Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Slice: A room with a view

The small, wooden back door lies directly in my line of sight from my desk in the study at the front of the house.  I've always thought it practical, but ill-placed, opening as it does into our living room.  An easy access for bugs and windborne leaves when open, and cold winter drafts when closed, the door stays locked most of time, occasionally blocked by a Christmas tree during the holidays.

This weekend I stood at the door, coffee in hand,  transfixed by the swaying of my potted milkweed and the winged creatures visiting the bright orange and yellow flowers.  The winter winds will come soon enough; for now, I'm content with the view. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday Slice: In the company of women

Four-twelve.  I left work earlier than usual last Tuesday, acutely aware of the time.  Driving downtown on a school night is not my usual routine, and I was already nervous.   Almost an afterthought, I got a drive-through dinner, hoping it wouldn't be a lead weight in my stomach but knowing I had to eat before the long night ahead.

No time for a shower, just a change of clothes--jeans with a cute top and lacy cardigan to layer against the air conditioning, comfortable shoes because of the light rain and uncertain parking location.

Traffic flowed quickly until it didn't, slowing down to twenty miles per hour on the freeway, surprising since the gridlock was heading in the opposite direction.  I kept glancing nervously at the clock on the dashboard, regretting the extra ten minutes a stop at an ATM had cost me.  I made it to campus by six, only to wait in a long, slow line entering the parking garage.

At six-twenty, I took my seat among hundreds of women in the concert hall.  The energy was palpable and positive, the air humming with conversation.  I sat in a strange quiet bubble, one of the few lone participants observing groups of friends taking selfies.

The lights dimmed, and the stories began.  

Two lovers took turns describing the day they met, and the days after, making a new version of family, expanding their definition of love.

A slight woman with close-cropped hair in a bright red jacket insisted she was going to be a doctor, until a college class convinced her otherwise and her talents led her in a completely different and successful direction.

A woman with a cool leather hat, side braid, and gold rings on her fingers described the day she defended her mother who was being sexually harassed, becoming a crusade against locker room talk and sexual assault, reaching thousands of college and professional athletes.

A migrant worker in a plain bright top, accompanied by her interpreter, taught us that farm workers are subjected to sexual assault at an alarming rate.  She decided enough was enough, and rallied her female coworkers to bring awareness and an end to their abuse in the fields.

Halfway through our three-hour gathering, a fitness leader had us moving and breathing, opening our hearts and roaring, releasing any darkness weighing us down.

Two women took the stage, both funny in their own right.  One now empowers girls in middle school, the other speaks her truth on YouTube.

A local celebrity continued the theme of speaking truth to power.  She lost followers and suffered financial setbacks at first, but gained peace of mind and an even larger audience.  At her lowest points, she went to her kitchen and cooked for those she loved.

After hearing all of these women talk to each other, bouncing around their definitions of hope, we were treated to a love letter.  Every word rang true in these troubled times.  Every word was light in the darkness.

I didn't get home until after eleven, but I was buzzing from the experience as my alarm went off at five the next morning.  What an amazing night, in the company of women.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Bad news on the doorstep

I was blissfully busily unaware of national news yesterday.  Mondays are usually my flex day in the library with only a handful of classes, but we had picture day last Friday, so I flipped schedules. Thirteen classes came and went in a flurry of activity, capped with covering a fifth grade class for the last half hour and attending a team leads meeting for another hour and a half. 

I didn't hear a word about the Vegas shootings until I collapsed at home.  My husband filled me in on the details from his computer screen.  He read the president's inane Twitter response; par for the course, pun intended after 45's empty gesture of a golf trophy for suffering hurricane victims.  Our dinner was peppered with rehashing our shared views on gun control, homegrown terrorism, and the need for a better president.    

The doorbell rang; my neighbor, with copies of medical papers I signed for her.  More bad news from her husband's doctor led to tears and hugs.

Is it any wonder that I tossed and turned last night?

My students were better off with an ignorant librarian yesterday.  I focused on my lessons and the needs of my patrons, as I should. I'm hoping I can do the same today.  Maybe a second cup of coffee will help.  Maybe seeing Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker tonight will help.  Maybe singing "American Pie" at the top of my lungs in the car on the way to work will help....if I can do so without crying.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Eulogy for the caterpillars that died on my back porch

Eulogy for the Caterpillars That Died on my Back Porch

What happened?
They were fine yesterday
Housed in a lovely box
Topped by netting,
Fresh leaves to chew
Safe from predators

When last spied alive
one was hanging from the netting
and refused to let go, 
all its tiny feet clinging to the fine strands
Another, the largest, hanging upside down from a leaf
wriggling this way and that
presumably molting for its last time
The last two perched on milkweed leaves,
resting, perhaps, after eating through more greenery

I rushed home
expecting to see the biggest one
hanging in a J, or maybe a chrysalis already formed
and the others happily munching away

Instead, the hanging caterpillar was lifeless
as were the other three,
blackened and shriveled and lying sideways 
on the white paper towels
leaves still there for the eating,
and no sign of foul play

I'm sorry, so sorry!
I thought I was protecting them
from fowl and foul weather alike
leaving them under the awning
on the glass table, on the back porch

Perhaps the sun was too strong
the heat too oppressive
their home, too inhospitable

Whatever the reason, 
they suffered an inglorious end
the largest, dumped into the yard
the others rolled into the paper towels and thrown into the trash
the box relegated to the laundry room

Reminding me of my failure
with every load of dirty clothes.

Tuesday Slice: Nothing new

It's Tuesday Slice time, and I haven't a clue about what to write.  The details of my current life seem either too mundane or rehashed so often that they feel like a poorly made Hollywood do-over.

I've counted my blessings.  I've bemoaned my struggles.  The most interesting stories seem to come from my children's lives; I hesitate to write about them, because the tales are theirs to tell, not mine.

I can't even continue the saga of the back porch caterpillars from last week, because they all died, presumably from heatstroke.

There is nothing new to see here; you can move on to the next blog!
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Babies on my back porch

It's butterfly season again.  Or to be more specific, caterpillar season.

Most of my milkweed is shoulder-high, making it easier to stoop and look under leaves for my yellow-and-black striped visitors.

Do two sets of horns mean monarch, or queen?  It had been a year since I last hosted the caterpillars, so I had to look it up.  Monarchs for the win!

Last year I used a sun tea jar to house the caterpillars until they turned into chrysalises, but it was difficult to transfer them to a bigger space.  This time I'm using a box on the back porch.  Little bud vases are just the right size to cover with plastic wrap and keep the milkweed fresh for a day or two.

With a little luck, we'll see four monarchs born in the next few weeks! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Grownups need reader advisors, too

Rambling through Facebook posts this past summer, one caught my eye.  The American Library Association had shared a post from the Multnomah County Library in honor of National Tattoo Day.  If you shared a picture of your tattoo and the story behind it, the county library would recommend a book for you.

So I shared a picture of my most recent tattoo, and the story behind it. An owl for wisdom, the light of the moon to guide me, and writing my own story past my 51st birthday--the age at which my mother passed from ALS.
Multnomah responded within a day. Their recommendation: Wild:From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, about a woman picking up the pieces of her life after her mother's death.

I would have never picked this book for myself.  I saw the movie trailers, and remember thinking "meh" about the content.  But I've spent several hours over the last three days reading about Cheryl's chaotic young adulthood, empathizing with the raw emotions that fueled her rash decision to walk a thousand miles in the wilderness by herself.

Adults need reader's advisors, too.  My life's work is encouraging students to read and pairing them with books to suit their personal and academic wants and needs.  It's been awhile since someone's done that for me--and it feels like a gift in my hands, each time I open this book.