Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30: Over and Done, Doctor, Good News

I'm over and done with grading and finals and teaching for the semester.  I've handed back the tests and papers to my students who wanted them back.  The rest will reside on my desk in my office for the summer.  Then, I may consign them to the recycle bin, even though I'm supposed to somehow retain all unclaimed papers and tests for, like, two decades.  If I actually followed that rule, I'd need to rent a storage shed for all the trees killed by my students over the years.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm going to see my doctor.  I'm still not feeling that great, and, with a long weekend of driving and dance competition ahead of me, I don't want to feel like an extra from the TV series The Walking Dead the whole time.  I should have had a check-up a few months ago, so my fever and cough have forced me to face the music.  To be honest, I'm just tired of being sick.

I did receive some good news tonight.  The head of the English Department from the university called me a little while ago, and he offered me two intro to film classes to teach.  I've never taught intro to film before, but I love movies.  That's gotta count for something.  I'm really excited by the offer.  Of course, I said "yes" immediately.  Now, I've got a few months to figure out what the hell I'm going to do.

Saint Marty is ready to take some Motrin and kick back.

I got an offer I couldn't refuse

April 30: "Carol" Dip, More Grading, Finish Line

Greetings once again this morning.

It is Monday and, therefore, time for a Carol dip.  I have a pretty cloudy mind at the moment.  Phlegm.  Sleep deprivation.  Grading malaise.  Take your pick as to the cause.  I'm already too tired for words, and the day is just beginning.

Anyway, my question for the book of Carol is simple this morning:

Will I be able to finish all of my grading for my final exam times this afternoon?

And the answer from Charles Dickens is:

"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart's content.

I suppose that means that if I behave myself, knuckle down, and get my work done, I'll be in fine shape.  After all, Bob's response to Mrs. Cratchit's question is, "As good as gold...and better..."  That means I'm in the clear today.  The finish line is in sight.

Saint Marty needs to get grading, folks.  Have a great Monday (if that isn't a contradiction in terms).

This was me last night

April 30: Finals Apology, New Cartoon, Art Work

Well, I owe my readers an apology this morning.  I spent the entire day on Sunday grading final exams.  Yes, I had a new cartoon and new drawing ready to go.  Yes, I'd even did a draft of a post for April 29.  However, at about 11:30 p.m. last night, when I finished scoring the last exam, the only things I had the energy to do were brushing and flossing.  I may have also eaten a malted milk ball.  I can't remember.  It's been a long couple of days.  Plus, I think I'm developing some kind of sinus infection.  I have to call my doctor this morning to get an appointment.

Yes, Saint Marty is whining.

Planet of the Ape

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28: Gruel, Change, New Cartoon

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in:  double-locked himself in, which was not his custom.  Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

Scrooge, above all else, is a creature of routine.  Aside from his one deviation from custom, I get the feeling that Scrooge has followed the same nightly office for a very long time.  Gruel.  There's probably nothing more uninteresting, bland, and watery.  Perfect for Scrooge's existence of non-surprise.

I have friends who embrace change and surprise the way I embraced my iPad when I got it for Christmas.  (For the record, I sat on the couch, hugging the iPad box, in a state of cosmic euphoria for almost half an hour.)  My good friend Wondertwin loves to remind me frequently, "Change is inevitable.  Change is good.  Change is the only constant in life."  To counter her litany, I usually say something like, "Yeah, well, so what?" 

Just because change happens, I don't have to embrace it or like it.  It may be argued that my attitude breeds unhappiness and stress in my life.  However, I would say that change breeds the unhappiness and stress, and I'm just reacting to it.  It's the chicken and egg question.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg, the change or the misery?  Change isn't always positive.

Another of my friends would tell me at this point in my anti-change diatribe that really it's all a matter of attitude.  I can choose to think of change as an adventure, a door opening.  Or I can choose to think of change as some form of divine punishment for the sins of my ancestors.  I bet you can guess which side of this fence I fall on.

Scrooge eats gruel.  He likes gruel.  He likes its greyness.  Its predictability.  Its sameness.

Saint Marty is a big fan of gruel, as well.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27: Welcome to Wayport at McDonald's, Art Stroll

Welcome to Wayport WiFi at McDonald's again.  This system is so friggin' slow that I've already been kicked off twice, and I haven't even typed two sentences yet.  Every other word I key in, the screen of my laptop goes grey, and a little blue circle of doom appears.  The circle hovers mid-screen for about thirty seconds to a minute, and then one of two things happens.  One, the screen goes back to normal edit mode.  Two, the screen stays eternally grey, and I have to reset everything.

Here comes another grey-out.  Hopefully, I'll see you on the other side.

Back again.  I did set up my art work for the Art Stroll tomorrow in my home town.  It took about twenty minutes.  The florist I was assigned to display at already had an area picked out for me.  It was just a matter of arranging my books and frames.

House cleaning tonight.  Not looking forward to it.  But Saint Marty loves him a clean shower in the morning.  Another grey out on the way.  See you...

Finally, a computer message I understand

April 27: Spirit Dropped, Fear, Art Walk

The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.

The Spirit in question is the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Scrooge is intent on ridding himself of the Ghost's visions, which have become painful reminders of people and opportunities Scrooge has missed.  A sister who died in childbirth.  A woman to whom he was engaged.  Children who might have called him "father."  Scrooge wants to blot these memories out of existence, extinguish their light.  But he can't do it completely.  There's too much light to retreat into darkness.

Many of Scrooge's problems in the past have to do with fear.  His fiance tells him at one point, "You fear the world too much."  In trying to protect himself from heartbreak and pain and disappointment, Scrooge ends up rich and lonely and miserable.  Fear motivates all of the choices in his young life, and this fear sentences him to an existence without love or hope.

Fear.  Every person lives with it.  Today, I have a big fear.  I have been putting together some of my drawings for a local art exhibition that takes place tomorrow.  It's called an "art walk," and the participating artists display their works in local business establishments.  The goal, I assume, is to draw art lovers to the businesses and also provide a venue for local artists to sell their creations.

I have never thought of myself as an artist.  I have never attempted to sell any of sketches.  I don't know the first thing about how to display them or how much I should charge for them.  I don't know if I have to be present for the whole day of the art walk or just a portion of it.  I actually don't know if I have to be present at all.  I have a lot of questions, and very few answers.  That makes me anxious.  Fearful.

This afternoon, I have to go "set up" my art at the business to which I've been assigned.  I don't even know what "setting up" entails.  I like my life to be a little more definite.  More fixed.  Instead, I'm living with negative capability, and I hate it.

Saint Marty isn't asking for much.  Just some answers.  And some customers.  And some confidence.

Proceed With Caution

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26: Finals Finalized, Book Clubbing, Poetry All 'Round

Well, all my finals have been finalized.  Now, I just have a crapload of grading to do this weekend.  I've already begun grading, and I must say that the scores are much higher than I thought they were going to be.  That means one of two things:  1) the final exam was way too easy, or 2) I am the greatest teacher in the world.  Let's go with option number two.

I'm getting ready for book clubbing now.  My wife put the house in order this morning.  She even cooked our contribution for dinner.  Basically, I have to throw the casserole in the oven to heat up, give my son a bath and get him ready for bed, and put out the plates and silverware.  I've already assembled my book club discussion guide.  I'm in pretty fine shape.

It will be a great night of poetry.  I've been rereading Thomas Lynch's poems, and he really is a fine writer.  Doesn't hurt that he's also Catholic.  Lots of Latin phrases and prayers.

Poetry all 'round for Saint Marty tonight.

It could be verse.  Get it?

April 26: Scrooge's Nephew, Good-Humour, Book Club

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge's nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too.  Introduce him to me, and I'll cultivate his acquaintance.

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.  When Scrooge's nephew laughed in this way:  holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions:  Scrooge's niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he.  And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out, lustily.

If you have been reading my year-long foray into A Christmas Carol regularly, you already know of my affection for Scrooge's nephew, Fred.  You know that I appreciate Fred's ability to put his uncle's misanthropy into perspective.  Fred is one of the few characters in the entire book who can get the better of Scrooge in speech and action.  And he does it with laughter and "good-humour."  Fred is just a great guy.  The life of the party.  He's the one person everyone looks forward to seeing, all the time.

Tonight is the monthly meeting of my book club.  At 7 p.m., my friends and relatives will descend upon my abode to eat and drink and talk about this month's read.  It's always a good time, and while I don't think I'm quite as genial a host as Fred, I do enjoy laughing and eating with people I love.  Throw a good book on top of all that, and there's nothing better.

This month's book was a collection of poetry (in honor of National Poetry Month).  We read Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch.  I saw Mr. Lynch read at the university about twelve years ago.  He was engaging and funny.  He writes my kind of poetry--full of image and narrative.  None of this language crap that's so much in vogue these days. 

Lynch also wrote one of my favorite books of non-fiction called The Undertaking.  It's a collection of essays about his life-s profession.  Thomas Lynch is, by trade, an undertaker.  Still is.  So there are many reasons why I like the man.  He doesn't live in the ivory tower of academia.  He's in the middle of life's messes, comforting the bereaved, making grief natural and, at times, beautiful.

It should be a really good night.  I'm feeling slightly better.  The food's going to be delicious.  The company's going to be lovely.  And the book's going to be great to discuss.

Saint Marty may not be Scrooge's nephew, Fred, but he knows how to show people a good time.

He looks like an undertaker, doesn't he?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25: Pounding Motrin, Ready for Bed

I have learned that whatever bug I am battling at the moment needs Motrin more often than every six hours.  I am totally feeling like crap right now, and I took an 800 mg at 10 a.m.  I have decided that I'm just going to listen to my body.  When I feel the symptoms returning, I'm going to pound another Motrin.

I just finished administering a final exam in one of my sections of mythology.  Tomorrow, I will administer my other final.  Then the work of grading begins.  It shouldn't be too bad.  However, I have to have everything done, all the semester final grades calculated, by Monday for both classes.  That kind of sucks.

Tonight, I will do no grading.  Tonight, since I do not have to go to choir practice (it's my wife's turn), I plan on putting my son to bed at seven and following him shortly thereafter.  If the Motrin I just took takes the edge off my fever and tiredness, I may stay up to watch American Idol.  But if I feel like I currently feel, I will be crawling under the covers and studying the insides of my eyelids.

Saint Marty hates being sick.
In keeping with my Dickens obsession

April 25: Glazed Eyes, Still Punky, Final Exam

To sit, staring at those fixed, glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him.  There was something very awful, too, in the spectre's being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own.  Scrooge could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven.

The reason this description of Jacob Marley's ghost appeals to me this morning is simple:  I still feel half-dead.  The punky exhaustion I had yesterday continues to hang on.  I haven't thrown up.  I haven't taken my temperature, but I wouldn't be surprised if I had a low-grade, malarial fever.  I did take another Motrin when I got out of bed to get ready for work, but even my hair was hurting when I took my shower.  I'm not sure how hair can hurt, but it did.

Therefore, I feel like Jacob Marley.  Dead and miserable.  Thank God all I have to do in class today is administer my final exam.  If I actually had to teach, I'm not sure I could do it.  However, I do have the energy to sit in front of the classroom and watch my students struggle with some multiple choice questions.  If I sit perfectly motionless, maybe I will create some hot vapour of my own, agitate a few things.

That's all Saint Marty's got this morning, folks.  And his hair still hurts.

I'm not feeling quite this punky

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24: Feeling Punky, Motrin, Student Praise

I've been feeling pretty punky most of the day.  I was absolutely exhausted this morning.  I could have put my head down on my desk and fallen asleep for a couple of hours.  I think I had a fever, as well.

This afternoon, I took an 800 mg Motrin, and, let me tell you, I could actually lift my head up after a half hour without my eyes feeling like they were going to explode in my sockets.  I feel so much better, even though I'm still a little tired.

I had my students do my classroom evaluations this afternoon.  One of my students, a smart, young guy, told me at the end of class, "Dude, I gave you the best class evaluation I've ever given in my entire life.  I'm not fuckin' kidding."

I thanked him for being so kind.

"No," he said, "you don't get it.  I told them they should hire you as a full-time professor."

For a moment, I thought about the current contract negotiations going on at the university.  I thought about the threats the administration is making about cancelling the adjunct e-mail accounts and repossessing our laptops.  I thought about the fact that I could never survive on the salary the university is currently paying me.  I smiled at my student and said, "From your laptop to President X's ears."

"Dude," the student said, "I'll call the fuckin' president of the university up and tell him personally.  Do you want me to do that?  I'm serious."

And he was serious.  I could tell.  It made me feel like I've actually made a difference in his life.

Saint Marty actually did some larnin' this semester.  Did you hear that, President X?
Them's words to live by

April 24: Poor Excuse, Carrying the World, Free Goose

"You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge.

"If quite convenient, Sir."

"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair.  If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?"

The clerk smiled faintly.

"And yet," said Scrooge, "you don't think think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work."

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!" said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin.  "But, I suppose you must have the whole day.  Be here all the earlier next morning!"

This passage is one of the most famous in A Christmas Carol.  It encapsulates Scrooge's incredible ego and greed.  Scrooge literally takes Christmas as a personal affront to himself and his bank account.  If you really want to boil Scrooge's issues down to their core, they all hinge on the fact that he is an incredibly self-centered man.  Christmas takes away money from Scrooge.  Therefore, Christmas is some kind of left-wing conspiracy to bleed him dry.

As a worship leader at church and as a college professor, I deal with a lot of people like Scrooge.  People who seem to think their problems and their lives are of utmost importance to everyone.  They carry the world on their shoulders.  Over the last day or so, I've been navigating a Scrooge situation.  Like Bob Cratchit, I have learned to keep my mouth shut and let the Scrooge in my life vent his particular brand of venom.  It's easier that way.  I have learned that you can't win an argument with a Scrooge.  Scrooges know best.  Always.

That doesn't mean that I agree with my Scrooge.  That means that I'm not going to battle my Scrooge.  I will do things the way I think they should done, no matter what.  I just choose to ignore my Scrooge's rant, the way Bob does in the above passage.  Bob gets to take Christmas day off, and Scrooge gets to browbeat his clerk.  Everybody's happy.

Don't get me wrong.  I can be a Scrooge, wrapping myself up in my own little counting house.  Most human beings have their Scrooge moments.  It's what you do after the Scrooge moment that counts.  I choose to look beyond the narrow limits of my money-changing hole.  I choose to walk along the crowded paths of life, embracing all human sympathy.

Be kind to the Scrooge in your life.  Listen to him.  Let him crab.  Let him bitch.  Let him browbeat you a little.  Be Bob Cratchit.  Show your Scrooge kindness and understanding.  In the end, you may end up with a free goose dinner.

That's what Saint Marty's hoping for.

It's free!

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23: Final Exam Done, Faith, No Fun

Well, I have completed assembling my mythology final exam.  I think it's easy, but then again, I'm the one who made it up.  Pretty much, except for grading the exams, I'm all done with my work for the semester.  Now, I can concentrate on how to make more money over the summer.

Tonight, I have to take my daughter to a family session of religion class.  It's called Faith & Fun, and  it happens on the fourth Monday of every month.  The kids play games and watch a movie.  The adults sit in church and listen to presentations.  The title "Faith & Fun" is a little misleading.  There ain't a whole lot of fun to be had, although the baked goods people bring almost make it worth the effort of showing up.  I will be having no fun tonight, however.  I can tell by how tired I feel at the moment.  Pretty dog tired.  (I have no idea what dogs have to do with being tired, but it's an expression that pretty much suits my current physical state.)

I'm eating a macadamia nut cookie right now.  I'm hoping it will give me a little more energy.

Saint Marty needs ... some ... caffeine ... or ... he's ........ going ........ to ....... fall ...... asleeZZZZZZZZ

I know how she feels

April 23: "Carol" Dipping, Creating a Final, Nervous Answer

As always, I will do a Carol dip this twenty-third day of April, Monday, in the year of our Lord 2012.  I do this simply because my brain doesn't fire on all pistons on the first day of the work week.  It's easier simply to come up with a life question, and then let Charles Dickens do the rest of the work.  My only job is to interpret the answer I receive.  I don't know why, but I get nervous about these random responses from the book of Carol.  As if they really mean anything or hold any power over my future.  I just hate gloomy, negative prospects.  Even when I was a kid, I would shake the Magic 8 Ball until it gave me the answer I wanted.

Before I shake the Magic 8 Ball this morning, however, I just wanted to share my agenda for today.  The most important task I have to complete is creating the final exam for my mythology class.  It shouldn't take too long, but I hate the whole process.  I don't like trying to design a test that basically demonstrates two things.  First, how much my students have learned/not learned during the second half of the semester.  Second, how effective/ineffective I was as a teacher during the second half of the semester.  Obviously, these two factors are very closely related.

Now that I have that off my chest, I will move forward with my question for the Christmas Spirits this early a.m.:

Will I ever win the Nobel Prize in Literature?  (Hey, I might as well go for the gold.)

And my answer from A Christmas Carol is:

The cold became intense.  In the main street at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered:  warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture.

Well, I like the scene being described.  In the face of glacial deprivation, a bright beacon of warmth shines forth.  Like moths to a candle, people gather around this flame, warming themselves, finding pleasure in its nascent greatness. 

Yes, Virginia, there will be a Nobel Prize in your future.  Your literary genius will not be denied by the world.  Young and old alike will celebrate your fame and talent in rapture.  In a cold, dark world, you will be a source of hope and light.

Saint Marty better start working on his acceptance speech.

I gotta get a copy of this book

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22: A Little Extra, New Art, New Cartoon

It really doesn't seem like I've accomplished a whole lot today, even though I have.  I spent a couple of hours taking care of school work--e-mailing students, setting up the electronic class evaluations for the next two days.  Yes, it is almost the end of the semester.  I need to find another way to make some money for the next four months.  There's no way I will be able to completely replace the university income, but maybe I'll be able to earn a little extra.  Somehow.

The only way I've come up with, so far, is with my art work.  I need to get some of it mounted and framed.  I've done two new drawings, "The Wren" and "Robert Frost."  Both would pair nicely with a couple of my poems.  Some signed prints might generate some money.  I guess I'll just keep drawing and writing.  I know there's probably a way to sell stuff through this blog, but I'm not sure how.  Any suggestions?

If Saint Marty sounds a little desperate, he is.

The Wren

Robert Frost

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21: Unearthly Visitor, Sister's Birthday, New Cartoon

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside.  Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed.  The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them:  as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.

I really love this description of the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Not because of the way the spirit actually manifests itself, coming to Scrooge at his bedside in the middle of the night.  The thought of some "unearthly visitor" suddenly staring down on me while I'm sleeping kind of scares the crap out of me.  No, it's Dickens' little appearance at the end of the paragraph, standing at our elbows like some extra Christmas phantom.

Whenever I write a poem or essay or story or blog post, it's a little part of myself that I'm sending out into the world.  Think about it.  Wherever you are reading this right now--sitting on the toilet, surfing the Net naked in bed, sipping a Diet Coke on the beach, sneaking a look at your desk at work--I'm right there with you, sharing the experience.  Depending on what you're doing, that may be comforting or embarassing.

The poet Edward Hirsch once compared writing a poem to scribbling a note on a piece of paper, stuffing the note in a bottle, and throwing the bottle into the ocean.  Eventually, that bottle washes up on some shore, and a stranger comes along, opens it up, and reads the note.  Any writer who says s/he doesn't think about that stranger is a liar.  All writers want to be read.  Just ask J. K. Rowling or Stephen King.  (Of course, they both could publish their grocery lists, and people would buy them.)

Today is my sister's birthday.  I forgot about it until this morning.  For some reason, I thought it was next week.  You, kind stranger on the beach, should have reminded me to get a card and a gift.  It's your fault.  The next time my sister's birthday rolls around, send me an e-mail reminder.  We will be having a party for her tonight.  By that time, I will have purchased something to commemorate her birth.

From now on, Saint Marty is going to blame his disciples for his mistakes.  After all, saints don't make mistakes.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20: Another Night at McDonald's, Dance, Drawings

Well, here I sit at McDonald's on Friday night again, waiting for my daughter to be finished with her dance classes.  My hooligan son is running around the play area, and I am staring at the remnants of the meal we just demolished. 

I'm also trying to restore the settings on my iPad that my son somehow managed to demolish this afternoon.  Here's a good rule to follow:  never let a three-year-old play around on your iPad unsupervised.  In thirty seconds, that three-year-old can do things to your iPad that will take you hours to fix.  I'm more than a little annoyed at the moment.  I'm actually going to have to ask my eleven-year-old daughter to restore my settings for me.

All this week, I've been trying to do my artwork to accompany my poetry.  I have a couple more pen drawings to share with you this weekend.  Now, I have to figure out how to mount and frame my poems and art together.  I have to enlist the services of my sister for that stage of the process.  She's really good at stuff like that.

It has been a fairly long day.  Still have to clean my house tonight.  For some reason, I can't seem to relax on the weekend when the cleaning isn't done.  I look around the room and just see work to do.  My wife was kind enough to clean the bathroom for me this afternoon.  That's a blessing.

Saint Marty doesn't have to scrub any toilets tonight.
I love me a clean toilet!

April 20: Marley's Face, Knocker, Reflections

...And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change:  not a knocker, but Marley's face.

Marley's face.  It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.  It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look:  with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead.  The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless.  That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than part of its own expression.

Anybody familiar with A Christmas Carol, in movie or book form, is familiar with this moment.  Scrooge, unlocking the door to his house, has his first encounter with the ghost of Jacob Marley.  The knocker on the door becomes the head of Scrooge's dead partner.  Dickens' description is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck, especially if you're reading the book late at night or early in the morning, as I usually am.

Most days, I think , everybody is chased by ghosts from the past.  The ghosts don't even necessarily have to be the ghosts of deceased persons.  For example, this morning, I've been haunted by my pastor friend who moved to a downstate church about three years ago.  I still see him about once or twice a year.  We speak on the phone every couple of weeks.  He's still in my life, in a distant way.  However, today, he seems really close to me, his face in front of my face, his voice in my ears.  Don't know why.  He's one of my best friends.  I miss him terribly.  But, usually, he's not quite so...present in my daily existence.

On my computer at work, I have a photo collage of my kids as a screen saver.  It cycles through about 30 or 40 pictures of my son and daughter.  In some of the pictures, my children are  two years younger than they are now. That might not seem like a big difference if you're my age (between 30 and dead), but for kids, those two years are dog years--the equivalent of like 14 years.  My son is no longer the chubby baby in some of the photos, and my daughter has transformed from a goofy nine-year-old into a gorgeous pre-teenager.  It's a little depressing staring at their ghosts, reflecting on how much they have changed.

Then again, I'm not the same person I was two years ago.  I'm older, hopefully a little wiser.  I've had some difficult moments.  I've had some joyous moments.  I get tired a lot earlier.  I stay at home a lot more.  I'm different.  The person I was two years ago is a ghost.

Some of the ghosts I have in my life are pleasant, give me comfort.  I like looking at the pictures of my kids on my computer at work.  Some of the ghosts are distracting, full of longing for missing friends.  I will probably call my pastor friend some time today.  And some of the ghosts remind me how much I have learned in my life.  I love my wife.  I love my kids.  I am lucky.

Saint Marty is a haunted man.

Knock, knock!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19: Exorcised Spirits, Armbands, Norman Rae

Well, the Health Care Spirits came and went this morning without incident.  They spent a total of about two minutes in my work area before they crossed over into the light (across the hallway into the clinical area).  For two days' worth of built-up anxiety, it was quite disappointing.  It was like exorcising Linda Blair by doing the Hokey Pokey.

When I went to teach at the university this afternoon, I wore a black armband.  It was supposed to symbolize my support of the collective bargaining for the faculty and staff of the school.  As a new member of the union, I get to take part in all this cool stuff.  (Hey, I got the armband for free.  I'm all set if I have to go into mourning or get a job as a blackjack dealer in Vegas.)  I thought I was going to walk through the building and see all the professors wearing their armbands in the classrooms.  I was the only idiot with an armband on.  So much for being Norman friggin' Rae.

There's one more week of regular classes left in the semester, and then final exam week.  That probably means about two more paychecks from the university before that well runs dry.  I'm trying not to panic.  I'm trying to convince myself that we aren't going to end up homeless and hungry.  Norman Rae wouldn't be afraid.

Saint Marty might wear his armband to bed tonight, just to feel safe.

Would you believe this is my arm?

April 19: Keep His Eye Upon His Clerk, Post 700, Baited Breath

The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters...

Yes, it's another passage from A Christmas Carol about being observed.  As I said last night, I know for certain the Health Care Spirits will be manifesting themselves when the clock strikes eight bells this morning.  Therefore, when I get to work, I must make sure that my dismal little cell is in order.  I'm hoping the Ghosts won't hang around too long.  After all, I'm a very small fish in a very big ocean.

The other fact I wish to point out this morning is that this post is number 700 for Saint Marty.  Let me tell you, when I started this blog two years ago, I never dreamed I'd still be going strong in the year 2010.  It seems like I should commemorate this occasion in some way.  I would run some kind of give-away contest, but I never get a big response from give-aways.  I'll leave it up to my disciples.  Tell me how you think I should celebrate this auspicious post.  Free artwork?  An autographed copy of my book of poems?  A copy of the book 50 Shades of Grey with my hand-drawn illustrations in the margins?  Let me know.

Saint Marty is waiting with baited breath in his dismal little cell to hear from you.  He's the one in the corner, copying letters.

Which way to the pasrty?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18: No Spirits, I'll Think About That Tomorrow

Well, we received no visits from the Health Care Spirits today.  However, my manager has informed the staff that the Spirits will appear tomorrow morning, when the bell tolls eight.

I really wish the haunting had happened today.  The longer I have to wait, the more anxious I become.  I just want this observation to be over.  I want to know what to expect.  Now, I have a whole evening, night, and morning to worry about it.  I wish I could be like Scarlett O'Hara.  I'd love to be able to say, "I can't think about that right now.  If I do, I'll go crazy.  I'll think about that tomorrow."  I'm not like that.  I will think about it right now, later tonight, and tomorrow.

At least I have choir practice to take my mind off the Spirits tonight.  That will take care of a couple of hours, anyway.  Then American Idol is on, as well.  That will eat up another hour or so.  Perhaps I can simply keep myself so damn busy that I'll just fall into bed and pass out at the end of the evening.

Saint Marty needs to break out the Ouija board tonight.  Perhaps the Spirits will have some words of wisdom for him.

Saint Marty says, "Fiddle dee dee."

April 18: Haunted, Marley's Ghost, Being Observed

"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Spirits."

Yes, a short and sweet quote from the Ghost of Jacob Marley this morning.  Jacob is informing Scrooge of the impending haunts by the Spirits of Christmas.  Scrooge, understandably, isn't too thrilled with the prospect.

This morning, or this afternoon, the medical office in which I work will be haunted by three (or four or five) visitors from the health care organization that is buying the hospital that currently owns us.  Now, when I say "owns," I don't mean in the indentured servant or plantation slave way.  However, when these Health Care Spirits come strolling through my department this morning or afternoon, I will be in full "yes, sir"/"no, sir" mode.  My momma didn't raise no fools.

These kinds of walk-through observations make me quite nervous.  Even though I'm doing everything properly, following all of the rules, I always feel a little judged.  I know that if any of the Health Care Spirits asks me a question, I will be on the defensive, wondering if I've done something wrong.  It will be all I can do not to fall on my knees and beg, "Please, don't fire me!  I'll do better!  I swear I will!  The Spirit of your health care organization will thrive within me all the year!"

Perhaps I'm being melodramatic.  I have been accused of that.  I'm not taking any chances, however.  This is one Cratchit who can't afford to lose his situation.

Saint Marty is on his best behavior.

The guy at the computer sort of looks like me...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17: Sun Breaking Through Clouds, "Silence of the Lambs," Better Mood

It's still freezing cold outside, right around 32 degrees.  However, the sun is breaking through the clouds, and the snow is starting to disappear.  It's not all gone, but when I went to my car after I was done teaching this afternoon, the asphalt around the car was dark with melt.

That pretty much describes my state of mind this afternoon.  After yesterday's 24-hour crap fest, I'm beginning to see some sunlight.  It always amazes me how disappointments seem to congregate like fish in schools.  They find a nice little cove and decide to hang out.  My family's cove was teeming with rejection minnows yesterday.  (I never even mentioned the car problems I had on my way home last night.)

This week, I'm screening Silence of the Lambs for my mythology classes.  You may wonder what Hannibal Lecter has to do with fairy tales.  Well, it's all there if you're looking for it.  Clarice starts the movie running through a deep, dark woods.  Think Little Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma's house.  Clarice's last name is "Starling," a bird.  In many fairy tales, people are transformed into feathered creatures.  There's no better Big Bad Wolf than Anthony Hopkins, who communicates in riddles.  And Clarice has to rescue a damsel in distress by defeating a monster.

I bet you'll never watch that movie the same way again.

Anyway, I'm in a better mood this afternoon.  I'm getting to that point where I can say "it's an honor just to be nominated" without gritting my teeth.  Listen:

It's an honor just to be nominated.  It's an honor just to be nominated.  Year after year after year after year after...

Maybe Saint Marty needs to work on it a little more.

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

April 17: The Phantom, More Bad News, Gloom

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.

I think you can all guess which spirit the above passage describes.  Yesterday's rejection fest didn't end when I got home.  I got a call from a friend shortly after I walked through the door, and she told me I didn't win an award for which I was nominated.  I've been nominated for the same award several times in the past.  Each time, I have lost to a very deserving person, and this year is no different.  However, I really didn't need to receive that news last night.  It just managed to spread a pall over the rest of the evening.  This morning, I am Dickens' Phantom, scattering gloom wherever my ass happens to land.

I never begrudge deserving people success.  I may joke and complain about it, but, in the end, I can suck it up and admit defeat graciously.  However, I really thought I had a shot this year.  Meryl Streep won an Oscar a couple months ago.  The year 2013 was supposed to be my Iron Lady year.  Me and Meryl, taking home the gold.  Now, I'm just sitting in the audience, listening to another person's acceptance speech.

I hope I don't sound bitter and angry.  I hope I sound witty and sarcastic.  It's a more attractive persona.  Perhaps next year, I will deliver a stronger performance.  Perhaps next year, I could play Julia Child or Margaret Thatcher.

This year, Saint Marty has to watch Kathy Bates win for Misery.

I'm smiling and clapping in my seat

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16: Decorating for Spring in a Snow Storm

I've had a fairly productive day.  I've checked quite a few tasks off my list already:
  • Prayer and devotions--done
  • Morning blog post--done
  • Type up agenda and minutes for Worship Meeting--done
  • Work on job description for church--done
  • Correct quizzes--done
  • Record grades--done
  • Take down Easter decorations in the medical office--done
  • Put up Spring decorations in the medical office--done
  • Put together lesson plan--done
  • Work on Project Memoir--done
  • Afternoon blog post--almost done
I'm impressing myself, and I don't impress easily.  The fact that I actually got to do some writing this afternoon should indicate my level of energy and focus today.

Right now, it's snowing outside.  Hard, needling snow.  The kind that hurts when it hits your skin.  The wind is howling, and these little chunks of ice are pounding sideways through the air.  The fact that I just put up all the decorations for Spring in the medical office seems a little ironic.  I'm surrounded by flowers and birds and birdhouses inside, and I'm surrounding by gun-metal sky and wind and ice and snow outside.  That's pretty much par for the course in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  When I left for work this morning, the temperature was close to 50 degrees.  It's probably around 20 degrees at the moment.

Well, I just spoke with my wife.  Remember how I got an e-mail rejection this morning from a poetry editor?  My wife received a rejection letter from the business she interviewed with last Monday.  It's pretty much rejection all 'round for our family this Monday.  I think that's the reason I've gotten so much accomplished today.  I'm pissed.

Saint Marty would like a little helping of ice cream and hot fudge to go along with his failure.

I wish I'd thought of this cartoon...

April 16: "Carol" Dip Monday, Surprise Rejection, Publishing

Once again, it is Monday.,  If there were any way to skip Mondays and go directly to Tuesdays, I'd get on that train in a heartbeat.  But then Tuesdays would become Mondays, and I would want to skip Tuesdays and got directly to Wednesdays.  It would get quite confusing for the Julian calendar.  Therefore, I guess we'll just have to leave things as they are and simply bitch about the fact that it is yet again Monday.

About nine months ago, I submitted a batch of poems to the online publication The Christian Century.  This morning, I opened an e-mail on one of my work accounts (one that I would never use for submissions), and there was my "thanks, but you suck" response from the editor.  Frankly, I'd written that magazine off about, oh, six months ago.  So today's surprise rejection was just a reminder of how much of a failure I am.  Hey, I shouldn't expect anything better on a Monday.

I think this calls for a Carol dip.  My question was prompted by my unpleasant message from The Christian Century:

Will I ever get another poem published?

And the answer from Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol is:

...Here, again, were shadows on the window-blind of guests assembling; and there a group of handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at once, tripped lightly off to some near neighbour's house; where, woe upon the single man who saw them enter--artful witches; well they knew it--in a glow!

I have no idea what the hell that means.  The passage comes right after Scrooge's visit with the Ghost of Christmas Present to the Cratchit household.  Therefore, I believe it's supposed to describe a happy moment.  It does have the "glow" of yuletide revelry.  I guess I'm going to take Dickens' handsome girls and artful witches as a positive sign.  Some editor(s) out there will fall under the spell of my art.  I will publish poetry this year.

Now, if Saint Marty can just avoid any more nasty electronic surprises, he may be able to salvage the rest of this day.

Trying to avoid shit like this for the rest of the day

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15: New Cartoon, New Artwork, Way to Make Money

Today's post is going to be mostly artwork.  This morning, I spoke to a friend who's part of a local arts organization.  I was showing her some of my more recent sketches, and she told me I should participate in an art walk at the end of the month.  I could frame my sketches and sell them.  She said I could easily get $50 or more for a mounted and framed print.

Well, I've decided to give it a shot.  The $50 thing sold it for me.  Today, I'm including some of my other art, to prove that I can do other stuff besides cartoons.  If you have time, drop me a comment and tell me if you would want a print of some of this stuff.  I'm thinking about putting the sketches together with poems I've written.

Saint Marty's a little excited, if you couldn't tell.


Easter Lillies

The Frog Princess

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14: Judgement, Old Friend, New Cartoon

"It's the truest word that ever was spoke," said Mrs. Dilber.  "It's a judgement on him."

"I wish it was a little heavier one," replied the woman; "and it should have been, you may depend upon it, if I could have laid my hands on anything else.  Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value of it.  Speak out plain.  I'm not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to see it.  We knew pretty well that we were helping ourselves, before we met here, I believe.  It's no sin.  Open the bundle, Joe."

Mrs. Dilber and her cohorts are some of the most unsavory characters in A Christmas Carol.  They are people who have plundered Scrooge's body and death chamber for items to pawn for profit.  They steal things like cufflinks and silk shirts and blankets and bed curtains.  Scrooge was so cruel and stingy during his lifetime that Mrs. Dilber and company consider their theft "no sin" against him.  They are his judges, his jury.

I like to judge people.  It makes me feel morally superior to them.  That doesn't make it right.  In fact, I would say that judging people is one of the worst offenses one person can commit against another person.  It's simply a way of building walls in your life, keeping others at arm's length.  I do it.  I would guess, unless you're someone like the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, that you do it, too.

We judge people because of race or gender or sexual orientation.  We judge people because of social station.  Addiction.  Mental illness.  Weight.  Age.  We do it because it's easier than opening the door, letting the person in.  We do it because we don't want to share our table with a drug addict or schizophrenic or prostitute.  I think there was a guy who lived about 2000 years ago who broke bread with just this segment of society.  Frequently.

This morning, I ran into an old friend.  I hadn't seen her for close to five years.  I used to be friends with both her and her ex-husband.  Their divorce was bitter and nasty.  I even got called as a character witness during the court proceedings.  It was not pleasant being put in the middle of that mess.

I spoke with my old friend for close to twenty minutes this morning.  We got caught up with each other's lives.  She didn't even know I had a three-year-old son.  I didn't know she was the superintendent of a local school district.  As we were talking, I was remembering all the shit that came down during her divorce, all the judgement that was thrown back-and-forth.  I got swept up in it, too.

This morning, I realized how stupid all that judgement was.  My friend is a lovely person who had/has problems, just like the rest of us.  I enjoyed seeing her.  I enjoyed learning about her twin girls and new husband.  I enjoyed hearing about her new job.  I enjoyed realizing that she's a good person still.

Saint Marty is putting down his gavel and stepping down from the bench.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13: End of Friday the 13th, Poetry, Saint Martin

Well, I'm sitting at McDonald's with my son and wife, waiting for my daughter to get done at the dance studio.  It's been a heckuva day, and it's not even close to being over.  Once I get home and put away my groceries and give my son a bath and put him to bed, I still have to clean my house.  I didn't clean last week because it was Easter.  I had too much to do.  This week, I have no excuse.

The poetry with the fifth graders went really well this morning.  I got the greatest compliment from my daughter when I picked her up after school.  She came up to me, kissed me, and said, "Everyone thought you were really cool."  High praise indeed..

My sister sent me an e-mail this evening, telling me that today is the feast of Saint Martin.  The real Saint Martin, who was a pope and martyr.  Of course, the real Saint Martin didn't have a blog or an iPad.  What he had was a really cool name and, I imagine, a pretty kickin' wardrobe.  I've always liked the papal mitre.  I look good in hats.

Saint Marty is going to have to settle for being "really cool" and a cheap beret.

Yes, but can he pull off a beret?

April 13: External Heat and Cold, Friday the 13th, 5th Grade Poetry

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge.  No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him.  No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.  Foul weather didn't know where to have him.  The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect.  They often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

This description of Scrooge is one of the first in the novel.  It sets up his character fairly well.  It also sums up my mood this morning, which is just a continuation of last night's rain of crap.  Since my post from last night received no hits, I'm assuming its title was a little off-putting.  Perhaps nobody wants to read something that's called "Shitty Day."  Perhaps I should have titled it "Feng Shui for Beginners" or "Chocolate Chip Cookies, Zero Calories."  Then I probably would have received about a million page views.  I really have to be more careful about titles, I guess.

I've been trying to shake my shitty mood  of yesterday, but I haven't had much success.  It seems I'm sort of like Scrooge at the moment.  Nothing's going to alter my attitude.  Not rain.  Not snow.  Not fog.  Not sleet.  It sort of stems from some of the things I wrote about last night.  It sort of stems from something else that happened.  I'd rather not get into details.  I will make just one comment about it:  I don't like being told "everyone" in a group has decided to do (or not do) something that effects me.  Especially when I'm supposed to be a part of "everyone."  However, since "everyone" has decided, I have to agree to "everyone's" choice, not matter how much I think it sucks.

I guess that explanation is non-specific enough to confuse all my readers.  Let's just leave it alone.  I'm in a bad mood.  I'm in a mood that would give Scrooge a run for his money on Christmas Eve.  That bad.

I do need to somehow have a change of heart before 10 a.m.  I'm supposed to go to my daughter's school and teach poetry to two fifth grade classes.  The idea of teaching these fifth graders makes me a little nervous.  I've already got the lesson planned out, but I'm not sure how it's going to work.  I've never taught kids this old before.

So that's how I'm doing this morning.  I'm cranky, a little tired, and nervous.  Plus it's Friday the 13th.  When my daughter heard I was coming to teach her class poetry on Friday the 13th, she looked at me seriously and said, "Jeez, Daddy, couldn't you have chosen a better day?"

Saint Marty's hoping for a little luck (and happiness) today.

Even this guy's in a better mood than me!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12: Shitty Day

The title says it all, folks.

It seems I can't make any person happy today.  I just received an angry phone call from my sister.  My daughter had a project to work on over spring break, and she never mentioned it to me until last night.  It involves collecting seven pictures of herself, from birth until her present age.  My sister is the keeper of the photographs, and she's pissed.  At me.

I had a meeting this afternoon with the person from church who's in charge of job descriptions and personnel.  It was an OK meeting.  It all boiled down to updating my job description at church, which has gone from organist to children's choir director to something else over the years.  Basically, the committee is considering reducing or eliminating my salary.  This weekend, I have to type up a list of duties I perform at church, and how many hours a week I spend performing said duties.  When the person (who is incredibly nice) asked me what I would do if my salary were eliminated, I told him, "Well, even though I'd hate to do it, I'd probably have to look for an organist job at another church.  We depend on that money to pay the bills."

Therefore, this weekend, I have to create a job description for myself that justifies my salary.

Those two particular experiences have made for a pretty shitty day.  I don't even have the energy to come up with something witty or sarcastic or ironic.  I just want to go home and go to bed and not get up until 2013.

Saint Marty is tired of all the general shittiness of today, and it isn't even Friday the 13th yet.

Can't think of anything witty here, either

April 12: Remarkable Quality, Fifteen Bob, Blessed

...It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker's), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch.  Think of that!  Bob had but fifteen "Bob" a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!

I know you're probably sick of me writing about being grateful for the blessings in my life.  I think the reason I keep coming back to this subject is pretty simple:  I fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself all the time.  I start focusing on finances, or the size of my house in comparison to the size of my family, and suddenly I'm caught in a spiral of negativity.  If I let it go long enough, I practically have to gnaw off my foot to escape.

Butter my butt and call me blessed!
Most people are like me in this respect.  It's easy to get wound up in the problems of life--bills, marital issues, school, whatever--and forget about the good things.  Scrooge is amazed at the Cratchit family's ability to celebrate Christmas in the face of abject poverty.  The goose is small.  The house is tiny.  Tiny Tim is critically ill.  Bob's salary is inadequate.  Yet, the Ghost of Christmas Present blesses the Cratchits, squeezes the bulk of his supernatural goodwill into the Cratchit abode.  And that's the miracle.  Goodwill fits in any space.

I am not Bob Cratchit.  I make a little more than fifteen bob a-week.  I don't have a sick child.  Our house, though small, is warm and keeps out the snow and rain.  When the Ghost of Christmas Present happens to stop on my threshold, he sprinkles my family with his torch.  We have a good life.  We have food and clothing.  In a few weeks, we're all going on a trip together.  I just need to remind myself of these facts.  These blessings.

Join Saint Marty in this little mantra:  "I am blessed.  Ooommmmmm.  I am blessed.  Ooommmmmm.  I wish I was more blessed.  Ooommmmm.  I wish I had more money.  Ooommmmmm.  I wish I had a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house.  Ooommmmm..."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11: Singing and Dancing and Praying

I don't know why I titled  this post with a list of gerunds.  Perhaps it's because I just finished watching the film Enchanted with my mythology class.  (If you haven't seen it, Amy Adams does a LOT of singing and dancing).  Perhaps it's because I have to go to choir practice this evening, which, obviously, involves a LOT of singing.  Perhaps it's because I didn't say my prayers this morning, and I didn't read my devotions, either.  Therefore, I have a lot of praying to do this afternoon.

Perhaps it's because I've always loved stage and movie musicals.  I grew up listening to my mother's Rodgers and Hammerstein LPs.  I bet I was the only second grader who knew all the words to "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" and "If I Were a Rich Man."  I love watching people break into spontaneous song and dance.  I thought it was normal.  I used to wait for my grade school teachers to suddenly bust out into a chorus of "The Impossible Dream" or "I Could Have Danced All Night."  I think the world would be a happier place if we could all be so honest and open about our emotions.

Instead of contemplating suicide, we could sing a chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone."  Instead of gang violence, we could have West Side Story ballet dance-offs in the streets of inner-cities.  Instead of child abuse and neglect, a bunch of kids is red fright wigs could belt out "It's A Hard Knock Life."  And instead of jihadists blowing things up, a bunch of women in burkas could kick the shit out of a terrorist while singing "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair."  I'm telling you, it would work.

Anyway, that's my vision of a perfect world.  Music everywhere.  Police officers singing "Edelweiss" on the street corner.  Highschoolers tap dancing down the street.  And every person with a show-stopping number.

Saint Marty's always wanted to sing "Ol' Man River."

Time for a little "Shipoopi"

April 11: The Clerk, Situation, Meeting

The clerk in the Tank involuntarily applauded:  becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

"Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation..."

You may recognize this little exchange between Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.  It's present in almost every movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol that's ever been made, including the one with Kermit and company.  Fred, Scrooge's nephew, has just made a passionate defense of Christmas to his uncle, and Bob can't contain his support of Fred's words.  Therefore, Scrooge strikes down Bob's enthusiasm with the threat of firing him on Christmas Eve.

It's a pretty good threat, touching upon the fear of most working class people.  If you hold a job, working for the man every night and day, to quote Tina Turner, any threat to that job can strike terror into your heart and life.  I've been teaching at the university for close to 20 years.  I've been working at an outpatient surgery center for twelve years.  With that kind of longevity, I should feel fairly secure in my positions.  I don't.  My university job is a semester-by-semester contract gig.  The hospital that owns the surgery center is in the process of being sold to a huge health care system.  Nothing is secure.  Ever.  Not even church.

I wonder if I'll end up at the Smithsonian
I have to meet with the head of the committee that oversees the paid employees at one of the churches for which I play the organ on Sundays.  He's a really nice guy.  I've been playing at this church for close to 20 years.  I should feel totally safe, totally comfortable.  Church organists are hard to come by these days.  We're like the dodo bird of musicians.  With each e-mail I exchange with this committee chair, however, I feel less and less secure.  It's like going to an  interview, not knowing if you're trying to land a job shoveling manure or answering phones.

I want to believe loyalty and perseverance and hard work pay off.  I want to believe that two decades of my life can't be wiped out by a Scrooge saying, "You services are no longer required.  You can pick up your last tuppence on Friday."  Again, I have no idea why I'm feeling so unsettled, but I am.

Saint Marty has a bad case of low self esteem this morning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10: "Enchanted," Low Blood Sugar, Fork

Well, I've been screening the Disney film Enchanted for my mythology classes this week.  One of the sections I teach really got into it.  The other section I teach already thinks I'm hopelessly lame, I think.  Therefore, showing that section Enchanted is like screening The Color Purple for a Ku Klux Klan meeting.  They are not impressed.

My thoughts are a little muddled right now.  I was having a slightly low blood sugar when I got back from school.  I started typing this post as soon as my double vision cleared.  It doesn't take too long.  Just a cranberry juice and two fruit bars.  As SpongeBob says, "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good."  He also says, "I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready," but that doesn't really apply here.

I'm feeling much better now, and my day is almost over.  I really want to just sit back, watch Gladys Knight get kicked off Dancing With the Stars tonight, and go to sleep.

Stick a fork in Saint Marty.  He's done.

I'm not lame.  I'm not.  Really.

April 10: The Future, Fear, Heap of Black

...It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.

"Ghost of the Future!" he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any Spectre I have seen.  But, as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart.  Will you not speak to me?"

Did someone order small pox?
Obviously, this passage concerns Scrooge's first encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  As Scrooge himself admits, he fears this ghost more than any of the others he has met during the course of the novel.  Of course, Dickens' depiction of the future (think Death from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life) does not exactly instill confidence.  In the Monty Python movie, Death is introduced like this:  "He's here about the reaping?"  In A Christmas Carol, the Future basically walks around showing Scrooge scenes of death and grief.  Not really pleasant stuff.

I think most of us fear the future.  I say "most" because I don't like to think that I'm the only person in my crowd who finds the "Yet to Come" a little, well, terrifying.  There's a reason why Dickens describes the third Christmas Ghost as a "great heap of black."  Black is impenetrable.  Black is mysterious.  Black is scary.

If you haven't noticed, things like taxes and finances and job interviews make me nervous.  It's the uncertainty.  The questions.  Will there be enough tax money to make it through the summer?  Will I get a raise with the new university contract?  Will my wife get a second job interview?  I prefer things a little  more definite.  Remember that I'm the guy who likes to know what he's having for dinner when he wakes up in the morning.  (For the record, Cornish pasties.)  I'm not John Keats, and I don't like living with negative capability.

The future doesn't speak.  It just points its bony finger and nods.

Therefore, I have Scrooge's back on this one.  I don't like the future.  Perhaps the reason Scrooge is such a skinflint is his uncertainty of what is to come.  He's been damaged by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  He's the ant, putting away food for some unspecified winter, while the rest of us jump around like stupid grasshoppers.  I'm not saying we should all be assholes to every person we meet.  I'm saying there's a little Scrooge in all of us when it comes to the dusky shroud and ghostly eyes of the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come.

Saint Marty just gave himself a full-body shiver.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9: Results of Taxes and Interview, Deconstruction

Well, the tax appointment went well.  It would have went better if there was a little bit more money coming back from the government, but I'm not complaining.  We're getting a substantial enough refund to make a dent in the summer finances.

My wife's job interview (all twenty minutes of it) went well, she thinks.  She will hear about a second interview by Friday.  She said the people were friendly and the working environment relaxed.  We'll just have to wait and see.  (As my three-year-old son says, however, "Waiting is not my favorite.")

You will notice that the second part of the post title is "Deconstruction."  The deconstruction to which I'm referring has little to do with Jacques Derrida and company.  It has everything to do with deconstructing the Stations of the Cross at church.  Now that Holy Week is over, the tables and displays need to come down tonight.  Thus, for an hour or so this evening, I will be engaging in an exercise of deconstruction.  You may interpret that text in any way you see fit.  I interpret it as a lot of drudgery at the end of a long day.

Saint Marty is both the signifier and the signified tonight, folks.

Derrida isn't going to help take down those signifieds of the Cross

April 9: "Carol" Dip Monday, Taxes, Job Interview

If it's Monday, it must be time for another Carol dip.  My question is directly related to an appointment I have this morning with my tax person.  That's right, I haven't done my taxes yet.  There's a reason for this fact:  the tax return money has to help me pay the bills through the summer.  If I had my taxes done in January or February, like most people, my tax return money would already be gone.  That would be bad.

My wife also has a job interview this morning at 9 a.m.  She's probably already on the road.  I'm hoping it goes well for her.  She needs a little shot of self-esteem right now.  She's been in short supply of it for a while.  If you think of it, send some positive thoughts/prayers her way.

So, getting down to business, my question this morning is:

Are we going to get enough tax return money to make it through the summer?

And the answer from the book of Carol is:

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

Well, that's a pretty pleasant passage, taking place in the stave about the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Aside from the final stave of the novel, this one is the most happy, filled with parties and laughter and love.  I can almost feel the Ghost standing over me, sprinkling my head with yuletide joy from his torch.  Therefore, I'm going to interpret this answer as a big, fat "yes."  There's going to be abundance of warmth and gladness in the coming summer months.

That was relatively easy and painless.  I actually like my answer.

Saint Marty couldn't ask for a better start to his day.

Lay some goodness on me!