Monday, I sent the first copy of my thesis out to my professor. She will respond in a few weeks, allowing me to make corrections before sending it to my official “reader”. Then I will get that professor’s response and make final adjustments before having it bound and formally turned in. I will plan my public readings from that final copy.
It was an amazing feeling, printing those 150 pages (they don’t want the entire novel, only this exact number of pages) and finally packaging it off. Relief. Concern. Thrill. I understand that the thesis is a formality- just a monstrous assignment designed to establish a certain level of writing proficiency required to graduate, but deep down, we all want to be proud of the material too.
I’m happier with it than I expected. Three days before finishing, I had an epiphany about just what the book needed to make it work. I was so bothered by the fact that I had to kill all the commentary about dance (which I believed drove the action ) that I just couldn’t stop rolling it over in my mind. Then, it came to me. I could change the essays into blogs and write reader responses from other dancers! This would make the book more contemporary in regards to cultural influence and also allow me to keep what I love by introducing fair argument on the dance issues as other dancers put in their two cents in a response format! And if that isn’t enough to make the idea fester– it ties in my senior seminar (the class I teach the other graduates) because I chose a topic centered on blogs as writer’s aids, and books born of blogs. Now, the entire MFA final project is connected.
Mark has been reading the different versions of my book, and with this last copy he said, “This really makes it all come together. It is more compelling this way. A far better book.” Just goes to show that it is right to follow your instincts, regardless of outside opinion. I had to stay up two days straight to get the entire manuscript rewritten. But I did it.
Dianne and Mark both read my final copy and agreed I have improved as a writer. They liked my early books – but mostly they thought the stories were fun. The writing was average. Now, they say the writing is remarkably professional – ten times better. (Ten times? Gee, I must have sucked before.) They aren’t as jazzed by this literary story as they were by my swashbuckling historical romances, because a literary story is sometimes obscure and moves more slowly. But that response is to be expected. Commercial fiction is entertainment. Literary writing is for quiet contemplation.
I’ve come to believe writing is like dance or any art. Talent is all well and good, but what really makes it come to fruition is training, training, training. I am proud I’ve done what I needed to do to grow and improve. Of course, I still have a long way to go, but you never want to come to the end of learning. It is just nice to know I’m meandering along. Stumbling a bit, but at least moving forward.
Anyway, my thesis is done. I am happy. I am now going to read a book . . . any book that is NOT literary or a writing craft book. Do you know it has been two years since I read a book just for fun??? Considering for me reading is one of the great pleasures in life, you can imagine how delighted I am with the freedom to choose once again.
I guess everyone imagined I stopped blogging last week because I was neck deep in homework. I wish that had been the case. I had a heck of a time getting my thesis ready by the deadline, because I was called away to Florida the week before the due date. I had counted on this time at home, clearing the week to be immersed in writing. All of a sudden, I had to leave and even though I brought my computer with me, I was too distracted and agitated to work on homework. Needless to say, it had me stressed out on every level.
We were in Florida because my former business is on its last, final gasps as it clings to existence. (We were there for legal issues connected to eviction and possible foreclosure.) Needless to say, it is a messy, poignantly sad, complicated endeavor. Mark is still in Florida and must be there again next week as all this comes to a final conclusion. I could say a great deal about what happened and why, but I don’t think it’s important. As one good friend and former employee said, “It is what it is.” And who knows, there is always the long shot miracle that might reverse things.
I expected to be an emotional wreck, but strangely, I wasn’t. I’ve been grieving over the inevitable FLEX finale for two years now as I’ve watched things go askew from a distance, powerless because it was no longer ours to fix. And during that time, I’ve been through all the classic stages of dealing with death: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally, acceptance. Coming to the final stage is, in a way, a great relief; however, that does not mean I am not deeply saddened by everything. Oddly, I’m not depressed about the school potentially closing, so much as I feel intense empathy for everyone involved. I feel for the students, the staff and even the couple who bought FLEX in hopes that they would make their dreams of being successful entrepreneurs come true. For all that we can make accusations or cast blame in anger, the fact is, everyone is losing here. And any “I told ya so’s” or “Ha, ha, that’s what you get” ‘s is just ugliness- a residue of disappointment.
It has been an emotionally trying month as we wrestle with what to do in the face of the problems. We have tried to find creative solutions for the new owners. Then, when that wasn’t working, we discussed moving back, but that would not be in our family’s best interest and frankly, what seems like a simple solution is far more complicated than anyone would guess.
Besides which, we just don’t have the heart for it anymore. So much has transpired to make us see just how volatile and ugly the dance business can be – we have witnessed such spiteful, ego-driven, disrespectful actions in e-mails and other forms of interaction between former students, parents, studio owners and staff. Some of this was targeted at us, some was slung at other people. Either way, my respect for everyone involved has steadily declined. Rather than focusing positive energy on their own aspirations, certain individuals are hell bent on actively hurting FLEX (and the people who, with good intentions, purchased it). These individuals are on some kind of vendetta, lying, spreading rumors, passing damaging information, and doing all kinds of things to stir up problems and cause more distress. They have this David and Goliath delusion- an attitude that they are bringing the great FLEX down for the righteous cause of dance. Ha. The problems with our former school have nothing to do with a crop of disgruntled patrons leaving and one or two opportunists taking advantage of the school’s financial difficulties. That kind of thing is so common in the dance biz it doesn’t merit attention. It’s the lack of sensitivity, the pettiness, which shocks me. Why be hurtful to people who are obviously going thorough serious personal hardship? Dance is a noble pursuit, but heck, humanity (respect) comes first.
I won’t go into details about the things that have transpired – now or ever. It would be focusing on the negative, and I am not willing to devote any more of my emotional energy on petty dance wars. I have learned there is nothing more precious than stepping back and going to a place where the aggressive edge slips away, because it helps you to see things clearly. What I’ve seen in the wake of our leaving is not admirable, but it sure makes me happy with my choices in life – both those I made as a studio owner and the choice to no longer be one.
As we were driving to Florida, Mark sighed and said, “Guess what today is?” Then he reminded me that only two years ago to the day, we put our business up for sale. It took eighteen years to build, and about nine months for it to turn south. We were just exploring the possibility when we went into that broker’s office, and five days later the business sold. Our counsel was not wanted, and so we wound up moving to Georgia years before we had expected or planed. Everything happened so fast – we are only now getting our bearings. “Can you believe so much can happen in such a short time?” Mark said, “Look where we are now. Look at how the people we cared about changed. Look at how different things can be in a snap. Who’d have thought life could take such unexpected twists?”
I keep thinking about that. It’s a good reminder to savor what is good while you have it, and to prepare at all times for potential change. Life can shift in an instant. Be flexible and at all times, remember what really counts.
That is all I want to say about the sad situation at FLEX.
Instead, let me talk for a moment about my current life, sans the emotional upheaval going on in Sarasota.
Today, when I met with Kathy (who is still learning so much, by the way, despite all the missed appointments due to my travel) the local TV station showed up to do interviews of students for a feature on the college. We were both interviewed and our clip will be in the program. Kathy was thrilled. I was thrilled too, (mostly I was thrilled because I put make-up on this morning and didn’t show up looking like a total shlump. E-gad, talk about luck!) I mentioned in the interview that I’d written a piece on my teaching experience for my MFA. Later, the director asked if she could put it in the newsletter. I explained that it was too long, and not really appropriate. Therefore, she asked me if I’d write a piece that would be good for the newsletter. I agreed.
Now that I have turned in my thesis, I hope to get more involved with the college and the literacy program. I hung around today watching the people being interviewed. Mostly, the students are simple country folk who quit school early and are now returning to get their GED (which is no easy process for a working adult). I was filled with respect for their commitment and aspirations to get an education. I suddenly felt compelled to be a motivating force – an activist for people who want to better their world. It is easy to write a check and tell yourself you are making a difference, but far more rewarding to roll up your sleeves and be an actual catalyst for change. Anyway, I believe I will soon be doing more for literacy in our quiet county. I recognize that subtle churning in my gut when an idea starts building in importance in my heart and mind.
Next subject: We got Neva an incubator for Easter. We’ve done the raising chicks thing – loved it – now it’s time to dig a bit deeper. She is gathering fertilized eggs from our chickens and plans to hatch them herself. The eggs are nestled in a square, foam incubator that she hovers over as if she is a brood hen herself. Twice a day she turns the eggs and checks the temperature and humidity. (It takes 21 days to hatch a chicken) She draws little faces on the eggs so each egg has a personality of its own –this allows her to know which side is up. When Mark is in Sarasota, I invite Neva to sleep with me, and we stayed up last night, lying in bed, reading all about the science of hatching chicks. It is educational fun, a science lesson but with the excitement of gaining a new pet too. I will share more on this later. I think hatching eggs with your kid deserves a blog all its own. We went on E-bay to purchase some different poultry eggs too. Amazing what you can find on E-bay. We have bids on exotic duck eggs, a goose egg, and some colorful rare pheasant eggs. You know us Hendry’s – give us an idea and we drive it over the top! It will be fun to share later.
Speaking of poultry, I hate our neighbor’s dog. He’s an ugly hound dog that the owners only feed once a week (up here, that is common. They say keeping dogs lean makes them better for hunting, but I just think its lazy and cruel ownership). The case of my occasional chicken disappearance has been solved. This dog is the culprit. He killed three for sport, then while I was in Sarasota, he tore open a small cage and killed seven Americana babies. Worst of all, he also got a hold of Joe and tore him up. My big ole rooster fought back so he wasn’t killed, but he is terribly injured. He has been sitting in the corner of the roost for a month, head down, trembling. He hobbles around with a limp because his leg was mangled. His tail was torn out. His back has open wounds that look like hamburger. He sure as shoot isn’t crowing.
I said to Mark, “OK, I’m ready to get a gun.”
Mark lifted his eyebrows and said, “Really. I never thought I’d see the day.”
I said, “Yea, I was thinking along the lines of a super soaker.”
“A water gun! Heck, that won’t do anything but take the smell off that dog, and he’ll still eat your chickens. We have to really shoot him. I’ll dig a hole with my tractor and cover him up and no one will know what happened to him. You know, once a chicken killer, always a chicken killer.” (He is always full of these country sayings nowadays. I can’t take him seriously.)
I should point out here that in Georgia, there is a law that allows you to shoot any animal on your property doing mischief. It’s designed to control nuisance dogs that bother livestock. Nevertheless, I would never do harm to an animal, even if it is a total annoyance. For all that the dog (Lady) is a pest and I’m hating her right now, I also know she is just following instincts. It is not her fault she’s grown up untrained, left to wander where she doesn’t belong. (I am all in favor of shooting her owners, however, if that can be arranged.) Our friend Ronnie offered to come shoot her, as if that loophole would make me feel less guilty. Um… no. Then, he advised me to call animal control to pick her up. The problem is, I know they would put her to sleep within seven days, which would be just serving her the death penalty too. I think that is a harsh end for an innocent (albeit monstrous) dog that doesn’t know better.
In the end, Mark and I agreed to a compromise. We are going to buy a rubber pellet gun. They sting like the dickens. That will deter any dog that dares mess with my flock. Mark plans to get lots of target practice because Lady is always on our land, chasing his truck, eating my chickens and attacking our dogs. Shooting rubber pellets is a rough way to train a dog, but what else can we do without hurting her more? I wish they would tie her up.
Meanwhile, Joe is convalescing. I am a good chicken nurse, if I say so myself. Day by day he is getting stronger, but I wonder if he will ever be the robust crowing wonder he once was. Ah well. Love is accepting that the object of our affection won’t always be perfect. I still love him, flaws and all. In fact, maybe I love him more now that he isn’t so cocky.
Another subject: Today, I see Mark bought me a bee starter kit. The company sent me an e-mail that it is on the way. Most be a birthday present. Ten hives, the works. I’m so excited. I am ordering a bee-suit myself, a birthday gift from my Mother-in-law and Dianne, but they don’t know it yet. They said, “Pick something”. Therefore, I did. It’s a crack-up. It looks like a space suit. Very sexy in a potato sack kind of way. But if you are turned on by girls that spit in the face of pea sized danger and wear head to toe canvas, gloves and a veil, well, I’m your fantasy, Babe. The bee thing is unique – I believe it deserves a blog of its own, so I will speak more on my bee interests later. When I saw the bee suit, I thought, you gotta be kidding. All those years I was putting little three year olds in bee costumes and I was making flower or bear suits for the assistant dancing with them, and I could have gone the bee suit route for only 65.00???? If I’d only known (Not only would that have been a cute and trouble free costume, but I’d have a free bee suit in my closet today. Ah – the opportunities we miss in life.)
Last subject for now:
Beware! Denver and I have signed up to participate in a three day, 60-mile walk for breast cancer in Atlanta in October. I’m excited because we will train together and have a unique camping experience (they erect huge tents and have campfire and such to house the thousands of walkers and provide food, housing, evening entertainment, camaraderie, etc.) and we’ll have lots of miles for down to earth talks. Mostly, I want to participate because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. Denver and I will walk in her name. But we must each fundraise 2200 bucks for the charity to participate, so I’ll be hitting you all up for a sponsorship donation later. Heck, I don’t know many people here, so who else can I annoy with a plea to support the cause? Denver works at the coffee shop, so she has access to potential donations. I will have to get more creative. If you sponsor me, I promise to make it worth your while with future commentary that describes the torture, the glory and the blisters. But I’ll address this another day too. Tonight I am tired.
I must go to bed. First, I’ll pick out my book. I’ve been having nightmares all week, so maybe that will allow me sweet dreams for a change. For all that I can control my attitude when I’m awake, I fear I’m less positive in my sleep. The anxiety can’t last forever, can it? I’m ready to feel something else for a change.