Wilde YES, Liffey NO

I like to think I have a good sense of direction, but about three of the ten miles I walked today tell me I’m wrong. To be fair, I’m not nearly as familiar with Dublin as I am with NYC and London… that still doesn’t excuse the many times today I went the opposite direction of my intended goal.

I’m staying relatively close to where I stayed the last time I was here, which is south of the River Liffey. I’m a little closer to the city center now than I was two summers ago, but both times I’ve had myself all turned around. Today, I wanted to get to the Liffey if not across it. Simple, right? It’s almost like all I had to do was walk due north on a street that runs north-south. Except it’s not a grid like NYC and I don’t know all the twists and turns like I do in central London. Every time I had a choice, I made the one that took me further from my goal. Maybe I can blame Samuel Beckett for this, as it was initially his bridge I wanted to cross. I hate Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I understand it; I just hate it. I also had to do set and costume designs for it in IB Theatre. I thought I was pretty inventive doing an all white set, including the one tree, but I guess my teacher didn’t like my artistic choices.

Anyway, what I was able to find like a homing signal was the Oscar Wilde statue. No thought or decisions required to have me standing in front of my dead, gay, Irish, giant lover (and a tour group of German teenagers). Bolstered by my innate sense of where literary landmarks are, I consulted a map to reorient myself. Like my last visit, I was a bit upside down, thinking I was north when I was south, thereby messing up east and west. I *think* I have a handle on it now. At least I did this afternoon. when I made it to the banks of the Liffey for a stroll and some writing before continuing north of the river (and walking by the James Joyce statue, don’t worry).

Writing? I said writing. I wrote quite a bit today, starting in the Insomnia Coffee shop (great name, greater logo). Here are a few snippets that probably don’t make sense… mainly because very little of any of it is cohesive. (and because I’m still waiting for the hot water heater to do its thing so I can shower)

Yesterday doesn’t count. Tomorrow doesn’t matter. Only now.

(Remember when Helen chastised me for misspelling tomorrow? “Yesterday” is more straight forward.)

Life stripped down – maybe it’s what I need.

Old bruises fade, new ones appear; am I ever without them?

It’s not true, so I’m not writing it. Crossing the street or crossing the ocean, you would see me coming long before I’d recognize you. (I’m not shaking; it’s the bridge!)


Take Two

I re-read books. Sometimes because they are assigned to me a second time. More often, it is to make sure I know everything my students might ask about. A few I’ve re-read because they were just S.O. G.O.O.D! (The Bronze Horseman Trilogy by Paullina Simons!) I know there are tons of books out there that I could be reading for the first time, but I know I’ll never get to all of them, and I know some books need to be re-read. Like Catcher in the Rye… you have to read that as an adolescent and then again as an adult. It completely changes how you relate to Holden, whether you want to be his best friend or murder his whiny ass.

I forced myself to re-read The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I don’t intend to teach it. I hated it the first time around. But it’s short, and I felt like I should try it again as an adult to see if it made any more sense to me.

It was assigned to me as summer reading in 1997 when I was 15. We also had to read Wuthering Heights and Fahrenheit 451 that summer.  I can’t be totally sure, but I think I read Chopin first. I do know that I was in SoCal on my reward trip to Hollywood for doing well in my freshman year because mom wrote a note in the margins about a restaurant reservation. I think I read it before Bronte just because I’m not sure I would’ve finished it if I picked it up after meeting Heathcliff. My 15-year-old self (and my 36-year-old self) are forever taken by his Bryonic brooding.

Sidebar: I could write thousands of pages of how reading Wuthering Heights at 15 was one of the worst things I’ve ever done in terms of my relationships. I completely blame literature. That said, it is a masterclass in literary technique, and I have daydreams about adapting it to the screen because not one of the dozen film/TV makers who have tackled it have gotten it right. 

It was before southern accents and green eyes got all my defenses up, so my hatred for Chopin’s work wasn’t due to its setting. Besides, I don’t really have a problem with Louisiana; it’s Alabama that’s cursed (except for that Waffle House bathroom where I conceived a child with John Ma… oh wait, don’t believe everything you read on the internet in 2002 and 2003… any time after that, sure. Internet = totally true). It was also before my own suicide attempt, so my contempt for Edna just giving up in the end came from a place without empathy.

Another sidebar: Southern accents and green eyes from Alabama are subjects for another time, but they’re connected in a way because of Robert’s “I love you, but I can’t be with you” nonsense and ruining myself with Heathcliff that same summer before letting other non-fiction people get a chance to do even more damage a few years later. 

But re-reading The Awakening now, I feel remarkably similar about the whole novel. I’ve been in love and had that love returned in an incomplete way that left me feeling empty, like Edna and Robert. That’s not even what made me want to end my life, so I can’t stir much empathy for her there. I have a better understanding of feminism now, so I can appreciate her struggle to be a complete human unto herself, a concept which in the late 1800s would’ve been earth-shattering. In fact, I love A Doll’s House by Ibsen, which is set in the same time period and deals with that exact idea. I still don’t like Chopin’s take. I still think Edna swimming off into death is a stupid idea and a stupid ending. What point does that make? Is Edna so fragile that Robert loving her but telling her he won’t be with her is enough to end her life? Yeah, the prospect of divorce wouldn’t have suited either, but I picture her husband as a Torvald type who would keep up appearances outside of their home. He’d already made plans to do that to account for Edna moving house while he was away. And if it’s a true awakening to learn that she IS a complete human in her own right, then what a fucking WASTE to immediately end her new existence! FURY!

Okay, so I still hate The Awakening. I’ll never teach it because “Story of an Hour,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and A Doll’s House do a better job making what I assume its point is supposed to be. That said, as I’m in the middle of my own kind of awakening, I did find several passages that resonated because of their truth or beauty or both. I want to share them because they’re worth your time while the full novel is absolutely not worth it.

“A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,– the light which, showing the way, forbade it. At that early period it served but to bewilder her. It moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness, to shadowy anguish which had overcome her the midnight when she had abandoned herself to tears. In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and around her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight–perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman. But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!” (17).

“[Mr. Pontellier] could see plainly that [Edna] was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside the fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world” (75).

“There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day. She liked then to wander alone in to strange and unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in. And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested. There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,–when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead, when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood” (76).

“On rainy or melancholy days Edna went out and sought the society of friends she had made at Grand Isle. Or else she stayed indoors and nursed a mood with which she was becoming too familiar for her own comfort and peace of mind. It was not despair, but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving its promise broken and unfulfilled. Yet there were days when she listened, was led on and deceived by fresh promises which her youth held out to her” (97).

This one is an exchange between Edna and Robert when he has come back from Mexico. “‘You are the embodiment of selfishness,’ [Edna] said. ‘You save yourself something–I don’t know what–but there is some selfish motive, and in sparing yourself you never consider for a moment what I think, or how I feel your neglect and indifference. I suppose this is what you would call unwomanly, but I have got into a habit of expressing myself. It doesn’t matter to me, and you may think me unwomanly if you like.’

‘No, I only think you cruel, as I said the other day. Maybe not intentionally cruel, but you seem to be forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing, as if you would have me bare a wound for the pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it’ [Robert replied]” (140).

There! Better than Cliff’s Notes (oh, I’ve aged myself! Spark Notes then!) Five quick Laura approved passages that are way better than the sum of the novel. And aren’t some of them a kick in the gut? :::vigorous nodding:::

Unpopular Opinions

Kale is bullshit. I don’t care if it’s a super food or if it’s going to save my life. Every time it’s even on a plate I eat from, I’m sick for at least 36 hours. Raw or cooked, dressed or plain. Get it the hell away from anything I’m eating.

I couldn’t possibly care less about Star Wars (or Star Trek for that matter). I’m glad others take joy in it. I’m sure I take joy in things other people could live without. As long as you don’t judge me for my lack of interest, I don’t begrudge you your happiness. Don’t make it seem like I’m less than human (or less than intelligent) if it’s just not my thing. You do you, boo. I’m happy you like it. I don’t. Are we good? How we feel about Star Wars is not the determining factor in whether or not we can have a conversation.

No one should play Christmas music before December 10th. After that, go crazy. I’ve turned some on in my apartment in the last few days. It’s cool. Just not in every store, every minute, as soon as November 20th hits.  We should also be a little more selective about which “recording artists” are allowed to tamper with the classics.

The voting aspect of Democracy is mob rule. Not the open debate of ideas and everyone getting a voice, that’s good. But the voting, wherein a person or idea can “win” without even getting 50% of the votes, is mob rule. It leaves a shit ton of people unhappy, especially in a two-party system. Limiting our thoughts to the binary is inherently divisive. I can’t decide if Democracy is the best form of government these days. Before you make a sound of disgust at me, please know that I’m not offering an alternative, nor am I making a statement in stone that will never changes. Democracy seems pretty broken right now though.

And while you’re disgusted with what I’m saying, let me also say: I’m NOT excited by what happened in the Alabama vote. What the FUCK is wrong with the huge number of people who voted for Moore? Yes, thank you to those who didn’t, but more importantly, SHAME on those who did. The margin numbers terrified me. Accusations aside (I’ll upset you later with that), Moore spewed hatred and idiocy. And yet nearly half the voters in Alabama went for him. I don’t even want to talk about the race and gender binary – mainly because I’ve already pointed out that binaries are divisive rather than inclusive. Taking the accusations INTO consideration, how can THAT many people ignore multiple accounts against the guy? We are a deeply divided nation. How can we ever accomplish anything if the numbers balance on a razor’s edge?

And now, I’m going to get in a lot of trouble… perhaps only because I’m trying desperately to understand why so many people did vote for Moore. Accusation is the word I chose to use here. Accusations have been the be all and end all the last few months. Please hear me: I stand with victims. I believe victims. In an effort to understand why people who do not believe them think that way, the one thing I can come up with on my own is that one of our national tenets is trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty etc. That answer, which is not what I truly believe, leads me to ask, “Should people be losing their careers on the words of others?” It’s a horrible thought, but I think it’s what deniers might think. Granted, I haven’t asked them.

Okay, this went from light to heavy real quick. I’ll end with a light unpopular opinion to bring everyone’s heart rate down…

If the internet went away, we’d all be fine. In fact, we all might be better people. We had information before the internet. We kept it in libraries, or if your mom was as awesome as mine, she got you an Encyclopedia Britannica for your living room.  (I don’t WANT the internet to change, but I’m saying it’s not the end of the world if it does. I’m more worried about taxes and healthcare.)

Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD 

A few things to remember about parenthood and raising children before deciding to have your own (from someone who loves kids and is good with them, who also wanted EIGHT of my own before my dad started blessing me with younger siblings, who isn’t 100% sure where I stand now): 

Being a good parent is a 24/7 job. Kids don’t stop being kids when you don’t feel well and haven’t slept. Kids make up the rules as they go along. Kids will cry and/or scream when they don’t get what they want. It’s exhausting. You will tell yourself “that’s not how it’ll be for us” because your partner is x, y, and z and your situation is your own. It doesn’t matter. Children run you ragged no matter what. 

But they also need you. They need you to do everything for them in the beginning. Then they need you to teach them as patiently as you can. They are watching and listening. They are absorbing everything. They are figuring out their place in the world by seeing you take yours. 

And every once in a while they will sweetly tell you they love you. It’ll come out of nowhere and melt your heart. Sometimes they’ll even blow your mind by telling you how coal can be used to fuel a train… and here you thought your kid couldn’t learn anything! 

You can’t be selfish and be a good parent. The two cannot coexist. So how can you be a good parent and take care of yourself so you keep being a good parent? That’s a trick few ever master, but it’s the goal. There are as many ways to strive toward it as there are parents, but there are also plenty of people who will judge you.

Not everyone is meant to be a parent. Yeah, we all have reproductive organs, but that’s not the same as being equipped for parenthood. We’re conditioned to think having a family of our own is a mark of a successful and complete life, but being a parent is not for everyone. When you aren’t suited for the job, your failure extends to a child. More than making yourself and the child unhappy, you will likely end up hurting the kid – psychologically at least.

How do we all not end up raving lunatics? I’m not sure that we aren’t, but if some people are sane, it’s because of grace.

The Shades of Words

I’m obsessed with words and meanings. I’m a reader. I’m a writer. I’m an English teacher. Words and meanings are my currency. But words and meanings are slippery buggers too.

There’s the denotation of a word – its dictionary definition. Except that any dictionary worth its salt will likely offer a few definitions, not all of which are connected to one another. Then there are words that can be used as different parts of speech, so the denotation depends on the context in which the word was used. Speaker and audience also have to know what all the words in the denotation mean.

Then there’s the connotation of a word – the things different people associate with the word without those associations having to do with the word at all. Some connotations are so widely known that they actually become part of a word’s denotation. But because connotations deal with personal associations, it’s often difficult to know what baggage people are bringing to any given word. Generally, connotations can be sorted into positive or negative.

When teaching the difference between denotation and connotation, I like to use the word “father” as an example. The denotation is male parent; the connotation depends entirely on your relationship with your male parent and whether or not you call him father, dad, daddy, pop, pa, old man etc. We then recognize that certain contexts call for different words that mean the same thing. If you’re trying to butter up your daddio to give you some cash, you might not call him father; you’d use a perhaps more endearing, less severe word. But maybe father connotes an endearment to you and you bristle when I say it’s in any way severe.

That’s what I mean when I say the shades of the word. The light, shadow, color, temperature any given word takes on in a particular context are its shades. And there’s not always an accurate accounting of how others have shaded their words, so meanings often go missed or mixed or lost or assumed.

Love: The English language really fucked this one up when it simplified what the Greeks laid out for us. Philia, eros, platonic, agape… way clearer than a catch all. Thanks, English :::grumble, fist shake:::

Pure: some people think of pure as an alternative to saying virginal or unsoiled or clean. I understand that in some contexts, but where my own writing is concerned, a lean toward a more scientific shade of the word. When I use pure to describe my writing (or what I want my writing to be) I mean “in its most potent form” or undiluted. A while ago when I revisited some of the stuff I wrote in Ireland last summer, I said one piece was approaching pure. It had potential to be one of the purest things I’ve ever written. In that case, I meant undiluted, in its most potent form.

Matter: this word can be used as a noun – what’s the matter? Here it means “problem” usually.  Mind over matter. Here it can mean problem, but might mean circumstance, which has less of a negative connotation.  It can also be used as a verb – You don’t matter. I guess here it means count, belong, have a say in. This one fascinates me because the word sounds so stupid. Some words don’t start to sound stupid until you repeat them a lot, but matter sounds stupid right away.

Fancy: Major bang for your buck because fancy can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective. Noun – flight of fancy, meaning some kind of creativity or imagination. Verb – what do you fancy? meaning what do you like (also you fancy him! similar meaning). Adjective – well, it gets even trickier here because one person’s connotation of fancy as an adjective could be very different from another’s. And then there’s “Fancy Dress” in British terms, which might mean you’re going to a costume party even if the costume is decidedly casual.

All of this seemed very important last night when I wasn’t sleeping, though it’s a simple point I’m making: sometimes we have no idea what the fuck another person is talking about because, while we use the same words, we don’t have the same meanings. Whether it’s denotations that include other words we don’t know, connotations that are different from our own or completely unknown even to the speaker’s conscious mind, or all the shades a word’s speaker and audience give it, we are talking past each other if we don’t stop to nail down what someone means by the words s/he uses.

And that’s the difficulty of communication and relating to others.

Sharing Space

I’m not easy to live with. I know because I’ve lived with myself for nearly 35 and a half years now. God only knows how my mom and older brother managed. I suppose they didn’t have much of a choice because we’re blood. The roommates I’ve had who aren’t blood, well, they deserve consideration for sainthood.

I’ve lived alone for the last seven years, which is a good thing most days. But as I exclaimed “TOO CEREBRAL” last night while I put my face cream on, I thought of all the things my roommates had to put up with for the length of time they chose (were maybe financially forced?) to live with me.

My college roommate, who I was placed with randomly, became my best friend because we were finishing each other’s sentences the day we met. Among other “fun” things she put up with: She allowed me to keep the room at titty-freezing temperatures. She didn’t mind when I decided to block out all natural light in our second semester of freshmen year (I was going through a break up). She was okay with my weird “NO SEX IN THE DORM ROOM” rule (which, of course, I honored too). She got used to and eventually responded when I made random barnyard animal noises because I was bored. Later when we shared an apartment that was only a one bedroom but felt like a palace compared to the shoe boxes we’d shared, she cleaned the bathroom and kitchen because I’m not the best at noticing dirt (low vision and all). She of all my roommates would have had some vague idea of what the hell I was thinking last night when I exclaimed, “TOO CEREBRAL!”

My first NYC roommate came from the John Mayer fan community. We both had specific living requirements for what would be our first apartment in the big bad city. We both also needed our parents to be guarantors on the lease. I paid less rent because I was in a fake bedroom created by putting up a tension wall (now illegal) in the large living room. It was 8 feet by 12 feet, but I made the most of it and could see Broadway from my window. Neither of us were big party girls, so I think the worst thing she had to put up with was one night when I invited some grad school friends back to our place. I was drunk, as were they, but she was not. And she gracefully let us carry on in the living room and didn’t freak out when one of us spilled red wine on the white sectional. I’m pretty sure it stained. I curtailed my random verbal outbursts in the ten months I lived there, so I’m not sure what she would make of my exclamation last night.

My next, and longest, NYC roommate was a girl I’d gone to middle and high school with. We were very close during those years but had gone different ways for college. Back together again, we found a place in Brooklyn that didn’t have a bath tub, but had separate entrances and bathrooms for each of us. It was like living alone except we shared a kitchen and the cat’s attention. In that apartment, she put up with me clogging my toilet and asking her to unclog it. She was used to some exclamations, but they were usually when we were each watching Nip/Tuck in our own side of the apartment and we were shouting commentary to each other instead of watching it together in the same room on the same TV. We had some things to say about Peter Dinklage’s story arch, okay?

We then moved to a two bedroom, one bath in Astoria, Queens. That was my favorite apartment. In that place, she put up with me having my desk in the living room. It was a huge living room, but it was also a huge desk and I was at it frequently. She also let the living room TV be mostly mine because she had a TV in her room. So, by extension, she didn’t complain on weekends when I didn’t leave the couch in front of that TV. I think we were equally messy in the kitchen and bathroom, and neither of us seemed too pressed to clean. Except when our moms came to visit. Or when we had our moms visit with the express purpose of having them clean for us. I think we’re equal with noises in that apartment – she’d play violin in her room in return for allowing me to sing in mine. She would scold the cat when he thought her hand was a chew toy, and I would scare the cat when I came home drunk and danced around to Lady Gaga (roommate was out on those occasions).

I’ve left out the girl I shared a room with for three weeks in Germany. I don’t think she really counts, but it was interesting to arrive and discover that most of the rooms we had in hotels and B&Bs only had one bed, so as strangers we tried not to disturb each other by moving or stealing covers.

You may notice there are no male roommates on the list. I’ve not had a live-in lover, nor did I ever live with a male roommate. No relationship has ever lasted long enough to get to the “Should we try living together?” stage, though when the time comes, I hope that the guy will understand (and possibly appreciate? dare I aim so high!?!) when I make barnyard animal noises to break the monotony… or was that a symptom of being a college kid unchallenged by her classes because she was not living up to her potential? But a live-in lover would hopefully know what I meant by “TOO CEREBRAL” when I shouted it last night. As for male roommates who aren’t lovers, it never came up, but I never pursued it either because I thought I wouldn’t be comfortable lounging in my PJs in front of the TV if a guy were hovering around. What if that second NYC roomie had been a guy and insisted on having his gaming system hooked up to the living room TV? That would not have worked. At all. (Do you like how I stereotyped guys as being gamers?)

But what did I mean, “TOO CEREBRAL!” Well, that’s easy. I was criticizing myself because I’m so hard to live with because I’m too in my own head. Living alone doesn’t necessarily help to cure the thing I was criticizing, but it sure makes it more acceptable to shout my self-ridicule because no one is around to hear.

Fashion is DANGER

If you don’t know the song this entry takes its title from, check it out here because Flight of the Conchords are worth your time.

I bought a sweater from J. Jill. It arrived in the mail today. I love it; however, I don’t feel worthy of its cuteness. It’s stylish. I am not. I have no personal “look” to speak of. In college, I bitched to a friend that I had to get all dressed up for a family thing. Her reply was, “What is dressed up to you, jeans and a t-shirt?” Okay, well, college is a weird time during which you don’t really have to leave your pajamas if you live on campus, which I did all four years. I do know what it means to get dressed up and can do it every now and again, but there’s no overarching theme to my wardrobe. There never has been. I’m all about comfort over style. And this sweater is not only stylish, it is also very comfortable. And I am not worthy of it.

Which makes me think of all the other things that the media tells me I’m not worthy of for various reasons. When did people start caring about the length and thickness of eyelashes? Was it before or after they started to worry about how white their teeth were? My teeth and eyelashes don’t measure up, so I must be a hideous beast. BUT the sweater came in tall sizes, so maybe I’m not doing everything wrong?!

Speaking of advertising, my mom and I have been tracking a trend. Owls in commercials. Mom has a bone spur, so she was fairly inactive when I was home. We watched a lot of MONK, as you do. We observed that an owl is the spokes animal for an allergy medication (xyzal?… wise-all rhymes with, so use an owl… I guess that’s the logic.) Then there’s Trip Advisor. Then we saw one for a different allergy medicine (that one’s name didn’t register in my brain, so YOU FAIL advertising executives!) Since coming back to NYC, I’ve seen an owl advertising glasses and an online university (WGU). That’s five different products or services being represented by an owl. I may even be forgetting one that mom and I saw. Who is doing PR for owls? They are crushing it right now. But it made me wonder because owls are symbolic of wisdom and another societal trend is to de-intellectualize everything and call anyone who values intelligence an “elite.” So while we’re being brainwashed by owl advertising, we’re also rejecting the idea the owl symbolizes (or has symbolized throughout the ages). I don’t get it!

Another ad I really REALLY don’t get, and also find deeply disturbing, like give-me-bad-dreams upsetting, is for a product I can’t identify because I’m so afraid of the … mascot? Is that even the right word? It’s called a puppy monkey baby. It has the head of a pug or bulldog, the body and arms of a monkey (presumably at least, based on the words and the amount of hair) and the butt and legs of a diaper-wearing baby. The… thing… busts through the door of some dudes’ apartment and dances around before waltzing down a hallway. Like I said, I’m not totally sure what it’s selling because it scares me so much that my brain stops working when I see it.

So maybe I shouldn’t worry about my personal style or being worthy of the cute sweater. Maybe I should continue to do whatever I want in terms of my clothing, beauty, and hygiene. Maybe ignoring any and all media messaging is impossible but admirable. Maybe I’m going to go buy every product and service represented by an owl.

Or maybe I’ll just wear the cute sweater and feel like I’m cute for a few hours of my life.

Rainy Day Thoughts

Most of what I’ve been up to this summer has involved finding a routine for myself when I’m not working. I didn’t expect to be in this situation during my leave of absence. I expected to either be teaching internationally or pursuing a second Masters internationally. Both paths would have provided a schedule for me. As is usually the case, plans mean nothing. I’ve faced the challenge of figuring out what a day looks like if I only have myself to answer to.

My cat getting diagnosed with diabetes certainly added a bit of structure, so now the first order of business is to feed him and give him his insulin. If I’m on track, the next item on the “to do” list is stretching. I know this sounds stupid, but I don’t stretch nearly enough and my body makes weird sounds as punishment. I probably don’t stretch the correct way or amount, but I’m working on it. It’s a part of my day. Then I go for a walk. I don’t measure my walks in miles or time really; I just walk.

This morning I walked even though it was drizzling when I left my apartment. I don’t mind clouds and drizzle. I don’t mind heavier rain either. About two thirds of the way through my walk today, the rain picked up. It didn’t bother me at all. It did prevent me from sweating, but the cool temperature did that too. It also got me thinking about other times I’ve been caught in the rain and how mother nature flipped a switch as soon as September rolled around.

My first time in London was to study for a semester in 2002. I arrived in late August to gorgeous blue skies. Everyone had warned me that London would be dreary, dark, damp. I didn’t care. And it didn’t appear to be true all through the rest of August and into September. There were occasional afternoon showers, but nothing lasting. One of my professors warned us that we shouldn’t speak to soon, that come October 1st, there wouldn’t be a single day without rain, even if the sun tried to peek out for a few minutes. I didn’t really believe her, but sure enough, October 1st came and the gloom settled in to stay. It’s not like it was always pouring down rain, but it was noticeably less sunny than it had been my first five or six weeks there. The days also started getting shorter. It was my first experience being that far north, so it took some time to adjust to a 3pm sunset in early December.

It seems like the northeast US has taken a cue from British weather this year. On September 1st the temperature dropped and the rain started late in the day on the 2nd. I’m sure there are a lot of people complaining about that, but I’m not among them. I’ll take cooler temperatures any day. As my walk today showed, I don’t melt in the rain (even though the majority of what I ate yesterday was sugar, I am apparently not as sweet as sugar, melt in the rain).

Two distinct rainy London memories came to mind as I walked, the first more nonsensical than the second. Here’s the second, which I also wrote a song about at the time (ha ha, I thought I could write songs!)

I was living near the Baker Street tube in Regents Park, so if you picture central London as a clock face, I was at 12 o’clock. I’d made plans to visit a friend at her flat in Pimlico/Victoria on a Sunday evening. That’s about 6:30 on the central London clock face. The easiest way to get their would have been the circle line (yellow) because, well, it runs in a circle around central London; however, the fastest way to get there is cutting through the clock, taking Bakerloo (brown) south and changing to Victoria (light blue) at Oxford Circus.  Even with the transfer on a weekend evening, it was faster than all the stops on the Circle line. I hadn’t chosen my footwear, jeans, or coat wisely, nor did I have a mobile phone, especially not one loaded with Google Maps, at the time. The soles of my shoes were too thin, the hem of my jeans was too long, and my jacket was wool, not some high tech  quick dry material made in a lab. I got to Victoria station and remembered that my friend told me to exit through the mall that is attached to it, except I couldn’t remember which direction. Good job some of my wandering around was inside, otherwise I would’ve been drowned. Enough of it was outside, though, that the cold November evening rain soaked me to the bone. My shoes might as well have been flippers. My jeans absorbed the puddled water all the way up to my knees, where the driving rain took over saturating my thighs. While my upper body was warm inside my wool coat, I did begin to smell like a wet dog, as you might expect with a wool pea coat. I didn’t have a hat or umbrella, so my hair was plastered to my face and neck. I wandered around Victoria and Pimlico for at least an hour before I gave up and went back to the dorms.

You might think the tenor of the song I wrote when I finally dried off and got warm would have been reflective of the misery such a failed visit with a friend made me feel. Not so! It’s entitled “I’m Alright” and the sentiment is approximately “sometimes you get caught in a cold downpour, but HEY. It’s okay.”

Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy 

It’s Sunday. Sundays have been poetry days, at least a few times this summer. Today still might be a poetry day; it’s only 1pm yet, so there’s no telling. But Sundays are originally church days, and I went to church with mom this morning. 

I woke up before 7 to make sure I was fully alert to give my diabetic fur face his insulin. Every vertebrae in my back said to go back to sleep, but I forced myself to get up for a short walk before grabbing coffee and getting ready to get my God on (does anyone say that? I just did, so someone else might.)
Mama raised me Lutheran. I was baptized, given my First Communion, and Confirmed in the same church my mom still goes to. She was raised Lutheran, but her dad was Irish Catholic, although his family disowned him when he married a Protestant girl. Dad took me to a bunch of different churches when I was growing up, none consistently. The one I remember most was a Baptist church with a scary preacher. Dad goes to an Episcopal church now. Both mom and dad do daily devotions, a habit mom has had as long as I can remember. 

When it was time to be Confirmed after learning my Catechism (at the end of 8th grade when most of the kids were 14) I looked around at other faiths before I committed to being Lutheran. A few Catholic friends let me go to their services and ask questions. A few Mormon friends let me do the same. I’d been going to Lutheran Sunday school since pre-K, going to Lutheran sleep away camp since I was 9, singing in church choir since I was 10, volunteering at church… there was no way I was going to be anything other than Lutheran, but I wanted to look around.

My older brother stopped going to church after he was Confirmed. That was the deal he’d made with mom. I had no such deal because to me, the stuff the high school youth group did was the reward for leaning all the theology. Those guys went to Christian rock concerts. They went on summer mission projects with Habitat for Humanity. They had pool parties and dances. They had county-wide scavenger hunts and progressive dinners. They were so freaking cool! I had only gotten a small taste of all that awesome in middle school, so stopping after Confirmation seemed like giving up before the pay off. 

I was active at church all through high school. I was a little less involved my senior year because I was tired of everything and was focused on my singing. I went to a college associated with the Lutheran church, so I got a lot of scholarship and grant money for being a good little Lutheran during high school. 

I’m typing on my phone right now, so I’m not going to get deep in to theology or my history at church (and outside of it where I’ve lived my faith and it has been tested). I’m taking a minute to write about church though because I’ve noticed things about people who are “churched” and people who aren’t. 

“Churched,” to me, means that you grew up going to church and Sunday School, no matter what denomination. In my mind, you do not have to still go to church or even believe in Jesus to be “churched.” It happened in your childhood, and there’s no erasing it. I’ve noticed that “churched” people tend to be readers. It doesn’t matter what they read, just that they do. I’ve noticed that “churched” people are service oriented, meaning they like to know that what they do (whether for a living or in their free time) has some positive impact on or for others. I see both of these qualities even in people who have completely turned away from religion. Regardless of what they believe now, the tenets of study (reading) and service have remained. 

Then there are the silly things like the call and response that is rote memory. Comedian John Mullaney has a bit about that in one of his stand ups. “Churched” people know what to say when someone says certain phrases. They know there’s one and only one expected and accepted reply. There’s also the songs all “churched” people know. Of course, that gets a little more specific if you’re talking to someone who was not only churched, but who was also a camp kid. 

“Churched” people tend to have a wider vocabulary in my experience. That probably goes along with the reading, but it also has to do with the fact that going to church used to be a huge part of socializing. Church terms used to be a part of daily language because the church was the center of the community. Congregation and parishioner are not archaic words to someone who is “churched.” Then there’s the whole extension of Catholic schooling, and those guys had to study Latin, which totally boosted their lexicon. 

“Churched” people are no better or worse than people who aren’t “churched.” Certainly the conclusions I’ve drawn are limited to my observations. It’s one way to have something in common with someone I guess. It’s also a fun way to be your non-churched friends’ go to girl when they have questions about the Bible or Christianity. 

Memory Lane at the Airport 

I am habitually early for many reasons. The most influential is that my dad’s side of the family is habitually and unapologetically late to a degree that I find disrespectful. I compensate by being everywhere I need to be well before I need to be there. 

The airport is no exception, even though I then find myself wasting my life looking at my phone or thumbing through magazines I know I’m not going to buy. Sometimes I people watch, but more often people are watching me because the airport, any airport, is always full of folks who’ve never seen a woman who is 5’10” and/or a person with albinism, let alone both. 

Sometimes I walk miles if several terminals are connected. I figure that is a good counterbalance to the time I will spend hunching into a seat that is too small for a child, let alone a large adult. Sometimes, like today, there isn’t anywhere to go. I’m in a terminal with only eight gates in a circle. Yes, I could read a book, but I’m not fully awake, so I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep. 
Instead I checked my Timehop. For those who aren’t familiar, Timehop is an app that links to your social media accounts and pictures in your phone to collate a history of your life as far back as those records go. Some days are more exciting than others, but it’s always kind of fun to see what I was thinking or doing on this day X years ago.

Today’s fantastic!

Last year I dreamt about The Americans actor Costa Ronin (he plays Oleg and I love him).

Two years ago I flew to Chicago to visit my brother where we watched a presidential debate with his girlfriend and turned it into a drinking game.

Three years ago I was in Colorado for a family reunion. We went ziplining in the morning and white water rafting in the afternoon. Me and my cousin were the only two people in our raft that didn’t fall out. I’d never seen my dad afraid of anything until that day, and he may or may not think I tried to drown him. I didn’t. 

Four years ago I was on my way to Austin to visit a friend. 

Five years ago I have nothing on record, but I assume I was doing something as amazing as the rest of this list. 

Six years ago I was in Vancouver. Apparently I had chocolate on my face and none of the lovely Canadians told me. There were also crazy riots in London that day, and I was thankful that my best English friend was with me in Van instead of at home.

Seven years ago I was in Edinburgh at a wedding. I had quite a bit of champagne but just one haggis ball. I tried some Scottish dancing, which I’m no good at, and generally had an amazing time. 

Eight years ago I was agonizing over making a decision about whether to take the job at the Tech school or stay at the Arts school even though they didn’t know if I would be teaching English or history or playing substitute whenever they needed. My mom, who is my sounding board, was in Mexico with her boyfriend, so I turned to my former boss and mentor. I decided to decline the Tech school even though I had no idea what I’d be teaching at the Arts school. I felt good about my choice, but it was negated a few weeks later in one of life’s surprise twists. 

That’s as far back as Timehop goes. That’s probably a good thing because I’m full up on memories! And today I’m off to Quebec, so add another fun memory for next year.