Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: Lottery, Rich End, New Cartoon

...He thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts?  Avarice, hard dealing, griping cares?  They had brought him to a rich end, truly!

Scrooge has been brought to a chamber of death by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  He is staring down at the neglected body of the dead man.  Of course, Scrooge has not yet made the connection that the dead man is actually himself.  His ego will not allow it.  Instead, he wonders what this Lazarus would think if he was called out of the tomb.

Obviously, Avarice and hard dealing and griping cares haven't served Scrooge that well.  While these qualities may have made him materially wealthy, in the end, his death brings no sorrow to any person.  In the end, he is alone, bereft and unwept.  It's a pretty sobering moment in the novel.

Yesterday, millions of people lined up to buy tickets for a lottery that was worth $640 million.  For the price of a sausage biscuit from McDonald's, any person could purchase a chance at a half-billion-dollar fantasy.  Yes, even I got swept up in this mania of greed.  While the odds were hugely against me winning (I think I heard 176 million to 1), I couldn't pass up the chance to dream for a few, blissful hours.  Luxury.  Freedom from debt and worry.  Maybe a new pair of jeans.

Of course, life isn't that easy.  Obviously, I woke up to all the griping cares with which I went to sleep.  I will have to go to work on Monday.  I will have to somehow figure out a way to pay my mortgage AND car insurance AND water bills this week.  I have to remind myself that avarice is not a virtue, that envy (while a very human trait) is not very healthy.  I'm not into hard dealing.  I believe in generosity, in helping out the less fortunate.  That's what I've been taught.

Lazarus Scrooge has not come to a rich end, when "rich" is defined by friends and charity and good will.  If that's the standard for being rich, I think I'm doing OK.

Saint Marty just wishes he'd been about six correct numbers richer in the lottery last night.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30: Go-to Guy, Saint Anthony, Lost and Found

I went shopping at Wal-Mart this afternoon.  Then I drove home, unpacked the groceries, and put my son down for his nap.  After he was asleep, I cleaned the house.  Finally, I sat down to rest a little bit, until I realized my hip pack, containing my wallet and checkbook, was missing.  It wasn't in my car.  It wasn't in the house.

I distinctly remembered putting my groceries in the back of my car at Wal-Mart.  I also distinctly remembered walking my shopping cart to a cart keeper a few parking spaces away, looking down, seeing my hip pack in the cart, and thinking, I better not forget to grab that.  After that, things got a little fuzzy.  Therefore, I made the assumption that I left my hip pack in the cart.

Well, when I lose something, I tend to drive myself a little crazy.  I tore the house apart.  I tore my car apart.  No hip pack.  So, after I picked up my daughter from school, I drove back to Wal-Mart.

I think I've written about Saint Anthony before.  He is the patron saint of lost things.  Basically, if you lose something, you pray to Saint Anthony, and he's supposed to help you find your lost property.  It's a Catholic thing.  Tony is my go-to guy.  He has never let me down.  All the way to Wal-Mart, I was saying prayers to him.  The prayers went sort of like this:  Helpmehelpmehelpmehelpmehelpme, pleeeeeeease, Saint Anthony.

Well, I  went to the customer service desk when I got to Wal-Mart.  That's where the lost and found department is.  I know this fact because that's where I picked up my hip pack the last time I lost it.  (Yes, I have done this on a couple of occasions.)  My hip pack was sitting on the back counter, in plain view.  I breathed a huge sigh.

Tony is da man, I'm telling you.  He has always answered my prayers.   He's the kind of saint I want to be when I grow up.  Dependable.  All the time.

Saint Marty, on the other hand, would lose his halo if it weren't attached.

Have you seen my halo anywhere?

March 30: Perry Como, "Do You Hear...", Warm Fuzzy

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly.  Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man's sense of feeling.  He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long forgotten!

I may have already written about this little paragraph about the Ghost of Christmas Past.  If I have, forgive me.  It's hard to keep track of what part of the book I've already posted on.  However, this passage really touched upon an experience I had this morning.

Every Friday morning, I clean, disinfect, and vacuum the business office of the surgery center in which I work.  It takes me about an hour-and-a-half to complete.  It's a mindless task, requiring no amount of focused concentration on my part.  Therefore, I listen to music on my iPod as I go about my chores like Cinderella.  Since I started my little Carol blog exercise, I usually listen to Christmas music while I clean.

This morning, as I was emptying the garbages, Perry Como started singing "Do You Hear What I Hear?" in my ears.  Before I knew it, I was humming, relaxed, and happy.  I was thinking about my childhood Christmases in Detroit (before we moved to the Upper Peninsula).  I was in our living room, in front our fireplace, listening to my mom's LP of Perry Como on the record player.  The tree was a green tinsel monster with revolving lights shining up from the floor into its branches.  Along the mantel above the fireplace, my mother's manger scene sprawled.  Delicate shepherds and angels.  Plastic and ceramic sheep.  In the center, a wooden stable, looking like it belonged in Little House on the Prairie instead of the Middle East.

And I was surrounded by my siblings, before the divorces and kids and spouses.  Before my older brother had his stroke.  Before my sister moved to Utah.  Before mental illness and addiction became a part of my daily existence.  It was when my biggest worry was whether or not there was going to be enough snow overnight to cancel school in the morning.

It was, literally, a warm fuzzy feeling.  I felt physically warm, and my mood was noticeably lighter for a little while.  Perry Como was my Ghost of Christmas Past, leading me back through time, filling me with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long forgotten.  It was wonderful.  Joyful even.

And then Saint Marty had to pick up a snotty tissue someone had shoved into a seat cushion.  Reality sucks.

Listen.  Get warm and fuzzy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: Visit From Dex

I wrote about my encounter with Dex on Tuesday.  He was the grad student who asked me to look over a poem he had written, give him some advice on it.  You may also remember how geeked I was about the fact that I was being treated like a "regular" poetry professor, given the kind of respect accorded to the full-time, I-don't-have-anything-else-to-do-with-my-life poetry professors.

Well, during my office hours yesterday, Dex showed up with another poem for me to look at, and he listened to what I had to say, even took some notes.  He kept on thanking me, nodding like I was imparting some kind of mysterious knowledge.  I think he even called me "brilliant" a couple of times.  In short, he really got on my good side.  And I felt great about myself when we were done.

My sessions with Dex these last couple of days have really made a difference in my confidence as a writer and teacher.  If anybody would have asked me last week whether I could teach a graduate-level poetry workshop, I don't think my answer would have been very enthusiastic.  Today, if somebody asked me the same question, my answer would be, "Fuck, yeah."  That's grad student speak for "I am most certainly qualified."

Saint Marty is brilliant.  Saint Marty is incisive.  Saint Marty is riding high.  Fuck, yeah.

I am a good poetry teacher.  I am...

March 29: Peace, Adrienne

I checked Google news this morning, as I do every morning.  I was greeted with the news that the poet Adrienne Rich had died.  For decades, Rich has been the cutting edge, the voice of the voiceless, the champion of reason and humanity.  Her death has silenced one of the great figures of American letters and thought.

Therefore, I step away from my normal, self-centered blog post to honor the memory of Adrienne Rich with her own words.

Peace, Adrienne.  Peace.

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

by:  Adrienne Rich

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.
I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control

A red plant in a cemetary of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

One of the greats

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: Norma Rae, Jimmy Hoffa, JFK

I didn't mean to go all Norma Rae on you guys this morning.  It's just that I've been doing this adjunct work for so long (close to 20 years), and I really had hopes that this whole union thing was going to make a difference.  At this point, it seems I was wrong.  I should have known better.  In the end, every person looks out for him/herself.  I'm no different in this respect.  I shouldn't expect any form of altruism on the part of full-time faculty.  We adjuncts are like the humpbacked, club-footed, three-breasted stepchildren of the university.  We should feel honored that we're even allowed to stand in a classroom.

OK, I got carried away again.  I'm reeling myself back in.  I promise.  I'm really not the bastard son of Jimmy Hoffa, trying to fight for the "little gal/guy."  I don't know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  I don't know who shot JFK on the grassy knoll.

I'll tell you what I do know.  I know that, at the present moment, it appears things aren't really going to change all that much for the adjunct faculty at the university.

That fact depresses Saint Marty.

This isn't me.  Really.

March 28: Another Fellow, Retire to Bedlam, Union Talks

"There's another fellow," muttered Scrooge; who overheard him:  "my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas.  I'll retire to Bedlam."

Scrooge on Bob Cratchit, his eternally abused employee.  Scrooge can't fathom how Bob, on the paltry salary Scrooge pays him, can even contemplate celebrating Christmas.  Considering the size of Bob's family and Bob's wages, Scrooge is justified in questioning Bob's sanity.  Of course, Scrooge is a major factor in the Cratchit family's squalor.

When I sat down to clear out my university e-mail inbox this morning, I looked at some communiques from the person sitting in on the contract negotiations for the adjuncts at the school.  We adjuncts are new members of the professors' union.  (When I say new, I mean new.  After an almost four or five year process, the adjuncts finally voted to join the local chapter of AAUP last semester.)  Now, perhaps I was being naive.  I thought the university administrators would recognize how underpaid and under-compensated the adjuncts truly are and would have no problem with a few concessions (salary bump, family tuition wavers--basically stuff that all other employees of the university receive on a consistent basis).

Well, the e-mails were quite an education.  The administration is not interested in salary increases.  In fact, it left the adjuncts completely out of the salary-side of the negotiations, which could mean a pay cut for us.  The "benefits" the administration offered were basically the benefits the adjuncts already had before we joined the union (even taking away a few of our current perks).  So, at this point, the adjuncts stand to gain absolutely nothing from the contract negotiations.

I think I might be a little too much like Bob Cratchit, who accepts his employer's abuse as a matter of course.  In some crazy way, Bob is even grateful to Scrooge.  That's messed up.  However, I'm beginning to feel a little like Bob in relation to the university.  I don't even get a Christmas goose from the school.

If you can't tell, I'm a little pissed this morning.  I'm not even sure the professors will support the adjuncts' cause that much.  The vote to include us sparked some pretty intense debate among the full-timers.  They were worried about losing their piece of the pie, if you get my meaning.  Most of them weren't willing to share their side of the sandbox.  OK, enough bad metaphors.  You get the idea.

Therefore, I'm much less optimistic about the whole future of the adjuncts at the university.  I'm beginning to believe the only thing we gained by joining the professors' union is the obligation to walk a picket line if the professors don't get what they want.

Saint Marty'll retire to Bedlam.

Ready to join the picket line?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March 27: Coolest Thing, Playing Poet

I had the coolest thing happen to me this afternoon.

After I was done teaching my mythology class, I swung by the English Department office to check my mailbox.  I check my mailbox at least once a week.  It's not to see if anybody sent me mail.  My mailbox is always empty.  It's to remind my colleagues that I still exist, that I still teach at the university.

As I stepped into the mail room, I encountered a grad student swearing at his laptop.  "Come on, fucker," he was saying.  He followed it up with, "Fuck!"

I chuckled a little bit and said, "Problems, Dex?"  (That's not his real name, but I like the TV show Dexter.)

He said something really technical about computers that I didn't quite understand.  Basically, if the mouse ain't working or the screen goes black, I'm calling Information Technology.  But then Dex said, "Hey, Marty, do you have time to look at a poem of mine?"

I never have grad students ask me for writing advice.  I'm too unknown.  Too adjuncty.  To have Dex ask me for advice made me feel...legitimate.  I've been feeling a little down on myself recently.  Dex gave me the shot in the arm I needed.  I walked down to his office and looked at his poem.  It was the first time I've been treated like a poet for a long while.  I loved it.

Saint Marty's taking this little encounter all the way to the self-esteem bank.

This says it all...

March 27: New-Born Resolutions, Cranky Night, Cranky Morning

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch.  It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.

By this point in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has pretty much decided to change his ways.  However, he hasn't witnessed the terrifying visions of death and despair awaiting him in this stave with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  I honestly think that the third spirit was sent to just seal the deal of Scrooge's redemption.  It's fairly difficult to return to business as usual after you have seen your own death chamber and grave.  I know I might change a few things, not the least of which would be my underwear.

I'm sure Scrooge's "new-born resolutions" involve being kinder to Bob, helping out Tiny Tim, maybe attending a few Christmas parties.  He hasn't reached the point of actually being scared shitless for his eternal soul yet.  That will come in a couple pages.  "Resolutions" is such a polite word.  It doesn't bring to mind visions of bodies on deathbeds or rats gnawing walls.  It's more of a New Year's thing:  Scrooge vows to lose ten pounds by the summer.  That kind of thing.  He's not down on his knees, weeping, vowing to change his life.

What are you looking at, meathead?
I was really cranky last night.  I snapped at my daughter and wife.  I sat in the living room in my usual chair, sounding like Archie Bunker, minus the racism.  It got so bad that my wife looked at me and said, "What the hell's your problem tonight?"  And I coldn't answer her question.  I lapsed into sullen silence after she said that to me.  I figured it was a better option than opening my mouth and getting myself into real trouble.

My cranky night has translated into a cranky morning.  When my coworkers started showing up, I didn't really want to talk to them.  I knew I would come off sounding just this side of bitchy.  I was even annoyed by the sound of people eating today.  So I made a resolution to keep my mouth shut until the urge to insult or kill someone passed.

I'm doing better right now.  I can actually speak without a hint of sarcasm or irony in my voice.  I'm doing better.  (I have to keep saying that.  It's my mantra.)  Since I started this little Charles Dickens blogging exercise, I've often wondered how I would appear to myself if I could watch past, present, and future Saint Martys.  I wonder if I would change anything.  Make new-born resolutions or vows.  Last night and this morning taught me an important lesson:  my attitude and demeanor directly affect the people around me.

Therefore, although I'm not on my knees, I make this vow:

Saint Marty will not piss anyone off today.  Especially not his wife.

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26: Great Lunch Packed, Drumsticks, Crackers

I packed a great lunch for myself last night.  I had two chicken drumsticks that were leftovers from the Book Club gathering.  I also had a bag of goldfish crackers and some cheese ravioli.  My mouth was watering last night just thinking about eating it this afternoon.

I forgot to grab my lunch bag this morning when I left for work.  I ate cheese sticks and saltine crackers all day long.  I was thoroughly disappointed with myself when I realized what I'd done.  At the moment, just the thought of eating another cheese stick makes my stomach sour.

Run like hell!
Aside from that glitch, I had a good day.  I had a pretty difficult time getting my mythology students motivated this afternoon.  Of course, I returned their graded midterms at the beginning of the class.  A good portion of them still looked stricken at the end of the time we had together.  I really should have known better.  I've been teaching for over twenty years.  I learned a long time ago to wait until the end of the class to return graded papers and tests.  That way, I can run like hell if a student is really angry.  If I return graded material at the beginning of a class, the students simply sit there, glaring at me.  There were glares today.

Tonight, I have two things I'm planning to do.  I'm going to read some Grimm fairy tales, and I'm going to work on my memoir.  I'm hoping to have the next installment done tomorrow, but don't hold me to that.  It depends how tired I am.

Saint Marty's week is off to a fair to ordinary start.  He'll take that.

March 26: Carol Dip, Show Me No More, Prizes

This morning, being Monday, and me, being exhausted, are not getting along very well.  Everybody drags after  the weekend, I know.  Nobody, after having a couple days off, willingly takes up the yolk of work again.  It would be unnatural.  Even my computer seems to be working at a slower pace after having a couple days at home.  However, return to work I must, even if only 35% of my brain is functioning correctly.

As a result of my total lack of motivation and energy, I will be doing a Carol dip this morning.  (For those of my disciples tuning in for the next installment of Project Memoir, do not despair.  It will be coming in the next day or so.)  I know this practice is cheap and easy, but sometimes I like cheap and easy.  I've already consulted my copy of A Christmas Carol on a couple of questions without very satisfying results.  Therefore, I'm not going to cheat.  I'm going to ask my question and accept whatever answer I get.

My questions is: 

Will this blog ever be named a Blog of Note (BON) by the people who run

And the answer from my copy of A Christmas Carol is:

"No more!" cried Scrooge.  "No more.  I don't wish to see it.  Show me no more!"

Well, that sucks.  I'm going to have to give up Carol dipping.  It's not good for my self esteem.  It never yields very positive results.  According to my interpretation of that quote, I'm not going to be named a BON.  Ever.  In fact, I should never ask or contemplate that question ever again.

It's true that I tend to invest a great deal of importance on awards and recognitions.  Any person who's read my posts at the beginning of October know that I tend to become very (some might say unhealthily) obsessed with the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I can't help it.  For some reason, I attach great importance to these kinds of accolades.  It's the reason I was a straight "A" student through high school and college.  It's why I graduated summa cum laude.  It's why I get pissed off every time the people at Blogger choose to recognize yet another food or fashion blog.

It's not that I think I'm better than everyone else.  I don't.  I think it stems from a need to be liked.  If I win an award, if somebody tells me I've done something exceptionally well, that means I've got admirers.  We all want to be liked.  Even Scrooge.  We all want to be surrounded by people who think we're great.  I know I do.  It's one of the reasons why I teach.  All my students have to pretend to like me for at least three or so months.  Perhaps I don't need a plaque or trophy to prove my worth, but it doesn't hurt.

I'm not going to say that simply writing this blog is the only reward I need.  Simply knowing there are people out there who might be benefiting from my nuggets of wisdom isn't tangible enough.  I want a title.  Blogger of Note, for starters.  Then maybe Blogger of the Year.  Pretty soon, I'll have a book deal.  Then I'll win the National Book Award.  In the same year, I'll win the Pulitzer Prize for something.  That will put me on the radar of the Swedish Academy.  After being nominated a few years in a row for the Nobel Prize for Literature, I will eventually be named the winner.  I will fly to Sweden in early December to collect my prize.  I won't be able to walk down the streets of Stockholm without being mobbed by admirers.  And when I return home, I will be asked to be Grand Marshall of my town's Fourth of July Parade.

It could happen.  OK, I might not get the Fourth of July thing, but the rest is totally realistic.  Blogger people take note:  my time has come.  Give into the inevitable.

God wants Saint Marty to be a Blogger of Note.

Why fight fate?  Give me the award.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25: Book Club, Project Memoir Tomorrow, New Cartoon

Spent the day cleaning my house, cooking chicken drumsticks, and reading.  My book club met today.  We usually meet on the fourth Thursday of every month.  This month, however, we had the author of the month's book join us.  John Smolens is a friend and colleague of mine from the university.  He teaches on Thursday nights this semester.  Hence , the matinee performance today.

We read The Schoolmaster's Daughter, John's most recent novel.  It's set in Revolutionary War Boston, just before and after the Battle of Bunker Hill.  It has all of the ingredients that make his books so great:  strong characters and setting, violence, a little sex, betrayal, suspense.  John's stuff is just so friggin' readable and smart.  I love it.  He makes me want to write.  That's why he's such a great instructor, as well.

Well, I have a lot of leftover drumsticks, but the get-together was very pleasant, and John was as gracious and fun as ever.  I highly recommend The Schoolmaster's Daughter.  I'm not a big Revolutionary War fan, but this book kept my interest.  I'm not quite finished with it yet, but I have every intention of finishing it.  I have to see if the British or Americans win the war.

Obviously, I don't have a new installment of Project Memoir ready to go tonight.  I'm hoping to have the next section done tomorrow.  I'm a huge Lenten loser this year.  I should be punished.  I say that because I'm Catholic, and we're big on guilt.  I also say that because I like getting spanked.

Therefore, bear with me.  Project Memoir Part 4 is coming tomorrow.  Or the next day.  Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.  Hopefully that's specific enough for you.

Saint Marty is waiting for his punishment now.  He's been a bad boy.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24: Shadows of the Things, Dispelled, New Cartoon

"They are not torn down," cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, "they are not torn down, rings and all.  They are here:  I am here:  the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled.  I know they will!"

Scrooge has just been returned to his bed by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and he is full of remorse and hope.  He's vowing to change, to give up the mistakes and sins of his past and present life.  Having seen a glimpse of his bleak future, Scrooge promises, on his knees no less, to change his destructive ways.

We've all been at this point some time in our lives.  We all have habits, weaknesses that have brought us to our knees (metaphorically or actually).  For Scrooge, it's his greed and stinginess and dislike of humankind.  Those are big character flaws to overcome.  For others, it's alcohol or drugs.  Food.  Sex or pornography.  I've been there with Scrooge, on my knees, vowing, "I'll never do that again.  Never."  It's an easy promise to make in the moment, when you feel like shit about yourself.  But when that meat lover's pizza is sitting in front of you, or that website is glowing on the computer screen, it's much more difficult to follow through.

I often wonder if Scrooge had moments of weakness after the end of A Christmas Carol.  It couldn't have been easy to turn his back on 60 or 70 years of hatred and greed.  I imagine, once or twice, when some poor slob came to his office, begging for a few more days to repay his debt, Scrooge experienced twinges of his old self, thought, "Pay up, you worthless cocksucker" (or something along those lines, perhaps with the word "wanker" instead).

Being weak and flawed is part of being human.  Scrooge is human.  I'm human,  You're human.  We all have moments when our human side wins out, when we're stingy with our money, when we eat a pound of peanut butter M&Ms in one sitting, when we spend an hour surfing porn sites, when  we drink a fifth of Jack Daniels.

I have to believe that Scrooge made mistakes, just like everyone else.  It's what he did after the mistakes that counts.  It's about how he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and recommitted himself to be a better person.  Good intentions followed by good actions.  That's the key to dispelling the shadows of the things that could have been.

Saint Marty and Scrooge, becoming better people, one mistake at a time.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23: Getting Sick and Tired, Cleaning House, Book Club

I think I write better in the morning.  It is about 10 p.m. at the moment, and I have not one original or witty thought in my entire head.  All I can concentrate on is the fact that my nose is running like Joan Benoit, and I'm feeling like the deer roadkill I saw on the side of the highway this evening.  I'm sick and tired.

I just finished dusting and swiffering the house.  It took much longer than I thought it was going to take.  I hate cleaning this late at night.  My whole goal on Fridays is to have the cleaning done before my daughter gets home from school.  Obviously, that didn't happen today.  I wasn't even close to being done when I left to pick up my daughter.

I wouldn't be quite so fanatical about getting the cleaning done today if my book club weren't meeting at my house this Sunday.  Not only that, but the author of the book is going to be here, as well.  I'm a little stressed about the whole thing.  And I just realized my daughter has a birthday party to attend around the same time as the book club.  I tried to talk her out of going to the birthday party, but I wasn't successful.

There, I've said everything that's in my head at the moment.  I just reread what I typed, and I nearly fell asleep.  Now, I'm trying to think of an amusing way to end this post.  Nothing is coming to mind.  I think I'm going to have to resign myself to the fact that, at least tonight, I'm about as entertaining as Mitt Romney at a pancake breakfast.  I'll give you a clue:  the maple syrup has more personality.

Saint Marty promises a little more syrup, a little less Mitt tomorrow.

I'd vote for the syrup

March 23: Pendulous Excrescnece, Money, More Than Just Enough

"What has to be done with his money?" asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.

Scrooge is just dead, and the red-faced gentleman (I assume he's a business associate of Scrooge) is curious about what's to become of the fortune Scrooge has accumulated in his lifetime.  Since Scrooge is as cheap with himself as he is everyone else, he's, no doubt, amassed a tidy sum in the bank.

Since money has been on my mind of late, this little passage spoke to me this morning.  Plus, I loved the disgusting description of the "pendulous excrescence" shaking "like the gills of a turkey-cock" at the end of this guy's proboscis.  There's something to be said for being frugal with your funds.  I'm all for it.  My family does not live extravagantly.  If you saw my fridge, you would know that hot dogs are a staple in this saint's household.  I can't recall the last time I went to a movie or ate at a restaurant the didn't have "Mc" in front of its name.

Scrooge is wealthy because of his cheapness.  He's also cruel, angry, bitter, and lonely.  I don't think I'd be like Scrooge if I were wealthy.  I have a hard time being stingy even with the money I do have.  I also think Charles Dickens wanted his readers to realize that extreme wealth, without compassion and good works, will lead to misery.  Whether Scrooge realizes it or not, he's a pretty miserable bastard, and it's because he's doing nothing with his blessings.

I usually don't quote the Bible because I don't think of myself as an evangelist.  However, in the Parable of the Faithful Servant in the gospel of Luke, Jesus says, "To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked."  Any way you cut it, if you got the wealth, you need to do something with it.

I've always thought I would make a great rich person.  At the moment, I would be happy to have just enough to make my monthly expenses.  For me, I'd feel rich if I made a little more than just enough.  That's all I'm asking:  to not have to cringe every time I look through the bills in the mail.  I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.  I work all the time.

Yes, Saint Marty is whining.  Yes, Saint Marty is still worried about money.  No, Saint Marty doesn't have a pendulous excrescence at the end of his nose.

Saint Marty would be this...



Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22: Great Teaching, Great Working, Great Day

I have to say that today has been the best day of this sucky week.  (It didn't have to go very far to achieve this distinction, however.)  Work in the medical office was easy and smooth.  Teaching mythology was beyond great.  I went into class with a vague notion of what I wanted to accomplish.  The discussion ranged far and wide, from European coal mining to The Silence of the Lambs.  By the time class was over, I had myself believing that life is a fairy tale.  It was fantastic.  (By the way, remind me some day to explain how President Barack Obama's life is a fairy tale.  It's amazing how it follows a traditional fairy tale type.)

Over all, I guess I have to say that today has been great.  Tonight, I have nothing on my schedule.  I can stay home and watch the results show for American Idol.  Maybe read a book or work on my memoir chapter, as well.  My point is that I can do almost anything I want to do, sans guilt.  It's going to be fantastic.

I don't know what fairy godmother or godfather sprinkled happiness on my Cheerios this morning, but I'm really grateful.  It's been a pretty shitty few days, otherwise.  I will take this goodness without questions.  I give thanks for it.

Saint Marty is ready to kick back, chillax.  Hallelujah.

Somebody had a good banana today!

March 22: Spring-Time, Haggard Winter, More Regrets

And now, Scrooge looked no more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

Scrooge is observing an encounter between his former fiancee, Belle, and her husband.  The Ghost of Christmas Past is obviously trying to make Scrooge realize what he has missed in his life.  This little domestic scene brings Scrooge to tears ("his sight grew very dim indeed") when her realizes that Belle's daughter could have been his daughter.  Regret sits in this passage like a thick fog.

I have blogged about regrets before.  I have blogged about how useless contemplating missed possibilities actually is.  Scrooge can't do anything to change his past.  He will never be a father.  I can't do anything to change my past.  I will never be a lot of things.  I will never be the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I passed that point a couple of years ago, so Rudyard Kipling will hold that title a while longer.  I will probably never win the Pulitzer Prize for anything, poetry or fiction or biography or cartooning or blogging or limerick.  I joke about it.  I experience jealousy/envy/hatred for people who do win the prize.  However, in the "haggard winter" of my life, I have to face the fact that I will probably not be able to add the title "Pulitzer Prize Winner" after my name.

Regret is a horrible thing.  It can make you believe the you are the biggest failure in the world.  I could have been a lot of things.  I could have been a tenured professor.  I could have been an award-winning writer.  I could have been making at least double my current yearly income.  I could have been living in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, maybe with a fireplace and a hot tub.  I could have been driving an Escalade or Hummer.  I could've had class, I coulda been a contender, I could've been somebody...instead of a bum which is what I am, let's face it.

Sorry, I got a little carried away there.  But you get the idea.  Regrets beat a person down, especially if you're in the haggard winter of life instead of spring-time.  For Scrooge, the little girl in the above passage represents the most precious things he's lost in life.  Chasing regrets is like Alice chasing the White Rabbit down the hole.  It's pointless.

Therefore, I'm going to try to shake off the melancholy I'm experiencing this morning, inventorying all the things I don't have in my life.  It's tough, especially when it feels like you're drowning in your current situation.  However, I'll hold on to my symbols of hope.  My kids.  My wife.  I may have regrets, but I also have blessings.

Saint Marty's sight is growing very dim indeed.

Saint Marlon, full of regrets

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21: Sick Daughter, Sick Worry, Sick and Tired

Yes, my daughter stayed home today from school, as I said in my first post.  She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with basically the same illness my son has/had.  However, she did get her makeup and hair done, and she went to her ballet pictures.  She'll probably go to choir practice tonight, as well.

Ever since my wife lost her job on Monday, I've been experiencing these bouts of what I would call sick worry.  It's where I start thinking about bills and money and debt so much that I feel like I'm going to vomit.  That's been happening several times a day to me.  I know God has a plan in all this crap.  I just hope His plan isn't for me and my family to live in a refrigerator box this summer.  I noticed last night that the house I was dreaming of buying had a "SOLD" sign on it.  That thoroughly depressed me.

I guess I'm just sick and tired of being worried and constantly stressed.  If I could summon up even one percent of an actual saint's faith and trust in God, I think I would be a lot happier right now.  However, I'm just a saint in training.  An apprentice saint, if you will.  At the moment, I don't have any of the saint mojo.  I'm lucky if, when I say the name of God, I don't immediately follow it up with "dammit."

Saint Marty has a lot of work to do.  Maybe he should shave his head and take a vow of poverty.  It wouldn't be that much of a change for him.

I don't deserve to wear this hat

March 21: Another Carol Dip, Don't Be Grieved, Ambiguity

My daughter is ill this morning.  She went to bed complaining of a sore throat and woke up vomiting.  She'll be going to the doctor, and she will also be getting her dance pictures taken.  I spend too much money on those damn costumes to miss getting portraits.  Hopefully, she'll feel better later on in the day.

I don't have a whole lot in the way of wisdom this morning. Some of my faithful disciples would say I never have a lot in the way of wisdom, and I'm OK with that statement.  I figure I've done my job if I make my readers laugh, shake their heads, or say to themselves, "What a dumbass."

Therefore, I will use my fall back tactic for my blog: a Carol dip.  I'm sure most of you are already aware of the rules.  I ask a question, flip through my copy of A Christmas Carol, and put my finger randomly on a page.  Where my finger lands is the answer to my question.  (I suddenly feel like Bob Barker on The Price Is Right explaining Plinko.)

All right, here goes. This is my question:

Will I eventually be hired full-time at the university as a tenured professor?
And my answer is...

She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter--he had need of it, poor fellow--came in.  His tea was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should help him to it most.  Then the two young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek, against his face, as if they said, "Don't mind it, father.  Don't be grieved!"

Yeesh.  Bob Cratchit grieving over the death of Tiny Tim in Stave Four.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Well, first, it's an appropriate chapter from which to receive an answer about the future.  Second, it seems like a pretty grim answer.  Will I be hired full-time at the university as a tenured professor?  Don't mind it.  Don't be grieved.  Basically, I think I'm being told not to mourn, that I stand about as much a chance of landing a full-time professorship as Stephen King does of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Not very uplifting.

On the other hand, I could interpret the answer another way.  Perhaps the answer means that I shouldn't mind/fret over it.  The full-time, tenure track job will come to me.  All I have to do is be patient.  There's something to be said for this interpretation.  I mean, yes, Bob Cratchit is grieving.  However, at the end of the scene, Bob says, "I am very happy!...I am very happy!"  That means that happiness is coming my way in this area of my life, right?  Right?

I'm not sure which of these interpretations is the more legitimate.  I'd like to believe the latter, but it just may be the former.  I'm not a big fan of ambiguity.  Well, this is my blog and my post, so I'm going to embrace the more affirmative answer.

Yay!  I'm going to be a full-time professor!  I think I'll make a cake for myself tonight to celebrate.  Thank you, Charles Dickens!  Thank you, Bob Cratchit!

Saint Marty says, "God bless us, every one!"

The evolution of Saint Marty

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20: Fairy Tales and Elementary School Concerts

Spent most of the day correcting mythology midterms and reading Grimm fairy tales.  Lots of lovers turning into snakes and evil sorcerers chopping up young virgins.  You know, children's stories.  When I went to teach, it was almost 80 degrees outside.  Sunny with a beautiful warm wind.  I couldn't stay inside.  It was a perfect day to sit on the grass and talk about wicked stepmothers.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who's the most bitter one of all?
I've learned something about fairy tales this semester.  Aside from the fact that almost all evil stepmothers or uncles end up boiled in oil or torn apart by oxen, I've learned that the characters most like children (the simpletons, the virgins, the pure and chaste daughters) are going to end up wealthy and happy, usually married to handsome princes, beautiful princesses, or kindly kings.  These characters don't seek out royalty or power.  They're happy with eating shit like cabbage and peas for dinner and sleeping in one-room cottages with diminutive diamond miners in the deep forest.  But, of course, they also have fairy godmothers and magical birds to help them out.  Some even get to live with the Virgin Mary in heaven as children.  They have all the luck.

Perhaps there's a lesson to learn in there somewhere.  Something about being satisfied with the simple things in life, not wanting more than you need, accepting with grace the things God gives you...

Naaahh, I don't think so.

Saint Marty has to go to his daughter's chorus concert tonight.  Did he mention it's 80 degrees outside?

March 20: Light Hearts, Debt, Getting Ahead

"To whom will our debt be transferred?"

"I don't know.  But before that time we shall be ready with the money; and even though we were not, it would be bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his successor.  We may sleep to-night with light hearts, Caroline!"

Yeah, I know.  I've focused on this passage before. You're probably sick of hearing about Caroline and her husband.  Even though their little part in A Christmas Carol takes up less than half a page, I find myself returning to it yet again this morning.  It's a pretty universal struggle--a young couple worrying over their finances.  At least Caroline and her spouse (let's call him Bob, since he's never named in the book) have a chance of avoiding debtors' prison and the poor house.  In this scene, Bob has returned with the news that Scrooge has shuffled off this mortal coil.  Caroline and Bob celebrate.  They are saved by Scrooge's demise.

Since I heard the news about my wife's untimely termination yesterday morning, I've pretty much been in full Caroline-Bob mode.  I didn't sleep with a light heart last night.  In fact, I didn't sleep much at all.  I gave into all my worries and fears.  I put on a happy face for my poor wife, who was dealing with enough shit (low self esteem, failure, etc.).  In the early morning hours, however, Scrooge came home to roost, and, as a result, my ass is dragging.

I have no wisdom to impart.  I don't feel particularly witty.  I'd like to say something profound about faith and hope and attitude.  Ain't gonna happen today.  Just when it feels like I can relax a little, like I'm getting ahead, I'm back in quicksand.

Saint Marty is tired.  Saint Marty is worried.  Saint Marty is not feeling very saintly.

Is that my ass I see behind me?

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19: Suck, Suck, and More Suckage

This day started out fine and quickly deteriorated into suckitude.

First, my three-year-old son woke up sick.  My wife had to get to work.  We couldn't send him to school, and we couldn't ship him off to daycare.  I quickly realized I was going to have to take the day off from work.  So, fine.  Suck one.

Then I called my sister, who was also off from work, and asked her if she could  babysit my son while I taught my class at the university.   She said she had plans.  (Translation:  she was meeting another of my sisters and my brother at McDonald's for lunch.)  I had to cancel class today.  Suck two.

I drove home, started taking care of my son.  My wife went to work.  About an hour later, my wife came home.  She was fired from her new job.  Suck three.

My wife and I took my son to the pediatrician.  He had an ear infection and a sore throat and  a 102-degree fever.  I had to drive to the pharmacy and wait FOUR HOURS for the doctor to phone in his prescription.  Suck four.

I went to meetings tonight at church.  Suck five.

So, you see, suckage was had all 'round this day.  The one bright spot:  my wife had a phone interview this morning with another employer.  She'll find out on Friday if she gets a live interview.  One, bright, shining moment of hope in a cesspool of suckage.

Did Saint Marty mention that today sucked?

Yeah, this is pretty much the way it is...

March 19: Marley Was Dead, Project Memoir Part 3

The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from.  There is no doubt that Marley was dead.  This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

This passage is from the beginning of A Christmas Carol.  The reason I chose it is because of the last statement Dickens makes:  "nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."  Dickens was always highly conscious of his reading audience.  He knew what they liked and wanted.  He never wrote a memoir/autobiography.  The closest he came was David Copperfield

Therefore, Dickens never struggled the way I'm struggling with my memoir.  I'm not sure anything wonderful is going to come of my story.  However, a Lenten vow is a Lenten vow.  I promised the next installment of Project Memoir this morning, so here it comes.

Let Saint Marty repeat:  he's not sure anything wonderful can come of the story he's about to relate.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Chapter One

January 21:  Saint Agnes

I'd had a recurring dream in the years since Beth was diagnosed bipolar.  In the dream, she was in a dark room, without windows or doors.  The darkness was so complete, I couldn't tell where floor met wall, wall met ceiling.  In this black space, Beth called for me, reached out.  Her fingers kept closing on emptiness.  Her voice kept saying my name, an echo that never faded:  "Martin...Martin...Martin..."

The night Beth moved out of our house, I had that dream, woke up with her in my ears, on my body like a cold sweat.  I reached over to her side of the bed.  When I couldn't find her, I panicked, not sure if I was awake or asleep.  I was trapped in that black dream room, my wife just out of reach.  I couldn't help her.  For a week straight, I had the dream every night, waking up clammy and alone.  At the end of that week, I started sleeping with my daughter, holding her tiny body close to mine.  Somehow, Celeste's proximity kept the nightmare at bay.  Maybe it was the warmth of her skin, the smell of Johnson's baby soap in her hair.  Whatever the reason, the dream visited me less often.  When Celeste stayed at my parents' house or had a sleepover with friends, I still slept in her bed.  It was safer.  I was safer.

The dream stopped coming to me a few months after Beth moved back home.  In those first nights, I woke, breathless and lost.  I'd reach out, touch Beth's shoulder or arm or face, find the reassurance of her body, the moon glow of her skin in the darkness.  The dream receded, drifting back into the circles of the night.

A week into the new year, Beth and I went out to breakfast. I was still on vacation from my job, and I'd been avoiding going to the grocery store.  We were out of eggs and Rice Krispies.  The milk was one day shy of going sour.

As I pulled our Sable into the driveway after breakfast, Beth said, "I have something to tell you."

I looked over at her.  She had a pained expression, one I'd seen quite a few times before.  The ham and cheese omelet I'd had for breakfast contracted to a fist in my stomach.  The night she told me she was leaving, she started the announcement with those same six words.  I turned off the car.

Beth had recently cut her dark hair short and dyed it blond.  She had it pulled behind her ear on one side and let it curl down the length of her face on the other.  Her brown eyes reminded me of our cocker spaniel's eyes when we caught him on the couch or nosing through the garbage.  A mixture of defiance and fear.

I gripped the steering wheel and stared straight ahead.  "Go on," I said.  I closed my eyes, waited in the darkness of my head for her to continue.  Even though the vents of the car were blasting heat, I was shaking.

"I, um," she said.  She didn't continue.

I opened my eyes and looked over at her.

She was staring at her hands, clenched in her lap.  She took a deep breath, exhaled and spoke at the same time.  "I propositioned two guys at work last night."

To be continued...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18: Project Memoir Part 3 Apology, M. C. Escher, New Cartoon

Well, I'm once again very late in getting today's post done.  Doing this Project Memoir takes much more energy than writing a poem a day.  I'm finding completing this Lenten obligation a little like drawing an M. C. Escher portrait of myself.  I question my memory, question my talent, question the extreme hubris I'm exhibiting by thinking my life is interesting enough for people to want to read about it.

Anyway, that's where I am right now in my emotions about writing memoir.  Talk to me tomorrow.  I'll probably have changed my mind by then.  It is almost 11 p.m., and I've been working on my memoir for most of the day.  I'm too tired to type it in tonight.  I will type in the next installment tomorrow morning.  Sorry.

In the meantime, enjoy the cartoon.

Saint Marty is beat/beaten tonight.  Better day tomorrow, hopefully.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17: St. Patrick's Day, Carol Dip, New Cartoon

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone.  No, I'm not going to go out carousing.  I'm not going to paint the town green and drink a keg of green beer.  I'm too old and have to get up too early for church tomorrow morning.  I will celebrate more traditionally.  I will watch The Lawrence Welk Show and go to bed.  Maybe I'll eat a corned beef and cabbage pizza.

I don't have a lot of time today to write a reflective post.  Therefore, I'm going to do a Carol dip.  For those of my disciples unfamiliar with this practice, I shall explain it to you.  I think of a question.  I open my copy of A Christmas Carol, flip through it, and randomly put my finger on a page.  Where my finger lands is the answer to my question.  It's like using the book as a Magic 8 Ball.

So, here goes...

My question is this:  Will I win the poetry contest I entered this week?

And the answer is...

"No, no!  There's father coming," cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once.  "Hide, Martha, hide!"

Well, that's shitty.  I don't have to look to deeply into that statement to interpret the answer.  All I have to do is read the first two words.  That isn't quite the answer for which I was hoping.  However, it's the answer I got, and I have to live with it.

Saint Marty's gotta run.  His daughter's waiting at the dance studio.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16: Always Something, Bluebird of Happiness, According to Plan

I just spoke to my wife a few minutes ago.  She was late to her new job for the second day in a row this morning.  Nobody at the bank said anything to her, but this was her first week in the position.  She's been late twice already.  On both days, my daughter made her late.  Yesterday, my daughter forgot her shoes.  My wife had to bring her the shoes.  This morning, my daughter missed her bus.  My wife had to drive her to school.  I was really hoping that this week was just going to go so smoothly for my wife.  It hasn't.

To top it all off, my wife got a call from another bank she submitted her resume to.  She was supposed to call them back this morning.  She tried and never got through to the manager.  I really hate it when things don't go according to plan.  I should amend that statement:  I hate it when things don't go according to my plan.  Things didn't go according to my plan this week.

In a lot of ancient and not-so-ancient cultures, the bluebird has been used to represent happiness.  That doesn't surprise me.  I have rarely seen a bluebird in the wild.  In fact, I've only seen one wild bluebird in my life.  It was beautiful and fierce at the same time.  Because of its color, because of its rarity, I imagine bluebirds would cause quite a stir when they appeared in the olden days.  In one European tale, a boy and a girl are sent by a fairy on a quest to find the bluebird of happiness.  They travel through many lands, but return empty-handed.  When they get home, they find that the bluebird has been in a cage in their home the whole time.  The moral of the story is that the quest for happiness is never-ending, and the only place to really find happiness is within your own self.  (Thanks to Wikipedia for that little synopsis.)

It's true.  Happiness is really difficult to find and hold on to.  When I depend on other people/things for my happiness (my wife's job, my wife, my daughter, poetry editors, my job), I don't always end up happy.  However, when I look inward for happiness (in poetry, in writing, in reading, in blogging), I generally am never disappointed, unless I look to other people to tell me how good my poetry/writing/blogging is.  (I still haven't been named a Blog of Note.)

I guess the bluebird is inside all of us.  Even Dorothy learns that in The Wizard of Oz.  She goes where happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow.  She meets some witches, a lot of weird little people, flying monkeys, and a few really good friends.  In the end, she has to return to Kansas to find her bliss.  The bluebird has been at her house all along.

I guess I need to stop looking for that goddamned bluebird.

It's already at Saint Marty's home, probably in the bathroom, on the toilet, reading a magazine.

This is about right for my bluebird!

March 16: Chance and Hope, Lost Keys, the Pilot

"Hear me!" cried the Ghost.  "My time is nearly gone."

"I will," said Scrooge.  "But don't be hard upon me!  Don't be flowery, Jacob!  Pray!"

"How is it that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell.  I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day."

It was not an agreeable idea.  Scrooge shivered, and wiped perspiration from his brow.

"That is no light part of my penance," pursued the Ghost.  "I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate.  A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer."

Scrooge has been a son of a bitch for quite a while before the Ghost of Jacob Marley pays him a visit.  By Marley's account, Scrooge's chain of sins and crimes even beats Marley's own chain, and Marley's own chain is long enough to keep Houdini busy for quite a few minutes.  So Marley's offer of a "chance and hope" is huge.  Scrooge has a long way to go for redemption.

Even though this little interchange between Jacob and Scrooge appears within the first stave of the novel, it fills me a sense of human possibility.  If Scrooge has a chance, then anybody has a chance.  Just because I've made mistakes in the past, or just because I'm making mistakes in the present, doesn't mean I'm completely lost.  Jacob Marley's appearance seems to indicate that there's always hope, for Scrooge, for anybody.

Last night, I lost my keys.  I hate losing my keys.  I couldn't find them anywhere.  They weren't in my car.  They weren't in my coat pockets.  They weren't in my book bag.  They simply weren't there.  In the past, when I've lost my keys, I've gone a little crazy.  For me, having my keys is having control.  When I can't find my keys, I feel as though things are slipping through my fingers.  Last night, however, I didn't panic.  I didn't tear my house or car apart.  I just obtained a spare set of keys and gave the rest up to God.

This morning, I found my keys at my place of work.  By placing my faith in God, I avoided a whole lot of drama last night.  In the past, I would have got in my car, driven back to my office, and ransacked the place until I found my keys.  Instead, I waited and searched calmly this morning.  It took me exactly three minutes to locate them.  And I did it without losing my mind.

This says it all...
I think that's the nature of hope and faith.  I had complete faith that my keys would show up this morning.  I never feared.  I never lost hope.  I'll admit that, when I got to work and my keys weren't immediately visible on my desk, the alarms started going off in my head.  I started to panic.  For just a minute or so.  Then I talked myself down off the ledge and began a methodical search.  Two minutes later, I had my keys in hand.

I think God does that to me on purpose every once in a while, just to remind me who's actually in charge.  It ain't me, that's for sure.  And then, when I start to embrace my limitations again, God gives me back the keys to the kingdom (or at least my office).  It's sort of like the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  It's a test of faith.  Abraham never lost faith or hope.  I didn't either.

Yes, I'm comparing losing my keys to Abraham sacrificing his only child.  Seems ridiculous, I know, but that's how my mind works.  Sometimes holding on to faith is easy, and sometimes it's really difficult.  Jacob Marley has to drag Scrooge, kicking and screaming, back to faith and hope.  Of course, it takes three additional ghosts to assist Marley in helping the old bastard, but eventually the old bastard gets it and is saved.  Scrooge is given his keys back.

So if you lose your keys today, have a little faith and hope.  It works.  Believe me.

In the mean time, do what Saint Marty did when his keys were lost last night:  find a spare set and relax.  God's not the copilot.  He's the pilot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15: Lots to Do Tonight, Spaghetti and Italian Sausage

My wife is working late tonight at her new job.  Therefore, I'm single parenting tonight.  I have to pick my son up from his daycare.  I have to pick my daughter up at my mother's house.  When I get home, I have to do the feeding, bathing, lunch packing, and putting to bed.  I'm having a little difficulty adjusting to this new schedule.  Once my wife starts her regular shifts, after she's done training, I'm going to be doing nights like tonight a lot.  That's OK.  I just have to get used to it.

Yes, I'm going to write about food again tonight.  I'm having spaghetti with Italian sausage for dinner.  I still have to cook the sausage, but that won't take me too long.  For my kids, grilled cheese is the go-to for my three-year-old son.  My daughter loves ravioli.  That's my gastronomic game plan for this evening.

Another gorgeous, warm day in the Upper Peninsula.  Can't really complain about weather right now.

Saint Marty might do some writing tonight.

You're jealous.  I know you are.

March 15: Derived Good, Not Profited, Fred for Prez

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew:  "Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time:  a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

This speech is one of the most famous in A Christmas Carol.  It's delivered by Fred, Scrooge's nephew, and pretty much puts Scrooge in his place for about five seconds.  But it's a good speech, full of principles that, if followed by everyone all the time, would make the world a much better place.  Scrooge comments to Fred in the next paragraph that the nephew should go into Parliament, and, in this year of presidential politics in the United States, Fred does sound like a presidential nominee at a campaign stop, eating grits or pancakes and telling the common folk where he stands on the issue of Christmas.

The portion of the above passage that always strikes me is about people opening up their "shut-up hearts" and thinking of "people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."  Its a very Kum-ba-yah sentiment, Fred reminding Scrooge (and us) that we're all in the same boat.  If my neighbor doesn't have the means to buy food, and I just walk by him, wave, and say, "Have a nice day," then I'm part of the problem.  And I'm an asshole.

If Fred were running for President of the United States right now, I'd vote for him.  Of course, given his little exchange with his uncle above, it sounds like Fred would be a Democrat.  If there was a person running for the office who I truly believed shared Fred's convictions about treating everyone as "fellow-passengers," I'd vote for her/him in the blink of an eye, regardless of party affiliation.  I haven't seen a man or woman like that so far during this election.  The person who comes closest is President Obama.  (He is the guy who pushed for universal health care, after all.)

Maybe I should start a write-in campaign to get Fred elected to the presidency.  Think about the Christmas parties at the White House!  He could make putting a Christmas goose on everyone's dinner table part of his platform.  We could wear goose hats and sing Christmas carols at his campaign rallies.  We'd play blind man's bluff at his Inaugural Ball.

Saint Marty is voting for President Fred this year.

This guy's voting for Fred!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14: Hungry, Guilty, Tired

The heat wave continues in the Upper Peninsula.  It's close to seventy degrees outside.  The sun is bright, and the corn is as high as an elephant's eye.  OK, maybe not the last part, but you get the idea.

I've been really hungry today, even though I've been eating well.  Continuing in the vein of yesterday's kale chips, I tried guacamole (take it or leave it) and sugar snap peas (leave it--bring me the Cheetos).  I also had left-over pizza for lunch.  Tonight, we're having spaghetti and meatballs.  My wife made it last night.  I don't know why I'm talking about my eating habits.  I'm sure nobody reading this post is interested, unless you're from some area of the world experiencing drought or famine.  In that case, what the hell are you doing reading this blog?

I'm also very guilty at the moment.  With my wife working, I'm supposed to pick my daughter up at her dance class at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays.  At 4:15 this afternoon, I got a phone call from her:  "Daddy, aren't you coming to pick me up?"  I felt like the worst father in the world, and my daughter is going to capitalize on this mistake for the rest of the night.  She's already gotten me to promise she could watch American Idol tonight.  I'm sure she's going to push it as far as she can.

I'm also a little tired.  Not as tired as I was yesterday.  I'm just mildly tired tonight.  I have some work to complete tonight.  Not tons.  Then I have to start grading mid-terms in earnest.

Saint Marty is still hungry, still tired, and still guilty.

I'm not as bad as this guy

March 14: Unprofitable Dream, Happy in the Life, Letting Go

"You may--the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will--have pain in this.  A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke.  May you be happy in the life you have chosen!"

Belle, Scrooge's fiancee, makes this statement to Scrooge as she breaks off their engagement.  The sentiment expressed is a little melodramatic, but, nonetheless, heartbreaking.  She's wishing Scrooge happiness, even though she's walking away from their relationship.  Of course, the reasons Belle is walking away are legitimate.  Scrooge is turning/has turned into a bastard.  Greedy.  Cruel.  Cold.  Basically, he's Newt Gingrich with an English accent.  I can't blame Belle for walking away from that.

I have a hard time reading/watching/listening to these kinds of scenes in books/TV shows/movies.  Even when I see the breakup scene between Belle and Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I can turn into a weeping mess, and it's the friggin' Muppets!  I think my sensitivity to these moments stems from the problems I've experienced in my marriage.  I've been through a few tough times because of my wife's bipolar and addiction.  That's why even the Muppets can rip the BandAid off old wounds and make me bleed a little.

Of course, I wish I could let go of these emotions.  Sometimes, I almost get to the point where I've built up immunity to breakup moments, and then I watch a movie or read a novel that has a painful scene in it.  I'm right back in the swamps again, crying like Mary Tyler Moore in a bad pair of Capris.

I've been recently obsessed with the TV show Smash.  I love everything about the program.  The premise.  The music.  The dancing.  The characters.  In the last episode, Debra Messing's character, who is a writer, happily married, and successful, had an affair.  As I was watching the sex scene between Messing and the guy playing her lover,  I found myself getting angry, sad, depressed, angry again, sad again.  I was experiencing emotions I hadn't felt since the last crisis in my marriage.  It was horrible.  I had to get up off the couch and leave the room.

I don't like Debra Messing anymore, and I've been a fan of hers since Will & Grace.  I know, I know.  It's just a character, just a show.  But I can't make that distinction right now.  It's a little too painful to watch.  Dredges up so much crap from my life.

Letting go isn't as easy as it sounds.  Just when I think I've overcome hurts from my past, Debra Messing comes along and screws it up.  Maybe I should be like my three-year-old son, stick to episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants and Curious George.  It would be my luck, though, that SpongeBob marries Sandy Squirrel and Sandy ends up having an affair with Patrick.

Saint Marty just can't win.

Watch and weep like Rizzo the Rat

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Kale Chips, Lawnmower Tongue, Sun

The Upper Peninsula is in the middle of a March heat wave.  For the fourth or fifth day in a row, temperatures have been pushing close to sixty degrees.  Today is no different.  The snow banks are quickly vanishing, and water is running down the streets.  Pretty soon, the piles of dog crap will start to emerge in people's backyards.

Run like the wind from these!
The reason I'm focusing on the weather and warmth is that I tried a snack today that reminds me of summer.  One of my coworkers made kale chips last night.  If you don't know what kale chips are, you're lucky.  Basically, my coworker baked kale, adding sea salt or something to it.  It's supposed to be a "healthy" alternative to Pringles or Cheetos or Fritos.  Well, I decided to be adventurous this afternoon.  Yup, I ate a kale chip.

It was green.  It was light.  It was salty.  It tasted like shit.

I don't mean literal shit.  I mean it tasted like I'd stuffed my mouth with grass clippings.  I walked around for the next hour or so with lawnmower tongue.  I have just now erased the lingering sting from my taste buds.  It took a lot of water and some candy corn.

The point of my post is that, just because it seems like spring outside, you don't have to cram manure in your mouth to fertilize your stomach.

That's just how Saint Marty sees it.

March 13: Quite Ruined, Hope Yet, Bills

"We are quite ruined?"

"No.  There is hope yet, Caroline."

Not checking in yet, but I have reservations
I'm sure not many people will recognize this little exchange.  It occurs in Stave Four (the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come chapter) and involves a young couple that owes Scrooge a lot of money.  They are obviously at the end of their ropes, and the man has just returned with news.  His wife, Caroline, is sure they are going to end up in debtors' prison or the poor house.  We 21st century Americans don't know too much about things like debtors' prison or the poor house, but, let me assure you, neither places were a day at Elizabeth Arden (unless Elizabeth Arden has bars on the windows, manacles, gruel, and armed guards).  The man, however, knows that Scrooge has died, buying them enough time to make good on their debt.  Caroline still has visions of jail and homelessness dancing in her head.

This morning, I had a Caroline moment, thinking of bills that have been collecting, unpaid, on our dining room table.  It was total panic, convincing myself that Scrooge was banging on our front door, metaphorically, demanding immediate payment of my financial obligations.  I won't kid you.  It scared the shit out of me.  Still does.

Recently, I have made no secret in this blog of my family's money problems.  Since my wife's unemployment checks ran out, our bank account has slowly dwindled.  For a while, it was only mildly alarming.  Then it became distressing.  Now, it's full-blown terrifying.

The good news is that my wife started a new job yesterday.  She'll be working full-time for the next two weeks.  Then she will be working part-time in the afternoons.  We will have more money coming in soon.  I feel like Caroline's husband.  There is hope yet.  We just have to hold off the wolves for a few more weeks.

My wife and I aren't extravagant spenders.  We don't eat prime rib and lobster for dinner.  Last night, we had meatloaf burgers.  I hate being behind in paying bills.  It gives me bad dreams at night and stress headaches during the day.  It's been a long time since I haven't gone to bed worrying about our money woes.  When I get up in the morning, I usually cut my shower short to reduce our water bill.  Thank God we don't live in Victorian England.  My daughter would be working in a blacking factory right now for sure.

Saint Marty isn't quite ruined.  Not yet.  There's still hope.