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Monthly Archives: April 2006

Running away from Homework

I just finished a book annotation that, for some reason, was a killer for me. It began . . .


       Beloved, by Toni Morrison, is a novel about the human spirit and how ravaged souls endure tragedy by adjusting mental attitude and shifting perspectives to survive the emotional aftermath of abuse. With the subject of slavery as the backdrop for revealing the complexity of the human psyche, the story presents unconsciousable treatment of black slaves and then shows us how those individuals continue living, altered, as result. 


It is a story about several generations of people, how they learn, grow and survive the perils of slavery, but it is also a study of the social problems of 1873 and the individual plight of slaves in late civil war America. The realism in scene serves as a powerful backdrop for a story about one black family and a tragedy that touches their lives, leaving a wake of fear and distrust behind.


 Blah, blah, blah. I’m exhausted – but I have another annotation to write. One on a book I don’t feel so thrilled about, The Metamorphis. Big sigh. So, I thought I’d take a blog break. But it has to be a short one.


 


    I’ll pick a subject. Running.


    My son used to dance 20 hours a week and that kept him in shape. When we moved, he started playing soccer to fill the hole that dance left behind. I did my best to take on the persona of a soccer mom, going to the games and sitting in the stands shouting, “Kick it,” or “Good pass,” even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on in the field. It was nice to just be there, living like the other half lives – the half that has the time to watch their kids grow up. In order to plan my day so I could watch him kicking that ball around, each day when I dropped him off at school, I’d ask,” What time is your rehearsal today?”   


    And he would roll his eyes like I am the biggest dork in the universe and say, “We have practice, Mom.  We don’t rehearse.”


    O.K. So I need more time to get acquainted with this “Soccer Mom” thing. Old dog – new tricks. It looks like a rehearsal to me. The game is a show, right? Besides which, let’s not get hung up on the semantics. I’m planning to show up, and that’s what counts. But even after months of being corrected, I still called the practices rehearsals. Habit. 


   Now that soccer is over, my son is worried about getting fat, so he has been bugging me to teach him to run.


   Of course, I could just say, “Put one foot in front of the other and keep going until you feel like you’ll puke if you take another step. Then stop.”


     That about sums up my technical knowledge about running. But such a response would eliminate whatever reputation I have for being a parent with some kind of physical prowess – a mom with some inkling of an admirable athletic skill. So, instead, I decided to talk to him about keeping his head up and shoulders back, rolling through the ball of the foot and stuff like that. I can discuss proper shoes, phonation, correct breathing, and how you can be more effective if you employ short spurts of energy within a steady run.


More Blah, Blah, Blah.


    On Tuesday, I was sitting at the computer trying to will myself to write an annotation (see how long it took me to actually do it – what a slacker) and he came in and said, “Come on. Let’s run. You promised.”


      I was not in the mood to run, but since I was definitely in the mood for any excuse to NOT write my paper, I agreed to take him out. We walked down the mountain and out to the highway where it isn’t so steep. My plan was for us to run the two miles around to the other entrance and walk up the other side of the mountain.


      Off we went, striding along, but only a quarter of a mile away, we stopped at a cabin they are building on route that sits on the same creek as our lot. I wanted to poke around, and look in the windows. Sum up the competition. My son expressed how glad he was for the break. I chuckled. A break? We hadn’t started yet.


     After this, we began a run in earnest. It wasn’t very nice. Too much traffic. There’s no excuse for running with cars living in a beautiful place like this – I have to find a better route – but I didn’t have much warning to plan this particular run and I’d clocked the distance and knew it provided a good starting place for a new runner and a runner that has been on a break. We leapt over squashed butterflies on the sides of the road, waving to friendly people in their yards or driving by. We couldn’t talk because we had to run single file. But the real problem was the slope of the road. It’s all uphill or downhill – neither of which is easy. After one mile, my son needed to take a short walk – but then, so did I. The hill was killing us both.


    He kept saying “I’m sweating!” or “This is hard.” As if he couldn’t fathom something as simple as running being so taxing.


    I pointed out how good running was for his body – how the impact was good for his bone density, the stress on his heart making the organ strong, the increased circulation good for his skin, and the fact that he burns calories great for weight control.


   He was huffing and puffing. “But my feet hurt.”


   Yea, well there is that. Can’t help ya there. My feet are a mess. They hurt 24-7.


  I pointed out that he ran all the time in soccer. Certainly more than three miles.


   He said that was different. Running when you aren’t chasing something is more tiring.


   I don’t know about that. I’m always chasing something – even if it is just personal serenity. Anyway, I like how running allows my mind to roam – I get in a zone where the monotonous pounding of my feet and breath take on a rhythm that is meditative.  I visit my favorite places and people when I run. 


    We were only out about 30 minutes. As we were walking up the killer mountainside, he said, “Ya know how I told you I wanted to be a runner. I changed my mind.” He was kidding – or so he says. (He did run again the next day while I was out.)


    Running in the Georgia Mountains is difficult, but I felt euphoric afterwards. I forgot how much I love running. Working out in a health club or walking the mountain just can’t compare. I love being outside, looking at the sky through the trees. I love feeling the sweat on my skin and seeing the small details around me, flowers, bugs, and the small changes homeowners do to their yards. Mostly, I love the solitude.


   So, now my goal is to find some decent place to run that is not all uphill – someplace near our cabin. I know there are great places to run out where we are building our house, which is what I’ve been waiting for, but I’m no longer willing to put off an activity that I think brings so much to my life – physically and spiritually . I don’t know if our outing the other day will encourage my son to run in the future, but it has certainly lit a fire under me.


   Funny, that we  can forget how uplifting things we love can be, when we ignore them temporarily because we are attending to our responsible lives.


   Some things, like running, are just good for the soul. I’m glad to be reminded.   

Saturday – Jailbreak day.

    


To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing,
to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough
for one man’s life.


–T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American Poet


     Today is Saturday. Jailbreak day. Well, to be more precise – jail-break-your-heart day.


     I went to visit Kathy again, to see how her court trial went, or IF it went. I called for an appointment on Friday (I’m learning the in’s and out’s now) and just hearing that my reading student was still there, prepared me for disappointment. She didn’t get her appearance in court last Thursday. She’s hoping, praying, for next week.


   Kathy didn’t look good today. Thin. Sad. We talked for about a half an hour. I asked her to tell me why she was there. Just between us, I needed to know if she was arrested for using meth or selling it, because – well, it makes a difference regarding how I feel about this entire aspect of our acquaintance.


    Apparently, she was home alone using meth (first time in two years, according to her) and it just so happens her probation officer (from the one time she was caught before) did a spot check on her that day. The officer asked her if she was on something, and rather than lie, Kathy admitted she had fallen off the wagon that afternoon. Unlucky coincidence – unlucky choice of response. The woman had to arrest her. Rather than this confession resulting in a night in jail, which is what Kathy expected, she’s been confined ever since.


    I asked Kathy why she didn’t lie to the probation officer. Perhaps the officer, even if she had suspicions, might have let the transgression go. Kathy’s confession didn’t leave any alternative but to deal with the problem openly.
   Kathy shrugged and said, “I do drugs. I don’t lie.”


   Interesting. I related to that answer – and to her.  People are far from perfect, and I appreciate those that admit their failings. It means they are honest about their dishonesty. I think that’s how you know you can trust an untrustworthy person. Ha. That sounds illogical, but to me, there is logic in that twist. I mean, isn’t it easier to trust someone sitting in jail who admits they’ve made a mistake, then trust the fellow proclaiming his innocence despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Anyway, I respect the way Kathy takes responsibility for her situation.


     I asked a load of questions this time. I have an insatiable curiosity about things I don’t know, and my mind is working to wrap itself around her dilemma, trying to figure out how she can, should, and will, handle it. This entire scenario is teaching me to better understand her socio-economic group and the culture of the underprivileged, first hand. I’m piecing together how her being illiterate factors in. All this sounds as if I am insensitive and analytical, and to some degree, I guess I am. But my relationship with Kathy is about reading – it’s just not a more intimate, personally involved friendship to date. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to help her. Can’t explain it.


      She cried today as we talked about her son. He had a birthday this month and she was granted a visitation in the same room with him– she got to hold his hand. It meant so much to her.


     It’s her 40th birthday on Monday. What a way to spend it. But she says it’s better to spend your birthday in jail than dead, and considering the vile drug she’s been experimenting with, she feels blessed to be alive at all.


       She says she’s learned a great deal about the evils of meth these past weeks. I asked if someone, a drug counselor or other professional, had visited her to discuss it. She said, no – she’s learned about the perils of meth from the other women in jail. That’s about as reliable as learning sex education from the other nine year olds in third grade, as far as I’m concerned. She told me about an eighteen-year-old inside for the same thing, and how she looks as if she is rotting away. That scares her. (Here I am worried that my facials aren’t keeping wrinkles at bay, while Kathy is worrying about rotting from the inside out. This does put life in perspective a bit.) Kathy says another woman inside was sent to prison for doing meth, but a few months later they discovered she never had a court trial, had no paperwork, nothing. Oops. They sent her back and there she sits, awaiting some action. A pawn in a chess game played by overworked, disinterested players who assume druggies are better not seen and not heard.


   I listen, thinking the sensationalized TV movies about unorganized, backcountry legal systems and their failings don’t do justice to subject. Who’d imagine that.


    Kathy said a minister visits the jail every day for service. They have church everyday but Sunday (he is busy elsewhere that day, no doubt). She showed me a small, business-card sized “Happy Birthday” card that he gave her. It is the only card/gift she will be able to have for this prominent birthday and she considers it precious. (Man-o-man, do I wish I could bake her a cake. I’d keep the nail file out. Promise.) 


   Kathy says the services help her “see the light and understand her folly.” When she talks like this, I can’t help but grit my teeth. She told me she didn’t feel strongly about religion when we met. I guess, in order to get along, it’s required that those “inside” repent according to the acceptable standards of this Bible belt community. Why does this annoy me so? Whatever brings comfort should be good, right? But it’s not unlike how I feel about the United Christian Children’s fund. I contribute regularly and I think it’s a noble and wonderful organization, truly, but I hate that, in order to be saved from starvation, the people needing help must embrace Christian teachings.


    It’s like saying, “Embrace our God or starve.”


    How fair is that? What do you expect those needy people to say, other than, ” Umm… pass me a roll, Amen.”


    Not much of a choice, if you ask me. So the former  Muslims and Hindu’s in third world countries are suddenly Christians – Christians with a nice full stomach. Hey, that’s good, right? We are helping, true. But I think the best way to serve God is by helping without all the strings attached. Action in HIS name that leaves HIS name out of it, if you know what I mean.


    I am getting off track – forgive me. Hope I don’t trip as I step-down off this soapbox.


         


      Kathy doesn’t have any idea about her case, what will happen if she’s convicted, where she will go, how long she will be held in jail, when she will see a judge or any other significant details about her situation. The court appointed attorney only visited her once, refuses to talk to her husband or tell the family anything regarding what to expect. He was extremely rude when they called for information and they’re intimidated by him now, so they don’t even bother to try to find out anything about her case.


    Her husband brought her a bottle of medicine for her depression – something that was court appointed after seeing a therapist when caught the first time. She was given one pill, then mysteriously, the medicine was misplaced or lost and she was told not to ask about it anymore. She’s having some dark depression as result (Not like that is unexpected.) The husband doesn’t want to bring more, because the 108.00 it costs is hard to come by now that he is missing work – he has to stay home to take care of their son some days. And he doesn’t trust his wife will ever be given her medication in that place even if he struggles to be able to afford it.


    I listen, nodding supportively, getting more and more pissed, thinking,  where the hell is the woman’s medication then?


   The entire thing is hard for me to comprehend. Can you imagine being in jail and waiting helplessly to see what the winds of fate (and the jaded establishment) does to determine your future – not taking defensive action? Not me. People of my middleclass upbringing demand due process and have expectations regarding what kind of treatment and representation they deserve. We fight the system to assure our legal rights are upheld, even when we are guilty of a mistake. But then, people of my class understand the workings of our government, and if we don’t – we learn what we have to learn to function within the rules, doing what we must to protect our best interest.


    Mark and I talked about Kathy’s situation, and he brought up some good points about how we (all people) seem to be trained to operate in certain ways due to our upbringing and social expectations – class system mindsets. Kathy doesn’t feel empowered in any way, so she allows her fate to be entirely determined by people who think of her as another annoying social failure. She hasn’t much choice. Someone who can’t read a stop sign can’t exactly pick up a book or pamphlet to learn what her legal rights are. She’s got to rely on only what information she’s told – when and if someone chooses to share the correct information with her.


   It kills me. 


  Mark thinks it’s almost impossible to help someone who comes from her disadvantaged world, because they can’t realistically envision a different life and they aren’t armed with the same sense of entitlement as those from more priviledged upbringings. A few rare individuals have been known to “pull themselves up from their bootstraps”, but that’s usually a case of one remarkable spirit defying norms. In most cases, even the best intentions to make a difference fail.


     I think, this comment was a lead up to defusing my passion regarding saving the world, one illiterate person at a time. He doesn’t want me to be disappointed or feel I’m a failure if Kathy turns out to be “unsaveable”. Nor does he want me to invest too much time in a losing battle.


     I think he’s right about the perils of social mindset, but I can’t help but honestly believe that teaching someone to read will enhance their life, even if it doesn’t enhance their life circumstance.


     So, I’m going to call the attorney Monday and talk to him – see if I can wheedle some information out of him in the name of “literacy”. Since I am not a family member, or a friend, I can claim an unemotional (even if this is not entirely true) professional interest, so I might be able to gain insight into Kathy’s predicament.


   I might also accidentally on purpose mention that I am writing articles for the paper on literacy, and that Kathy is one case we are looking at….. ummm…… and see if that makes him answer a few questions without the rude attitude I’m told to expect. I will also talk to her probation officer. Then I’ll call the college and discuss her situation. And I’ll make provisions to begin our lessons again, even if they are in the clink.


    Once again, I left Kathy twenty dollars (a birthday present – at least she can buy a snack from the machine on Monday to celebrate) and I told her I would make arrangements for us to continue our lessons as soon as possible. I think this will keep her mind off of her serious problems, if nothing else. And we can focus on reading instead of all this other sad stuff for a while. 


 


    I believe, in life, we are all bumper cars. Sometimes we are aiming at others, hoping to make a dent in their façade. Meanwhile, others bang into us, catching us off guard. We try to dodge lots of bumps, drivers who are bumping with malicious intent rather than for fun. Sometimes, we try to outrun someone driving right towards us, this way, when they bump us, it isn’t so jarring because we are braced for it. Sometimes you barrel head on towards someone aiming right at you, and the force of the crash makes both of your heart’s leap.


    We just go on, bumping away, touching each other softly or with great impact, colliding over and over with all the people on the ride – crashing in unexplainable random order.     


     I’ve bumped into Kathy, and I don’t know why or what I will learn from it. But she smiled at me after we made contact, so now, I’ll be damn if I’m going to turn my steering wheel around and drive away to bump into other people. I plan to back up, gain speed, and bump her right back – hoping I can force her to move in another direction. Just to see if I can. Our first bump may have been random, but I recognize her face on this ride now, and as such, I can’t ignore her.


    


     One other thing I’ll mention in this blog (cause it is sort’ a the same subject). I got a call Friday from the Toccoa Technical college and the woman in charge of the Georgia Literacy Commission. She wants me to sit on a task force committee – a literacy board, I’m guessing. I will find out more about it Monday. Of course, I’ll participate.


 


     Interesting. Life is a snowball. Sometimes little flakes of passion melt – but sometimes they roll downhill gaining size and depth. Wonder where all this literacy action stuff is going? Perhaps it is all just life research for something else all together – something I will do later that is significant somehow to me or others. My snowballs, -writing, being a reading tutor and becoming an activist in literacy – might join together to make one funny little snowman project – something else all together (a book?) . . . Or maybe, all this is simply “busy work” sent from heaven to keep me out of trouble for a while – an evasive tactic to help me pull my attention away from dance – like pulling the bandaid off quickly for merci sake.


      I just have to go with the flow and wait and see – time will reveal what it’s all about.

Oh – and tonight I am going to the drive-in. All of life is not a project, ya know. Sometimes, I just have fun. Popcorn, a flick and fogged windows. Can’t wait.

Beautification Day

    Today, I woke up and declared the day, “Beautification day.” I am queen of my world, so if I want to make it a special day, why not?


     I began with my car. I spent 9 dollars on the wash cycle (which shows how muddy it was this time), crouching down to wash the muck from the underside and wheel carriage and using the scrub brush and special triple foam (what does that do, by the way?) to make the silver body gleam. I used tire cleaner on the wheels and rubber floor mats then power sprayed the carpet mats. Next, I used armorall on every surface inside (after spending another 4 bucks on the super duper power vac – man, beauty costs). After all this, my trusty carriage looked fairly presentable, which is good, all things considering. My car doesn’t age as gracefully as I do – but then, it lives a harder life as servant to the queen.


      Then, it was time to work on the other abused vehicle of my world – umm… that would be my physical vehicle. I went and had a full new set of pink and white nails put on. I have graceful hands (starting to wrinkle, but still they are feminine hands with a gift for touch, so they deserve to be groomed). While my nails give it a good, honest try, they can’t endure long in light of the horse grooming, creek mucking, clay molding, etc.. that I sentence them to do daily. My polished digits looked mighty fine glimmering under the sunroof against the backdrop of a now-gleaming black leather steering wheel.     


    Then, I drove from the nail salon to the day spa to have a facial and peel. I do this every month, a mid-evil torture technique to remove the outer epidermis of a person’s face to keep wrinkles, discoloration (freckles), and other non-perfections at bay. Peels sting. I spend the seven minutes of chemical burning silently cussing in my head, even though the soothing meditation music in the background is supposed to make this experience an indulgement. Hardly.


       Next, I had my hair done. I chopped off a few inches, because it’s getting too long (and after my last cut, I’ve been unhappy with all the layers. It looks too young for a sophisticated woman of my years. Ahem – humor me, please). I’ve decided I want a different sort of look – long still, so I can put it up in French braid or twist, but sleeker. I was very happy with the results. I’m not one to mess with my hair much, because it happens to be my one and only lucky gift from heaven – thick, full, and a color that suits me. But I do cover the gray now, so my low maintenance hair requires a maintenance check once in a while, like having your oil changed regularly, even though your car runs fine.


      I had a bit of time to kill before picking up my kids from school, so I stopped by a shop here that I love to peruse. Odd, because honestly, I hate shopping. However, this store has fantastic clothing for a song – the brands I used to buy at expensive department stores for six times more than they are here. It’s a little discount place that has the ambiance of an old K-mart – which is probably why I love it. It isn’t like hard-core shopping. I bought a few cute tops. I guess a couple thousand cute tops aren’t enough for one chick who lives in an isolated area where there is no place to go.


    Sue me. I like cute tops.


     I am now sitting at my computer in a cute top with perfect nails, nice hair, glowing skin and soon, I’ll be driving away in my spit and polished car. But first, I am waiting for my pear upside-down gingerbread cake to finish cooking. I’m taking it to my sister-in-law’s house. Our in-laws have moved in with her for the next few months, until my father in law is no longer with us.(Feels awful, saying that) Dianne has taken on most of the burden of caring for them, but needs a break occasionally. Therefore, on Thursdays, she takes my son to a cartooning class in Canton, and I make dinner and take it over and spend the evening there. Tonight, I’m making Shrimp Scampi, pasta and green beans. I’ll take a bottle of wine, even though I will be the only one who will drink any of it. It goes with the meal – and makes the evening pass a bit less stressfully.   


    I’ll take my yarn and crochet hook, and work on another scarf. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting and crochet since my Father in Law got sick, because it’s an easily transportable activity – something you can do in the hospital or hanging out in a living room that doesn’t demand undivided attention. Bt it’s nice to keep your hands busy when you are emotionally uncomfortable.


    I used to make lots of textile-associated crafts when I was younger. Quilting, embroidery, sewing, tatting, needlepoint, and anything with yarn. Loved it all.  I was no fool. In high school, I made every one of my boyfriend’s mother’s a hand crocheted afghan. Ha. I knew how to be the favorite girlfriend. Boys were afraid to break up with me, because their mother would ground them. When I moved to New York, I sewed all my own clothes out of necessity (that is the only way I could afford the fashion I wanted to sport). All the dancers hung out in the lobby of the studios knitting legwarmers. It was like a dancer’s right of passage. Until you were in the crochet click, you weren’t really a bonifide New York dancer. I remember teaching a few of the dancers who didn’t have the basics how to crochet, thinking the intricate finger dexterity required for knitting was not unlike tap dancing. Gee – life has always been a dance to me.


    It’s fun when you live in a place that is cold enough to merit wearable handmade art. In Florida, I just stopped doing anything with yarn. FLEX demanded all my attention, so I didn’t have time for that kind of thing, and even if I did, there isn’t much call for scarves or handmade sweaters in a place where it is summer 24 -7.


     This winter, when I started feeling the brisk winds move in, I bought some yarn to dabble with. I couldn’t believe how terrific the products available now are, all kinds of tweeds and textured fibers. Didn’t have that 20 years ago. Excited with the selection, I bought yarn with rugged knots, furry textures and wispy filaments of ribbon woven in. I get such a kick out of seeing how it all turns out, so I’ve been making lots of scarves, just to experiment. I have hairy scarves, bubbly coarse scarves and some that look like fabric is woven into the yarn.


   My husband claimed the first scarf, a thick tweedy dark green thing that was soft, but solidly put together. I told him it was my “practice” scarf, and since it was the first one after a long hiatus, he should wait. I’ll get more creative when I get back into it. But he insisted I give him that first scarf. He has been with me eighteen years and never seen me crochet or knit, and I think he’s fascinated to see my hands quickly pulling the yarn, weave the wool, and dip the needle in and out, creating something that looks professionally done. Guess he thought there was nothing new to learn about me. Ha. That will be the day. I will make him something in blacks and grays – a manly scarf before the winter comes. Then, hey, if he doesn’t please me, I’ll have it at the ready to grab and pull – a sharp wringing of the neck comes in handy when a man gets out of line.  Yes, I think many scarves are in order.


       Anyway, one of the things I love about living in a place with a change in seasons is that inspires me to revisit activities from my past. And working with yarn is one. Tonight, I’m working with a hairy, orange and red tone yarn that looks like fur. I’ll make a thin scarf to wear with a turtleneck I have. Fun.


      When I come home, I’ll finish the day with a final project to round out my beautification themed day. I’ll clean up my manuscript, because I have another huge packet due my professor in a week and I’m nowhere near ready. This reveals that I did not have the time, or the excuse, for playing hooky today to pamper myself. I’m a big fat MFA slacker.


     Beautification day is all an illusion, anyway. Tomorrow, I’ll go to the land and my car will be filled with dust and mud as the dogs leap in and out  -they are on a quest to bring the outside in – in the house, the car, you name it. And I will groom the horses and my nails will get grubby underneath. I’ll tuck my hair into a ponytail so it looks unkempt and  the sun will beat down on my brow and let the ultraviolet rays make my wrinkles reappear. Yes – for all that I like to pretend I pamper myself – I sure don’t embrace a pampered lifestyle. That’s not me.


    Nevertheless, today, at this very minute, I look, and feel, beautified.  

SILENT MESSAGES

     I found a building I want to buy. It’s somewhat decrepit, but it sits on the rushing river that travels through McCaysville and I can imagine bistro tables on a deck outside, a perfect place for people to sit with a cup of coffee and listen to a flutist or folk guitar player. It could be refurbished – or torn down to put up a log style building. I was pretty excited, but when I called, they told me it was already sold. Sold in a day. Sure, I’m always a day late and a dollar short. They wouldn’t tell me how much it went for, but I bet it was a steal.


   I told Mark I had made the call and was disappointed, because it was a perfect place for a gallery and café, and a great investment.


    He sighed.


    I KNEW a sigh was just waiting to escape his lips to put the skids on my ambition. I guess, until I actually started making calls, he was hoping my cafe talk was just a passing fancy. Unfortunately, I don’t have many passing fancies. My fancies are like life-callings.


    He looked tired. He said, “Just write, Ginny.”


    He might have told me to go play in the street, only we have no traffic, so what would that accomplish?  


     I know what he’s thinking. We need to finish building our house first, get organized, take a breath, before embracing a new project. We are still tired from those last few years of FLEX, building a new building, dealing with the stress of expansion, selling the business. Then, there was the turmoil of refurbishing this cabin while we were camping inside – stress and discomfort is easier to take if, at night, you can cuddle up in a cozy home to get away from the mess. We had to lay our head on pillows covered in sawdust daily. No escape.


    And just because the cabin is finished, doesn’t mean the attentions this property demands are over. There is the fact that we keep getting great offers on the adjacent land on the creek now that we found a way to put a road there. We’re told it’s the best piece of property available in Blue Ridge for a rental cabin, and everyone in the building business seems interested. So, we are struggling with a decision – to take the easy road and sell it now, counting our blessings that we got this extra lot for free when we bought this dilapidated cabin, or dive in and build a spec cabin ourselves to sell or rent – a great investment. That would be like starting a new business too, for it would take effort, time and attention – mostly Mark’s. (Tired sigh).


   On our 50 acres, we still need to build a second workshop for Mark (the current one isn’t going to be sufficient for his goals because it isn’t insolated – we will use the current one for wood storage) and we need a barn.   In fact, there is so much to do on our land it’s intimidating. It could be a full time job for Mark for the rest of his days, considering the vision he has for it. He wants to remove a zillion beetle pines (cause they grow 50 feet, but the roots rot away and then they keep falling in storms) and he plans to make a huge lake where the springhead is erupting near the house. He has plans to landscape our land like Oz. Anyone who knows Mark and his way with outdoor design can imagine how busy he will be with 50 acres of raw land to mold. 


    And let’s not forget I have a year left of graduate school, we have to move into the new house this summer, we have to build a website and organize a new rental business if we want to rent our cabin (or do what it takes to sell it) and…. Well, you get the point. We don’t need a new café/art gallery to keep us busy.


 


    I think, for me, life is like an open buffet and my eyes are bigger than my stomach. And Mark is standing along side me, already full, wanting to push his plate away while I keep spooning on another lump of tasty fare saying, “Just one more bite. You’ll love it.”


     But caring for someone involves paying attention to what they need, want and deserve. And he deserves a break. And time. And some undivided attention from his spouse. He is forty and feels (and acts) eighty. He is out of shape, rundown, and instead of having fun sanding the logs that will be used for rustic detail in the house, he approaches the work with dread. It’s important that I am sensitive to his state, and do what I can to alleviate his exhaustion rather than toss a new project his way, which is like feeding him arsenic. I worry that I am killing him. Really.


     So, I will drive by the building I didn’t get to buy every day and trust that my calling a day late was meant to be. And I will tune in to my husband’s sighs and know they are very, very important signals about what I can and should do at this particular time in our lives. He won’t sigh forever – I trust that. And I need to remember it is my job, as spouse, to change those tired sighs to sighs of pleasure. (That, my friend, is a full time job in itself.)


    People have always told me I have a lot of energy. My parents and in-laws chuckle and say they’ve never met anyone that does so much with such enthusiasm. Even my teachers at school have said I have “energy” – Odd because they only see that small element of my world that deals with their assignments. How can they know? Anyway, it’s a comment made often to me. “Gee, you have so much energy.”


    I always poo poo the statement, thinking it’s off the mark, cause, heck, I’m always tired. I flop into bed at the end of the day feeling like I ran a marathon. I feel old. Beat up.  Sometimes, in the middle of the day, I just want to sit, have a cup of coffee, do nothing. But doing nothing just doesn’t suit me. When I do nothing, I think of things to do. BIG things. And BIG things require energy.


    I think I’ve figured out the discrepancy. I do have tons of energy – only it is MENTAL energy. My mind is racing all the time with ideas, aspirations, inspiration. Keeping up with the physical self is another story entirely.(That’s the kind of energy I could use an extra portion of, God, if you don’t mind). I resent that there are only 24 hours in a day – I need more. And I need some powerful vitamins to kick-start a body that is slowing down and causing a bigger and bigger gap between what I want to do and what I can do.


     I only have my own self to blame for the ongoing stress in our lives, so I try not to complain or act like I am a victim of life’s constant trials. We live the life of our own design, and I must take responsibility for making decisions that involving pushing forward through muck to see what is on the other side of the swamp. I could stay put. Be comfortable. But I’m just not the sort of person who is comfortable coasting. I am all about pedaling.


     Anyway, I am putting my idea for a coffee shop/gallery on hold – until we are settled into our home and I graduate. I need to see where the dust lands from the huge life reconstruction project we have taken on – THEN see what direction we should take next. Until then, I will channel my energies into writing. I haven’t exactly given that the attention it deserves. I’m writing books, but doing nothing at all to sell them.


     Anyway, I will know when it’s time to break ground on a new adventure. It is simply a matter of listening, and respecting, my husband’s sighs.


     Huge messages lie in silence.

TIRED IS AS TIRED DOES

Rain, please.


Today, my son and I seeded (and put weed control) over our entire pasture. Everyplace in Georgia, including our land, is green and plush, except the pasture where our horses have trudged it all down. The area clearly requires some help to perk back up. We have no idea what we are doing, but a good college try can’t hurt. I’m told that one should seed the field this month with Fescue grass. So that’s what we did. A touch of rain would make me feel confident the effort might take… showers are on the agenda according to the weatherman, but who trusts him? It is lovely out tonight. Figures.


 


For two hours I pulled dead weeds out of the creek too. I ruined my shoes, then put on my muck boots, then ruined my work gloves, then tossed them aside and went bare handed. I looked so dirty you’d swear I’d been dragged behind a horse a mile or two. Dozens of huge piles of debris are lining the creek bed (but I was too tired to throw it over the fence today.) The water is running clear and unencumbered now. Love that sound.  I threw a load of sticks that have blown onto the pasture during storms over the fence then I went to bury the placenta and sac from our horse birth, and noticed it was gone. Guess scavengers had it for lunch this week. At least now, the pasture is clear – ready for the grass to grow, should our seeds decide to honor us by taking root.


 


Peppy, a horse far too intelligent for his own good, picked up a 50-pound bag of seed and swung it around in his mouth, trying to open it. He thought it might be something tasty and my yelling didn’t seem to discourage him from his mischief.  I’d planned to ride today, but the work was more involved than expected. I should have gone for a ride first. That’s what you get for attending to responsibilities before indulging your desires. Hate when I do that…. and I do that far too often to feel anything close to the free spirit I pretend to be.


 


I feel like a little house on the prairie work hand. Not complaining – but I’m tired. Really tired.  Am I old? Out of shape? Citified and unable to keep up with the country folks? This exhaustion is worse than any run, workout, teaching or other work that leaves your muscles and ligaments feeling abused beyond capacity. The outdoor tasks are nice for the spirit, but everywhere else I’m aching.  Even my fingers are tired, which shows my commitment to this blog, because typing takes more energy then I should be able to muster in this state. Yet, I’m here. 


 


Nevertheless, for all that the work was backbreaking, the company was nice. My son kept clowning around in the pasture, making jokes and demonstrating his profound, enduring happiness with our new life. The songs of birds and the movement of butterflies surrounded us. And Donkey kept checking in (llama is way too regal and aloof to care much about underlings like us). April raced around on her new steady legs playing tag with us. We are supposed to handle her lots, but she prefers staying a foot beyond our reach, never further, just enough to keep us coming at her but never making contact.  I continue to look over the field, past the trees, expecting our dog, Sammy, to come bounding through the underbrush wagging his tail sheepishly because he knows his walk-about worried us. I fear that is an image that may always be in my head, but will never materialize. Miss him dreadfully.


 


Last but not least, since planting was the theme of the day, I finally spread my 5 lb bag of wildflower mix along the drive towards the house. What was I saving it for? I’ve had it since fall and I am starting to feel like the woman in the story “Deep Seeded” that I wrote about a seed collector.  I am praying a colorful array of bountiful blooms will appear next month. If not, I can at least know I made an effort to give these seeds their moment in the sun, rather than remain horded away in a bag in my kitchen cupboard. Everybody deserves a chance to grow, to see what true potential lurks within the plain outer shell that the world takes at face value. I don’t know what kinds of flowers may spring up from those plain, dull seeds, but I’m guessing they’ll be diverse and unique, given their freedom to scatter with the wind and dig in where they feel inclined. That is far more exciting than a pre-planned, controlled flowerbed any day. 


 


I saw a lovely cup at the Apple Orchid today. A slogan on it read, “It is important to take time to stop and smell the flowers, but it is just as important you take the time to plant some as well.” 


Ha. No kidding. Well, today, I did my part.


 


And like the little red hen, today I felt like saying, “And who will help me plant the grass?”


“Not I,” said the donkey.


“Not I,” said the llama.


“Not I,” said the horse.


“I will,” said the son . . . and together they worked in the field.


And in the summer, she said, “Now who will help me enjoy the grass?”


“I will,” said the donkey.


“I will,” said the llama.


“I will,” said the horse.


“Only the son is allowed,” said the little red hen. “For he alone helped me develop the field.”  And together they rolled in the soft grass, enjoying the sweet, rich grass under their toes while the animals looked on from the muddy area behind the fence, ashamed at the fact that they did not contribute to the work required to make such a wonderful pasture.


 


(If you don’t get that, you are a dismal failure in the childhood fairytale department.)


 


I am mad at Ron. (www.wheresronnow.com) He’s a fellow walking the Appalachian Trail. He began in our area just a short while ago and I follow his progress. I sent 20.00 to his foundation, the Russell Home for Atypical Children. It is nice that this guy not only is taking the time to learn about nature and himself, but does it simultaneously drudging up funds for a cause.  He has a blog, but dang if he hasn’t written anything for a few days. The fact that it is hard to get internet in the wilderness is no excuse for silence when you have a following, I’m thinking.


 


I am all about hiking now. I found out there are five waterfalls in our area, and I have info on the hikes to see all of them. I’m planning to drag my college age daughter to every one when she gets here in ten days.( I shouldn’t write that. She is a devoted blog reader, and now, she has time to make up an excuse to get out of it. A stubbed toe at the airport, perhaps?) Mark and I planned to visit the biggest waterfall this week with the kids, but it rained on the afternoon we were going, so we put the adventure off. Played pool instead.
    The longest swinging wooden bridge this side of the Mississippi is also nearby. But you can only get to see it on foot, and it’s a thirteen-mile hike in and thirteen miles out. I need to do some trial runs to other areas first to determine if we can do thirteen miles in a day. Might be an overnight thing, but I’m game. I’ll play Davey Crocket and give it a try, just to say I did. The pictures of this bridge are amazing, natural, slightly dangerous looking, and reminiscent of a Tarzan movie. I’m guessing the real thing is even more impressive.


 


A bear ate a six year old this week out here. Really. It is only the second bear attack in about 30 years, so bear encounters are not considered a real danger in the area. Sad story though. I think, if I encountered a bear, I’d start dancing. For years I’ve been doing all these dances with three year olds to bear songs with little stuffed, plush bears in tutus. I associate bears with dancing. Doesn’t make sense, I just do. We have a terrific picture of dancing bears for the cabin too. So, if a bear decides to walk beside me when I go visit the swinging bridge, I’ll pirouette and invite him to join me. It just would seem natural.


It’s a plan.      


 


   I need to close this blog. I must write an annotation on the book Beloved. Wow – that was powerful. Affected me mightily, and I have no doubt it will influence my novel, Touched by Fate, when I get back to it. Love when I read something that sets my mind on fire. I’m reading a surreal book now (tired sigh) and then I will read my next mentor’s book, The Good Negress. Love reading books my teacher’s have written, because it helps me know them better which reinforces our relationship.


    I will have a short break between terms soon (in late May and June) and I plan to read On The Road by Jack Kerouac, a renown creative non-fiction, beatnik culture, travel book written in the 50’s, which I ordered today, and some down home, erotic smut which I ordered last month. Gotta keep in balance, don’t ya know.  Can’t have my brain overloaded with too much nourishing material requiring thought– need some junk to oil the wheels and dilute the friction in my head.


    I have completed my first year of school. Can you believe it? I’m in the home stretch now, an upper classman focused on her thesis. Smarter. Inspired. But too tired to do anything with the skills I’ve learned. Ha. That’s my life. Lots of running but never towards a finish line. 


 


Wish it would rain. I wouldn’t be so tired if it would only rain.


I wonder if my seeds are sinking into the earth, or in some bird’s belly. 
I need to stop thinking so much.  

A LITERACY LEAP OF FAITH

     Went to jail today. Didn’t rob a bank or evade taxes. Didn’t pass go or collect a hundred dollars. I went to pay a visit to my friend, Kathy. It was long overdue.


    I’ve thought about her often the past two months, wondering what happened regarding her recent legal problem. Perhaps she was home and had put aside her interest in learning to read. Then again, she may still be incarcerated, in which case the idea of learning to read may be low on her priority list, trailing behind other more imperative survival quests.


    I’m not one to drop a project I care about. I’m like a badger, when I take a bite of something that tastes “right”, no one can unclench my jaws. I only let loose when personal reasons make me chose to do so. But contrary to this, I haven’t pursued Kathy and our reading project because I’ve been distracted by my father-in-law’s cancer. Nevertheless, I haven’t forgotten her. The call from the Toccoa Technical College soliciting my help to write articles about their student’s success stories triggered some measure of guilt inside. I started thinking about how my particular student, Kathy, was not a “success story”, but one of the failures. And that just didn’t sit well with me at all.


   So, I called Kathy’s husband to find out how she was doing. At first, he was evasive. He asked who I was and why I wanted to know about his wife. I re-introduced myself as her reading teacher and told him I’d been wondering about how things were going for her. Last time we talked, he told me she’d been arrested and she would call when she was released. Since I haven’t heard from her since, I wanted to check in. 


    I guess a reading teacher isn’t much of a threat because he softened immediately. He told me she was still in jail and they didn’t know how much longer she would be there. “Thursday, she might have a court date determining her fate”, he said, “We don’t know for sure. It’s a day by day thing.”


     I told him I’d been thinking about Kathy and wondered if she was still interested in learning to read. I was willing to help still, in jail or out. I asked if I could see her. He explained that visitation is on Saturday and Sunday, but I’d have to call to set up an appointment in advance. It was already six on a Friday, but I called the correctional facility anyway. They told me to call back at 7am the next morning to make an appointment. So I got up early and called on Saturday. Then, I was told I could only make appointments on Fridays. I would have to wait a week.


   I’m not exactly a patient person. I didn’t want to wait. So, I pleaded my case, explaining that I was Kathy’s reading tutor assigned by the Georgia Literacy Commission (sounded official) and that the college suggested I make arrangements to visit with her to determine whether or not we should continue the program. This is not exactly true, but it was close enough that I could talk about the importance of the meeting with enough conviction to sound believable. The officer on the phone suggested I come at 9:30. Kathy was scheduled to see her husband and son at that time and I could “share” their time.


     I certainly wouldn’t presume to take any of the precious time allotted the family for myself, but I did decide to go at 9:30, just to evaluate the situation and see if I could figure out what was going on.  


    
    I have never had occasion to visit a jail before. I’ve never bailed out a friend who might have had one too many, causing them to dance naked in public, or baked a cake with a nail file in it for a bad boy I had a thing for. Convicts simply aren’t a part of my social circle, so to say I was out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I entered the lobby of the Blue Ridge correctional facility with feigned confidence, my steps forced forward to enter the cold, stark room with a single row of black leather chairs standing center for waiting guests. The atmosphere was harsh, the very aura of the space making me feel as if I was in trouble, like when a police officer is following your car. It doesn’t matter that his lights aren’t on or that you are going the speed limit. You still feel circumspect.


     No one was manning the reception window. I stood politely at the front desk for over ten minutes but didn’t see a soul.


    The visiting room was only a few feet away. Inside, I could see people talking on phones to orange jumpered inmates seated in small, square concrete booths behind a protective glass window. There were five stations. I figured Kathy must be in one of them. I looked for a nine-year-old boy, assuming her son would be present for visitation, but I couldn’t make out any youths. A small three year old was toddling around and I heard a woman urge her to say hello to her mother. It made me sad. A large, bold sign stated that only family members qualified as visitors. No others were allowed to speak to the inmates. This might deter another woman, but I didn’t budge. 


     No one was around to tell me about procedure or how to go about arranging a visit. There were no pamphlets or signs to explain the rules. I considered walking into the visitation area unannounced, just looking for Kathy and waving, but deemed it a mistake. No reason to do anything that might harm my chances of building a respectful report with the administration, considering I am not a family member and have no right to be here. So I stood around another five minutes feeling conspicuous.


     I was now getting annoyed. I figured the jail is manned by public servants whose salaries are paid for by my taxes. After years of supporting the system, today I wanted to cash in. I’m the public and I wanted to be served. Where was everyone?


    Finally, I decided to poke around to get help. I entered a small hallway with a sign that that said, “No entry”. I decided that if someone stopped me, I could play ignorant. (Well, I wouldn’t be playing) I found a man sitting in front of a slew of monitors, his feet propped up on the desk like the bored guards you see in every B movie that features a small town jail and it’s lazy sheriff. I asked him if anyone was expected at the front desk because I’d been waiting in the lobby for over fifteen minutes. The guard quickly straightened up and came out to help me.


    I explained who I was, turning on my authoritative air and acting as if my visit was condoned by the college, the literacy commission and God himself. He listened carefully to my diatribe about Kathy being illiterate and the importance of our work together. I explained that everyone involved (um. . .that would be me, but I didn’t point that out) was concerned about losing ground in the progress she’d made. I told him I could get permission to continue working with her in the facility, but I wanted to discuss it with her before making arrangements to determine whether or not she was still interested.


    He looked at me as if trying to figure me out, then said, “What is wrong with her that she can’t read?”


   “She just never learned.”


   “Didn’t she go to school?”


    “She went for nine years.”


     He shook his head. It was unclear to me whether this condemning gesture was for the school’s failure, Kathy’s, or for me, getting involved with something that he considered a lost cause. I just blinked at him innocently. Waiting.


     “I don’t suppose you can tell me what she did or how long she’ll be here?” I asked. “I’m not prying, but I don’t want to go to the trouble of arranging meetings here if she is going to be released soon. And if she’s likely to be sentenced for some kind of crime, it would help to know if she’ll be sent elsewhere, or will remain in this area so I can arrange on-going tutorial visits.”


     He told me to hold on, and went to look at her file. When he returned, he said, “You should count on her being here a long, long time.”


     Damn.


      I was disheartened and wondered if Kathy had any clue about the severity of her case. Then again, perhaps this man was cynical and thought the worst of people involved with drugs. Perhaps Kathy rotting in the community correctional facility was his idea of fair justice, but a judge with all the facts might be more lenient. Without knowing Kathy’s crime or history, I had no way of predicting her future.   


     “If you’re willing to wait fifteen minutes I’ll clear everyone out and you can have a few minutes alone with her,” he said, at least showing respect for my good intentions.


      I let him know I’d be deeply appreciative and sat down to wait. Fifteen minutes and he would bend the rules for me? I would have waited all day if necessary. 


      Right on cue, everyone filed out of the visitation room. Two men were in the crowd, one a clean cut, graying gentleman in a uniform holding the door for everyone else, and the other, your typical country renegade with unwashed hair hanging in unruly strands to his waist. This man had bad teeth, an untrimmed beard and wore a t-shirt with a rock band logo blazed across the chest.


     This is where it becomes obvious I’m guilty of a touch of prejudice towards those who skirt the law.  I turned to the long haired fellow and said, “You must be Mr. Smith, I’m Ginny. We talked on the phone.”


     “I’m not Smith,” the fellow said, looking me up and down with the kind of smile the wolf gives little red riding hood.


     “I’m Mr. Smith,” said the clean cut man in the uniform.     


      I was relieved. Surprised. Embarrassed. The logo on the pocket of his uniform was for a company that cleans septic tanks. Of course, this was Kathy’s husband. I then noticed a nine year old standing a few feet away, staring with shy curiosity.


     I introduced myself.


    “I told Kathy you called last night. She was tickled pink. I’ve been trying to keep her spirits up. This helps. Thanks for showing up,” he said.


      Over his shoulder, I could see Kathy’s beaming face behind the glare of the glass. She was motioning me into the visitor’s area. I entered tentatively, amazed that suddenly, I was afforded not only her audience, but privacy for our meeting.


     I slid into the plastic chair and picked up the phone. “Hi.”


     “Hi,” she said. She looked the same, silky hair pulled up in a neat ponytail, make-up carefully applied. She was right before me, but her voice sounded distant. I wondered how old the phones were. My cell phone gets better reception.


     “I’m sorry it took me so long to come see you. I thought you’d be home by now,” I said.


     “Me too.”


      “Do you want to tell me what happened?”


     “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when I get out,” she said, waving her hand as if she was tired of recapping the details.      
      I didn’t think it appropriate to point out that my hearing the story might still be a long way off. But I could wait.


      “I’m guessing you just made a stupid mistake,” I said, wanting to assure her I was still a friend, and not here to pass judgment.


      She nodded. “One mistake in four years. Of course, I got caught. My luck.”


      “You know my opinion. It probably is lucky you got caught. Keeps you from sliding deeper into trouble.”


     She nodded, but didn’t look convinced.


    “How are things in there?”


    “Not bad. The food sucks. They have vending machines in here but I haven’t had any money . My husband is going to try to get me some today before he goes to work.”


    She did look thin. Pale.


    She went on to explain that the women inside are all nice. Her roommate has children too so, mostly, they talk about their families.


    Picking up this theme, I said, “I bet you miss your son.”


    Her eyes welled with tears, unable to control the knee jerk reaction to the question. Dabbing them with her sleeve, she rolled her eyes as if I must think her outburst silly. But all along, I’ve known Kathy is devoted to her son. He’s the reason she wants to change her life and learn to read. So, while it was sad to see her depressed, I was glad to see evidence of her guilt. I consider it the motivation she needs to stay on track.


     I asked her what she thought was going to happen now and she told me she would know more on Thursday. She’s hoping for a diminished sentence, probation with a curfew so she can go home and care for her family.  “I volunteered for rehabilitation,” she said. “It’s a year long program, which I think that would be good for me. At first, my parole officer thought it would be the best thing too, but it turns out I don’t qualify because I can’t read and write. I guess there’s some schoolwork involved. Obviously, I can’t do it.” She made a frustrated gesture, as if she was exhausted by the shadow of her problem tailing her relentlessly.


      “All the more reason we should continue teaching you to read, don’t you think?”


       She nodded solemnly. “I meant what I said before. I’m determined to do it this time and change my life. I thought after this you wouldn’t be around to help me, but here you are. It means a lot to me that you’re here. I’m thinking some of the girls inside could help me with the flash cards and stuff if we continue.”


       “Then that’s what we’ll do.”


        My mind raced over the new obstacles we’d face if we have to continuing our sessions in jail. My lofty ambitions to use recipes and cooking projects as lesson plans would have to give way to less creative methods. We’ll probably be limited to flashcards and pen and paper. For that matter, I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to leave Kathy study materials or books at all. My brother once had an acquaintance in jail and he said that if he wanted to send books, he had to order them through Amazon. Nothing deemed direct contact with others was allowed “inside”. Would they bend the rules in the interest of literacy? Should they?


     I told Kathy I’d wait until Thursday to find out what the future had in store for her, then I would make arrangements for us to start working together again.  I told her to keep her spirits up.


    “They have church services here and I’ve been going,” she said. “It helps.”


    “I thought you weren’t a church going gal,” I said, remembering our previous talk about religion.


    She leaned close to the glass, as if sharing a secret with me. “He lives here,” she said, holding her heart. “I’m not alone and he’s helping me with all this.”


      The fact that I was sitting in jail on a Saturday morning, forgoing my plans to join my family at a spring festival, was evidence enough for me to assume she might be correct. Who’s to say a higher order isn’t pulling the puppet strings that force me into action.         


     I left the visitation room and paused to talk to the guard again. I asked if I could leave Kathy money for the snack machines and he said, “Why?”


     “I want her to be comfortable,” I said.


    “There’s a procedure.”


    “Can you walk me through it, please,” I said. If I was going to start hanging around this dismal concrete hole, I wanted to learn how things worked. I filled out a form and left Kathy twenty-five dollars.


     As I escaped to the open space outdoors, I saw Kathy’s husband. He was waiting to speak to me. It was raining, so his son was in the car, but he stood leaning against the rail, shifting his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably. He thanked me for coming. I told him I had left her money, so he didn’t have to worry about that right away.


     “That was kind of you. I’ll get that back to you soon as I can.”


    “It’s a gift, don’t worry about it, ” I said. I was actually worried about my hair being ruined by the rain, and then, I felt shallow for thinking wet hair is a problem when others have real concerns to deal with. The mind is funny, how it rambles.  


    I told him I was going to wait until Thursday, and once we knew where she would be, we’d work together on her reading again. “I would appreciate a call if you hear any news. I hope things turn out well for your family,” I said.


    “I appreciate that,” he said. Then he sighed. “It’s all my fault.”


     My prejudice flared again. I wondered just what that statement implied. Did he introduce his wife to drugs? Support her problem? Is he as guilty as she (of whatever she has done), but somehow he avoided being caught?


    “I work too damn much,” he explained. “I work between 100 and 120 hours a week. I do it so she doesn’t have to work. But it means she is alone too much and I’m not around to watch out for her. She’s lonely. Sad. That’s how she got into trouble again. I’m sure of it.”


     My heart went out to him, because he’s probably right, at least partially. But who can fault a man who spends a hundred hours a week in septic tanks trying to do right by his family? Or pass judgment on a woman who drowns her depression in illegal substance when life seems a endless hill of obstacles she can’t climb because she can’t read the signs along the way? And whose fault is it that she can’t read, or that he must work so hard at menial jobs because of his own limited education? Society’s fault? There own? Certainly, it’s not mine.


     It has occurred to me that I might be volunteering my time to someone who may not necessarily deserve it. I’m a busy person and there are many causes I could apply my personal effort towards. In light of Kathy’s recent legal trouble and my failure to learn the facts of her incarceration, I can’t be sure Kathy is earnest or deserving of my attention. But I’m choosing to assume she is. It feels right when I look into her eyes, and my gut tells me I can make a difference here.  I guess this is what you would call a literacy leap of faith.


    My aspirations to teach Kathy to read may fail, but if so, it’s fair to assume lessons will be learned in the process.


     Reading lessons.


     For Kathy, this will mean reading at least a few words and sentences better. For me, it will be a matter of learning to read people better.


    Hopefully, in the end, this project will prove we both have the ability to read well.  


 

Newsy news

     The head of the Toccoa Technical College, home of the Georgia literacy foundation, called me yesterday. They are looking to promote their programs and have decided to put together some articles with success stories of some of their participants who’ve earned their GED and perhaps, gone on to find success.  They are hoping this will encourage more people to come forward to seek basic education. The local paper is enthusiastic to print whatever they send in, but since they are short staffed, they asked the college to send only fully prepared pieces.. Therefore, the college needs someone qualified to write the articles.


   Apparently, I am the first person that came to mind. I am a writer and I have shown a sincere interest in literacy. I’ve also volunteered time. I’m the perfect candidate.


   Of course, I said, “Yes. I’d be happy to help.” In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Bad idea. You can’t keep up with your homework as it is, Gin,” But I’m just a girl who can’t say no when someone asks for help – especially when it is something I believe will make a difference. So, I’ll squeeze in the time to write a few personal profiles stories – and who knows, I might meet some interesting, inspirational people that way. And when you have a huge list of “should do’s” what’s one more? And if I need to, I can just submit the stories to my non-fiction teacher as assignments. We are working together again next term, and he is very oppen to my trying new things or moving in directions that support my interests. A small jaunt into journalism would be acceptable. I can hit two birds with one writing stone if necessary.  


 


     Speaking of newspaper writing, I ran an ad in the paper offering a reward for my dog. Came out today.  His picture looks so lost and miserable. Ha. If that doesn’t stir up the emotions of any dog-napper, nothing will. I also went to the animal control facility to double check their stock. Sammy needs a haircut, so he doesn’t look like a qualified Schnauzer, and I just wasn’t comfortable taking their word on it that he wasn’t there. This was a BIG mistake. The place is lined with cages filled with sad, lonely dogs, all with the date they will be destroyed hanging over their heads on a small index card. They only keep the animals here 7 days. I looked into those desperate eyes and wanted to die. One dog, a very scraggly mutt in the center of the room, looked at me and I felt an instant bond. I felt I knew this dog. I bent down and pet her. She licked my hand and put up a soft paw to say hi. Boing goes my heartstrings.


  When my friend Jody visited, we were talking dogs and she said she saw a dog in a pet store she knew I would love. It was my “type.” I didn’t know I had a type and I asked her what she meant. She laughed and said, “You know, you always like dogs that are scraggly and bearded with hair sticking out all wrong. Funny looking mutts. You like dogs that look like they were born under a trash can.” Ha. She is right.


    They are going to put down that sweet dog I liked tomorrow – unless I weaken and go save her. The thing is, I just ran the ad for Sammy and I must wait a few days to see if I get a response. I am not willing to give up easily on a family member in trouble. And we can’t handle more than three dogs in our current living situation. But I keep thinking about that dog and how, perhaps, I’m meant to go save her. I would name her Karma – and deep down I’d feel that the fact that I went out of my way to provide a home for a lost dog might mean someone else would do the same. For Sammy. That would make it easier for me to accept his disappearance – this belief that I did all I could, even created good karma, to influence his fate.


 


   I got a letter from the United Christian Children’s Fund the other day. Got all worried. I’ve been corresponding with a child there for about 10 years, sending support and he is getting older. I think he is turning eighteen soon. I’ve been wondering what happens then, if they will bump him out of the system then and assign me a new child. I don’t know what the procedure is when a child in the system turns into an adult, but I hate the idea of just cutting him loose. So, since this letter was unlike others, I opened it with a small ping of anticipation. But it was just a letter of appreciation and a certificate. Apparently, over time, we have sent over $5,000, which means we’ve reached the first level of giving to merit special honor. Actually, when you think of all the time we’ve been sending 40 dollars a month support (and 100 for Christmas and birthday), that is hardly a drop in a bucket. Could anyone in America raise a child for nine years on five grand? Hardly. I felt both good and bad about that letter when I saw the actual number. Something to think about.


 


   I got the rest of my response from my mentor today – she was late with commentary on my annotations, so I’ve been anxious to see what she had to say. It was remarkably positive. She said the work was “excellent, as usual, and a pleasure to read.” She also said, “Your annotations have an overlying tone of authority in them, which is crucial to any kind of critical analysis”. Ha. She thinks I have a slightly pompous educated writer’s attitude. Big surprise. I do know how to inspire confidence in the fleeting subject of art. Made a career of it in dance.


   She added, “You are both a careful and thoughtful reader and writer . . and since I find them superior and enjoy them so well, I’ll focus on two parts that particularly stood out for me.”


    I could go one, but I think that is enough bragging. She even said that the annotations are terrific and should be included as examples for other students in the MFA handbook. O.K. NOW that is enough bragging.


     The point is, she makes me feel smart. It is nice to feel smart, especially when you’re the kind of person who often feels she had the memory of a potato and her constant interest in the world (and the questions that accompany this trait) is more an annoyance to others than evidence of a positive character. 


   For example, yesterday, I washed my keychain. That sounds stupid, but I have this keychain made of laces that I adore. It has particular significance to me because a special student gave it to me.  It is the only keychain I’ve ever had that I can find. I don’t lose my keys as often as normal. Look in my purse – bam, there they are.  If I throw them on the coffee table, later, when I am looking for my keys, they jump out at me as if that white string was a blinking neon sign. I love that keychain – but it is now black with dirt, and I’ve been feeling rather conspicuous carting around this dingy bunch of strings on my keys. A classy chick like me is more the type to carry a fancy gold key ring with handmade charms or something. 


    Yesterday, I decide to wash my keychain. I figure, if it disintegrates, well, that was meant to be. The keychain will live on in my heart, if not in my ignition. So I take it off my keys and try to bleach the thing. It comes out sort of light gray. So, I bleach it again (with a pair of grungy tennis shoes – I said I liked the thing, not that I respect it like some kind of valuable antique – I’m not that quirky). This time it comes out white. Lucky me. But the point is, this morning I get up and prepare to go out, and don’t ya know, I can’t find my keys. I look in my handbag and . . no bam… no keys. I look on my coffee table. .. no neon sign. I am getting annoyed, searching frantically. THEN, I remember they are on my washing machine. Duh.


   So that “feeling smart glow” from my teacher’s response only lasted about 9 hours, seven of which I spent sleeping. So much for keeping my big head big.  But if I read a book about a string keychain and wrote an annotation about it, you can bet it would probably be a good one.

     I have to do some homework. Maybe I’ll finish my book and write my annotation so I can muster up some more nice compliments next month. We can all use a pat on the back occasionally.