Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Matron and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Let's just say this picture is indicative of the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day.

True. The Matron thought she was uploading a picture of the book (you know the book) and this is what she got: someone's kitten. That's the sort of day she had so she's leaving the photo as a sort of tribute.

True. Everything happened, as reported below.

The Matron woke up at 5:15 am after retiring at nearly midnight. This does not bode well. She trips on the 80 lb coon hound, drops her glasses and is reminded that the dog's name is Big Old Canine. She regrets giving children permission to name pets. She regrets having children who must wake up at 5:45 am on school days.

No toilet paper in the bathroom. The lip balm is empty. Because the tea kettle cover is broken and she forgets, she burns her hand. When it's time to shower, there's no shampoo. She wrote a check for HWCBN to take to school only to learn that John had already taken care of this.

She tried to call one of the children's school to leave a message for the science teacher. After the fourth attempt and a series of strange alerts and perhaps a recording from India, she gives up.

She slogs through student papers, an always rewarding activity peppered with unsigned emails like this: 'give me point on quiz.' One of the keys on her computer keypad pops off. No super glue available. The meeting she scheduled an entire afternoon around is cancelled, meaning she must go to campus for the more or less unimportant series of little meetings she scheduled AROUND and BECAUSE OF the big important meeting.

When she puts on her tights, the toe rips. Oh well.

The Matron quickly checks her horoscope. Things are not lining up, stars! All she gets is a warning to be on time so she hustles out the door, superstition shrouded on her shoulders.

No gas in van. She forgot. For the first time in four years, she cannot find a parking space on campus. Note to self: be grateful for those four years of easy parking.

First meeting goes fine although her exhaustion means she is unusually bubbly and full of inappropriate personal anecdotes. Oh well. Decides to interpret quizzical looks from her colleagues as awe.

Next, she must kill half an hour until the next meeting but is denied internet access -- on her own campus. The library doesn't have the movie she needs for tomorrow's class.

The next meeting takes on more of a therapeutic tenor as the person in charge of all campus secretaries gently alerts the Matron to the fact that she is constitutionally incapable of asking her own secretary to do anything, even make copies, and that this is actually an intervention.

Kill an hour for the final meeting with an online student. . . who is 15 minutes late for a 15 minute meeting for which the Matron waited an hour. The student has but one question which requires a one sentence response. Then the student wants to talk about her family.

The ten minute drive home takes 50 minutes because of construction. While parked on the freeway she exits the van to get a book from the back and loses the fake pearl on her favorite ring. It is somewhat soothing to watch this pearl roll down the freeway.

Throughout, she is very, very hungry but also has to pee every ten minutes because of all the coffee she's drinking to keep herself awake.

The four hour jaunt to and from campus is four hours without grading nearly 100 papers and now it is time to drive Scarlett to Minneapolis in rush hour traffic. The internet connection where she waits for the diva does not work.

These are small things, she knows. And -- friends, she wishes you could see her hand over her heart as she swears this is true -- as she types this she can hear the mole that now lives somewhere in this house rustling under the kitchen sink. How she made this mole's acquaintance and why it remains alive to commune with the mice is tomorrow's post.

Who needs fiction?

But everyone needs inspiration, especially on a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. And oh yes, downloading that video didn't work.

She is rounding up the mole, the dog, and the acne cream and going to bed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Putting the Destination Back in Drive

Oh, the Matron woke up with a dark cloud around her. Not just dark -- a really menacing swirl of steel gray, accentuated by swirls of angry red.

You see, she woke with road rage, without even entering the road. Indeed, she was still in her very fine soft king-size bed, replete with down comforter and pillow, yet she managed to HURL herself instantly onto the very freeway she resented.

For this is one of many weeks of the road. Three kids and only one can take a bus to school. The other two must be driven, with conveniently incompatible end-times, meaning kicking around forty minutes a day with Merrick (let's just say the Matron has plans to only do errands during that time). Since all the school start times stagger and the one bus that does arrive does so at the CRACK of dawn, the Matron will be up from 5:15 am until the last one is dropped off at school at 8:30 am. Then, HWCBN is still the master of debate, requiring transportation three days a week instead of the bus home and Scarlett has daily rehearsals from 4:30 to 6:30 and this week, is taping a commercial, which not only means driving but interminable amounts of waiting around with people who are justifiably wary of the parents on the set, and therefore exercise self-protection against eye contact.

Oh, and then there's the drive to work, the orthodontist, the errands, the playdates for Merrick and you get the drill. Her life is probably like yours: the minivan is actually a complete home, with food, blankets, jackets, wipes and water.

But something strange happened to the Matron while she scowled at the ceiling of her bedroom. She suddenly remembered a lovely essay she'd been reading last night, a bit of wisdom inspired by William James and others of the theological elk. The kernel of wisdom from the essay bit into the center of the cloud (drat, she hates it when that happens) and in a heartbeat, there was a cool gray mist, clearing, instead of the iron gray.

Fellow travelers on those roads with children -- soccer practice, violin, gymnastics, college, dentist, grocery store -- she knows you want that nugget of wisdom!

The essay posited (see how she uses words like 'posited in blog posts? her dissertation adviser would either be proud of horrified) that spiritual conversions require but a single element: that the destination of one's life and the pathways there -- windy, non-linear roads -- are fueled and defined by what's sacred. To you. So if art is sacred, spirit or God or creativity, that your destination in life is fueled and defined by art, and what you do in your day-to-day life feeds into that, reflects and is steeped in respect for, pursuit of, joy in, art. Even if this means whistling Dixie while you do the dishes . . . well, you sometimes have to look for the sacred. If you're living the life toward your destination, organically, the sacred is already there.

The Matron isn't entirely sure how she would define sacred for herself: the destination and its pathways. But she has a vague, visceral understanding that there is something divine in all of us and that divinity manifests itself in unknowable, unimaginable ways -- and this is something sacred. So is art. Justice and its unwavering pursuit, too.

But while art felt elusive on I-94 (and 494W, 35w South, 494 E, Highway 5, Shepherd Road and 280, all of which felt the weight of her wheels today), divinity sat in the back seat with Lays potato chips and a root beer. And sometimes even smiled back at her and asked what was for dinner and did it look like rain?

Ah, that cloud. Pink now and steady, a heartbeat.