Friday, March 30, 2007

Memoria: a Continuation

As I said a couple of weeks ago, I am slowly transferring posts from my Memoria blog for the purposes of consolidation. In that first Memoria post, I explained that an email from my Uncle L.T. had fallen out of a old journal. Written almost two years before he died, he was responding to a letter I'd sent him. He had previously shared an excerpt with me from a book about one soldier's experiences in Vietnam. I must have written that the story seemed surreal to me and this is what my uncle said in response:

Yes, that story did have a surreal imagery to it, didn't it. But for me it rang true and clear. The banality and mundaneness of worrying over what you were carrying as violence and death were moments away. In the unit I was in, 101st Airborne we stayed out on longer missions. Typically we were in the bush for 3 to 4 weeks at a time. We would be light re-supplied with ammo and food every four days and then a heavy re-supply every 8 days. So you worried and fussed over ounces and keeping your rucksack as light as possible (even though it was always over a hundred lbs.) At the same time you lived with the daily possibility of firefights, ambush, and booby traps. It really was long stretches of boredom interrupted by moments of intense terror.

On one mission we had been humping the bush for days on end it seemed. It was hot, humid with the ground being marsh-like so our feet were getting in bad shape. The marsh had made the walking more difficult so everyone was tired and grumpy. We found a dry spot and took a break. I was sitting on my rucksack talking to Luther Ward who was maybe 3 feet from me sitting on his rucksack. Suddenly the right upper fourth of Luther's head exploded out splattering his blood and brains everywhere. Luther did not die immediately. Even though he was in shock he continued to gurgle and make sounds. I cut a tracheotomy on him so that he could breathe and put a field bandage on his head. He continued to gurgle and make sounds till the evacuation helicopter picked him up.

But once he was gone the banality of our existence continued as we put our rucksacks back on and walked and walked and walked. For hours that day and for days to come we walked. Extreme boredom interrupted by moments of intense terror. Word came down the next day that Ward was dead. Word came down over the radio and the news was passed up and down the line. And we walked.

That is only the second story I know of a specific event which my uncle experienced in Vietnam. I'll tell the other story another time. Both stories, however, have horrific aspects to them. He was only 19 at the time, I believe. He was this goofy guy who played practical jokes on people and liked to laugh all the time.

To imagine just sitting there when someone right next to you was killed.

To try to help that person but having to just do what you can and then move on.

To know that it could just as easily have been you.

It isn't difficult to understand that a one year tour of duty had a profound impact on his life. I think for years and years he never talked about his experiences. I believe only after he went through rehab, lost his marriage and was working on recovery that he opened up a little more about his time there. At least to me. I'm glad to know something of his experiences. It does help me understand part of what haunted him. I'm glad he shared with me. He was an incredible man--incredibly intelligent, funny, talented, flawed.

I wish we could still be sharing.

P.S. By the way, I'm kind of the queen of internet tangents... After rereading this email, I was poking around online looking up stuff on the 101st Airborne, eventually that led to a website for the Vietnam War Memorial. They have a "virtual wall" that allows you to look up names. I typed in Luther Ward and there were two entries. One died in the late 60s. But the other died on October 30, 1971. That is about the time my uncle was there. It is weird to see but at the same time almost reassuring. On that wall is a part of Uncle L.T.'s history even though his name isn't there.



March, 30 2006: A few weeks after finding that email, I was in Border's and happened across a book called The Things They Carried, a soldier's memoir of Vietnam. Because I had been writing about my uncle, I decided to buy it. As I started reading, I realized it was the book my uncle had shared with me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sunshine Scribe Wants to Know

Updated below with links to those who I interviewed.


As part of a "tag, you're it" kind of thing, Sunshine Scribe took up Mama T's offer to be interviewed and then paid it forward. So, what the heck, I took her up on the offer. I admit to being a little nervous but these questions look okay. I think I can breathe easily and jump right in...

Sunshine Scribe: What is the worst job you ever had?

Me: I had to think about this one. I've had a lot of "McJobs," but other than the monotony involved, they weren't horrible. I spent almost a year working in a sheet metal fabrication shop after high school. I answered phones, typed up invoices, took orders, etc. The only female in the immediate vicinity, I endured a lot of innuendo, whistles and questions as to whether or not I was wearing my Underalls. After doing that job for 10 months, I was ready to fling myself headlong into college life. But, just now, as I started to type, I remembered the WORST JOB EVER--babysitting a toddler. Two summers in a row, I filled in as a babysitter for a couple when their regular sitter took her vacation. I have to tell you that at 15 & 16, I was completely unprepared and too emotionally immature to handle watching a two year old from 6 am to 6 pm, M-F, for two weeks. The couple were lawyers and worked in Los Angeles, thus the long commute and work day. The money was great but I thought I would go insane. I didn't drive, so I couldn't take her to the park. There was no pool. I don't remember there being much in the way of food for me to eat. Why one year of this didn't convince to stop, there and then, I don't know. I guess the year in between dulled the memory of my wanting to run screaming from the house each and every day. Somewhere, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a woman in her late twenties, answering interview questions on her blog and typing that the worst babysitter she ever had was two consecutive summers when she was a toddler and her regular babysitter went on vacation.

Sunshine Scribe: What is your guilty pleasure?

Me: Oooh, I have so many guilty pleasures. The BBC show Coupling is one. The show has no redeeming qualities whatsoever but I laugh so hard at every episode. Naughty Mary-LUE! There are a variety of Hostess snack foods that fall into the guilty pleasure category: cupcakes, Ding Dongs, lemon pies. Chemical-filled, trans fat-laden, chaotically caloric... the nectar of the gods! I could go on and on, but I think I'll quit with Dick Francis novels. They are the reading equivalent of fluffy, pink cotton candy--so yummy and dissolves in an instant. I've read so many that I can't keep the plots straight in my mind, but that's okay because I read them over and over again. Whenever I'm bored and more serious literary offerings are not appealing, I pick my dear, sweet Francis and I know that I'll be finished with it in a couple of hours.

Sunshine Scribe: What will you be doing 10 years from now?

Me: Having completed my Master's, I'll be teaching Reading Development at the local community college, where I will be a most beloved teacher. Most. Beloved. That income will allow Paul to take a job which does not require so much traveling. Colin will be finished with his college education and (fingers crossed) be at the start of a satisfactory career. Marley will be nearing the end of high school and will NOT, I repeat, will NOT be one of the Mean Girls. We will still live in this area and will finally have a small house, decorated as much as I can manage, in an Arts and Crafts style--sort of. I will have either a Harlequin Great Dane or an Irish Wolfhound. My friends who were foolish enough to move out of the area, will have come back and all live in a one mile radius, my house being in the center. I will be completely over my fear of flying and during the summers, Paul and I will travel to parts of Canada, Ireland, England and who knows where else.

Sunshine Scribe: What do you like most about blogging?

Me: The community. Blogging keeps me company. Blogging provides a sounding board for me. Blogging brings affirmation. While I began blogging to process some grief and to get in the habit of writing, the community aspect of it does my heart good.

Sunshine Scribe: What do you like least about blogging?

Me: Two things:

1) The tendency for hot topics to be addressed ad nauseum. In What is the What by Dave Eggers, he describes a conference of Sudanese refugees in America. Each Sudanese has such a strong desire to be heard that the conference takes forever and often each person spends most of their time reiterating what someone else has already said. I think that the ability to have your own space to say whatever you want is one of the appeals of blogging but sometimes I get tired of one more post about (fill in the blank).

2) Blogging brings out a lot of my old insecurities. I don't write as well as... My ideas aren't as brilliant as... So and So never comments on my blog... It becomes a little paralyzing at times. A big struggle for me in high school and parts of college was feeling like everyone's second best friend, the person you call after your best friend tells you she's busy. (Insert the world's tiniest violin, playing just for meeeeeeeeeee!) I want to be clear that this is my struggle. This is in no way a message I get from the blogs neighborhoods I visit.

Thanks Sunshine Scribe. It's been a pleasure being interviewed by you.

(I sooooo have in my head right now a line from The Last Remake of Beau Geste where Ann-Margret tells the gentlemen in her bed: "It's been a business doing pleasure with you." That movie probably qualifies as another guilty pleasure.)


In the interest of paying it forward myself (to follow Sunshine Scribe's most excellent example), if you want to be interviewed, email me at aseveremary at pacbell dot net. I will send you questions which you can answer on your own blog. If you don't have your own blog, I will post them here, if you wish.


The few, the brave, the interviewed:

Beck
atypical

Coming soon:

Julie

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sleeping with Bread... and Saturday School Wrap Up

Saturday School Wrap Up

Well, it seems as if everyone was grossed out by the Dog Vomit Fungus--a completely unsurprising and appropriate response.

The story behind the mold:

We walked out to our front yard one afternoon and there it was. Initially it was about half the size and flatter, less spongy looking. It almost seemed as if someone had poured some sort of rubbery, liquidy stuff on the railroad ties that border our front yard. The next morning it had grown and I thought we were about to have a real life version of The Blob on our hands. I kept the kids away from it until I could figure out what it was. A few searches later, I found it. Along the way, I had a little visit to a Dungeons and Dragons web site. Not paying attention to where I was (which, if you look at the page will show you how focused I can be, to the exclusion of something so obvious), I honed in on the Yellow Mold section. "This is it!" I exclaimed to myself. "I found it." I started reading...

"Yellow Mold: This mold is pale yellow to golden orange in color. If touched roughly, it may (50% chance) emit a cloud of spores in a 10-foot radius..."

I was getting a little concerned, then outright panicked as I read the following:

"Any creature caught in this cloud..."

And then I felt foolish as I finished this sentence:

"...must roll a successful saving throw vs. fortidute (DC 20) or die."

At this point, I glanced at the top, left-hand corner of the web page and saw the DND logo. I had one of those oops-did-anyone-see-that?-no?-good! moments.

Soon, though, I was successful in my research and found that it was a harmless mold that would go away on its own. If you want to see a few more pictures which chronicle the life of our slime mold, click here.

Now, onto the real business of the day. Sleeping with Bread.

I've been feeling a little restless with my bread making lately. I think that my life has been a little busier and has interfered with my NBH (normal blogging hours). I haven't found a new rhythm yet and so I blog in fits and starts. This works okay for reading and commenting, where I can catch up on 30 some-odd posts in one or two sittings, although I wouldn't be surprised if I miss a few posts here and there. My writing has been more limited, though. Except for a my SWB posts, my other bloggy contributions have been more sporadic with less umph or creativity or something. I don't know. I'm actually missing NaBloPoMo because it strong-armed me into trying some creative things like poetry and short (short) stories. Maybe I'm just having a bloggy mid-life crisis. What is the equivalent of a trophy wife and a sports car for a blog?

Still, I'm not ready to forgo this weekly baking session. I need my spiritual bread. I might have to forgo the usual format, however.

In the last few weeks, I have had three dreams about frustration. Even as I type this, last night's dream has gone scurrying into the corner, refusing to be caught. The previous two dreams went something like this:

Dream One: I am on my way to Sam's Club with a friend. (Hi Steph!) Before we can get there, though, we have to go first to one place and then another. The day is getting away from us. I am uncomfortable because the delays are all my fault. We never get to Sam's Club. Every time I complete one errand, I realize there is another that just has to be done before my warehouse shopping can begin. I'm worried that my friend is going to get irritated with me, yada, yada, yada. I wake up.

Dream Two: I am on my way to a friend's house to give her something. Along the way, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, people just keep showing up and going with me on my trip--which really should just have been a quick five minute trip in the car. But no, my tag-a-longs keep increasing in number. We are walking. There is some major road disaster which means I have to take a detour. I get her son on the phone to tell him not to worry, I'm coming, it will just take a while. He gives me a lecture about how his mom has been so busy, why am I coming to see her now. (Oh yeah, I'm carrying a laptop computer with yards of cord. What?????) Me and my traveling posse take a detour through a small shopping center and head into a store--because for some reason, that will get us where we need to go. But no. That isn't going to work. We have to go upstairs to find our way out of the store and out a door which opens to the side of the building. To get out, we have to jump out the door onto a post, about 10 feet down which is on the top of the next building. Much hemming and hawing takes place as I hate heights. The laptop has to be handed down to someone. Finally, I jump onto the post and then the roof and it isn't horrible. As we are figuring out where to go next, I wake up.

Arghhh!!!!! Frustrating. My dream last night was similar because as I was pouring my coffee, it occurred to me that it was another can't get to where I need to be dreams. Then it scampered away and now I can't remember it at all. More frustration.

I don't know what to make of this. There are some possibilities:

The house has been a mess for ages and every time Paul and I gear up to get it under control, we are only able to get a fraction of it done.

I've had something I've been trying to do for a church project and I can't get what I need, when I need it, in order to make it happen.

My sleep apnea therapy is not going well. I have a new mask and I still struggle to get more than a couple of hour per night on the machine. Some nights I manage 3-4, but I don't know what else to do. I wake up and I've taken the mask off and turned off the machine without remembering it.

Are these things irritating enough for me to have three dreams in a week or two with that recurring theme of frustration, of simple goals not being able to be met? I don't know. But I do know that I need to spend time meditating on this. God may be trying to send me a message through my subconscious.

On the plus side, we bought laundry sorters this weekend and I love them! My sophisticated laundry system before this consisted of throwing all the laundry in a pile outside the laundry room and rooting through it for clothes we needed for the next day. There are piles of clean laundry in the dining room, one big pile of dirty laundry outside the main bathroom and Mount Everest outside the laundry room. We trotted over to Target and bought two sorters, each on wheels with three compartments. One has an overhead rod for hanging clothes. We sorted Mt. Everest and cleaned the new laundry staging area. It is intended to be a breakfast nook, but we are not breakfast nook people, so there is plenty of room for my sorters.

We folded all the clean laundry and put it away and are now in the process of washing all the clothes in the sorter so that the last pile of laundry, outside the bathroom, can then be moved and sorted. (This is all very complicated, I know. A normal person would just get their laundry done every week. But, I am not a normal person. I am a complex, multi-faceted creature who has more interesting and important things to do than wash and fold clothes. My middle name ain't Fluff and Fold.) So, I am thrilled to be able to walk from the kitchen to the bonus room without having to run the gauntlet of dirty clothes and, if I can keep caught up, I'll be able to keep six loads of laundry out of sight at any given time. It might happen.

If anyone has any insight into dream interpretation--Freudian, Jungian, whatever--let me know. I could use a little help, here. Pharoah's had his dreams and now needs Joseph to interpret them!

Don't forget to check out the other offerings from the Sleeping with Bread bakery. There are fresh goodies every week.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday School

Okay Students, our subject today is science. Who can identify this substance recently found in the front yard of a house in Southern California?

Anybody?


Anybody?


Friday, March 23, 2007

Women are Fantastic Friday



My daughter and I were looking through a pile of pictures a few days ago when I saw this one. It is my Great Aunt Carrie, my grandfather's sister. I thought she'd make a great subject for Women are Fantastic Friday. Born sometime between the late teens and early twenties, she stands out for me because she defied the conventions of her time by being a woman minister. This was a rarity in and of itself in her day, but I think it is even more astounding because she was a minister in rural Oklahoma, hardly the most forward-thinking place for a woman in those days.

Aunt Carrie was a very colorful character. In addition to being able to preach a sermon, she was known to use a divining rod to look for water--a fact I always found fascinating. Years before I had the opportunity to meet her in person, I became acquainted with some of her artistic endeavors which my grandparents had brought home with them after a visit. Chunky, bright-colored, plastic beads of assorted shapes and sizes were strung and glued together to make earrings, bracelets and necklaces. As an adult, there isn't a chance in a million I would wear one of these atrocities creations, but as a child, I loved them and wanted some for my own.

Years later, married and living in Texas, I frequently drove the four hours up to my grandparent's house in Oklahoma. There I had a chance to get to know Aunt Carrie a little better. In her late seventies, married to Uncle Buster, her second husband, she was still quite the creative soul. She might get creative in the kitchen (hot dog soup) or in her decorating. There was not one square inch of her walls that wasn't covered in something she had crafted. My favorite were the hanging beads leading to the bathroom and the ceramic cat on which she'd painted eye shadow and eye lashes. Truly, words cannot express the sight her home was to see.

One of my favorite Aunt Carrie stories shows that even in her later years, she was still willing to make a stand for equality. She had hurt her ribs somehow and was very uncomfortable. She had made herself a bowl of ice cream and went to the living room to sit down and enjoy it. Her husband expressed an interest in having a bowl of ice cream also. Although she had been a woman minister in a time when women just didn't do that, she was always a very traditional wife. And as was not unusual for a woman of her era, she waited on her husband hand and foot. I think she was quite happy to do this normally, but now, tired and in pain, she fought the status quo and told Buster, "If you want some ice cream, you're just going to have to get it yourself." I think flummoxed is an appropriate word to describe Buster when he heard those words from his wife. He sat for a moment. He got up. He walked into the kitchen. He came back--with no ice cream. He sat down. Exasperated he told her, "Well, if I have to get it myself, I just won't have any."

He never got any ice cream that day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

But enough about you...

Let's talk about me.

Daisies at pluckthepetal.com tagged EVERYBODY to do this Wikipedia-themed meme.

Here's what you do:

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your Birthday Month and day only.

  • November 26

2. List 3 Events that occurred that day.

Because Ancient Greece is cool:

  • 43 BC - The Second Triumvirate alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus ("Octavian", later "Caesar Augustus"), Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony is formed.

Because I was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1964:

  • 1789 - A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as recommended by President George Washington and approved by Congress.

In honor of my Canadian friends, bloggy or otherwise:

  • 1917 - The National Hockey League is formed, with the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas as its first teams.

3. List 2 important Birth days.

Because abolition has been on my mind after seeing the movie Amazing Grace:

  • 1792 - Sarah Grimke, American abolitionist and feminist (d. 1873) (Note from me: I'm glad she lived long enough to see the end of slavery in America.)

Because I love Snoopy... and Linus... and Charlie Brown:

  • 1922 - Charles M. Schulz, American cartoonist (d. 2000)

4. List 1 Death.

Because this was the coolest name of all the people listed who've died on my birthday:

  • 1326 - Hugh the younger Despenser, English knight (b. 1286) (I have visions of a life-sized Pez dispenser.)

5. List a Holiday or Observance. (if any)

Because I like the idea of things being proclaimed on my birthday:

  • Mongolia: Proclamation Day

6. Tag 5 other bloggers.

I tagged only "real life" friends for my last meme. Hmmmmm.... who to tag. Well, I'll start with:

Julie, The Ravin' Picture Maven
Sheila of Musings of a Mommy
Beck of Frog and Toad are Still Friends
Julie Q of Mental Tesserae
Pam of MarillaAnne.

However, I love this one so much that I think EVERYONE ought to do it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sleeping with Bread Monday (Shhh! Don't tell anyone, it's really Sunday!)

After a Daylight Savings Time-aggravated break, I'm back for my weekly baking session. Since I am driving for a field trip Monday, I'm actually posting this on Sunday night. It is a little hard to concentrate on the deep, thoughtful, spiritual task at hand, however. As I blog in bed using my husband's laptop, he is watching reruns of Ren and Stimpy. It kind of kills the vibe, you know? Oh well, I'll do my best although I'm going to keep it simple. I'm fading fast...

What was the warm, crusty, yummy part of this week?

Helping with the Fourth/Fifth grade musical putting wireless mics on the kids. This was fun because of the moms I got to hang out with while working.

Getting into a good walking groove. I logged in quite a few miles today. It feels good.

Inviting one of the girls from Marley's class to read with us one morning. She is struggling with the social aspect of school because she is younger than most of the other kids. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here. It was just good because I expected some resistance from Marley and she cooperated. Everything went well and then, coincidentally (or not), we ran into this girl at the park that same afternoon. I was concerned that Marley would be rude to her, but she included her classmate and things worked out perfectly.

The book club I meet with discussed What is the What by Dave Eggers. I highly recommend this book. I learned so much about the situation in Sudan 20 years ago, gained insight into the current situation in Darfur and was utterly moved by the story of Valentino, one of the Lost Boys who made it to America. There were very few gaps in the conversation that night.

Kymmy is coming to town! One of my sweet, sweet, friends called me to tell me she is coming to town in April from Australia. I should have one or two opportunities to see her and I'm so excited. I've written about her before. She moved in with us when she was just 18 years old. She was like a daughter to me before I had one. Now, she is married and a mommy and I am so thriled she is coming for a visit.

What was the stale, moldy, dry, crumb-y part of the week?

I was already quite clear in previous posts this week about the impact of Daylight Savings Time. I get it. I understand the advantages, but surely there has got to be a better way to adjust than just stealing away a precious hour of sleep, thus throwing off the balance of sleep for days to come? Isn't there? Can't we just jump ahead 10 minutes, once a week, for six weeks? We could make that work. I know I could! ;)

My first week since I started my "Year of Restraint" that I haven't lost weight. This was followed up by a weekend of bad food choices. Blech!

Paul was out of town from early Wednesday to late Saturday. With the whole family feeling out of sorts for various reasons, it was touch and go here some days. I managed without a major melt down but I was juggling the moods of myself and both my kids for four days and it wore me out. Having Paul's trip cut into the weekend made it even more challenging.

This post seems a little mundane, but there you have it. I'm tired, ready for bed and that is the best bread I'm going to get tonight. There are other things I could have examined but I didn't have the mental stamina necessary. Maybe next week.

As usual, other SWB posts can be found here.

P.S. I'll probably republish later with links added in.

A Message from Your Tour Guide

When Izzy finished her faaaaaabulous design of Life, the Universe and Everything, one of the last little bits we (she) added was the extra text under the blog header: Let Mary be your guide. It was truly a last minute addition but led to other tour guide-inspired touches such as "Tours Given" for how many hits this blog has had and "Guide Posts" for the get-to-know-me posts. Well, I've added a new heading in my sidebar today: This Week's Scenic View. I don't think I'll be all that legalistic about it being an actual weekly feature, but keep your eye on it and as I come across blog posts, articles, just whatever that I think are especially nice to look at, I'll point the way. I think I've had this idea brewing in the back of my head for a while now, but today, L-Girl over at So Much To Do, posted an essay by Michael Gartner about his father. It is such a lovely essay that I thought I'd share it with you. I really think you'll like the view.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Memoria

I decided to do a little bloggy reorganization today and so over the next few weeks, I will be moving posts over from my Memoria blog. When I started it, the only other blogging I was doing was, well, this first post explains it. . .

January 1, 2006

I was opening up an old journal today... It hadn't been opened in over 3 years but with the new year I felt an urge to write. I think I was influenced by a book I just finished, A God Shaped Hole. I actually didn't care for the book all that much but the main characters were writers. I think I was jealous of them and their dedication to journaling.

An old email from my Uncle L.T. fell out of the journal. It was written almost 2 years to the day before he died. As I read it, I was filled with a familiar sense of longing. . .

longing to see him
longing to talk to him
longing to talk about him with someone.

I never feel comfortable asking someone, "Hey, can you stop what you are doing and let me tell you about my dead uncle whom you've never met?"

I've been doing a family blog, updates on what we are up to, etc., and with this desire to write, I thought that I would start this blog as a place for me to go when I am missing someone and to write about them. This is intended as an outlet for me. Maybe no one will ever read it. That's okay. But I'll get it out there--share that grief and longing. I'll put it out into the aether and see what happens--internally, emotionally, in any way at all.

So, as time allows and as I find myself thinking about Uncle L.T. or Aunt Margaret, Grandma or my brother, this blog, Memoria, will be here for me.

Until then,

Mary-LUE


Memoria fulfilled its purpose for me. Over the course of a handful of posts, I wrote about a few of the people who I've lost in my life and it helped release a little of the pressure inside of me. I only told a few people about Memoria. I was afraid for others to read it. I was scared. However, it wasn't long before I wanted to write about more and Life, the Universe and Everything was born. Over the last year, I've become more comfortable with others reading my writing. I'm not scared anymore. And while Memoria wasn't the place to write about life, the universe and everything, Life, the Universe and Everything is definitely a place to share about those I wish to remember.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another Note, a Quote and an Equation




****************************************************

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

-- "Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler



****************************************************

When t equals the time change and s equals metaphorical Santa Ana winds and a equals underlying sleep apnea. Solve for the following:

t + s + 1/3a

And the answer is?

t + s = 1/3a =

Friday, March 09, 2007

Flashback Friday: a Walk Through My College Transcript

I've been telling people that I am planning on going back to school in the fall to pursue an M.S. in Education, however, that's not entirely true. I'd decided to go back to school, but until this week, I hadn't actually done any planning. Realizing that the fall would be upon me in a flash, I decided I'd better get moving. So get moving I did--literally. I walked the 15 minutes to the community college to request, in person, the first of my transcripts. I attended there so long ago, requesting them online wasn’t an option. (Has it really been almost 25 years?) One hour later, I was back at home for five minutes before hopping in the car to drive the two miles to the small, private university where I would request my second set of transcripts.

Here, because the university is so small, I was not required to pay for the transcripts and I was able to wait (about three whole minutes) to get an unofficial copy for myself. Ouch. I'd forgotten what a horrible student I was the first two and a half years of college. As I perused my mix of As, Bs and Cs, (and one D--shame on me!), I also was treated to a little slide show of memories. So, the following is probably both my debut and final curtain call of Flashback Friday. Debut because I can't resist sharing this walk through my transcript, and final curtain call because Sunshine Scribe, Alpha DogMa and I'm sure a couple of others are much more able to do it justice.

Let's set the Way Back Machine to August of 1983. I weighed a mere 109 pounds and owned a pair of Dolphin shorts and sported a full, layered, hot rollers-required do. Blue eyeliner was popular and my favorite pair of shoes were white leather shoes which looked like the pair on the cover of Joe Jackson's Look Sharp album. I'd already dropped out of community college the previous year, and after working full-time since then, I'd decided I was ready to go back to school. I convinced my wealthy father, from whom I was estranged, to pay the significant tuition and so I found myself--in a turn of events I did not come close to appreciating--attending college with my tuition and dorm residence paid in full. No student loans. I was only required to pay for the few meals my meal card didn’t cover, gas and car insurance. One part-time job at a software development company took care of that.

More interested in "experiencing" college than attending classes, I managed to fritter away my time in such a manner that I ended my first semester with one A, two B's and 2 C's. (Lest I forget to tell you, I not only took it easy in my classes, I never registered for more than 13 units. I was definitely not the driven to succeed type.) Well, don't be impressed in the slightest with the one A because it was New Student Integration and only worth one unit. A future English major, I managed a C in Grammar and Composition. (I now hang my head in shame.) Grammar and Composition was taught by a teacher who my friends and I decided had no business teaching college students. Because we were 18 & 19 years old and knew more than any other people on the planet, we felt we were making a point by sitting in the back row and making fun of her and skipping as many classes as humanly possible. Life of Christ I, the class responsible for my other C, was taught by a revered professor, required weekly Scripture memorization and commentaries (An assignment in which we were required to take copious notes on assigned verses of the Bible from the collection of Bible commentaries in the library.) If you remember how well I did as a senior in high school with mundane, repetitive work, you might guess how earnestly I did NOT apply myself to that task.

I did better in my Introduction to Psychology and Theology of Ministries classes. The psychology class was taught by a brilliant, funny professor and had multiple choice tests, so with a little reading and decent class attendance (encouraged by a TA who took an interest in me), I managed a B. I remember little about my efforts in the other class except that the teacher was eccentric and as long as you made sure to parrot back what he wanted, it wasn't too difficult to get a B.

(Don't worry. I’m not going to take you through all 63 units of my career at this college.)

As I examine my transcript for the years 1983-1985, I see a pattern emerging. A steady stream of Cs and Bs with a few As thrown in for good measure. Sadly, I can explain almost all of the As away. For example, my oral communication class. I received an A. The teacher for that class, whom we called Dr. Chins--for reasons which should be self-explanatory--had a habit of falling asleep during speeches. That's right. Nodding off, head on chest, I think he gave us the benefit of the doubt. Of course, he may just not have wanted to risk a student complaining about a bad grade. Next, there's Journalism for Publication. I was the editor-in-chief, star reporter and graphics designer for the school paper. Why? I was the only one who took the class that semester. Ah, the good old days of layout boards, typewriters and rubber cement. I got an A because the paper was published, not because I was good at publishing it.

I am actually somewhat proud of the Bs I managed: Introduction to Literature, World Civilization since 1600, American Government, Romans. These were classes with teachers I respected and subject matter which interested me. My lack-of-study-habit affected me, but I managed two papers with perfect grades of which I am proud to this day. As I peruse my Cs, the characteristic which they all have in common is lots of busy work. Now, I'm not saying it wasn't worthwhile busy work, but huge notebooks with fill-in-the-blank worksheets and weekly Scripture commentaries were too time consuming and uninteresting. I simply chose to spend my time doing other things. (See making out with Paul reference later in this post.)

In addition to my classes, I also got flashes of other memories of that time in my life. When I look at that C in Grammar and Comp., I not only remember sitting in that back row, laughing at our teacher's Pebbles-like pom-pom on top of her head, I also remember the four or five of us who hung out in those first weeks of college. I can recall the nights becoming more brisk and walking around campus laughing at anything and everything. Oh, to be that young and that arrogant, or should I say ignorant, again.

I'm also transported back to the early days of my relationship with Paul when I would be hoping to catch glimpses of him as he attended the state university across the street. Eventually, I would get to know him much better as we sometimes made out in his or my car (rarely, only rarely). I can remember talking to each other over the patio wall of my dorm room and walking on the overpass bridge which connected the two campuses.

A parade of roommates passes through my mind. Most of whom, I got along with. One, well, let's just say I don't know how I made it through one semester with her. Wait, make that two. I just remembered the girl who used to wake up at 6:00 every morning when she would proceed to turn on a particularly heinous Christian song (Powder Room Politics) with no regard to the three of us sloths who woke up just in time for our 8:00 a.m. classes. Blech! There is only one of my roommates with whom I stayed close for any length of time. We were close for many years before life, with its way of interfering, finally sent us down that road of still treasured but distant friends.

These were the years when I started creating some distance from my family for reasons I wouldn't understand until well after the birth of my son. I was always home for holidays but it was rare for me to otherwise spend a day at home. (I only lived 20 minutes away.) In December of 1985, my father presented me with a list of demands. After two and a half years of not interfering, he decided it was time to assert himself. I finished my last semester, inquired of my employer whether I could work full-time and then simply cut off contact with my father. The story is very complicated. (Aren’t they always.) I can't pretend I made all the best choices, but ultimately, I don't regret that temporary severing of ties.

I didn't return to school until after I married Paul. A couple of years older and in a stable relationship, I became a better student. My second semester at UTD, a fellow classmate and I decided to get together for lunch to discuss an upcoming assignment. Hours later, sitting over gigantic cups of coffee at The Dream Cafe, the lunch crowd long gone, I had a new friend. One that I believe I will have forever. With both of our husbands frequent travelers, we spent vast quantities of time together eating Le Petit Ecolier cookies, drinking coffee, making German pancakes, studying, eating even more food. We read and corrected each other's papers and were there for each other through a few personal crises...

But that's a story for another day. Maybe after I get my transcripts from UTD.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blog Recommendation

I read this post today and laughed (I'm horrible, I know!) and then turned reflective. Excellent writing by Julie Q of mental tesserae, a new read I came across by snooping around Em's blogroll. You know it's going to be good when you have a reference to Greek tragedy and Girl Scout cookies in the post title.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sleeping with Bread: with bloghorrea and very few commas

My mind is ajumble right now. It has been a long, but good, day. Bobby, the hamster is spinning madly around his little pink wheel, all set to ride to Nowheresville for the next eight hours. The whrrr, whrrr, whrrr of his plastic transport provides the background noise for this post. I've got something of a headache and I don't know if it is from allergies, too much sun (Yes. You read that right. It was in the low 80s today.), or low blog sugar levels. I want to watch TV, finish reading What is the What, and blog simultaneously. I know I can manage two out of three, but three out of three would probably make my already aching head explode. I'm using the laptop and a wireless connection which has already proved unreliable enough that an utterly brilliant comment was lost over at The Ravin' Picture Maven's most recent post. (The only good thing about it being lost is that I can claim it as genius and no one can prove otherwise! Hah!) So, what's a woman to do on a night like this? Ramble on like a maniac, of course. It's free form Sleeping with Bread where you take a bunch of ingredients, throw them together in the bread machine and hope it turns out all right.

First, the ingredients, in no particular order.

One viewing of Amazing Grace

One husband on a business trip from Tuesday to Sunday

One son, age 14, put on a plane as an unaccompanied minor for the first time on Friday, returned with father on Sunday

One trip to Petco to leave guinea pigs for adoption

One white-with-black eyes dwarf male hamster purchased complete with all pink Crittertrail cage, breast cancer awareness version. (Really.)

One windy two hour session at Sam's Club selling Girl Scout cookies with clingy daughter who won't speak or look at one person.

One weekend of bad food choices which virtually wipe out all floater points on Weight Watchers plan for the week

One does of further engrossment (Is that a word?) in What is the What

One trip out to the movies with sweet, thoughtful friend (See Amazing Grace above.)

One deduction of 1.5 pounds from total body weight (measured before weekend food binge)

One weekend with daughter alone

One purchase spree of too many items in one weekend for daughter

One generous dash of food for thought regarding identity crisis (see talk with thoughtful friend), purpose and calling in life (see Amazing Grace), epiphany regarding Year of Restraint (in car alone)

Mix all these ingredients together and you come up with a jumbled up, tired in a good way woman.

A woman who is thankful for her comfortable bed at 8:41 at night.

A woman who is a little sun- and wind-burnt.

A woman who was surprised at how well her daughter entertained herself at home while said daughter's brother was out of town.

A woman who cannot stand the state of her house one more week and has requested her husband take a day off this week, said day to be dedicated to the ordering of the household--no excuses.

A woman who is relieved her son's travel was without incident.

A woman who cannot get out of her head the use of the term unaccompanied minor in the book What is the What to describe these poor Sudanese boys who experienced so much over so many years and then cannot help but compare their experience to that of her son who, for a fee of $75, was literally escorted to and from the plane and handed into the hands of his father in Dallas.

A woman who's ready to watch Heroes and get lost in the world of cheerleaders who can't die, policeman who can read minds, artists who paint the future, political hopefuls who can fly, former Dr. Whos who are invisible, cute Japanese men who manipulate time and desire to fulfill their destiny to be heroes.

As always, this week's Sleeping with Bread posts will be found here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Women are Fantastic Friday: A Hole in the Fence Meme

To graduate or not to graduate, that is the question...

One day, a couple of weeks before high school graduation, my Senior English teacher called me back into her class after the bell rang. She looked me in the eye and told me quite bluntly: "Mary, you are about to NOT graduate from high school." I had begun my high school career with a high B average. Capable of more, I was never all that enthusiastic about homework, thus my semester grades would always be lowered by a few zeros in the grade books. With each year, there was more homework and more reading required and lower grades. I'm sure my teachers experienced much frustration with my performance. I eagerly joined in class discussion and almost always performed well on tests. Ask me to bring in homework, though, and you'd more than likely be left wanting.

I remember my junior year we were required to write a term paper. Each step in the process, we were to have checked off by the teacher. One Friday, I sat in class with my note cards, outline and rough draft. My teacher was going to check off all three the same day. My comparison of Dick Diver from Tender is the Night and Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby was due the following Monday. It was now or never. Before Mrs. G. could place those three little check marks in her grade book, a voice came over the loud speaker announcing a bomb threat. We were to evacuate the room immediately and convene on the football field. We weren't supposed to take the time to gather our things, just get out of class. NOW. IT'S A BOMB THREAT. I was hustling my little self out of there as quickly as possible when my teacher called out to me: "Mary! Grab your work!" Apparently there are some things worth risking life and limb and my term paper research was one of them! There was no bomb. The students of our school were quite safe and my term paper was turned in the following Monday.

The first semester of my senior year, I had a consumer math class. I believe these classes have been phased out, but I spent a semester learning how to balance a checkbook, file a tax return and amortize an entire 30 year mortgage. Of course, me being me, I didn't turn in my loan calculations. BORING! I was graced with an F+. F+? Is that even possible? The teacher, Mr. B., decided to give me that most unusual grade so that I could make up my work the next semester in night school. (Yes. That is how old I am. We had night school classes available for high school students. We had driver's ed, too.) All I had to do was complete the missing loan assignment and I would be done. So, for a few weeks, with much resentment in my less than rational teenage heart, I calculated the interest, added it to the principle, subtracted the payment--over and over again--30 years worth.

So now, I found myself looking at Mrs. A. and at a loss for how to respond to her declaration: "Mary! You are about to NOT graduate from high school." To be honest, I don't remember everything that happened during that conversation. I have vague memories of stomach pain, rows of zeros in the grade book and some sort of understanding of what work I would need to complete in order to pass her class. Cut to graduation day. I had managed to fulfill all my graduation requirements. The tradition at my high school was for all the graduates to walk to their seats with the teachers lined up on either side of them at the entrance to the stadium. As I passed Mrs. A., she grabbed my hand and shook it, exclaiming, "You did it!"

I credit Mrs. A. with throwing the metaphorical glass of cold water on my face which I needed to wake up to my situation. She was an excellent teacher and I realize that she always saw my potential. She encouraged me to take the AP English exam. I refused because I was angry that I was being asked to take the test when they wouldn't allow me to register for the AP class. Now, I can look back and appreciate that she thought I had a chance of passing the test even without the preparation I would have received in the class. Sadly, I think that kind of encouragement was so foreign to me; I didn't know what to do with it. I was trapped in my "Can't Do" attitude.

Today, on Women are Fantastic Friday, I'd like to give a virtual toast to Mrs. A. A teacher who cared. Thank you, from the bottom of my high school diploma holding heart!


(I hated this picture of me in the yearbook. I had too much foundation on and not enough of any other kind of make up so my face washed out completely. My hair needed to be cut and so my bangs did this flippy thing. Ugh! I did have better photos taken to pass out to my friends but was stuck with this one for the yearbook.)








Women are Fantastic Friday is hosted by Sophie at A Hole in the Fence.



I did it! Have you?