'm not convinced that the mortgage market is in a stable state.

I've been hearing lots of horrible experiences that people suffered.  It's like hearing the #MeToo stories.  I feel relief to have escaped the worst of it, while also aware that my luck could change through no fault/action of my own.

As always, these days I cope by taking my days one at a time, keeping my focus on the one or two tasks I need to do to stay on track or recalibrate in all the areas of my life.  That said, it's time to think about getting ready for a walk. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

I have been having a morning with a glitchy computer:  freezes, slogginess, very frustrating.  But let me try to write a post.

This week, in addition to the hurricane monitoring, I've been participating in a Facebook planning party to brainstorm ideas for our 2019 Create in Me retreat.  Every few hours, we responded to a question about various aspects of the retreat--and then we had fun responding to each other and having an online conversation both in real time and in suspended time.

I wanted to capture an idea I had:  Here's a title: When Life Gives You Lemons, How Do You Make Lemonade? I'm thinking of the kind of workshop I want: how to reinvent life when it becomes clear that something isn't going to work out the way you planned? For example, the good job after school doesn't materialize, the marriage fails, someone dies, the hurricane makes you realize that you must move. I'm hoping that the 50 Forward retreat covers some of this territory, but I think it could be useful at our retreat. Part of what we create is ourselves and our lives after all.

I'd like to attend a workshop like that--heck, I'd like a class that lasts a semester and covers all sorts of information.  I'd like to lead such a class.  I'd like to be a retreat leader.  I'd like to write a book.  So let me write all of this here so that I remember.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

And Now, for a Non-Hurricane Post

Let me reflect on non-hurricane parts of life in the last few weeks.

--We went from this

to this

Now the whole interior of the house, except for the bathrooms, has had a fresh coat of paint.  The kitchen had a fresh coat in 2013--we'll likely wait to do the kitchen until after the remodel.

In the picture above, the wall with one window is a very light green, while the other walls are painted in shade that turns from a milky cream to a buttery cream to a sunshine yellow.  In some lights, the light green also looks like a buttery cream.  It's very interesting to watch the light and the color shift.

--The next phase of the Great Flooring Project starts on Monday--the floor in the pictures above will be stripped and sanded and stained to match the flooring in the bedrooms.

--We have a new fence:

--I have spent a lot of time keeping an eye on tropical systems.  Last night I had not one, but two dreams with a hurricane as part of them.  I woke up when a wave with dead fish washed over me in a parking lot of a hotel where I had traveled with my mom and dad--it wasn't a scary part of the dream, so much as an inconvenience because I didn't have many dry clothes with me.

--I had my last session with my ENC1102 (Intro to Lit) student.  What a treat this has been.  I told her that I felt sad that she didn't get the diversity of opinions that a regular class would have given her.  She said that she preferred the one-on-one attention, that she had learned so much.  It's the first time I've taught a graphic novel/short story/selection--my student liked the more traditional literature better.

We ended the class by reading a few poems together.  It is very strange to read "Dover Beach" with a huge hurricane chugging towards us. That poem is such a magnificent work of art--and even though the last stanza isn't cheery, I find it oddly comforting that ours is not the first time period that fits the metaphor of ignorant armies clashing by night. "Ah, love, let us be true to one another" . . .

--I've had some writing time.  I'm most pleased with a short story that I revised to fit into the current collection.

--I've also done some sketching with my special markers; here's my favorite from the last several weeks


--What's missing from my list?  Time with friends.  We've had some outings scheduled that had to be postponed because of many reasons.  But I stay in touch by way of e-mail and Facebook.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Shifting Hurricanes of Fortune

Our fence didn't pass the final inspection.  Because we have a pool, the gate has to be self-closing and self-latching.  My reaction to this development surprised me:  I just gave a weary shrug.  The fence company will fix it; we've only paid them half of what we owe, so they still have plenty of motivation to fix it.

I do wonder what happens if it's not fixable.  But the plan for a non-motorized, sliding gate was approved by the city, so there must be a non-motorized fix.  Again, I shrug.  The fencing company will need to figure it out.

Part of my reaction has to do with Hurricane Florence, which right now, isn't coming our way. But I do have many friends and families in the Carolinas, along with places that mean so much to me that I can't bear to think about the destruction headed that way in hurricane form.  Part of my reaction comes from a year of hurricane destruction and the trying to get our lives back together--and we didn't even have the kind of destruction that others did. 

On the surface, my neighborhood, and indeed, this whole side of Florida, looks either untouched or recovered.  But look closely, and you'll see blue tarps on the roofs and roofing signs in yards.  If you know the landscape, you can see where big trees once stood.  You can't necessarily tell where the flood waters came and how they receded, but I'm sure we aren't the only ones still working our way through that recovery.

And of course, I feel bad.  Our flooding was nothing like that experienced by those in the path of Hurricane Harvey.  We didn't have the full force of the winds of Hurricane Irma.

It's going to be a long day today--the forecast track of Hurricane Florence is shifting south.  I don't really expect to find us in the cone, but at this point, nothing will surprise me. 

At 4 a.m., I wrote this Facebook post:  "The hour before the 5 a.m. hurricane update is the longest hour, even when you're out of the cone of uncertainty. Although in some of the overnight models, I'm seeing a drift to the south with this hurricane, so the existential question bubbles up: are we ever really out of the cone?"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ides of September

Hello from the world of hurricane watch.  Down in South Florida, we are completely out of the cone of possibility, and mostly out of danger (I won't be surprised if we get a bit of rough surf and beach erosion), although some part of me still says, "Stay alert, just in case." I understand why I blink wide awake at 1 or 2 a.m. when a storm is actually threatening me, but this week, I've had that same sleep pattern, long after it's clear that I really have no reason to be afraid. Of course, I love the Carolina coastline, so maybe that's why I'm waking up early and zipping back and forth to weather sites. I feel like I'm part of some NATO like weather treaty amongst coastal communities--a threat to one is a threat to all.

Or maybe it's something more prurient--potential disaster porn, if you will. My inner Apocalypse Gal loves a good natural disaster.

My inner cynic sneers, "Sure, as long as that natural disaster isn't heading your way."

I still remember my sheer terror at moments during the past two hurricane seasons when it seemed that we might get a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and when Hurricane Irma was forecast to be at least a category 5 coming ashore in Miami.  I was literally scared for my life--and there was no way to get out of the way that didn't seem fraught with peril.  Life on a the tip of a long peninsula does have some disadvantages.

At least the Carolina coastline residents can get out of the path fairly easily--at least the path of most immediate destruction.  I realize that the possibility of days of heavy rain poses a different threat.  It will be strange to be down here, far from my friends who are waking up to a very different Tuesday this week than last Tuesday.

My Tuesday will be fairly normal, although with more hurricane monitoring than is usual (although it's starting to seem the norm for September).  I am aware that not only are we at various hurricane anniversaries, but also at a major terrorism anniversary.  It's also the anniversary of the 1973 coup that led to so much terror and bloodshed in Chile. And many historians mark the month of September as the beginning of World War II, with Hitler's invasion of Poland.

Once I wrote a poem called "The Ides of September."  I don't like the whole poem--or perhaps, what I want is a poem series.  I do love the first line.

Here it is; you can amuse yourselves by writing alternatives:

Ides of September

I invite Henry Kissinger to tea.

He offers to bring something,
but I am a Southern girl.
I believe in old-fashioned hospitality,
which means I create the whole extravaganza
myself; plus I would hate for Henry
to think I believed in socialist
ideas, like sharing.
That way bloodshed lies.

No, we will have a civilized Saturday 
afternoon. No discussion of war crimes
or coups or atrocities
of any kind.
Unlike many of Henry’s associates,
I do not believe in social
occasions that turn into assassinations.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Clean Sweep"

I don't have much blogging time today.  Publix has said they will have day old baked goods for our campus today, so I'm going to leave here at 5:15 so that I can get the baked goods and get to spin class.

I'm also checking the 5 a.m. hurricane update.  I'm fairly sure we don't need to worry about Hurricane Florence, but I just want to be sure.  We're still a ways out.

And of course, there are the hurricanes behind it.  I read one weather forecaster say that he doesn't ever remember a peak of the season quite like this one (although 2004 seems to come close).

Yesterday I wrote this Facebook post:  "I couldn't resist--between afternoon thunderstorms, I walked to the beach. While it's not the smooth, glassy surface that we usually have, and not the tropical blue color, it's a relatively calm sea here in South Florida (Hollywood Beach, almost to the end of the continent, but not quite). Yellow flags are flying at the lifeguard stand, but that's not unusual. No strange animal behavior--unless you count the tipsy tourists on a late Sunday afternoon. No Hurricane Florence related impacts here, not yet."

On the walk home, I thought about one of the early hurricanes we experienced here, when we were still renting a duplex in the fall of 1998.  We had a close brush with hurricane Georges that went south into the Keys.  The surf was the highest I've ever seen at Hollywood beach.

Here's a poem that came from that walk which I still like. I look at my current poems and see how much I've grown as a poet. But I'm glad that poems like these still make me happy.

Clean Sweep

While other folks board
up their windows,
she opens hers wide
to the hurricane winds.

She goes to the beach.
Unlike the surfers,
she has no interest in waves
that crash against the shore.

The sand abrades her skin.
The wind sweeps into every crevice.
Behind her, transformers pop and crackle.
Energy explodes.

Even though the palms bow
to the storm, she lifts
her arms above her head,
struggles to remain standing.

That night, she sleeps
soundly. Even though the wind
howls and hoots and hammers at the walls,
she breathes clean air and dreams fresh visions.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

I Am No "This Old House" Guy

It's been a painting week-end--but no, not that kind of painting that involves swirling paint into shapes on wood or canvas.  No, that would be a very different kind of painting week-end.

No, we've been painting the walls, which does not satisfy my creative self at all.  The flooring folks return this week to finish the 2nd half of the house, so we've been trying to get the painting done. The floors will be stripped, sanded, and refinished, so by painting now, we haven't had to be as careful.about drips.

Before the painting project, the front room, which is now a single room in many ways, had many different colors of paint in various shades of brown and beige, with drywall patching. Now the walls are a color that looks like cream in some lights, buttery in other lights, and a sunny yellow in other lights. I love it. I'm hoping it lightens the house, along with lighter floors.

We decided to do an accent wall, the front wall with the window. But we didn't choose a bold color--instead it's the palest green--and in some lights, it doesn't look significantly different from the other walls. That color too has pleased me more than I expected it to.

We finished the painting last night--it left us both exhausted. I still woke up at 2 unable to sleep--it's that insomnia I get when I feel like I have much to do and very little time. So I got up and graded assignments and wrote a course evaluation that has a Monday deadline.

Later today, we'll do the rest of the work of getting everything out of the way for the flooring crew. It's not a fabulous way to spend a week-end, but we both REALLY want to get the house in order.

In some ways, it's interesting to do this work together, both the painting work and the getting the house ready for the flooring folks.  In some ways, we make a good team, because we've done these projects so much.  I'm better at saying, "I don't understand what you're asking me to do."  My spouse is better at NOT expecting me to be knowledgeable like the This Old House guys.

Once I liked various parts of the home renovation project, but now I really don't.  I find the multitude of choices much more overwhelming than I once did, and I care less than I once did.  I don't have a vision for what I want.  These are not the best mindsets for a home renovation.

In many ways, I hope this is our last house renovation.  But we live in a world that seems increasingly vulnerable to strong storms, so who knows.

And maybe later, with the benefit of hindsight, I'll see how these repairs helped foster my creativity, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Preparedness Plans

My spouse went to bed early last night, and I decided to have some Friday night fun revising my story.  I had set it in an earlier time and a different place than it needed to be for the story to fit in my linked short story collection.  I thought I might be able to tinker and make it work.  I was eager to see if I could--and these days, I want to get the writing task done before too much time goes by, and I lose the vision of what I planned to do.

Some people go out dancing on Friday nights, while others go to high school football games.  I had a successful writing/revising night. I slept soundly.  In these days before the storms in the Atlantic get close enough to disturb my sleep, it's good to have the sleep.

I saw this text on Dr. Jeff Masters' blog post on the weatherunderground site: "All interests along the U.S. East Coast from Florida to New England should monitor closely the forecast of Florence. If you live in a hurricane-prone location, now is a good time to make sure you have a preparedness plan in place."

A preparedness plan. Hmm. With our home repairs from last year's Hurricane Irma currently in high gear, I can scarcely find clean clothes, let along things like flashlights and batteries. As we get ready for the second half of the Great Flooring Project, let me keep track of the canned goods as we move them out of the kitchen.

And I'm being partly facetious. I do know where the batteries are--but with the exception of one battery operated lantern, I don't know where the lanterns and battery operated fans are.

Of course, last year, I did a lot of reading by the light of the autumnal trees, lit by batteries, that I bought just before the week of hurricane Irma prep.  

Those are safely in my office, along with the Christmas tree that I have for seasonal office decorations (and a basket of Easter eggs, and a sprig of fake flowers, and a small flag). I don't think that Dr. Jeff Masters had those in mind when he talks of a storm preparedness plan.

But it's too early to do much hurricane prep now; of course, I have the luxury of saying that because we have some of the prep done.  We keep canned goods on hand, we have sandbags, we have shutters, we have bottles that we'll fill with water if it looks like one of these storms is headed our way.

For this week-end, we'll be focused on the final moving of everything out of the second half of the house and strategizing a kitchen remodel.  And I'll keep an eye on the weather sites, because that's what we do when we live in hurricane country.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Mere Anarchy Is Loosed Upon the World

If it was last year on this day, I'd have been awake since 2 a.m., keeping an eye on the Hurricane Irma updates and maps, doing laundry and going to get gas at 3 in the morning--I was trying to avoid the gas lines that began as early as 5:30 or so.  But at 3, I found an open gas station with gas that remained, so I filled up one car, went home, got the other car, and filled it up too.  And I was not the only one.

Another year, another hurricane.  Or several of them.  Hurricane Olivia won't affect me directly, but I am interested because Hawaii has never been threatened by a hurricane coming at them in the direction that Olivia is tracking.  Hmm.

I can't tell what is more terrifying these days, the weather and the larger climate, or the political scene in Washington.  I used to say that each morning brings a new "what is going on?" moment.  Yesterday, I began by hearing about the anonymous source in the White House who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times to tell how the administration is being subverted.  After a very long day at work, I drove home at 6:30 hearing news of how Senator Cory Booker is releasing documents that aren't for public viewing.

With both incidents, I am aghast--mainly that the state of the Republic has come to this.  But I'm also uneasy.  With the information in the op-ed, I do wonder if there's not a better way--if the president is really incompetent, there are ways to have him removed.  I understand that individuals think there's no other way and that they are protecting the Republic--but how do we know we can trust their vision of what is best?

I know that many of us right now aren't ready to trust that any single person or team really knows what's best.

I am similarly discomfited by Cory Booker's actions.  He may see it as civil disobedience, and it may be--but is this action the best way to achieve what he wants?  And what, exactly, does he want?  For all of us to see these documents?  For the Senate to have more time to read them?

I want to believe he's not just being disruptive for the sake of being disruptive.

With all of these events--with every branch of government, with the storms that stalk the planet, with the larger geopolitical scene--lines from Yeats echo in my head:  "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."  It's from his poem, "The Second Coming," which is perfect as a poem, and perfect for the times we live in--sadly, it's been perfect for every decade since it's been written.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Forecasting and Revising

The front bedroom where I write has 2 windows, and when we moved the writing desk back into the room, we put it under the other window--this is the first morning that I have watched the moon rise through that window.  I have other moonrises on the brain--most notably during a time of horrible lay offs, when friends were let go.  Some lay offs involved personnel whom I did not really know, which was bad for overall morale, but did not affect me personally in the same way.

I am comforted by moonrise, regardless of the phase of the moon.  I'm enchanted by the full moon, of course.  But this small sliver, with a silver border to complete the circle, has its charms too.

I am watching the moon rise while trying not to think about hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic.  Yesterday, hurricane Florence grew into a category 4 hurricane, much to everyone's surprise--and it happened over waters that are actually cooler than usual and with a wind shear that was expected to keep the storm from strengthening.  This morning, I thought about our cottage, all the stuff from this housing remodel that we've put in there, all that would be lost if a flooding storm came our way.  Some part of me is too tired to care.  Some part of me just wants to walk away.

But this is not my first home remodel.  I know that eventually I'll look up and think, "Hey, we're done with this project and that project."  A point in case:  we may have our final inspection for the fence today--almost a year after Hurricane Irma destroyed it.  And I also know that a house will always have a project for those who want one.

So yes, the moon rising and setting and moving through its phases is a comfort and reminder:  this, too, shall pass.  Each year will bring its own set of comforts, along with new sorrows and joys.

If I was of a different mind (or if I lived in a different part of the country) perhaps I'd take heart from Hurricane Florence, as evidence that we can strengthen and grow, even if the environment works against us, even if we inherit a set of odds that are not in our favor.

Yesterday, I spent some time thinking about my fiction, if not actually writing much.  Last night, I did write a sentence of the short story that I think I'm about to end.  Is it a natural ending?  I'm unsure.  I wrote part of a sentence, and then I went back into my computer files, looking for a story that I couldn't find in the morning.  Lo and behold, there it was.

I had several versions, so it was interesting to see my writing process.  In the first draft, there's a gap, and I leap right to the ending.  Back in those writing days, in the early years of this century, I often knew the ending.  These days, as I wrote yesterday, I often do not.

In a later draft, I can see all sorts of changes I made--the story is stronger.  Yesterday morning I went to my fiction file looking for a different story that I thought might work in my current collection.  That, too, was an interesting experiment in reading and revision.

I wrote it in 2011, I think.  It clearly must be set in an earlier time--a Baby Boomer writer has elementary school age children.  That part could be fixed in terms of making the story fit with the collection--I'll make those children grandchildren.  But the larger issue is that the story is set in the desert Southwest, and parts of the plot rely on the immigration issues of that area. 

I plan to change it, just to see if it could work.  Instead of the Sanctuary movement, perhaps I could use the issues that swirl around Cuba.  Or I could weave it all together in a different way.  My writer brain is on fire with possibilities!  It's a delight, since I haven't been feeling inspired in a long time.

I say that, but then I realize it's not exactly true.  The inspiration comes in waves:  I was inspired back in July when I put my collected short stories into manuscript form.  I was inspired in September, when I saw the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary and wrote a short story of my own inspired by Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried."

My Hindu writer friend, like me,  writes both fiction and poetry, although she says she may be done with poetry.  We talked about how the writing process is so different for each.  She finds poetry much harder.  I find the poetry writing process easier, at least once I have an idea.  I like how the poem is contained--often if I start writing, I have a poem at the end, which is not the case with my short story writing.

My friend once described her writing process as something akin to demon possession, where she'll write for HUGE chunks of time (think 6-12 hours).  My writing process is more like the kind I would have if I had toddlers in the house--I snatch 15 minutes here, scribble out notes for longer writing sessions that will never come, and yearn for a writing retreat.

I now have to strain to see the moon in the eastern sky.  My writing time is over for now.  Let me go take my walk to the beach.  My rational brain knows that I won't be able to foretell the path of the storm--it's much too early.  But like many people, I like the idea that I could read the signs that others are too busy to notice:  a shift in the migratory patterns of the birds, a swirl of clouds that will give me the upper hand in preparations.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Baked Goods and the Fireflies of the Plot Line

Yesterday was one of those days where I spent a lot of time unloading the car.  When I was a girl, daydreaming of my future career, I wasn't envisioning getting the day old baked goods from Publix and making a Wal-Mart run to get supplies.  But that's how I spent much of yesterday morning.

I was at the Publix at 5:50 yesterday morning, and lo and behold, there were baked goods!  Last week, I had one morning of picking up baked goods and one morning where I showed up to discover that a group that runs a shelter had picked up the carts of food the night before. 

Both times, I've had enough baked goods to fill up the back of my Prius hatchback.  Amazing.  It takes some time to bring all of that into the school, since I don't have a shopping cart at that end.  Plus, I'm taking it to different places, since I don't set it all out at once.

Last week, we had more loaves of bread and bear claws.  This week I unloaded box after box of chocolate chip mini muffins.  Each week, there's lots of rugelach.  My analytical brain wonders why.

Then it was off to Wal-Mart for an assortment of things the campus needs, from paper goods to sanitizing wipes to coffee supplies.  Once again, I spent time unloading the car and putting things away.

Yesterday, I was grateful that I didn't have to return home to do the same things for a household.  Instead, I met my Hindu writer friend for dinner at Panera.  It's been awhile, and it may be awhile before we see each other again--she's got a book contract, and she's up against a deadline.

On the way home, I reflected on how my writing process has changed.  My friend talked about needing to pare down her 600 page manuscript.  Once I would have envied her ability to write a lengthy draft, as it seemed to be the surest way to publication.  Then I despaired because the novels I wrote ended up in the 200-300 page range.  The few times I got feedback from publishing professionals it was that x was a good aspect of my writing and so was y, but they just couldn't publish something that short.

Now it seems to take months to write a paragraph.  Once I held a whole plot in my head and wrote in a frenzy.  Now I am holding a narrative thread made of fireflies--sometimes I have to wait for them to make an appearance again.

She inspires me to keep watch for those fireflies.  I'm grateful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tropical Storm Gordon on Labor Day

We expected rain over Labor Day week-end.  We knew there might be a tropical storm.  But I wasn't expecting tropical storm warnings to be issued when the storm was actually over our heads.

When I went to bed on Sunday, we had warnings of nasty weather ahead--but the night seemed calm.  I got up at my usual early, early time--in fact, I thought about getting my walk in very early, but I also wanted to get some writing done.  I looked at the radar and looked at the skies. 

Finally, I decided to go for my walk, staying closer to home than usual so that I could get back quickly if the weather deteriorated.  I watched the swirl of the clouds.  I kept going.

I have a new September goal:  to walk 10,000 steps every day in Sept.  So I kept going.  I came across this interesting, white picket fence, with pieces of art work hung on it.

I got home just before a ferocious rain band hit.  I decided that I should update my course shell for the online class that starts on Wed.--that way, if we lost power, I'd be ahead.  I got it all done.

Between rain bands, I went to the grocery store.  On the way back, I took pictures of the fence with the art.

All in all, it was a lazy sort of Labor Day--but not particularly restful with a strengthening tropical storm in the neighborhood.

I'll have to keep an eye on this fence.  Is more art work coming soon?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day: of Hurricanes and Alienation

This is not the first Labor Day where I've been keeping an eye on a storm.  In fact, last year I'd be up early on Labor Day Monday, in Memphis where we had gone to celebrate my father-in-law's 80th birthday; I'd have been keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Irma.

This year, I sit in a house that's undergoing repair construction because of Hurricane Irma.  I'm keeping my eye on the radar as Potential Tropical Cyclone 7 spins to my south.  I am not nearly as worried this year as I was last year.  I did take a look around the yard, just to make sure that we were in good shape, and I moved the drying swimsuits, towels, and table linens inside.

Each Labor Day, I am profoundly grateful that I am not in the Florida Keys in 1935, when the most intense hurricane to ever hit the U.S. came ashore.  Every time I drive through the Keys, I'm grateful that I'm there when hurricanes are not--those islands are so tiny.

I know that most people don't mark Labor Day as a hurricane anniversary.  I know that I should be raising a glass to those who fought so hard to make our working lives more tolerable.  I will raise a glass to those organizers:  I'm as fond of week-ends and OSHA regulations and 8-ish hour work days as the next person.

But I have some Marxist tendencies, and thus, I see that we still have much work to do.  I see many people who are alienated from their work, just like Marx warned us.  I know that in more and more industries people have less and less control of both their work and their schedules.  I know so many people who work not because they believe in their work, but because they need health insurance that's partially or wholly underwritten by employers.

And almost everyone I know fears that a future that is much worse barrels towards us.

I think about Marx and all the areas of work he missed.  These days, I feel alienated from my house, which requires an enormous amount of work.  I fight against that feeling of alienation in the arena of human relationships.

I'm in an unusual phase right now:  I'm deeply invested in my work for pay, but I feel a bit alienated from my creative work.  When I carve out time, the writing seems to come at a plodding pace.  I need a different camera.  The bag that holds my sketching materials seems to grow ever heavier.

Maybe I need a retreat--I'm thinking of signing up for this online one about visual journaling.  I say I'm thinking about it, but I bought the markers last night.  I like the subject matter of the retreat, and I'd like to experience an online retreat.  Plus, at a Create in Me retreat, I went to a workshop led by the artist that's leading the online retreat.

It's September, and the year has zoomed by.  Yet we still have 1/3 of the year remaining--we can still do some of the things we hoped to do when we made our plans in January.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Treasures of the Rolltop Desk

One of the reasons why downsizing from this point will be difficult for me is that I've already discarded much of the stuff that doesn't mean much to me.  What's left behind is furniture that came from my grandmother, furniture that my spouse and I chose, furniture from my spouse's family, and a few pieces that we may or may not keep.

One of the pieces that has a hold on both my spouse and me is the rolltop desk.  It's the place where my grandfather wrote his sermons during his life as a pastor in the Lutheran church (the more liberal kind, not the conservative kind).  I wrote my first short story that worked for adult readers on that rolltop desk.  It's a huge, beautiful piece of furniture--and it's well designed, in that the three parts aren't permanently attached, so we can move it as we need to--I cannot say the same thing for the behemoth of a sofa that we've kept from the furnished condo that we bought for my spouse's mother and sold after her death.  That condo had exquisite furniture, but we couldn't keep much of it.

But I digress.  Back to the current adventure with the rolltop desk.  A few weeks ago, we moved the desk so that the flooring in the front bedroom could be done.  When we picked up the top, and tilted it to get it through the door, some papers fell out.  When we moved it again on Friday, additional papers fell out

We've moved it several times before, and nothing has fallen out.  What fell out this time is, in a way, nothing profound.  There were some scraps of paper that might have once had writing on them, but now, they are blank with a patina of aged paper.  But there were some letters.

These letters, too, are not exactly profound.  Two of them seem to be from relatives.  It's the kind of letter that my grandmother used to write:  musings on the weather, updates on the garden, chatty talk about various people (who wore what to church), that kind of thing.  But every so often, there's a line that makes me slow down my reading:  "Homer has been having lots of heartburns lately and wonder if it's heart attacks ? ? -- This trucking business is breaking him fast.  We lost on the green stuff New Year's week -- Now they are trying to sell a load of fruit.  Write us in '52.  Love, Rosalyn"  There's a P.S. on the front of the little card that talks about hard times convincing Harold and Homer to forget about the new truck that would cost $10,000, and she's not sorry about that.

Because I know the family history, I know that Mrs. Homer Roof (the return address on the envelope) would be on my grandfather's side in Lexington, SC.  Both my grandmother and grandfather came from farming families, as did so many people in the early part of the 20th century.  But as a child growing up in the 70's, I saw it from a different perspective than the letter writer.  We visited the family land in Lexington, SC, and Greenville, TN, and they seemed like vast, flourishing farms to me.  I knew from talking to a great uncle that it had been tough in the Great Depression, but at least they always had food to eat, because they could grow it or raise it.  They might have had holes in their shoes, but they didn't go hungry.

It's interesting to come across a letter from '52 that shows the worry.  Homer would live--I met him when I was young.  Rosalyn outlived him by many decades, as is the way in my mother's side of the family, the women outliving the men.

The letter we found in the Friday move of the desk was in an envelope that people used to use to send letters across the ocean.  It was addressed to my grandfather--no street address, just Greenville, TN.  It has a postmark of January 1945.  My grandparents weren't world travelers, and they never mentioned anyone that they knew overseas.

The letter is from someone who is serving in the Solomon Islands--I think.  The writing is faint.  There's a thank you from the writer to my grandfather and the church for sending the box.  I can't tell what was in the box, but from the postmark, I'm guessing it's some sort of care package to a military person.

Since I can't remember the history of World War II in the Pacific, I Googled it, of course--and immediately felt ashamed of my ignorance.  How could I not remember that Guadalcanal was part of the Solomon Islands?

The letter feels historic, and yet I know that there must be thousands, millions, just like it.  Or that there were, but now decades later, most of them are gone--another reason why this letter feels precious, even though I didn't know the letter writer.  My grandfather didn't mean to preserve it--I'm guessing it was part of a pile of paperwork that somehow got caught between the back of the desk and the cubbyhole insert.  Perhaps it got rolled back, although I don't remember my grandparents ever closing the rolltop desk--but who knows how they used the desk in 1945.

I will keep the letters.  I had an unsettling moment yesterday where I looked for the letters that fell out of the desk a few weeks ago, and I couldn't find them.  I knew that I wouldn't have thrown them away--but where did I put them for safekeeping?

Later in the evening, as I was trying to calm my anxiousness (that anxiousness from sunset, and from not being able to find those letters, and from watching my spouse paint the closet doors, and from the chaos of a home remodel), I turned to my prayer book to read through Compline.  There were the family letters.

I called out to my spouse, "I found the letters!"  When I told him that I must have put them in my prayer book for safekeeping, he said, "Well, that's a good place for them."

I know that I should do something to keep them from decaying--although, as I reflect on that statement, I know that paper is a much more stable storage system than many choices I could make.  I'll likely put them in a big envelope and save them.

Will historians ever be interested?  Will the next person who inherits my papers care that I saved them?  I have no idea.

I will take them with me to Thanksgiving--my family members should be interested at least.