Wednesday, June 30, 2021

My Morning in Meats

Yesterday, I wrote this Facebook post:

"And in today's Adventures in Being an Administrator: a man showed up, asked for me by name, and said he was here for the biohazardous waste. We had been expecting a pick up, so I showed him to the storage containers. Later, when he gave me the signed manifest and I put it in the binder, I realized he was from a different company.

There's a logical possibility: we're in the process of changing companies, and he's from the new company.

But because it's South Florida, where things can get strange, my brain blazes with other possibilities. It's too bad that I have no interest in writing a crime novel or a mystery or horror."

I did not record the strange interchange that came next.  I got a phone call from a colleague in Ft. Lauderdale, the man in charge of facilities, in charge of ordering supplies of all sorts, the man with connections to our new owners.  He asked if anyone on our campus was participating in the hot dog eating contest.

I explained that I was a little hazy on the details.  Were we supposed to eat hot dogs and report our time and amount of hot dogs?  Was the school buying the hot dogs?

I didn't ask my larger questions:  who came up with this idea for a school that offers primarily programs in the health care fields?  Who wants to eat hot dogs anyway?

The man asked if I would ask around my campus and see if I could find 2 people who might be interested.  He'd get back to me with details.  I didn't hear from him again yesterday.  

I did, however, have a strangely hilarious conversation with one colleague.  When I said that I had been sent to ask if she was interested in a hot dog eating contest, she gave me an inquisitive look.  We talk of our daydreams of organic tea shops that have delicious scones, not our dreams of barbecues.  She said, "Would it be vegan hot dogs?"

We asked ourselves how we would cook them.  I said that I only liked grilled hot dogs, but I certainly didn't want to be the one grilling hot dogs outside in this heat.  I remembered a hot dog day we did for students, the difficulty of hot dogs in crock pots, the uneasy balance between chilled and scorched.  And oh, the smell, the horrible smell of warm, cheap hot dogs.

I thought of all the people on my campus.  The competition is designed for employees, and not a one of us on my campus has any business eating lots of processed meat.  We are almost all female, almost all of us over the age of 40, many of us with health issues or headed that way . . . of course, that last part could describe almost any adult in the U.S.

Honestly, nobody has any business eating a lot of hot dogs in a short period of time.  Now if we had a watermelon or peach eating contest . . . 

Later, I thought about what a strange morning it was--first the biohazardous waste guy shows up to pick up the rotting corpses of last term (safely stored, according to the law, of course) and later I'm asked about hot dogs and the lack of enthusiasm for a contest to shovel a lot of them down our throats.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Caring for My Anxiety, the Kairos Time Edition

I spent the week-end managing my anxiety, or trying to manage it.  Let me say from the beginning that I realize that my anxiety is just a pale shade of what many people suffer.  My anxiety is the type that might occur if Dread and Anxiety had a baby, a baby that was cute but had tantrums and sour moods, while Dread and Anxiety had a whoop-it-up kind of night but then sobered up in time to go to work.

I have no idea if that metaphor would make sense to anyone else, but it came to me this morning, and I wanted to record it.  This past week-end, my infant anxiety slept fitfully, which meant I had some peace here and there, but I spent much of the week-end pacing the floor with the infant in my arms, trying to calm it back to sleep.

So what was making me anxious?  Let me make a list so I remember:

--I was worried about the housing market, about all that we should do to get our house ready for sale, about the pricing of the house that we have yet to get fully ready to put on the market (touch-up painting, that kind of thing, nothing major).  As I wrote to a friend:  "I worry that we'll price ourselves so high that no one will even make a counteroffer."

--Several weeks ago, I was anxious that we would sell the house before we had a place to go, but now I'm anxious that we'll have months of both mortgage and rent payments.

--Saturday morning, my spouse wasn't feeling well, so we couldn't do the touch-up painting we planned to do.  And then we took a long afternoon nap.   I haven't been sleeping well, so I was both grateful for the sleep and anxious about all that we didn't accomplish.

--Sunday I was in charge of church.  Now being in charge of church doesn't usually make me anxious, but since the pandemic, we have added live streaming, which means there's a technology piece that I didn't feel completely confident of my ability to make happen.  I understood the process of setting up the camera and the internet, but I had never done it all on my own before.  Happily, it went well, but that anxiety was an undercurrent to much of the week-end.

--There was also some dread about the future.  The condo collapse in Surfside, Florida seems like a harbinger of climate doom, along with the record setting high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.  The COVID-19 variants seem like a news story we'll be tracking for years, as we wonder if we need booster shots, or just how to get everyone vaccinated in time.

Throughout the week-end, I was able to be aware of my simmering anxiety and to do some self-soothing:  cooking, sleeping, reading good books, watching the comfort TV of cooking shows or home design shows, the ones with beautiful camera angles and lighting.  Unlike my younger years, I didn't handle my infant-grade level of anxiety by lashing out at those I love or going out on a punishing run.

And along the way, I was able to get some of the chores done and some of the work of preparing the house:  some weeding, some sorting.

Most important, I was able to remember one of the lessons of kairos time:  if the next step of a project isn't coming together, some times, it's best not to force it.  If you let it go for a bit, it might be easier in the not-too-distant future.  Or it might mean that one should put the project aside for a longer time.

I realize the hazard here is to determine what's a laziness issue and what's a kairos time issue.  But with time, it's easier.  I'm also better at knowing when it's good to push through lethargy, and when it will be downright harmful either to myself or to those around me.

I have spent much of my life wondering why I can't avoid my anxiety; if I can realize the fact of my mounting anxiety, why can't I short-circuit it?  But during my onground intensive for my spiritual direction certificate program, I heard that we may not ever be able to avoid our negative feelings, but if we can recognize them and be aware as we are making decisions and working in and around those negative feelings, then we've become more spiritually evolved.

So I'm going to call this week-end a win in terms of caring for myself while in a state of anxiety.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Horrifying Headlines and Miracles of Nature

On Friday, June 18, I saw this headline in The Washington Post:  "Three dead, two missing after group of tubers plunge off 8-foot dam along N.C. river."  My first thought was that a pile of potatoes had gone over a dam to injure people below.

But then I read the article, which is much more ordinary, but no less horrific.  The tubers in question were humans in innertubes, rafting down a river.

It has been a week of horrifying headlines.  I spent much of yesterday toggling back to accounts of the collapse of the condo building in Surfside Beach, even though I knew it was much too early for anyone to know the cause of it.

But I also want to remember this week as one of natural wonders.  I began the work week seeing dolphins in a tidal lake near me, and I'm finishing the work week seeing a rainbow in the sky:

I also noticed the pots of milkweed that we grew from seed.  Why does that ability to grow a plant from a seed always seem like a miracle?

Later this week-end, we'll enjoy this pineapple, grown from a pineapple top that we planted years ago.  It, too, feels like a miracle.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lapses and Collapses

About an hour ago, I saw a random tweet about a building collapse in Miami.  I assumed it was downtown, maybe one of the hotels.  But when I went to a local news website (WSVN), there was nothing, so I thought maybe it was a hoax.

But then I saw this story in The Washington Post.  Surfside is not far from the hotel district in Miami, but it is more northern.  It is on a barrier island.  The article says that the structure was built in the 1980's and that condos there have been listed for $600,000+, which is more upscale than some beach condos, but not the high end luxury units.

In short, it's not a slummy kind of building, the kind that everyone knew would collapse at some point.  So, why did it collapse?

At this point, we don't know.  At this point, rescue teams are trying to get people out.  As my brain wrapped itself around this strange news, I had several thoughts:

--I'm glad we don't have EMS classes on my campus today, because it's a safe bet that most of my instructors are on the site of the collapse.

--Construction from the pre-Hurricane Andrew era, especially the early 80's, is notorious for having issues.  Still, this kind of collapse seems to signal something more major.

--Could it have been an explosion of some kind?  Maybe a gas line?  Was someone constructing something in a kitchen, like meth?  Storing fertilizer improperly?  Those last 2 seem less probable.

--It's interesting that my thoughts did not go immediately to terrorism, but to the instability of beachfront property in a time of sea level rise. 

--As I've watched condo towers being constructed on every vacant lot, some of them quite small vacant lots housing quite large towers, I've wondered about the stability of the ground underneath.  As Ft. Lauderdale has had more and more sewer/sewage problems, I've wondered about the wisdom of adding more and more to a problem that has yet to be solved.

--Are these problems even solvable in a time of sea level rise?

--We are moving to a high rise later this summer, so my thoughts did go there.  But we will not be on a barrier island.  Our building was built in 2007, and its withstood Hurricane Irma.  Of course, the building that collapsed has survived hurricanes too.

Again and again we are reminded that although we may think we've attained a level of safety and security, the grounds can shift beneath our feet and rather quickly we're sliding into the sea.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Language Skills and Gendered God Talk

I am part of the group that is doing worship planning/service creating for our upcoming Synod Assembly.  We are meeting via Zoom, but the Assembly will be held in person.  However, it won't be the same kind of Assembly--there won't be displays or a prayer chapel or musical groups that will move us between segments.  We will minimize the singing during worship.

I might ask why we are bothering to assemble in person at all, and as we plan, we are aware that much can change between now and the mid-September week-end of the Synod Assembly.  I have my eyes on that new Delta variant, and I'm trying not to revert to my Cassandra self, forecasting doom.  And then there's the issue of all the money that gets spent on an in-person Assembly.  But these are not the topics I want to write about today.

Yesterday a group of us met on Zoom to look at the worship services that were created for last year's cancelled Assembly.  Our goal was to see what we could still use, and the happy news is that much of it was still workable.  We had a lot of language about significant anniversaries like the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women that we will take out.

We talked about the music, about who will be singing/playing and when, and about the settings we will use.  I felt my usual stab of envy--how I wish that music came effortlessly to me.  I come from a family of musicians, so I know that nothing is effortless.  Their capacity with music comes from many years of practice, practice, practice.

We needed someone to rewrite the petitions for the prayers, and I volunteered.  And then again, when we looked at the closing service, I volunteered for another writing task.  The leader said, "You'll be our wordsmith."  He said it in a way that made me feel valued.

And then I realized that I was once again assuming that everyone has the same kind of skills that I do, and thus, I tend to undervalue the talents I do have while wishing for talents I haven't developed.  I forget how intimidating writing prayers can be.  

As we were looking at the worship services, I found myself getting irritated at all the Father God language.  I thought, wait, I'm on the worship planning team.  Speak up!  And so, I raised my hand.

I said, "I've been at Synod Assemblies for years, and I'm always irritated by this gendered language of God.  I prefer God the Creator, but if we must have Father God language, could we also make reference to God our Mother?"

Let me stress that I am not some wild-eyed Gen Y kiddo.  I am about to turn 56 years old, and I am surprised to still have to be making this request decades after my fellow feminists first started advocating for inclusive language when it comes to God talk.  My fellow worship planners looked to be about my age or maybe 10 years older, and yesterday, I was the only female on the call.

I expected to be shot down; I was prepared to argue my point further, but I didn't need to.  Happily, my suggestions found agreement or at least no one voiced disagreement.  Our leader said, "Sure we can do that.  I'll make a note to change to expansive language when it comes to God."


I think that most worshippers will not notice the absence of the gendered language of God.  A reference to Creator God gives people the space to think of that God as a father or a mother or of their favorite art teacher.  Those of us who notice gendered language will appreciate the absence of Father God, and those who need that language will still get it when we use the Lord's Prayer.  I won't fight that battle when it comes to the Lord's Prayer or the creeds, but for the prayers we're writing, we can make the language more inclusive.

In later years, maybe we'll finally live into the call to be all inclusive; maybe the larger church will rewrite the creeds and the Lord's Prayer.  And I expect that in later years, some young whippersnapper who can't be a day over 56 will let me know how my own notions of expansiveness are so very 2020's.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Sand, Bone, Wave, Storm

Today my writing time is much shorter.  I have grades due tomorrow for one of my online classes, so I've spent much of my writing time grading research essays.  

I did manage to play with a poem idea this morning.  On Friday, during the closing worship service of my certificate in spiritual direction program, we did an Ignatian exercise where we imagined ourselves in the boat with Jesus in the storm.  Were we disciples?  The cushion?  The boat?  The storm?

I wrote down some ideas that came to me as I imagined myself as the storm.  And then yesterday, I played with the voice of the sand and came up with a poem-like thing that was just 9 lines long, with no stanza breaks, which is very unusual for me.  

This morning, I wrote a bit more.  I also made word lists of words starting with s, w, t, and b.  I wrote this tweet:  "Still working on what is becoming a poem series or one poem struggling to emerge out of various drafts. Images of sand and bone, sea and wave and storm, salt and skeleton and sacrifices demanded."

Yesterday's morning was more delightful.  I want to record this Facebook post so that I remember:

"On my morning walk, I saw dolphins in North Lake--and I think I saw a baby dolphin or two (smaller back fins). Were they learning to fish? Were they having morning play time? Taking a morning swim?

The day is much more enchanted when it begins with sunrise staining the sky and the water and dolphins gliding through the lake near the shore."

And now, administrator life awaits.  Let me prepare.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Activism, Self-Care, and Transformations

Sunday morning, I listened to this episode of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, an interview with Sarah Schulman.  Her latest book is a documenting of ACT UP.  It's the kind of interview that makes me want to read the book, but I know from past experience that I might get it and feel like I've already read it, because the interview was so wonderful.  So I'll wait for the library to get it.

I already knew a lot of the history, but she gives some interesting background.  For example, she notes how much activism changed once the camcorder was invented.  Before that invention, video equipment, which would include a boom mike, was too cumbersome (and expensive) to use.

It's the kind of interview that makes me feel bad about my own activism, that makes me feel guilty about even thinking I had any kind of activism credibility.  I know that's not her intention.  Those AIDS activists did amazing things, and Schulman reminds us that they were fighting for their lives--literally.  Many of those activists were very sick, and they didn't have much time.

I've done a variety of types of activism, from giving money to going to demonstrations, writing letters and making phone calls and monitoring institutions.  But is it enough?  I could argue that we haven't made the kind of changes that those ACT UP folks did.

But that would be wrong.  We worked to get marital rape bills changed and arms treaties ratified and abortion rights protected.  I think of the work of my campus to get a bus route and a bus stop.  That may seem minor, compared to changing the laws that made experimental drugs more widely available to patients with terminal illnesses.  But for people who don't have to walk a mile or two to the nearest bus stop, that work was critical.  I hope.

Later yesterday morning, as I drove home from a quick trip to restock provisions, I listened to the radio program On Being, which featured a different type of interview, Alex Elle discussing self care as a form of activism on behalf of oneself, and one's future and past self too.  She talks about a friend who encouraged her to go public with her writing and told her that if she changed one heart, that would be one heart changed, which would be significant.

I liked her interview more than her Instagram site.  I do realize I'm in the minority in that preference.  Or maybe it was because I was listening to the Sarah Schulman material again that explains why I found the Instagram site so much less satisfying than the human interview.

I do know that we are less able to advocate for others if we're not even advocating for ourselves.  I do understand that many people aren't taught the self-care lessons that Alex Elle offers.  

But I also wonder how our society would be transformed if we emerged from our self-care ready to fight more passionately for those who need our care.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

All On a Sunday: Father's Day, Juneteenth, Summer Solstice

Today we have a variety of holidays to celebrate.  People who have good relationships with their fathers, or people who have children, may be celebrating Father's Day.  Others may be observing the Summer Solstice, in any variety of ways.  Some of us will go to church, as we normally do, although if you're like me, we may not know what normal looks like anymore.

If I was preaching today, would I talk about Father's Day?  Or would I talk about Juneteenth?  Both holidays offer interesting ways of thinking about our relationship to God.

Do we see God as a Father?  And if so, is that a loving parent or a judging parent?  I'm not crazy about the idea of God as Parent (of either gender). I think that God as Parent is an infantilizing metaphor. If God is a Dad (or so much more rarely, a Mom), then it follows that we're children, and too often, we see that as a reason for inactivity. But God needs us to be active in the world. I'd go further and say that God is counting on us. I much prefer the idea of God as partner. God can be the Senior partner; I'm cool with that.

Juneteenth offers other questions.  What enslaves us?  How are we benefitting from the oppression of others?  God offers us freedom, but can enslaved humans and oppressing humans fully appreciate that liberation?  How can we break free to become the humans God invites us to be?

It could be interesting to consider these questions in tandem, to ask about questions of agency.  What helps us grow?  What makes us wither?  What makes us strong?  What breaks our spirit in ways that echo across generations?

These questions are always essential, but they seem even more important as we approach the Solstice.  We are at a midpoint of the year.  We will never have more daylight this year than we have right now, on this day.  For many of us, it may feel like we get extra time in the day, even though every day only offers us 24 hours.  Let us use this space to analyze where we are right now and where we want to be.

A juxtaposition of holidays and observances gives us new opportunities to consider essential questions in different lights.  Let's make use of today's juxtapositions.  Let us correct our trajectories if need be.

Let us be free and work to free others.

Saturday, June 19, 2021


This week we saw the first creation of a federal holiday since the Martin Luther King holiday was created back in the 1980's--40 years!  And it seemed to happen quickly, although people have been requesting it for decades. In these days when Congress can seem to do nothing but obstruct, it's dizzying.

What makes this moment even more surreal is the declaration of this holiday in a time where we're debating how much we teach children about history.  I would argue that far more important than the facts that we teach is that we teach everyone how to think about these facts.  I would also argue for a teaching of larger cultural contexts.

Of course, that's a lot to do in a school year.  It's hard just to get through the timeline of the facts, and then I want us to do the hard work of providing cultural context?  Yes, in an ideal world I do.

I shake my head over the idea that we're teaching Critical Race Theory in K-12.  In what universe is this true?  I associate Critical Race Theory with the kind of deeper, intense work we would do in college, but I realize that many people are using this term, Critical Race Theory, in many different ways.

Many of us think of slavery as belonging to a distant era but we forget that those slave times in the U.S. really weren't that long ago.  In his excellent book How the Word is Passed:  A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith reminds us "There are people still alive today who knew and held and loved people who were born into slavery" (p. 289).

And many of us think that slavery is over, but it's not. I remember in the late 90's hearing a commentator saying, "There's never been an easier time than now to own a slave."  We hear about trafficking and migrant farm labor, and we forget that those are often forms of slavery and bondage.

In my ideal world, we'd teach not only the cultural contexts of the past, but also of the present.  What are the forces enslaving so many of us?  We think of iron shackles, but there are other societal constructs that hold so many back:  debt, violence, educational systems.  If we compare these issues to slave times and the Jim Crow era, perhaps we'll create a generation of thinkers that are set free.

And once free, perhaps they will figure out ways not only to free others, but to make sure that others aren't enslaved, either metaphorically or literally.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Visits and Virtual Life and Escapes, from Labs and Otherwise

It has been quite a week, the kind of week that leaves me wrung out and exhausted.  Am I trying to do too much?  I have been doing my regular job while also doing an onground intensive for my spiritual direction certificate program; for more on that experience, see this blog post.  I have also been working on getting rental documents together, which is a much more involved process than it once was, and getting registered for seminary classes in the fall.

In this blog post, let me collect some odds and ends and fragments:

--I am listening to an episode of Fresh Air that looks at the possibility that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in China.  At first I dismissed that idea as kookiness, but the more I hear and read, the more intrigued/horrified I am.  I would say it's like a plot line from a movie, but so much of this disease seems like plot lines from a movie script, a script that got rejected because it was too boring or because it lacked believability--or both.  What a very strange year.

--Yesterday morning I went to a meeting virtually.  We spent over an hour listening to our new process about how we will house our accreditation documents.  I'm fine with a new process, as our old way wasn't very user-friendly.  But our new way involves a shared drive that I don't have access to.  I can get access, of course, but it seems like an ominous sign, a bad beginning:  "Go to this section of your computer, and you'll see the drive.  Let's take a tour!"  The process will involve lots of uploading of documents, hundreds and hundreds of pages, while also collecting other materials and uploading, while also analyzing the current data and writing the end of accreditation year reports, while also doing the work of teaching current students.  The meeting left one of my department chairs in tears, and I wasn't far from it myself.

--On top of all of this, we will be preparing for a visit from accreditors.  Our self-study is due in November.  We knew that the sale of the school would trigger a visit, but hearing the haranguing pep talk about how we must gird our loins to get ready--just dispiriting.

--You might ask, "Wait--isn't your campus closing?"  Yes, and later in the day, I made a phone call--no need to disrupt a multi-campus meeting with a question that's only relevant to one campus.  So, yes, according to most timelines, the visit would happen after my campus has closed, but we might still need some/most (perhaps none) of the documents, depending on decisions that have yet to be made.  Or maybe they've been made and not communicated.

--And then, after the meeting that left us in tears, I went to a brief workshop on Ignatian questions:  "Is this life giving?  Is this bringing me joy?"  The presenter was talking about how she used these questions to discern a major life change, going from being a pastor to a seminary professor.  I thought about the accreditation meeting I had just attended, the work ahead, work for a campus that is closing, work that might not be necessary at all. 

--But let me end on a happy note.  Happy Juneteenth which will be celebrated on Friday this year, since the holiday is tomorrow!  Happy new federal holiday!  Amazing that it happened this quickly, that the branches of government were able to agree and enact this legislation.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

In the JStor Database!

When I first got access to the Wesley Theological Seminary student portal, I tried to access the library from a distance.  The page didn't work or it didn't load, and I haven't looked at it since.  Tuesday, after I registered for classes, I tried it again.  After looking up a few of my favorite feminist theologians, I did a search on my own name.

And it came up with results!  Nine of them!  I couldn't get a great shot of the screen, but I did want to preserve it anyway.  

From there, I went down a bit of an internet rabbit hole.  I looked up JStor to make sure I was remembering what kind of data base it is.  And then, at the official JStor site that's not moderated by a library, I found 111 entries when I entered my name.

It quickly became apparent that not every entry was me.  But the search did bring up some entries that the Wesley search didn't including my first publication, The Dictionary of Literary Characters.  I wrote a few entries in grad school, but I can't for the life of me remember which characters I chose.  At the time, I thought of it as an academic publication that would open the doors of hiring to me.

Throughout the subsequent years, I would continue to try to pry open those doors by way of academic publishing, and the JStor search has some of those remnants.  I wrote an essay about Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, for example.  There was a moment when I thought I might be a source referred to in later articles written about the book, but I couldn't access those 3 sources.

The larger search also includes mention of papers at conferences, including the James Joyce conference when it was at the University of Miami.  That was a cool experience--my thesis advisor was at the conference, and he remembered me.  I'm not sure why I think I'm so forgettable.  We spent hours together working on my thesis.  I have no idea how many advisees he had, but it wasn't that many.  Of course, he would remember me a scant 12 years later.

The search results included the lectionary pieces that The Christian Century published.  I have a few other theology/spirituality type essays out there, but those didn't appear in the search results.

I had more poems in the search results than any other type of writing, which shouldn't surprise me.  I've had more poetry publications than any other type.  

This morning I did a quick check on Submittable; the latest manuscript I submitted to Copper Canyon Press has been under consideration much longer than my last two attempts.  Dare I hope?

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Bloomsday Fuss

I only care about Bloomsday as a sort of cosmic accident. When I got to grad school and pored over the list of classes I could take, I discovered that most of them were full. As a new grad student, I was last to register. And so I found myself in Tom Rice's class on James Joyce. What a life-changing experience that was.

I notice that several of the stories from Dubliners show up in anthologies, even first year literature anthologies. But would I have ever had the patience to wade through Ulysses all by myself? Absolutely not.

Bloomsday celebrates the day, June 16, on which all the action in Ulysses takes place. The book covers almost every kind of action that can take place in a human day: we see Leopold Bloom in the bathroom, we see Stephen Dedalus pick his nose, we see Leopold Bloom masturbate . . . and we finally get to the masterful final chapter, where Molly Bloom muses on the physicality of being a woman.

As with many books, whose scandalous reputations preceded them, I read and read and waited for the scandalous stuff. As a post-modern reader, I was most scandalized by how difficult it was. It's hard to imagine that such a book would be published today.

But what a glorious book it is. What fun Joyce has, as he writes in different styles and plays with words. What a treat for English majors like me, who delighted in chasing down all the allusions.

I went on to write my M.A. thesis on Joyce, trying to prove that he wasn't as anti-woman as his reputation painted him to be. Since then, other scholars have done a more thorough job than I did. But I'm still proud of that thesis. I learned a lot by writing it. At the time, it was the longest thing I had ever written--in the neighborhood of 50 pages. A few years later, I'd be writing 150 pages as I tackled my dissertation--on domestic violence in the Gothic. By the time I'd written my thesis, I had said all I had to say on Joyce.

So, happy Bloomsday.  Those of us who were born later than Joyce, who haven't read much of the work that came before Joyce, probably aren't aware of what a radical experiment he presented.  A work that takes place in just one day?  Revolutionary!  I could argue that Virginia Woolf did it more artistically with Mrs. Dalloway, but before the Modernists, most people would have thought of just one day as not worthy of documenting.  And Joyce's interior monologues capture like no other work what it's like to be inside a brain, to listen to thoughts without the scaffolding of traditional narrative.

I have read Ulysses several times, and I confess, I likely will never read it again.  But I'm grateful to have done it, grateful that it exists, grateful that I had guides to show me of its mastery.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Academic Planning for the Fall: Seminary Edition

Last night, I had a virtual Academic Planning session with Wesley Theological Seminary.  I have spent months thinking about my fall schedule, both the classes I might take, and the larger schedule issues:  will I still be employed?  How will my schedule of online classes that I'm teaching impact the seminary classes that I'm taking?  Will I have classes to teach?

I've spent the last few weeks studying the schedule of available seminary classes for fall and figuring out how they will be offered.  There will be online classes, virtual classes, hybrid classes, and face to face classes.  Since I expect to still be employed for fall, I plan to take classes from a distance, so no face to face classes.  I'm also ruling out hybrid classes, since they usually include a few face to face sessions.

I've spent the last few weeks referring back to the catalog to make sure that I'm planning to take the right classes.  But I decided not to register, since I knew I would be having the Academic Planning session on June 14.  Perhaps I would learn something new, and then I would need to go back and register all over again.

Now I'm wishing I had just gone ahead and signed up for those classes.  I was on the right track after all.  I didn't register immediately after the Academic Planning session because I needed to be across town at 7:00, plus I was tired of staring at the computer screen.  During the night, I tossed and turned and dreamed I couldn't get into any classes, and finally, I decided to get up to get the task done.

So of course, the system is down for maintenance.

I also have grading to do, and I had been feeling behind in that area.  And later this week, I'll be doing the onground intensive (remotely and virtually) for my spiritual direction certificate program.  I'm not surprised that I'm having trouble sleeping.  I'm making use of this early morning time, the time that most people would call the middle of the night.

So let me remember the key points of the Academic Planning Session.  For the most part, it was a review for me, but unlike some meetings that are just reviews of already known information, I was happy to hear it again.  I wanted validation and to be sure that I'd been reading the catalog and other information correctly.

It was also interesting to be on the other side, the student side, not the administrator side.  When we got to the part about academic dishonesty, I turned my camera off and took a quick bathroom break.  Having taught English classes for several decades, I understand the importance of giving credit where credit is due.  When the registrar urged us to reach out if we got into any kind of trouble and not to wait until the last day of the semester, I smiled.  I've said similar sentences in every new student orientation.

So, when the registration part of the portal opens up, I plan to register for the first required Old Testament class, and the first required New Testament class.  There's a Spiritual Formation for the Practice of Ministry section that I can take remotely, but there is no remote option for the first Spiritual Formation for the Practice of Ministry class.  That's O.K.  I'm not sure how many classes I can really do while I'm still working, and I may be working through the rest of the year, if we're not all moved to the Ft. Lauderdale campus.  The online section of the course in early church history is already full, but I'll put myself on the waitlist.  Again, if I get a seat, I'm not sure I'll take the class.  

It's hard to know how much I can do until I see the syllabi for the classes, to see how many papers are required and how many pages we'll read each week.  Once we get closer to the start of class, I should have a better idea of what the rest of my schedule will look like.  I can always use the drop-add option during the first 2 weeks, if I don't have access to course materials before then.

So, now to wait for the registration system to re-open.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Shifting into Summer

I'm not sure I have a unified blog post this morning.  So let me just collect some snippets and see if they cohere.  If not, at least I'll have snippets.

--This morning, I thought about the fact that we are about 1 week away from summer solstice, which means that this week and next will have the most light of the rest of the year.  It seems I should be able to make that more significant somehow, but as a symbol, it seems too obvious.

--I am eager for a bit less light; I prefer to walk in the morning when it's a bit darker.  But I also think of my grandmother, who loved these longer days.  She was the type of widow who went inside and locked the doors the minute the dark descended.  Winters were very tough for her.

--It's that time of year when my legs get dry and scaly.  It's so strange to have increasingly moist weather when my skin dries out as if I've taken a trip to the mountains.

--Some of my skin tries out, while other parts of my skin go into high heat rash mode.  Sigh.

--As I walked this morning, watching the lightning on one side and the sunrise on the other, I thought about a haiku-like creation:

Most light of the year.

Summer solstice comes next week.

Heat lightning and storms.

--Last week, I had a delightful conversation via Facebook with a former student, who was in my English Composition classes in South Carolina way back in the 90's.  He's writing haiku and had some questions about how I would handle syllables.

--Who would have thought, all those years ago, that we'd stay in touch and discuss poetics.  Technology has some benefits.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Appreciation for Work in All Its Forms

The rhythms of life on a campus interest me, how some weeks are fairly laid back, while others are much more intense.  Then there's the time here and there that compresses that rhythm into an entire week.  But most of my weeks are like that--some days are oddly empty of communication, where I have a colleague send me an e-mail, just to make sure the system isn't broken, and then there's the day when all the week's e-mails seem to come in one hour, demanding immediate attention.

I expected yesterday to be one of those intense days; it was the rare day when we were expecting so many people to come to campus that we made a list of who we should be on the lookout for.  Later, I made this Facebook post:

"We were expecting many people to come to campus today: the health inspector doing the annual check on biohazardous waste storage, the head of IT, the student considering enrolling in our Vet Tech program, and the person delivering coffee/tea pods. We were not expecting the plumber.

But we do have toilets in the women's restroom that need to be replaced, and he's here with new toilets and parts. And we don't have male students on campus today, so we can use the men's room.


In the end, we didn't ever see the head of IT or the health inspector.  We did get 4 of our 5 boxes of tea pods, but the potential student never came.  It was the kind of day where I didn't want to immerse myself too deeply in any projects because I knew I was likely to be interrupted.

Some of the interruptions were worth it.  Late in the afternoon, a student stopped by.  She gave me a thank you card with a kind note that thanked me for helping her.  I got downright teary.

Much of what I do to keep the school running is unseen by students, which is as it should be.  Most of the students in the school where I'm an administrator will never have me as a teacher, which makes me even more invisible.  I do find meaning in keeping the school running smoothly--being persistent in insisting that we need the toilets to be fixed, filling up the snack basket, strategizing with faculty about how to solve issues.  Often I get verbal thank yous, particularly from faculty.  

I will keep that card--I have a whole file of stuff that I save to remind me that my work is important.  Happily, there aren't many days when I need to look at the file.  I am in a space where I'm appreciated--and some days, I even get a card to remind me of that fact.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Sour Milk Sourdough Oatmeal Bread

Several people have asked me about the recipes I used for my bread baking that resulted in this picture:

The cinnamon rolls are made from this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.  I always double the recipe, make 1 pan of cinnamon rolls, and shape the rest into 2 loaves of bread.  So in the picture above, the loaves of bread to the left are more yellow in color because they have pumpkin in them.

On Saturday, I had 1/4 gallon of milk that was going sour, so I wanted to turn that into bread.  I also needed to use my sourdough starter.  So I adapted a recipe that I had created a few weeks ago.  If you don't have sourdough starter, you can make the bread dough without it, and use less flour.  If you don't have sour milk, regular milk works just the same.

Sour Milk Sourdough Oatmeal Bread

5 tsp. dry yeast

1/4 C. warm water

2 T. sugar

Combine the above in a large bowl and let proof while you assemble the oatmeal mixture.

4 C. (more or less) of milk, sour or not

2 C. oatmeal, quick cooking or old fashioned, but not steel cut

You could also add ground flax seeds or wheat germ or other ground seeds.

2-4 T. butter or olive oil

Mix the above in a pot or a microwavable bowl.  Heat to a boil and let cool.

Return to the big bowl.  Add 2-3 eggs and beat everything together, with 1 T. salt.  Add 1 cup of sourdough starter.  Add the oatmeal mixture, mix everything together, and start adding flour.  You will probably need at least 10 cups, and you may need significantly more.  You can use white flour or wheat flour, along with any other flour.  Add and then knead until a smooth dough forms.

Let the bread dough rise until doubled.  Knead a bit more and let rise again--OR--divide the dough into loaf pans.  Let rise again.

Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.  Let cool at least 20 minutes before cutting into the loaves.  This bread freezes beautifully, if your household doesn't gobble it all up right away.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Housing Odds and Ends and Wrap Ups and New Adventures

As I've thought back over the past year, I'm amazed at how many people I know who have made housing changes, and if I widen the lens back to 2019, the list of people who made housing changes grows even larger. In fact, it might be an easier task to make a list of the people in South Florida who have stayed put.

Last night, a group of us gathered at the house of one of us who moved.  It wasn't meant to be a celebration of our new lease, but since we had just signed it, we did have a few moments of looking at the pictures on the website, of talking about the implications.

I had spent the afternoon hammering out the final details before signing the lease.  Our new landlady, the owner of the condo, had been getting calls from people who offered her more than her renting price and longer leases if she would choose them.  She asked if we would consider a 2 year lease.  

At first I wanted to say, "No.  I don't want to be committed in that way."  But I didn't want to lose the deal.  We talked about the possibility of an 18 month lease, but that would put the lease expiring at the end of January, which traditionally would be a TERRIBLE time to be looking for a new place to live in South Florida.  So we signed the 2 year lease.

I have had really positive encounters with our future landlady who said she really wanted us to be her renters, and I really wanted to keep working with her.  She has been responsive, and I feel like I've gotten a good vibe from her.  I've been duped before, but hopefully my instincts are correct in this case.

Tonight we go to see what we have just agreed to rent for 2 years.  Yes, we signed the rent without seeing the specific unit.  But I have a friend who lives in the building and loves it, and I know that the building stayed strong during Hurricane Irma; in fact, it was one of the only buildings in east Hollywood that didn't lose power.

This morning, I woke up feeling my usual mix these days:  overall excited, with a dash of scared and a sprinkling of sadness.  I thought about the condo, which has tile floors.  I thought about our current house, where we chose hardwood for the floors.  I'll miss some of the planks.  Do other people have favorite parts of the hardwood floor?  I doubt I'll feel the same about the tiles.

I also feel a bit sad about needing to sell the house itself.  We could have kept going for a few more years, draining our savings and dipping into retirement.  But at some point, we just wouldn't be able to afford it.  And I mean that in all sorts of ways.

I also feel a bit of sorrow that we couldn't pull this off, this living in a historic house until we die.  Do I also feel shame?  Not really.  It's not our fault that global warming is galloping ahead at a much faster pace than even my inner apocalypse gal anticipated, which means that our insurance rates have zoomed into the stratosphere.

I feel a bit like we're letting the house down, but that's silly.  Someone else will come along who can do more with and for the house, I hope.  I hope they don't bulldoze it down to put up one of those modernist monstrosities on the site.

Part of me hopes for a bidding war, but what I really want is someone who needs a house with a smaller cottage in the back, someone for whom this house will be a blessing--hopefully a someone with cash.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Affording the American Housing Dream

I am a woman of competing dreams.  This morning, I'm thinking of home, and my deep desires that coexist but can't all come true.

In my earliest days as a reader, I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I wanted land to call my own.  I dreamed of farms and prairies that would yield abundant increase.  Sure, the books warned of long winters and locusts and all the thousand things that could upend those dreams.  Later I learned how the homesteading acts destroyed both native groups and settlers alike--it was very rare for either group to survive the Homestead Acts.  Settlers starved or went back east defeated, and native groups died from a variety of causes.  But those yearnings for land are planted deep, and some part of me still wants acreage.

At the same time I read those Little House books, I watched the classic MGM shows, like the first Bob Newhart series that revolved around city life in a glamorous apartment.  The later Bob Newhart show also fueled dreams of a charming country inn, but earlier, it was that apartment with the twinkling city lights beyond.  I imagine that Sex and the City fueled similar dreams in a later generation.

During my teenage years, my dad had Air Force Reserve duty, two weeks in Washington DC in the summer, so we would all go with him and stay at The Guest Quarters hotel, a highrise in Alexandria, where the family rented an apartment.  We would take the Metro into the city to go to Smithsonian museums.  We would eat exotic breads, breads that later generations would call artisanal.  When I thought of grown up life, I thought I would live in such a place, having a career in the arts, returning to a beautiful apartment where I would dine on items that weren't available in the hinterlands.

As I've gotten older, I've wanted a house that's paid off, whether it be on a small plot of land or on acreage.  I bought the American dream, but we've found it increasingly hard to afford in South Florida.  We could pay off our current mortgage, but we'd still need to set aside 2/3 of that mortgage payment amount each month to pay for insurance and taxes.

Let me list a specific amount, just so I remember it in the future.  We pay for 3 types of insurance for our home:  flood, wind, and homeowners.  The flood insurance alone is $3550 this year--yes, 4 digits.  When I lived in South Carolina, our complete insurance was $300 a year, and it would replace everything if the home blew away or burned down.

These costs, taxes and insurance, will not be going down in the coming decades.  But right now, we have a blisteringly hot housing market.  Despite these costs, people want to move to South Florida and buy our houses.

I have been thinking of these housing dreams as my spouse and I have been thinking about the next few years and making plans.  When we first bought this house in 2013, we had an eye towards old age.  We thought we might could age in place here--it had few stairs, a walk-in shower in one bathroom, and we've made improvements with an eye to accessibility, so the house is wheelchair friendly with door handles instead of knobs.  

But now, we're in a time of transition before we expected to be.  Part of it is the hot housing market.  Part of it is the shift in employment outlooks in academia.  When I got my PhD in English in 1992, I thought that the world would always need English teachers, at least in a part-time way.  Now I'm no longer sure that will be true in the coming decades.  So I'm on a path to seminary, which might mean that we stay in South Florida after I'm done or maybe not.

Now is the time to sell, but we haven't wanted to sell and not have a place to live. Yesterday, we found a place to rent.  August 1, we will have a lease a mile away from our current house, a lease for a condo in one of the newer high rises on the Arts Park circle in downtown Hollywood.  The building was one of the few buildings in Hollywood that didn't lose power during Hurricane Irma in 2017; it's solidly constructed.  And the lease includes all utilities, even electric.  It's far less than our mortgage, and once we sell the house, we won't have the costs of pool chemicals, repairs, our yard guy, and all of those expenses.  There will be other types of aggravations to be sure, but we'll be reducing our costs significantly.

It's another chapter in our American Housing Dream.  Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Memorial Arboretum

Bishop Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer asked, "In the midst of the AIDS crisis people found ways to lament, celebrate beloveds and memorialize the magnitude of the disaster. How will we communally grieve all we have lost to COVID?"

She posted a picture of herself, in a mask, walking in an outdoor space amongst pieces from the AIDS quilt.  We are at the 40th anniversary of the realization that we had a new disease, the disease we would call AIDS, that was stalking the gay population, so her picture and her question seems poignant.

My first thought did go to quilts:  gathering frayed fabrics and turning them into a larger, more meaningful creation, one that has a larger purpose.

Here's what I wrote.

I was thinking about COVID, how it robs people of breath. What might symbolize breath, lungs, community, those things lost, appreciation for those things regained? 

I have a vision of an arboretum or a garden in each city, with a place for names, with meditational spots for people to sit and process or simply be with their grief. I see a labyrinth where people who need movement to process life have an opportunity, and a labyrinth seems symbolic of this disease too--we're at different places on the path, we may feel separate and spaced out, but we're together. 

If each community/city across the nation and world created their version of an arboretum or garden, with native plants, we'd help heal the planet in other ways too.

And then I continued to think about this idea.  

I like that this kind of memorial could have spiritual overtones or not, depending on who is there to experience it.  And it would be ecumenical.

I like the idea of large trees, of creating memorial spaces that preserve large trees.  That seems important as a symbol, but also to the health of the planet.  I spent some time on Sunday driving through housing complexes that have gotten rid of all the trees, and how depressing that is.  

I'm also thinking of the newer research that shows that trees are more communal creatures than we once thought.  They are not solitary bulwarks.

This kind of memorial, a garden and/or arboretum, would require some amount of care.  But if we couldn't be sure the care would be there, a community could create a wild pasture/woodland/desert kind of approach--let the natural process take care of itself.

Monday, June 7, 2021


The last time we looked for a place to rent, it was 1998.  We were moving to South Florida, and we needed a place to live while we figured out where to buy.  We bought the Sunday newspaper (printed with ink, on paper!) and scoured the want ads.  We drove to addresses and called a landlord or two.  We had five days to find a place, and on the last day, we found the perfect place, the end unit of a triplex, with a landlady who seemed reasonable, who wanted a month to month renter.

We had to pay first and last month's rent, plus the sum of a month's rent for the security deposit.  We thought it was expensive, but it was a larger rent than we had ever paid, so we thought those extra expenses might be standard.  Little did we know, it was just South Florida, where everything is more expensive.

We gave the potential landlady a list of references, but I'd be surprised if she called them.  I think we looked like nice people, we had a check that cleared the bank, and she could get rid of us if need be.

The world has changed.  I've spent the last few days looking at the site and the websites of apartment communities, looking at places to rent.  In some ways, it feels like the same process, in that it leaves me exhausted.  In some ways, we save ourselves some steps--there are often pictures on the site, which have led me to eliminate some of the options.

And I've realized the power of a good website/pictures.  We drove around some of the bigger apartment complexes yesterday, and I said, "Where's the resort style pool?  Where's the lakeside beach?"

I was also astonished at the renting practices of some of these corporate places.  They want a lot of information, including proof that the renters earn three times the amount of the rent each month.  These rents aren't cheap--who is making this kind of salary?  And for this rent, I should get more than one parking space.

In the end, we came back to possibilities not too far away from our current neighborhood.  We know it's walkable, we know about the noise, we know about the potential.  You might ask why we're selling or thinking about the process of selling.

Like many parts of the country, our seller's market in real estate is blisteringly hot right now.  We don't expect it to last, and while we're not expecting a crash like the last time we had this kind of market, we are expecting prices to fall.  And at some point in the next 5 years, we were likely to sell, so we're leaning towards selling now as opposed to later.  

We are also lucky in that we can adjust to a rental fairly easily.  We have no pets or children, so we don't have some of the considerations that others do.  We don't have lots of extra vehicles or big/noisy vehicles that might be prohibited at a rental.

We are lucky, but it's still rather overwhelming.  Let me take deep breaths and continue in the path that makes sense given the information that we have now.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Soul Soothing Saturday

Yesterday was a soul soothing kind of day.  Earlier in the week, our plan was for my spouse to head to Homestead to help his brother with repairs on the house they've just bought, while I would stay at our house to do a deep clean so that our realtor friend could show it to some folks next week.  But my spouse wants to be sure we can find a place to rent if the house sells more quickly than during ordinary times, so the new plan had me researching that.

I had a Zoom meeting with my quilt group at 9 a.m., and I started a batch of yeasted pumpkin bread.  It was only later that I realized that I had a quarter gallon of milk that was too sour to drink but could be used for baking.  I decided not to clean up, but to start another batch of bread.  And so, later in the afternoon, I took this picture:

Because I had a head start on the rental research and because my spouse was gone all day, I was also able to read.  I am reading Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, and it is as wonderful as everyone says.

My spouse came home full of Mexican food, so I was able to have one of my favorite kind of suppers, wine and cheese and crackers.  We talked about possibilities, and it's good to feel that we are both pulling the cart of our married life in the same direction.

Friday, June 4, 2021


For a shorter work week with a Monday holiday, this week has been remarkably exhausting at work.  Yesterday was exhausting in a different way than Wednesday.

Yesterday we had an 11:00 virtual tour with a representative from the VA unit that deals with financial aid.  Obviously, I wanted it to go well, since I want our students to get all of the money that is due to them, particularly our veterans who have gone through so much to be eligible for those benefits.

But there was so much that could go wrong.  We spent Tuesday and Wednesday trying to figure out how to get any mobile device to hit the wi-fi so that we could walk around the campus to give a tour to the official.  We were not having any luck or any tech support.  People kept asking, "Don't you have an iPad or an iPhone?"  I didn't get any further help when I said, "No we don't."

Happily, one of the FA people from the Ft. Lauderdale campus was coming to our campus yesterday, and she had an iPhone.  Her iPhone could operate, but she spent the morning trying to find a computer that would let her get to her desktop.  We're supposed to have a system and a server that will let us access our work files on any campus when we log in, but it wasn't working yesterday.

As we got closer to the time of the virtual meeting and tour, the internet started acting erratically:  slow loading websites, dropped calls, the kinds of things that make me expect the whole IT system on campus to collapse.  But happily, the technology held together, and I was able to do a virtual tour by holding an iPhone and remembering to walk slowly and turn even more slowly.

A few hours later, I drove across the county for a different kind of tour.  We went to the only venue that's open for graduations and other types of performances.  I had been there before for some kind of ceremony, but it was hard to imagine how it would work for graduation.  It feels more like a conference space in a hotel than a performing space.

Move in a stage, and voila!  The ballroom becomes a graduation stage.  It's strange how so many of those venues look the same.  I spent the whole tour trying to remember when I had been at the building before.  Was it the Reading is Fundamental breakfast?  An Art Institute fashion show?  Some luncheon to honor a colleague?

The place also felt familiar because of the wallpaper.  In the late 80's and early 90's, that wallpaper would have suggested grandeur and royalty, wainscoting printed on a wallpaper instead of a more expensive installation, wallpaper suggesting velvets in burgundy and forest green.

It will do for a graduation.  I'm not clear why people would choose to have their wedding there, but most people's wedding choices make no sense to me.

I drove home taking note of neighborhoods and apartment complexes, a different kind of tour.  Yesterday I saw a house on our street go on the market, the first on our block to list for $999,000.  In 2019, it sold for $745,000, and from the looks of it, it hasn't had any upgrades since.  It was a beautiful house then and likely still is, with lots of gorgeous upgrades.  But $999,000.

I hope they get every penny.

These are the tours I'm taking these days, tours of listings and neighborhoods and the questions of "Is now the time to sell?  Are we at the height of the market?  And if we sell, where do we go?"  It's a whole different sort of mental tour.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


I spent much of yesterday feeling a bit exhausted, and I wasn't sure why.  Sure, I had to be up early to get to my 7:20 appointment for a mammogram, but I always get up early.  I am fully vaccinated, so I didn't have the anxiety about going to a hospital that I would have had a year ago.  And I don't have the dread that others have about getting a mammogram; I'd rather do that than go to the dentist.

Because of family history, I was getting both a 3D mammogram and an ultrasound, and because of that history, I was advised that I might want genetic counseling and an MRI.  But the advanced imaging wasn't covered by my insurance, so I won't be doing that.

Let me clarify--I have a high deductible, so it was cheaper to pay the price that uninsured people pay ($399) than the $1800+ that I would pay under my insurance.  I'm still struggling to make this compute.  Since I'm not likely to have more imaging, I decided to pay out of pocket.

I hadn't been to this hospital since summer of 2019, but not too much had changed, aside from the masks and all the clear plastic barriers between outsiders and staff.  Those staff people were pleasant and efficient.

The 3D mammogram room was incredibly quiet.  The ultrasound room played a light hits of the 80's and 90's kind of station.  As I watched the images on the computer screen, I was aware of the lyrics:  

"I don't know just how or why
But no one else has touched me
So deep, so deep, so deep inside"

The rest of the lyrics are innocuous lyrics, the standard love language of an era.  I looked it up later--the song was Paula Abdul's "Rush Rush."  I had been hearing "Hush, Hush."  After that, the radio played "Oh What a Night," by Orleans.

What amazing technology, and how amazing that anyone can read a sonogram.  I understand that people get technical training; the school where I currently work offers a degree in cardiovascular sonography.  As the wand went over my armpits, I saw my lymph nodes floating, like planets in some strange solar system.  At least, I think that's what they were.

Happily, they were not tumors or anything unusual.  I was surprised to get today's results right away, with a verbal consult before I left.  In fact, I could read them whenever I want; I now have electronic access to my chart.

As I wove my way down the hospital halls, I felt a strange swirl of emotions.  I was grateful, of course, for good news.  But I'd spent the morning listing all my relatives with cancer, and we'd talked some about the female relatives on my mother's side who have had breast cancer.  Most of them have had mastectomies and gone on to live another 20+ years.  But I'm also aware of my grandmother's aunt, who had cancer, and they took the train from Tennessee to Johns Hopkins, but there was nothing that could be done.  I'm thinking of all that money for train tickets in the Depression, and nothing could be done.

I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon feeling spent and wrung out.  When I think about the tests and what they signify, it's no wonder that I felt somewhat exhausted.  By the time I got to work at 8:35 a.m., I already felt like I had had a full day.

I ended the day by going out to dinner with a friend.  It's the first time we've seen each other in person since early 2020.  It was wonderful to reconnect--and after catching up with various developments, good to dive right into issues of creativity and theology.

It was wonderful to realize we've survived one phase of the pandemic, a different sort of diagnostic.  May we continue to persevere.

Administrator Quotes of the Week

"The team to pick up the biohazard materials will be here before we close at 5." 

It's a phrase I never expected to say during my professional life, yet in some ways, metaphorical ways, I've been saying it all of my professional life.


We were discussing the strange smell.  Was it a litter box?  Was it the necropsy procedures going on in the Vet Tech lab?

I said, "At least it's not the plumbing this week."

For those who are curious, it was the biology specimens from the necropsy procedures.  Biology specimens is a polite way of saying dead animal corpses.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Writer Me: Younger Me, Older Me

The other day, I thought about my life, about my writing trajectory, about some of the opportunities I've gotten that younger me would have been so thrilled to have, and also, about all the ways I thought my writing life would be different by now.

I also thought about younger me, who was an avid reader of interviews with authors, particularly with authors whom she loved.  Younger me was always looking for clues about how to do what they had done.

I started thinking about someone younger who might be researching me, even though I don't have the presence of Margaret Atwood, Gail Godwin, Marge Piercy, all those writers I would have been researching.  

And this blog post emerged:

Somewhere, a 27 year old wants what you have.  She has read a poem of yours in a place you don't even remember publishing.  She thinks about the life that you have built and wonders how to create something similar for herself.

She knows you got a PhD, and she wonders why you chose the teaching life that you did.  Still, she admires the fact that you taught so many first generation college students, the adjective we now use when we're worried that to use "underprivileged" is no longer OK.  But how much more might you have written if you had chosen a liberal arts college?

That 27 year old reads what she can to discern more about your relationships.  She reads between the lines, knowing that the lines might be something that she's just creating out of how she wants her own life to be.  She thinks you would have made a great mom, but she understands why you decided not to have children.  She wishes that you could be her mom.

The 27 year old finds a picture of your house, a picture of your writing room.  She imagines long mornings writing in dappled sunlight, drinking strong coffee.  She does not consider the long hours you have to work in your non-writing job to pay for the writing room where you never get to stay long enough. 

The 27 year old thinks about her own life trajectory, so much of it yet to come.  She thinks about your trajectory, both your writing arc and the other elements of your life's narrative.  She cannot realize how fast it all goes, how one minute you are just starting out, full of resolve, ready to change the world with your words, and then the next minutes, decades have disappeared, while you still feel like your younger self.