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September 2017

Sound and Fury

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Getting Right with Mr. Faulkner (with family friend Tyson Reed)

I washed my vitamins down with a wine cooler yesterday.  It was that kind of week…a week of ups and downs, wins and losses, sin and redemption.  It was the kind of week where I added the being to the doing and came up a little short in every department.  Some weeks go like that, I guess.

Wiliam Faulkner (oh, great bastion of positivity) echoed Shakespeare when he wrote that  life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.  He even wrote a novel from the perspective of an idiot–the trick to that one is to detect the real idiot.  Now, we all know Faulkner knew a thing or two about writing and most folks can surmise that he washed his vitamins down with bourbon a time or two rather than a piddling wine cooler, but I’ve had a bone to pick with Mr. Faulkner ever since my Sewanee days sitting in the great Dr. Carlson’s lit class wrasslin’ with why on God’s green earth Faulkner would put TWO characters named Quentin in the same dang book.

Naive as I was at 18, I figured we were reading The Sound and the Fury primarily because it contains a shoutout to Sewanee’s proclivity for enjoying our tumblers neat.  Thirty years later, the only thing I can choke down neat is Kahlua (in teensy sips, mind you…I’ve always been a lightweight in the adult beverage department if not on the bathroom scale), but Faulkner’s book filtered through Dr. Carlson’s perspective has stuck with me.

And here’s the thing:  they were both wrong.  I mean no disrespect, either to the Pulitzer Prize winning author or the best professor of my college experience, grad school included, but they’re wrong nevertheless.  The jump line, Shakespeare’s bit, was the heart’s cry of an embittered old man broken by betrayal in every way you can imagine.  It is both pitiful and piteous.  It is wrenching, but it is not a metaphor for life as I know it.

I told the ghost of William Faulkner about it as I sat on the front porch of Rowan Oak just a few weeks back.  I looked down his tree-lined front walk to the remnants of an English knot garden.  I walked under his scuppernong arbor and sat on the stone patio he built for his daughter’s nuptials. Everything about that beautifully haunted place whispered a message of hope, not one of desperation.

As I type this, my Muse door is flung wide to let in the morning air.  Thunder rumbles in the distance and the faintest cool breeze, laced with the promise of autumn, licks at my skin.  Zeke, our old retriever, snoozes at my feet as the cattle low and a pair of hummingbirds dive-bomb the bottle brush in audible zips and tweets.

Yeah, sometimes I’m the idiot in my tale.  Who, in their right mind, doesn’t recognize the oxymoron in taking your vitamins with a wine cooler chaser?  Sometimes, like this week, my tale is full of sound and fury. I spin my wheels trying to get it all done, and for what?  All my fretting signifies nothing.  But sometimes, like right now with an overcast sky and a week looming ahead that is already busier than the last one I barely scraped through with my sanity intact, my heart becomes quiet enough to hear that still-soft voice.

That still-soft voice tells me that there is purpose, there is reason, there is peace.  And, that, gentle reader, signifies everything.

 

Slipping the Vortex

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A quiet moment

It’s mid-September and I’m caught–even though I swore I wouldn’t let myself get this way again–in the vortex.  It’s not a matter of poor planning.  Those of you who know me well enough to forgive me for my quirks know that whenever someone comments on one of my “OCD” tendencies, I am quick to respond that there is no “Dis” in my order.  Heck, I’m the kind of person who Facebook-bragged on having my meals planned through December 2018.  It’s all right there in my datebook.  I’m the kind of person who is working on hand-copying the Book of Psalms as a method for calming my mind.  I figure those Benedictine monks may have been onto something way before Herr Gutenberg invented his printing press and changed the face of history.

I’m the kind of person who has lists of lists, organized for quick reference.  It shouldn’t surprise you at all that I was that kid who memorized the Dewey Decimal System just for fun in the third grade.  To this day, I highlight every word I look up in the dictionary and, yeah, I have argued vehemently over the necessity of the Oxford comma.  The organizational strategies I model at school are far more valuable than either a passing appreciation of Harper Lee or the formula for cracking at least a 3 on an AP exam.  One of my greatest points of pride is when my students realize that the skillsets I empower them with cross over not just to other classes, but to life beyond the hallowed halls of the school building.  That, folks, is the difference between teaching and educating.  LOTS of us are making it happen!

But, sometimes, like about now, I let the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy (nod to both the Eagles and my parents for raising me right musically).  I get caught in the vortex of  planning/teaching/grading at breakneck speed as I implement whatever the mandated “solution of the year” for getting standardized test scores up may be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mean that cynically.  The point I’m trying to make is that I’m stuck in that lather/rinse/repeat cycle as we settle into the expected performance norms, which of course have shifted enough to make last semester’s objectives irrelevant. We are so busy with process that we overlook purpose. It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for the kids.

The vortex is a powerful one that colors my attitude at home as well.  I race home each afternoon just in time to pick up the girls from band/vet science/drama/orthodontist/???, try to get them to eat something besides chicken fingers, pitch in with farm chores, do laundry (talk about a vortex…I’ve been caught in that cycle since 1994!), and crash exhausted in bed only to crank it back up again at 5AM. I burn up my Saturdays catching up all I didn’t have time to do over the week and feel lucky if I have time to snatch a Sunday afternoon nap. We are so busy doing that we overlook the living.  It’s not enough for me and it’s not enough for my kids.

So, it’s time for me to snap out of my “I’m so busy I feel like I’m drowning in to-do lists” pity party and slip that vortex.  Perhaps you feel caught up in the “Wool Pooh”, too.  If you’re also in that September riptide, you know you have to swim parallel to the “beach” until you escape, well, the suckiness of your situation.

We can’t drop our to-do’s.  That’s just part of the fabric of being a grown-up, a teacher, a mom…or all three!  Try slipping your particular vortex with a to-be list.  What do you want to be this week?  Write it down right there next to your to-do list.  Itemize it!  I want to be a cook, a voice of reason, a force for positivity, a road biker, a field hiker, a freakin’ Julio Jones of English (a former student paid me this tremendous compliment and I’ve been trying to live up to it ever since), a worshipper, a friend, a comforter.

Vortex slipped!

PS, gentle reader:  Bonus points if you can identify the source of the Wool Pooh reference!

 

Clemenceau’s Daughters Takes Honorable Mention at Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards

 

For immediate release:

Reader’s Favorite recognizes “Clemenceau’s Daughters” in its annual international book award contest.

The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring that books only compete against books of their same genre for a fairer and more accurate competition. We receive submissions from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing giants such as Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with contestants that range from the first-time, self-published author to New York Times bestsellers like J.A. Jance, James Rollins, and #1 best-selling author Daniel Silva, as well as celebrity authors like Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), and Eriq La Salle (E.R., Coming to America).

“When the right books are picked as winners we pay attention. We will be spreading the word about Readers’ Favorite.”–Karen A., Editor for Penguin Random House

Readers’ Favorite is proud to announce that “Clemenceau’s Daughters” by Rocky Porch Moore won the Honorable Mention in the Fiction – General category.

You can learn more about Rocky Porch Moore and “Clemenceau’s Daughters” at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/clemenceaus-daughters where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

Readers’ Favorite LLC
Media Relations
Louisville, KY 40202
800-RF-REVIEW
support@readersfavorite.com
https://readersfavorite.com

A Pilgrimage of Sorts

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Joy

Sometimes I allow myself to engage in fantasies of Heaven.  I hope it’s not sinful because I myopically imagine the Hereafter in completely human terms, but I suppose that’s precisely what God expects.  How egocentrically I picture it all, this wonderful other prepared for my decidedly undeserving reward.  Is it even possible that one day God Himself will share a laugh with me at the narrowness of my scope of imagination?

I thought I’d let you take a little peek into the Heaven of my mind, even though I’d take this with a big ole grain of salt if I were you.  Other than what glimpses the Bible gives into the ethereal, I’m totally clueless, so understand that all this is idle speculation; but it’s fun to play “I Can Only Imagine” nonetheless.

I figure I’ll be happily ensconced for a few millennia in Heaven’s library.  I picture it in grand 19th century style with overstuffed leather wingback chairs and a friendly fire snapping in the grate.  The lighting will be from oil lamps, not industrial fluorescence to despoil the mood.  Authors and even characters (as real in spirit as the rest of us) converse amicably in the alcoves and I am welcomed into their discussions.  Great leaded windows replete with exquisite stained glass scenes from God’s favorite books throw prisms on the stacks while I ride, giddy, on one of those cool wheeled library ladders down the aisle.

I also imagine Heaven as home.  This part is where my idea of love and family lives.  Visions of mansion after mansion and streets of gold are problematic for me.  Sounds like an awful lot of polishing would be going on.  Think more like Walton’s Mountain and you’ll get a clearer idea.  I imagine the happiness of Thanksgiving Day minus the stress that comes with doing your darnedest to make sure everyone is happy.  Here’s where Jesus sits down at the table with us and has a second helping of Granny Porch’s pecan pie.  He smacks his lips over my mom’s fried chicken and my great-grandma’s potato salad that I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate before she went on to be with the Lord.  We all chuckle, when, true to form, Mama Opal gets to talking and burns the rolls.  And, yes, I imagine porch-sitting and pea-shelling.  The men-folk will labor good-naturedly at whatever skills they never “got around to” while swapping stories and whopping each other on the back whenever they think something is funny.  The nutty aroma of pipe tobacco mixed with masculinity and a hint of Old Spice will perfume the air as they settle in for evenings by the fire.  So far, it still looks like my imagination is stuck somewhere around the turn of the twentieth century.  I don’t know why, but I’m having fun thinking of it.

Of course, the great outdoors in Heaven will be expansive…well, boundless, I reckon.  I will be able to run and run through glorious vistas.  My knee won’t hurt and I’ll have the stamina to trot as long as I wish.  The courses will be challenging and have endless outlets for exploration.  I don’t mean for this to be sacrilegious at all, but I can envision Jesus in running clothes.  Our runs will be where we have our best conversations, that is, when we’re not biking, hiking, or cross-country skiing.

And the animals!  I’ve loved an awful lot of pets over my life thus far.  Somehow, there’ll be room for all of them…and they’ll all be house-broken and squeaky clean when they get to come inside.  T.K., Yellowy, and Grey Ghost, my childhood cats, come immediately to mind.  Mr. Buffalo, Dobber Dog, and Sir Spots-a-Lot the Great (Dane) will be at my side.

Like I said, I hope it isn’t sinful to try to imagine Heaven on such a piddling scale.  It sure does make a person feel grateful and blessed, though, to let one’s imagination run unchecked for a little while.  Where does your imagination take you?

 

The NOT-As-Fat Lady Sings: Amazing Fat-Burning Machine Finale

 

My six-week odyssey with UltraSlim has drawn to a close.  I’d like to give a shout-out to the good folks at One Life Chiropractic/Gulf Coast UltraSlim for putting up with me and my antics along the journey, especially for looking the other way while I practiced my dance moves and Darth Vader voice on the vibrating stepper thingy.  They get my “glowing” recommendation.

So, what are the results and what have I learned over the course of six weeks?  Read on, gentle reader, and I’ll give you the low-down.

  1.  IT WORKS!  Whether it was the groovy infrared lighting, the introduction of  drinking water into my life, or the social pressure of getting down to my skivvies in front of a former student (Sorry, Doc, I can’t help but see the adorable little 7th grader in you) just doesn’t really matter.  I’ve lost 12 pounds.  Full disclosure:  I found two of them back last weekend in a football glutton-festival of wings, fries, nuts, pound cake, and cream soda.  Roll Tide!  I’ve since atoned for my glorious indiscretion.

2.  My clothes fit better everywhere, but I’m proud to report that I wore size 8 pants to school TWICE this week!  This is the first time I’ve hit the single digits in a couple of years, so yeah, I’m proud.  So proud, in fact, that I put two other pairs of pants that were swallowing me whole in the give-away basket!

3.  Aside from a little bit of…okay, a whole lot of tailgating, I’ve quit grazing.  I’ve made an investment to drop a few and it just doesn’t make sense to undermine what I’ve spent.  Yeah, the printouts after each Ultraslim session show calories “forgiven” and I chuckle at the pitchy semantics.  It stands to reason that one will net better results if one refrains from free-range stuffing while receiving the treatments.  Of course, it’s human nature to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  I’m trying not to do that.

4.  Six weeks is a great timeframe for establishing a habit.  What habit have I gotten into?  It’s the drinking of water.  Seriously.  I’m the person who has fallen off the “No Cola Wagon” numerous times.  Whereas it would be rare in the past to see me without a Coke in hand, now I’m toting water.  I credit UltraSlim with this change.  Will I ever slug a Coke again?  Sure.  You just won’t see me sucking on one all day long like a sugar teat anymore.  Drinking an entire gallon of H2O was, and still is, a bit much for me, but now I actually prefer water over Coke and even sweet tea.  Who would’ve thunk it?

5.  There’s an extra spring in my step.  Maybe it’s because I have a higher center of gravity.  Maybe it’s because I no longer fear putting out someone’s eye with a projectile button flying off my jeans.  Maybe it’s because I just don’t feel as frumpy.  Oh, don’t worry.   I’m well past the point of middle-aged invisibility.  I won’t be putting on airs or trolling the aisles of Forever 21 looking for that perfect crop top with jeggings combo.  I’ve lost a little weight, not my mind!

So, the ultimate question is… was the Amazing Fat Burning Machine worth it?  Absolutely.  Would I do it again?  Why wouldn’t I?  I’ve gotten concrete, measurable results without feeling deprived, irritable, or sick. My silhouette no longer resembles a fireplug and my whole general attitude has improved.  Is Ultraslim right for you?  I don’t know, but like Hooked on Phonics, it worked for me.

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