Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31: Over and Done, Overdone, Happy Halloween

I am coming to you from the flipside of trick-or-treating.  We are over and done.  We are overdone.  My daughter is at dance class, and the chocolate is being counted.  It was a decent haul.  Handfuls of chocolate--Snickers and Milky Way and Twix.  It's going to be a good night at Saint Marty's house tonight.

My son was very energetic the first half hour.  The second half hour, he was dragging his little pumpkin around.  By the third half hour, he was one tired little fireman.  One of his big problems was that he refused to let me empty his pumpkin of the candy he collected, so he was lugging around about 25 extra pounds of sugar-coated weight by the end of the expedition.

We had people stopping their cars next to us to admire my daughter's Little Red outfit and my son's fireman duds.  I have to say, I didn't see another girl or boy with the same costumes all night long.  That will make my sister, who purchased the outfits, quite happy.  My sister tends to be a little competitive about things like that.  Unlike me.

After I pick my daughter up from dance class, we have one more stop to make.  We're going to visit the house of our friends who cooked us that great meal of Indian food on Friday.  My daughter promised to stop by to show off her costume.  It shouldn't take too long.  Then it will be home and Dancing With the Stars.  Hopefully we won't miss too much of it.

This post is the last of October.  Tomorrow morning, when I sit down to type, it will officially be the holiday season.  And I still need to get to work on my Christmas essay for the radio station.  I just got an e-mail about it this afternoon.

Saint Marty's gotta get his yuletide on.

A good haul for Saint Marty

October 31: Trick-or-Treating, Little Red, Fireman

Well, I'm just about to leave work to get ready for trick-or-treating tonight with my daughter and son.  She will be Little Red Riding Hood, as I've said before.  He will be a fireman.  This year, our time frame is limited.  My daughter wants to attend her dance class at 7:30 this evening, so that gives us about two and a half hours to hit all the houses we usually hit.  I'm a little skeptical that we'll be able to do it.  However, they will go out and collect as much candy for me...I mean, for possible.

I don't know why, but I've just been blindsided by a terrible mood this afternoon.  I've been going around humming the song "I Hate People" from the musical Scrooge.  Everybody's just getting on my nerves big time.  I hope I can shake it off.  I'm going to have to be nice to the people handing out candy, smile and say "thank you" when my kids forget to be polite.  That's a parent's job on Halloween, to make up for a kid's bad manners.  At the moment, however, I'm not in a grateful place.  I'm more in a hand-me-the-Milky-Way-or-I'll-flatten-your-tires place.

I'm trying to get my work done so I can leave a little early.  My goal is to be home by around 4:30 p.m.  That should give us plenty of time to ransack the neighborhoods for candy and make it to dance class.  I'm just looking forward to the chocolate, since I haven't been buying much of it lately.  Money's been a little tight.  Well, time to get my little ghouls ready. 

Saint Marty needs him some Milky Way.

That's what I'm talking about

October 31: Happy All Hallows Eve, Changing the Seasons

All Hallows Eve in upon us. 

Last night, when I got home, my daughter realized she didn't have the tights or shoes for her Little Red Riding Hood costume.  Thus ensued an hour of frenzied searching.  Tears (my daughter's).  Sobs (my daughter's again).  A desperation trip to the local Shopko to purchase a new pair of shoes (my sister made this Hail Mary pass).  Shopko wasn't open.  By this time, my daughter was in the shower, muttering to herself about how her life was ruined.  My wife was planning a trip to Shopko this morning to pick up some footwear that was appropriate and wouldn't induce blisters when the phone rang.

"I found them," my sister said, sounding sheepish.

"Where?" I yelled over my daughter's weeping in the bathroom.

"In my bedroom, where I was keeping the costume," my sister said.  "Sorry, I should have looked closer."

I said a silent prayer of thanks to Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost things.  I'd just shot him a quick plea a few minutes before, something along the lines of Please save me from spending another thirty bucks on shoes, Tony.  "Great," I said to my sister.  "Thanks for calling."  I hung up and went to give the news to my daughter, who was washing her hair and planning to change her name and move to Zaire so she wouldn't have to wear tennis shoes to her Halloween party at school.

This morning, when I got to work, I took down the Halloween decorations and put up the Thanksgiving decorations.  Bye bye, jack-o-lanterns.  Hello, turkeys.  This changing of the seasons may seem premature to some of you.  It won't be the first time I've done something prematurely.  (Yes, that was intended to be a rather inappropirate double entendre.)  However, I like being ahead of the game.  I feel like I've just accomplished the first task of the holiday season.  Last night, I got the name of the person from my family for whom I'm supposed to get a Christmas present.

The holly and ivy are on the way!

Marty, patron saint of prematurity.

Speaking of being premature...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30: Wife's Birthday, Betty, New Cartoon

Today is my wife's birthday.  Because of our finances at the moment, she and I mutually decided to refrain from buying presents for each other this year.  The trip to the Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells a couple of weeks ago was our birthday and anniversary presents to each other.  We did, however, go out to lunch at Subway after church to celebrate her day.

I haven't really done a whole lot else this afternoon.  My daughter is over at a friend's house at the moment.  My wife and son are taking a nap.  And I'm drawing cartoons and blogging.  After I'm done on the computer, I intend to grade some quizzes.  I know, I know.  You wish you could switch lives with me.  Sorry, there will be no Freaky Friday moments with Saint Marty.

I do have a new cartoon for you.  It's the final Halloween Confessions of Saint Marty and touches upon my boyhood crush on Betty from the Archie comics.  I always liked Betty better, even though Veronica was the naughty one.  Don't ask me why.  Perhaps it's the whole purity thing.  Plus, Betty looked much hotter in a bathing suit.

Saint Marty has some grading to do now.  He's really living on the wild side.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29: Too Much Wine, Pumpkin Carving, New Cartoon

So, we went to our friends' house for dinner last evening.  Indian food.  Curried chicken and lots of chutney.  And a couple of bottles of wine.  It was a great night, but I think I indulged in a little too much of the beverage of ferment.  I was feeling no pain when I got home.  I can tell I'm getting old, however.  When I used to drink as a younger person, I would get mellow and happy.  Last night, I got sleepy.  I just wanted to see the cold side of a pillow when I hit the front door.  But the visit with our friends was great, and our kids behaved themselves, for the most part.  My daughter even wanted to spend the night, the little traitor.

This afternoon, we carved our jack-o-lanterns.  Both of the face designs came from my daughter.  One is a vampire, replete with fangs and widow's peak.  The other is a puking jack-o-lantern, making heavy use of pumpkin guts.  Something like this...

You get the idea
The pumpkins are carved.  The seeds are cooking in the oven.  The candy is bought and out of reach of little hands, for the moment.  (I admit it.  I snuck a few Crunch bars.  They're just so good.)  I think we are ready for the big night.

I have a new cartoon for you today, in keeping with the Halloween theme of the weekend.  Hope you enjoy it.

Saint Marty hears those Crunch bars calling to him again.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28: Healthier Daughter, Saint Faro, Gifts

Good news.  My daughter is doing much better this morning.  She still has a sore throat, but no fever and tiredness.  In fact, the last time I spoke with her, she was dancing with the Wii game at home.  That tells me she’s feeling much better than she was last night, when all she wanted to do was lie on the floor and moan.
I spent a portion of the morning rewriting my latest poem, the one I posted yesterday.  I wasn’t quite happy with the original ending.  It just didn’t hold together for me.  I’m much more satisfied with the poem now.  It has a lyrical quality it didn’t have before.
I always wonder if any of you disciples give a shit about my struggles with writing and rewriting.  A friend (and regular reader of Saint Marty) told me last night she skips the poems when I include them.  She saw the title “Dissecting Penelope,” but she never read it.  I know poetry isn’t everybody’s thing.  In fact, given the small sales of most books of verse, I’d say poetry is hardly anybody’s thing.  I hope, however, that disciples of my blog don’t get annoyed with my poems. 
For the first year I was posting, I never included any poems.  I was afraid of scaring people away.  Then came this year's Lenten challenge of writing one poem a day, Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  Since that time, I’ve continued the practice of posting new poems.  It’s helped me to continue writing regularly, and it’s helped me to not fall into the Emily Dickinson trap—you know, becoming agoraphobic and sewing my poems into little books that will be discovered after I die.  I feel like I’m actually writing for someone other than myself.
I also try to keep in mind that God gave me this gift of writing, one of the few gifts I have.  I want to use it as best I can.  That’s the reason I started Saint Marty.  That’s the reason I continue Saint Marty, to somehow make a positive difference in the world with my writing, even if it’s providing students with poems to plagiarize.  (By the way, everything on this blog is copyrighted.) 
One of today’s patron saints, Faro, did the same thing.  No, he didn’t write a blog that cured people of cancer.  No, he didn’t write poems about ecstatic visions of the Virgin Mary doing the “Macarena.”  Faro was raised and lived in royal courts.  He married and was on his way to becoming a typical, seventh-century patrician.  But Faro knew he was destined for something else.  So, he and his wife separated, and he became an ordained monk.  He spent the rest of his life bringing converts to Jesus and caring for the poor.
Faro knew what he had, his wealth and possessions and abilities, weren’t his.  He knew he had to put them to work for God, and that’s what he did, giving up a whole lot of stuff along the way.  Now, I’m not saying I compare in any way with a saint.  I am much too self-centered and materialistic.  Not the kind of person who will surrender his marriage and family and home and chocolate to work on the streets of Calcutta with lepers, if you get my meaning.  However, I do have a little talent with words.  That’s why I include my poems.  I hope they somehow make a difference for somebody out there.
So, if you don’t like poetry, don’t read the poems on the blog.  But if you’re struggling with life in any way, maybe my poems will provide some kind of comfort or solace.  That’s my hope.
Leave Saint Marty a comment.  Let him know what you think about poetry.  Nominate him for some kind of writing award.  A Bloggee, if there is such a thing.
I told you I was materialistic!

October 28: Vampires, Antibiotic, and Christmas

Book Club was great last night.  The book for October was Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  It’s a silly read.  Grahame-Smith is kind of a genius at mashing together actual historical events with his fictional yarn to create a sense of reality that is compelling, in a weird, Da Vinci Code kind of way.  Plus, he’s making a mint off his little trick.  Everybody in my book club who read it really enjoyed it.  One lady was surprised she actually read it all the way through.  Note:  I’m refraining from putting on my elitist, English professor persona and writing disparaging criticisms.  Sometimes, I like to just have fun when I read, too.
Well, my daughter is on an antibiotic and was still feeling pretty punky last night.  I’m hoping the medicine will start working its magic by this morning so she can at least go to her dance class this afternoon.  Plus, we have dinner with our friends tonight, as well.  I made the brownie trifle for the occasion after I cleaned up from the book club yesterday.  We’ll see how the day pans out.
I will be glad to have a few days off.  I’m tired of people complaining around me in the office.  I just had to put my iPod earbuds in again and crank up the Christmas music because there’s a really negative person behind me, going through a laundry list of what’s wrong with the world.  I have a choice.  I can either join the bitch session or ignore it.  I’m choosing the latter.  Hence, Bing Crosby is singing “White Christmas” to me right now.
I have a few writing projects I need to get started on pretty soon.  The local public radio station at the university asks local writers to read original holiday reflections every year.  I’m sure the call is going to be coming for that pretty soon, so I have to work on something Advent-ish or Christmas-ish.  Then I have to write my annual Christmas poem; I give framed copies of the poem as presents to our close friends.  Currently, I don’t have any ideas for either of those projects.  Maybe I can combine them, write an essay about writing a Christmas poem.  That might be interesting.  I kind of like that idea.
You’ve heard it here first, disciples.  Now, Saint Marty just needs to get off his metaphorical ass and do some writing.
Not as bad as I thought it was going to be

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27: Dissecting Penelope, New Poem, Sick Kid

It has been a busy morning, full of the kind of work that makes time pass quickly.  It’s almost noon, and I don’t know how the hours have escaped me.  My daughter has called me a couple of times to cry in my ear, tell me how thirsty she is.  It hurts to swallow, Daddy, she says. I can’t drink.  I really think she has strep throat.  I hate feeling this powerless. I want to be the person who swoops in and makes her feel instantly better.  I’m used to being that person.  The problem-solver.  Daddy-god.

I have to somehow get her healthy before Halloween.  It would be really good if I can get her better by tomorrow afternoon.  I hate for her to miss dance classes.  She looks forward to them so much.  And then, tomorrow night, we’re supposed to have dinner with some friends.  They’re cooking Indian food, and we’re bringing dessert.  Saturday, she has another dance class.  Then, of course, Monday is trick-or-treat day.  She’s been dying to wear her Little Red Riding Hood costume.  I shelled out $30 for her Little Red Riding Hood shoes alone.  She has to get better by tomorrow, or it messes up my, ummmmm, I mean, her life.

Okay, I’m just getting myself in trouble here.

Poem.  I have a new poem for you.  It’s sort of Halloween-ish.  It’s got a corpse in it.  It’s got a corpse and dissection.  So, it’s sort of like Frankenstein.  Or Hannibal Lecter.  Have you forgotten how self-centered I sounded a little while ago?  Not yet?  Hmmmmmmm.

Saint Marty’s just going to cut his losses and sign off.

Dissecting Penelope

We named her Penelope, after Odysseus’s  wife,
Because we liked the story of her fooling
All those guys hungry for her rosy bod,
Making them wait, sunrise to sunset,
For years as she braided, unbraided
Their fleshy need, over and over,
Held their greedy cock crows in check.
We skinned our Penelope the first day
Of the semester, stripped off her hide
The way I imagined Davy Crockett pelted
Beaver or raccoon, the occasional bear.
We started at her neck, sliced a delicate
Ring around it, then peeled the fur
Back, slow as an ice age, scraping
With a scalpel so the pink
Derma remained perfect, smooth
As birth.  We made similar cuts
Around her paws, tail, and anus,
Left small patches of her dark hair,
So that, at the end of the class period,
The muscles of her torso and legs
Gleamed under the fluorescent lights
Like a turkey on Thanksgiving morning.
My lab partners and I lifted Penelope,
Danced her across the table, made jokes
About shaved pussy, splayed her
Legs open like the girls in Penthouse.
When the bell rang, we packed her
In a box, wrote our names on it,
Her name on it, in black marker.
Put her in the storage room,
The place we dubbed the cathouse.
Every day, for the next three months,
We hauled Penelope out, pulled her
Apart, piece by piece, labeling,
Cataloging.  When we got to her womb,
Made the cut, we found them.
Three unborn kittens, alien creatures,
Amorphous as Playdough.  We scooped
Them out, laid them in front of us.
Stared at their unformed faces.
For the first time that year,
We were silent, as if we had just
Unearthed Tutankhamun or discovered
A Dead Sea Scroll.  Something ancient,
Marked with divine knowledge
About creation or life, an almost
Nativity in our teenaged hands.
I wanted to make a comment about
Our promiscuous feline, perhaps
Dig a condom out of my wallet, jam
It into her chest cavity, give a lecture
About safe sex and disease.  Instead,
We took the kittens, tucked them back
Inside Penelope without a word, covered
Them with membrane and tissue,
Left them there, the way my mother
Left pans of bread dough overnight,
To bubble, leaven, rise into Sunday
Morning.  Become something
Fermented, full of the smell of yeast.
Uncooked and waiting, always waiting,
For Penelope to finish her burial shroud.
I'm not going to use a picture of cat dissection

October 27: Heavy Traffic, Pumpkin Day, Thick Rain

Wow, traffic is way up for the blog, and I don’t know why.  Yesterday, Saint Marty attained an all-time high of 145 hits in a day.  This morning, at 5:30 a.m., the site already has 91 pageviews.  That’s an insane amount of people seeking out my brand of wisdom.  A little scary.  But I welcome any new followers and encourage you to become actual disciples of Saint Marty.  It’s easy, doesn’t cost anything, and will help you lose at least 25 pounds.  (It has to do with that diet of locusts and organic honey I encourage.)
It’s quiet in the office at the moment, since I’m the only person here.  My favorite time of the day.  In about an hour’s time, others will start showing up, and then it’s all downhill.  I have a busy day ahead of me.  Getting ready for teaching.  Teaching.  Hosting my book club tonight at my house.  My daughter woke up this morning with a sore throat, so my guess is she’s headed to the doctor’s office.  She has a tendency to get strep throat a lot.  I hoping it’s not that serious.  For God’s sake, winter hasn’t even really started yet.
Speaking of which, I saw some really thick rain as I was driving to work this morning.  Not much.  For about two minutes, very fat, white raindrops were hitting my windshield.  I’m really hoping that form of precipitation holds off until after Halloween.  I’m actually hoping for a pumpkin day that doesn’t require winter coats, hats, boots, and mittens.  In the ten years my daughter has been alive, there has been only one All Hallows Eve that didn’t require major arctic gear.  I’m not asking for seventy-degree temperatures.  I’ll accept anything in the fifties, with no wind or rain.  That’s not too much to ask.
I have been working on a new poem, which I will post later this afternoon.  In some ways, it’s a very appropriate poem for the upcoming holiday.  You’ll see what I mean.
Well, I have a quiz to construct for today’s mythology class and a writing assignment to create.
A saint’s work it never done.
Praying to avoid this scene

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26: Low Morale, Quiet Day

Morale is pretty low here at my place of work.  Coworkers are walking around as if they don't trust each other, like we're living in a police state and anybody could be the enemy.  I've been in work situations like this before, felt like Winston Smith from 1984.  The problem is that Big Brother really is watching this time.

I'm not going to get all paranoid, but if you never hear from me after this post, know that I died for the cause of Saint Marty and becoming a Blog of Note.  Not very heroic sounding, I know.  It's all I got, however.  They're going to have to tear me away from this computer kicking and screaming, then write a doublespeak memo saying how I've decided to pursue other career opportunities or gone on an extended vacation.

Saint Marty is still here for the moment.  The truth is out there.

Kind of looks like my big boss...

October 26: Upheaval, Uncertainty, Upset Stomach

I found out last night that the health care organization I work for decided to restructure 21 middle managers out of jobs yesterday.  The translation of that statement is that 21 people showed up for work yesterday morning, went to one of their normal weekly meetings, and were given pink slips.  Sorry.  Don't let the door hit in the ass on the way out.  Obviously, that kind of upheaval is going to create a lot of uncertainty, unhappiness, and upset stomachs.

This is not unusual news in a country where the health care system is so broken that normal people have to decide between life-saving medication/treatment and food for their children.  However, when it hits this close to home, I just have to sit back and shake my head, wondering why God doesn't push a cosmic erase button and start the whole universe over.

I truly don't believe this problem is a Republican or Democrat thing.  It's not a rich or poor thing.  It's a people thing.  We live in a world where people don't care about each other.  Instead of working as brothers and sisters on this little ball of mud we call Earth, we just worry about ourselves.  Community has become a dirty word, right up there with charity and tolerance.

This morning, twenty-one people are unemployed who were employed yesterday.  People with families and mortgages and kids in college.  People who had their futures planned out, maybe even had vacations planned.  Instead of thinking about these individuals, everybody where I work is scrambling around, trying to protect their jobs.   It's not about "we."  It's about "me."

This world is a messed up place.  Quoting Kent M. Keith, Mother Teresa once said, "People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.  Love them anyway."

Saint Marty's going to try to find love today.

You tell 'em, Mother.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 25: Busyness, Greek Myth

All day, I've been slowly putting together my midterm exam for my mythology class.  I register a patient, put togther a chart, then assemble another set of exam questions.  I answer the phone, then write one more true/false or multiple choice.  It was a long process, but I finally finished it a few minutes ago.  I think it's fairly straightforward, but I know my students won't find it that simple.

I don't have a whole lot of wit at the moment, and not a lot of time to work up any inspiration.  I'm slightly annoyed with the way this afternoon is turning out, but that has a whole lot to do with my attitude and some dysfunction with a sibling.  Those two ingredients have placed me in a pretty foul mood.

But I won't talk any more about it.  I've always tried to use this blog to promote understanding and peace.  At least, that's my goal.  I don't always succeed, but it's what I shoot for.

Saint Marty needs to get to class now.  Be kind to yourself tonight.  Nobody else will.

Somebody's gotta do it!

October 25: Rising and Shining, Cro-Magnon

As a kid, I used to be greeted in the mornings by my father sometimes with the words, "Rise and shine."  I can understand the origin of the saying.  Obviously, the sun, at dawn, rises and shines.  However, in my experience, the term is used sarcastically, like seeing someone incredibly hungover and offering him a plate of runny eggs for breakfast.

I have never been a morning person.  The less anyone says to me in the first few hours of the day, the better.  Don't even butter your toast loudly.  I prefer to communicate like Cro-Magnon man when I get out of bed.  A typical conversation goes something like this:

Morning Person:  "Good morning, Saint Marty!"

Me:  "Unnn."

Morning Person:  "How are you today?"

Me:  "Unnnnn."

Morning Person:  "Doing anything fun today?"

Me:  "Unnnnn unnnnn."

Morning Person:  "Didn't you sleep well last night?"

Me:  "Unnnnnnnnnnn."

You get the idea.  I'm not a riser and shiner.  I'm a riser and grunter.  So, I've always wondered how I ended up with a job that gets me out of bed at four o'clock in the morning.  If you check the time stamps of my first posts on weekdays, you'll notice I usually get them written by six or seven in the morning.  That's not by choice.  I just find that if people see me sitting at my computer, pecking away at my keyboard, they leave me alone because they assume I'm hard at work.  It's my way to avoid perky a.m. interaction.

Therfore, if you see me this morning before, let's say, 10 a.m., don't be offended if I stare at you with an expression akin to a person on a strong dosage of Haldol.  Don't get mad if I make some kind of gutteral noise in response to a direct question.

Saint Marty's not the missing link.  He's just not a morning person.

Saint Marty before his shower and Mountain Dew in the morning

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24: White Noise, Blocking, New Poem

I find that I spend most of my work day trying to block the white noise of my environment.  I'm surrounded by people I don't want to be surrounded by, and I get a little tired of the chatter of the business office.  For instance, at the moment, I'm sitting with my iPod in my ears yet again, my back to everyone, counting down the seconds until I can clock out.  Maybe I'm just a misanthrope.

The poem I wrote this afternoon is about white noise and my need to filter it from of my head.  I've become quite adept at it.  Most of the time, I don't even need my iPod.  I can simply turn some mental switch in my head and be alone.  Even people I don't mind talking to become background static.  I don't know if I'd call it a gift or a survival technique.  However, it makes busy days in the workplace tolerable.

This post is not a bitch session.  It is an explanation of the inspiration for my poem.  I haven't decided if it's any good.  It's sort of inspired by the collection of poems Faulkner's Rosary by Sarah Vap, which is stunning, agravating, mystifying, and beautiful, all at the same time.  My poem, on the other hand, may just be mystifying.

Saint Marty is no Sarah Vap, but, as always, he's doing the best he can.

White Noise

It’s always in my ears
            Thrush and blue jay in the forest
Fills the air
            Indistinct as grains of sand
The way winter afternoon fills
            Radio.  Handel?  Zeppelin?  Kanye?
In the palm of a storm
            Horn and siren, freight truck
With fat, silencing flakes
            Voice, sharp as January

I absent it, let it quilt my day
            Shit man, shit call me
Until all I hear through its
            Phone, insistent as labor pains
Silence is what I choose
            News of Libya and Iraq and Pakistan
To hear.  White
            A new planet, expanding.  White
Bread baking in my oven
            Fist of hurricane tearing up the Milky Way

Birth of a new planet

October 24: Another BON Rant, New Tactic

Yes, I'm going to write, yet again, about not yet being chosen as a Blog of Note (BON) by the team at Blogger.  I've threatened hunger strikes, animal sacrifice, and Stephen King-like curses.  Nothing has worked so far.  Of course, the closest I came to a hunger strike was turning down seconds of Hamburger Helper for dinner, and I can't really bring myself to harm cattle or sheep, although I have killed a few goldfish in my time.  The curse thing is harder to pull off than you would think.  It involves satanic ritual, and that would screw up my chances of becoming a saint.  I would be a double loser--in my life and afterlife.  Not willing to take that chance.

Therefore, I am at an impasse.  I'm not sure where to go from here.  I have reached some milestones on Saint Marty already.  I'm approaching 10,000 page views.  I've got twelve disciples.  Each day, I'm getting close to 100 hits.  Things are going well.  When I started this little blog two Lents ago, I really never thought I'd still be at it almost two years later.  It was a slow start.  I had to beg people to become followers at the beginning, and I forced friends to sit down at their computers and read each post.  Wait, that hasn't really changed.  Of course, Saint Marty has evolved over time.  Long-time disciples will remember the first name of the blog--Feasts & Famines.  (Sounds like a food blog, doesn't it?)  I've added poetry, cartoons, and lots of pictures.  If you go back and look at my first posts, you'll find a lot of great writing, but not a whole lot else.  Go ahead.  Look.  I'll wait.

Now, I have to decide how to make the people at Blogger sit up and take notice.  Maybe I should write each post in pig Latin.  Ouldn'tway atthay ebay nnoyingaay?  Something's gotta give here.  Any reader who has any suggestions, post them in the comment section here.  I'll try any reasonable idea, and probably unreasonable ones, as well (as long as it doesn't involve public nudity).  I didn't get the Nobel this year.  I need this shallow recognition of my hard work on Saint Marty.

Help a poor saint become a BON.

Evolution of Saint Marty

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23: Cold Day, New Cartoon, Christmas Program

On this cold, October day, I have no real enthusiasm to do much.  I couldn't go running this morning.  My cold prevents me from walking three steps without coughing up lung tissue.  I didn't sleep all that well last night.  I just couldn't get my mind to quiet down.  The greyness of the weather isn't really prompting me to undertake any monumental tasks today.  Therefore, I'm blogging.

I started practicing Christmas music with the children at church this morning.  The Christmas Sunday School Program has been my baby ever since I volunteered to do it one year.  I think I'm going on about year 55 of directing it, which is something, since I'm only in my early forties.  The kids were there.  The music was simple and good.  It's just hard to get kids excited about Christmas when all they're thinking about is pumpkins and Snickers and zombies.  Next week won't be much better.  One day before trick-or-treating.  Puh-lease.  I'll be lucky if I can get them to even sit down.

Saint Marty does have another confession for you this afternoon.  Now he's going to go take a nap, if he can work up the energy.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 22: Pumpkins, Flu Shots, New Cartoon

I just got back from a doctor's appointment with my daughter.  She got a flu shot, and the pediatrician and I had to pin her down to get the needle in her arm.  Much crying a gnashing of teeth ensued.  It was not a good scene.  I felt so bad that I took her to Shopko and bought her a new pair of shoes to go with her Halloween costume.  It's been an expensive morning.

Pretty soon, I have to drive my daughter to her dance class, and then we're going pumpkin shopping.  Last year, I made the mistake of buying and carving our pumpkins a couple of weeks before All Hallows Eve.  By trick-or-treating day, both of our jack-o-lanterns looked like residents of a nursing home.  Plus, they gave off an odor that could have come from the grave.  It was not pleasant.  Kids avoided our house because of our zombie squashes.  I guess the little ghosts and SpongeBobs were afraid the pumpkins might roll off our front porch and eat their brains.  We had a lot of leftover Milky Ways and Twixes on November 1.

Tonight, I have to attend a wedding reception for my wife's cousin who got married in Vegas last May.  I know, I know.  It's a little late, but her cousin was about seven months pregnant at the time and in no mood to party when she said, "I do."  Hence the festivities tonight.  We're going to go, get some cake, maybe a cup of punch (or something stronger, if it's available), and then leave.  It's wonderful having a young child to use as an excuse to bug out early from family get-togethers.

Saint Marty has a new confession for you today.  He hopes you enjoy it.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21: Boot prints, Small Steps, New Poem

I've been thinking about my legacy a great deal today.  I know that sounds pretty heavy.  I've been wondering what my daughter and son will have of me when I shuffle off this mortal coil.  I wonder if I'll be able to leave them money or valuable artwork or maybe a nice house.  I wonder if their memories of me will be happy, full of beaches and pizzas and games of Monopoly.  Maybe I've already made my mark.  Maybe my daughter will simply have the memory of me driving her to dance class tonight, and my son will remember me giving him a brownie this afternoon.  Maybe that's it.  Small steps.

I guess each moment we live on this planet is full of small steps.  Each small step hopefully adds up to something lasting.  Significant.  As a writer, of course, I hope, with every poem or story or essay, to make a difference in the world.  I've always thought of writing as one of the ultimate acts of hope.  If you write, you hope to communicate.  If you communicate, you strive to connect with someone.  If you connect with someone, you bring about understanding and compassion.  If you bring about understanding and compassion, you've been a good and faithful servant of the universe.

Saint Marty has a new poem tonight.

One Small Step

I think of Armstrong’s track.   Still perfect, forty years later.  Ribbed, full of shadow and lunar dust.  I think of him on that July day, on the ladder, as he practiced in his head what he would say as his foot descended.  Mouthing the words over and over until they seemed as natural as bats chasing mosquitoes, mist at Niagara.  Yesterday, as I drove home, I stared at the knuckle of moon.  Half in shadow.  I wondered if that giant leap was in the darkness.  Or if it blazed under the sun’s light, the way my son’s hand print blazed on my windshield when headlights struck the glass.  Thumb.  Index.  Middle.  Ring.  Pinky.  Palm.  A smudge he made one night when he tried to scoop the moon from the heavens.  I hope he keeps reaching, leaves constellations of himself across the sky.  Small boot prints on the cosmos.

One small step for Armstrong...

October 21: Saint Hilarion, Hermits, Solitude

Saint Hilarion is the patron saint today.  I like this guy.  Sure, he was holy, worked miracles, did all that normal, saintly stuff.  The thing that attracts me to Hilarion, however, is that he was in a constant state of retreat.  He lived in the desert in Egypt with Saint Antony for while.  Then he moved to Gaza and lived as an anchorite for 20 years.  For those of you who don't know, an anchorite is a religious hermit.  Of course, when you're a living saint, people tend to take notice, especially if you're curing people of fatal illnesses or levitating while you meditate.  Crowds of people started flocking to Hilarion.

So he fled to Egypt again.  Then to Libya.  Then to Sicily.  To Dalmatia,  To Cyprus.  Finally, to some "more deserted spot nearby."  He just wanted to be left alone.  It took one of his followers three years to find him once.  Three years.  All Hilarion wanted to do was lead a simple life, eat a few locusts, maybe some honey at the holidays, and pray.  He's like the Thomas Pynchon of saints.

I understand the desire to be left alone.  I think I've previously written a post or two about being a hermit.  Aside from a small group of friends, I could easily give up being a part of the throng of humanity.  Right now, as I sit at my desk typing, there are one or two people around me.  I have my earbuds firmly in my ears, my iPod blasting Christmas music to drown out the voices.  Oh, and my back is to everyone.  I think they get the message:  LEAVE ME ALONE.

Don't get me wrong.  I can kick back with the best of 'em.  This morning, however, I'm craving solitude.  I want to be Hilarion is some deserted spot.  Alone.  With a good book and some Bailey's Irish Cream mixed with hot chocolate.

Book Saint Marty a ticket to Cyprus.

For that long boat ride to Cyprus

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20: The Lost Week Ends

This whole week has been a blur of cold medicine and bad news.  I'm glad it has come to an end.  I am staying positive.  I will not say anything about coughing all night long or the lack of groceries at my home at the moment.  (We hit Walmart tomorrow.)  I'm not going to bitch about being rejected by The MacGuffin.  I did enough of that this morning.  I'm not going to express any negativity about the shitty economy or job situation or the fact that I'm going to die as a part-time adjunct.

Nope.  Only sunshine from me tonight.  So...that's about all I have to say.  My wife is waiting for me to arrive home.  The kids are probably driving her a little nuts.  It's too cold to play outside now.

Saint Marty, walking on sunshine tonight.  Sort of.

Gilda, telling it like it is!

October 20: Rejection, Publication, Snoopy

After work yesterday, I went to my niece's birthday party.  When I got there, my wife told me I received a letter from the poetry editor of the magazine The MacGuffin.  My heart skipped about three or four beats.

"What did the letter say?"  I asked.

"I didn't open it," my wife said.

"Did you bring it with you?"

"No," she said.  "I didn't."

So ensued an hour-and-a-half of agonized waiting.  I submitted poems to The MacGuffin in early July.  I'd literally forgotten about the poems, the magazine, the editor, everything.  When I hit the door of my house after the party, I saw the envelope sitting on the table.  It was thicker than I expected.  I wasn't sure if that was a good omen or a bad omen.  I sat on my couch and opened the envelope.

Thank you for submitting to The MacGuffin, the letter read.  Although we are unable to publish your work at this time, we thank you for the opportunity to review it.

Along with the letter was a slip of paper, asking me to subscribe to the magazine, and a slip a paper with submission guidelines.  A standard, form rejection with a solicitation for money.

After the last couple of days of sickness and bad news, I actually harbored the hope, for a few minutes, that God was throwing me a bone.  And my tail was wagging until I ripped open that envelope.  As a writer, I expect rejection.  Massive rejection.  However, that doesn't make the sting of rejection less painful.  Each one seems like a little death.  One of my friends who's a successful writer once told me that each rejection brings you one step closer to publication.  I told him he was full of shit.

Basically, every rejection I get feels like I've just been picked last for the kickball teams in gym class.  Again.  Having assumed the role of assistant poetry editor for the literary magazine at the university where I teach, I know what a difficult task it is to wade through a pile of crappy poems to find one gold nugget of verse that makes it all worthwhile.  I know that poetry editors perform a thankless task, usually for little to no money.  It's all for the love of the art.

However (you knew there was a "however" coming), I'm tired of being the literary equivalent of a dodge ball target.  God needs to cut me some slack this week.  Give me some goodness to hang on to.  Perhaps I used my year's supply of goodness last weekend at the Wisconsin Dells.  Now I'm running of empty.  This afternoon, I have a meeting with the graduate students who are associate poetry editors at the magazine.  We're going through submissions.  The power is in my hands this time to give some unknown poet the thrill of a lifetime or crush his poetic dreams into oblivion.

Saint Marty feels like sharing his pain today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19: Sad News, New Poem

I received an email update this morning from my friends about their pregnancy.  "Greg," as usual, was very understated.  He wrote simply, "Sadly, this one has passed us by."  His wife, "Jo," suffered a miscarriage.  I've exchanged a few, short electronic messages with Greg since the news.  Last night, when I saw him, he was beside himself with worry.  I could tell he'd been crying.  I can't imagine Jo's and Greg's states of mind right now.

It's one of those times in my life when I am completely at a loss for words.  Greg and Jo were so excited about their first child.  The day he told me Jo was pregnant, Greg was practically glowing.  The last time we had dinner together, they were full of joy and laughter.  Jo was past her first trimester.  The baby was supposed to be safe.  In a world full of famine and terrorism and war, these two people were embracing new life.  God's supposed to bless people like that.

Now, I know God didn't take this child from my friends.  That's not His style.  God doesn't create sadness.  He transforms it.  I know that in my head.  At the moment, however, I can't feel it in my heart.  Both times my wife was pregnant, I worried constantly about miscarriage.  My friends are now living one of my greatest fears.

In my mucous-addled mind, I'm not seeing much light in this darkness, even though I know it's there.  Somewhere.  I'm not sure about Greg and Jo's religious faith, but my biggest hope is that God seeps into the cracks and fissures of their broken hearts and fills them with love.  That's the best I can do tonight in my search for meaning and wisdom.

Pray for Saint Marty's friends, Jo and Greg, tonight.  Pray for peace of mind.  Pray for healing.  For hope.

Without Words

Some things leave me without words.
Clouds the color of spawning salmon.
A wolf spider as fat as my thumb.
Thunder in the comma of lake-effect snow.
I struggle for adequate verbs and nouns
When faced with grasshopper borealis
Or the scream of peacock at midnight.
It’s a fault line of language, deep
As hieroglyph or rune, untranslatable
By alphabet into the raw meat
Of what you feel this morning. 
When your baby’s heartbeat ceases. 
When joy evaporates like frost
From a windshield.  What can I give you
This day of ash and sackcloth?
I open my arms to you, try
To wrap them around the universe
Of your shoulders.
God blinded Saul to peel the scales
From his eyes, make him embrace
Love.  God makes me mute.
Please, take my silence.
Turn it into what you need most.
Tuna casserole.  Jim Beam.  Lasagna.
Fluke of whale.  Minaret of Taj Mahal.
I try to shape my tongue
Into a gift of gold or myrrh to leave
At your empty crib.

Transforming silence

October 19: Sicker and Sicker, Positive Attitude, Friends

If it's possible, I feel sicker with my cold today than I did yesterday.  Sicker and sicker.  It's gotten to the point where people can tell I have some kind of bug by simply talking with me on the phone.  I sound like Harvey Fierstein.  I'm beat, but not beaten.

As you can tell by that last statement, I'm trying to maintain my positivity.  As grandma used to say, "Don't let the bastards get you down."  Okay, grandma didn't used to say that.  I wish she had.  Usually what grandma said was, "Where the hell are my teeth?"

On a more serious note, I'd like to enlist my disciples in a little positive thinking for a couple I know.  They're really great people and are currently expecting their first child.  Last Friday, they went to Green Bay for an amniocentesis.  Everything went well with the procedure, but when they got home, she started spotting blood.  They've had a really rough couple of days, and last night, I think I convinced them to go to the ER.  I don't know what the result of that visit was.  I'm waiting to hear from them.  But they are both very scared.  The husband looked like a cast member of The Walking Dead when I saw him.  They need hope.  Please, if you have a few seconds today, say a prayer for them.

Sometimes God reminds Saint Marty that his life, for all the crap that's going on, isn't really that bad.

Put me in a dress and call me Harvey

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18: Getting It Done, Whistle While You Work

Well, things haven't gotten much better.  I have one of my best friends sitting behind me right now, making nasty comments about my physical age.  I am sort of prepared for teaching today, and I have a meeting at church tonight.  Let me tell you, when I get back from a vacation, the first few days really suck.  I thought I was going to ease back into life, but things haven't worked out that way.  The world is conspiring at the moment to piss me off, and I am letting it.

I need to take a step back right now and take a deep breath.  Bad news is bad only if I let it be bad.  Bad news can be good, depending on my view of it.  I've learned a few things this morning that are making me quite angry/uncomfortable.  I know that I'm allowing them to make me feel that way.  I've been sitting here, trying to find a bright spot in this cesspool of change.  Not working too well for me right now.  However, I have work to do, classes to teach, poems to review, and meetings to attend.  I need to do all these things with the least amount of bitching as possible.  All I'm doing is upsetting myself with this attitude.  Nobody else gives a horse's fart about my worries.  I just need to get 'er done.

Therefore, Saint Marty will suck it up and whistle while he works.  Or while he drowns on the H.M.S. Change.

Even these little shits whistle

October 18: I Don't Care, Busy Morning, Lost Keys

I woke up this morning.  That's the best thing that's happened so far.  I woke up.  I give thanks to God for that.  After taking my shower (cut the crap out of my face shaving) and getting dressed (need to lose weight for the pants I'm wearing), I put on my coat and got ready to leave.  Remember, this is all before 5 a.m.  That's when I realized my car keys were missing.  I went berserk.

Let me back up a little bit.  We got home around 8 p.m. last night from the Wisconsin Dells.  Between bathing children, unpacking the car and suitcases, and shuttling young ones off to bed, I somehow misplaced the keys to my automobile.  No real big surprise.  It was insanely hectic.  Remember how I said I had the best daughter in the world yesterday?  I still do, but she can get really whiny after eight or so hours in a car.  And my three-year-old son's tolerance for car travel lasts about as long as an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants.

Well, I went on an all-out key safari for about ten minutes.  I didn't find them.  Then I said a little prayer to Saint Anthony.  For those of my disciples who aren't Catholic, Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things.  Basically, if you lose something, you're supposed to say a little prayer to Tony, and he's supposed to help you find it.  He's my "go-to" homeboy, if you get my meaning.  He's never let me down.  After saying the prayer, I checked the pockets of my coat again.  Nothing.  Then I felt something odd inside my coat, right next to my chest.  I reached into the lining of my jacket and pulled out my keys.  Like I said, Tony's my homeboy.

I haven't stopped since I found those keys.  I had to drop by Walmart on the way to work to purchase something for today's potluck.  Then, when I got to work after being away for two days, I had to play a little catch-up.  Print out forms and schedules.  Arrange charts.  Figure out what the hell's going on.  Between the time I left on Thursday afternoon and this morning, someone moved the time clock.  Therefore, I had to go on a time clock safari.  I found it on the opposite side of the wall on which it used to hang.

To make a long story even longer, I have this intuition that I'm going to be a little behind all day long.  That's the way it is after a vacation, whether it's two days or two weeks.  And you know what?  I don't care.  I just don't care what happens today.  I'm tired, annoyed, and more than a little grouchy.  It feels like a Monday.

Saint Marty needs to get a new attitude, or somebody's going to end up on the wrong side of a bad limerick.

Repeat after me:  "There was a young saint named Marty..."

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17: Quick Shout Out, Number Twelve

Hello to all the disciples of Saint Marty.  This is a momentous day.  Thanks to our newest member, DIPZ, the blog now has twelve disciples.  I've been shooting for twelve for a few weeks now, and I finally made it last night.  I feel almost messianic in a way.  Anyway, welcome to DIPZ.  (I'm going to have to check out DIPZ's blog.)  Welcome to the neurotic world of Saint Marty.

Well, I have to go.  I have a long trip home ahead of me.  I'm not feeling well.  I finally came down with the walking crud my children brought home from school a few weeks ago.  My voice is not present, and my head feels like cement.  Aside from that, everything's great.

Saint Marty, leader of the twelve, lovin' life.

Twelve and counting

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16: Kalahari, Dance, Whassup

Okay, people, I know I missed posting yesterday, but whassup with the low traffic yesterday for the blog?  Seven page views.  Really?  I mean, I usually am pretty good about giving you something new every day, but yesterday, by the time I got back from the amusement park with my daughter, I was in no shape to be witty, profound, or poetic.  I was just exhausted.

On days where I don't post something new, I suggest you go back to an old post, something from a year ago, and think of it as a rerun of one of your favorite TV programs.  Call it the Best of Saint Marty Show.  For instance, one of my favorite episodes of The Bob Newhart Show is the Thanksgiving episode where he gets drunk and tries to order moo goo gai pan.  I could watch that particular episode every day and not get tired of it.  Next time you check Saint Marty and don't find anything new (which is a rarity), tune in to his moo goo gai pan rerun.  You won't be disappointed.

Tonight is our last night here at the Kalahari in the Wisconsin Dells.  My daughter has danced for two days straight, and her feet are aching.  We just got back from the indoor amusement park, and she's pretty excited.  She won 1000 tickets from one of the arcade games.  That means she got to trade those tickets in for some prizes that probably cost around 75 cents, but she was ecstatic.  Just the look on her face was worth the $78 I spent on tokens for her to win.  (I'm exaggerating a little bit there.)  Then we rode the ferris wheel and had a blast.

My last piece of wisdom for tonight is a little bit of fatherly bragging.  My ten-year-old daughter worked her butt off this weekend.  She took like 14 or 15 dance classes over the course of two days and worked like crazy.  She is a great kid, and I couldn't be prouder of her.  Plus, she's a great dancer.  And I'm not saying that just because she's my daughter.  She really has talent.

Saint Marty is allowed to be a little proud of his kid tonight.  She's the best daughter in the world.  Now, ask him about her after the trip home tomorrow, and he might have a different answer for you.  But tonight, she's aces.

Moo Goo Gai Pan episode--still the best