Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Making Him Proud: A Letter From a Student

It's the second day of my English composition class at community college. The assignment for the first ten minutes is for students to write a letter of introduction to me.

They freak-out just a wee bit.

A letter? To you? Right now?

Some start writing almost immediately; some fret and chew their pens a bit. Almost all of them check the clock to see how long this agony? / delight? will last.

 I ask standard questions to prompt them: name, major, why this school, where they grew up, what they like to do for fun (specifying I only want the PG 13 stuff), what they want to do with their lives, what they like to read, favorite song lyrics and so on.

Since we are in a military town, I ask them to let me know, if they want to, if they have a loved one in harm’s way. I also give the caveat that they don’t need to tell me what they wouldn’t tell their priest, pastor, or psychiatrist.

They chuckle and relax a bit.

Some of them write slowly, carefully, with elegant handwriting. Some scribble and their words are borderline legible, even for an old pro at decoding handwriting.  Some noisily tap the letter out on a laptop, driving their eye-rolling tablemates (who are trying to concentrate) up the wall.

Some write half a page, some a page and a half. Some stop writing when I give the” times up;” some keep writing surreptitiously until I hold out my hand for the paper.

Some write lightheartedly, and I can hear their youthful, bubbly voices in my head as I read the letters later.

Some write sincerely, but awkwardly. An occasional student guiltily confesses to writing poetry, some to hatred of reading any genre (eek—but you’re a college student! I later write in the margin).

After the ten minutes are up, I ask who will be the first brave person to share what she wrote.

Today it was a smiling, brown-haired woman in the back row, in capris and a t-shirt. I’m terrible at guessing ages, but I’d say she was about 30. Her name is Calinda*.

“My wonderful husband always prodded me to go back to school,” she reads.

“Actually, he nagged.” The class giggles at this.

“But then he passed away a couple of months ago. I’m here in school to make him proud,” she continues, and she chokes a little on sudden, small sobs.

The class lets out a slow, sympathetic sigh.

 We are in a military town where death is no stranger.

The young girl next to Calinda is Sharon*. Sharon, whose husband is a Marine, hugs Calinda in spontaneous support.  I run to the back row and hug Calinda too. What else can I do?

Later, when I read Calinda’s full letter, she notes her favorite song lyrics.

“If heaven wasn’t so far away, I’d pick up the kids and come for a day,” by singer Justin Moore.

Now you can better understand what I mean when I say my students are uniquely motivated. 

A new semester begins:  second day of class.

*Names are always changed to protect student privacy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Disappearing Acts...

Did you wonder where I went for a week?

There I was, Nablopomoing along with daily posts, and then I dropped out of sight. Thanks for noticing, if you did. Although with all the fine bloggers out there Nablopoming to the max, we didn’t lack for quality blogs to read.

Please know that I have continued to read your blogs, even if I didn’t post. I was out there, lurking. I probably didn’t even comment on your awesomeness, because the best I could come up with “It was good. I liked it.” I didn’t want you wondering if I’d had a lobotomy, so I said nothing, even though it was good, and I did like it!

Where did I go? What happened? The answer is: I don’t know.

I was blue, grumpy, headachy, tired, blue, grumpy… you get the idea. No one around here offered to grade the five stacks of student papers and projects on my desk. More and more papers came in as the days passed. Who assigned all this crapola—I mean these fine instructional devices to challenge and enhance student engagement?

Overwhelmed is the term that applies to what happened to me. A blogging quagmire resulted. I began posts, and quit in mid-sentence. Blogging so much was suddenly too much, and I really try not to overly whine, sniffle, and moan in my posts (unless there’s a chance it may be mildly amusing).

Fighting guilt over all the horrible defects in my character, I rolled up in a ball under the covers with an icepack on my head for a couple of days, maybe more. Menopause can take some of the blame, a smidge of seasonal depression kicked in, and yes, I may have to share some of the responsibility for yearning so hard for things I can’t have. Not thingy-things, but things like peace, serenity, joy, fun, those things. (I forbid my students to use the word “things,” just FYI.)

Another item at the top of the “things I want” list: an out-of-town vacation, even if it is only somewhere two hours away. Anywhere would do, really. Overnight would be great, a weekend would really rock my world. Don’t know when this might happen, but I’m going to try my best to bring it about.

But until then, I’m back in the blogging fold. I never really left, y’all. Thanks for not giving up on me!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Menopause Mayhem

Last night, in despair, I started a letter to Menopause. I told her exactly what I thought of her, and why. It felt great to let off some steam, but the letter was morbid and whiney.  Scratch that. Time for plan B.

I’m forming a girl gang. I’m pretty sure I know a few blogging bombshells who’ll join the posse. Our cause: murder Menopause.

I’m ready to rumble instead of mumble.

You’ve been our foe, sapping our mojo, hurting us high and low and now you’re gonna get a body blow. The day of reckoning is here, Miss Thang. Better look out for our gang.

We got the eye of the tiger, my mob squad and me. Time is short, you better flee. This is how it’ll be. You, face down on the mat, splat. We ain’t taking it no more, daughter of a cur. Your life gonna pass your eyes in a blur.

Menopause, look over your shoulder. Be best for you to crawl under a boulder. One night, we’re going to catch you, you crone. Mayhem-ugly-tragic for you alone. We’re going to have the last laugh, the best laugh, the laugh that makes you frown. You hear that bell? Yeah, well, we’re taking your crown.

We’re packing heat, and Menopause, you’re going down.

There now, I feel better already. Anyone for a black cohosh tea?

Are you ready to join the Mob Against Menopause? Please sign below

Friday, February 17, 2012

Subversive Children's Books

Today's post is a reprise due to another stupid migraine. It originally appeared in my other blog written for a creative writing class.

The Today show did a segment on subversive children's books. Some that made the list:

Where the Wild Things Are
Harriet the Spy (one of my favorites)
The Story of Ferdinand
Yertle the Turtle (Dr. Seuss)
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type (no, this is not my memoir) :-)

What children's book would you add to the subversive list?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ode to My Memory

Have you heard the informal test for Alzheimer’s?

Did you forget where you put your car keys? If so, not to worry. 

Do you remember what the car keys are for? If not, there may be a problem.

My memory has developed a few quirks. I DO still have a memory, so that’s something. I still know what the car keys are for. I don’t always know what today's date is, but can usually figure it out if I think it over carefully. Well, within one or two digits, anyway.

And come on, who doesn’t occasionally think it’s 1987 instead of 2012? What? You weren’t even born in 1987? Oh.

On an envelope, I may write a return address from three houses and fifteen years ago. Today I filled out a form with my maiden name. It’s been a while since I was a maiden. But isn’t maiden a lovely word? Makes me think of puffy sleeves, floppy hats, and daisy fields...

Sometimes I forget what I’m talking about.

I have trouble with student names that start with the same letter: Adam’s and Andrew’s, Jessica’s and Jennifer’s, Amanda’s and Ashley’s. I look right in the face of a co-worker of five years, and cannot, for the life of me, call up her name for what seems like a century but is probably only five seconds.

I pop into the grocery for peanut butter and toilet paper. One hour later and a hundred dollars lighter, I have  the peanut butter, only remembering the t.p. after I get home and find my list on the kitchen counter. If two items can be called a list. This is a serious situation. Our house runs on peanut butter and toilet paper.

My 82 year old mother, my sixty something husband, and I (yes! I am younger than two people in the universe!) have spirited discussions we call “name that actor.” Remember the guy, who acted with the blonde, and she was a waitress, who was really an heiress, no, not Cary Grant, not Van Johnson, not Errol Flynn, the heiress was Claudette Colbert, no, Joan Fontaine, no, the other blond, the one that died of kidney failure, and she dated the band leader or was it Mickey Rooney… what? You still remember the names of actors and their movies? Well then, never mind.

Items I do remember run to the peculiar. I remember all the words to the 1970s song, Ode to Billy Joe, by Bobbie Gentry. Quite a few lines from Hamlet’s soliloquy, Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” and an obscure poem by Donald Justice are in my repertoire. 

I recall how to spell “arithmetic,” but only because I was taught the mnemonic A Rat In Tom’s House May Eat Tom’s Ice Cream. I remember the word mnemonic, but will never be able to spell it without help.

Help. H-E-L-P. Help. When is the National Spelling Bee this year?

Whew, almost lost my train of thought there for a minute. As I was saying, to be or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

College Bored? List of 101 Books

Today in shocking confessions of Melanie…

I am a college English teacher, and I haven’t read all *101of the books every high school student should read, according to the College Board, the administrators of the SAT test taken by college bound high school students.

I have read a number of tomes on the list—I refuse to tally how many—and have read several or all of the books of some authors listed, like Ernest Hemingway. You’re not impressed, are you? I didn’t think so.

I have gaps in my education. Some gaps you could drive a Chevy Suburban through. I’ve read a lot of books, but not nearly, not even close, to the number that many of you have read. Yes, you! And I’m the English teacher. Chance are, you are not. Life is strange, strange, strange.

Guess what else? I don’t confine my reading to certified “literary” books, either. When I teach literature classes, we spend a fair amount of time questioning what is “literature,” and who gets to vote in that election, anyway?

I read popular novels. There, I’ve said it. A hush falls over the blogging universe. I read detective, suspense, spy novels, some fantasy, to include… VAMPIRES and BOUNTY HUNTERS.  Sookie Stackhouse of the True Blood books has a friend in me. Stephanie Plum, Evanovich’s Jersey bounty-hunter, is next to my bed in the form of Seven Up.

I do read “literature,” too, whatever that means.  When I’m picking out a book to read, I don’t often consider whether the book fits someone’s criteria of literature.  Go ahead, call me a slacker, although I prefer the term “dissident.” For example, George Eliot’s (born Marian Evans) rebellious life fascinates me; her novel, Middlemarch, not so much. I’ve tried in great earnestness to read this book, hailed by some as the greatest novel of all time, three times over the years. Nope, I can’t do it. Not yet.

I don’t give up easily on books—it took me about six years and three tries before I read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. That third time, I loved it so much I followed it up with every novel my man Hem wrote.

There’s still breath in my body, a charged-up battery in my Kindle, and a library card in my wallet. Oh, and a Barnes and Noble coupon in there somewhere. I’m not dead yet, so I should be able to knock a few more books down before I head for the big Shakespeare festival in the sky. Whether the books will be on the College Board’s list, I can’t say, but a few of them probably will.

So George Eliot, be patient, and Stephanie Plum, I’ll see you tonight.

How about you? Is there a “classic” book you’ve tried to read several times you just couldn’t finish?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Bit of Red for Valentine's Day

I Shall Paint My Nails Red, by Carole Satyamurti, 1990

Because a bit of colour is a public service.
Because I am proud of my hands.
Because it will remind me I'm a woman.
Because I will look like a survivor.
Because I can admire them in traffic jams.
Because my daughter will say ugh.
Because my lover will be surprised.
Because it is quicker than dyeing my hair.
Because it is a ten-minute moratorium.
Because it is reversible.

From: An Introduction to Poetry. Kennedy and Gioia, eds. 8th edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pause for the Cause: Blogging Gratitude

A while back I confessed to my hero-worship of Anne Lamott. I’m turning to her now, to her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This book I can pick up, open to any page, and find passages that were written for me. And for several million other fans, but who’s counting?
Lamott says:
“Don’t underestimate this gift of finding a place in the writing world: if you really work at describing creatively on paper the truth as you understand it, as you have experienced it, with the people or material who are in you, who are asking that you help them get written, you will come to a secret feeling of honor. Being a writer is part of a noble tradition, as is being a musician—the last egalitarian and open associations. No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen.”
Anne published Bird by Bird in 1994, long before even the most veteran blogger among us had uploaded her first post. When I apply her words to blogging, I am moved by deep gratitude for this medium.
Blogging has broken down so many barriers to writers who want to practice their craft, but didn’t have the means to readily share their writing with others. 
Blogging has compelled me to take risks I would not have dreamed of two years ago. 
My blogging friends teach me more about writing each day. They provide incredible support.  I don’t feel so alone anymore in my desire to write, and to be read.
It's a good time to be a writer.
Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird, is available through Anchor Books. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why I Can't Take Teaching For Granted

At a table in the library, I had been reading student journals.

We start class each day with a writing prompt, and the students write for about ten minutes. The first week of class they moan and complain about the task, by the second week they are falling into a groove, by the third week if we skip the journal entry writing due to other priorities, they say “What, no journal today?” and give me a letdown scowl. They miss not having their journal time.

I collect the journals after they have about ten entries accumulated. I read them, assigning a grade mostly based on how sincerely they have attempted to respond to the prompt using specific examples, sensory description, and details.

Students are instructed to keep the journals PG-13, and I remind them not to tell me things they wouldn’t tell their pastor, psychiatrist, or parole officer. But still, the students have a clear need to unburden themselves. They tell me a lot, even though they don’t have to. 

One tall young man who sits in the front row has read a couple of his journals out loud to the class, so I already know he has a gift for writing. As I read the other entries in his journal, I sigh. No matter how many times I read the story about how an individual student has come to be in a college composition class, I am not prepared.

Since I don’t go into detail about students who are currently enrolled with me, I’ll just say that “Jim” grew up in an incredibly tough urban environment, enlisted in the Marines as a last chance way out, and was in multiple overseas deployments. He’s in college full-time now, is intensely focused and motivated. His writing is incredibly elegant; his journal grade is an A.

Walking across campus to my office, piles of papers in my arms, I mull over Jim’s journal. I look up, and there’s Jim walking toward me.

“Jim! I just read your journal! What a good writer you are!” I say, sure that anyone who can write as well as he would be well aware of the fact, and so will probably brush off my praise with a ho-hum reaction.

Jim appears stunned. He really doesn’t know he’s got a way with words. How is this possible?

“You must submit some of your work to the student anthology,” I say. “The deadline for submissions is coming up in a couple of weeks.”

We chat for a few more minutes, and as he walks away, Jim looks over his shoulder. “Someone believes in me,” he says, incredulously.

That smile on his face? That’s why I’m a teacher.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

They're Playing My Song: "Wild One," Those Darlins

My current favorite song-- "Wild One," by Those Darlins.

The chorus:
“If you don't want a wild one, quit hanging 'round with me
 you knew right from the start that's my personality
 if you can't handle crazy, go ahead and leave
 if you don't want a wild one, quit hanging 'round with me.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Word of the Day: Pedigree

Flipping open the American Heritage College Dictionary for inspiration, the word PEDIGREE caught my eye.

PEDIGREE: a line of ancestors; a lineage. A family tree. A chart of an individual’s ancestors used in human genetics to analyze Mendelian inheritance, esp. of familial diseases. From Middle English, from Latin: pe de grue, foot of crane, the resemblance of a crane’s foot to the lines of succession on a genealogical chart.*

Genealogy is a little hobby of mine. I’ve listened to family stories, wondering….

Grandmother Anna Christiana fed hungry train-riding hobos out her back door near the railroad tracks in the 1930s. Grandfather Rudy, the baker from Alsace, made bread for the Union Army during the Civil War. 

Grandmother Matilda had a child out of wedlock as a teenager in the 1840s. The father forever unknown, the child became Granddad Piper; he grew up strong enough to crush a clam in his fist. Grumpy Little Grannie, Nancy Payne, lied about her age to the census man, smoked a pipe, and lived to be 92. 

The Old Gentleman, Thomas Leary, had a flowing white mustache in his last photo. He emigrated from County Wexford, Ireland, married a widowed woman with a child, and frittered her money away buying rounds for his buddies in Philadelphia saloons. 

Gran Sadie, a white woman, raised an orphaned black child as her own, in the South, around 1900. Her husband Charles was famous for the quality of his cured hams; a smokehouse full of his hams was better than money in the bank. He guarded them with a shotgun and shot his own shadow on the barn one night, thinking it was a ham-thief. 

Gramps Richard emigrated from England, c. 1670. He was an indentured servant who gained his freedom and died a land-owner, a tobacco planter. Aside from a house and acreage, his last will and testament distributed livestock, pewter plates, candlesticks, and feather beds among his many children.

No trace of a house remains at the site he farmed 300 years ago, on Gargatha Creek, Virginia. Nearby, in the silent winter marsh, cranes catch small menhaden fish, as they have for thousands of years.

Yes. Pedigree. A crane’s foot, a very gnarled, clawed, bumpy, crane’s foot. 

*The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Birthday

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do." --Eleanor Roosevelt 

My mother celebrated her birthday today. She turned 82. 

This birthday was different-- her first birthday in 65 years without my dad by her side.

She met Dad when she was only 17. Bright girl that she was, she’d graduated high school early and was already in what was known as “business college”—the 1940s version of today’s community college. Dad was 22, not long out of the Marines, returned from WW II in the Pacific.

Although young himself, Dad had been around the block with girls more than a time or two. We know of at least two engagements; we believe there were still others. He loved the ladies! The young man fell in love often and hard.

Looking at a photo of Mom in 1947, I can see why Dad fell in love for the last time when he met her. A Catholic school girl with long, thick, wavy, hair, she flashes a shy smile. Tall, slim, studious, and penniless, Mom returned the affections of the equally penniless young man from Virginia.

Within months they were married, within the year they were parents of a son.

They had four more children over the next 15 years. Their marriage was sometimes stormy, and at times it looked like they might call it quits. They stuck it out, when even their own children sometimes wondered what kept them together.

By their sixties the marriage had caught a second wind. They had raised their children, and even raised a couple of their grandchildren. They still fussed at each other sometimes, but were committed to each other in a way that only couples who have been together for decades can fathom. They’d been tested, time after time.

But death parted them when Dad died in November of 2011.

Mom made it through her first birthday since 1948 without him. This will be a year of firsts for her. She walks in a new world, a new terrain rolling under her feet, like the deck of a ship. Sometimes she feels adrift, yet she moves forward.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

6-word Memoirs: A Great Idea?

Have you heard-- six word memoirs?

Larry Smith edited, book published 2008.

Loving brevity challenge; rigorous to fulfill.

Concision compels writers into pure focus.

Nothing superfluous stays, remove choking fluff.

Wordiness, be gone! Six words only!

No flab, beyond lean, pure bones.

Nerves raw, pronouns gone, what’s left?

Six word memoir, beginning to panic!

Six words ain’t enough, memory overflow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yucking It Up At Work

 Is being funny an asset in your workplace?

A recent article by Allison Linn on reports the results of a survey of Chief Financial Officers:

“The survey of 1,400 CFOs, conducted on behalf of staffing firm Accountemps, found that 57 percent think an employee’s sense of humor is somewhat important when it comes to fitting in with the company’s corporate culture. Another 22 percent said it was very important.

Humor can be an asset in the hallowed halls of my school, and I do what I can. Once a student told me that she took my class because a friend recommended me as a teacher. “But she didn’t tell me you were funny!” the new student added as she walked away.

Hmmn. I still don’t know just which meaning of the word funny she meant. Funny as in “causing amusement or laughter,” or funny as in “peculiar; odd?”* Or both?

Are you funny at work? Do you think humor is necessary at your job, or should we cut the shtick and focus on the tasks at hand?

* definitions

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bring Back Silly!

Do you sometimes feel as though you’ve been an adult for WAY too long?

Are you tired of doing the laundry, cleaning the cat box, flossing your teeth, dragging through from day to day, always the good little worker bee, doing the nauseatingly right thing? Being responsible, paying the bills, clipping coupons, getting the tires rotated, and postponing gratification got you down? Does “fun” seem an abstract, amorphous term, a long-lost acquaintance vaguely recalled?

Perhaps you need to get silly. The silly that is definitively NOT: steady, serious, sober, staid.

Silly is sheer delight. It’s free, mood boosting, burns calories, and lowers your carbon footprint (study results pending).

Alas, silliness, almost by definition, is hard to plan. We can’t program into our schedules: “Friday, 1:30-1:45 p.m. Get silly.”

One must get silly when the occasion arises. Carpe sillidum. I can even get silly by myself, if need be. I can chase my cats around the house, throwing cat toys, as their furry feet slip sideways, skittering around corners. I can dance my 50+ version of the robot to Cee Lo Green on Pandora. I can Tweet nonsense to the universe.

However, getting silly with others is still best. When the chance to be silly comes up while teaching a class of college students, I may take it. Learning can resume in a minute or two.

During first day of semester icebreaker interviews, a student explains that the young woman she interviewed has a tattoo of buttered toast. We went for it. The tattooed girl wriggled out of her cardigan sweater down to her sleeveless shell, and there, in full glory on her bicep, was a life-sized piece of toast with two pats of butter. I asked her if she could make it wiggle, so it would look like the butter was melting. We had a very fine silly moment. Ice was indeed broken, loudly, so much so that curious passersby peeked in the classroom door to see what they were missing.

Silliness is an art form, but it can be learned. The steps to silly:

1.       Be prepared; be alert. Silliness can happen at any time, anywhere. Silliness may even occur online, in blog posts and comments.

2.       Once a potential silly situation arises, quickly assess the value to risk quotient. Silliness in front of supervisors, mental health professionals, law officers, or pastors must be carefully weighed for potential damage to career, loss of freedom, or possible excommunication.

3.       Once cleared through the value/risk quotient, engage in silliness.  

4.        Stretch silliness to maximum length, but the short silly is typically preferable to the long silly. Leave the silly observers and participants wanting more, rather than feeling silly-sick-over-sated. Less is more for the silly scenario.

5.       Cell phone photography is encouraged, but if any video clips go viral, sharing of any royalties earned is encouraged and expected.

6.       Caution: extended sillies can cause elevated heart rate, facial flushing, or increase in eye rolling. Before silliness, check with your doctor if you have heart disease, glaucoma, or wear contact lenses.

7.       Once the silliness has subsided, resume normal adult behavior while scouting for the next silly opportunity.

The world needs more genuine silliness. Should you agree, come on! We’ll chase the rainbow of silliness together, flying our silliness flag high. We’ll face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune all the better for having more silliness in our lives.

When was the last time you were silly?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Breaking Bad

I’ve been entirely too good lately.

It’s partly this whole teacher gig, the good wife and good daughter roles, the Miss Nicey-Nice to the point of gagging persona I seem to have unthinkingly branded myself with. I mean, I am mostly nice, but that’s not all there is to me.

What can I do that’s somewhat bad, risky, or at least a bit out of character, but not (totally) illegal?

Buy and wear a black leather miniskirt. The legs are still pretty good, especially camouflaged in tights. Do they make leather minis in a size 12 with an elastic waist?

Try some F-me high heeled pumps? Nah, I’d fall and give myself a concussion. I did see a pair of teal suede platform ones at Belk’s Department store tonight. They were so high I’d need an oxygen mask.

See if my local bailbonds-woman needs some help with FTA’s (Failure to Appears)? Thanks to HomeReared Chef and Victoria’s View, I’m addicted to Janet Evanovich’s book series about Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter (the movie just came out with Katherine Heigel as Stephanie). Besides, I’m just dying to have pink handcuffs like BadLuck Detective.

Go to ladies’ night at Shooter’s World, our local indoor shooting range. Ba-bang, bang, bang. I’ll post the video of my superior marksmanship. Just need to get my bifocal scrip updated a bit first.

Book a trip to my local zip-line excursion park. They zip you through the trees and over a waterfall. You won’t catch me skydiving, but I’m ready for the zip line. No, really. Want to come with me?

Go skinny dipping again. It’s been way too long. Need to find a heated pool. Cold water makes my heart feel like it’s going to stop.  

Order appetizer AND dessert for once. 

Learn to cuss more proficiently in Spanish.

Sing karaoke of my several of my favorite torch songs, while wearing sequins. Lots of sequins, and reclining across the top of a baby grand piano.  Or maybe I’ll lip-sync to Greg Allman’s I’m No Angel

Or ZZ top, I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide?

Cause I ain’t no angel, y’all. And I could take this nationwide.

What do you do when you break bad?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snot My Fault!: Sincerely Silly Saturdays Launch

Dear Young Sir,

Yes, you. The nicely dressed young man who repeatedly blew his nose loudly enough to stun sparrows out of the sky, setting off seismographs in nearby labs—as gently as I can, my dear man, I regret to inform you--when in public we don’t trumpet our noses at ear-spitting volume.

Far from claiming supreme knowledge of the finer points of etiquette, I admit I, too, have occasionally trumpeted in public.  Through the wisdom of my years, I have learned to confine those satisfying, proud, and productive displays of vigorous nasal strength to the privacy of my own home, car, or perhaps, in an emergency, a stall in a public restroom, or deserted woodland area (only if visibly free of vulnerable small wildlife).

I am certain you never meant to cause offense, or indeed, amusement, as you vainly tried to clear your congested passages. For your benefit, I have taken an informal survey of other witnesses to your regrettable, although enthusiastically hearty, faux-pas. Results conclusively show that:

1.       Discreet nose-blowing IS better than constant loud, wet sniffing, as noted by 94% surveyed
2.       Public nose-blows should be limited in volume to prevent hearing loss; no more than 85 dB (equivalent to a freight train @ distance of 15 meters)*
3.       Favored sinus discharge receptacles were as follows: Facial tissues (80% of respondents), toilet paper (10%), cloth handkerchiefs (5%), McDonald’s napkins (4%), other (1%). Judged not acceptable: hoodie-sleeves, shirt-tails, upholstered furniture, back of hand
4.       Sympathetic that you have a cold or allergy, bystanders agree they will gladly contribute to a fund to purchase you a generic-grade, over-the-counter antihistamine product. One observer offered to personally transport you to the nearest Walgreens.
5.       Survey participants noted although they refrained from laughter each time you trumpeted, they were sorely tested. They make no guarantee of further resistance to guffawing at any of your future nasal shout outs.

So, dear young sir, please accept this gentle lesson in the spirit of enlightenment in which it is intended. As the Russian proverb says, "There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out."

When snot is flowing, go gently with the blowing. Your tender nose, your friends, loved ones, neighbors, and any living creatures within earshot, will thank you.


The Sincerely Silly Saturday Etiquette Advisor

**With many thanks to Virginia, the Home Reared Chef, and her rousing “nose-picking post” at Her fearlessness gave me the courage to tackle this sincerely silly topic.


Friday, February 3, 2012

No-hands Spirit of Abandon

Here’s something great about Nablopomo: it compels me to notice. Driving home from work today, a motorcycle passed me on the four-lane. As it came by me, the rider put his right hand out, and I assumed he meant to move to the right, reentering the lane in front of me.

When he didn’t change lanes as I expected, I looked again. He had both arms extended. He was riding with his arms outstretched, letting the wind run through his fingers. I smiled and thought—Nablopomo worthy. Then my practical side added—he must have cruise control. And excellent balance.

Like a kid on a banana bike, he was in “look Ma, no hands!” mode. It was warm today—70 degrees. The sky was an excellent shade of Carolina blue, the road was straight, and he was having a blast. I was too, just watching him go.

So here’s to blue skies, hands-free abandon, straight roads, and noticing. Thanks, Nablopomo.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hidden Relics of a Reluctant Hero's Past

Some of you know that we lost my dad a few days before Thanksgiving. Mom and I have been going through some of Dad's belongings, and we discovered a letter Dad received in 1946. I had a strong feeling we would find medals or something related to his service in World War II. Mom had never seen this document in all the 64 years she and Dad were married. 

Like most WW II vets, Dad spoke very little of his contributions. The letter comes from his duty in Occupied Japan, where he was part of a bomb and mine disposal unit. Prior to his time in Japan, he had been in the unspeakably bloody, 35-day Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. At the time Dad received this letter, he was 20 years old.

Job well done, Dad. We miss you.

Is there a reluctant hero in your family?

Office of the Ordnance Officer
APO 301 (Kyoto, Honshu)
25 May 1946
Subject:                    Letter of Appreciation.
To:                           Charles C. Bundick, Pfc, #xxxxx,
                                United States Marine Corps.

                I wish to express my appreciation for your splendid performance of duty while engaged in disposal of explosive ordnance in Japan. During your service with units under First Corps, you assisted in the successful disposition of numerous stores of characteristically hazardous Japanese explosives and munitions, much of which was in a deteriorated and extra-sensitive condition. Your capable assistance was in many forms. You aided in the dumping of ordnance at sea, the destruction of dud U.S. high explosive and incendiary bombs, the burning of bulk explosive powders and pyrotechnics, and the classification of explosive ordnance at widely dispersed targets. Each of these was vital to the overall success of the disposal program, and your part in that task was well done.

                Your activities, marked by a ready willingness to undertake all assignments and a faithful devotion to duty, materially aided in the successful elimination of the Japanese war potential. Your excellent service has reflected the highest credit on yourself and the United States Marine Corps.

A.      G.  STONE
Colonel, Ord. Dept.
Ordnance Officer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why not?

Stress bunny. That’s me.

So why sign up for Nablopomo for February? I have a lot of smart alecky responses to that, but I’ll spare you and say I figured, “Why not?”

I’m not always a “Why not?” kind of person. But this stress and the funny, fluttery, pleasantly/unpleasantly on-edge feeling in the middle of my chest told me to do it. No, I’m not hearing voices, not yet. More of an urge, a yearning, a desire for forward motion.

I’m in transition. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how to be at peace. Did I ever know?

If I’m not at peace and stressed out, what’s one more thing like a little old commitment to Nablopomo for February? Why in the heck not blog every day for a month?

Another thought I’ll add is that I am so thankful for second chances. Remember when I posted that I was “gone fishin’” to edit my friend R. K. Ryals book, Ransom? I flaked out on her, edited a chapter or two, got the migraine from hell that lasted two weeks, and was humiliated that I hadn’t kept my commitment to her in the way I had hoped.

But she didn’t give up on me. I got it back together and started editing again this week.  

Her work is amazing, and it truly is – I’m going to get corny here—an honor to work on her book. How often in life are we able to say that? That it’s an honor to work with someone?

Although being in the presence of so much natural talent as R.K. has is daunting to me as a writer, as someone who aspires to publish my own book-length works one day, I wouldn’t miss the fantastic experience of editing Ransom, not for the world.

Thanks for giving me a second chance, for maybe the third time?, R. K. J Second chances are sometimes even better than first chances.

Here we go, month of February, month of darkness. You’re a dark month, but you’re not fooling me. There’s a minute more of daylight every day. I’ll take that.

Nablopomo: glorious madness. Let’s tear the roof off the mother sucker.