Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday Slice: That untravelled world

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

We left at noon, the parents and the high school senior, for roads and states unknown. Leaving work and school commitments behind, we headed north.  At first the highway sights and sounds were familiar; we had just driven through Fort Worth on our way to Keller last month, to purchase a French horn for our band player.  

Past Keller, though, everything was new to us.  We were surprised we crossed the border into Oklahoma so quickly; travelling to Ohio via Arkansas took much longer.  But this weekend's destination wasn't my husband's hometown of Cleveland--it was Mount Vernon, Iowa, the site of one of our son's two college choices.

We watched the miles increase and the temperatures decrease. First Oklahoma, then Kansas--we spent the night in Wichita, arriving just after ten.  We collapsed in our beds.  I did manage to get up earlier than the rest and take advantage of the hotel's fitness room, knowing I'd be sitting the rest of the day.

Back on the road, I was in awe of the wide open spaces, the dull colors of winter in this breadbasket part of the country.  Gray barns and silos jutted out of yellow-beige fields gone fallow, silhouetted against pale blue skies. Cows dotted the hills sometimes, like black holes punched through manila paper.

We had packed for snow, and I was afraid we would be disappointed.  The small unmelted mounds left on the edges of the sidewalks at the Iowa border looked old and dirty.  A few more miles, and there it was--a confectioner's sugar-dusting of far-reaching fields, looking both cold and comforting at the same time. We had no drifts to walk through, but our boots and heavy jackets kept us warm in the wind-chilled teens of temperatures.

A night in Cedar Rapids led to an early alarm to get to Cornell College in time for our son's interview and campus tour. The modern student center sat among nineteenth-century buildings.  Students much more accustomed to the cold wandered in for breakfast wearing pajama bottoms and puffy down coats.  Snow started falling as we toured the campus, getting inside views of the dorms, the art building that used to be a gym, the geology building that was once a Carnegie library.

After the tour, we drove around Mount Vernon, stopping and shopping in an old high school-turned retail center.  One last stop for gas, and we were back on the road.  

Pale blue Iowa skies were turning winter gray as we left the state. The night skies were full of stars in the blackness that surrounded the Kansas Turnpike as my husband pushed to reach Wichita again. One more night in hotel beds, one more breakfast buffet, and we returned to Texas in the evening, just four days after we left.

As we hurriedly unloaded the car, I noticed the air didn't feel as chilled as I would have thought a few days ago. Leaving suitcases half unpacked, we all fell asleep quickly, knowing school and work were just a few short hours away.    

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday Slice: And so I marched

My heart has been heavy since November
My brow furrowed with every regressive soundbite
My head filled with worry

And so I marched.

I have seen the spectrum of public education
Working in its halls, the drab and the shiny
Witnessing the challenges and the triumphs

And so I marched.

I have seen the news reports
Of earthquakes begotten of fracking
Glaciers melting, treasured national parks up for sale

And so I marched.

I have seen the intrusion of government
Come between my doctor and my body
Politicians who think they know better than me and my caregivers

And so I marched.

I have listened to friends and family in love
Worried about their legal attachments
Their right to share lives and homes and children

And so I marched.

I have paid the pink tax
Worked longer and earned less
Had to subject my name to my husband's on a bank account

And so I marched.

I have been subjected to uninvited sexual comments
And listened as colleagues put up with the same
Walked to my car with my keys jutting between my fingers

And so I marched.

I have heard my friends' stories
Of abuse, assault, rape
Scars that years of therapy can't erase

And so I marched.

Surrounded by fifty thousand beacons of hope,
 love, change, resistance
My heart lighter, my eyes brighter

Because I marched.

Text and photos copyright 2017 by Christine Margocs

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Hermit hoarder

I sit at the computer, perusing the piles of paper before me.  Or rather, one large pile, as once discrete stacks are now half-shuffled together.  Receipts, recipes, catalogs, sticky notes, medical papers, correspondence, begging  for attention.

File me!
Shred me!
Throw me away!

There are piles of books on the coffee table, in bags, on my bedroom floor, on my nightstand.  They are hiding in the pile on my desk, on the craft table. 

Read me!
Finish me!
Give me away!

Old clothes, ill-fitting new clothes, clothes I've bought but don't really need, clothes with memories of other places, activities, slimmer hips.

Wear me!
Consign me!
Donate me!

Other collections lack proper storage--cookbooks, cookware, owl items, crystal, music CDs.  Inherited decor, treasures of family history.  But what's valuable?  What's not?

Use me!
Appraise me!
Put me on display, or give me away!

Unfinished crochet projects, remnants of crafty pursuits: half-done scrapbooks with paper and stickers to fill twenty more, sewing patterns and fabric, needles of all kinds, frames unfilled, wood unfinished.  Dusty silk floral arrangements, home and holiday decor that is too hard to reach to actually use.

Create with me!
Decorate with me!
Give me away!

This hermit's cave has become too cluttered to be a refuge, too full of shouting from the stuff that accumulated as years have passed.  But where to start?  My heart is heavy with sentimentality, my head tired at the end of a workday filled with decision-making to deal with even more. Heaven help the hermit hoarder--please.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Slice: Thankful themes

I pulled out my 2016 gratitude journal this weekend, and perused the contents, looking for commonalities among my daily entries.  I thought that I could hone in on what I truly value by sifting through what I was grateful for--a metacognitive way to look at my values through gratitude, from the heart instead of my head.  

Here are the common threads in my journal:
  • Time spent with my family
  • Shelter, clothing, and food
  • Fulfilling work, with a paycheck
  • Finding fun in little things, like glittery nail polish
  • Connecting with wonderful people
  • A sense of accomplishment that comes with completing tasks
  • Health, and readily available, affordable healthcare
  • A good night's sleep
  • Good books to read
  • Quiet time alone to rest, think, decompress
  • Time spent outdoors.
Nothing on this list surprised me; rereading this list makes me feel content and happy.  Several of my goals for the New Year align with these values--going to bed earlier, taking care of my health, planning retreats, spending more time in nature. 

I've found my focus for 2017, thanks to the old year's gratitude journal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday Slice: A different kind of Christmas

Our transition to empty nesting began this holiday season.  With our eldest graduated and working in Japan, we knew there would be an empty seat at our Thanksgiving table, one less urgent voice waking us up on Christmas morning.

Or so we thought.  Cue the wonders of technology.

Tokyo time was 845p, but our clocks read 545a when our teenage son rushed into our bedroom, smartphone set on speaker as the loud voices of both of our children excitedly announced, "Merry Christmas!  Wake up!  We want to open presents!".  They had been on the phone for a half hour already, biding their time to let mom and dad sleep in a little.

The night before, my husband had tested out the webcam as I made sure we could do a Google Hangout with our daughter.  Laptop was set on the ottoman, webcam nestled in the entertainment center to get a broad view of the living room.  Our son videochatted with our daughter as he walked down the hall to see what Santa had brought, with my husband at his usual station with our video camera to capture the surprised looks and sounds.

As we settled in to open gifts, our daughter's face and voice beamed through the laptop screen in real time.  She had graciously waited all day to open the packages we mailed two weeks prior.  There were the usual oohs and ahhs all around as our holiday presents were revealed.

The real treasures, of course, were sitting in living rooms six thousand five hundred miles apart, and the technology that connected us that day, captured for posterity in our holiday video files.