Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More bugs (One Deep Breath)

As I thought more on this week's prompt, I thought of the summer parade of insects, and more came...

Cricket fiddle show
Continuing Engagement!
Lasts all summer.

Waterbug dances
A surface tension ballet
Bright trout swim below.

Praying mantis sits
Eyeing juicy grasshoppers.

Seventeen years wait.
Cicadas emerge and sing!
Hymns of pure joy.

Head to One Deep Breath for more insects...

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Crossing the Great Divide

By tomorrow, I'll be in the Mississippi River system, rather than feeding into the Chesapeake Bay. As a child, I used to watch eagerly for the sign on trips telling me exactly when I'd crossed a state line, but now, the real divides speak to me more: I've crossed between the Mississippi system and the Chesapeake system many times in my life, but still the high point that divides the waters (even waters that will eventually reunite in the Atlantic) speaks to me.

This trip, too, feels like its own watershed, as though it is the permanent division between the time of my dad's most recent deployment and the rest of the surrounding time. But like the division of the waters, it is a sort of illusion, temporary. This weekend will be the first time I've seen my dad in person since the day I lost my breakfast with worry, but had to keep going anyway, only stopping in a giftshop for a t-shirt to replace the blouse I'd been wearing. I went home that afternoon, exhausted and sad, wishing that someone who had power to stop this madness could hear me.

I've written here about many of the days in between that day and this, the worries, the hopes, the relief of hearing good news of all stripes. I poured worry and hope and prayer into the blanket that so many friends and family helped make. I've taken comfort from that blanket, the act of creating it, the act of showing it to my mom, the act of sending it out. Writing about the experiences of this deployment also has been a comfort of a different sort, as have been the lovely messages of support that so many of y'all have left. Thank you.

There were days when I thought that the rising river of tears would surely sweep me away, down to the ocean, beyond hope of return, and of course, as I said, this is still not a true ending. While I wish to shut away the time, it will have echoes in days to come. But the worst for me is over. Now, it's time to work to help others lost on that flood.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


As I approach the upcoming trip to see my parents, I find myself hoping in a couple weeks to take a different kind of trip. This one is filled with preparations and doing, going, moving. The time has come, once again, for a trip to "take the waters".

I want to head for one of the local warm springs and just spend an hour soaking there, with local veggies and spring water for dinner. I want to walk around and watch the local wildlife. I want to catch up on my sleep: no sewing, no work, no worries.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Bugs and creepy crawlies (One Deep Breath)

Walking past gardens
Flaunting bleeding heart, lilies
Bumblebees abound.

Tiny butterfly
Rides warm rose perfumed breezes
Pure joy in flight

Honey bees fly low
Kissing spiky thistle blooms
Taking sweetness home.

Dragonflies shimmer
Gently skimming over the lake
Jewels on water

Waiting for the stars
Watching daring bats careen
To eat mosquitoes.

Twilight tiptoes in
Fireflies blink a green welcome
Seeking romance

Old Daddy Longlegs
Crawls up my leg to explore,
But does not bite.

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Beltway traffic crawls.
Cornflowers dancing in the rain
Delight a poet.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Learning music as an adult

Picking out "Skip to My Lou" gets ever smoother as I struggle to learn "Polly Wolly Doodle," returning to the easier song every time the going gets too rough. Even harder is practicing the strumming part - in large part because I'm still nervous about singing if there's any chance that another person might hear me (and where, exactly, can I go in my small apartment where noone can? I can hear the folks next door change their minds.) But to practice strumming the chords to the music, I need a melody line - traditionally provided by singing along. I've seriously considered buying a children's sing-along tape, just to have the melody line for the songs I'll be learning. Or maybe finding a way to get my computer to play the melody line so I don't have to sing where someone could possibly hear me. I've already tried to record me playing the melody, but recording music onto the computer is harder than you might think.

*sigh* Somehow, I've managed to convince my inner critic that banjo playing is okay. I'm allowed to produce music and it's not that bad and getting better every day. But the minute I open my mouth to sing, the internal chorus provides way too much dissonance. Maybe if I get that children's tape, I can sing and play along and that will be enough to silence the criticism from inside.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Warm red clover heads
Soaking in the summer sun.
Bees fly heavy laden.

Clouds, heavy with rain
Gather to see the lightning,
Hear the wild thunder.

Taste the wild sunshine
Running warm and tartly sweet
Cherries in the tree.

Cool, shaded treeline
Eating burning summer sun
Guards noontime naps.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Singin' Polly Wolly Doodle all the day...

No, I haven't given up on learning the banjo, but it's been slow, incremental learning. My scales are now much better, and I can play "Skip to My Lou" both by picking out single notes and by playing the chords (though the chord changes are still a little slow, especially between D and C). But so far, "Skip to My Lou" and "Wild Thing" have been it. My instructor's computer had been upgraded, and so he could not immediately make me the music sheets.

So when I looked at the notation for "Polly Wolly Doodle" tonight, my heart fell. All those eighth notes! Yikes! Help! This is obviously music for people who know what they're doing, not music for me! And yet...

"Just ignore the rest of it, and play the first few notes for me."

a-strummin' on the old banjo

Um, okay. I pull out an extra pick and use it to mark off the notes I'm going to play from those I will ignore. Okay... GABBG. Hey! That wasn't so bad. My timing was off, but the notes were easy... And wait, that second phrase is the same as the first... I still don't have the timing, but I can figure out the notes... And that really intimidating 3rd phrase isn't really so very bad...

Hey! I can sorta play something like this song! *Happy dance* And "Skip to My Lou" is sounding really good... Wow.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

One Deep Breath: Wildflowers

red clover and grass

Red clover and grass
Growing in the summer sun
Simple, free, alive.

Trillium, blue phlox
Inviting me to come back
Into the forest.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day, 2007

Now that I have over a year's worth of blog posts, it is interesting to occasionally be able to look back and see where I was a year ago. Last year, I was worried sick about my dad's upcoming deployment. Today, I am relieved and grateful that he is back and yet, what I wrote then holds today:

We are now responsible for cleaning up our act and helping the people of Iraq. That doesn't mean shooting them. It means improving lives - with things like access to healthcare, roads, bridges, etc. It means asking folks with practical on-the-ground experience of peacework how to set about trying to rebuild. It means getting Haliburton the heck out out of there, and looking at actually *helping* people to rebuild their own lives, so they are invested in it and feel that they have some power in their own life, rather than whatever influence the US wants to visit next on them. It means walking humbly and saying we're sorry.

And that still holds today. We have spent yet another year going down that wrong road, again and again. We disrupt the lives of Americans and Iraqis, and the main benefactors seem to be extremist recruiters and big money corporations. Halliburton is no longer even an American company, but still they rake in the government spending on this war with no-bid contracts, despite prior shoddy performance, misuse of government funds, and outright theft.

Money that should go to rebuilding Iraq instead lines the pockets of corrupt "businessmen" who cheat our country and our troops. Money that could be spent on healthcare, education, caring for our wounded veterans and their families, all the boring, necessary work of responsible government, instead goes to billionaires who cynically exploit our political system.

Today, there are thousands of families that are where I was last year, waiting for the dreaded day for deployment, clinging to the time remaining, and many thousands more who will be sending emails and ecards for fathers away at war. In this years proclamation of Father's Day, Mr. Bush said that "Fathers have indispensable roles to play in the lives of their children: provider, protector, nurturer, teacher, and friend." And yet, we are separating families by the thousands. Children are growing up without knowing their fathers, because those fathers are overseas, without even a clear reason for being there or plan for sucess. And some of those fathers return wounded in body and soul. Some never return alive.

This Father's Day, let us begin to do the legwork to reunite those American families that have been separated for war. Although Mr. Bush specifies that Father's Day is for honoring American fathers, let us recognize that Iraqi fathers have a role to play in their children's lives, too. Instead of sending more troops, isn't it time we begin to send experts in world development? Many of those experts are familiar with dangerous conditions. Instead of floundering about with a military "solution", let us address actual concrete issues on the ground. People are living without adequate water or sanitation. For the sake of their fathers and ours, isn't it time we started trying to find practical solutions?

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Friday, June 15, 2007


Evening in the hills.
Summer breezes lift my song,
Ruffle the cornfields.
Green forest whispers my name.
Running through memory's land...

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

On the shore...

Ocean's cold embrace,
Sensuous like a lover.
Carry me to shore.

Sitting on the rocks.
Salt fish tang on the cool wind
Blowing white waves in.

Seagulls call shrilly.
Dropped ice cream and sand
Are kissed by the waves.

Night comes so gently.
Lavender skies touch the sea.
I linger to watch.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


When black night
Caresses the sharp sliver
Of needle thin, wailing
Newborn moon,
Who kisses the piercing wound?

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Random facts about me.

I've been double tagged, by Kate of When I was a Boy, and Christine of Quiet Paths.

Rules: 1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own post about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Random things:

1) I love costuming and have since childhood: color, textures, the whole idea of dressing to give a certain character life. But fashion bores the snot out of me. Seriously. I can tell you exactly how to do the costuming for Congreve, and will happily wear said costumes, but my day-to-day clothing is basically tunics with either a pair of pants or a skirt, along with a snood/cap that is reasonably non-descript and black. On the weekend, my clothes tend to get more theatrical. Yes, I'm one of those people who showed up at the Lord of the Rings movies in costume. And I didn't even have to make anything new for them.

1a) My clothes are pretty much either thrifted or else sewn by me. Except for my shoes and socks: and I'm one of those people who wear sandals with socks year round. Mostly Birkenstocks, though I have a pair of water sandals for more active stuff.

2) I won a banjo from a radio contest. I still think this is possibly the most random thing that has ever happened to me. I had never assumed that anyone actually won those contests, for pity's sake - I mean, someone must, or they'd be arrested or something, but noone I knew had ever won anything. And this includes the time that the lady at the information desk had told me that few people were entering the drawing for the trip to Western Canada being given away at the Canadian embassy. I entered, but no go. And I'd kinda hoped on that trip.

3) I love to dance - all sorts, belly dancing, modern dance, square dance, English country dance, just about anything. And I can do the Lindy, though I've forgotten how to Charleston. I used to do both ballet and liturgic dance. I still think liturgic dance is cool, but some of the stuff that's sprung up around it wierds me out. (I recently saw an item for liturgic dance that was produced with holographic material and desert camo. Shudder.)

4) I can't eat new world peppers, or even be around when they're sliced, due to allergic reactions, though I love more than one cuisine where they are prevalent. *sigh*

5) Too much garlic is never enough.

6) I like to cook from historic recipies, and have been known to produce some decent food from them.

7) I have a good memory, which is getting in the way of my musical literacy, since I'd rather just memorize the piece than try to read the music.

8) I'm part native for sure on my mom's side, and I heavily suspect on my dad's side as well. I have scoop teeth, even. And no wish at all to be listed - I don't trust the BIA.

9) (while I'm not going as far as Kate who gave 16 facts after being double tagged, I figure I can go a bit over.) I cheat at solitaire. Wouldn't even otherwise consider cheating at a game, but once I get bored and frustrated with solitaire, I cheat a lot. Which is why I'd rather be reading anyway.

10) Despite the fact that I don't cheat, I tend to win games of Risk easily, so nobody in my family will play it with me anymore, despite the fact that I am willing to play Scrabble, which somebody else usually wins.

Anyway, in the theme of cheating - well, I plan to do so. Since this meme has gone around a bit, I'm not sure who's been tagged and who hasn't. Besides, (11) I hate drawing up lists of people (see number 8), so if you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.

Edited to add:

Okay, so maybe I'll make it up to 16, after all.

12) I drive a hybrid, and have gotten... enthusiastic on the subject. I can currently identify all of the economy hybrids on the road without seeing the hybrid mark on them (including the older Prius that doesn't look like a spaceship and the Honda Civic hybrids that pretty much look like Civics, except for small details like where the antenna goes, what the wheel covers look like, etc.) and even a few of the "performance" hybrids. Ask me about my car and I will bore you to tears. I also keep a mileage log and get disappointed if my mileage slips by even a few tenths of a mile per gallon. I do not, however, drive in the dangerous fashion advocated by extreme hypermilers who are able to get figures as high as 100 mpg out of some hybrids.

13) My school record contains notes that I am mentally retarded and am not likely to learn to read, write, or tie my shoes. As noted above, I don't tie my shoes, but I do read and write in more than one language. It also contains a "talanted and gifted" designation, which I've been known to regard with as much suspicion as the "mentally retarded" one. Not because I'm not intelligent, but because I don't regard it as a useful way of teaching children. I have long admired a former president of the Brain Injury Association of America, Allan Bergman, who noted that every child deserves an IEP.

14) Since childhood, I've had a tendency to forget my lunch (requires thinking in the morning, which I'm not good at, to remember it). I've learned to cope by keeping a small stash of emergency food like granola bars and dried fruit in the car.

15) The first thing I ever got to cook that was hot was grilled cheese sandwiches, and I am still notoriously finicky about them.

16) I hate the taste and texture of real turkey, but love vegetarian smoked turkey substitute. (Perhaps this isn't so surprising, since my parents were vegetarian when I was a child.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ignorance out of control

Oy. There's a recent gallup poll which shows some odd results on the acceptance of the theory of evolution versus belief in literal creationism. Some of the results, unfortunately, seem to indicate that the attempt by the "intelligent design" crowd has had its desired result of confusing folks.

Essentially, the polls seem to indicate that acceptance of evolution is a 50/50 proposal, intimately linked, unsurprisingly, with religious belief and behavior. Interestingly enough, another recent poll indicates that only about a third of Americans accept the literal veracity of every bit of the Bible. Unfortunately, the folks who wish to spread disinformation on scientific methods and evidence have been highly successful. Our schools are failing us - barely giving children the basics of literacy, and certainly not real scientific literacy.

How many of the people questioned understand the scientific method? That question wasn't asked. How many of the people asked could explain their beliefs in their own words? That also wasn't asked. Unfortunately, they're questions we need answers to.

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"Good Morning, America..."

"Good morning, America, how are yeh?" No, I didn't wake up this morning to the dulcet tones of Arlo. I wish.

Instead, I woke up to a collage of voices reciting various oaths of office, with one of those big, deep voices that corporate America always chooses as a spokesman talking over the rest and explaining to the thousands upon thousands of contractors in DC that Big Contractor, Inc. could handle all their IT and procurement... and all for the good of Mom, apple pie, and little league baseball.

Heck, my husband and I each work for contractors, as do many of our friends here, and that commercial upset me so much, I didn't manage my usual trick of letting the alarm go off 3 times before even thinking that maybe I should get up. (Not a morning person is a serious understatement with me. Left to my own devices, I have been known to start my workday at noon and eat my dinner at 10:00.)

In fact, once upon a time, long long ago, but not so long ago for people with memories, nor so very far away for people with strong boots, many of the jobs done today by a legion of contractors were done by civil servants. But a number of politicians didn't like this situation. The civil servants tended, as a group, to be far more loyal to their union (which had, after all, gotten them a serious sweetheart deal for benefits) than they were to any particular political party or politician. And, of course, there was that pesky Civil Service Exam, which meant that packing the ranks of the civil service was harder than it looked. And as for firing one who hadn't been caught in actual commission of a felony, well... it wasn't as easy as the politicians thought it should be.

And so in the name of all kinds of things, but mostly claiming it would save the American People money, we contracted out huge swaths of the jobs hitherto done by the civil service. Each agency was encouraged to contract out all kinds of jobs - anything that wasn't "core" to whatever it was that agency was supposed to be going out and doing. So, obviously, we couldn't contract out the jobs done by political appointees, or the really obvious bits - for instance, making the astronauts contractors to NASA would probably not fly; but a lot of the computer guys, maintenance guys, engineers, etc. could be safely spun off and handed to Big Business.

I'm not sure how much money the American People are saving, but I can say that the American People can safely be assumed to have paid, probably indirectly - though sometimes you can't tell, for the ad blitz that has been a feature of life in DC for years now. Certainly, we've helped with funding the huge buildings that line the Beltway, often with rather generic looking corporate logos and jumbles of letter soup on the side. And it has certainly not hurt the bottom line for politicians - they line up sweetheart contracts for their funders, while pretty much the same people keep doing the same jobs.

You don't seriously imagine that when the contract goes from XQY Corp. to YVZ, Inc., that the guy actually hired to, say, sort the mail changes, do you? No, the poor slob goes on working in some federal backroom, but of course, his healthcare benefits change, leave changes, etc. And any time he's built up at XQY is gone, because now he's officially a new hire at YVZ, never mind that he's been doing the same job for 15 years, back from when he was still civil service. Only now, the money that would have gone to his healthcare, retirement, and leave goes to YVZ.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

One Deep Breath anniversary

This week marks the one year anniversary of the One Deep Breath poetry prompts, and the subject this week is "poet's choice". In the end, I felt myself torn as I tried to think about what I would submit, whether it be my most recent poem on the casualty count in Iraq, or possibly the magnolia haiku.

In the end, I chose the magnolia poem because I feel that it is the better of the two. And I like the pictures... And, well, sometimes I think we need to take strength from joyful things in order to face the shadows. So I will likely edit the magnolia post to include a bit of this commentary, and possibly a link to the poem I didn't choose.

American casualties updated

The losses counted
Three thousand, five hundred dead
Broken hopes grieving
My weeping heart tries to sing
"Where have all the Flowers Gone?"

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Important discoveries

Fajitas taste better - much, much better, when consumed at home rather than in Iraq. I am assured of this by someone who should know.

I've been designing the dress and apron I will wear for my dad's coming home party, and was just laying them out, when the phone rang. My parents are back from their first vacation - the restoration of part of the front of the house looks great - and are off for their second. I didn't even attempt pointing out to them that most people take a couple weeks at least between vacations. This is their well deserved rest and reunion.

Time to get back to laying out that dress and apron. Especially since I finally sacrificed my favorite apron. I have not made a copy of it, despite its long running status as favorite, because I've never seen a pattern for one like it. Even the recent spate of apron patterns has failed to yield the pattern for my canning apron, and I was not about to give it up. But the fabric has begun to get thin, and now there is more stain than pattern, and it is time to allow it to become the pattern for many more like it. My comfort is that now that I have a pattern, I can allow the next one to go until it is more patch than original fabric.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Beauty and Truth

Just recently, I've been confronted with our society's ideas on beauty. Now, normally, I try to avoid them, because the sameness of it all just depresses me. It's like the way the green areas around my home are being replaced bit by bit with houses that all look the same. Even the residents can't necessarily tell you the difference between their house and the one 2 houses down. ("Um, take a left on Brookedale - but not Brookevale, that's too early - and a right on Brookemere, and then our house is the third brick one. We'll hang out a Halloween flag so you can find it. Look for the lime green flag with the bats..) They all seem to be done in the same tones of grey, beige, and off-white. Blah.

There seems to be no room for wildness, for difference, no room for something beautiful. I mean, just imagine a beautiful Victorian or Edwardian house - doesn't even have to be a big one. I once lived in a smallish house that had 1 bedroom, a small library, an eat-in kitchen and a living room. And a set of very steep and narrow stairs connecting the library and bedroom to the kitchen and living room. The bathroom was on what obviously used to be the back porch. I lived there with 2 other women - one in the library, and one in the living room. And yet, for all the crowdedness of it, the house was beautiful - a little porch out front where we sat when the weather was remotely reasonable for that, a small yard filled with roses, and a gabled roof with gingerbread. The next house down looked completely different, and the one down from that. And their lawns were different, too.

We've bought into this myth that there is only one kind of "nice" to be looking, and even worse, it's the same style being sold all over the country. It's a complete denial: of the stark simplicity and beauty of a New England saltbox, of the lush beauty of roses climbing a wrap around porch, of the quirky beauty of a little house with gazing balls and ceramic animals out front.

Even worse, we turn this single standard thing on our fellow human beings. As though we can't even see the individual beauty we are surrounded with. As though we don't see the beauty of a smile we judge to be less than "perfect". The teeth haven't been bleached to impossible whiteness, or one tooth is tilted, or the face it is in is full, or wrinked, or scarred, or...

I like to draw and to paint, and when I write, or draw, or paint, my heart has to be involved. It's only when I look with both my heart and my eyes that I see something worth drawing, worth painting, worth writing about. And when I've asked someone to model for me, only to get the answer, "No, I'm ugly.", it hurts. It's as though the person is denying that I have seen their beauty at all. My heart aches for them, that they can't see the beauty I'm seeing, and they won't even let me show them what I see. It's like someone looking at the Mona Lisa and saying... "Geez, that's a stupid looking smile." or looking at a Reubens or Titian and talking about how a low carb diet would have done wonders... Because you just know when someone believes that, they've been told it over and over again.

I wish I could somehow convince people to unchain themselves from this oppressive single standard and see the wild beauty around them: the individual and opulant beauty that surrounds us.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

One Deep Breath Anniversary

Magnolia unfurling in the rain

Rain dewed magnolia
Petals unfurled in the wet
The South in summer

Rain glazed fallen magnolia leaves

This week marks the one year anniversary of the One Deep Breath poetry prompts, and the subject this week is "poet's choice". In the end, I felt myself torn as I tried to think about what I would submit, whether it be my most recent poem on the casualty count in Iraq, or possibly the magnolia haiku: this post, in fact.

In the end, I chose the magnolia poem because I feel that it is the better of the two. And I like the pictures... And, well, sometimes I think we need to take strength from joyful things in order to face the shadows. So I will likely edit the magnolia post to include a bit of this commentary, and possibly a link to the poem I didn't choose.

American casualties updated

And for further recent poetic activity, largely inspired by writing to the One Deep Breath prompts:

Afternoon picnic
Summer afternoon

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Summer afternoon.
Dappled sunlight freckled face
Napping under tree.

Waves softly lapping
My still, quiet little boat
I spot an egret.

Curious questions
Seeking Universal Light
I am made this way.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

(one deep breath) Architecture

Walls of lies built up
Dark fortress holds me within
Truth comes on dove's wings
My heart wrapped in loving fire
Stone by stone, I climb away.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Afternoon Picnic
Rain caressed magnolia leaves
Tiny frog hops away.
You smile at me lovingly.
Grinning, we walk hand in hand.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Sorry, folks

The toll of the last few months is seriously catching up to me, I think, and I'm finding myself just weary, weary, weary.

Last night, my dad called to let me know he's finally completed this tour, and is once again free to go on vacation, attend a conference, attend to his business, and all the rest of the stuff he hasn't done for months. Unfortunately, he called while I was out, so I got the message from voice mail, and just stood there, thinking that I should be happier, that this was the first time I'd heard him since he'd come back. But mostly I was thinking that I really wanted a shower, but should I do that first or get some sleep first?

I've used all my vacation for the last year, and the one day I have left is already committed for the coming home party. I don't get any more days off until the middle of July, and right now, that seems a very long time away indeed.

Luckily, my weekends are relatively free. I plan to do some sleeping in, visit the local meetinghouse's strawberry festival, and maybe catch a movie tomorrow. And Sunday is a picnic. And maybe I can get a couple hours of unpaid leave...

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