Friday, August 31, 2012

August 31: Getting Through With the Day

My whole goal for this last day of August is to survive.  Yes, this week has been horrible.  School.  Work.  Church.  Everything sucked on many levels.  Today, I have to go grocery shopping.  My car is at the garage being repaired, to the tune of $800.  Tomorrow, I volunteered to help out at the Marquette Marathon.  I have to be there at 6:30 a.m.  The only good thing about that commitment is that I will be done by 8:30 a.m.  On Sunday, I will be playing with my praise band at the local Labor Day Blues Fest.  That, of course, is a volunteer gig, as well.  Pretty much, if you're keeping tabs, my entire weekend is shot, except for Monday.

I don't know how I'm going to pay for groceries, car repairs,  back-to-school supplies for my daughter, and my mortgage.  There's simply not enough money to go around.  Now, I could go all Saint Peter or Paul and say that God will provide.  You know, all that stuff about the birds or the air never having to worry about where their next meal is coming from.  Yesterday, however, a bird fell out of a pine tree by my dad's house.  It looked like it had been torn apart by a cat or crow.  That didn't give me much confidence in God's providence.

So, Marty will be retaining his title as the patron saint of worriers.  Hallelujah.

Lord, don't let a crow get me today...

August 31: Remove Me, Haunt Me No Longer, Anger

"Remove me!" Scrooge exclaimed.  "I cannot bear it!"

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were the fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

"Leave me!  Take me back.  Haunt me no longer!"

Scrooge is quite upset with the Ghost of Christmas Past by this point in the novel.  The Ghost ends his time with Scrooge by showing him some very painful scenes from his past.  Scrooge reacts with violence toward the Ghost, having experienced enough guilt and remorse for the time being.  He wants the Spirit to simply go away.  Scrooge is pissed.

I am quite angry today.  It's not really a focused anger.  I look at or think about something/somebody, and I get really mad.  I'm also pretty tired, so that doesn't improve my humor.  Thank goodness I don't have to work with a lot of people this morning.  Human interaction is not going to be one of my strong suits.  I might as well embrace the fact that, like Scrooge, I want people to go away.  Period.  Leave me alone,  Haunt me another time.

Working in a business office isn't really conducive to isolation.  The other person I'm working with this morning gets under my skin a lot.  The way she talks.  The way she interacts with patients.  The way she makes makes noises with her fork when she eats breakfast.  I just want to dig her heart out with a dull spoon.  Metaphorically, of course.  But, I just grit my teeth and bear it.

If my state of mind this morning is any indication of the way the rest of my day is going to proceed, perhaps I should find an empty room and practice some primal scream therapy.  Or take a nap.

Saint Marty is hanging on, but not by much.

Don't touch my desserts!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 30: Book Club, Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

My book club meets tonight.  On the menu from this evening will be a pepperjack cheese quiche.  Other people will be bringing dishes, as well.  However, my contribution will be the quiche.  The book club is meeting a little later than normal--7:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.  I have to drop my car off at the garage to get some work done tomorrow, and my daughter has her open house at school this evening.

The book this month is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Even though this book has been a staple for books clubs over the last two years, I've avoided suggesting it to my club.  I have a thing for avoiding popular choices.  Now that I've finished reading it, I don't know why I was so dead-set against it.  It's a great book.  Equal parts tragic, thought-provoking, aggravating, beautiful, and hopeful.  I would teach this book in a class.

It's going to be a good night, although it's going to take a long time to get there.  First the garage, then my daughter's school, and then the book club.  I'm looking forward to relaxing for a few hours after a really stressful week.  The first week of a new semester always wipes me out.

Saint Marty is not feeling immortal or special tonight.  He's feeling pretty damn tired.

Rebecca Skloot and her immortal book

August 30: Resolute, Christmas Humour, Negativity

"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute.  We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party.  But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas humour to the last.  So A Merry Christmas, uncle!"

Scrooge's nephew, Fred, is disgustingly positive, all the time.  Even when faced with Scrooge's ridicule and spite, Fred stands firm in his Christmas spirit.  Frankly, I've always thought that Fred is a little drunk in his encounter with his uncle at the beginning of the novel.  That's the only way, I think, Fred refrains from telling Scrooge to kiss his mistletoe.  Of course, I don't endorse the consumption of alcohol as a coping mechanism, but if I had an uncle like Scrooge, I would certainly imbibe in a little Christmas cheer before paying him a visit.  Yet, Fred is nauseatingly positive.

I received some not so great news yesterday afternoon about my job at the surgery center.  Seems they have to close the place down for a little while to "decommission" an OR.  It's all part of the take-over...sorry, acquisition...of the hospital by a much larger health care organization.  I sat in the department meeting where this was announced, listening to all the positive spin being shoveled out, and my initial thought was, "This is shit."  Now that I've had over twelve hours to reflect on the news and evaluate things, my response is, "This is shit."

I wish I could be more like Fred.  Stay positive in the face of Hurricane Ebenezer.  He doesn't let anything dampen his mood.  Perhaps I need to buy some wassail, whatever the hell that is.  It seems very British and perhaps is the source of Fred's unflagging Christmas "humour."  Right now, I don't even want to go to work.  I will.  I need the job, the money, the health insurance.  There's no question whether I will show up to work.  The question is how long that work will last.  I don't have very much autonomy in this situation.

Maybe the hospital should install a wassail fountain in the lounge.  Couldn't hurt.

Saint Marty will try to keep his good humour to the last, even if he's thinking, "This is shit."

I take my wassail shaken, not stirred

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 29: Viewing "City Lights," Tramp and the Flower Girl

Today, my film class is watching City Lights with Charlie Chaplin.  I was originally going to use The Great Dictator for my Chaplin movie, but a good friend turned me on to City Lights instead.  I streamed it on my computer a couple of months ago and was completely blown away.

The film has all the elements of a classic Chaplin film.  Slapstick comedy.  Sight gags galore.  But there's something different about it.  It has the ability to get under your skin.  For me, it has to do with the character Chaplin portrays.  The film was made right at the beginning of the Great Depression, when most of the world was struggling with poverty and hunger.  Here comes Chaplin, in his threadbare coat, clinging to the last vestiges of his dignity.  He's tiny, clumsy, and poor.  In several scenes, he flaunts authority--the police, the mayor, his boss.  And he falls in love with a blind flower girl.

The heart of the whole film is the love story.  The flower girl assumes the Tramp is a rich man, and the Tramp does nothing to dissuade her from this belief.  She builds up an image of him in her mind.  Handsome.  Tall.  Confident.  Her knight on a white horse.  The Tramp, through various circumstances, raises enough money to pay for an eye operation to restore her vision, and Chaplin eventually goes to prison.

At the end of the film, Chaplin, released from prison, meets the flower girl, who has been cured of her blindness.  The flower girl doesn't recognize Chaplin until she hands him a flower and she touches his fingers.  The resulting encounter is heartbreaking and glorious.  Chaplin, who has kept his pride throughout the entire movie, shrivels under her gaze.  He sees himself for what he truly is:  a small, bedraggled ex-convict.  He can see disappointment and love at the same time in her face.  The vortex of emotions on Chaplin's face in the last frames of the film captures the vortex of emotions for an entire struggling world.

In the end, City Lights is all about hope for a better future.

Saint Marty can't think of anything greater than that.

Chaplin is the face of hope

August 29: A Powerful Speaker, Parliament, Ann Romney

"Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation.  You're quite a powerful speaker, Sir," he added, turning to his nephew.  "I wonder you don't go into Parliament."

Scrooge is obviously talking to Fred, his nephew, who has just made an impassioned defense of Christmas.  Scrooge is impressed with Fred's speaking abilities, and he pays Fred this small compliment, even though he disagrees with Fred's point of view.  Scrooge recognizes good rhetoric when he hears it.  It just takes four ghosts and a near-death experience to change his mind about the holiday.

Last night, I was flipping through the local TV channels.  Practically every station was broadcasting from the Republican National Convention.  If you are a constant reader of this blog, you will know my particular take on politics in the United States.  I can sum it up with four words:  Republicans bad, Democrats good.  The world "liberal" is not a bad thing.  It calls to mind generosity and charity of heart.  When I go to a friend's house for dinner, I hope my friend is liberal with the wine and steak.  Liberality is a good character trait.

So TV last night was just an exercise in frustration for me.  I tried to zip past most of the channels carrying news coverage of the goings-on in Tampa, but I did stop and listen to Ann Romney speaking.  From the couple minutes I watched, I gathered that Ann was trying to convince me that Mitt is just an "ordinary" family guy, like my dad or grandpa.  Sure, Mitt is ordinary, if ordinary means living the life of a millionaire since the day you were born.  I don't know about you, but I don't have elevators in my house to move my cars around.  I think that the only time Mitt Romney worries about working class people is when working class people are cutting his lawns for minimum wage (or less).

Ann Romney might be a "powerful" speaker, but she's not going to convince me that her husband knows what it's like to worry about paying his bills.  Ann seems like a nice lady, but she should stick to riding horses.  Leave the fate of ordinary people to someone who's eaten Ramen noodles for dinner once or twice.

That's just the way Saint Marty sees it.

Ann stands by her millionaire

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August 28: Morning from Hell, Afternoon from Pretzels

OK, so I had a morning from hell.  At the surgery center where I work, we had inspectors from JCHO (pronounced "jay-co") crawling up our butts to examine every little signature and every last vial of outdated medication.  It was stressful.  Imagine being in an aquarium and having an incredible itch in a very delicate spot.  Now, imagine not being able to scratch it.  That's what this morning felt like.

Currently, I'm having an afternoon from pretzels.  Mini pretzel sticks, to be exact.  When I returned from teaching at the university, I was famished.  I ate a bowl of those pretzel sticks.  It made me happy, almost content, which is an unusual emotion for me.  It had to do with the ingestion of salt, I think.  I am rarely content about anything.  But this afternoon, taking stock of my emotions, that is the adjective that bubbled to the surface of my mind.

Saint Marty is content.  Give him a minute or so (and a good chocolate bar), and he may approach joy.

Try a little contentment

August 28: A Word or Two, Clerk, Be Kind

"No," said Scrooge, "No, I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now!  That's all."

Scrooge has just witnessed Fezziwig being kind to his younger self.  Scrooge is feeling a little bit of remorse over his treatment of Bob Cratchit, his clerk.  It's the first time Scrooge has ever expressed any kind of guilt over any of his actions.  The old bastard is starting to learn a few lessons.

I don't have a lot of time to blog this morning.  Too much going on.

Suffice to say, Saint Marty works for Scrooge, not Fezziwig.

What kind of boss do you have?

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27: Blessed with Busy-ness

Yes, I have been blessed with busy-ness today.  Phone calls and minor emergencies and panic and more phone calls.  I've had the kind of day I was anticipating, and the hours have just flown by.  Very soon, I will be heading off to the university to teach my Monday class.  I feel prepared and at peace.  If I hadn't been as busy, I might be little more anxious about teaching.  However, I haven't had a chance to even contemplate anxiety on any level.  That's what I mean by "blessed with busy-ness."

Busy-ness keeps you focused (or not focused) on certain aspects of your life.  Busy-ness has kept me from obsessing about my class this afternoon.  The only thing I've been able to focus on all day long is the immediate task at hand.  At the moment, that task is completing this blog post.  Then, the task will be driving to campus.

I have to pack up my computer now and head off to class.  I'm still not that nervous.  It feels a little strange.  I'm used to chewing my fingernails down to the quick on the first day of the semester.

Maybe Saint Marty has finally found inner peace.  Either that, or he's finally gone off the deep end.

Sometimes being like this is a good thing

August 27: First Day of Teaching, Firsts, "Carol" Dip Monday

Today is the first day of the fall semester at the university.  This afternoon, I will find myself in front of a classroom of 35 or so undergrads, all looking a little bored and anxious.  Generally, on the first day of class, most students just want a copy of the syllabus and a dismissal.  I do not do that.  I keep students on the first day until almost the bitter end.  Today will be no different.  I've never found a way to speed up my day one activities.  There's the usual business of rosters and syllabi and information sheets.  Then there's the less tangible class introductions where I get students to give me a little personal information about themselves.  These introductions take a while, but it's where I can connect on a deeper level with my students.

Now, a few of my colleagues wouldn't put a whole lot of emphasis on connection, especially on the first day.  I, however, think students need to know what they're signing up for.  If I'm taking a class from Stalin, I want to know right away.  That's why I try to let a little of my personality come through.  I may come off as weird or off-balance or off-color, but at least those undergrads know what they can expect for the next few months.  I sometimes worry that I turn some people off with my sense of humor.  But I think it's better to be turned off on the first day of class, when something can be done about it, than on the last day of class, when you're turning in your final exam.

Firsts are important.  First day of school.  First impression.  First communion.  First kiss.  First birthday.  First baby.  First girlfriend or boyfriend.  First sex.  First time reading Catcher in the Rye.  First time watching Star Wars.  First job.  First Diet Mountain Dew of the morning.  First piece of chocolate.  Firsts can shape your day, week, month, life, education, employment, faith, family.  That's why I fret about the first day of teaching a classroom full of new students.

Thus, my Carol dip question for this Monday is going to be fairly predictable:

Will my first day of teaching go well?

And the answer from the Inimitable is:

"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.  They will be.  I know they will."

There we go.  Scrooge is celebrating his life.  He's dispelling the shadows of the future and fully embracing his present circumstances.  He's full of joy and hope.

Looks like Saint Marty's going to have a good first day.

Not the impression I want to make on my students

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26: Last Day of Summer, New Cartoon

Today is the last day of summer.  Tomorrow, I start teaching at the university again.  I've already received e-mails from desperate students, begging me to sign add cards to let them enroll in my Intro to Film classes, which are both filled to capacity.  I'm having a hard time this year moving from summer mode into autumn mode.  I'm looking forward to the classes, but I'm not looking forward to the shorter days, longer nights, colder temperatures.  I'm not looking forward to the extra work.

A month from now, I will have settled into a new routine.  I will have gotten used to teaching again, grading again.  Right now, I want to cling to ninety-degree days and eighty-degree nights.  I'm unwilling to let go.  Yes, I know seasons have to change.  I know leaves have to change, as well.  I know all that crap.

But now Saint Marty has to change with the leaves, too.  Green to yellow or orange or red ink, spilled all over quizzes or exams.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 25: Some Music, Musical Family, New Cartoon

After tea, they had some music.  For they were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sang a Glee of Catch, I can assure you especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it.  Scrooge's niece played well upon the harp; and played among other tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing; you might learn to whistle it in two minutes), which had been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of Christmas Past.  When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindness of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley.

By all accounts, Charles Dickens loved to party.  He loved entertaining friends for dinner.  He loved going out to dinner and the theater.  He was a good actor and singer, and a decent magician.  He did all that, and he was a prolific novelist, essayist, short story writer, and magazine editor.  Can you tell he suffered from bipolar?  Well, he probably did, from all the information I've read about him.

So, when Dickens writes about Scrooge's nephew Fred's Christmas party, he knows of what he writes.  And music was always a big part of the festivities.

This afternoon, my church is having its annual picnic.  The praise band I'm in is providing the musical entertainment.  What that means for me is a lot of hauling equipment, standing behind a keyboard for a couple of hours under the sun, and then hauling the equipment back to church.  I'm not really enthused about the Saturday ahead of me.  I'd much rather just go to the picnic, eat some bratwurst and chips, visit with a few friends, and then leave.  That ain't gonna happen.

I guess I have less Charles Dickens in me than I care to admit.  I love being around people and entertaining, but I don't enjoy the work involved.  I should have roadies to set up my keyboard, and then I'd show up and play.  There's a reason why rock bands have roadies.  It's so the musicians can sit in their dressing rooms, eating green M&Ms until the concert, and then go play.  Yes, my praise band needs roadies.

I'd bet Charles Dickens had roadies.  I can't see the Inimitable building stages and carrying around harpsichords.  He had his peeps to do that for him.  Chuck never did anything half-arse.  I, on the other hand, will be busting my butt today.

At least Saint Marty will get some free hot dogs and chips for his efforts.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 24, 2012

August 24: Annoyance

Yes, I'm annoyed this afternoon.  I have to go grocey shopping.  That annoys me.  I have to clean my house.  That annoys me.  I have to go to church to practice on the pipe organ for Sunday's service.  That annoys me.  I have to finish reading a book by next Thursday.  That annoys me.  I have to spend $800 to get my car repaired next Friday.  That annoys me.  I'm quite a few pounds overweight.  That annoys me.  Summer is coming to an end.  That annoys me.  I have a church picnic to attend tomorrow afternoon.  That annoys me.  I have to play special music for church this Sunday.  That annoys me.  It's supposed to rain today.  That annoys me.  I'm really tired right now.  That annoys me.  My son refuses to potty train.  That annoys me.  I need new running shoes.  That annoys me.  The house I live in has only one bathroom.  That annoys me.  The pumpkins on my pumpkin plant are the size of olives.  That annoys me.  I have to start teaching at the university of Monday.  That annoys me.

Everything is annoying Saint Marty right now.  He would bitch slap Mother Teresa today.

This guy really annoys me

August 24: Until the Last, Tiny Tim, Feeling Sentimental

But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

This moment is the first where Scrooge connects with Bob Cratchit and his family.  Scrooge views Christmas dinner at the Cratchit's house with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and, for the first time, becomes aware of Tiny Tim and his health issues.  Some may call this little scene sentimental.  Justifiably so.  It's a Christmas novel, and therefore a certain amount of sentimentality is expected.  However, sick and desperate children are not unusual in the works of Charles Dickens.  Think of all the homeless orphans in Oliver Twist or Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop whose death set off world-wide mourning.  Tiny Tim is just one in a long line of such kids in Dickensian novels.

I'm feeling a little sentimental myself this morning.  Before I sat down to type this post, I spent a few minutes gazing at a picture of my three-year-old son.  In particular, I was staring at his tiny hand.  It's so perfect.  The skin is smooth, and each finger is a little pudgy.  Baby pudgy.  I got a little choked up because, over the summer, my son has grown into this little boy, tall and sweaty and covered in dirt.  He isn't a baby anymore.  (Don't get me wrong.  I'm happy to be almost out of the diaper stage of my parenting life.)  He's just this miraculous creature, full of curiosity and adventure and happiness.

There's a reason Dickens uses Tiny Tim as one of the biggest catalysts of Scrooge's redemption.  Aside from Tim being a Christ figure (Tim's crutch is a little cross he carries everywhere), he is a symbol of innocence and vulnerability.  He represents the delicacy of childhood and the future.  Of hope.  That's why Tiny Tim effects Scrooge so strongly.

I think that's what children represent to most people.  Hope.  I look at my kids, and I see potential.  My daughter dances and sings and makes videos and does gymnastics.  My son loves cars and music and books and computers and running.  They are limitless right now.  That's a daily miracle, even when they're irritating the crap out of me.

Forgive Saint Marty this morning.  He's having a happiness moment.  It will soon pass.

A future President of the United States

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August 23: Off the Cuff

Usually, when I sit down to type a post, I have some idea of what my subject will be.  This afternoon, I have no idea.  That's right.  I'm doing this blog off-the-cuff.  If I make no sense or you think I'm rambling on about absolutely nothing at all, you are probably correct.  I am not going to make sense, and I will be rambling a great deal.

The power outage this morning was caused by a squirrel getting into some kind of power substation.  Fried squirrel and electrical disruption.

I have reading I need to get done.  Tonight, I'm going to try to do some school work.  I hope to be caught up with my class preparation by tomorrow night.  I also have a book to finish for my book club meeting next Thursday.  I'll probably end up just sitting on the couch and watching TV when I get home.  That's the way my nights have been tending recently.

I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of summer yet.  The weather has been spectacular this June, July, and August.  Yesterday, it hit almost eighty degrees.  I know I don't have a choice in the changing of the seasons, but I can stubbornly hold on to August until the last leaf on the trees turns from green to orange.

My wife had a job interview this afternoon for a teacher's aide position with the local Head Start program.  She thinks it went well.  We have to wait until the end of the month to find out if she got a job.  We're trying to remain realistic.  The chance of my wife getting a position is fairly slim.  A lot of people apply for these jobs.

I just got a phone call from my wife.  She told me I got a $250 check  in the mail for being a "guest author" on the U. P. Book Tour this summer.  I am totally shocked.  I was never expecting any kind of compensation for my involvement.  A blessing out of the blue.

I think I've come to the end of my thoughts.  I'm going to sit back and bask in the good news I just received.

Saint Marty believes in miracles today.

Even Charles Dickens rambled

August 23: Gloom and Mystery, Deep Black Garment, Power Outage

The Phantom slowly , gravely, silently approached.  When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save on outstretched hand.  But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

Yes, Stave Four of A Christmas Carol is shrouded in darkness.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a figure of death and foreboding, traveling with its own black atmosphere.  Scrooge bends his knee to this spirit, bowing to the power and mystery of the future.

With that kind of introduction, I have probably set any reader up for a pretty depressing post.  This post is not going to be depressing.  The only reason I chose the above passage was its emphasis on darkness.

This morning, we had a power outage at our house.  I woke up to the sound of my son crying in his crib.  "It's daaaaark," he kept saying.  I tried to be sympathetic:  "The electricity is off, buddy.  Just close your eyes and go back to sleep."  He didn't follow my instructions.

"It's daaaaark."

"I can't do anything about it, buddy.  Go to sleep."

"It's daaaaaaark."

"I know, I know.

"Turn on the wights."

I sighed.  "I can't."

He whined, a sound that reminded of his sleepless bottle nights.

I wanted to tell him to embrace the darkness, to get down on his knee to it, like Scrooge does.  Then, I realized he was only three-years-old.  He probably wouldn't understand death and the future and middle-aged angst.  Instead, I settled for trying to be reassuring as the clock ticked down to the time I had to get up to get ready for work.

Saint Marty is tired.  He's been up since 2:30 a.m.  He wants somebody to turn off the wights.

It's daaaaaaark

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 22: Good News In the Midst of Bad News

Well, yesterday afternoon I wrote about receiving bad news when I was expecting good news.  This afternoon, I'm going to write about receiving good news when I was expecting bad news.

Again, the details are irrelevant.  Suffice to say, I went to an English Department meeting today, and I heard about the contract negotiations with the university administration.  I was expecting bad news.  Really bad news.  Instead, I got a surprise.  The contract sounds good.  I mean, really good.  Better-than-I-could-have-hoped good.  I think it's going to be a really good fall semester, money-wise.  Santa came early.

I know this attitude is uncharacteristically sunny for me.  I wasn't feeling uncharacteristically sunny when I woke up this morning, but this contract stuff has altered my outlook.  Of course, when I checked my e-mail after the department meeting, I found an communication from my sister-in-law about some property taxes coming due on the family camp.  That took some of the wind out of my sails, but my ship isn't sinking.  It's just moving a little more slowly.

Full steam ahead for the S. S. Saint Marty.

Generally, I'm more of a Vlad

August 22: Sucking-Pigs, Long Wreaths of Sausages, Silver Dollar Pancakes

I'm hungry this morning.  So, when I was looking for a passage from A Christmas Carol to focus on, I returned to a paragraph I've already written about.  It centers around the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present, and has this this little section:

...Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam...

It's not a coincidence that the stave dealing with the present is filled with descriptions of Christmas feasts.  I think Dickens wrote this entire section of the book right before breakfast or dinner.  He had to have been hungry, considering the ink he spills on sucking-pigs and such.  You can't get around the fact that, even today, Christmas celebrations often center around food.

I woke up thinking about breakfast.  Not just my normal breakfast.  I usually have two eggs with cheese for my first meal.  No, I was thinking about chocolate chip pancakes for some reason.  When I was a kid, on Sunday mornings after church, my parents sometimes took my siblings and me to a restaurant called the Silver Dollar.  The breakfast special at the Silver Dollar were Silver Dollar chocolate chip pancakes, and they were spectacular.

My memory of those pancakes is probably tinged with a little retrospective falsification (to use a term created by writer Mario Puzo).  What I mean by that is that the pancakes probably weren't as good as I remember them to be.  However, this morning, those pancakes, in my mind, were perfectly golden and laced with melted chips of the finest Swiss chocolate.  The buttery stack was topped by a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of Hershey's syrup from a can.  After an hour in church, listening to a boring homily, I was rewarded with this plate of gastronomic paradise.

I never used maple syrup on these pancakes.  That would have been sacrilege.  No, the combination of whipped cream and Hershey's syrup and melted butter was enough.  Each bite dissolved in my mouth the way I imagined the Body of Christ dissolving on my tongue at communion.  I hadn't made my first communion at the time, and I thought those little wafers would taste like all of my favorite foods:  ham and chocolate and bacon and marshmallow and banana and chocolate chip pancakes.

Saint Marty needs a little Silver Dollar communion this morning.

The Body of Christ, with a little whipped cream

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 21: Bad News Instead of Good News

This morning, I received some bad news when I was expecting good news.  The details are irrelevant for the sake of this post.  What is relevant is the fact that I spent a good portion of the a.m. quite upset.

I can do nothing to change the outcome of this bad news.  It is beyond my control.  (Am I being vague enough to confuse most of my readers?  I really don't want to make any negative comments about my employer or its business practices regarding employees who have been working full-time hours for part-time benefits for over ten years.)  No, I have released my frustrations.  I will not go home and torture my neighbor's cat or yell at my three-year-old son until he cries.  No, I am in control of my happiness.  (You know, my happiness.  That thing that is greatly reduced by having to work twelve- or fourteen-hour days in order to pay my bills.)  I am happy.  Content.  At peace.  (Annoyed.  Aggravated.  Disappointed.  Pissed-off.)

I am at one with the universe.  Nothing is going to disturb me today.  (I've been disturbed enough already.  One more piece of bad news might just push me over the edge into the pit of despair.)

Saint Marty completely trusts in God.  (He has to.  He doesn't have any choice.  He learned that this morning.)

This is a crock of shit!

August 21: The End of It, Profit, Kindness Virus

"Ha, ha!" laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground.  "This is the end of it, you see!  He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!  Ha, ha, ha!"

Scrooge is watching the scavengers pick over his belongings after his death.  The undertaker, charwoman, and laundress have plundered Scrooge's corpse and house for the items they are fencing to old Joe.  The lesson is pretty clear:  you better treat people well when you're alive, or else you're screwed when you die.  That might not sound very eloquent, but it isn't a very eloquent situation.  Scrooge is dead, and these people are picking his bones clean, so to speak.

It's always good to treat the people in your life well.  Scrooge has no one.  He has alienated himself from everyone, including his only living relative, his nephew Fred.  He rebuffs all attempts of human connection at the beginning of the novel.  His only interest is in humanity's resources.  Translation:  money.  Thus, when he dies, the only thing the undertaker, charwoman, and laundress care about is Scrooge's money/possessions.

I always try to follow the golden rule.  I teach my children to follow the golden rule.  I want people to be nice to me.  I want them to bake me chocolate chip cookies and brownies.  I want them to buy me birthday and Christmas presents.  I want them to invite me over for dinner.  I want them to bring me sausage muffins for breakfast.  Therefore, I have to be nice, even when I don't feel like being nice.

That is my point here this morning.  I don't necessarily feel happy or generous, but I want to be treated kindly.  Kindness is a virus.  A very contagious virus.  If you sneeze your kindness onto somebody, kindness will eventually be sneezed back at you.

Saint Marty needs to go disinfect himself now.

Remember to wash your hands

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20: Being Productive

I love being productive.

I knew this morning that I had a lot of busy work to get done.  Detail work.  Little tasks that amounted to a whole pile of time.  Well, I have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish today and more.  I actually completed my syllabus this afternoon.  I didn't expect to finish a final draft of that until tomorrow afternoon.  However, once I started working on it, I just kept going.  It's done, and I feel great about myself.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.  This means that I can pretty much relax this evening after my meeting at church.

I wish I cold always feel this productive.  I like being ahead of schedule.  It puts my mind at ease.  But I'm not generally this organized or ambitious.  I tend to be a terrible procrastinator.  If I hadn't finished my syllabus this afternoon, I probably would have pushed it off until Friday, and then I would have been in a state of panic, considering classes start next Monday.  I want to be over-prepared for stuff like that.

I have these two opposing natures:  wanting to be over-prepared versus wanting to put everything off until the last minute.  It's a terrible dilemma.  When push comes to shove, my over-prepared persona wins out.  However, I can be easily persuaded by my procrastinating persona to sit on the couch and watch a rerun of M*A*S*H instead.

No M*A*S*H for Saint Marty today.  B. J. and Hawkeye will have to stay in the Swamp, drinking by themselves, unless they can convince Colonel Potter to join them.

Sorry, boys, not tonight

August 20: Busy Day, Busy Work, "Carol" Dip Monday

It is going to be a busy day.  Usually, the first thing I do in the morning is check my e-mails.  Then, I browse through a few blogs I follow on a fairly consistent basis.  I check out the news on Google to see if the world has ended or I've been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (those two occurrences are not mutually exclusive, by the way).  Then I type my morning post for Saint Marty.

This morning, I started my busy work first.  I filled out some forms, did some e-mail business for my wife, and printed out some information I need to complete my syllabus for the fall semester.  That was just in the first half hour of being on task.  After this post, I have tons more busy work to complete. 

There's a worship meeting tonight at church, and since I'm the chair of that committee, I suppose I should get an agenda done and type up the minutes of the last meeting.  As I just indicated, I also plan on completing a major portion of my syllabus for Intro to Film today, everything but the semester schedule.  The schedule's the hardest part, and I still haven't decided in what order I'm going to show the films I've selected for the class.  I know I'm starting with Charlie Chaplin's City Lights and ending with It's A Wonderful Life.  Aside from that, I'm kind of up in the air, although I'm pretty sure Citizen Kane is going to be film number two.

Whew.  That's a lot of crap to get done.  If it doesn't seem like a lot of crap, take my word for it:  it is.  Making up a syllabus gives me a great deal of anxiety.  It's like planning out my life for the rest of the calendar year.  I'm locking down my days and weeks and months.  That kind of commitment is a little difficult for me.  However, I always place a little caveat in all of my syllabi.  In front of the term "Semester Schedule," I place these words "VERY TENTATIVE."  Note the use of capitalization and boldface and italics.  I figure that addition buys me some breathing room, in case I want to change anything.

Well, it is Monday, and that means it's once again time for a Carol dip.  I've been thinking and thinking about a possible question for the great book of Dickens.  I'm not sure the following question qualifies as earth-shattering or important or even interesting, but it's what's on my mind at the moment:

Will my Intro to Film classes go well this semester?

And the answer from the Ghosts of Christmas and Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge and company is:

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand.  When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly.  It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

Yeesh.  That's not very encouraging at all.  Nothing like the Grim Reaper to put a chill in the air.  Guess I better really put some thought into that syllabus.

Saint Marty has some serious work to do today.

This is encouraging only if you're Ingmar Bergman

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19: Talking to My Daughter, Getting Ready for School, New Cartoon

I just got done instant messaging my daughter.  She's on her way home from visiting relatives in the Detroit area.  She's had a great time with my sister.  She's gone shopping for back-to-school stuff--backpack and lunch bag and clothes.  The only problem she's had all week in having to be unplugged.  That's right.  No WiFi all week long for my eleven-year-old.  She's going into cyber withdrawal.  She can't believe that there are people in the world who aren't connected.

I spent some time looking over my textbook for the fall semester last night.  It's about film.  Almost every instructor who teaches Intro to Film uses this book.  It's good.  Basic.  Covers all of the terms that need to be covered--staging, mise en scene, composition.  I actually enjoyed the reading.  It's going to be a good fall, teaching-wise.  I probably won't get assigned this class again for another twenty years.

For the moment, however, Saint Marty is excited.  Content.  Missing his daughter.  Hungry.  Tired.  Thirsty.  Creative.  He's all over the place.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 18: Latent Echo, Freer Passage, New Cartoon

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with softening influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

Scrooge is visiting his childhood school with the Ghost of Christmas Past.  He is a little reflective, a little melancholy.  It's not a very happy description.  Mice and drips and despondent poplar.  It's pretty bleak and depressing.  Mournful even.  I would expect a description like this one in the stave featuring the Ghost of Christmas Future.  However, the Past, at this point, is just as dark as the Future.

It is late summer in the Upper Peninsula.  The leaves of the trees are beginning to turn color.  The temperatures in the morning dip into the forties instead of the sixties.  During the day, the temperature may reach the mid-seventies, if we're lucky.  Yes, autumn is right around the corner.  School will be starting back up in a couple of weeks.  The university is already gearing up for the influx of undergrad and grad students.  It's a time of change.

I'm a little depressed about the change of seasons.  I've really enjoyed this summer.  Hot weather.  Running in ninety-degree heat.  Swimming.  No papers to grade.  No outside obligations.  The Olympics.  It's been a really good four months.  And now that's all about to change, and we all know how well I do with change.

I know, by this time next month, I will be comfortably settled into a new pattern of normal.  Teaching will be routine.  Work will be routine.  I will be getting ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  It will no longer be a time of leafless boughs and despondent poplars.  It will be a time of costumes and candy and turkeys.  It will be a time of looking forward instead of looking back.

Saint Marty isn't looking forward today.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 17, 2012

August 17: Weakness, Power Reaches Perfection, Embracing the Thorn

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he talks about having been given "a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting proud."  Paul begs God on three separate occasions to take this thorn away.  Three times, God answers, "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection."

We all have thorns to deal with.  My previous blog post spoke of the envy I  have of my sister- and brother-in-law's house.  That was a huge thorn for me last night.  I found myself at one point during the birthday party just sitting on a flight of stairs by myself, sulking.  It wasn't an attractive sight.  I have a lot of thorns like that, thorns that bother me on a daily basis.

I frequently feel slighted by people.  For instance, my sister asked me last week to pick up an annual discount card from a local school's football team.  This card provides all kinds of savings on groceries and gas and movie tickets.  It's a great deal.  I went out and bought her a card for ten dollars.  I went to her house last night and delivered her card.  She took it and thanked me.  That was it.  She didn't offer to reimburse me the cost.  Nothing.  In fact, she complained a little about a change in one of the offers on the card.  That's a thorn.

I am an adjunct instructor at the university.  Currently, the contract for the full-time professors is under negotiation.  The full-timers want a pay raise and better health insurance, among other things.  Very few of them have a concept of what an adjunct makes per semester, without benefits or raises.  I've been making the same small wage per class since about 2001.  That's a thorn.

My car needs about $800 in repairs, plus four new tires.  That's a thorn.

My house needs a coat of paint, according to the insurance company I just switched to.  Thorn.

I have a cold.  I still have to create my syllabus for the fall semester.  I have to clean my house this afternoon.  Thorn, thorn, thorn.  Every day, there are big and small thorns in all our lives.

It's not the thorns that are important, however.  That's what God tells Paul.  It's how we deal with the thorns.  By surrendering to the thorns, accepting them, we gain the power of faith.  God gives us grace to deal with the imperfections of this world.  And through God's grace, we achieve power over the thorns.

Saint Marty needs a lot of grace this morning.  He's going grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.
So many thorns, not enough roses

August 17: Christian Cheer, Mind or Body, Feeling Deprived

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.  What shall I put you down for?"

Of course, Scrooge's answer to this question is "nothing."  He pays taxes which support social institutions that "scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body."  That's enough for him.  The Poor need to be satisified with almost enough.  Not just satisfied.  The Poor need to be thankful for it. 

I went to a birthday party last night for my nephew.  My sister- and brother-in-law own a beautiful house in the middle of a secluded woods.  The word "beautiful" doesn't even begin to describe their home.  It's got four bedrooms.  One for my nine-year-old niece.  One for my seven-year-old nephew.  One master bedroom.  A guest bedroom.  There's also two bathrooms, one with a bathtub big enough to hold a wedding reception in.  A laundry room, and a full basement.  That doesn't even touch the backyard or the beach area on the river.  Yes, it's a beautiful house.

If I sound jealous, I sort of am.  I say "sort of" because I'm not a big fan of living in the middle of a forest.  I'm jealous of the space.  My eleven-year-old daughter and three-year-old son are still sharing a bedroom.  My wife and I have a bedroom that's the size of a walk-in closet.  Our bathroom is smaller than our refrigerator, and our kitchen is a hallway.  It's small.

I don't like feeling deprived, but every time I go to my sister- and brother-in-law's house, I can't help it.  Of course, they work hard for what they have.  Both have good jobs, and they have struggled with mortgage and heating payments.  I know all that.  However, I still felt like Cousin Pearl visiting Granny and Jed Clampett last night.  I'm tired of having to go out onto the front porch to change my socks.

I know I should be thankful I have a home.  I know I should be thankful I have a mortgage payment I can afford.  Two semi-functioning vehicles.  Healthy children.  A wife with a mental illness that's under control.  I have been blessed in many ways.

Yet, I take affront at Scrooge's attitude that the Poor should be grateful for their lot in life, that my daughter should be happy to share her bedroom with her brother, that I have a bedroom that's a closet and storage shed.  I should be grateful.  I am grateful and not grateful at the same time.  I'm tired of having to feel deprived AND grateful simultaneously.

Saint Marty needs a bigger house or a bigger sense of gratitude.

I'd like to go swimming in the see-ment pond!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16: New Laptop, Same Blue Circle of Death

Well, I exchanged my old laptop for a new laptop at the university this afternoon.  I thought perhaps that the blue circle of death which plagues me when I type blog posts might disappear.  It took me over an hour to get the new laptop registered and configured and logged on.  Now, I sit here, typing my first post on it.

Within five seconds of getting on to Blogger, the blue circle of death appeared.  Thus, the BCOD is not my laptop's issue, as I thought.  It is Blogger's issue.  I am relieved and frustrated at the same time.  Until Google took over Blogger, I never had any problems with BCODs.  Now, every other keystroke brings up a five-minute wait in cyber nowhere.  It is so frustrating.

On the upside, my new laptop is beautiful, and the screen is quite nice.  A coworker recently described my old laptop as a dinosaur.  I don't think it was quite that old, but it was definitely in the neanderthal stage when it comes to technology.  Now, at least, I'm in the early 21st century.  I never get the newest laptop models from the university.  I'm an adjunct.  I'm not that important.

But I'm important enough to receive the first generation rejects.

Saint Marty is moving up in the world.

Not quite this bad any more

August 16: Winter Day, Weather, Rain

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand.  The city had entirely vanished.  Not a vestige of it was to be seen.  The darkness and mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

The above paragraph is Dickens' description of the beginning of Scrooge's wanderings with the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I think I mentioned before Dickens' use of setting and weather. The Inimitable, as Dickens liked to call himself, is single-handedly responsible for creating the stereotypical Christmas scene, with snow and cold and holly and ivy and so forth.  Even though snow was not a common occurrence in London, Dickens paints a picture that's all Currier & Ives.  Scrooge's memories of his childhood are all frost-tinged and icicle-laden.  Bing Crosby would have had no problem singing about Dickens' version of the holidays.

In other sections of A Christmas Carol, Dickens uses weather and setting to similar effect.  The Ghost of Christmas Present is surrounded by snow.  He and Scrooge plow through drifts as they navigate the streets of London.  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is shrouded in fog and darkness.  Weather is as much a character of the story as Jacob Marley or Bob Cratchit.

I love rain storms.  This morning, it was pouring when I was getting ready for work.  In fact, the sky was streaked with light and thunder.  I almost didn't take a shower, but decided that hygiene was more important than safety.  On my drive to the office, the rain sounded like an army battalion marching on the roof of my car.  I don't know what the rain and lightning represent for my day.  I'm not expecting any sort of conflict or upheaval.  I'm not expecting any sort of cleansing or threshing of the fields of my life.  I just like rain.

I'm not sure what Dickens would make of my storm this morning, either.  I'm sure I could turn it into an ominous portent for the future, mental illness or financial instability.  I could also turn it into an omen of good fortune, weight loss or the Nobel Prize in Literature.  However, sometimes rain is just rain.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Saint Marty's still holding out for the Nobel Prize.

This may mean a bad day

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 15: Words With Enemies

I am currently engaged in some pretty cutthroat games of Words With Friends.  I refuse to give up those triple-word scores, and my enemies are just as stingy.  Yesterday, I beat one of my coworkers.  She was over 150 points ahead of me, and in one fell swoop, I won.  My secret:  I just didn't do anything.  I made a move and then waited.  My opponent was on vacation, and then I was on vacation.  I waited and waited.  She never played, and eventually the program automatically resigned her.  Victory was mine!

Some people might not consider this a victory.  To those people I say, "In your face."  I have beaten my sister and my daughter in this way.  Don't feel sorry for my daughter because she's only 11 years old.  She was beating my by close to 70 points.  I was relieved when her resignation came through.  I am now engaged in a game with her where my first play netted me over 80 points.

I've had a few good moves this afternoon.  However, at the moment, my opponent is replying to my moves at a rate I can barely keep up with.  She just played a "Q" on a triple letter space.  That pisses me off.  I'm sorry to say that this post is wreaking havoc on my Words With Friends.  I need to sign off.

Saint Marty is about to commit alphabetical seppuku.

Stay away from my triple word score!

August 15: Powerful Speaker, Nobel Prize in Literature, Arguing

“Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, “and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situation.  You’re quite a powerful speaker, Sir,” he added, turning to his nephew.  “I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.”

Scrooge is not a pleasant guy, at least not at the beginning of the book.  He threatens poor Bob several times in the opening pages.  He argues with his nephew, Fred, and pretty much tells him to go to hell.  Yet, Scrooge also seems to obtain great pleasure in this verbal sparring.  When Scrooge gets the better of the two gentlemen seeking a charitable donation a little while later, he practically gloats (Scrooge resumed his labors with an improved opinion of himself, and in more facetious temper than was usual with him).  Scrooge likes to argue.

This morning, I started reading a conversation thread on the World Literature Forum on the Internet.  The thread deals with the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Most people who follow the Nobel Prize are nerdy literature students and professors and translators and wannabe writers.  I proudly claim my spot in that company.  This particular discussion thread was started just last week, and there are already six pages of comments and barbs and witty (sometimes) repartee.  Nobody agrees about anything or anyone.  Some love Cormac McCarthy.  Some love Chinua Achebe. Some love Amos Oz.  Everyone hates Philip Roth.

About the only thing everyone agrees upon (aside from Philip Roth hatred) is the fact that they all love the game of argument.  Who is right or who is wrong is irrelevant come October when the winner of the Nobel is announced.  What is important is who sounds smart and well-read and literary.  Some of these people can read six languages.  Others have a clear-cut agenda, simply pushing one writer to the forefront of the discussion.  One year, there was a rabid John Ashbery fan whose response to anyone seemed to be, “Yes, but what about John Ashbery?”

I can get into these discussions, although I never engage in them.  I like to sit on the sidelines and watch the lions tear each other apart.  Funny thing is, none of the people in this Nobel discussion thread will get it right.  They will just cannibalize each other for the next two months and then move on until next July or August, when the whole process starts over again.

I kind of get the feeling that Scrooge is a lot like these literary duelists.  They all think they’re right.  They all think they’re smart.  They all think they’re funny. In the end, they’re all wrong, just like Scrooge.  And they’ll all be haunted by the Ghosts of Nobel Past, Present, and Future.

By the way, in case you’re interested, Saint Marty is going to win the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ashbery--always a bridesmaid

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 14: Gone Girl, Bingo Birthday Party, Dance

Well, as I said this morning, I missed being with my kids today.  However, my daughter isn't quite as sentimental.  She is currently in a car with her aunt, headed downstate for a week-long visit with relatives in the Detroit area.  She spilled no tears when I kissed her goodbye this afternoon.  She barely acknowledged that I was leaving the dance studio.  So much for missing her daddy.

Speaking of dance, I registered my daughter for her dance classes this afternoon, as well.  She is taking ballet, hip hop, tap, and modern.  My daughter is going to be one very busy little girl in the fall.  That doesn't even take into account religion classes, piano lessons, or gymnastics (which my daughter wants to sign up for this autumn, as well).  I always said I wasn't going to be a chauffeur parent, driving my child from one commitment to another.  I am going to be eating those words this year.

Tonight, I have to go to a family bingo birthday party.  Most people don't know what a bingo party is.  Think of a garage sale where everything for sale is crap nobodoy wants.  Then wrap that crap in birthday tissue or newspaper, and use that crap as prizes in a bingo tournament.  That is a bingo birthday party.  Most of the time, I come home with a bag of prizes I just wrap up and save for the next bingo birthday party.  Tonight will be no different.

On this night, the first night of being back at work, I would prefer to go home and relax.  Maybe feel a little sad for the absence of my gone girl.  And watch
America's Got Talent.

Saint Marty isn't going to get what he wants tonight.

B-16!  O-69!

August 14: Hallo, This Time of Day, Back to Work

"Hallo!" growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice as near as he could feign it.  "What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?"

Scrooge is toying with Bob Cratchit here.  He knows Bob is going to be late for work.  Scrooge himself sent the turkey that pretty much guaranteed Bob would be making "rather merry" the day before.  He fully expects Bob to be tardy.

This morning I go back to work.  I will miss my kids.  I will miss hearing my son call out "I want to get up!" when he wakes.  I will miss going into my daughter's dark room mid-morning to rouse the sleeping crocodile that is my eldest offspring.  I will miss running in the morning, swimming in the afternoon.  Most of all, I will miss the connection I have with my children right now.  My son actually calls for me in the morning.  My daughter told me yesterday that she had "the best day ever."

Society casts mothers as the nurturers, the ones who are always there to pick the kids up from school, make the lunches, give the baths, help with homework, change the diapers.  As a nurturing father, that bothers me a little bit.  Granted, there are fathers who are removed and distant, who would rather go to a business meeting than a parent/teacher conference.  I am not one of those fathers.  I like making cookies for my children and planning their birthday parties.  I love all that stuff.

Maybe Saint Marty was Carol Brady in another life.

I used to have this same outfit

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13: Great Day, Back to Work Tomorrow

I had a great day with my family.  Swimming.  A movie with my daughter.  Pizza for dinner.  I talked with one of my best friends, who lives in Georgia but is moving back to the Upper Peninsula.  It has been a really wonderful day.

Back to work tomorrow morning.  Not looking forward to it.  Not using subjects in my sentences.  Feeling sort of neanderthal about the prospect of returning to my routine.

Saint Marty not happy tonight.

Me in the mirror tomorrow morning

August 13: Last Day, Poetry Book, "Carol" Dip

Today is the last day of my vacation.  I have a few things planned.  As soon as I'm done typing this post, I'm going for a run.  Then, I'm going to take my kids swimming at a local pool.  This afternoon, I'm taking my daughter to see the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie.  It's going to be a daddy-daughter date.  With lots of buttered popcorn.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time searching around for some other topic to expound upon in this post.  I do have a question for Carol dip Monday.  It's a question that's been on my mind since last Friday, when I got the news about the poetry competition.  My question for the great book of Dickens is:

Will I get my new  book of poems published this year?

And the answer from Chuck is:

My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge's nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it...

So, it's a done deal.  Scrooge's nephew Fred knows it.  The Ghost of Christmas Present knows it.

And now Saint Marty knows it, too:  my book will be published. least for one more day

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12: Olympic Inspiration, New Cartoon

Well, this evening the Olympics come to an end in London.  My wife, daughter, and I will be watching the closing ceremonies, in all their gaudy, pop-music glory.  Spice Girls here we come.

The Olympic games inspire me, as they do the rest of the world.  I love the stories of athletes overcoming great adversity to achieve glory.  Michael Phelps.  Oscar Pistorius.  Caster Semenya.  Gabby Douglas.  Twenty years from now, most of those names will mean nothing to young people.  Caster who?  Piss story what?  But, at the present, they represent something special.  Something amazing.  The human spirit at its best.

That is what the Olympics represents to me.  A group of people from around the world who are, for seventeen days, showing us all what we are capable of.  We are all capable of greatness.  We are all capable of finishing the race, even if we have no legs.  We are all capable of diving an impossible dive, beating an unbeatable opponent.  We are all capable of holding our heads high, even when the rest of the world is questioning who you are, what you are.

That is what I'm taking away from the London Olympic games tonight.  A little lesson in being the best person you can be.

Saint Marty will take his inspiration with chips and dip.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 11: Marley Was Dead, Starting Over, New Cartoon

Marley was dead:  to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.  Scrooge signed it:  and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose, to put his hand to.  Old Marley was dead as a door-nail.

Well, I have gone back to the beginning.  The paragraph above, as you are probably aware, is the first paragraph of the novel.  It sets up many of the novel's main elements:  death, money, a hint of something a little paranormal (insisting that Old Marley is dead promises that he will eventually make a personal appearance).  Generally, ghost stories involve some kind of retribution or judgement.  A living person learns something, and the world that has been out-of-balance becomes balanced once more.

I am returning to the beginning this morning.  After learning last night that my book of poems did not win the poetry competition, I need to rethink, reevaluate, and resubmit.  Like Marley's ghost, that book keeps coming back to me, shaking its chains and moaning, "I'm not done yet.  Not yet.  Not yet."  I have to come up with another plan to put that manuscript to rest, short of cremation, which I have contemplated.

My current plan, as of 10:11 a.m., Saturday, August 11, 2012, is to talk to some of my poet friends and get some leads on publishers and university presses.  Then, I will submit my book again.  I'm not done yet.  I still have hope for Marley yet.

Saint Marty is finished wallowing.  He needs to get busy exorcising some ghosts, putting his world back into balance.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10: Losing Again

I'm beginning to think nobody reads these evening posts.  For the last four or five days, I've had no views of my night-time blogs.  That's fine.  I'm used to writing stuff in a vacuum, without having any kind of response.  Perhaps the night-time posts have been a little boring.  Maybe whiny.  Lacking in some way.

Tonight will be no different.  I checked my university e-mail a few hours ago, not even thinking about the poetry contest I entered a few months ago.  Really, the thing I was thinking about was an order from Amazon I needed to make.  Well, there was a message from the book press that sponsors the contest.  The message said it all in the memo line: Esteemed poet Xavier NoTalent names Jamie Mediocre's "Sucking Ass" Winner of the Pretentious Poetry Prize.  Yes, names and titles have been changed to protect the innocent.

I am not angry or jealous.  I'd pretty much given up hope of winning this contest.  However, that little e-mail sort of took the wind out of my sails.  I don't feel like doing a whole lot of anything now.  I'm going to wallow for a few hours.  In fact, I'm going to take the gold medal in wallowing tonight.  Even the Chinese aren't going to beat me.

I know there are a lot of really good poets out there.  I know that a lot of really good poets entered this competition.  I know that some really good poets never win contests or awards.  I know all that.  It still doesn't take the sting out of that e-mail.  Some days, being a poet sucks.

Saint Marty needs to go turn off the lights and sit in a dark room for a while.

Nothing to write home about

August 10: Aught to Teach Me, One Hundred Thousand, Perspective

"Spirit," said Scrooge submissively, "conduct me where you will.  I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now.  To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it."

Scrooge is speaking to the Ghost of Christmas Present.  The Ghost of Christmas Past has already taught him a few things, and now Scrooge says he will accompany the Second Spirit, ready to accept any lesson coming his way.  Scrooge is already a mighty humbled literary character.

I learned a lesson last night while I was looking for my lost keys.  I learned that some of the things that preoccupy my thoughts on a daily basis are pretty silly.  When I found my keys last night, I experienced a kind of happiness and relief I haven't felt in a long time.  I know it seems stupid to get that upset about a set of keys, but I did.  And it put things into perspective for me in a way.

Most of the stuff I worry about day-to-day is pretty small.  I've been obsessing about the poetry contest I entered.  Money is in my thoughts constantly.  In the past week, I've been thinking about my daughter's dance lessons this fall.  I still have to put together a syllabus for my film class, and I haven't even finished reading my textbook.

Life is full of worries.  Worry has been the guiding force of my life recently.  Small worries and big worries.  But worry doesn't do any good.  It doesn't solve problems.  It doesn't stave off fear.  It doesn't make me feel any safer or more prepared for challenges.  Worry is just a waste of energy.

I let small things, like keys, run my life.  If I have my keys, then everything will be great, all the time.  The sun will shine.  I will have plenty of money in my bank account.  I will win that poetry contest.  President Obama will be elected to a second term.  The Swedish Academy will award me the Nobel Prize in Literature.  World peace will be established. 

Of course, all that's just a load of horse crap.

Keys will not solve the problems of the world.  Neither will worry.  Worry just opens up doors to more worries.  Worry makes life miserable.  I just need to do my work, take care of my family, and recognize the blessings of my life.  That's my job.

In that spirit, I will acknowledge a blessing this morning:  Saint Marty just passed 100,000 page views.  That's an amazing blessing.  One hundred thousand people have looked at or stumbled upon my blog.  I hope that I have done some good with my posts.  Provided some laughs or comfort or wisdom.  Maybe alleviated some worries.

Saint Marty celebrates one hundred thousand blessings today.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 9: Keys Found

Well, I turned my house upside down again looking for my keys.  I searched through our vehicles.  Nothing.  I was an absolute basket case.

My wife told me to sit down and pray.  I was tired.  Defeated.  Depressed.  I sat down and closed my eyes.  I said this prayer:  "Saint Anthony, I give up.  Please show me where my keys are."  I cleared my head.  Then, I had a vision.  Literally.  I saw the roof of my wife's car.  I saw my keys sitting on top of it.

I grabbed a flashlight and went outside.  I shined my beam on the exact place I saw in my mind.

The keys were sitting there in the dark.

Marty is going to be the patron saint of Saint Anthony fans.

Saint Anthony put a smile on my face

August 9: Lost Keys

This afternoon has kind of sucked.  Actually, it's more than kind of sucked.  It has really sucked.

I lost my keys this afternoon.  These are the keys to every place I work, my house, my parents' house.  I have been tearing out what little hair I have left looking for these keys.  I've turned my house upside down.  I've torn through both of our cars.  I've rewalked the route I walked this morning with my family.  I called the hotel where we went swimming this afternoon.  It has been three or four hours from hell.

I have gotten down on my knees and prayed several times.  If you know me, you know that I am going to drive myself insane until those keys surface.  I can't think of anything else.  Now, if I were a true and trusting Christian, I'd sit back, relax, and tell myself that God will help take care of things.  I haven't quite reached that point yet.

I have prayed to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things.  Saint Anthony has never let me down.  I mean never.  I pray, and Saint Anthony delivers.

Saint Marty needs help tonight.  A lot of help.

C'mon, Saint Anthony.  I need some help tonight.