Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31: Not Any Better, Skeletons, New Poem

My mood hasn't improved greatly since this morning.  I did succeed in registering patients and teaching a class without telling a single person to suck my ass, which was an accomplishment.  Now, I'm dealing with Blogger's new browser, which I'm not really liking very much at the moment, and I'm thinking about skeletons that people keep in their closets, secrets they don't want anyone to know.  This line of thinking is inspired by a book I'm teaching right now, Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg.  It's all about family secrets.  Today's poem is a result of that and my current bad state of thought.

Saint Marty will try to snap out of it by tomorrow morning.  (If you enter his new contest, it may help him feel better.)


I've surfed porn sites for hours, viewed men and women, women and women, men and men doing things to each other I never dreamed of as a teenager, things that made my middle-aged face fill with blood, hot, fevered.  I've doubted God, questioned whether anything divine would make Hurricane Katrina, fill a city with water, then sit back, watch the dead pile up like swamp mud along a levy.  I love eggs scrambled with hot dogs, served sloppy, the way my grandpa ate steak on the farm, just cooked, raw in the center, dripping and red as a butcher's block.  I've hated my wife when she took knives and carved her arms, when she became addicted to strangers, when she followed her messed-up brain down the rabbit hole, away from me.  All these bones hang in my closet, rattle against each other, make ancient music, the kind that drove David to Bathsheba or Cain to Abel.  I've locked the closet door now, hidden the key.  Tomorrow, I'll buy lumber, build a wall, so when they pile dirt on top of me at the end of my life, my daughter or son won't hear this poem whisper skulls and femurs, tibias and clavicles in the dark.

August 31: Why Should I Care?

I'm in a terrible mood this morning.  This mood was with me when I woke up.  It may have something to do with the fact that I'm really tired.  Really, really tired.  It may have to do with the fact that I'm not looking forward to the work day I have ahead of me.  Or it may have to do with the fact that I'm tired of caring about other people.

Christians are supposed to think about their brothers and sisters, care about their lives, be kind, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Working in a medical office, I have to care (or pretend to care) about people all day.  As a college professor, I have to care (or pretend to care) about my students all day.  I have to care about coworkers.  I have to care about people's lives and always be sensitive to their needs.  If I don't do these things, I experience a great deal of anxiety and guilt.  That's the way I was brought up.  Call it codependency.  Call it unhealthy.  Call it Christianity.  Call it whatever you want.

This morning, I want to just say, "Fuck everything."  I'm taking next Tuesday off for my daughter's first day of school.  There are two other people at work who need the day off, as well, to see kids/grandkids off to school.  My coworker in the business office wasn't aware I was taking the time off, even though it's been on the vacation calendar since January.  I know I should have talked to her about it/made her aware of it.  However, my boss has always covered for me in the past, and I just didn't think about it.  People are bent out of shape about the whole thing.  My attitude right now is to not really care about anyone else.  I know that's not healthy, kind, or Christian.  But it's the way I feel.

I'm struggling right now, and I don't know why.  I usually care a great deal about other people.  But today, I just want other people to go away.  It's a selfish attitude.  I need to get past it.  Or I need to do what my therapist advises me to do in these situations:  fake it 'til I make it.

Saint Marty's going to be faking it a lot today.

This says it all...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30: No New Poem, A Challenge, Dick Cheney

My good friend, Wonder Twin, the only entrant in my last contest, is convinced she is going to be the only entrant in my current contest.  I need somebody to prove her wrong.  Think of this:  if I could get two more people to enter "Name the Poem," that will mean I have increased my response rate by 100%.  That's all I need.  Two more stinking entries.  I'm trying not to whine.  Don't make me whine.  It won't be pretty.

I did not get a new poem written today.  I found myself consumed with other work.  I will start writing a new poem for tomorrow when I get home tonight.  I'm not going to fall into the trap of letting myself turn into a full-time employee/sometime poet.  I will continue to make poetry a priority in my life.  Somebody in this world has to do it.

I saw Dick Cheney on the Today show this morning.  He was hawking his new book, talking with Matt Lauer.  Usually, I try to stay politically neutral on my blog.  (I try.  I don't always succeed.)  However, I thought, when Cheney was wheeled onto his plane and left Washington D. C. three years ago, I wouldn't have to listen to him blather on about how he's saved the entire free world from terrorism single-handedly.  When he was President, excuse me, Vice President, he had power and was dangerous.  Now, when he has a terminal heart condition and is one battery away from death, he's just a egotistical bigmouth who can't stand being out of the spotlight.  (This is beginning to sound like a Dennis Miller rant.)  Dick Cheney just needs to hop on Trigger and ride into the sunset.  Go hunting and shoot some more of his friends.  Do anything but be on TV and irritate me.

Saint Marty is done now.  He just needed to get that off his chest.

Somebody pull the plug!

August 30: Second to Last Day, Mythology

Welcome to the second to last day of August.  Yes, the summer is drawing to a close quickly.  Today, I meet with my Mythology class for the first time.  I have never taught this course before, so I'm not quite sure what I'm in for.  I'm a little anxious about the subject matter.  I know mythology, but not to the point of feeling like I'm any kind of expert.  The learning curve is going to be a little steeper for me this semester, but that's OK.

I'm going to try to get a new poem written and posted, but I make no promises.  With teaching and a heavy surgical schedule at my other job, I'm not sure how much downtime I'm going to be getting today.  If I can carve out a few minutes and a little inspiration, I will give it a shot.

I have received one entry so far for my new contest.  If you missed the details, check out the second post on August 29.  It promises to be an exciting competition.  Don't miss out.

Saint Marty doesn't have a whole lot this morning, folks.

This guy's not having a good day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29: Done Day, Post #300, Name that Poem

I just got back from teaching my first class of the semester--Good Books.  I'm not kidding when I say it was possibly one of the best first days I've ever had.  The students were relaxed.  They asked questions when I asked, "Are there any questions?"  And the questions were relevant.  When we did the class introductions, the students were funny and engaged.  They laughed at all my jokes, which is very encouraging.  If I'm going to gauge the rest of the semester by how today went, I would say it's going to be a wonderful autumn.  A great relief.

This post marks a milestone.  It is number 300 for my blog.  For the person who has been with me since the beginning (I'm talking to you, Wonder Twin), I want to thank you for hanging in there.  It has been a bumpy ride at times.  I (and the blog) have evolved over the last couple of years, for the better, I think.  I've been trying to decide how to commemorate this event.  Fireworks are too expensive.  A party for my loyal follower may be a little depressing.  (It would just be two people, sitting in a room, eating and drinking.)  A feature-length film based on my blog may be a hard sell in Hollywood.  That leaves me with one option...

Another contest.

Considering how popular my first contest was (I got a total of one entry for my muffin-naming contest), this contest may end up being the Hindenburg of contests.  I may end up standing back, crying, "Oh, the humanity!"  Nevertheless, I will try once more try to elicit some interest in my contest I'm calling, "Name that Poem."

The rules are pretty simple:
  1. In the comment section to this post, give me a subject to write a poem about.  It can be any old subject you want--macaroni and cheese, uncontrollable diarrhea, the Libyan revolution.
  2. You may enter the contest as many times as you want.
  3. In post 310, I will announce the winner of "Name that Poem," and I will write a poem about the subject the winner has suggested.  I will send the winner of the contest (if it doesn't cost too much money) an autographed copy of the poem and a cool holy card of a saint.
That's it people.  Get your poetry caps on.  Send me your suggestions.  What do you want me to write a poem about?  Make it easy.  Make it hard.  Make it whatever you want it to be.  Hurt me.

Saint Marty can take it.

August 29: Back to School, Back to Work, Back to Skunks

I will be back in the classroom this afternoon.  I'm experiencing my usual first-day-of-class jitters, even though I've been doing this gig twice as long as my daughter's been alive.  (That's over 20 years, for those of you who are mathematically challenged.)  I always get nervous when I meet a new group of students for the first time.  I think it goes back to my low self-esteem, my need to be liked/loved, and my Catholic angst about not being good enough/smart enough/ holy enough/ whatever enough to do anything.

And I am also back to work, obviously.  I spent last night finishing Mockingjay, finally.  It was a great series of books and definitely teachable.  As a college English professor, I always think about whether I can use a book in class.  My next Good Books course is probably going to center around post-apocalyptic, dystopian books.  (Yes, I'm already planning my next class.)  I found the whole Hunger Games series really satisfying.  The ending had a melancholy that appealed to my darker tastes.  Can't recommend these books enough.

This morning, as I was heading up the street in my car, I saw a skunk cross in front of me.  It waddled into a neighbor's garage.  I know it wasn't a cat.  Too squat.  Too compact.  Tail was too bushy.  Now, I might have said something to this neighbor tonight if I liked him and his family.  I don't.  So, I hope they have a close encounter with their black-and-white visitor today.  Better him than me.  I know that's not a very saintly thing to say, but I'm just being honest.

Saint Marty, keepin' it real.

I don't get no respect!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28: Last Day of Summer, New Cartoon, Teaching

Tomorrow, I return to my normal work schedule.  That means the semester begins, and my summer hiatus comes to an end.  I must say that, this fall, I have much easier teaching load than last semester.  I have zero composition classes, so I will have no stacks of papers to grade.  That will be a refreshing break.  I'm a little anxious about the Mythology course, but that's only because I've never taught it before.  I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it.

This last day of summer always makes me feel a little blue.  It's like the day after Christmas, when all the fun is over and you're left with garbage bags full of wrapping paper.  In a week or so, I will adjust.  I always do.  However, right now, I'm indulging in a little self-pity.  The days are getting shorter.  The mornings are getting colder.  The trees are already turning colors.  Change is in the air.

My uncle, who has terminal cancer, is doing very poorly.  Keep him and his family in your thoughts.  My aunt, especially.  Letting go of someone you love is never easy.  My uncle is her life.  My hope is for peace, acceptance.  Less pain.  Maybe a fast ending, if that's possible.

I haven't got much else for my disciples tonight.  Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for taking part in my journey toward sainthood.  (You may laugh at this point.)  Things start anew tomorrow.

Saint Marty, in transition.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27: Panic Attacks, New Cartoon, Barbecue

I have a person I care about very much who has recently been suffering from severe panic attacks.  This person has always been the one in control, the one everyone expects to have all the answers.  He has a pretty important job, and his work has been causing him a huge amount of stress.  He's been on vacation for a little while, but the time off hasn't seemed to help ease the unhappiness he's been experiencing.  When anyone mentions medication or therapy, he turns defensive, almost downright hostile.

The last detail in the previous paragraph has surprised me a lot.  The person I'm talking about is in a position to know a great deal about the benefits of medications which ease anxiety and depression.  Yet he seems to think that he can somehow wait out the problem.  That it will in some way disappear by itself.  I'm afraid he's going to continue to get worse and worse, until hospitalization is the only option.  Either that or he's going to turn into an agoraphobic.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this story with you.  I guess it's to ask for prayers for this person.  He's very unhappy, struggling a great deal each day.  Mental illness, whether its mild or severe, still carries so much shame and stigma.  People are afraid to admit they need help, people in a great deal of pain.  And they suffer in silence, feeling alone and abandoned.

Tonight, I have to go to a barbecue at my sister-in-law's house.  My wife's father is visiting from downstate, and we have to go pay homage.  I made a brownie trifle this afternoon as my offering.  That's the reason I'm posting so early today.  I'm not going to be near a computer this evening.

Life is so difficult sometimes, with no really easy solutions to problems.  I don't know what I'm going to do for the person I just wrote about.  There's not much I can do at the moment, except wait for Humpty to fall off the wall and then pick up the pieces.

Saint Marty's feeling a little powerless.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26: H & P, New Poem, Chillaxin'

It is about 7 p.m., and I am totally chillaxin' right now.  I've cleaned my house, taken care of all of my responsibilities for the day, and am ready to just sit on my couch and finish reading Mockingjay.  Of course, there are other things I could do tonight, but it ain't gonna happen.

I do have a new poem for my disciples.  I've been working on it for a couple of days now.  It needs a little 'splaining (as Desi Arnez used to say to Lucy).  As you know, one of my jobs is working in a medical office.  (Remember, I'm an adjunct English professor, which means I have at least two other jobs to support my family.)  As part of my job in the medical office, I file a lot of dictated reports.  One kind of report I see a lot of is a History and Physical (H & P, for short).  This document basically provides a patient's medical and social background.  Over the years, I've noticed that, if you read between the lines, these documents tell stories.  That's the inspiration for today's poem.

I know I promised a picture of myself with my new messenger bag.  I will deliver on that promise tomorrow.  Also, I just got word that my uncle, who has terminal cancer, is not doing very well.  Please send some good thoughts/prayers his way tonight.

Saint Marty is ready for some good, quiet reading time.

History & Physical

Chief Complaint:  pelvic pain.

History of Present Illness:  pelvic pain for eight days, started at granddaughter's high school graduation when patient saw granddaughter in cap and gown, realized she looked exactly like patient's daughter who died three years ago of ovarian cancer on a December night, holding patient's hand, whispering about warm bread and raspberry jam.

Past Medical History:  pelvic pain, sense of emptiness, the way a dining room table seems empty when a child goes to school, finds a boyfriend/girlfriend, gets married, has children.

Past Surgical History:  tonsillectomy at age eight, Cesarean at 22, patient sometimes rubs C-section scar in middle of night until it burns under her touch, like an infant with an ear infection.

Social History:  lives in Michigan, winters in Florida, can't stand cold weather or snow any more, reminds her of things she's lost:  her father's buffalo nickel, sound of her mother's voice, smell of her daughter's just-washed hair.

Allergies:  aspirin, Tylenol, shellfish, grief.

Medications:  Coumadin to thin blood, avoid coagulation, clots, pulmonary embolisms that sit in your chest like forgotten love letters, waiting to be opened.

Physical Examination:
     HEENT:  Within normal limits (WNL).
     HEART:  Enlarged, empty, the Grand Canyon at midnight.
     LUNGS:  WNL
     NEURO:  WNL
     OTHER:  WNL

Impression:  pelvic pain, phantom, incurable.

Plan:  discharge to home after observation, avoid winter ice, smell of baking rye bread, sound of school bells.

August 26: TGIF, Great Book Club, Messenger Bag

I am so glad it's Friday.  This whole week has been a blur of tiredness.  Each day has been a struggle to get moving in the morning.  I've made it through by sheer will power, and several healthy doses of Diet Mountain Dew.  A few more hours of work, and I am free for the weekend.  (Of course, I start teaching at the university on Monday, but I'm not going to face that reality until Sunday night.)  And it's payday.  It can't get much better.

Last night's Book Club meeting was a great deal of fun.  The food was wonderful, from bok choy to brownies.  The discussion was lively and, as always, digressive.  (Translation:  We shot the shit a lot.)  My sister did not babysit my son last night, but my son was a trooper.  He handed out pop (or soda for you misguided Wisconsinites) and socialized for the first half hour.  Then he went to bed with nary a peep.  I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

My new messenger bag came in the mail yesterday, as well.  It's quite stylish.  The next time I blog, I'll post a picture of myself with my new book bag.   You'll see how much it makes me look like a more intelligent version of Brad Pitt.

I look better than this
If you can't tell, Saint Marty is ready for the weekend to begin.  Now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25: No New Poem, Almost Done, "Mockingjay"

First, I have to apologize.  I promised a new poem for today.  I didn't get it done.  I sort of got wrapped-up in my reading of Mockingjay.  No, I didn't get the book finished, either, probably won't before tonight's Book Club meeting.  However, I'm far enough into it to speak about it intelligently.  As my daughter says when she's trying to get out of doing something, I promise to have a poem for you tomorrow.

I'm very happy with the fact that I'm almost done with the entire Hunger Games trilogy.  As many of you may know, I've had a hard time reading and finishing anything for quite a few months.  Even if it is a young adult series, I've actually read it, which is more than I can say for quite a few books I've started recently.

I am looking forward to the meeting tonight.  Book Club night is one of my favorite nights of the month, even when I don't have the book finished.  I enjoy the people.  I enjoy the food.  I enjoy the conversation.  I know that most of the people coming tonight have actually read the entire novel, which is amazing.  And I know that almost every member of the club is going to be there tonight.  When I look back, I can't believe that this little Book Club I started over six or seven years ago is still going strong.  Yes, we've lost members.  Yes, some months we've only had two or three people in attendance (including myself and my wife).  But we're still going strong.

I just got a phone call from my sister who usually babysits my son on Book Club night.  She completely forgot about it.  She asked me what I was planning to do with my son.  I said, "I guess I'll just put him to bed."  My sister has a really uncanny ability to make me feel guilty without saying a word.  If she actually shows up tonight to watch my son, I'm going to feel like I owe her a kidney.  It's the same every month.

Just one of Saint Marty's crosses to bear, along with salad and Nicholas Sparks.

Hmmm, what do you think of the social satire of this novel?

August 25: "Mockingjay," "Hunger Games," Ice Cream

I didn't read Mockingjay at all last night.  Too busy.  Too tired.  I'm going to try to get most of it read today.  It promises to be a little slower at work.  When I got home last night, all I could think about was going to bed.  I don't know why I'm so tired this week.  I'm not doing anything different than I do any other week of my life.

The good news is that my Book Club meets tonight at my house, and I have actually finished the book.  I enjoyed Hunger Games very much, and I think that almost everybody else has finished it, as well.  Now I have to see if there are discussion questions out there somewhere on the Internet for the book.  I'm thinking there won't be, since it's considered a young adult novel.  Obviously, publishers think young adults don't want to discuss literature (which may be true).

I did make an ice cream dessert for tonight's Book Club.  It's sort of a vanilla ice cream, Rice Krispie, peanut butter, caramel thing.  I'm a little worried about it.  I'm not sure if the caramel is going to harden enough.  However, I have to serve it.  It's all I got.  It was good when one of my coworkers brought it to a potluck, but I made it without the actual recipe. 

Didn't look at my tire this morning.  I'm going to have to take a saunter out to my car now to check it out.

Saint Marty doesn't have much get-up-and-go this morning.  It got up and went.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24: No Flat, Department Meeting, Suzanne Collins

First, I did NOT have a flat tire this morning.  It was simply low.  I kept checking the tire every few hours to see if it was going to go completely flat.  It didn't change.  So I decided to just fill up the tire and wait to see what happened.  After almost six hours, my tire has retained its shape and air.  Therefore, I am going to say my tire is fine.  Thank God.

I went to an English Department meeting this afternoon, the first of the academic year.  It lasted about an hour and a half.  I thought it was going to be an exercise in tedium.  It wasn't.  I can't say it was a barrel of monkeys, but it was entertaining.  I saw some people I hadn't seen in a while, and I learned a few things about the department I didn't know.  Politics is, of course, par for the course, as it is in any university setting.  However, it wasn't a complete waste of time.

The thing that's been really bugging me about the last few days is that I haven't had a chance to read Mockingjay at all.  I'm around 100 pages into it, and Suzanne Collins just keeps getting better and better.  My goal is to have all three books complete by the book club meeting tomorrow night.  I'm not sure if that's going to happen.  However, I'm going to give it my best shot tonight and tomorrow.

Tonight, I've got a band practice and choir practice at church, so I'm not sure how much reading I'm going to get done.  Tomorrow is a light day at work.  I may be able to focus on it.  I still think I can finish it.

Saint Marty just needs to get his arse in gear.

P.S.  New poem tomorrow.

I don't care who you are, this is funny!

August 24: Postscript, Possible Flat Tire

The second one of the summer...
As a postscript to my post this morning, one of my coworkers just arrived and told me that she thinks one of the tires on my car is going flat.  I went out to check, and, friggin' A, it sure looks like it's on its way to complete and total flatness.  I'm going to go out and check in another hour.  If it's flat, I'm going to get it fixed this morning.

Join Saint Marty in singing, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."

August 24: "The Help," Kathryn Stockett, Brave Boy

My son, who is two-years-old, had to get blood drawn yesterday.  It was nothing serious.  He is starting a preschool program this fall, and he needed to get a lead level and a few other tests.  My wife went with him to the lab.  She held one of his arms.  A lab tech held his other arm.  Another lab tech drew the blood.  My wife said he didn't make a sound, just sat there, even when the lab tech started moving her needle around to find a vein.  Frankly, I thought it was going to be a horrible scene, with much screaming and struggling.  Nope.  He just leaned into my wife a little when it got painful.  He's a pretty brave little kid.

My brave son
So I did see The Help last night.  It was just as good as I thought it was going to be.  It managed to avoid sentimentality, for the most part.  It did have the feel of a big Hollywood movie that was made to snag a lot of awards.  Viola Davis was superb.  Octavia Spencer was quite good, as well.  I haven't been a big fan of Emma Stone, but she really pulled off the part of Skeeter without becoming the token white character trying to save the African Americans.  Bryce Dallas Howard made a great villain.

Faithful readers of my blog may remember that I read Kathryn Stockett's novel for book club quite a few months ago.  Faithful readers will also remember that I struggled to get it finished for the meeting night.  It's not that I didn't like the book.  I did.  But I've been having a hard time getting books read on time for a while.  Now that I've seen the film adaptation of The Help, I may have to go back and give the novel a closer reading.  It may be a book I'd teach in the future, if I can get used to the dialect I recall Stockett using.  (Generally, I think dialect in any book is a big mistake.)

With this post, I'm testing a theory.  You see, the second most popular post I've ever written was about Kate Moses and the book Cakewalk.  I don't understand the traffic it has gotten.  I can only surmise that people searching for Kate Moses have stumbled upon my blog.  Therefore, I'm going to see if putting Kathryn Stockett's name in the title of this post has a similar effect.  Call it an experiment.  If I end up with 300 hits on this post, I may just start putting popular author's names in the titles of every one of my posts.

This is a test of the emergency hit-generating system
Saint Marty is just trying to be a little scientific (and shamelessly self-promoting).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23: Saint Rose of Lima, "The Help," Guilt

There are some saints I read about who instill a great sense of guilt in me.  Rose of Lima is one of them.  Rose's given name was Isabel de Flores y del Oliva, but her mother nicknamed her "Rose" because of her red cheeks.  She was born in 1586 in Peru, and, like every holy person I read about, she knew, practically from the time she was a zygote, that she wanted to devote her life to God.

None of those details make me feel guilty.  I was very fickle about my career aspirations as a child.  I used to tell priests that I wanted to be a priest when I grew up, but I also told firefighters I wanted to be a firefighter; garbagemen I wanted to be a garbageman; and, once, a nun that I wanted to be a nun (she quickly disabused me of this idea).  If God had come into my classroom, I would have told Him I wanted to devote my life to Him, no problem.  As I said, I was fickle. 

What makes me feel guilty when I read about Rose is her devotion to the poor and sick of Lima.  Her work with slaves and Indians and, basically, any suffering person led to her reputation as the "originator of social services in Peru."  She dedicated her entire life (she died when she was 31) to helping others.  That's what makes me feel guilty.

I know I don't do half as much as I could to make the world a better place.  I give to charities, drop my church envelopes in the collection plate every Sunday, but I don't do it with a great deal of faith.  I give out of my abundance, not out of my need.  Even with my abundance, I'm pretty stingy.  If it's a choice between buying myself an iPad 2 or giving that money to a homeless shelter, I would really have to give it some serious thought.  I'm not a big fan of suffering, especially if it involves me personally.  I don't like feeling deprived.  Yet, I know I'm wealthier than 99% of the rest of the people on this planet.

That's my dilemma, and that's why I'll always be a wannabe saint and never a saint.  I'm too selfish/jealous/greedy.

I'm going to see the film adaptation of The Help tonight.  As most of you may know, it's about African American women who work as maids in the South before the Civil Rights Movement.  It's about people who suffer on a daily basis.  I'll probably drop $60 easy on tickets, popcorn, pop, candy, and babsitting by the time the whole evening is over.  A little earlier today, I told my wife we didn't have the money to contribute to a back-to-school backpack program the church is running for needy kids.  Guilt.  Big guilt.  Big, huge servings of guilt.  But it won't won't stop me from going to see this movie.

I will never be a Saint Rose of Lima, founder of social services in Peru. 

I'm Saint Marty of Michigan, who'd sell his left testicle for an iPad.

Anyone need a testicle?

August 23: "The Help," Paying Bills

I have two things I have to absolutely do today:

  1. I need to see where the movie The Help is playing in the area.  My wife and I are going on a date tonight, and we both really want to see this film.  (No, it's not a chick flick.  I read the book, and it is great.  Plus, how can you lose with Viola Davis?)
  2. I need to pay my car loan and my heating bill for the month.  Yes, even in the summer, you have to use heat in the U.P.  It isn't much, but I don't want the company to shut off my gas.  That would become inconvenient next month when the weather turns a little cooler.
It's going to be a busy day at work.  Lots of people getting surgery.  'Tis the season, I guess.  People want to be able to pee and see clearly for autumn.  Tomorrow, I have to make an appearance at the English Department's first meeting of the school year.  Generally, I avoid these meetings like small pox exposure, but a friend said I should probably show up, "to keep my face out there."  I have no idea what that means.  Perhaps, since my face moved to my office in another, distant building (apart from the English Department), people have forgotten I still exist/work for the university.  Thus, my face's rare attendance at a department meeting tomorrow afternoon.  Lord, I hope it's short.

That's Saint Marty's world in a nutshell this morning.  Not very exciting, but who said a saint's life had to be miracles and visions every day?

Not a chick flick!

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22: Calming Down, New Poem, Sharon Olds

I have calmed down since this morning about my daughter missing her dance lesson today.  I just spoke with her dance instructor, and she assured me how great my daughter is doing on learning her solo dance.  Her teacher said she got chills watching my daughter dance.  That's enough to put me in a really good mood for the rest of the night.  I know my daughter will be home tonight.  I'm happy.

I did write a new poem today.  It was sort of inspired by a poem I once heard Sharon Olds read.  It was an ode to a tampon.  It was full of the normal Sharon Olds subject material--the body, menstrual blood, great lyrical leaps.  I loved it.  My poem is about a subject with which I have a little experience:  sewage.  Being the son and brother of many master plumbers, I know a little bit about this subject.  Therefore, I decided to write an ode about it.

Below is the video that inspired my new poem:

Saint Marty isn't going crazy.  He's just having a little fun.

Ode to Sewage

Most people don't think about it,
Where it all goes once the toilet flushes,
Tiny Charybdis in a bowl.
The water swirls, disappears,
Carries away all we find offensive,
Shameful.  I know, have seen it
In pools, moats, great floods
Of urine and menses, feces,
Effluvium of the body.
It is us and not us.
It's what we create in private,
Then add to the communal river,
Billions of people, oceans of offal.
We don't want to claim it
As a part of ourselves,
Necessary as blood or breath.
Instead, we pretend it doesn't exist,
Like AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa
Or bellies bloated with famine in Somalia.
We mask its smell.  Lilac.  Green apple.
Ocean salt in mango grove.  Pine.
We strain it.  Sift it.  Settle it.
We purify, turn it into water,
Sweet as wine.  Fertilizer.
Something useful again.  Heeded.
It's above us, below us,
Around us, inside us.
It is the movement of the world
Through the universe, the trail
We leave behind to prove we lived
Here on this cosmic ball
Of water and dirt and shit.

August 22: (Re)Decorating, Daughter's Return

It has arrived.  No matter how much kicking and screaming I did last night before I went to bed, Monday is here, and I'm back at my desk at work.  I am tired, although not as tired as I was last week on my first day back from vacation.  I'm still convinced I don't want to continue getting up this early for the rest of my working life.  And I'm still convinced Diet Mountain Dew is a gift from God.

This morning, I'm going to redecorate my office for Fall.  That means I take down the red-white-and-blue decorations of summer, and out come the autumn leaves and scarecrows.  Can't fight it any more, folks.  September is just around the corner, and the kids are getting their school clothes and backpacks.  I myself just ordered a new messenger bag for myself (since my old one got skunked earlier this summer, if you remember).  No, my new bag is NOT a murse.  It is a highly stylish bag for men to carry books, laptops, iPads, keys, wallets, whatever.  I will post a picture of myself with my new bag when it comes later this week.
This is what it looks like, but not in this color
If you are wondering, no, my irresponsible sister did not bring my daughter back from Detroit yesterday.  They are returning today.  Yes, I was really pissed last night when my sister had my daughter call to tell me this news.  My sister never even got on the phone.  I went to bed pissed, and one of the first things I thought about this morning when I woke up was how pissed I still was.  Got to get beyond this today, or it's going to be a really bad day for everyone around me.

Well, Saint Marty has some redecorating to do.  It's going to look fabulous!  Two snaps up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21: Skinning the Chicken, New Cartoon

At the moment, I'm at my parents' house, getting ready to have dinner with my family.  It's sort of become a tradition this summer.  We all gather on Sunday evening to break bread (or turkey or hot dogs or hamburgers) together.  It's been quite nice, when we aren't annoying the shit out of each other.  Tonight, my brother deep-fried some chickens.  It's my job (because I enjoy eating the deep-fried skin) to skin and pick the meat off the bones.  I've already stripped two carcasses.  I now have a third awaiting my attention.

It is also my job to provide dessert for these Sunday dinners.  The last few weeks, I've brought watermelon.  Tonight, I threw together a pudding pie (Nilla wafer crust, white chocolate and cheesecake pudding, with blueberries for color).  I'm not sure what it's going to taste like, but it looks pretty.

I'm waiting to see if my daughter is coming back tonight from her little trip to Detroit.  I haven't heard from her since Thursday night, when she got to my uncle's house.  I understand she went to the Detroit Zoo on Saturday.  Aside from that, I've had no reports from Motown.  I hope she makes it back tonight.  She has a private dance lesson tomorrow afternoon that was a pain in the ass to get scheduled.  Plus, she hasn't practiced at all for her piano lesson on Tuesday.  These details, however, make no difference to my sister, who is the driver, tour guide, and resident irresponsible adult.  I'm hoping she keeps her word to me about bringing her back today.

Saint Marty now has to go skin another chicken.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20: Nothin' to Shake a Stick At, New Cartoon

I didn't do nothin' to shake a stick at today.  Just a normal Saturday.  I had breakfast with my family and sisters, played with my son for a while on the playground, put my son down for a nap, went for a run, went to church.  I must sound like the most boring blogger in the world right now, but I am actually enjoying the lack of drama in my life.  I've lived a soap-opera existence for far too long.  I give thanks for the fact that my wife's bipolar seems under control, and with it her sexual and internet addictions.  Life is normal.

Of course, being a basically pessimisitc person, now that I've typed the paragraph above, I feel like I'm somehow daring God to do something to screw up my lovely boredom.  I try not to be a superstitious person, but I don't like saying things are going well for me.  It smacks of hubris.  I know my life can turn on a dime.  It's happened many times before.  For instance, the day after I defended my MFA thesis, I found out about my wife's sexual addiction.  The next year-and-a-half was pure torture.  I went from one of the best days of my life to one of the worst times in my life.  It happened in the space of a few hours.

Why am I typing this?  To remind myself to enjoy happiness, revel in the mundane, give thanks for the inconsequential.  Life can come along and bitch slap you back to hard reality in the flit of a hummingbird's wing.  Hug your old tennis shoe tonight.  A tornado may take it away from you tomorrow.

I have a new cartoon for you.  I think it's friggin' hilarious.

Saint Marty's going to go enjoy himself some Lawrence Welk now.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19: Ready for the Weekend, Thunderstorms, Hardee's

Well, I put together my syllabus for my Good Books class.  It only took me a few hours to figure out the schedule and make the appropriate changes to my existing syllabus.  Basically, I'm all set for the beginning of the semester.  It feels good to have that work done.

Since I posted this morning, thunderstorms have descended on the Upper Peninsula.  My coworker was going to go to the U. P. State Fair this afternoon with her family.  She is now reconsidering her plans.  I don't mind the bad weather.  Most of the activities I have planned for today are for indoors--cleaning the house, finishing my reading of Catching Fire.

At noon, I'm meeting my wife and sisters for lunch at Hardee's, which is one of my daughter's favorite places to eat.  She called me yesterday when she was travelling downstate with my sister and asked my to find the nearest Hardee's for her.  I was surprised to find out that Hardee's isn't a really big chain in Michigan.  In the U. P., there are about five or six different restaurants.  In the lower peninsula, there are about two.  I have no idea why I'm telling you this fact.  Most of my international readers probably have no idea what Hardee's is.  (Think McDonald's, but with curly fries.)

After lunch, I'm probably going grocery shopping.  Among other items, I need to purchase some supplies for my Book Club gettogether next week.  The book for this month is Hunger Games, and I have already finished it.  I haven't been this ahead of the Book Club game for some time.  My goal is to have all three books in the series finished by next Thursday.  It may not happen.

Well, time for Saint Marty to get some curly fries.

I know you're jealous!

August 19: Revised New Poem, Another Syllabus

I wasn't really happy with the version of the poem I posted yesterday afternoon.  It didn't hold together well for me.  So I went home and revised last night.  If you read the new poem last night, I suggest you go back to the post and reread it.  It has changed a great deal, hopefully for the better.  Drop me a comment if you like the old version more.

My task this morning, aside from waking up, is working on my syllabus for my Good Books class.  I now have all the books I will be teaching.  This syllabus will not be as difficult to pull together.  I've taught the class before, and I know what I'm doing.  I am using five books I've never used before, but I'm excited about the course.  I deicded to use works which focus on mental illness.  Obviously, it's a topic that's very close to me.  I'm hoping to foster more understanding, less fear, about mental diseases.  It's the one class of illnesses which still generates socially accepted fear, ridicule, and prejudice.  I'm hoping to changes a few minds this coming semester.

Saint Marty needs to get to work (after eating his breakfast).  More to come.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18: New Poem, Not Much Time

I  don't have too much time to type this post.  I've spent a few hours working on today's poem.  I don't know how good it is.  It's inspired by my daughter going to visit my uncle who is dying of lymphoma.  I hope that my daughter learns something about healing on this trip.

I've been thinking about healing a lot in the last few days.  What it takes to make a situation better.  Sometimes, all it takes is an order of fries from McDonald's.  Sometimes it's a little harder, however.  That's what today's poem is about.

Saint Marty needs a little healing right now.  He may stop and get some Chicken McNuggets on the way home.

How to Heal

My uncle learned how to heal
When he broke his neck
In a car wreck, spent months
With a metal halo bolted
To his forehead, the screws
Sunk in his skull so long
He felt like Boris Karloff, waited
For Dr. Frankenstein to appear,
Jolt him with a tongue of lightning
To heal his damaged vertebrae.
He worked with his hands,
Relearned how to make a fist,
Hold a fork of meatloaf,
Lift it to his mouth.  He gripped
His wife's arm as he swayed
Down hospital corridors,
Moored himself to her, the way
Sailboats moored on the St. Clair River
Against wind and currents, the drift
Toward some distant northern place.
He never let her go.  She pulled him
Home, retaught his fingers how to love
Her, like van Gogh's brushes loved
Canvas, thick with sunflower and stars.
He healed her.  She healed him.
This time, my uncle came home
From the hospital with a tumor
The size of a two-by-four in his belly.
His wife sits next to his bed now
As his grip on the dock loosens.
He knows this healing will be simpler.
No therapy.  No exercises.  No terror
Of deep water or undertows.  His job is easy.
Relax.  Open his fingers.  Let go.

August 18: Tireder and Tireder

I was sort of hoping, after three days of being back at work, that I would feel less tired.  However, I have been feeling tireder and tireder.  This morning is the worst.  It just took me almost two minutes to type that first sentence.  I had to get up, go to the refrigerator, and get a can of Diet Mountain Dew.  Then I just sat, staring at the screen.  It's going to be a rough day.  I went through my book bag, found out I don't have my favorite writing pen.  This detail may sound inconsequential, but I haven't written a poem in almost seven years without this pen.  It's sort of like how baseball players, when they're on a winning streak, won't change their socks or wash their jock straps for fear of jinxing themselves.  I had a moment of panic when I realized I didn't have my pen case.

So I don't know if you're going to be getting a new poem today or not.  If I can't get that pen, I'd say not.  I'm going to run out to my car to see if I left it on my dashboard.  I know it's not lost, just misplaced.  There is a difference.

My daughter is going on a trip this morning with my sister.  They're travelling downstate to visit relatives in Detroit.  It's the first time my daughter's been to Detroit.  If you can believe it, she's actually excited about visiting that city.  It's not just a pleasure trip.  My sister is going to visit my uncle, who is in hospice care.

Well, the caffeine is kicking in.  I feel a little wind in my sails now.  I may be able to stay awake through breakfast.  And I may even take that walk to my car to find my writing pen.

Saint Marty gives thanks for Mountain Dew this morning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17: Mythology, Syllabus, Working Hard

In between answering phones, scheduling surgeries, filing charts, I've been plugging away on my syllabus for the mythology class I'm teaching this fall.  I spent a few hours just trying to figure out what movies I was going to screen for my students and how to break the chapters up into distinct sections.  (I settled on The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the new version of Clash of the Titans for the movies, and I managed to cut the textbook up into six different subjects.)

This is funny!  I don't care who you are.
The hardest part of piecing together a syllabus for me is coming up with the semester schedule (what's due when and what to read when).  It's the one part of the syllabus to which students actually pay attention.  I usually spend quite a few hours mapping out the entire three months.  It takes a lot of thought and planning.  It's now about three o'clock in the afternoon, and I just finished up a little while ago.  I'm whipped.  I could put my head down on this keyboard and literally fall asleep.  I still have to finish the syllabus for my Good Books class, but that one will be easier.  I taught the class last winter.  I'll probably finish that syllabus on Friday.

As I was working on the course objective for my mythology class this morning, I came up with a couple of paragraphs that were pretty thought-provoking for me:
Please keep in mind that mythology is not just the study of a culture’s stories.  It is the study of a culture’s religion.  In this class, the term “myth” is not synonymous with fiction or fantasy.  It refers to humans’ attempts to understand the mysteries of the cosmos, the heart, and the soul.  Therefore, if I sometimes refer to Christian myth, I am not trying to be pejorative.  The narrative of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, has been one of the guiding forces of Western culture.  It has shaped the moral and spiritual codes of many cultures and times for centuries.  All mythology is about truth or the search for truth.

Therefore, the ultimate objective of this course is the pursuit of truth, in the myths of Greece and Rome, Zeus and Jehovah, Isis and the Virgin Mary, Aslan and Jesus Christ.  This will be our quest, our odyssey, for the semester.
I used to get very defensive when someone used the term "myth" in conjunction with Jesus Christ.  I didn't like it when someone called the Gospels the "Jesus narrative."  There seemd to be something devaluing in those two terms--"myth" and "narrative."  Both implied fabrication or outright deception in my mind.  Obviously, I have revised my opinion.  Thinking of mythology as the study of religions is very helpful.  It avoids the whole question of reality versus fantasy.  Instead, it focuses on the fundamental human truths all myths embody, including the Christian myth.  Goodness.  Altruism.  Dignity.  Bravery.  Flaws.  Failure.  Redemption.  They're all there.  For me, this is a kind of revolutionary way of viewing mythology.

I'm a little preoccupied right now with myth.  Sorry.  There are worse things with which I could be preoccupied, however.  Justin Bieber.  Or Twilight.  Or The Hunger Games trilogy.  Oh, wait.  I actually am obsessed with Suzanne Collins' books right now.  In fact, when I'm done typing this post, I'm going to dive back into Catching Fire, which I'm about half-way through.  Actaully, there are a lot of mythological implications in Hunger Games.  The reaping, the games, the victors--it all sort of reminds me of a version of the ancient Olympics.  I believe that many of the Olympic sports in ancient Greece were fatal, to-the-death kinds of competitions.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

So, Saint Marty is signing off.  He's got a date with Katniss Everdeen.

August 17: Great Night, Good Morning

Last night, my wife and I had dinner with a group of friends (some old, some new) at a friend's house.  It was a lovely evening, full of great stories about world travel, food, writing, poetry, and stealing art work from famous museums.  No, I wasn't dining with international art thieves.  We were discussing obsessions, and all of the people in attendance admitted to coveting paintings and sculptures from places as diverse as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Louvre.  I myself talked about my very close encounter with a van Gogh.  (It's a long story I may blog about some day.)

We stayed out way too late.  I drank way too much wine.  This morning, I'm really tired, but it's quiet in the office today, and I have time to reflect and recuperate.  I also have time to piece together my syllabus for the mythology class I'm teaching this fall semester.  I've never taught this class before, so it's going to be a steep learning curve for me for the next couple of months.

The summer is drawing to a close, and autumn is almost upon us.  I can feel myself shifting from the lazy-days-of-summer mode to the hectic-days-of-fall mode.  I'm not sure I'm ready for the change, but, as with most things in life, I don't have much of a choice.  Last night, as I drove home from our friend's house, the moon was huge and yellow.  A harvest moon.  It's time to gather the crops of June, July, and August.

Shine on, harvest moon...

Saint Marty has had a pretty good summer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16: Nephew, Deafness, New Poem

I found out last night that my new nephew, who was born last month, is deaf in his left ear.  Somehow, the doctors have performed some kind of hearing test and determined that he cannot hear anything in that ear.  His mother also can't hear out of her left ear, but it's simply coincidence that he is similarly challenged.

He is a beautiful little baby, still red and soft as flower petals.  He will never know that he is challenged in any way when it comes to hearing.  His mom didn't know she was deaf until she was in high school.  It's all about compensation.  The brain adjusts for the sense that is lacking.  He will be fine.  I know this.  And he is perfect.  All babies are.

Today, Saint Marty deidcates his poem to his nephew.

Anatomy of Sound

I press my lips to his helix, antihelix, scaphoid fossa.  Whisper into his cymba conchae, tell him he's perfect.  He gazes at me, as if I've just poured gold into his auditory canal, gilded his tympanic membrane and cavity.  He can't hear me.  I know.  The doctors have snapped their fingers, probed his one-month-old ossicles, found only silence.  Now, he sits in the curve of my arm, opens his mouth, closes it.  Remains mute.  His tongue, small as a minnow, swims with hunger, some unspoken need.  He can cry.  Scream.  Fill his lungs with air, rattle cochlea.  But tonight, he is all potential.  The possibility of syllable.  Word.  Line.  Poem.  It sits deep in his head.  Craving to be heard.

August 16: Can't...Wake...Up

I'm back at work, and already I want to go home.  I'm tired, don't want to be here, miss my wife  and son and daughter already.  I had a small revelation driving to work this morning:  I don't want to do this for the rest of my life.  I don't want to get up at 4:15 a.m. for the rest of my life.  I don't want to be away from my family for 14 or 15 hours every day for the rest of my life.  I don't want to see people who are less qualified than me getting full-time university teaching jobs for the rest of my life.  I don't want to feel this tired for the rest of my life.

Now that I've had that revelation, I need to make a concerted effort to publish a LOT more, which I have been doing.  And I need to apply for the next full-time adjunct position in the English Department that becomes available, which could be a looonnnnng time in coming.

In the meantime, I just have to suck it up. 

Pretty much, this morning, Saint Marty feels like this: 

This says it all...

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15: Feast of the Assumption, Last Day of Vacation, Man of Leisure

Yes, I have reached the last day of my vacation.  Now all I have to look forward to is one week at the beginning of January, 2012.  It's quite depressing if I take time to contemplate it.  Therefore, I'm trying hard not to be too reflective today.  It may cause a mid-life, mid-career crisis that I don't care to deal with at the moment.

Today is also the Feast of the Assumption.  For my non-Catholic disciples, it's the day the Catholic Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, body of soul.  That sounds pretty impressive.  I know most Christian churches view the Catholic Church's veneration of Mary as some form of goddess worship, akin to the Israelites dancing and praying to a golden ox in the desert.  The way I've always viewed Mary (whether she stayed an eternal virgin, had children with Joseph after the birth of Christ, whatever) is as a figure very close to the heart of God.  He wouldn't have chosen her as the mother of Jesus if there wasn't something special about her.  Mary carried the Son of God in her body for nine months.  That sort of makes her unique among human beings.

So, if you have a hard time with Mary as a virgin or queen of heaven, think of her as a friend, someone you want on your side when the chips are down.  I always have a hard time turning my mother down if she asks me to do something.  I'm thinking Jesus (nice, Jewish boy that He was) would have a hard time turning Mary down, as well.

One of the prettiest images of the Assumption
Well, my time as a man of leisure is coming to a close.  Tomorrow morning, I strap the old feed bag back on and head out to the back forty to do some plowing.  All good things must come to an end, I guess.  Maybe I'll whisper a few words to Mary tonight, see if she can snag me a full-time job at the university, with benefits and a good salary.  If she can get Jesus to turn some jars of water into wine, she should be able to talk Him into doing me this little favor. 

Excuse Saint Marty as he steps outside to sing Schubert's Ave Maria.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14: Second to Last Day, Daughter Singing, New Cartoon

I hate to type it, but today is the second to last day of my vacation.  Tomorrow, I plan on doing...absolutely nothing.  N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  I may go out to eat.  I may not.  I may finish the novel I started yesterday.  I may not.  I may write a poem.  I may not.

In church this morning, my wife and daughter sang a duet together, the song "As the Deer."  When she was our daughter's age, my wife sang a duet in church with her mother.  It's one of the strongest memories she has of her mother and church.  Her mother died of ovarian cancer when my wife was 18 years old.  So, while my wife and daughter sang their song, I sat in the front pew, crying like a pregnant woman.  My daughter was really nervous before the service started, but she sang beautifully.

For the rest of the day, I haven't done a whole lot.  I helped my daughter practice for her piano lesson.  I played a few rounds of game called Pig Mania with my sisters and brother.  I sort of tormented my sister with Down's syndrome, gloating and jinxing her.  She got really pissed at me.  But in a good way.  It was all in fun.  For me, anyway.

My little session of game-playing this afternoon inspired the newest installment of Confessions of Saint Marty.  I don't know if any of you like these cartoons, but they make me laugh.

Saint Marty may go read for a while now.  Or he may not.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13: Cleaning, Wine, and Swimming (Plus a New Cartoon)

Well, I haven't done a whole lot today.  Last night, I finished the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  It was a great read.  This morning, I started Catching Fire, the second book.  I'm about a hundred or so pages into it, and it's just as good as the first.  It amazes me how good young adult literature has become since the introduction of that little kid with the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.

This afternoon, I finished cleaning my house.  I had some sweeping, Swiffering, and vacuuming to do.  Then, I took a nap.  Yes, I took a nap.  It's not something that I generally do.  I'm of the opinion that there are not enough seconds in the day to accomplish everything I want to accomplish.  However, I'm on vacation, for God's sake.

Tonight, I've been invited to a friend's house for cheese and wine.  I've also been invited to go swimming with my niece and her kids.  I'm planning on doing both, although I don't know how.  I will probably do a quick stop for a glass of wine and hunk of cheese.  Then I'll throw on my swimsuit and head over to my niece's hotel.  I hope to have all this done by 9 p.m., when The Lawrence Welk Show starts on our PBS station.

I have a new Confessions of Saint Marty for your enjoyment, inspired by my time in the woods a few days ago.

Saint Marty is heading out for some wine now.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12: Today, My Daughter's Dance, My Windshield

On Day Five of my vacation, I got up early and went to get my windshield replaced.  If you remember, a few days ago, I visited the local Walmart and returned to my car to discover a huge crack in my windshield.  So, I spent a little over an hour this morning getting it replaced.  Then the guy who replaced the windshield noticed there was a scratch in the new one.  He gave me two options:  1) schedule another appointment to have another windshield installed, or 2) live with the scratch and receive a $50 gas card.  I chose option two.

This afternoon, I drove my daughter to her dance lesson.  At the end of the lesson, her teacher invited me into the studio to watch my daughter dance the solo on which she's been working.  I know I'm biased.  I know I'm a complete pushover when it comes to watching my daughter dance.  I know my daughter's almost a teenager and no longer "daddy's little girl."  Watching her perform this afternoon almost made me cry.  She looked graceful.  She looked grown-up.  And she looked like she didn't need me for anything.  Thank God she came over and gave me a huge hug when she was finished, or I would have been a blubbering mess.

The rest of the day has been pretty uneventful.  But I kept thinking about my daughter dancing for me.

My daughter dancing all over me this afternoon
Saint Marty's heart broke a little bit this afternoon.

August 12: An Apology, Saint Marty the Woodsman, Catching Up

First, let me apologize for not posting yesterday, my loyal disciples.  I spent the day out in the middle of the woods with my family, trying to avoid using an outhouse (I didn't succeed).

On Day Four of my vacation, I promised my wife I'd take her and our children out to her family's camp on a local lake.  The camp happens to have no electricity, no running water, no flush toilet, and no telephone in case you fall prey to some wild animal.  But, a promise is a promise.

Needless to say, I lived through the experience.  I put on my best woodsman face, built sauna fires, grilled hot dogs on the barbecue, and almost lasted the entire day before my bowels got the best of me.  However, I even survived that experience.  My daughter and her friend had a great time, even though they discovered leeches near the swimming dock.  Even that didn't deter them from spending almost the entire day in the water.  They caught frogs, paddled around in a boat, and ran in and out of the sauna.

The scariest place on earth
When I got back home around 6 p.m., I found out my mother had fallen in the bathtub and hit her head.  She was in the emergency room.  Thank God it wasn't serious.  She came home with a huge goose egg on the side of her noggin and doctor's orders to be woken up every two hours.  By this morning, my mother was a little cranky, but still alive.

So, my reasons for not posting yesterday:  there was no WiFi in the woods and my mother had a closed-head injury.

In both cases, Saint Marty (and Saint Marty's mother--who really is a saint) survived.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10: Day Three of Vacation, New Poem, Cracked Windshield

Welcome to Day Three of my vacation.

I went to a playgroup with my almost-three-year-old son this morning.  It was a little discouraging to see how much better all these younger kids were at speaking, cutting with scissors, sitting down, listening to stories, counting.  I almost wanted to leave, but I stuck it out.  My son is so good at problem-solving mechanical things.  He just doesn't want to take the time to listen to The Hungry Caterpillar.

After the playgroup, we went to visit my wife's grandma in the nursing home.  It was a really short visit because it was lunchtime, and my son was really tired.  We stayed around ten or 15 minutes.  Just long enough for my wife's grandma to walk down the hall to the dining room.

This afternoon, I took my daughter to her dance lesson.  I went to Walmart for a few groceries.  When I came out of the store, there was a huge crack in my windshield.  I don't know how it got there.  So I had to call my insurance company when I got home, make an appointment to get the damn thing replaced.  Thank God I have full glass coverage.

I have a new poem for you today, inspired by my visit to the nursing home with my family.

Saint Marty could very easily become a man of leisure (translation:  not work another day in his life).

In the Nursing Home

Birds sing.  Finches.  Canary and sparrow.
Saffron, green, blue feathers.
This time of year, the nests are full
Of new life, creatures smaller
Than thumbnails, blind to their world
Of glass and wood and seed.
My daughter crowds around the enclosure,
Watches anxious flit, hears mother
Birds scream to protect newborns.
Our visit will be short today.
My wife walks her grandmother
To the dining hall, keeps up
A steady monologue of news.
Our daughter's in fifth grade.
Our son's going to be three in September.
When they reach the aviary, they stop.
Her grandmother narrows her eyes
At the flutter and squeak inside.
Emmet hasn't come yet, she says to my wife.
I waited for him yesterday.
She looks up at my wife, says,  He never came.
My wife stares at her a few moments.
Grandpa died five years ago, remember?
Her grandmother smiles, nods.
They turn into the dining hall, to the smell
Of turkey and steamed broccoli.
My daughter points to a hatchling
That's fallen out of its nest.  It struggles
To return to the place of food, feather comfort.
Help it, my daughter says to me.
Someone will, I say, not sure
If I'm telling the truth or not.
I stare at the tiny bird's pink skin,
At its quick, hungry breaths,
Its fatal need for love.
Someone will, I say again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9: Day Two of Vacation, Date Night, Planet of the Apes

This is Day Two of my vacation.  My two-year-old son actually let me sleep until 9 a.m.  I was amazed and a little concerned, thinking he may have aspirated his pacifier or smothered under his pillow.  He was just fine, hit the ground running.  Literally.

I don't have a lot to report today, which is a blessing.  I just received a phone call from one of my best friends downstate.  His wife had spinal surgery yesterday to remove a cyst.  Everything went well, but she's experiencing a lot of pain and can't feel one of her arms right now.  The doctor told her is was because of swelling and she should be back to normal in a few days.  Pretty scary.  I know if I woke up from spinal surgery and couldn't feel an appendage, I may be a little concerned.  Actually, I might go apeshit.

Which brings me to my next topic.  Tonight, my wife and I have our date night.  We're going to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I was shocked to discover my wife wanted to see.  I grew up watching Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell in those movies.  I don't know how many times I've tried to growl like Heston, "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!"  Anyway, this new movie has gotten great reviews, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to have another new poem to post.  The one I wrote yesterday was really difficult to write.  I wasn't sure what it was trying to say.  I revised it a little bit just a few minutes ago.  I think it's working much better.  I hope tomorrow's poem comes a little more easily.

By the way, my good friend from the university said that he can't get published in the Black Warrior Review either.  I don't feel quite so bad now.  My friend has three books under his belt (two of them collections of poems) and a couple more on the way.

Saint Marty is on the mend.  He's not the only Black Warrior loser.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8: Rejection All 'Round, New Poem

Yes, it was a good first day of vacation.

My son let me sleep until 7 a.m.  That may not sound like much, but when you're used to rising at 4 a.m., that's an extra three hours of sleep.  I got to have ice cream with a good friend, and I drove my daughter to her dance lesson, where she learned she's going to be dancing a solo this year in competition.  She's a little excited.

When I got back home, I checked my e-mail, and I found out that my friend from the university and his wife can't accompany my family to camp on Thursday.  In the same batch of e-mails, I found a rejection from the magazine Black Warrior Review.  No big surprise there really.  BWR is pretty experimental, publishes language poems, the stuff that's very in vogue right now.  My prediction is that those kinds of poems are going to be pretty forgettable ten or 15 years from now.  However, double rejection never sits well.

I just got back from a budget meeting at church, talking about new boilers and furnaces.  It was about as exciting as attending a meeting of the local chapter of Young Republicans.

I do have a new poem for today.  I've been struggling with it for the last few hours.  I have to let it go.  I think it's done.  For now.

Saint Marty, signing out.

New Poem Day

With its August heat,
Its swallowtails, rain-starved
Grass, cumulus sky, its lack
Of wind outside my office window,
Today seems like a new poem day.
It could be the bags of clothes
I dropped off at Good Will,
Shirts and pants and socks too small
For my almost teen daughter,
Who discovered two hairs
In her armpit last night,
Took them as a talisman
For the upcoming school year,
Changes about to burst open
In her body like tulip bulbs.
It could also be these quiet minutes,
When I sit with pen, notebook,
Scribble syllables, lines, search
The details of daylight for meaning:
Flat tire on my son's stroller,
Brown spot on my banana
Where I dropped it this morning,
Accidental violence to its ripe
Curve, a bruise so deep
I contemplate amputation of the lower
half.  I can't stand the imperfection
In this fruit, want it to be yellow,
White, untouched, smooth
As a toddler's calf.  It could also
Be the argument I had yesterday
With my father, when he yelled
About Democrats, I yelled
About Republicans, he slammed
A plate in the sink so hard
It shattered, sliced his thumb,
Or the guilt I've felt today,
Like a sinus infection in my nose,
Throat, raw as January ice.  This new poem
Could bandage my father's hand,
Return us to the entropy of late summer,
But he doesn't understand,
Won't read or accept my words
To heal his wounded flesh.
Instead, he'll crumple up this day,
Toss it into the garbage.
Like an empty beer can.
A greasy napkin.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 7: Most Exciting Sunday Ever, "America's Got Talent," New Cartoon

Okay, today wasn't the most exciting Sunday ever, but I had to get your attention.  As Sundays go, today was pretty much par for the course.  Worship in the morning.  Lunch.  My son's nap.  Dinner at my parents' house.  However, if I had titled this post "Normal Sunday," I may not have passed the glance test.  (That's the test where my post pops up on your screen, and you look at it and think, "What's this lame crap?")

The most exciting thing I will be doing tonight is watching a rerun of America's Got Talent.  It's the episode I missed on Tuesday night.  I saw the results show, so I know which acts get kicked off, but I still want to see the performances.  I may even buy a bag of Combos to celebrate being on vacation this week.

I do have a new cartoon for today.  It was inspired by one of my favorite Christmas specials ever--A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I hope you enjoy it.

Saint Marty says, "Good grief!"

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6: Winner, Muffin Name, New Cartoon

We have a winner.  After sifting through the ONE entry I received in my muffin-naming contest, I have selected Wonder Twin's entry as the winner.  Henceforth, my muffin will be known as Sophie.  I like the name.  It calls to mind both a great Meryl Streep movie and Colonel Potter's horse from M*A*S*H.  Wonder Twin will be receiving a personal cartoon, in which she will appear.  For all of the rest of you who thought my contest was lame, stupid, idiotic, or juvenile, I have only one thing to say:

I picked up my daughter this morning from Bible camp.  She has a few more bug-bites, some scratches, but nothing life-threatening.  She had a great time, as I expected.  I was heartened by the fact that she got so homesick one night she had to go talk to the "homesick" counselor.  That's my girl.

Well, I do have a new cartoon for you.  This is not the cartoon Wonder Twin will receive for naming my muffin.

Saint Marty wishes to thank everyone who entered the contest.  Thanks, Wonder Twin.

Confessions of Saint Marty