Friday, August 28, 2009

Virtual Tour Delayed Due to Accident

Alert readers know that earlier in the week I promised a virtual tour of the painting in my new art classroom. Moments before I sat down at my computer to upload photos of the progress, an accident occurred which has severely hampered technological capabilities here at RWL.

It started when I sat my alumni mug, chock full of fragrant morning coffee next to my laptop-- which was sitting uncharacteristically on the counter-- in order to perform a quick vacuuming of my sun room's tile floor. For reasons that are still unclear, I decided to proceed with the vacuuming up several steps to the next room, despite the fact that the vacuum was plugged into the same counter top outlet as the computer. Seconds later, the joy of watching the dust, dirt and debris disappear into the mouth of the vacuum was quite literally shattered.

To my horror, I witnessed my morning joe flowing rapidly through a ceramic riverbed. The mess! The coffee loss! The all too brief tenure of the alumni mug! Seconds into processing the carnage, I realized that my laptop--which I ironically received as a graduation gift--had not been spared from a scant splashing as the liquid made its descent. Now, I was initially hopeful, as my screen remained bright and I saw that the keyboard's fluid wasn't remarkable. However, it wasn't long before the machine started beeping ominously, and I realized that I may have just suffered a commencement-themed catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.

My computer is currently resting upside down within a yard of the scene, awaiting further prognosis. I discovered, in the aftermath, that I had a bloodied limb, although it was nothing more than a surface wound.I'm posting from a rickety old machine, itself propped up on artificial legs to keep from overheating. Stay turned for updates and information concerning the rescheduling of the virtual tour.

In memoriam June 2009-August 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The impending 2009-2010 school year has temporarily derailed an otherwise stellar July and August here at RWL. I drove home from my sister's abode last week-- in shockingly dry conditions-- only to be sucked into an academic vortex: twelve hour stretches of orientation meetings punctuated by mass distributions of paperwork and capped by mandatory dining and socializing experiences. I finally turned my attention today to my classroom, which I received as an empty canvas--tabla rasa, if you will. After searching in vain for any combination of wall decor from my former art classroom or new adornments of the same ilk, I opted to depict the elements of art in paint on the concrete walls, a decision that hasn't exactly had a freeing impact on my current schedule.

Fortunately, classes begin on Friday, which is not a work day for this part time teacher, so life will begin to settle into a new normal. That schedule includes three days a week for me to focus on various writing projects, so the current lull should be regarded as strictly temporary. In the meantime, stop on by late tomorrow or early Thursday for a virtual tour of my new digs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not On the Record and Got Off the Press

“Putting it that way makes me sound like a septuagenarian,” I said to my sister, upon citing random fear of rain among possible reasons not to travel.

“Well, even my mother-in-law doesn’t make decisions like that," my sister countered. “She always says life is for living.”

In an effort to salvage a couple of days of fun and togetherness dubbed Sister Camp--a moniker we may or may not have ripped from my friend Jen-—my sister was trying to sell me on a reasonably complicated last ditch measure culminating in a four hour plus solo jaunt across two states. At the risk of damaging my reputation as an adventurer, I find it necessary to admit that I am not especially keen on driving. I’ll pretty much go anywhere, anytime, but I’d just as soon leave the driving to others. I have no sense of direction, for one thing—isn’t north always straight ahead?—and rely heavily on landmark data, a situation making post-sundown driving a nightmare. And did I mention my feelings on rain?

“Well,” my sister’s voice lost a degree of confidence, “Maybe that’s not exactly what she said, but I’m sure it’s her philosophy.” My sister disappeared from the conversation to conference with her mother-in-law who, coincidentally, happened to be both a septuagenarian and in the room. “Wouldn’t you agree, Mom, that life is for living?”

I could hear a lot of murmuring on the other end of the line as my sister’s MIL consulted with assembled advisers. “It depends what you’re living for,” she said, carefully.

“For?” my sister queried.

“Yes, life is worth living if it’s for the right things,” came the guarded reply.

“Not worth living, Mom, for living,” my sister said. More murmuring ensured.

“What’s this for?” MIL halted the conversation to address my sister.

“My sister might not come because she doesn’t know if it will rain next week, and I told her that life is for living and she should come. Do you not agree with me?”
The room exploded in laughter. “I thought she was quoting me for a book,” MIL replied. “Of course she should come, don’t be silly.”

“Sister, she agrees wholeheartedly with me,” my sister triumphed. “She just thought you were writing about her, and wanted to make sure she was properly portrayed.”

“Tell her I wasn’t writing anything before, but she may have just written herself into a blog post.”

“Mom, you’re going to be on the internet,” my sister called to her MIL. “And as far as you, Sister, you can come to Sister Camp or you can draw the curtains, grab your spectacles, and read the newspaper. Start with the obituaries.”

I have, subsequently, been enrolled at Sister Camp for the past five days. I travel home tomorrow. At last report, the forecast called for storms, but the internet has been on the blink so I may not be able to verify. There are absolutelt no newspapers at Sister Camp.

Friday, August 14, 2009

G.I. Joe

“So today they’re suggesting that I might make a good Asymmetric Warfare/Land Warrior Military Analyst,” I say to my husband yesterday morning.

“That’s our ad,” my husband said. “We need one in our building.”

Prior to last week’s securing of desirable employ, I’d been loosely pursuing career options in popular online forums, which basically amounted to reading listings my husband sent my way, and answering a questionnaire about my career interests.

Do you want a job that requires creativity?

Do you want to work indoors or outside? I’ll do my work outside, thank you.

Do you like routine tasks, or do you prefer challenges? Doing things the same way twice really bores me.

Based, evidently on my questionnaire answers with no regard to the information provided on my attached resume, I receive periodic suggestions via email. If the customized recommendations are a viable indicator, I might have had a bright future as an OB GYN, a cake decorator, a night supervisor, or, impressively, an Asymmetric Warfare/Land Warrior Military Analyst.

“Am I well suited for this position?” I asked my husband.

“No. Not at all,” he responded, a little too quickly for my liking.

“Why not?” I demanded. “What do these people do?”

“They decide what sort of weapons are appropriate in specific warfare situations,” he responded.

“Well, there’s always guns and clubs,” I said.

“Mmmm…see, that’s why you wouldn’t be good at this,” my husband responded with authority.

“Well, I don’t like war anyway,” I said, ready to dismiss the position out of hand, before my own words rendered me suddenly inspired. “Wait! I know exactly what to send,” I triumphed. “A box of joe and a couple dozen donuts! There’s nothing that can’t be solved over coffee. ”

“If coffee and donuts could solve a war, I’d be out of a job,” my husband said, heading for the door.

It was then that I realized that I’d likely be an outstanding Asymmetric Warfare/Land Warrior Military Analyst and my husband knew it and was running scared.

“I’ll bet you were just a minimal match,” he grumbled, referencing the system the referring firm uses to rate the level of compatibility between the job and the seeker.

This was true, but I had an air-tight workaround.

“They say I’m as qualified to analyze asymmetric warfare as I am to teach English,” I responded, because it was also true. They did. “And I have a master’s degree in that.”

So it’s a good thing that I’m already under contract because it’s clear that my husband wasn’t going to put in a good word for me. It’s also clear that, being the superior candidate that I evidently am, I’d have easily landed the job, putting me in the awkward position of being in constant inter-office combat with my own spouse. And I wouldn’t have stood a chance in that battle—my husband hates coffee.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summing it Up

A post detailing everything I know about math would be a very brief read. Like most who can boast a post-5th grade education, I’m pretty comfortable with the Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally acronym by which we recall the proper order of mathematical operations. I’ve memorized the oft-recited and apparently key formula, y=mx+b, although I wouldn’t know how to practically apply this knowledge if my life depended on it. And we would be nearing the end of this post if I did not also know that an equation requires harmony on both sides before it is balanced.

I’ve acknowledged several times on this blog my realization that I need both teaching and writing in my life to feel professionally complete. I’ve noted my hopes to resolve the teaching side of my professional equation with a part time gig as an art teacher. I am pleased to say that the happy conclusion to last week’s interview posts is that I have landed the ideal art teaching job. I will be teaching pre-K-5th graders two days a week in a totally outfitted art room, complete with storage room, sink, and supplies, a conclusion that happily resolves one side of my employment equation.

But, as previously noted, a half calculation does not a solution make. Even in aftermath of factoring in the exponential work load that goes along with being an August hire, my thoughts return in a repeating pattern to the unresolved side of my equation. Mathematically speaking, balance will only result from achieving an equally positive result in my writing endeavors, and I find myself divided on where to best focus my efforts. Continue my YA series? Return to reporting? Explore new markets? The possibilities are infinite, but I can’t assume the results will be equivalent.

So the computation must continue. Fortunately, I think I can figure this one out without protractors, graph paper, or a calculator, although I suspect I may still be tapping my pencil in frustration until I can scratch out a viable product.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Great Migration, Indeed

“It’s like the great migration,” my daughter observed in the wake of my inquiries concerning a detected lack of enthusiasm as we packed for our annual camping trip to our favorite state park.

“But so much of your childhood has happened there,” I insisted.

“Soooo…much,” my daughter heartily agreed.

Last week marks thirteen years of setting up camp at the same spot. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without some days unfolding on the shores of Lake Douthat in Campground A.

I’ve always wanted us to be one of those families that heads to The Cabin every summer. In books, these leisure-loving souls while away entire months in rustic-yet-snug bungalows, allowing sea breezes to restore their spirits while engaging in all manner of creative and recreational activities. In real life, I do, from time to time, hear tell of folks running off to The Lake or The Beach House for several days, or perhaps a weekend here or there, but never like in the books.

This week, I came to realize that it’s unlikely that Real People actually summer at The Cabin these days, and after over a dozen years, I guess we can count ourselves among those who make routine lakeward pilgrimages.

And who really needs the confining walls and upkeep of a Cabin anyway, when you can make the whole outdoors your home?

And so we settled in, each of us with our own set of priorities. My husband wanted to read, while my son purchased fishing gear in hopes he might catch, gut, and fry “fish that he eats, like tuna and salmon” —right out of the freshwater, man made lake. Even my daughter got into the spirit of things, especially when we agreed to take her into “town” (a McDonalds and a Verizon store situated next to a K-Mart) to catch some cellular service for a few minutes every afternoon.

And me? I just planned to suck the marrow right out of the entire experience. I packed an entire library, but focused on the sort of activities that require one to sign waivers, such as whitewater kayaking, nighttime owl prowls, and cookery over open flame--an event in which the entire family participated and actually signed releases acknowledging the “inherent dangers” associated with campfire cooking.

But the most dangerous activity we undertook was a photo shoot on a rickety bridge, which involved no forms at all.

Fortunately, the only resulting damage occurred when I dropped my phone from the car and my husband ran over it, a situation that, according to my friend Sam, has all the makings of a country song.

And I actually did sustain a rather deep cut on the kayaking trip. Turns out that going barefoot in the river is a bad idea. Who knew?

I limited the rest of my swimming adventures to the controlled setting of the park beach, which was completely uneventful save for the discovery that I evidently have not completely recovered from academia. When my husband handed me our swimming passes, my heart leaped with excitement as I thumbed through the cards and saw they were all A’s.

The week was filled with moments that probably only matter to us, but I hope that the few I’ve shared have jogged some memories of your own. I suspect that everyone has a place or two that functions as a second home—a Real Life equivalent to summering at The Cabin. Because we all need places where, at once, we can let our imagination run wild and dream big dreams, yet think clearly enough to see the big picture. Places that are comfortable, yet engaging. Places that give us the energy, courage and strength to return to Real Life. Places—whether they’re in the back yard, across town, or cross country—at which we love to arrive and hate to leave.

Personally, I’ve never left my Cabinless Lakeside Abode without a few tears. When it was time to leave this time, my husband gave me a hug and said, “It’ll be OK.”

“When?” I asked, not quite buying it.

My husband gave a little laugh. “Probably next year about this time,” he answered, pulling me a little closer.

I’m looking toward the next Great Migration already.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Reimagining…isn’t that a great word?

It’s a word full of hope, and promise, and redemption. It’s a word that assures us that just because we imagined something one way, doesn’t mean the dream can’t be retooled if things don’t go as planned.

It’s a word that comes up a lot in Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne—they only book currently on my corner shelf--and I’ve adopted it. I love it. In his book, Shane talks about reimagining lots of things—abandoned houses that become living space for the homeless; careers after realizing that life is about more than amassing as much as you can for yourself, and entire philosophies about how to spend our time while were here on the planet.

I’ve been away all week, at one of my favorite places in the mountains and I’m as sure as I can be as I look into my pre-departure crystal ball ( I wrote this week’s posts ahead of time) that I’ll be doing some reimagining of my own.

As I shared earlier this week, I have a really good chance of getting a job that I would love. As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, and dozens more, live, to friends and family, all I really wanted to do after completing my masters degree was to go back to what I was doing before—because I was really happy teaching art part time and freelancing on my off days. Of course, with an advanced degree, I’d love higher pay and better gigs, but in general, I like my work and I really don’t want to do anything else.

But there’s this other part of me that has been seeking change. The part of me that feels stuck in a rut, the part that wants to be, see, and do everything.

For a long time, I thought change would come in the form of a move. All winter I told people that we were moving this summer. Because I really thought we were. But the move never materialized. Then I pretty much expected that change would come in the form of a different kind of job, because I didn’t think I’d be fortunate enough to find a situation anything like I had before, so I adopted an adventure mindset about where I might find work.

So I’m also wondering if it IS a fortunate thing to wind up back where I started when there are so many roads left unexplored. I’m wondering what the next steps will be for my writing, as my career has been punctuated by so many dead ends.

When I was in Africa in 2000, I was fascinated to see children playing with beautiful model cars—that they constructed from trash. The image has always stayed with me as a reminder that even refuse can be fashioned into something functional, innovative, interesting, and enjoyable.

So while I’m out on the lake in my kayak, retracing familiar woodland paths, and relaxing around the campfire, I’ll also be I’m reimagining the possibilities of coming full circle, of blank canvasses and new beginnings. I‘ll be reimagining spaces and places in an environment where I always seem to have the best visibility.

I hope you have some things to re-imagine, too, and that you have a place that’s quiet and beautiful in which to dream. I’d love reading about it if you’d like to share. Meet me here on Monday and we’ll chat.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Second Interview

Spoiler alert! This post contains graphic depictions of sweat. I am obligated to state this at the outset, as my husband hates blogs about sweat.

So the forces of The Big Three failed to thwart my first interview. I forgot they had reinforcements.

I got a second interview, and, buoyed by my apparent invincibility earlier in the week, I was perhaps overly optimistic, I realized, as the comfortable window my way-too-early departure time afforded was dwindled to near panic status after a series of unexpected construction delays. This was particularly troublesome, as another well known nemesis had me frantically scanning the horizon for minute marts.

Last summer, there was a little false alarm here at RWL when I mistakenly thought I invented sweat shields. A particularly violet outbreak at an event caused me to retreat into a rest room and fashion a keep-dry solution with some free maxi pads. Although saddened when internet research revealed that my idea wasn’t novel--indeed the market is flooded with such absorbency products--I decided that my homemade model was more economical (although I now purchase the pads, rather than rely on rest room freebies).

Unfortunately, I decided that my new interview shirt was dark enough to go sans absorbency, which I discovered enroute was faulty assumption. It became clear, however, as construction site dissolved into construction site that I wouldn’t have time to make the purchase even if a store materialized. Frantic, I looked around the car for back up. All I had on hand was a ball cap, which I stuffed under my left pit, and a cloth coffee cozy, which I slid under my right arm. I figured this stop gap measure would at least keep the water damage from expanding.

I pulled into the packing lot with a minute to spare, remembered to pull the cap and cozy from my shirt, tossed both on the seat, clamped my upper arms tight against my torso and plunged in. My seemingly limited range of motion in the upper body did not generate inquiry. The interview went at least as well as the previous one.

This is so meant to be.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Some things are just meant to be. Glancing at the sidewalk for no reason and finding that earring you lost six months ago, being home unusually early and getting an unexpected call from an old friend, discovering that forgotten pint of coffee ice cream in the back of the freezer at the end of a long day.

Me, getting the job for which I just interviewed.

The reason for my absolute confidence in this fact has nothing to do with how perfectly my qualifications match the job description (although they do, to a “t”) or the compatibility of the hours (fits my schedule like a glove) or the desirability of the work (very), and everything to do with the sudden impotence of the Big Three. You might know them as shoes, coffee, and chocolate—I’m more familiar with them as The reasons I’m Not More Successful.

I don’t think I’ve ever had specific occasion to mention my footwear concerns, but I have them in spades. No matter how many pairs of shoes I acquire, it seems I never have the pair I need; in fact, six or eight pairs of ill-fitting and awkwardly colored shoes in my collection serve no other purpose than to provide the illusion that I could, if pressed, become properly shod. In reality, I never have shoes in the right color, texture, or quantity for the occasion. For instance, I briefly considered wearing navy to the interview (as my favorite professor suggested was appropriate), but I own no shoes that allowed me to seriously entertain the option. So I went off the map and selected a multicolored skirt with a black base and a handful of flats that I tossed in the car.

I was to go to the interview immediately after returning to town from the early morning camp at which I’d been working, facilitating activities like pimping up flip-flops and tie-dying shirts. My plan was to change into interview clothes upon my return to the church parking lot from which we left that morning. I wasn’t until my toe ring caught the hem of my skirt that I realized that I’d brought none of the flats in with me, and that I was still wearing my camp creations. Of course, the hem held, because as I’ve already mentioned, I can’t mess this thing up. I had a good laugh at my reflection, sporting the skirt-and-flips look, and headed back to my car.

Surprised to see that I was running early, I decided that a pick-me-up was in order, considering that I’d been up since sunrise and was beginning to drag. Spotting a Starbucks on the horizon, my car instinctively turned, even as red flags began to wave madly in the periphery of my mind’s eye. I can’t begin to count the days of my life that that have gone off course at the sloshing of a wayward cup of joe, not to mention the equal foibles that have ensued from the taking of unplanned detours.

Ignoring my mental alert system, I headed into the shop. Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop. Ooops! Not good. I actually made it out in public wearing the fuzzy flips. Undaunted, I bought coffee—a big one. It sloshed. But not beyond the rim. I went back into the car and changed my shoes. I turned out of the parking lot—the wrong way. Ah ha! This is where things go wrong! I said to myself, almost in relief to be back on a normal script. However, I quickly and uneventfully corrected the error and found myself in the parking lot with ten minutes to spare.

I reached into my over-sized bag to double check my folder of important documents. All there. Check. For reasons unknown, I made a detour into a side compartment and—remember what I said about detours? –my hand came up slathered in melted chocolate. Regular Readers already know my position on chocolate in the car. Here, here, is where disaster hits, I acknowledged, stone faced. But there was a tube of wet wipes right within my grasp, and I inexplicably managed to erase all trace of the melted mess. I arrived at the front desk five minutes ahead of schedule, stain free in a cute skirt with matching pumps.

This is so meant to be.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pickled Peppers and Sea Shells for the Road

I’m leaving town to go camping for a week, so I’ve spent today doing the Really Important Things that need to be done before we can pull out. You know, things like pickling peppers and redecorating the living room. And, oh yeah, laundry and packing.

See, I surveyed my garden yesterday and determined that the laden plants engulfed in weeds just won’t freeze frame until next week when I can deal with them. Dealing with several dozen peppers meant a three hour marathon of chopping, brining, and canning, sandwiched between some dicing and chopping on my husband’s part as he transformed a pile of tomatoes into his one-of-a-kind salsa.

On top of all that, I couldn’t dream of hitting the road without getting my living room decorated for summer. Yes, I know it’s August first, but May just wasn’t a good month for decorating, what with a masters degree to finish up and all, and June wasn’t much better. July somehow managed to squeak by, and with my front door still sporting a wreath with a pastel bunny. There may have also been a prominently displayed photo of my children framed in what looked suspiciously like an Easter basket, and there’s a chance that yellow orb I found on an out of the way shelf may have been a colored egg, but I’d like to give myself the benefit of the doubt.
So it was as clear as the glass carrot candles that turned up on my mantle that we simply can not leave until the summer stuff is up. Because if it’s not done now, it never will be. I mean, you can get away with hanging summer decorations on August first, but the eighth is simply out of the question.

So it’s nearly midnight, and most of the camping gear is in the car. Well, not the cooler, because we really don’t have our menu together, and not the clothes, because some of them aren’t washed yet. And not really the bedding, either, because that’s in the attic. But we’re good to go, mostly, because I’ve got my wooden fish hanging over the doorway, and seashells on my shelves. And if we get hungry this week, there’s always peppers.

A note about this week’s posts: I’ll be posting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this week. Guaranteed. (Hint: thanks to the miracles of modern technology, the posts are all queued up and ready to go. You won’t miss me a bit, unless, of course, you comment and come back looking for a response . I likely will not see your comments—the flood of them, I’m sure—until I’m home on Saturday, but will look forward to reading them then. I also won’t be adding those nice links on facebook this week, so you’ll have to remember to stop by all on your own :)).


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