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Saturday, February 27, 2016

G Is For Gallimaufry

Sigh. I know I'm almost cheating with this one. But G is proving to be a toughie for some reason, the greatest being that I am in a Terrible SAD Funk right now (Seasonal Affective Disorder). February always kicks me around pretty well, and trust me, I am bruised and battered.

And if One More Person says to me, "Hey, at least this winter has not been as bad as Last Year!" I will, with some Pleasantness, smack that Person right in the mouth.

Okay.

Onward, then! (She said brightly.)

This Week's Gallimaufry Of Miscellany

1. Shut Up Shut Up Shut Up. I would pay Actual Money if I could eliminate a Certain Name from all newscasting for the foreseeable future. Someone needs to invent this...this Thing wherein you could program your television and/or remote control to recognize words and immediately silence, bleep, or change them into a word you like better. Wouldn't that be so wonderful? I especially like that last option. I would change all mentions of a Certain Gameshow republican to Daniel Day-Lewis, a name I never tire of hearing. Or maybe something really cute, like Koala Ballerina. Can you imagine it? "In other news, Koala Ballerina, presumptive republican presidential nominee, has taken to Twitter to silence his critics." Or, "republican nominee Daniel Day-Lewis is hoping to meet with Pope Francis in order to put any perceived bitterness to rest."

2. Crazy Cat Lady. In my dining room right now are two boxes; I made a special trip to the warehouse club in order to procure them. They are tricked out, cut up, and otherwise Creatively Fashioned so that the cats will hopefully be interested in them and stop eating my iPhone and iPad charger cords. They are, basically, Busy Boxes For Cats. At any given moment, one of the cats is, instead, sleeping in them. Not sure if this is a Win.

3. Not In My House. We recently redid the home office. I opted for streamlined stuff, a camel/black/ivory colour scheme, and a mix of textures for the room. I did not, however, opt for this:

Someone get a pulse!

Lee Eun Kyoung's Free Hug Sofa. Thanks, but No.

(Even though it sounds like I could use a hug.)

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Friday, February 19, 2016

In Which I Pause The Alphabet To Talk About Harper Lee And Books And Reading

Today brought the news of Harper Lee's death. She died peacefully in her sleep, said her family, at the age of 89. I sighed deeply and took a few moments to think about her and the literary treasure that is her legacy. To Kill a Mockingbird is, to me, one of the most important books I ever read and taught.

So many of the Twentieth Century writers who became important and special to me over the years are now gone. And each time I heard of their deaths--Arthur Miller, JD Salinger, now Harper Lee--I felt a real sense of loss, and the same loss, one so final and so helpless, even though I did not know them personally, nor had I ever met them.

I think after teaching a book or play so many times (and reading it again each time), it becomes personal. At least it does to me. Because I have not only read the text of the work, I have researched the history of it, the life of the author him- or herself, and anything I can find regarding it. Maybe more importantly, as all Readers do, I have dissolved into the book or play itself. With To Kill a Mockingbird, I fell in love with Atticus as a father. My heart ached for Jem as his pre-adolescent idealism crumbled and broke apart. And my voice always, always faltered when I read aloud Boo Radley's simple request, "Will you take me home?", especially since we knew he was only a child, too, but he had no one to look after him or love him at all.

All the books I ever taught became personal to me. They came to life for me when I taught them, and I always found something new each time, often through the eyes of my students. But even as a young reader, I folded a lot of books into my heart, and they live there still.

That is the Thing With Books. Books are timeless and books are Forever. I still have my copies of The Crucible, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird, among others. And that is wonderful. The Thing I have a hard time with is that, somewhere deep down inside, I expect their authors to be the same way--always There, Timeless and Forever Alive.

I know it's Impossible. I know that isn't a very Grown-Up Way To Feel. I realize that, in a way, I have conflated the Book with its Author. And that is why I feel a sense of loss. It is as if I have lost a friend who I haven't seen in a long time, but one to whom I was very close at some point in my life and shared a great deal with. There is a brief shock, a moment of memories and some wistfulness, but life will go on just like before.

The death of Harper Lee makes me even more resolute in my efforts to bring books back into my life. It has been slow going, but I am making progress. Maybe I'll read To Kill a Mockingbird for the fifty-something-th time, this time without guiding ninety teenagers along with me. My Reading Journey reminds me of something Scout said about her own Reading Journey. Faced with the prospect of never reading with her father again because her teacher said first-grade Scout must start fresh learning to read along with the rest of the class, adult Scout mused, "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."


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Thursday, February 11, 2016

F Is For Fear

As a girl, when I would get scared, and I mean really, truly terrified, an equally frightening response occurred. Rather than be able to scream, cry out, or even run away, I would become paralyzed--literally rooted to the spot--and unable to make a sound. In my mind, I would be trying desperately to run or shout or do something, but it was no use: my body would simply stand there, stiff and immobile. The most I was ever able to manage was a steady stream of tears until someone, usually my mother, would notice and grab me, breaking the spell.

As you can imagine, this was pretty Inconvenient. I couldn't scream or try to surface when my dad accidentally knocked me off the fishing pier at my grandparents' cabin when I was a kid. I couldn't run when the wild firework came right at me. And the evening some weirdo pulled up on our street and called me over ostensibly to ask for directions but decided to show off his Attributes instead--I think I was fifteen--I just stood there. Crying. I have no idea how that all resolved itself to this day. I do know that, from then on that summer, my brother and all of his friends escorted me to my girlfriend's house half a block away whenever I walked over. And back. The Knights of East 38th Street.

That Fear Paralysis eventually resolved itself, I guess, because since then, I have run away from bad-tempered geese at the duck pond (with children in tow) and more than one ugly snake at the lake. Having children to protect probably inadvertently cured me, taking me outside myself, like those stories you read about mothers lifting cars off their babies.

Now my fears are less concrete and less definable. I have an almost irrational fear of Being Sick. A conversation like this in our house is not unheard of:

Rick: (sneezes or coughs) Ugh.
Nance: (sits up, alert) What was that? Are you sick? Are people at your work sick?
Rick: No. And No. It was nothing.
Nance: (severely) Are you sure? You better not be sick.
Rick: (calm, but knowing it is hopeless) Nance. I am not sick. All I did was cough/sneeze. It might just be allergies or sinus.
Nance: (resolutely) Rick, I am not getting sick. I mean it. I am megadosing Vitamin C, just to be safe. Stay over there. Don't touch anything.
Rick: Okay.
Nance: I mean it. I'll unload the dishwasher. Do not touch anything. If I get sick, you're in big trouble.

Also, since I have retired and no longer bring in The Huge Teacher Bucks (ha!), I have periods of Obsessive Concern that we may, one day, be poor. Rick has offered approximately eleventy billion times to Show Me The Money (i.e., our Financials) so that I will not be so overwrought. We have visited with our Long-Suffering Financial Advisor (and wonderful former student, so he knows me), who has patted my hand and dabbed my tears and recommended a therapist. (Okay, not that last thing. He actually recommended that Rick take me On Vacation and that I Drink More.) Everything is Really Okay. But sometimes I cannot help myself, and I start getting afraid of money all over again. This all stems from being poor at the start of our marriage. As in rolling change for expenses, plus eating meals and doing laundry at The Parents twice a week.

Finally, I'm afraid Something Really Bad Will Happen. I'm not too sure exactly what this means. After all, lots of Really Bad Somethings have already happened in our lives, and we've made it through all of them pretty much okay. And Really Bad Somethings happen--inevitably--in the course of people's lives all the time. That's Life. It's lumpy and full of Unexpected Somethings.

Most people who know me are surprised that I have any fears at all; they think I am bold and brave and stride purposefully through the world with determination and limitless confidence. To a large extent, that is true. But everyone, I think, has Fears. Everyone has those small, nagging tugs that shadow their joys and deepen their sorrows; those sudden and rare down-hard clenches that make your breath ragged and your stomach lurch and your heart almost batter your ribs. "Fear," said Frank Herbert, "is the little-death."

"What are you afraid of?" a psychology professor once asked me. "I mean it. What are you most afraid of in your life? That you'll die, right? Now, whenever you're really afraid of something, ask yourself, 'What are the odds that this will kill me?' If the odds are less than even, then do that thing. You'll be glad you did." I think of that more often than Dr. McKinley probably ever imagined.

I am not Ashamed of my Fears. Why would I be? Everyone is Afraid Of Something. The shame would come from Not Doing Something About Them. I like to think that, by acknowledging them, I face my Fears and Do Something About Them every day. And I push them away, little by little, every chance I get. I've vanquished other Fears before. I think I can smack these down, too. To paraphrase another author, "Fear is a story we tell ourselves, and so I tell myself a different story." In My Story, I want to be the Hero.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

E Is For Endurance


Here's a short list of a few things which tax my Endurance. They require that I Soldier On gamely and mightily, often times with more Good Nature than I truly feel.

1. My Hair
2. Presidential Primary Season
3. Chapped Lips
4. Rick's Windshield Wiper Behaviour
5. Downton Abbey's Final Season

Please find something to grip tightly and To Steady Yourself, and allow me to Explain.

1. Something has happened to my hair in the past year or two, rendering it limply soft and Completely Impossible. There is no shampoo, no gel, no spray, no hair mucilage invented that can make my hair do a damn thing. Additionally, it is (cue horror movie music) Growing Out, which means it is Completely Awful and an Endurance Test each time I try to, oh, let's say...do any damn thing "with" or "to" it. Thank you to anyone who is crying empathetically whilst reading this.

2. We are now in Year Eleventy of the Presidential Primary Season, and I could throw up. Again. After ramming DTrump down our collective gullets for months and months, pollsters and pundits and news anchors are now gleefully performing gory post mortems on his Primary Corpse. After one primary. In Iowa. Listen, I'd be thrilled if we really could lay TheDonald to rest for real, but come on. One primary. And it was a caucus, which is like a coffee klatch, really. Is it okay if, oh, I don't know, THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAS AN ELECTION? WITH REAL VOTES/BALLOTS AND SUPER DELEGATES AND STUFF? When is the country going to finally have one primary election date and stop this staggered primary voting? It's insane, and more than we should ever Endure.

3. This has been the mildest winter in years (NEO had temps in the 60's yesterday!), but I am Enduring the worst case of Chapped Lips in decades. Nance, you say, have you tried Burt's Bees, Carmex, Vaseline, olive oil, Blistex in a million varieties, and scrubbing at them with a washcloth? Oh, ha ha; it is to laugh. But of course I have. I have even tried the Super Duper All-Natural Remedy of Plain Honey. Here is what is working the best: None of them. None of them is working.

4. I am going to stop riding in any car with Rick when it rains because he cannot handle the windshield wipers. As soon as it stops raining, or if the rain lessens, that does not matter in the least; the wipers must still be employed continuously as before, even if they are screeching across a completely dry window. This is His Rule, apparently, and it is Consistently Applied. I have tried to Endure this with Extreme Patience And Silence. Believe me; I have. It is Impossible. After many minutes, I completely Lose It. "PLEASE TURN OFF THE WIPERS OR I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF/JUMP OUT OF THIS CAR/SCREAM MY BLOODY HEAD OFF!", is what I usually say if I don't simply reach over in a lather and shut them off myself.

5. How can PBS and creator/writer Julian Fellowes do this to me? That this is Downton Abbey's final season is too much to Endure! Why do all of My Shows end up gone but terrible and awful shows seem to go on forever and forever and forever? I've become a DA junkie. I've started watching each episode twice a week: once on Sundays, then again midweek when it's offered, savouring each little character moment, each costume, each British-accented word. Oh, how I'll miss it. And nothing--nothing--can take its place.

Oh, darlings.  What do you think?  And what are you currently Enduring?
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