Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alaskan Spirit Blend

It may be a long two weeks. :)  Rando got here last night with his dad; thus begins the juggling of dogs and parents for two weeks.   Chet's skin is so thin that an excited dog can make a tear in his arm or hand just wanting to be petted.  It is like a doggie version of keystone cops--which dog is in which room?  Where does Chet want to go?  He's a good sport about it though, obliging the nature of a house with 5 dogs.

And speaking of a 5th dog, Roadie is just amazing me with how smart he is and what a quick learner.  I easily taught him "down" as in lie down last night.  He also responded to "no" when he started to chew on the tulips, and to "stay" when I wanted to leave the leaving room without his following me.  His most rambunctious time is in the morning, right after he comes in after having been fed.  He is one wild boy at that time, which is usually when he goes back in the box for a nap and to settle.  He has figured out that he does not want to go in the crate, though, as it means "play time is over" and just like a child, he fights it.

Oh, the name of the blog today?  My Alaska coffee I brought back last summer.  It is a robust brew, that tastes like something they would have in the bush--strong.  I figured I would need a little extra strength and spirit to get that floor done today.  I would be hard at it already, except I forgot to get my jeans out of the room that Chet is sleeping in, and I really don't want to tear out a floor wearing my pajamas. :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bathroom remodel take two

Well, I clearly underestimated this job. Prissy D would be proud of me. :)  After one and a half hours, J and I finally got the tub in half, but it won't come out.  Seems it is actually attached securely to a frame.  Now this would be the only thing in this house that Will securely attached to anything, as his preferred method was get within two inches and fill with caulk.

We are taking a little break while the battery for the saw recharges.  I wish it were that easy for me to recharge. :)

1:30  Okay, doing the second recharging.  Finally go the tub out, by ripping it into pieces with a pipe wrench--kind of like using a giant can opener--the old fashioned kind. :)

The good news is it looks like the studs are okay, and there is minimal damage on the floor except for the spot near the toilet.  That bodes well (I hope) for no damage to the joists!  It is one piece of plywood, so hopefully it will come out okay.  The sub flooring is old wide plank, and they came out pretty easy before, so hopefully, they will this time also.  The worst part is having to balance on top of the joists while removing sub flooring, and hope you don't miss a step.  You know, it is never a pretty picture under a pier and beam house, and especially one that has been here since at least the 50s and possibly longer.  I am a little bit on the freaked side when it comes to attics, basements, and crawl spaces--too many early childhood memories of going in my grandparents cellar in the middle of the night during a storm.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy European Invasion Day

I was reading in the NY Times this morning about the French Huguenot settlement in Florida, which occurred some years before the Pilgrims landed the Mayflower.  It is always interesting to me how we re-invent our historical myths by conveniently ignoring what we do not want if it contradicts the story we do want.  I actually thought that the Huguenots came later, and had heard they migrated from Canada after escaping France and religious persecution, ending up in Virginia--at least some of them.  One of my ancestors was disinherited for marrying one, referred to in the historical family documents as "a dark-skinned people."  I assume that in Virginia, that might have been a little too close to "black" for the patriarch, but that is a mere assumption since I have no way to verify that.  Said son, however, was not forgiven until his father's deathbed, at which time, all the sons proceeded to lose the carefully amassed coal mines and land accumulated by their father, who had come to the colonies as an indentured servant.

The article was pointing out not only that we have ignored this earliest settlement on our shores (because it does not conform to the myth we wanted that labels us "English"?), but the many bloody battles that have been fought on this soil over religion.  The author (an historian) noted that it is predominantly myth rather than truth that the US was welcoming to those seeking religious tolerance and freedom, and that in fact, we have primarily been the opposite.  It made me recall the ship of Lithuanian Jews who were refused entry to New York (among other places) and finally returned to Lithuania and their death in the ovens.

I wonder at what point the colonists who were grateful for that first successful harvest, supplemented by wild game from the Native Americans, made the decision that the continent was not big enough for both of them.  Can you imagine "Thanks for coming and bringing dinner.  Now we will kill you and take your land."  What transpired between those two extremes?  Was it the "religion" question?  Was it a battle of culture, where in our ethnocentricity, we see all else as inferior to the culture to which we belong, whoever the "we" is?

One of my friends says what I write is "far too serious" (which was the nicest thing he said about my blog LOL).  He is probably right, but I just find the many contradictions between our myths and our realities sort of fascinating--bizarre, even, one might say, and cannot resist the urge to explore it.  There is also lots of room for the mundane (yesterday's chimenea/cat blog) and the humorous (the now defunct Lottabusha County Chronicles), but surely also for the occasional musing of the myths?

And, the latest thing I have found in the blog "A Sense of Place"--someone who writes he is seeking the respect of his dog. :)  Gotta love anyone who loves dogs and their place in our lives.  There is someone who takes life seriously without being "far too serious."  Or at least, that's my myth about it. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Eve of Destruction...the rest of it

We started the bathroom remodel today.   Nothing like company coming to force you to clean house or fix holes in the floor.  This is, of course, part two of the bathroom remodel from a year ago where William S. Ashley, an alleged builder here in Oxford, remodeled the house we bought.  When the floor fell out of the hall way, we suspected a problem.  It seems that this guy actually built a shower by putting mortar directly onto a wooden floor with no shower pan or liner.  Needless to say, after 3 years of use with water seeping through the tile grout and mortar and directly onto said wooden floor, the entire floor, sub floor, and joists had to be replaced.  The damage from that spread into the hall way and the hall bathroom and we replaced part of the hall and hall bath floor.  When the ceramic tile totally cracked near the hall tub, we pulled it up to discover the rest of the floor and under the hall bath tub is also rotted through.  What a surprise, but he did not install the unit correctly and water was seeping down the edge of the tub and onto the wooden floor from the improper installation. 

Finally, since Rando's father is coming to visit and I could not chance his falling through the bathroom floor, we began the process of ripping it all out.  Actually, the wall behind the tub is not bad, but then, only the top part is off.  The damage is going to be where the tub is, as that is where the leaks from the improper installation let the water run down the back of the wall and onto the floor.  If it is anything like the master shower, we will have to replace studs in addition to the floor.

Rando took the hammer and beat a giant hole in the shower unit--allegedly to make him feel better, but I am the one who put all the labor into ripping into the sheetrock to get it off the lip of the unit so I could take it down.  Whew--too much work for someone my age.  Tomorrow out comes the tub--in pieces as there is no way to get it out the door in one piece anyway.  It is so brittle that it breaks apart pretty easily anyway, so I am hoping the floor will not fall through until I get the tub out!  J helped me carry the large unit out, and asked if he could stomp on it.  I said sure, why not?  He did, thinking it would break, but it did not.  He said he thought it would feel a lot more satisfying than that. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Take me out to the [basket] ball game

Last night was opening game for the Lady Rebels so we were in our usual mid-court season ticket seats.  It was an early game at 6, so I got treated to a hot dog and coke for dinner, followed by popcorn!  We have some new members who are very promising, and one of our great freshman players is back from last year.  She was top scorer, plus an upcoming new "Armintie" who made an incredible number of steals and shots.  Bianca is a great 3-pointer, so we are looking to a better year than last year.  Alas, we still struggle under the new coach as they have yet to find their cohesion as a team.  Amusingly, Renee (our new coach) stamped her foot and threw a little hissy fit at one point last night--now there is some role modeling for you.  Upshot was, we beat University of Memphis, but if we had opposed a team who had any skill at all, I doubt the outcome would have been so good.  Memphis could not seem to make a basket, with their team taking wild shots that rebounded so forcefully our team could pick them up and then go score.  We play Texas in a couple of weeks and I am guessing that is not going to be a pretty picture.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday and Half Way!

This has been a difficult and disappointing week.  Sometimes it seems as if you think you have turned a corner, something important has happened, and then bam!  Right in your face you see the evidence that it is not so.  The reasons are often disappointing when you see the very things you think you have accomplished unraveling in front of you.  But, that is the way of community work: it is not steady, and there are many ups and downs and backs and forths.  That is the way of educating social workers, as well.  Somehow, I have to trust that it will all work out, but it is difficult at times.  There are those in the profession who want the gates narrower and the hurdles higher; there are those who want the laissez faire approach and let the "market" deal with it; there are those who have no idea what they want.  All I can say is that I have always tried to have a somewhat balanced approach: looking for the times there should be an exception or an extenuating circumstance and looking for the person who "always" has something going on and is always seeing herself or himself as the exception, and deciding what to do about that in regard to the ethical obligation we bear to protect the public from those who cannot or will not practice professionally.  Anyone who thinks that teaching is a "plum" job has clearly never done it.  The decisions we make affect people's lives: the students, their future clients, the future of the profession.  It is indeed a heavy burden to bear at times, and one that I do not take lightly.

On a different note, today was the meeting for the committee on which I serve regarding International Student programs.  We were learning about a program for students for other countries to study for a year in America, with financial assistance.  The countries of eligibility are limited to date (the State Department selects them) but still, it is exciting to be a part of this and think about the opportunities for the exchanges.  Certainly I am a believer in the idea of traveling and meeting with, living with, and learning with people from other cultures and nations changes our entire perception of the world.  My work with Pastors for Peace, in South Africa, in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska, and other places has convinced me that understanding comes from being with people.  There is nothing like your actual experience there to help you see if what you read and hear in the news is accurate or propaganda.

My experiences in South Africa are nothing like many of the things I had been and have been told by people who left South Africa; my experiences with people who have been to Cuba are nothing like what I read in the news about Cuba.  Indeed, travel and meeting other people is the way to open our minds and hearts to the realities of others' lives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thank goodness, the "baby" is down for his nap

Wow, I had forgotten just how much work a baby is.  Roadie--the last of the foster pups we have from the rescues--has just about taxed all my energy today. :)  He is finally napping at my feet here at the computer, after my pulling the comforter out of his mouth several times.  Since he has eaten through two nylon leashes in the nano second in which I turn my back, he has graduated to a chain leash--left over from the days of either Sam or Rex, I can't remember which one.  I think I may have to spend the rest of the night here and just have Rando bring dinner in through the bedroom window...I think it is best to let sleeping dogs lie.  :)

Today was a beautiful fall day in Mississippi, crisp, cool, and somewhat windy.  The Dean had her annual faculty meeting just before the end of the semester, which consists of lunch in Lenoir Hall, and is well worth the effort to make the faculty meeting.  Lenoir Hall is where the campus' restaurant for the Family and Consumer Sciences hospitality program is housed.  It is a classy restaurant, with our own Chef Kelvin.  Today's menu was roasted pork loin with spice apples or chorizo stuffed chicken breast, and sides of macaroni and cheese (the real kind, with bread crumbs and baked) and stuffing--which was a wonderful sage, onion, egg, bread stuffing, with some spices I did not recognize.  It did remind me of my spinach-shitake bread pudding, though, so reminded me I might want to make that for my own mini-Thanksgiving dinner.  Since Rando will be in Texas then, I will be here with just my (currently) 5 dogs, cat, and one son.

I was a bit disappointed in the sweet potato pie, but have likely been spoiled by their earlier sweet potato bread pudding, which is out of this world. Although, I must say, my own chocolate bread pudding and dulce de leche bread pudding have won their own rave reviews among my friends.

I worked a bit more on a manuscript this afternoon after returning home.  It is due back to the journal in January, but I am trying to finish it early so I can start on the next research project. It should be ready to go by Thursday.

After all afternoon at the computer, I went out late and picked up firewood, lit a fire in the chimenea, and enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and a glass of wine.  It was so pretty, with the sun setting through the trees, making the gold of the leaves shimmer with color.  Once it got dark, the cold set in quickly though and the warmth of the chimenea was not nearly enough to keep me out there.  This time of year, I just let it burn down early!  Lucky for me, I have my flying monkey sweatshirt hoodie from the Philly trip and it was helping me stay warm!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm all worn out and it's early yet

Wow, I had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy in the house.  Every 5 seconds, removing something from his mouth and redirecting to a chew toy.  Get him off the counter and redirect to a chew toy.  Take the sock away from him and redirect him to a chew toy.  I tried putting him out in the kennel (lovely sunshine for a change) but he did not like it all alone out there.  Back in the house and get him off the counter, out of my papers, repeat cycle endlessly.

Finally, after never getting settled long enough for me to accomplish even one thing, I decided it was time for a little crate time to settle down.  He was quite elusive once he figured out I wanted him to go in the box, but finally I managed and he is in there.  He is whining of course now, but he will settle down in a bit and take a nap.  What else is there for him to do?  Funny, but he napped a lot when Woody was here, and now he cannot seem to stop investigating stuff continuously.  I better take a nap myself if he settles; I'm worn out and he has only been in the house for one night!

He has discovered how to jump on the bed, and how fun it is to roll in the comforter!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Woody Gets Adopted

Woody just found his own family, a nurse with 3 children, two dogs and some cats.  Woody will have an older sibling lab and two younger sibling labs in his new family.  It has been a long journey since the day last May when we saw three little puppies in the road and tried to rescue them.  They were far too skittish that first day, but by the second day, were easily won over with food and water.  After only a few days of petting, brushing, and feeding regularly, they were happy to have some humans in their lives.  

We have provided regular vet care, they have shots and tags, and we diligently searched for homes.  Two of the placements have come through our local pet store!  Ally went home with a couple of students from Houston a few weeks ago, and her follow up check revealed she has adjusted well to her new home and the boys are happy with her.  Today, Woody finally warmed to his new family, though he would have been happy to stay here, of course. :)

Roadie jumped up on the crate and put his paws on the kennel and looked for him when he came in.  Rando promised that now, tonight, Roadie gets to come in the house and we will start to integrate him into the family brood.  While we still hope to find him his own forever home, we will not leave him in the kennel by himself.  He has already played in the back yard with our dogs, so being in the house should not be too major an adjustment.  Finally, I can remove the kennel from my front porch and repair my screened porch screens, which fell victim to little puppy chewings on a regular basis. :)

Still, all in all, it is a good feeling to know they had a better quality of life than if they had remained in the woods across the road, and hopefully will bring joy to the lives of their new humans.  They certainly brought joy to mine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is that "Dawgs" or is that "Dogs"?

I was reminded of the wide chasm between me and my students today, as in age, experience, and culture.  I love these students in this class.  (Well, to be truthful, I generally love all the students in my classes, as they are so unique and it is just so much fun to learn with them and engage with them.)  I was talking about what I have learned from my dogs, and one of them said, "is that dogs as in "dawgs your homeboys" or "dogs your pets?"

It really might surprise them to know that back in Texas, we were saying "you dawg" meaning "you are so forward" long before Randy started saying "what up dawg?" on American Idol. :)  

The point I was trying to make was about the importance of relationship, boundaries, respect, and taking people (or dogs) where they are.  I know that I bear a huge responsibility for what students in the classes I teach learn.  After all, it is their educators who teach them how to practice social work.  But I also know as I come more and more (possibly due to advancing age and generativity vs. stagnation about to transition to integrity vs. despair) to believe that we are all in this together and that our heart, our passion, and our hope are as important as our knowledge and skills and that somehow we will achieve equifinality.  

For crying out loud, look at our own profession and how we struggle with where we are going.  How can we expect more of our students--the learners--than we are able to deliver ourselves with our years and years of experience?  I have a dear friend and colleague who used to say "If you have a choice between being right and being kind, pick being kind."  I am not so sure these days that being kind is not the better alternative when graduating social workers than being right.  I finally realized back in Texas that it was not my job to be the policewoman of the social work profession.  It was my job to create the opportunity for learning (sometimes not so comfortable and sometimes downright painful) and trust that the universe would take care of the details.  And then...I came to Mississippi and picked up my badge and turned into the policewoman of social work in Mississippi.  It has taken me several years to acculturate to the state and the unique needs of the people who live here...to remember that my job is to create the opportunity for learning, not just be the standard setter.  

It is about believing that we all do the best we can at the time with the knowledge and skills we possess, and believing that ultimately, people of good will and intention will find our way.  I used to say there were two main "rules" I used in my work:
1.  We do what we do, and don't do what we don't do, and
2.  If you accept people the way they are, you give them permission to be what they are not.

Meaning, we can only do the best we can with who we are, our experiences and understanding, and when we accept people for who they are and where they are, it creates the opportunity to feel safe enough to try new things, hear new things, and be new things.

I do not know where we are going in this state, this profession, this world.  I only know I am pleased to have been on board the train.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Philadelphia Sites

These are the last of the photos I will post for the Philadelphia trip.  Included are Independence Square, a few more from inside Independence Hall and Congress Hall, and various other buildings and signs from around the city.

It's a beautiful fall day here in Mississippi and I am about to dress and head down to my tiny little precinct in Taylor to cast what is likely the most historic vote of my life time.  I will join my friends and colleagues tonight for an election watch party, marveling at the fact that I am sitting in the home of my African American friends, watching the returns for what I hope will be the win of an African American president, along with both white and black friends.  I came to Mississippi 6 years ago with high hopes, dreams, visions, and plans.  Some have materialized.  I have been ecstatic at times, depressed at times, despondent at times, and hopeful at times.  I have learned far more than I have given, and it was truly the most humbling of lessons that have been offered here.  I hope these last few months mark the turning of a corner for relationships--not just mine, but for all of us in Mississippi--as we continue to keep the faith in creating a new Mississippi, a new South, and a new world.

For any of you reading this, thank you for whatever you have contributed to my journey.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Phillies win and Independence Hall

Wednesday night we are in our room and suddenly we hear horns honking and people screaming and yelling.  Yes, the Phillies won the World Series:  let's get this party started.  It went on...and on...and on...we could still hear them way after midnight and had to crank up the air conditioning fan to help drown out the celebration. :)

The conference did not start until Thursday evening, so Jill and I got up early Thursday morning to take a tour of the city's most significant landmarks.  Our concierge placed our reservation for the shuttle pick up and we were taken to Constitution Center to get our tickets for Independence Hall.  We went through Liberty Hall on the way.  It was an incredible experience to see the birth of this nation again, through the eyes of the women and men who risked their lives to do so.  An especially poignant moment was the story of how the State Bell came to be renamed the Liberty Bell.  When the abolitionists realized that the bell of freedom excluded a race of people who had been enslaved, they sought to have the name changed to Liberty Bell and fought for inclusion of slaves under the umbrella of freedom as defined in the Constitution.

I was enthralled by the photo of Mandela sitting in our Independence Square, realizing how the United States has been such an historical model of democracy, and longing for the day when we are again seen as lifting our lamp beside the golden door, a welcoming from the Lady in the Harbor of all those who yearn for freedom, an opportunity for a better life, and are willing to sacrifice--just as our foremothers and forefathers did--to obtain that.  I pray that South Africa and the US will both find our way back to the ideals of democracy that birthed our nations and bind us together in our shared histories.

Of course, because I was carrying my backpack with my camera in it, I and my backpack had to be searched at both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.  It is a small price to pay for the privilege to see those symbols of our past, yet a sad reminder of the world in which we live in these times.  I was honored to stand next to people from many other countries who wanted to have their pictures made next to the Liberty Bell, and to talk with some of them.  As always, I enjoyed engaging with people, such as the guard at the entrance who chatted with us, the guide who was dressed in period clothing and was escorting a group of school children in our group, along with the various park ranger staff who escorted us during our tour.

It was incredible to stand in chambers where people we know only historically, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and others, stood, walked, sat, talked, negotiated, and laid their lives on the line for an ideal in which they believed enough to be willing to die to see come to reality.  We sat in the original House of Representatives chamber and stood in the gallery of the original Senate chambers.  I could close my eyes and sense the passion present in those rooms, still present in spite of time.  Perhaps I idealize it, but somehow, what transpired in the years planning, executing, and following the revolution and the birth of a new nation and government seemed somehow far nobler than what we often experience today.  Perhaps because, like South Africa after the rush of democracy high, reality sets in and greed takes hold and the very  power of power at times causes people to forget the very reasons they fought for that freedom.

After our dismissal from Congress, Jill and I enjoyed an authentic Philly cheese steak while waiting on our tour bus.  Our guide would ask as each of us boarded "Where are you visiting from?"  One woman said "Abilene, Texas."  I said to her "That's my home town!"  She sat in front of me and we introduced ourselves.  She teaches social work at Abilene Christian University, and knows my good friends Odis and Sherri and Jean, so that was fun.  We talked a bit about the community in Abilene (Carver) in which I and my students used to work with Odis.

We rode the tour--not getting off anywhere as we wanted first to see all the landmarks--and then after returning to our original departure location, walked two blocks to the Betsy Ross house and went through, caught the bus up to the Reading Terminal Market and had a field day shopping in the market.  

We had lovely coconut macaroons from the Flying Monkey, tasted wine at the Blue Mountain vineyard which is a Pennsylvania wine--and wonderful, believe it or not!  I bought a bottle as it is my favorite dry red, with the sweaty saddle nose.  We enjoyed all the Amish booths, fresh vegetables and fruits, cheeses, breads, etc.  We bought cheese and bread and fruit and decided to have a simple meal in our room that night.  The market was across the street from the conference hotel (we were staying a few blocks away) so we stopped over to pick up our registration packets and then walked back to our hotel.  

A light meal of bread, cheese, fruit, and Warwick Three Cape Ladies (an incredible South African wine that rarely gets imported here, but I found it in a wine shop in Philly) and we were ready to hit the sack and prepare for an early rising and the conference on Friday.  

As the Swarz says, "I'll be back."