Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santa, Daycare, and Bandaids

After high school, I took a year off to work full time. I was burned out from pushing myself too hard and stretching myself too thinly. I envisioned the time being spent earning money as I decided what I wanted to major in during my college years, thus influencing what institution I would choose to attend.

In that time (after a blink of an eye spent as a nanny), I worked at a daycare. 'Worked' may not be entirely accurate to categorize what I did there. I went swimming, taught children how to create a sand village complete with volcanoes and tattoo parlors, painted fingernails, drew pictures, transformed into a bear or the hot-lava monster, built a fort, ventured on walks, flew kites, read books, went sledding, comforted hurt or crying children, and braided hair.

It was a great year. I know some people were worried I was about to waste my life and become content 'just working at a daycare,' not going to college. And in fact I might have dispelled some stereotypes I harbored in my mind about those who didn't get further education.

In the end, I was refreshed when I started college, unlike some of my freshman peers who wasted a semester or two because they weren't mature enough to make the transition. While I don't believe everyone needs a year break, I still recommend time off before college for those just at the end of their ropes.

At the daycare, I worked primarily with the preschool-aged children, although I was a floater when a quick substitute was needed in the baby or toddler rooms.

At Christmas time, Santa graced us with his presence. He took the children on his lap as they were awed almost to silence. They quietly whispered their requests to this full-bearded, obese man with the limited wardrobe. Until one three-year-old came along. Santa asked what he wanted for Christmas. The young boy earnestly answered, "Scotch tape!"

After the holidays I was to learn that Santa was good to him that year, and even saw fit to give him more than transparent adhesive.

I must admit, this episode caused me to identify this unassuming boy as a kindred spirit of mine. For when I was around his age, all I wanted was bandaids for my birthday. Once received, I was able to give tender ministrations to my Cabbage Patch doll and anything else that was so unfortunate to cross paths with me while I was trying to expand my practice.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"I hope she isn't going to go from NaNoWriMo to the Cat Lady"

Little Augustine has developed a questionable trade.

At night, she will quietly have the run of our home. Yes, this little creature will leave us alone all night long, perhaps batting around her toys or trying to scale our Christmas tree--I can't speak definitively about her actions, as I'm sleeping. But these tendencies have been duly noted in daytime hours, so there is credibility.

This innocent little feline will make nary a move to disturb her owners while the moon reigns. At most, she will cuddle near our feet, luxuriating in the feel of our down alternative comforter. And who could blame her, as she especially appreciates it's hypoallergenic qualities.

But then her diurnal clock wakes her sometime around 5:30 to 6:30 AM, and she thinks we need to wake up. I'm sorry; not we, just me. At this unfortunate time, she will approach my side of the bed, crouch under my bedside table, and begin scratching at the fitted sheet. Not something I can ignore.

So what is my reaction? Do I appreciate this furry alarm clock, shut off my more abrasive back-up and jump out of bed refreshed, glad to have the leisure to enjoy coffee before work? No. I drag myself out of bed after having muttered her name disgustedly, somehow dig up that scoundrel (who by now has sensed my irritation and snuck under my bed), carry her to the doorway, and let her relocate to the hallway while I shut off access to our bedroom. And now that I have moved around the room, even fished under my bed in the dark, do I stay up? No. I crawl back under warm, downy goodness. All for five minutes of peace (five minutes that I can't actually sleep because of all that blood-moving activity). You'd think I wouldn't mind staying up. So what if I got up at 6:30? After all, while teaching in Minnesota, I had to be on the road by 6:30 AM to commute to my district. Those of you thinking I'm foolish for crawling back into bed, that I should just appreciate the quiet solitude of my house in the morning, are probably right. But you have no idea how hard it is to resist the call of wanna-be down.

So in the altered words of her namesake, "Lord, give my owners the ability to wake peacefully, but not yet."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Month's Close

I imagine eventually my posts will return to non-NaNoWriMo content, but as it is November 30, I must conclude with a final post.

I met the goal of writing over 50,000 words. To be clear, I ended the month with 56,588 words. That translates to roughly 200 pages. It is still [Untitled]. When I allow people to read it, it will likely still be [Untitled], and I will need them to offer suggestions.

I still have some writing in me on this topic, a couple last things to add during my lunch breaks, but for now, until I tackle editing, I'm satisfied. There are passages that are clunky because I needed to make myself write every day, but then there were passages that pleased me in their orchestration.

I haven't read it in its entirety; the goal of the month is quantity. Perhaps this weekend I will do so--print out a nice fat copy and settle in at Starbucks as I brave the snow they tell me is coming. No matter, let it fall around me, as long as I have a steamy cup of chai to help stave off the cold!

In a spontaneous moment (let me emphasize that spontaneity is not easily happened upon when two indecisive people wed), Eric suggested we head to the theater after dinner for a movie. The selection? Stranger than Fiction. Not widely promoted, at least in my recollection, but a clever premise. We were both gratified with the execution [Look! Without even trying to deliberately do so, I referenced a word central to my last post. I know you're all tickled with this feat as well.]

Indeed, it seemed an appropriate way to end a writing endeavor. A tale of an author and her protagonist. Many light moments also try to raise some interesting questions. I came away with thoughts on an author's responsibilities, and my philosopher is contemplating questions of compatibalism/free will and whether we have moral responsibilities beyond self preservation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Even Universities Offer Amusing Quips

First, let me encourage you to continue to email me any memories or thoughts you have on Jon for my NaNoWriMo endeavor. Even should I reach 50,000 words before you write me, or even if you don't get around to penning your thoughts until after the month has ended, I would appreciate reading and including them nonetheless. Now I hereby end this digression.

When preparing an examination for a professor, I saw this line on the front page, which appears in some format on every university midterm:
I understand that I must comply to the university's honor code when executing this examination.

I approve of the use of the verb "executing" in this sentence, as very few use it in this classy fashion. I do, however, find my mind wandering to the more popular meaning of capital punishment.

Humor me and consider the implications if we take the above statement to be using the latter definition. Especially since I imagine the students taking the exam would prefer to decimate the paper page by page instead of actually follow through with the request to conduct the exam question by question.

Does "executing" in accordance to a code have something to do with the Geneva Convention? Perhaps there are stipulations guarding the rights of the paper. But we are, after all, still allowing an execution to take place, as long as proper respect is paid. Perhaps it is okay to shred and tear, whereas slowly rubbing your eraser to produce holes is seen as cruel and unusual punishment.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Friends, Iowans, and Kin: Lend Me Your Stories

I am furiously writing for NaNoWriMo, and if you take a look at the counter in the right margin, you can see how I am doing on any given day towards reaching the 50,000 word goal.

I'm not sure it would be feasible if I were still teaching or if I had children. Having a one-hour lunch is such a luxury during this time, and even while not writing the whole time, I can often get in about 1,000 words. And then I retreat home or venture out in the evenings to get in a few more hundred words. Eric is supporting this undertaking by offering Panera gift cards, which I find impossible to refuse.

What is my topic? Well, I suppose I am cheating by not doing a novel per se. But I am attempting to do something in the vein of Joan Didion's
A Year of Magical Thinking or C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. In that realm, I am reflecting on Jon's life and death and the changes I have gone through. I've dug up some of my writing from the last few years to remind me of the emotions and events that have already become hazy with time so that I can include them.

How can you help me reach my final wordcount? Share your stories. My memories of Jon are limited. What are your favorite memories of him? Any special anecdotes or conversations? How did you reconcile his death? How have your emotions evolved over time? What brings him suddenly to mind? Anything you want to share I want to read. Go ahead and email me with them. I certainly wasn't privy to everything Jon did, so as minor as your memories might seem, they will still be something I would appreciate.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween, Complete with Hair-Raising Felines

As new homeowners, Eric and I dutifully purchased some candy to distribute to greedy little urchins who might happen by. I say greedy because when you come with pillowcases to someone's door, you're just aiming too high. I worried they'd try to muscle past me in search of better items, should they find my candy offering unacceptable (perhaps our crystal candlesticks from our wedding). And to be honest, I'm less inclined to think you deserve more than one piece of candy when your pillowcase is already pretty hefty.

We soon came to learn that our cat is anything but fond of the visitors who found themselves on our front steps. We didn't even have to keep an eye peeled for prospective visitors; Augustine's arched back, extended fur, and loud hissing were enough to alert us. I guess she may have just been living up to the requirements of being a predominantly black cat on a late-October evening?

Since I was going to go stir crazy just sitting in a chair anticipating visitors, Eric and I settled in to a Scrabble game in between bouts of hair-raising felines. As a quick aside, while Eric was trying to comfort Augustine during a visit of goblins, one school-age girl commented, "That's a pretty little puppy you have." I restrained my desire to correct, but then she began giggling in embarrassment as she looked a little closer and made the verbal pronouncement that it was, indeed, not a puppy but a cat.

And our Scrabble game? That I effortlessly won. To be truthful, I did win, but it wasn't quite effortless. And Eric probably trounced me for creativity. My favorite quote from his lips last night was, "Wow. We had some pretty good words on the board tonight: varies, rejects, hotter, prawns, loonie." And all but the first were of his own doing. Rascal.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Confounding Thing Happened on the Way to the College

I have been driving over a decade. Since Americans are scared to actually get on a bike to pedal and fearful of our feet doing too much repetitive motion on concrete sidewalks, many of us have spent more hours than necessary driving.

I have driven in numerous cities and states. I have been in the presence of my husband as he drove around in numerous cities and states. And I have seen my share of impatient drivers. Chicago. Minneapolis. And let's not forget the bustling metropolis that is Roland. And yet, South Bend isn't willing to settle for bronze. She has tried to rival the best of them in her enigmatic antics, but what I saw this week certainly takes the award for unnecessary and unfruitful impatience.

I had made the decision to run home for lunch and was then returning to work while I was stopped at a red light. This particular intersection is a reasonably busy one in town, and I happened to be in the right lane with quite a few other commuters, as my right turn was coming up in a block. The left lane was nearly empty in comparison. Our green turn arrow was finishing up its cycle, and at most we were ten seconds away from resuming forward motion.

Cars were crowded bumper to bumper in front of me, inching closer in anticipation. Being the defensive driver who needs her personal space, I opted to wait to advance instead of pulling up to fill the recently vacated car-length space, only to have to come once again to a stop.

Suddenly, someone two cars behind me pulls out into the left lane. I imagine she likes the idea of space as well and wants to have a head start on the others by sidling up to them in the left lane. No. Not even close. Instead, she slinks around us, only to angle her car directly in front of me. And stop. For all of two seconds, until we received the green light.

Never before have I been passed at a red light. I will never understand what drives someone to such lengths. South Bend may be busy traffic-wise on home-game Saturdays (which this wasn't, being a Wednesday and all), but as a general rule, two car-lengths does not constitute an intelligible difference.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Catching Up With Unfortunate Events

I'm indulging in some young-adult literature again. This is what comes from having been an English teacher; you accrue a wide variety of novels, often unread for a season.

This summer I read the first ten books in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The premise surrounds three children who have lost their parents in a fire at the start of the first book. They are shuttled from distant relative to distant relative, all while one Count Olaf is trying to kill them for their fortune. The books are dark and ironic and even with all the treachery, the three siblings rise up to the occasion and outsmart their opponent through using any combination of their respective talents, only to face another daunting experience in the next installment.

As the series by Snicket (or rather, Daniel Handler) evolved, I've grown to enjoy the books more. They seem more nuanced and clever and not nearly as formulaic. Lemony Snicket has even been developing a mystery through the course of the books. And don't even get me started on his morbid dedications. Each one is to a mysterious Beatrice, whose presence has been hinted at in the book but not fully disclosed. It started with:
For Beatrice--
darling, dearest, dead.
Another was:
For Beatrice--
When we were together, I felt breathless.
Now, you are.
And the last one I will share:
For Beatrice--
No one could extinquish my love,
or your house.

Should you like to delve into the world of the author or his pseudonym, you can read some interviews conducted with him (or is it them? It's all very quite confusing).

The thirteenth and final book just came out this week (aptly titled The End), so I've returned to reading with The Grim Grotto (Book the Eleventh). To give you an idea of the writing style, I will share one of the sentences I encountered tonight:
A short woman might be difficult to see on a crowded city street, particularly if she has disguised herself as a mailbox, and people keep putting letters in her mouth.
I've completely wronged you by not giving proper context, but such is life. I trust this was not the most erroneous thing done to you today. And if it was, you're not doing too badly.

I will close with another quotation to whet your appetite. Here is one from The Miserable Mill, an earlier book in the series:
If an optimist has his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say, "Well, this isn't too bad. I don't have my left arm anymore, but at least nobody will ever ask me whether I am right-handed or left-handed," but most of us would say something more along the lines of "Aaaaah! My arm! My arm!"

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Family Misunderstanding, or How Feuds are Started

While at a movie a couple weeks ago, we appropriately had our phones on silent. Eric missed a call from his young nephew who, when his mom dialed the number, insisted on getting the phone immediately after. He was interested in listening to it ring and then asking us about our kitten. Alas, the voicemail came on: "You've reached Eric and Faith. We can't come to the phone right now...."

Later, when Eric listened to his message, he heard his four-year-old nephew's mournful voice: "He hung up on me!"

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One Year Anniversary of a Buick Century's Passing

One year ago today was a momentous event. There I was, driving along a highway early one Saturday morning. Normally, a teacher would have been better suited to being at home, snug in her bed on such a day, but I had graciously given up my slumber to proctor the SAT at the high school in my district. Little did I know that evil was afoot.

There were few cars on the road, typical of an early Saturday morning in the Cities. I was in the right-hand lane, only a few miles from home, when I noticed a semi barreling down at a fast speed in the left lane (here you can imagine ominous music for the soundtrack, slowly building in intensity). He passed me, but as we were nearing an intersection that had just turned green, he was forced to substantially slow down for someone coming from a stop right in front of him. My lane was empty, so I was coming upon him again, thus passing him on the right. I decided I didn't want to stick around in his blind spot for long since I knew he wouldn't be very patient behind a slow car. Few drivers are.

Right when I was nearly parallel with his cab, I suddenly found myself screaming as my car lost control -- he had turned right into it at 60 mph. If you know me, you know I am not typically a screamer. So much so that when I was in a dinner theater a few years back and was forced to scream from offstage on command, I was unable to do so and someone else did it for me. But that day I became a master screamer! I rivaled the ring wraiths from Lord of the Rings in piercing quality and shrillness. The semi scratched along my left side and since he hit my front left side, he set me into a spin. The only thought going through my mind, as my scream filled my car and my frozen arms gripped the wheel, was that I hoped he wouldn't throw me into traffic, as I could no longer control my car from the damage it had sustained.

After a nice spin or two, I landed miraculously in the median of our four-lane highway. There was just enough grass for my car to rest in the median. Just ahead of my car was a sign I missed by a couple feet. And then the median widened and dipped, so I would have been more likely to roll. Just before where I landed, there's just a small median of concrete, and if I would have been thrown there, I could have been in oncoming traffic.

So I found myself in the midst of my first car accident. As soon as I realized my car was at rest and I was no longer in immediate danger, I reached for my purse and grabbed my phone to call Eric. I was shaking noticeably as he picked up, suspecting nothing. He answered with a delighted, "Oh, my baby is calling to talk to me!", whereas I could barely wait for him to finish to blurt out, "Eric, I've just been in a car accident. A semi hit me. I'm fine, but you have to find someone's number so they knows I'm not going to be there on time!" While he said he admired my dedication to my job, he was confused why shock didn't keep me from being responsible.

Fortunately my door opened enough for me to get out, and my body, other than some bruises, had sustained little damage. I have been receiving continuing treatment for my back since then, as it was sprained from the impact. When there are days where I'm tired and worn and my back is especially acting up, I just remember the accident and how favorable it was to me. And my back is getting steadily better, so those self-pitying thoughts are further and further apart.

The semi driver had pulled over down the road. Our only interaction after the accident was when he walked over to gruffly ask, "Where are we at?" so he could relay it to the person on the other end of the phone call, presumably the police.

The police officer arrived and took my account first, then took an unusually long time to talk with the semi driver. The driver, 24 years old, corroborated my story, admitting he just hadn't seen me there. Unfortunately for the driver, while he did have insurance, he didn't have a license. From the officer's account, it wasn't clear whether it had lapsed or if he didn't have the proper license for the rig he was driving, but we were told that was of no concern to us. We were allowed to go after about an hour, while the other driver was in the back of the patrol car; there was no way they were going to allow him to drive without a license. He had been transporting cattle, so the officer was slightly at a loss how long it would take to track down someone qualified to drive the truck to its destination. For good measure, he was going to test the driver for substances to ensure it was simply human error, and not an intoxicated or drug-influenced accident.

Our car was totaled and counted as a loss. There was some nostalgia as I parted with that car, but she served us well in the time we had it. After all, she protected me to the end. Since every car needs a nickname, our Buick Century had been My Precious, in homage to Tolkien and his literary tome. It seemed appropriate that in the end, it had to be destroyed so that I could go on.

And lest you think my Century was poorly made, I'll have you know that, according to the police report, while my car received 'severe' damage, the semi sustained 'moderate.' That's right. I didn't mess around with any small vehicle for my first accident, and My Precious packed a wallop in her death throes.

My father-in-law's birthday is today as well. One year ago, in response to the accident, he said, "The best birthday present I could have gotten today was Faith being okay." After all, not too many people get to tangle with a semi and then walk away.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Literary Pretensions

I recently learned about an annual activity called NaNoWriMo by its followers. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. In 1999 came its inception. The premise? Write at least 50,000 words in one month's time. This constituted the size of a shorter novel, in the league of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

The tongue-in-cheek responses to the FAQ won me over. This year in November, I aim to start with the swarm of others. Do I have an idea what I will write about yet? Nope. But I choose to believe Ray Bradbury's philosophy will work: "Your intuition knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way."

In preparation, I broke in Interlibrary Loan here in South Bend to scrounge up a copy of No Plot? No Problem!: A low-stress, high velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days. The creator of NaNoWriMo penned this book to guide us through the experience. I feel much as I did preparing for my first RAGBRAI, where I read everything the Des Moines Register had on conditioning for the event. As well as readying Chris Baty's book, I found myself browsing the forums; one was analyzing the merits of various typefaces.

Will I finish the month with a rough draft? I'm not sure. I would certainly have the time to accomplish this (Baty claims the average individual needs 55 hours to do so). We'll see if the drive holds out. I wasn't sure this blog would be around past the first couple months, but it seems to want to stick around a while longer.

So come November, send author-ish vibes my way. I will try to frequent coffeeshops and libraries so I can get in the literary groove. Perhaps you want to join me in this challenge?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Impressions

At work, I've been working on catching up on emails sent to our department account. It had been forgotten since October 2005, leaving me with 844 messages (not including the spam in quarantine).

Many of the messages were prospective graduate students just asking questions or requesting information for our department. Come springtime, the questions became, "Did you receive all of my materials?" and "What's the status of my application?" One amusing international student, becoming frustrated with no reply, began sending the same message at frequent intervals. Once he became especially desperate and we received his message once per minute. I imagine him home late at night, disgruntled with us, pounding the Send button over and over. (I must add, though, I felt guilty many of these waited without receiving a response, which is not professional, but seeing as how I wasn't responsible for the lapse, I'm trying to find some humor in the work.)

I faced this daunting task and have now caught up with all the messages that needed attention. However, I must mention that, although I may just be a conduit for these messages, there's no way anyone addressing messages to that address knows it's me versus the director of graduate students or the chair of the department. This is why I was surprised to read the following message:

To whom it may concern

I was wondering if i coudl get some information on your biology
programs. I am requesting this so i can make a decision on where i hsould attend for graduate studies.

[Name withheld to protect him from humiliation and justified censure]

I recognize it sure can be tricky to hold down Shift as well as press another key in order to create a capital letter. And have you ever actually tried to run spellcheck or glance through your message before relegating it to your Outbox? Because that is just tiresome. But when you're hoping to be a potential graduate student in a prominent university known for their strong academic tradition, shouldn't you make the effort?

In short, I responded, but he's fortunate that I don't make the admission decisions. Let's hope, if he does apply, he puts a little more thought into his application. And that this message was not characteristic of his work, instead being written under the influence of cold medicine.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You Are Hereby Summarily Rejected...

Today I opened a business letter addressed to me only to read the following:
The University is currently working with new systems and as a result you may have received a [rejection] letter for a position that you did not apply for. Please accept our apology for any inconvenience.

Yes, this happened last week. I questioned the validity of the dismissal, as I was fairly confident that I had not applied for the position of one Camps/Facilities Internship. Nevertheless, I deftly stomached the rejection, as long as it took me to cover the distance to the recycle bin.

I must say, it's a harsh world where I am being rejected for jobs that I haven't even applied for. It's fortunate for everyone involved that I'm already gainfully employed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We Decided to Start Our Family...

by getting a kitten. My family has had fun teasing friends who are anticipating our eventual babies by saying, "Eric and Faith are expecting ... to get a kitten!" Yes, this is cruel, but entertainment is scarce.

We like to give credit (or blame) to New Lawyer Chad who adopted an adorable kitten and sent us a picture. After a weekend visit to the shelter, we found Augustine. [For all of you who don't know the proper pronunciation, put the emphasis on the second syllable so that it will rhyme with the word sin, and not the butchered Americanized version that rhymes with the name Christine.] Our cat happens to be female, but she is well qualified to sport the namesake of a saint. That, and it was with much weeping and gnashing of teeth that we settled on the name in the first place, and we aren't about to go through that anguish again until I'm wearing maternity clothes.

As an aside, the shelter was a depressing experience. The smell of unchanged litterboxes left until closing time filled the air and the dogs kept up a constant racket. It made you feel shallow for choosing a young kitten when there were so many adult cats that would probably know little else than the shelter. Most cats would crowd the front of their cages when you neared, and while we knew we weren't adopting them, we felt obligated to give some affection. Guilt gets us every time. So to alleviate this feeling and to allow me to sleep through the night, go to a shelter and adopt a pet. Or seven.

When I returned from work today, Eric had brought her home and was acclimating Augustine to her surroundings. She loved the space, and we're even limiting her to our finished basement and utility room for now. She entertains us with her convulsions as she tries to attack her tail or anything else that flicks around a little too quickly. I must admit that I'm loving her constant purring. It's pleasant to have a scittering little creature around the house again (any possible mice looking for future tenancy are hereafter excepted).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Difference Between Men and Women

Two likely responses to the question, "How was your day today?"

Female Response
It was nonstop, but I enjoyed it. I photocopied midterms for several classes and graded those that the professors dropped off, creating question analyses for each exam. I updated the department webpage with upcoming seminars and publications. I helped sort mail. Someone wanted to FedEx some fish and another wanted the protocol for sending two gallons of ethanol -- it was too much of a hassle, with all the biohazard fees and special packaging, so they nixed the idea. Phone calls were transferred to the proper people, with only a couple lost when things got tricky. We came up with a better presentation format for the graduate pictures and started incorporating the changes. I billed grants for necessary funds. Then I created a poster for a lecture series next month; I'm especially proud of the background. I also made a call to figure out how to set up my voicemail. Some graduate forms were processed for students who are ready to defend their dissertation or who need to be admitted to candidacy. Then I collected the necessary signatures. When I had a chance, I gathered some information for a report that needed to be processed. Then it was time to head home.

Male Response
My day was fine.

Fortune Cookie

For my birthday last week, we sampled a nearby Chinese restaurant. Eric and I were both amused by our fortune cookies. Since he's written about his, I thought I would share mine as well:

"Faith is the key to finding the answer you're looking for."

It seems appropriate when you consider my job. After two weeks as a graduate administrative assistant, I've already volleyed countless requests.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Notre Dame Football, or A Way of Life

Notre Dame Football.

Honestly, I think it's a cult here in South Bend. People without question buy "The Shirt" for the year and faithfully wear it at gatherings as they gesture in unison. Look around you in the stands at any given moment, and you will see every member gesticulating as one. "They" snare new members as the youngest ones enter the university, even getting them to fork over money with the lure of standing on a narrow bench for hours on end. The weather is questionable during these services, and yet they still manage to woo them with the guise of student-priced season tickets.

Then, at certain moments in the program, the members respond in thanksgiving by lifting up chosen ones from among them and raising them up to the heavens, symbolically elevating and lowering them repeatedly. Those nearby chant numbers to participate in this ceremony. It is not clear to those outside the fold who or what entity is the focus: perhaps the pseudo-deity floating above by some unknown force, known by the moniker Goodyear Blimp. These actions also appear to correspond to the movements of several men cavorting on the grass below as well as the views of men dressed much like their zebra brethren. A deliberate homage?

Then, at the close of this spectacle, all congregate at key sections of the manicured lawn to link arms and sway in unison while a tune with special hold over the members is played, mesmerizing them. Quite an experience. Yours truly may be yet captured in their fold, as my husband already appears to be falling under the spell, and I fear he may break down my spirit.

Friday, September 08, 2006

School Memories: Decisions, Part Two

Yesterday I set up the context for today's reflection from my time spent teaching. If you didn't see Part One, you really ought to read it first.

When I entered that teaching job, I was able to borrow heavily from other colleagues. Since they had established curriculum, I thought that was the best place to start, and I could tweak as necessary. In my course for seniors, the format had them begin by writing an essay entitled, "What I Wish." I gave them little guidance other than to give me an essay fulfilling that topic. Some students chose to be flippant whereas others approached the topic earnestly. Whatever the tone of the essay, I was able to learn more about my students and gauge their writing strengths and weaknesses. From there, we could delve however deeply into the nuances of formal writing.

Once we reached the end of our semester together and began reading Staggerford together, students were able to connect with the text as Hassler included excerpts from the essays as Miles Pruitt graded them.

However, before that point, I had an opportunity to face a similar crisis as I shared in the excerpt yesterday. One student of mine chose as her topic her broken family. Her wish was that her brother would return home and that he would stop his deception; that she could turn back time and save her brother from being faced with parenthood and supporting his pregnant girlfriend when he had no steady employment.

The girl wrote well, so I wasn't faced with the dilemma of correcting her grammar or style, but I sat transfixed, deliberating as to what I should write for comments. The raw emotion in her paper had me riveted, and being the mediator that I am, I wished I could solve the problem. But how could I share with her that I empathized? After all, I barely knew my students, it was the start of the year. What would be appropriate?

I decided to be honest with her. I wrote that I appreciated her frankness, and that while the situations weren't identical, I had gone through a family situation that wasn't altogether different. Our family wrestled with the best way to support my sister in the midst of her decisions, and in the end, she matured so much through the experience and I had a new closeness with her. I wished a similar fate to my student's situation.

After no follow-up from the student, I soon forgot my comment and her what her response to it might have been. Then October came around, and I was conducting conferences with parents in the cafeteria, converted to accomodate meetings between all the teachers and parents. While meeting with this girl's mother, we discussed the routine information, the daughter's grade sheet before us.

Towards the end of the conference, the mother brought up the "What I Wish" essay: "My daughter came home from school the day you returned those essays, and she said, 'Mom, you have to read what my teacher wrote on my paper.' We both were so touched. That meant so much to her. Thank you for doing that. Can I ask you more about your experience?"

We shared the experiences we had in common, both of us blinking back tears. I relived the uncertainty of that time in our family and the eventual transformation in my sister, and her eyes and words betrayed the anguish she was facing daily. She took comfort in the hope that her situation could improve, and that reconciliation could come in time.

As our conference ended and I collected myself for the next one, I was gratified that I had followed through on my instincts. What had my comments actually done? The brother hadn't returned home, the family was still dealing with the brokenness. But in being transparent, I shared my experience and perhaps gave a measure of hope. That I wrote something personal meant something to the student, so much so that this girl showed her essay to her mother, wanting to pass on the hope that though things be hard now, they could change.

That was one of my prouder moments in teaching.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

School Memories: Decisions, Part One

I recognize, for lack of anything better to write about, I have been posting reminiscent stories from my time spent teaching. But as the blog address claims to be a fount of "introvert reflections," I don't feel this is against my purpose.

While teaching a class preparing seniors for the rigorous reading and writing demands of college, I would end the semester with the novel Staggerford, by Jon Hassler. This was a pleasant way to end our time together, but it also allowed us to work in a seminar format with the novel.

Before this particular teaching job, I had previously been unfamiliar with the work (and the author, for that matter), but as I learned quickly in my tenure in Minnesota, we embrace Minnesotan authors.

Opinion was split on the book. I loved it from the beginning. The story chronicles a week in the life of one Miles Pruitt, a disillusioned English teacher. It starts out slow, which caused some seniors to reject it as a poor literary example, but I see it as a deliberate ploy to make the readers experience the same monotony and frustration that Miles has lived. The plot intricately escalates to an unexpected turn of events, but that's all the teaser I will give.

As far as the connection I wanted to share, I must relate that Miles has been grading essays, and he stumbles upon one from Beverly Bingham, another key character. The topic for the essay is "What I Wish," and Beverly ends hers this way:
I will only say this: How would you like to have a mother on your hands who's a little more deranged every day? How would you like to be known as the Bonewoman's daughter? How would you like to live in a dump? So there's a lot of things I wish. I wish my dad had had a normal sort of life and I wish my mother was normal and I wish I knew where my sister was and I wish I lived in a house where the birds didn't fly around upstairs and I wish I knew what was going to happen to me in the future. Please help me, Mr. Pruitt.

And this is where I feel my heart ache. What would I do in such a situation, when a student reaches out and drops her guard and pours out her innermost thoughts, wanting resolution? What do you say? How do you get her the needed help without embarrassing her once she realizes what she wrote in haste?

Miles Pruitt struggles with what he should write in return, as he doesn't want this student-teacher relationship to become any more awkward and familiar than has been occurring. Yet, he wants to help Beverly in this genuine cry of desperation.

Finally he comes to a conclusion:
He must guard against becoming anything more than her English teacher. At the top of her paper he wrote, "This should be more than one paragraph."

Ouch. I get deflated even now, even when I have read this book several times. I wish I could alter his choice and instead encourage him to go with his initial instincts and offer aid, passing on the names and numbers of people to contact.

So how exactly does this tie in to my actual classroom? As this has already turned into a lengthy post, I will save the heart of this reflection until tomorrow, when I will wrap it up with a more direct connection. O the anticipation!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wherein We Learn What Awaits our Heroine: Continued Vacation, or a New Vocation?

I somehow made it through the weekend, filling my time with books and craftiness (craftiness defined as the obsolete meaning dexterous and not the current underhanded).

Keeping distracted was no small feat when you consider a certain husband of mine still had class on Labor Day, so our schedule didn't vary for the holiday. I nevertheless maintained a semblance of routine even though I knew today would force me to a decision: either delightful news of employment or the dreadful task of beginning the search anew with few prospects in sight.

Today arrived and I began willing the phone to ring. Apparently my efforts were misplaced, as my cell phone, previously the receptor of calls, remained silent, but our infrequently used landline brought closure to my job search.

I was kindly offered gainful employment, helping to manage graduate students in a science department. Naturally, I graciously accepted. Yes, as of next Monday, pending the results of my background check and my first "hair sample" drug screening, I will begin working alongside another as she finishes her tenure and I begin mine.

I must say I will anticipate the end to my leisure. I enjoy vacations, but I struggled staying content when I didn't know when the end would come. I'm afraid this issue will haunt me when I am faced with retirement; I will either never retire or be someone extensively involved with volunteering when I do so.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I had three interviews in the span of three business days, all at different community colleges or universities in South Bend.

The first interview was the last one scheduled, and they asked me to come in that same day. Fortunately, I'm flexible, and while I wasn't sure how interested I was in the position, I thought it would at least give me practice answering the typical questions.

The position open was for an adjunct English instructor at a community college. As part of the interview, I was to teach for ten minutes on a topic of my choice. No handouts were necessary. I tossed around different ideas, and decided on a topic from my student-teaching days, Joseph Campbell's Monomyth concept, sometimes called the Hero's Journey. While some are skeptical of the benefit of this theory to literature, it is an interesting way to analyze a dominant character through the course of her changes, and this approach recognizes the formulaic nature of many works.

I felt the interview was mediocre, but I did a respectable job with my teaching portion. I knew as I left that I wasn't interested in the position. It was for an evening composition class (four-hour stints three nights a week), and my employment would be from month to month, as the college accelerates students through one class each month, and they wouldn't always need a composition class available. Nevertheless, they called me this past weekend to offer me the position. I politely declined.

Onward! Another interview was working in the financial aid sphere for a dean of students. I felt that I was on the fence for this one: the tasks were not ones I had much previous experience in, and while two of the four interviewers seemed pleased with me, two seemed aloof. Not the best connection I've had with potential co-workers and employers. I have yet to hear back on this one, but I'm not sure I see myself in that position. I'm of the mindset that I don't want them to offer me the job, as that means I have to be the one to make a decision.

Finally, the last interview was for a position managing graduate students in a science department. This seems to have the most overlap to previous job experience and interest, and I connected with the employers. They were to make a decision by the close of this week, but then I received a call yesterday that they wanted me in for a second interview. During that time, I met an individual who had been absent for my initial visit, and they asked some questions that had been previously overlooked.

They are to contact me Tuesday with their final decision. I'm optimistic, as I was told by one not to accept any other offers before then, but I also recognize they may have other prospectives that are as capable or more suited to the position than I am. So, my employment is still questionable, but I hope to have positive news come Tuesday. Otherwise, the search begins again to find the appropriate fit for me. That, or I start coercing you for donations. Just imagine, I could knit socks in exchange for steady philanthropy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Heaven Help Me if I Ever Go Missing

Tonight Eric turned to me and we had the following conversation.

Eric: You look nice in that shirt.

Me: Thanks. Do you know what you like about it?

Eric: It's one of your two colors. You look really nice in red and green, and that shirt's green.

Me (pausing, trying to decide if I should correct my color-blind husband): Um, thanks. But my shirt's brown.

Imagine the dilemma facing my husband if he ever has to describe to the authorities what I was wearing when he last saw me. Furthermore, there was a season when my husband even thought my eyes were green (you guessed it: they're actually brown).

I can't tease him too much, though. I've learned a lot about color-blindness from him, and he can notice the difference in shades when colors are laid next to each other. The curse of heredity!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Samson the Squirrel Begets Nostalgia for Peter the Bird

Samson the Squirrel holds residence in our maple tree. He is also out to get me. Yes, as I was putting up a birdfeeder in our front lawn, Samson ran amuck in the branches above, trying to pull down the tree on what he saw as a trespasser. In this vein, he is much like his biblical namesake who pulled a building down around him, killing all within. Fortunately, he apparently did not have God's help in this herculean feat, as the best he could do was upset a few leaves and rain down helicopter seeds all around me.

Today I was watching Samson eye me suspiciously as he tried to raid the birdseed (through an anticipated event, the birdfeeder showered her seedy goodness all around as the bottom fell out). He is pretty twitchy when he's nervous, and his tail shakes madly as he twitters. Once or twice it spooked him as it brushed his back unexpectedly. As I spied on Samson, I was reminded of my time as a surrogate mother to another wild creature.

During my year off between high school and college, I became a foster mother. Yes, one day when playing with my daycare charges, I saw some huddled by the building, studying something intently. As I approached, I saw a broken nest was on the ground, and several baby birds dead next to it. I shooed the students away and joined them in their mourning.

There did seem to be one stalwart bird, against all odds having survived the harrowing fall. I wanted the mother bird to have an opportunity to return to her child, so I intently watched from a distance with the others. There was no sign at all of a bird in the proximity. I contemplated trying to rescue said bird when I left work, but I had agreed to babysit three daycare siblings, and as I wanted them to have my full attention, I abandoned the hopeless bird.

As I returned home late that night, I relayed the story to my dad as I bemoaned the fact that there was a cold spring rain coming down. He was sure the bird was dead, but Mom offered to drive me back to work if I wanted to complete my act of mercy. Alas, I was afraid the bird had met its end, so I remained home. (Additionally, I recognized that it is not recommended to care for wild creatures, and when well-meaning but inept people try, it often ends in an early demise of said wild creature. So this is my disclaimer: Don't try to rescue stray creatures, do all you can to not get involved. This said, I didn't follow my own advice.)

The next morning as I approached work, I stopped in the drizzle to examine the bird. Sure enough, it wasn't moving. I was certain it had frozen, and berated myself for having not been more in the spirit of Mother Teresa the night before and blast all who said otherwise!

However, fate was not through. Later we noticed the bird had only been
mostly dead. I had studied up on bird care and transported my new baby home. Oh, the proud parent that was born at that moment! The daycare children worked with me to name my baby, and I've since forgotten the ridiculous name, because as I took care of this bird, I dreamt one night that I headed off to college, only to receive a frantic call from my mother that my bird had returned to our house the following spring and had gotten inside our home. In dreamland, I rushed home from college, opened the front door, and cried, "Peter!" as he happily alit on my extended finger. So the name stuck.

Peter and I had a rich life. He ate raw hamburger (an acceptable substitute to worms) and accompanied me to the park. Soon, jealous of the flying fowl around him, he gained feathers and began the art of flight. I helped him best I could, and after a few attempts which ended in crash landings into tree trunks and windows, he got the hang of it. He loved perching on my shoulder and would chatter in response to my maternal attentions.

We fell into a comfortable routine. I fed him before leaving for work in the mornings. He would be free to do as he chose outside during the day, I would return after work and give him some food, and once dark fell, I enclosed him in a cage outdoors so that he would be safe from prowlers. Alas, one fateful night, I stayed at work for our delightful spring program, and when I returned home, Peter was nowhere to be found. I walked the block, scoping out hiding places while my ears were tuned for any familiar chirp. None at all.

There was no evidence Peter met his fateful end that day, so while it's likely he was too trusting of the neighborhood dog or friendly with a car grill, I like to think Peter wanted to find an available, attractive sparrow and left home to start his family. As the adage claims, he is gone, but not forgotten!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Wherein I Do Battle Against Stark Walls

This year I had an epiphany; I could no longer live or rent a place that had stark, white walls. I loved what color could do to walls, and once we bought a place of our own, I was determined to purchase some paint and transform it. Sure, I was hesitant on choosing colors, but since curtains were included with our home, I let that influence our choices.

Last week, I spent four days priming and painting three rooms. All but the bedrooms had color already existent. To wow you with the results, I have included a before picture, taken the day we moved in, and an after shot, taken after everything was returned to it's rightful place.

I began with transforming Eric's office. After all, I knew I had no chance of convincing him to vacate his computer and books once classes started.

For his room we chose "Dark Storm Cloud" to accompany his dangerous philosophical musings.

Then it was time for our bedroom.

The bedroom color was aptly called "Restful." You'll have to excuse the mirror's reflection on the wall; she was pretty excited from all the attention.

Then, I spent two days completing my office/craft room. My muscles weren't excited with another long day of straining and crouching, so I split up the priming and painting.

The color is "Berries and Cream," although of the three, it's the only one I'm still getting used to. In and of itself, I think the color is fine. Perhaps, though, it just isn't the right fit for me. When all is said and done, however, I am glad that the walls aren't white.

So there you have it. I have singlehandedly tackled three rooms, which was one way to feel like I was contributing to something while I was looking for work.

Friday, August 25, 2006

And Another One Bites the Dust

Originally uploaded by MeghanTraynor.
We all knew this day would come. Someday my husband would wake up and think, "Why am I not a blogger?"

Well, Notre Dame brought him to his knees. So if you're interested in intellectual discussions on things philosophical and otherwise, you should take a look-see and watch as his blog evolves.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sleepless in South Bend

I'm an insomniac tonight; after I'd been listlessly tossing for over three hours, I gave up and went to the basement. My filter is a little fuzzy and isn't stopping me in time, so you get to see a poem I wrote a few weeks back when I was a wanna-be poet. You have to be nice, because this is the first draft and it's about family, so there. As of yet, it's untitled.

I always looked at my brother
As someone defined by the rest of us:
He was my only brother,
The second youngest

I finally recognized him coming out of his shell
One Christmas in Central City, Iowa

Mom was being given a family Bible:
"I don't know when it started,
But when people pass away,
I always seem to get their Bible."

My brother Jon was next to me.
I turned to him and said,
"Jon, when I die,
Just to mix things up,
You can have mine."

With his somber face,
He quipped, "You better not say that, Faith.
After all, if it's pretty nice,
There might be an accident."

I laughed, I couldn't contain it.
My little brother joked about
Killing me to hasten the gift of my Bible.

I told all my friends about the episode.
My brother was coming into his own
And I had missed when he went from
The quiet reader,
Doing all he could to distance himself from his
Four sisters,
To when we enjoyed each others' company
And he joined in the fray.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

School Memories: One-Liner

In response to some flatulence which forced a girl to try to casually vacate her seat near the offender, his friend responded with, "Good push."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

School Memories: Most Grandious Reflection

School has started in the surrounding districts, and my oldest niece is starting kindergarten tomorrow, so it only seems appropriate to include some of my leftover school memories.

Students, long before I came and long after I'm gone, complete the Me Book in seventh grade. Each quarter, the students base their essay on a specific focus (their social characteristics, physical traits, et cetera). At the end of the year, we compile them and have a short unit on editing. Students also add dedications and reflections on the process.

I have shared some of the more memorable dedications, but by far the most verbose reflection had to be from a certain gentleman student of mine. He's a jock through and through, with steady pressure from parents to achieve in his studies.

As I look back at this whole thing, 7th grade, this "Me Book," I realize how important this book was to growing up, to learning life lessons, to making friends. How incredibly important it is, I can't explain to you, but I can express my feelings. This book has made me really reflect on life, and the kind of person I am. This book has helped me as a person, and as a friend. This book has helped me bring out the real...ME.

I'm a cynic to say I think I'd believe it more if I heard this from him in twenty years. But at least he wrote effusely of it at the time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Job Hunting

Once my teaching job concluded in early June, I began the job hunt in earnest. Since late March, I had decided I didn't have it in me for yet another first-year teaching job; I've taught two years at two different schools in the district, planning and teaching a total of four different classes. It's true that they get easier as you adapt, but I had several reasons for withdrawing myself from the teaching profession. One primary one is that before Eric finishes up his PhD, we plan to 'start our family' (Eric hates that description, since it implies that he and I do not already constitute a familial unit, but come now, let's pay due tribute to cliches).

If Baby comes along in a couple years, that means all the sweat and work I put into a teaching job will be set aside as I become the stay-at-home mom. Right now, on a scale, saving myself from untold grading and petty issues far outweighs the amusing typos that are bound to be discovered. Enter clerical work. There's something about filing that just makes me happy. I like solving problems that people have, and even monotonous work can be pleasant when I know I won't do the like again for another year.

I was called in mid-July about a position that, of the ones applied for, seemed to be practically a perfect fit. Only problem? I was still in Minnesota; he told me to get in touch once we set foot in Indiana. Once we relocated, I went in for 'testing' on Microsoft Word. I'm pretty sure I wowed them with my finesse at changing fonts and mail merging. Nevertheless, I was told that even though my scores were 'more than adequate,' they'd conducted interviews in my absence and had offered the position to such a person, so they were halting further interviews. Alas, our heroine is thwarted yet again.

So the search continues. And I must say that I dislike job hunting. I know once I'm interviewed if I'm even interested in the job, should they offer it to me. And every job I was suited for and had interest in, I was offered.

Once, after graduating high school, I picked up an application for a position and they did their own sly phone calls to find out about me. I received a call that night and was told, "If you bring in your completed application, the job is yours." That's what I'm talking about; none of this anxious waiting as I pretend I'm not keeping near my phone so as to be ready to casually answer should it ring.

How about this proposition? I'd take a job where I'm paid for completing various tasks. One week, I will be told to make a quilt. Another, I should knit a pair of socks. Then I make stationery. File papers and scan documents. Refinish furniture. Reupholster a chair. Host a dinner party with elaborate dishes. Edit manuscripts slated for publication. Tinker with an old typewriter. Make a working volcano in the park's sandbox. Photograph a wedding. Read The Brothers Karamazov. I couldn't be stumped. Build a three-panel screen? Okay! Landscape a yard? Great! Compose a sonnet, complete with the iambic pentameter? Sure--would you like a Shakespearean or Petrarchan rhyme scheme? I could do both! Whatever the duty, I would tackle it with gusto.

I'm sure one of you out there needs the aforementioned projects completed. I'm not sure what the job title would be, but I'm your gal.


After doing my time in Minneapolis--two years--I can honestly say I never really knew the name of any of our neighbors. We might have had a waving or nodding relationship with them when we spotted someone while we were backing our car down the driveway, but there were no deep relationships. When we moved in, we were told this would likely be the case. People were focused on careers and family, and kept isolated. So much for Minnesota Nice, I guess.

This is not so in South Bend. Even though it's technically five times the size of our Minnesota suburb, we're getting connected. First, it was Party Boy next door, who wandered over to introduce himself and offer help hauling boxes. Then it was the couple who sold us our entertainment center; they want to have us over for dinner when we're settled.

In-Home Daycare crossed the street to introduce herself and ask us if we wanted to come over "for a soda" with her and her husband, Retired Teacher. We did so. During the exchange, we were schooled on when trash day was, where to buy groceries, how long to delay before going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and what was the flooding-basement situation (the city has to fix the lay of the pipes, perhaps next summer, but while houses near us have flooded with downpours, we appear to be safe). Additionally, on another occasion, In-Home Daycare offered her services to take care of our baby (when we do decide to have one).

After we had settled in, I was emerging from my car when our other neighbors chased me down. Current Teacher and New Husband had been on vacation when we moved in. They had been lying in wait for us and finally caught us for introductions and conversation in our driveway. They gave us the low-down on additional neighbors: the Amiable- Gossip- turned- Wheelchair- Bound and the Newlyweds.

Since then, Retired Teacher even made a special trip across the street. Once he learned I was an English teacher, he called his daughter and learned of several openings at a middle and high school; he read them off of an index card, then excused himself to return home.

So, in less than two weeks, neighbors have already set themselves apart for being hospitable and charitable. A number of them have deck chairs next to their front door to sit in as the evening settles; it's not unusual for a neighbor on a walk to pause for an extended conversation when others are enjoying dusk. Eric and I will both enjoy the budding relationships and the ability to catch up as we're all grilling or tending our lawns.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

O How the Mighty Have Fallen

Today in South Bend, a Family Dollar store was robbed. No word yet on how much money the two armed men stole. I'm guessing there weren't many twenties...


UPDATE: Apparently there have been several robberies targeting Family Dollar stores in South Bend. Since August 2, there have been three Family Dollar stores robbed.

Dark Forces Afoot and Other News

First off, we have some exciting news to share: my farmboy husband has mowed a lawn with a pushmower for the first time. We're so proud of him!

Additionally, there is a dark force at work that ensures whenever we decide to purchase an item from an individual seller, that seller must be from Notre Dame's History and Philosophy of Science niche. First off, our house was owned by such an individual. While we still had the rental truck,
craigslist informed us that someone was selling a solid-oak entertainment center. We looked into it and gave it a new home. Come to learn that the original owner is also a part of the HPS program. Curiouser and curiouser! After all, Eric informs me that there are maybe 20 to 25 people in that field at any given time, and that in a town of 100,000 people.

Finally, I am trying my hand at amateur landscaping. Since the season is too past for me to enjoy much with our garden, I purchased some goodies that are about to flower for my planters up front. Lo and behold, before I could leave the garden center, more foliage was calling to me: the Rose of Sharon pictured above. On Sunday, there were three flowers total. Today, over thirty. Yes, all she wanted was to stretch her roots in some fertile soil in my backyard. I was too weak to refuse such a heartfelt request.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Moving Day

Eric and I successfully packed up our moving truck and began our caravan to Indiana. My brave husband impressively handled a 26-foot truck all day Saturday, a feat at which I would have failed. After twelve hours (or a baker's dozen if you include the time change), almost to the minute, we pulled up into the driveway of our home.

I made several observations along the route:
  • As I followed the truck all day, it didn't take me long to become conscious of every detail on the rear of that truck; needless to say, the scenery didn't change much for me. The license plate consisted of six digits, and they were the same as the last six digits of Eric's social security number, with only one digit actually out of one spot.
  • One driver passing us felt so comfortable he was driving with his left foot hanging out the window.
  • I can't say that, as a woman, I would feel comfortable living in Ogle County, Wisconsin.
  • Eric almost stole $67 dollars of diesel. He swiped his card, filled up the truck, and then was told to park and proceed to a cashier. He circled over five minutes since all the truck spots were taken, and finally drove to supper nearby. Thinking he paid, but not wanting to be negligent, he took my car back. Fortunately, there were no open transactions.
  • When you're driving a large truck, you have a vantage point others miss. A Camry passed me and I thought nothing of it, while Eric was craning his head to examine it; the roof was caved in, as if a boulder had fallen squarely in the center. As the sides were still intact, this occurrence was only visible to those higher up.
  • A home without internet is not a home to us; we're still waiting for installation, so the library is our friend.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Highlights from South Bend

South Bend received us as guests this past weekend as we closed on our house. We learned a few things over the time.
  • Eric is a superhero because he drove the whole distance with nary a breather from me. Knitting was my consolation--many a dishcloth were born.
  • A likeness of Elvis' face can be found in the rear of a semi trailer. Some may have written the image off as a chance combination of shadows that deflected light and spaces that reflected it, but the astute saw the king.
  • My name is too long to sign closing papers, but I'm well trained for the endurance since as an English teacher, I graded essays in batches of 140, writing comments on each one.
  • Narnia is located in our front yard, as denoted by our delightful lightpole.
  • Police drive modified Intrepids.
  • A radio station played songs like "If I Only Had a Brain," "Moses" from Singing in the Rain, and crackly music. They still erroneously boasted the moniker: Music of the 80's, 90's and today.
  • Homeowners who close long distance are delightful. They're already established in their new home and don't want the hassle of moving any 'leftovers' in the old house. So they leave behind things like a propane grill, a lawnmower, ladders, and two weedwhackers.
  • While eating lunch Friday, we saw a license plate from Alaska with the following personalization: ALA SKA. A few hours later, while waiting at a red light, we had a car approach from the other direction. This time, the car was from Hawaii. And that license plate? HAWAII. I'm still weirded out by this for three reasons: 1) Who personalizes their plate with their state's name? 2) When you're not part of the 48 continental states, why are you driving or having your car ferried over an ocean if you're headed to Indiana? and 3) What are the odds that they both happen to be in South Bend at the same time?
  • Amtrak is a cheap supplement to an airline flight. Spacious seats greet you, guests can wander from car to car, and all the while the train rocks you gently side to side.
  • National baton twirling competitions bring about more drama than is healthy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Exploiting the Email of Others

My youngest sister heads to college next month, and we're savoring a couple days together. She's taken the initiative to make contact with her three roommates, trying to rid any overlaps in goods.

Today one of her roommates with an overly glamorous view of college wrote the following: "I was wondering, I have to go get a new comforter for my bed in the dorm, are we gonna be one of those rooms that like color-coordinates? cuz it doesn't matter to me but I spose some girls would like that?"

Dear me. First, it took every bit of my fiber to not correct her email. And second, Charity has quite the drama awaiting her. I eagerly anticipate stories of what commences when their toothbrushes clash. Don't even get me started on what havoc will be strewn when shampoo bottles aren't coordinated. I'm so embarrassed for them already.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Life Lessons

It's important to share the lessons you learn through life with others, so in a spirit of altruism, here is the newest acquired adage. Internalize it so you never find yourself making the same mistake:

"Never buy a house from a professor of European history, because he will be in Holland when you want to close."

So true. When we made an offer on our South Bend house, we knew to try for an earlier closing date than we needed, so if delays arose, we could be flexible. Eric was planning on driving out there with his car and catching Amtrak or Greyhound back home. This allowed him to see our chosen route and all of the delightful construction delays that awaited us before he was driving a massive truck, as well as allowing us the luxury of not having to hitch a car behind an already long truck.

Our realtor relayed to us that we could close yesterday. I was going to remain behind, as we had guests, but we were going to have a notary prepare a limited power of attorney for Eric, so he could have the delight of signing for me. Eric took the time off work, made hotel and bus reservations, and alerted the water company so they could hook up service while someone was there, as they won't do otherwise.

Wednesday evening, however, we hear that it's off, due to a problem transferring documents on the seller's end. Next, it will be delayed to Monday. Eric alerts his boss, and calls up the hotel, Greyhound, and the water company.

But then, we learn our seller is having trouble getting documents notarized while in Holland, so yet again, we're delayed, now to next Friday. Enter Eric on the phone to the previously mentioned entities, who are getting quite accustomed to our accounts.

So, let me reiterate the proverb that Eric so aptly coined: "Never buy a house from a professor of European history, because he will be in Holland when you want to close."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Libraries and Overextended Definitions

My sister Hope and her three children have been visiting us for the week. On Monday, I took my oldest niece to the library for Celebrity Storytime. Monday's guest was the fire chief, and children asked numerous questions, such as, "What if your house gets on fire?"

My four-year-old niece was reciting to me what she has learned about library etiquette from her mom.

"We have to be quiet and whisper. And we have to be careful with the books. We can take some of them home. And then, when we're done, we get to throw them away!"
This response threw me. Why would she think books were ever thrown away? With some deliberate questioning, I was able to ascertain the truth: she thought book depositories were trash cans.

To continue with amusing responses from this same niece, we must harken back to over a year ago. Eric and I were spending the night at my parents' place over Christmas, and my niece saw us settling down for the night and pulling out the hide-a-bed. Quizzically, her gaze went from Eric to me, and then only the one bed. Once she had the nerve to phrase her question, she addressed Eric.

"So, Faithy's sleeping there with you?"



In Eric's simplest logic, he responded with, "Because we're married."

My niece took this in, and the puzzled look dissipated. With newfound clarity, she boasted, "Oh. I'm married to mommy."

Monday, July 10, 2006

I Know What to Get the Golfers in My Family for Christmas

I've seen some interesting advertisements lately. First it started with an Arby's billboard that boasted, "We cater!" I'm not sure curly fries are quite up to being called 'catering,' but I'll let it be. Then there was the above advertisement in a restaurant. Consider: what may be the "proper preparation" for golf? Perhaps this was advertising sleek gloves, you ask? No. The newest golf club? Not quite. I'll go easy on you, since you're stumped. Here was the text next to this photo:
Golf and cigars. They are nearly synonymous with each other. Yet, until now, the cigar smoker on the links was forced to carry his prized smokes in less than ideal conditions. Let the Armored Humidor join your foursome. The Armored Humidor features a watertight, unbreakable case that meets military specs for high impact, humidity, and immersion. Inside, the leak-free, maintenance-free humidification system maintains constant relative 70% humidity regardless of outside conditions. Three sizes and five colors are available.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another Year of Being Cute Together

Today marks our third wedding anniversary. Yes, three years ago today we were blissfully married.

Not much has changed. We're wiser and happier. Every now and again, another couple tries to come along and supplant us as Cutest Couple Ever, but they quickly learn they're deceiving themselves. That, or they disappear--can't handle the truth.