Friday, August 31, 2007

I've made my bed. Now I get to lie in it!

Wednesday, August 29- I was so exhausted because I took me until about 3 a.m. to grade all my students’ e-mailed homework (note to self – move up deadlines) and plan the next day’s lesson. SO TIRED! But, because of how my schedule is, I could take a nap. Hooray! I generally don’t like napping, though. It makes me all disoriented, like “What time is it? Where did the day go?” I’m sure I’ll get my schedule ironed out soon, though.

Thursday, August 30- Writing day! I thought it was an accident that I had a day with no stuff scheduled, but my colleagues informed me that’s my “writing day.” Ooooh. Got it. I spent some time writing blog entries…which I am just now posting. I also edited my poetry portfolio.

Then my bed arrived in two 2’x2’x3’ boxes. Getting it out of the uber-taped plastic wrap was the hardest part. I placed the layers of foam on the frame of the bed I’d assembled Wednesday night, then covered them with their mattress pad, sheets and embroidered quilt. Yay! I have a real bed…made of foam. It’s mostly comfy. I can kind of feel the slats of my platform bed when I’m sitting on it for long periods of time, but when I’m lying down it feels nice.

Soon it was time to plan my lesson and check student work again. For a while, I had wondered if I should have signed up to tutor instead of teaching this semester. The hours are easier. Well, there are more scheduled hours, I think, but when you count planning and grading time, tutoring takes less time. But now I’m glad I’m teaching. I really love it.

Today it’s Friday. I finished reading the assigned reading for poetry. Now I just have to do the reading for my teaching class and my 19th Century British Lit class ( I have to have finished Emma by September 12, when I will give a presentation. Someone’s got to go first, right? I have to tie it in to other writing from the time. Technically the assignment called for tying the novel to periodicals of the era, but I was inspired and got permission to tie it to etiquette manuals of the period. I think that will be a fun topic.)

This evening I was a little bit lonely. In New York I would out with my girls right now. We would have had dinner earlier. Now we would be sipping cocktails. Perhaps our boyfriends would join up with us. Instead I am here in my room. I should have gone for a walk or something. I had planned to check out the neighborhood, but instead I’ve been changing my address of record for all the things in my life…all the ones I could think of, anyway. I guess tomorrow will be the day of exploration.

I tell myself that someday soon, I’ll find my places here. I’ll find my people. For now, I’m a little lonely and a little sad. But that’s okay. Starting over is always hard.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teaching and Poetry -- Two loves.

Sunday, August 26- I was finishing my syllabus. That’s about all I remember. I was creating my syllabus and lesson plan, and rehearsing the lesson a little bit.

Monday, August 27- I was up early, getting ready to go for the day. I was going to present the syllabus on computer, as I’d been lead to believe just about all the classrooms on campus had computers and projection screen, DVD players, etc. Well, just about all the classrooms do…just not mine. My class, for whatever reason, is in the education building and ODU seems to give the education department the short end of the stick. It’s such a strange thing for a university (A PLACE OF EDUCATION) to do to future educators. On the other hand, it makes sense because the alums who become teachers rarely end up with big bucks to endow to the university.

Well, good thing I (a) didn’t include a lot of multi-media stuff in the syllabus, (b) had a backup plan for class that day and (c) the classroom had a piece of chalk in it for me to use. I used it down to the nub, in fact. CHALK! I gave away all my chalk in the Bronx. I had a celebratory ceremony. NO MORE CHALK! But here it is, back in my life, smudging on my clothes and drying out the skin on my fingers. Yep, nothing says classy like a chalk smudge on your rear. Not that that’s ever happened to me.

Class went well. I was a little nervous, but I don’t think the students could tell. They’re SO TALL! And quiet. It was a little tough to get them to talk, but I made them play two truths and a lie. One interesting thing I learned: I have a girl and a guy who won beauty pageants. Hee. It’s so nice not to deal with hostility or violence. The 50 minutes pass so fast, and the hardest part is drawing out my students. The fact that it’s their first class of the day doesn’t help. What does help is that they really seem to want to learn what I have to teach. They want to be better writers, if only to snag better grades. Hey, as motivation goes, it’s a good starting place.

Tuesday, August 28, I was psyched! It was my first poetry class. HOORAY! That morning I had office hours, when I got some reading done. Then I spent some time doing little chores around the house. After than, I had copies made of my syllabus and tried to get my laptop signed on to the campus wireless internet. The tech experts couldn’t do it and said I should come back when the wireless guy is there. Oookaaay. Before I knew it, it was time for my poetry class.

The teacher, Tim Seibles, is awesome. (I got this photo from the ODU web site. I didn't snap it during class or anything.)His voice is so velvety, sliding, rising, rolling and unrolling as he reads us poem after poem. We all introduced ourselves. Then the professor read us a poem a few times while we listened, then discussed it. Then he read us another one, and we had to write it down the way we thought it would look on the page. We discussed the poem, spending about ten minutes discussing one word (“Achingly.” I know! Analyzing poetry isn’t most people’s cup of tea, but I love it.) Then we did a poetry mimic, creating a new version of the poem (action, question, description) and sharing it. Here’s the original (though this probably isn’t the author’s original format) and what I wrote (it’s not finished):

Exercise in the Cemetery by Jane Gentry

At dusk I walk up and down

among the rows of the dead.

What do the thoughts I think

have to do with another living being?

In the eastern sky –

blue-green as a bird’s egg –

a cloud with a neck like a goose

swims, achingly, toward the zenith.

"Losing Him" [Note: I had to remove this poem because I found out lit mags won't publish work that's been published on a blog. Oops.]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Settling in and getting to know the roomies.

Monday, August 20- I got up and started my day at the library, looking up maps to the storage facility, thrift stores and big box stores (Walmart, Kmart, Target). Then it was time to hit the road. I managed to get everything from the storage facility into the minivan lickety-split! (Thanks, rental car guy!) I dropped everything off at the apartment, grabbed some lunch, then hit the road. I checked out the thrift stores, but nothing seemed quite right. I realized my time was limited to buy and unload everything I needed, then get gas and return the van before the deadline. As such, I went to good old Walmart (or as many New Yorkers call it, “The Evil Empire.”) and bought a ton of groceries, a desk, a bookshelf, various housing goods and two sets of plastic drawers to make an uber-cheap dresser in my closet.

Tuesday, August 21 was Teaching Assistant orientation. I met some nice people and set through many semi-useful talks. (You know we shouldn’t get it on with our students, but we should be sensitive to people with disabilities? Who knew!) I then spent the rest of the day assembling furniture and preparing a lesson I would teach the next day to a group of my peers. I think that's also when I met Alex, my roomie who is 21 and wants to be a P.E. teacher. He is kind of quiet and speaks so slowly, but he seems like a nice guy.

Wednesday, August 22- It was time for TA presentations! I suspected everyone else would be doing a Power Point presentation, but decided to teach my lesson the old fashioned way. And I couldn’t find my disk. Anywho, I was indeed the only one without a PowerPoint, but I was also one of the few with teaching experience. I made the other TAs-in-Training act out the role of class (“Seriously?” they asked. “Yes, seriously,” I replied) and answer questions and do a brain storm. The feedback was great. The only criticism I received was “Slow down” (They speak more slowly here than in New York) and “Try using technology.” I got to know the campus a little better and found an adorable garden with benches and a fountain.

Then I went home to assemble furniture while I talked to Tom on the phone. We talked for a few hours. After we hung up, I finished the desk, at which point I realized I didn’t have a chair. Luckily, Todd had just moved in, and he needed one, too. Todd’s a nice guy and we get along well. He offers me a ride every time he wants to go to the store. Yay! It’s a little weird when I have to get “girly products,” but it’s so helpful. Oh, and our incredibly generous neighbors gave us their living room set because they had ordered a new one! There's a love seat, two chairs, a coffee table and a tall cafe table with with four chairs. Gorgeous, right?

Thursday, August 23- It was the start of English TA classes. I was excited to learn more about the standards for college students of English. Things were still a little too vague for my liking, but at least I was meeting people in my department. After class I went to the library to use the internet and ordered a bed frame and mattress. Together with shipping, my full-sized bed came out to $300. Grandma and Grandpa’s donation to the bed fund was so helpful.

Then I went home and unpacked all my books. Then I got a ride from a fiction student, Emily Louise, to the English Dept. picnic. I had instant flashbacks of all the afternoons and evenings I spent helping Nadine throw her elegant soirees for the English Department at Buena Vista University.

Tim Bostic’s home is so gorgeous, elegantly furnished and right on the water. He had the barbecue catered! The plastic plates looked like glass, and the plastic silverware looked like real silver. It was only when you picked them up that you realized they were fake. There might be an interesting metaphor there somewhere.

Friday, August 24- We had class again. It was mostly vague some more. I had lunch, organized my closet, then went to get my photo ID and bought books. That was also the day our cable was installed and we got the internet! Todd bought a wireless router, so now we all have wireless internet connections. Hooray!

Saturday, August 25- was all about unpacking and organizing my things. Rakel arrived. She’s a nice girl who was born in Jamaica. Now she’s a nursing student. That night, Alex, Todd and I went to the quad to see Spiderman 3, which was being shown on an outdoor screen. Wow, that movie is silly. Tom warned me, but I figured, “It’s free!” Emo Spider-man? Peter Parker humiliating M.J. through the use of song and dance? Oookaay...I’m so glad the movie was free. It was so nice to be out. The weather was so nice, with soft air you could just barely feel in those moments when the wind made the flags overhead snap.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Leaving Iowa.

Sunday, August 19- Mom, Dad and I were rushing around the house, struggling to get ready. Dad was upset because I was taking too long. I didn’t know why there was such a rush, because I’d been sure I had plenty of time. I hugged and kissed Grandpa goodbye. I gave all the pets last pats. We drove to the airport, and I discovered once again that one bag was too heavy.

As I was redistributing things, Mom and Dad kept trying to help, but…not so much. Mom would grab a purse, for example, and say, “Do you need this?” “Yes,” I would reply, “I do.” “But it feels heavy, and you need to remove some weight.” “Mom, it’s full of my underwear. I need my underwear. It would cost less to pay the fee for a heavy bag than to buy all new underwear.”

Luckily, I managed to juggle things enough to make the limit. YAY! But I was cutting it close. I was booking it to the security area. I hugged and kissed Mom and Dad over and over. Once I got through security, I realized the flight wasn’t leaving until an hour after we’d thought. Heh. I knew I’d had plenty of time to finish packing! But then there was a delay…and another…and another. Finally I got to Chicago, and they said I might not be able to fly because of a “weight restriction.” (Not my weight. When it's stormy, I guess they have to have extra fuel in case they have to circle the runway for a long time of be diverted to a different airport, etc., and the plane can't handle the weight of the extra fuel and a full load of passengers.) They said I was one of the last people to book a flight, so I might be bumped and not get a flight until the next day. At the very last second, I was cleared to be on the flight. They slammed the door behind me. Phew.

Before I knew it, we were landing in Virginia. I collected my luggage. For the first time, I had so much luggage that I had to rent a little cart. Then I realized I couldn’t find the form saying which company had my rental car reservation and I sure couldn’t remember…after all, I’d checked prices from all of them. I went from line to line, company to company. I found the right one on the sixth or seventh try. Oops. The guy was so nice, though. When he heard I was trying to move, he upgraded me to a minivan for free!

Then I went to a Kmart I spotted along the road to buy the essentials. I bought some home goods (such as toilet paper) and paper plates, pillows and a blanket to sleep on for the night since it was too late to get into the storage facility. When I got to the apartment, I was happy to find the electricity and water were working. Three rooms were still open, and I picked one. I made a little bed for myself on the floor. I was so sad and lonely, lying there, but I tried to remind myself that every major adventure in my life has started just this way: with a deep foreboding feeling of doom. Only in all those adventures (going to New York the first time, moving to Spain, going to New York the second time) the doom never came. I started over again and again. It wasn't perfect, but it was always for the best.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sheep Show Day at the Iowa State Fair!

Saturday, August 18- It was time to go back to the Iowa State Fair for that most awesome day -- sheep show day! Suffolk sheep, more specifically. I beat Mom and Dad there, and found Deb Van Arkel and Thea right away. (See a photo below left of me with Thea). We hugged and talked. Eventually my parents arrived, and Emily Van Arkel.

We all got to chat and I got to meet Emily’s boyfriend, about whom she is quite serious. I decided to go get my traditional cinnamon role breakfast. Dad got a longing look on his face, so I offered to get him one, too. He gave me cash for it. I stood in line for a while, and an even longer line of people formed behind me. Then, once I bought the rolls, they gave me three dollars in quarters as change. I was annoyed, but there were so many people waiting for their turn that I didn’t want to cause a fuss.

I poured the quarters into my pocket and made my family and friends in the sheep barn laugh when I pulled them out, one-by-one, to give Dad his change. He told me to keep it, so I poured it back in my pocket until it was time to buy us lemonade. I made the rounds, getting hugs from the other sheep families. Many of them were surprised to see me, and it was fun to see them. The little ones have grown so much. They do that when you’re not looking, don’t they? Mom and Dad and I went to the Beef Tent for lunch where I had the Hot Beef Sundae (Mashed potatoes, hot beef in gravy, a sprinkling of cheese and a cherry tomato on top). Usually it’s too hot for me to enjoy such a thing, but early on it was still cool enough to enjoy.

Then Mom and I checked out the Marketplace…which is basically a huge, live building-o-infomercials. The most interesting thing we saw were the sugar gliders on display (see photo at left from They’re cute, tiny marsupials who constantly live in their owners’ pockets. I love pets and miss having one, but I don’t think I’d want one on me permanently. It’s a huge commitment: they live 15 years! I’m worried about their environmental impact, too. What does their extraction do to the environment from which they’re taken? As Emily (an environment expert) pointed out, what do they do to our environment if owners tire of them and turn them loose in the wild?

Suzy Grey (well, she’s married, so it’s something else now) showed up. She’s a childhood friend of Em’s, and we all used to hang out at the fair. We met up with Lauren, another childhood friend of Em’s/Fair friend of mine. (At left is a photo of Suzy, Lauren and Emily at the fair. I stole it from Lauren's blog. We perused the 4-H building, which was a lot of fun. Then I spit off from the group to reunite with my family. By then, it had heated up and I was hit by an evil headache. Mom agreed to drive me home after supper. Dad and I had barbecued leg of lamb sandwiches (yum!) and Mom got us all gorgeous shakes from the Dairy Barn. Oh, such yumminess. I had hoped to stay late and spend more time with the girls, but the headache just got me to throw in the towel.

When we got home, grandpa had just started Sleepless in Seattle. We all sat down to watch it together. Then I did some packing and went to bed. My last night in Iowa, my last night with my last chance to back out if I really wanted to.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Boxes and Doctors and Film Festivals

Monday, August 13, it was still steamy. Mom and I hopped in the car and drove to her old school. We filled her car with boxes of stuff and drove it to her new school…which I don’t remember the name of. I should find that out. We were actually having fun, dragging all that stuff up and down flights of stairs and wheeling it down to the car. Mom would hold the bottom of the hand cart, and I would hold the top. “Tell me if you need me to slow down,” Mom said when we were already at a crawl. “Yes,” I replied, “Slow down, please,” and started practically moving in slow motion. I’m not sure she noticed, but she did call me a smart aleck.

Tuesday, August 14, I continued the theme of helping out the family by babysitting Jenny and Megan’s babies. I wasn’t all on my own. Megan is a stay-at-home mom, and Jenny will be, too, in about a week. Until then, Megan’s got her two little ones, Logan and Landon and Jenny’s little boy. “I didn’t think one more would make that much of a difference,” she said, “but three is a lot harder than two.” It’s also harder when you’re watching someone else’s baby. Babies are most comfortable with their parents, and it takes a while to learn a baby’s “tricks.” Some babies like to be held looking out, and others cuddling in. Some babies like to bounce. Others like to sway. You get the picture. Anyway, I had so much fun playing with all the little ones, cuddling them and feeding bottles to Jack. Megan made me a yummy mac and cheese lunch, and then I even got to lie down and read on the couch. It was also nice to spend time with my cousins as adults, something we haven't really gotten to do much, outside of special occasions when I happened to be in town.

Wednesday, August 15- The next day I was hanging out at the house again. I took some nature photos.

Thursday I attempted to go to the doctor for a check up. I was working on the computer, trying to set up the whole housing situation (grr!) and getting all my ODU (Old Dominion University) ducks in a row. I lost track of time. Then I couldn’t find the forms I needed for the doctor. The truck was still hooked up to the trailer, and I had to call Mom to make sure the remaining car was in working order. It was, but I had to drive cautiously because it was raining. I ended up about ten minutes late to the appointment, and they told me I was too late. I would have to come back Friday. GRRR! So I went home. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready to see my friend (and former college roomie) Kelly.

Kelly had joined up with some BV drama department alums, Chris and Nina New and Jed Spera (as well as Nina’s sister) to take part in the 48 Hours film competition. Each team showed up and was given a character, John or Juanita Should (tourist); a prop, a business card; and a line of dialogue, “If at first you don’t succeed…you know the rest.” Then the teams drew genres. Kelly’s team (Unofficially “Buford” after BV’s mascot, Buford the Beaver) drew western or romance. Then everyone had 48 hours to write, film and edit their short films.

Thursday was the screening and awards ceremony. The first place winner, City Cops and the second place finalist, Good Cop Bad Cop were hilarious, as was John Becomes a Spy (made by other BVU alums, including Justin Isbel! See photo above left). Walking Away, Team Buford’s assassin romance (they were going to make an Amish romance, but costumes and buggies would have been prohibitively expensive) won third place overall, Best Acting and Best Writing. Way to go, Beavers! Theirs was the best serious short. You can find the films at YouTube. Check them out. After the screening, we schmoozed. It was great to see people from college!

Friday, August 17, I finally made it to the doctor for real. Then I went shopping in Des Moines. I wanted to sell books to the Half Price Book Store. I basically ended up donating books to the store. Then I bought some cute new shirts and returned home, exhausted, to have a delicious dinner—including fresh sweetcorn—with Mom, Dad and Grandpa. Is there a more perfect end to a summer night in Iowa?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Farm and the Fair

Thursday, August 09 & Friday, August 10- For a couple of days, I just lay around the house, chilling out. Well, I was also searching for a fourth roomie (one backed out), and doing paperwork, for Old Dominion. I also read and played with the pets, petting the cat, Hooligan, and the mini-poodle, Scooter, and playing endless games of fetch with Mack (Mac?) the Border Colley. Once in a while, I helped dad feed the sheep at Unkie and Helen's house. I also got to chat with Grandpa Staker while he helped fix up the farm, sharpening knives, making nightlights and straightening up Dad’s workshop.

Saturday, August 11 was the shower for my cousin Jenny and her baby, Jack. He is too adorable. She really seemed to like the little booties I got him (one tiny pair of cowboy booties and one tiny pair of galoshes). It was good to see so many family members, although I was kind of in charge of the children in attendance, so I missed some of the shower games. Darn my competitive nature! No, I’m just kidding. Hanging with the kids was fun.

Sunday, August 12 I went to the Iowa State Fair with Jenny and Jessy Bishop, friends of mine who happen to be twins. Oh, how I’d been looking forward to the Iowa State Fair. I love it, LOVE! I extol its virtues to anyone who will listen: the food, the art, the music, the rides, the animals, ALL OF IT! It was Wells Fargo day, which means free tickets, a free concert complete with bottled water and ice cream, and a few bucks of free food tickets.

We started the day by meeting up at the apartment Jenny and I used to share. The courtyard remains so beautiful. I love that apartment like no other. Maybe I love it because I really chose it…or maybe it’s because it’s the most perfect apartment ever. Far enough from downtown to have plenty of grass and trees, close enough to walk downtown (if motivated). And it has big windows and hardwood floors, high ceilings, lots of storage, and kitchen cabinets with pretty red buttons. The thought of how low the rent is almost makes me weep. Sigh.

Then Jenny drove us to the Capitol Building where we caught the shuttle. Next up was breakfast. I snagged a gooey, nutty cinnamon role at the stand behind the horse barn with a lemonade shake-up from Marv and Ginny's stand in front of the pig barn. YUM! The lady at the cinnamon roll stand gave me extra goo! MMMmmm…gooey.

After breakfast, we toured the Avenue of Breeds and admired many animals. Jenny continued her love of llamas. I admired the incredibly adorable bunnies and more unusual birds. Jessy is a knitter, so I think she was fantasizing about the yarn that could come from the various animals.

We then saw all the biggest animals…and they were big. Seriously big. Heavier than a Prius big. I mean, if someone asked you, “What’s heavier? A car or a cow?” Well, that shouldn’t be a trick question!
The boar weighed 1203 and the bull weighed 3322. A Prius weighs 2890 pounds, for the record. That statistic is both disturbing and impressive, really.

Next up, we went to the agriculture building (formerly known as the Horticulture building). It is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, including this amazing flower a snapped a shot of. Inside are displays of fruits, vegetables, flowers, bonsai and overgrown gourds. It's also home of honey lemonade, emu eggs, and the butter sculpture display: the traditional cow and…HARRY POTTER (as well as Hedwig, his trunk and the painting that guarded the door to Gryffindor house. Seriously.

I think next up was looking at the textile displays. The knitting, crocheting and tatting were so beautiful. The quilting made me jealous. 1- I wanted to own the quilts. 2- I wanted to make my own quilts. The thing is, I have a rule: No new hobbies until I finish my degree. And especially no expensive hobbies. I’m thinking buying lots of fabric and batting and sharps, etc. would get pricy. That’s also why I don’t knit. Well, knitting is probably cheaper and less space-consuming, but it seems more addictive.

Everyone I know who knits is instantly consumed with it. What should I knit next? When can I knit next? Where is the nearest yarn shop? Don’t you knit? Why not? Want me to teach you? Yes! I mean, no. I procrastinate too much as it is. The last thing I need is a new hobby…especially one with a price tag. That’s why I love digital photography. It’s free until you decide you need a print.

After the textiles, we moseyed over to the Grandstand where Lone Star was preparing for their concert. We grabbed our water and ice cream sandwiches and took off. I probably would have liked the concert, but the girls (particularly Jessica) aren’t into country. Besides, it was SO HOT. We would have been roasting in that sun.

Instead we trekked up to the Arts and Culture Building where, HOORAY!, the sand sculptors returned. They were just starting their newest work. The dollhouses were cute and intricate, as usual, and the photography display was impressive. As digital photography is more common, I think it’s easier to get a great shot, so the competition gets stiffer every year. A friend, Lauren Hughes, won second place in the division for color photographs of people. Yay! I wish I had submitted something. Maybe next year. There was a cool addition this year. They sold a magazine with all the first, second and third place photographs in it. It was only three dollars, and had so many gorgeous photos in it that I snapped it up.

We trudged through the Varied Industries building. The flow of people was like molasses. We fought our way back out, then got some lunch. I had a corn dog and some root beer, which always seems fresher at the fair. By 3 p.m., I had a headache, and we were all tired, hot and sweaty. We decided to go home. All in all, it was a nice start to the fair.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I saved a one-eyed frog. Seriously.

Thursday, August 2 we were in the midst of preparing for the Highway 141 garage sale. There were thousands of sales all up and down the highway. Friday we got up to man our stations. Unkie and Helen, Karen, Connor, Hannah, Grandpa Staker, Grandma Staker, Mom and I took turns outside. It was a garage sale and family reunion in one.

Unkie and I went to my (deceased) Great Grandma B’s house to reclaim my trunk and tub full of books. We had to roll under an electric fence and get past an ill-tempered mare and her colt to get to my stuff. It made for some nice bonding. Between Friday and Saturday I made $7. Woo-hoo! It would have been $17, but someone stole my black velvet dress instead of buying it. Oh, well. Maybe it was some poor person who couldn’t afford a homecoming dress. Maybe she’ll really love it. I hope so.

Sunday, my mom, my dad and I got up and went to church. Grandma and Grandpa were there, as were three of grandma’s four brothers and their wives. One of them shown up as a surprise, and as a result they were all pretty giggly. Members of the congregation teased them about it after the service.

Later that day was Grandma and Grandpa’s party. It was an open house, and people were coming and going all day. I got to see relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was wonderful, and after the party J.B., Erika, Brooke, Courtney, and Sandy all spent the night at the house. It was fun spending time with them and playing with the girls. Brooke has finally gotten to the point where I don't have to remind her who I am each time I see her, so that's really nice.

Monday morning we had breakfast. Courtney, who had been nervous around Scooter, the family’s mini poodle, finally gave the dog a hug. After everyone left, I did dishes and laundry while Mom was at the hospital with her good fried Suzanne. Suzanne was getting a double bypass. I did dishes and laundry. I sorted through books and found some I want to sell to a used book store. I also spent time playing fetch with the dogs and petting the cat. That night I had fried chicken with Mom and Dad.

Tuesday was the day I saved a one-eyed frog. I woke up with a green thunk against the window of my basement room. I thought it was a tennis ball that belongs to Mac (our Border Collie), but later that day it thunked again. Outside my window was a frog…a one-eyed frog. I wanted to help the frog, who clearly could not jump out of the deep window well. First I tried giving him a ramp. He seemed completely uninterested, and the ramp looked way too steep, so I jumped down into the window well with a bucket. I snapped a couple of photos. Then I nudged the frog into the bucket and lifted him out to safety. It was only as he hopped out that I noticed his monocularity. I snapped a few more pictures before he hopped away.

My parents both asked the same question: “Why didn’t you just open your window, grab him and carry him outside?” Why? Because I had this vision of a squeamish me grabbing a terrified and muddy frog and trying to get him out of a house full of new, beige carpets.

After all that excitement, I did more laundry, sorted through a trunk full of old papers from college and discarded a large number. It was so sweaty in the garage that my sweat drops felt like bugs crawling on my skin. I was so creeped out that I abandoned the task. I rinsed off in the shower, then went to hot tub. As I was opening the tub, I almost ran into a spider web, topped with an enormous garden spider. Once I got over the shock, I snapped a few cool pictures. Then I soaked for a bit.

After that, it was time to get ready for the family dinner and Uncle Jay and Aunt Dea’s house. I got a chance to play with my cousins’ kids. Oh, Jenny and Megan’s babies are cute! Megan’s toddler, Logan, is hilarious. He is a sturdy little guy who eats like a 12-year-old. He is also an amazing little dancer (see photo at left snapped by my aunt Sandy this winter). I haven’t been out dancing in…well, in so long I can’t even remember the last time. Instead I got my groove on with a 20 month old. Next week I might go help Megan out with the kids.

Wednesday (today) I had planned to go to Des Moines. Instead I got up and had breakfast, then did some writing. Mom and Sandy went shopping. Around lunchtime, Grandpa Keith showed up. He made nightlights and I did some writing. Then I made us some ham sandwiches for lunch. The next thing I knew, my dad was practically creeping into the house with his boss supporting him. He had thrown his back out and could barely move. We managed to get him comfortable on the floor, but then there was the problem of how to get him up again. He must have really been in pain, because my dad is tough. He is king of “I’m fine,” but for once he was admitting it hurt, and I could see it on his face.

Mom and Sandy got home in time for Mom to take Dad to the chiropractor. He seems better now. I got a call today from my old assistant principal asking if I was coming back. She said she’d heard a rumor, but that rumor was pretty specific (“I hear you might be getting a master’s degree in Indiana?” Yeah, she knew everything but the correct state!). I confirmed that I was not coming back. So now it’s official (well, I’m supposed to put it in a letter). There goes that safety net.

And now and I’m still writing. That’s why I left, isn’t it? To do this? To write? Then I damn well better write. I better get good and make this sacrifice worth it, because if it isn’t…if it isn’t, then what does that mean for me and what I’ve given up?

Thursday, August 02, 2007


When did I last write? What was the last thing that happened? Toward the end, everything was a blur. A lot of it was running errands, doing laundry and packing. I needed a new suitcase because my duffle bag wasn’t going to cut it, and Tom helped me find this amazing duffle on rollers that expands to five feet high if I want it to or can fold flat…and it was less than $8! Got to love a bargain, people!

I think that was Monday. Then we went for German food. Tom had goulash, and I had trout. His goulash is nothing like what we call goulash at home, and it was delicious. Not that Mom’s goulash isn’t delicious (Hi, Mom!), but it’s completely different. This was thick and spicy and stew-like. Yum.

Tuesday we ran more errands and I met up with friends at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria. I got to see Laura, Madrid, Chris and Riza, and it was fun to sit at talk with them over beers, fries and brats.

Wednesday…errands again, some more. I had been planning to just get to hang out with Tom my last few days in NYC, but things always take longer than I think they will. Oh, well. We did get to watch more Veronica Mars together (why did they cancel that show? WHY?) If you’ve never seen the show, Veronica is a smart girl detective. She’s guarded, sarcastic and very funny. The show is a bit edgier than the standard teen fare, although it is a little bit soapy. Yes, I know. You all came to this blog to read a review of a TV show.

That night we went out to eat. We went to an amazing Italian restaurant (Il De La or some similar combination of syllables). We ran into Dom and Becker in the street (they caught us making out on a street corner). They directed us to Il De La' (or whatever's) wine bar, where we sipped glasses of white wine while waiting for a table. Then, once we were seated we ordered amazing food. Tom got some scrumptious rabbit and I got some…I don’t even know. Something involving pork. I don’t even know, but it was really good. I ate until I was stuffed.

Then we watched the last of our Veronica discs while I packed the last of my things. And then we finally had a talk. Months ago, he told me he had doubts about our future. He wasn’t sure it would work out for us. But he never came out and said anything definite. I needed to hear him say it, so I asked, “Just to be clear, what happens after tomorrow?” He laughed and told me he was amazed we’d managed to avoid discussing it for so long.

“We just managed to make every day so mundane. I don’t think it will feel real for a few weeks.” But it was over. Deep down I knew it was, but it had to be said. I couldn’t let myself hang on to any hope if there was none. I cried and I felt so bad for doing it. I just cried and cried while he held me. Tom said he thought it would be easier for me because I’d be at the farm, then starting over completely in Virginia. He would have to be alone in the apartment we’ve been sharing for a month. At least he had a weekend-long bachelor party planned away from home that weekend. We agreed that this breakup would probably be the worst because no one really wanted to break up. There was no bad guy, no one to be mad at...unless he was mad at me for leaving. Unless I was mad at him for not wanting to try long-distance. But we're not mad, right?

There was a slight repeat performance of waterworks at the airport. I almost got Tom going, too, but he managed to hold off. Tom jokes that men are only allowed to feel victory, rage and pain, and men are only allowed to cry if a member of the immediate family dies, or his team loses the World Series -- and that applies to players, not fans. He’s very strict.

I am not strict, so I cried a little in the security line, and again on the plane and again in my bedroom at home. Mom and Dad knocked on my door, I don’t remember why. They asked what I was doing, and I told them I was reading (which I was). They pretended not to know I’d been crying, which was so ridiculous that I laughed when I saw my raccoon eyes in the mirror.

In reporting, this is what they call "burrying the lead." I started off with my average chronological list. It is everything that is wrong with my blog. It's bad storytelling, and yet...this way, it doesn't cut quite so deep. I buy a suitcase. I order trout. I watch TV. I leave my boyfriend. For a second I can pretend it's just one more thing on the list. I can pretend I will recover from it as easily as from any of the stupid little misadventures I write about.