Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Tears Make Big Pharmaceutical Rich

Pharmaceutical companies aren't the devil. Maybe they've just sniffed too many non-FDA approved powders.

If they did, I would say that sometimes these wild card drugs make them brilliant.

Evidence A: They realized that saying "Call a doctor if you have an erection that lasts more than four hours" sold a LOT more erection drugs than images of middle-aged couples ballroom dancing.

Other times they should have passed on the magic happy powder.

Evidence B: I live with chronic illness. I hate it. I do not think that if I could turn back time I would keep the disease. I would ditch it in a hot second and become a bikini model. I hate my meds. I hate the side effects. I hate going to the doctor frequently. I hate falling down. I hate being in pain. I hate waking up in the middle of the night crying from anxiety about disease progression because now that my eyes are involved, tears hurt.

And I hate you, pharmaceutical company who makes the expensive eye meds I now need. Your frequent buyer program that tries to make me feel better about the gobs of money I have to spend on yet another medicine that has yet another set of side effects by giving me some of my money back in a form that can only be used to buy more of your meds? I hate it. It makes me angry and it makes me write run-on sentences.

I have no doubt the medicine will work and I will feel better and then join your rewards program and try to make jokes about being a card-carrying-member of the art museum, the botanical gardens, the ACLU, and an eye drop fan club.

But the evidence for me that someone in marketing has been sniffing around the experimental lab is that you call your despised progam for your product I take reluctantly "My Tears, My Rewards."

Insensitive, asinine, and kind of cruel, you big, rich meanies who make stuff I need.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Brief Career in Law Enforcement

(Another previously unpublished post per request of my friends who read my blog as part of their court-ordered community service. This one is from October, 2009. I did not post it before because it reveals how stupid I can be. I post it now because... I have no idea why I am posting this.)

Well, my fun career in law enforcement came to an abrupt end, and it had nothing to do with marijuana as had been prognosticated by the tie-dye-clad Unitarians of my mother's generation. (I passed my drug tests, Uncle Jethro. Can you say the same?)

No, the State Police of this beautiful Commonwealth and I turned out to have many things in common, much to our surprise, and would have most likely remained a good employment fit. Some examples:

1) We both think that it is safer to gargle pesticides than to drive during rush hour.

2) We feel that the world is a better place when people are allowed to use the full extent of their language mastery, particularly in times of stress and aggravation even if those times are during working hours. Our shared motto: Metaphor is more meaningful when paired with profanity.

3) We are all addicted to FarmVille, YoVille, Mafia Wars, or all of the above.

4) We are hard on our automobiles.

There were other similarities involving WaWa sandwiches, karaoke, and that holiest of beverages - beer, but let me just say that we ended up getting along better than anyone would have thought considering my strong predilection for pacifism and fondness for Nobel Peace Prize recipients, and their affection for carrying a varied inventory of weapons both in full view and concealed.

So there we were getting along and trying new things... in my case: new combinations of bad words, in their case: listening to a preacher try out new combinations of bad words... when cruel fate intervened severing us like star-crossed Shakespearean tweens.

The deus ex machina in our little one-act turned out to be the Governor who laid off 596 employees of the Commonwealth, an inordinate amount of whom were female, and #347 was yours truly. Serious bummer. They got my girls Ollie and Tonia, too. My brilliant new career cut short by budget cuts.

I was really in a ^&$$#* of a mood about the whole thing and was able to say exactly that during working hours, but I am old enough to know when a relationship was not built to last (or I am cynical) and recovered fairly quickly. In the end, I had to admit that we had a communication problem as so many relationships do. For all we had found in common, there were some chasms that perhaps should not be crossed.

It started with the fact that they refer to one another as numbers. "Have you seen that slackass 2929's new ride?" Or "What does 6737 have a booger up his butt about?" Or my personal favorite from a dispatcher, "What the hell? Is 1040 waiting for an engraved invitation to get in on this pursuit? Come on, knuckle head, COWBOY UP!"

I love that talk but I couldn't remember anyone's numbers. I knew the name of the king of drunk driver catchers, the sweet man who brought us coffee at 3AM, and the one who looked like a slightly redneck Richard Gere. I could remember the trooper who is named after a famous mystery writer, the one whose name should be a hero in a romance novel, and of course the one who shared my last name and called me 'Cuz. But I was no good at calling people by a number. As a dispatcher, that became problematic. You don't get to blab on the radio, "Dave, sugar, you got a possible drunk driver headed toward you. If it's one of my relatives, remind them about the Christmas gift exchange this year, 'Cuz."

Then there was the military-like insistence that natural human reactions should be avoided at all costs. The nature of law enforcement work on our highways necessitates a shockingly high instance of on-the-job encounters with body parts that have left their owners. It is my personal opinion that a person who sees another person in parts should be given some emotional distance should they need it. The cadre agrees with me in writing. The men and women who serve live by their own code, however, so woe unto those who slip into normal human responses. I kept my opinion to myself on this.

So, we had our differences, too. And then there was this colossal miscommunication...

I decided from my gleanings on shifts that there was an epidemic of religious intolerance in the force. I was very wrong but had copious examples and a whopping case of antibiotic resistant dingbat to support my conclusion.

As I give examples, insert a religious persuasion with which you are familiar (like Presbyterian, Quaker, or Theravada Buddhist) anywhere you see the five capital X's.

An agent says to a dispatcher supervisor, "Did I ever tell you about the time 1999 and I were at that bar off duty and he realizes that the guy he's been talking to all night on the next stool was, of all things, a XXXXX!"

Or, "Yeah, that lardass pulls over a XXXXX all by himself and doesn't give a location, the numbskull! Like anyone wants to risk hanging out on the side of the highway in the middle of the night alone with one of them."

And, "You don't hear much about those XXXXX's any more. They're killing their own selves off at this point."

I did not like what I heard but the more I heard it I realized that the prejudice was at every level of the force. The State Police had seen too much unlawful activity perpetrated by XXXXX's and they were not going to put up with it.

I wanted to tell them they were wrong. I wanted to tell them that the XXXXX's I know throw delicious vegetarian potlucks and celebrate Earth Day. I wanted them to know about the XXXXX priestess I know well who is a devoted friend, grandmother, and teacher. I know there is a lot of ignorance in this country regarding XXXXX's but could not believe that the State Police would be of one accord about a religion. And yet, they were.

Thanks be to all that is holy that for once in my life, just once... I kept my giant, chatty mouth shut.

Because one day some pictures of some XXXXX's came across the wire as persons of interest in some tale of illegal activity and general violent nefariousness. And I looked at them. And I thought to myself, "If that's a XXXXX, they must be a Yankee XXXXX because they would not fit in with the Virginia XXXXX's at all!" Maligning kind, sweet Yankees from Maryland to Maine in defense of Virginia XXXXX's, I swear to you, I really was this stupid.

For the record, there is no religious intolerance epidemic in our State Police. There is concern over the safety for the citizens and officers of the Commonwealth regarding an outlaw motorcycle gang who happen to go by the very same name as a group of peaceful, nature-based spiritual practitioners. The motorcycle gang tend to draw their weapons on law enforcement, while my friends celebrate the cycles and seasons of the Earth and make good tabbouleh.

In case you are as sheltered as I... you say Pagan, I say Pagan. And the governor called the whole thing off.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dudes, Food, Words

(Another post that did not make the cut. This one was in January at the height of my inability to put finger to keyboard. Once written, I could not bear to read one word of this and almost deleted the whole thing in disgust until, to be perfectly honest, I just forgot about it and never got around to destroying it. Since this writing the Dude Harpy and my 15 devoted readers have succeeded in making me more positve about the writing experience.)

I've got a friend breathing down my neck for me to get back into the regular writing routine. We have long conversations about this. Maybe 'monologue' or 'harangue' are better word choices than 'conversation' which implies that I say something. There are beers and potato dishes involved in these interactions which keep me at the table. He may be a Harpy but he's still a Dude.

The Dude Harpy has very compelling arguments. He says I am squandering my potential. He says I have a story to tell. He points out that I wrote page after page every week for five years in my most recent ministry, but have not shown him a written word in five months. He says he will needle me endlessly until I bend to his writer will. In other words, he is the perfect friend in many ways.

I know dozens of people who would love to have a friend like this and I have given him all of their numbers.

But I am of the school that one should write only when one can't not write. I am of the Wake Up in the Middle of the Night with an Idea and Write Til Dawn school. I am also currently a card carrying member of the I Don't Feel the Writing Mojo and would rather work on my shrimp and grits recipe. The Dude Harpy has his work cut out for him.

I am also isolated these days which works for Billy Collins, Anne Tyler, and pastoral poets, but only makes me sour. I like people; lots of people. I love listening to people. I have found that most people have something fascinating to say but they have poor judgment as to which story of theirs is fascinating. Much of my joy in human interaction comes from uncovering that secret fascination within a person.

For example, I met a neighbor yesterday and talk turned to supper. I had made the shrimp and grits. We talked awhile about the heart of shrimp and grits as a cuisine. There were many single syllable utterances like, "Mmmmmm" and "Yeeeeeeeeeah" (being Southern, that second one can get stretched out to three syllables.) On principle he was not pleased with my use of shallots, but we agreed to disagree because we came to an accord more essential than shallots to shrimp and grits: butter is the tree of life. Once that accord was reached, nothing could tear us asunder.

As the conversation began to drift along elsewhere he put this out there: My wife and I had TWO shrimp and grits stations at our wedding.

Now that's a story. That's a fascination. Two shrimp and grits stations told me volumes about him, and his superb taste in women.

Since we do not live in South Carolina, to have the stations at all is beyond a culinary choice - it is a character move. That's a couple who say with pride, "We know good cooking. We love food with compelling textures and don't give a rat's ass if you got grits running down your seersucker suit. This is our party and we are going to enjoy it to the hilt. Oh yeah, and we don't like lines, so double the grits stations!"

I like these people, shallots or no.

But maybe that's just me in my isolation. In my limited non-family human interaction, I am finding the little details of every exchange fascinating. Here's another one...

Two weeks ago I reunited with one of my favorite Virginians whom I had not seen in five years. He's a trial lawyer. Other than my In House Counsel, and my lawyer/knitting buddy (I don't knit- she knits and gives me stuff: what a buddy!) I am not regularly putting Virginia lawyers above Virginia artists, musicians, poets, teachers, funeral directors, and children on my Favorite Virginian list. I'm not a lawyer basher. It's just that lawyers tend to like the Law and I like other things like, well, most anything more than the Law. The Law to me is like sauerkraut to a kid - I don't know much about it but I don't think it is my thing.

The Favored Virginian and I caught up, talked about lasagna recipes, and he told me about some of his cases. With a lawyer in the house, I hear case stories frequently. In House Counsel keeps the stories short because, frankly, I don't get the thrill of the courtroom because it seems to be all about the sauerkraut known as the Law.

What is all the law and order excitement? There is no band, no poetry, and they don't let you eat in courtrooms.

"Lives in the balance"? Yeah, okay. But they could at least let you bring a little homemade fried chicken in. That said, I greatly appreciate the stories of In House Counsel because he tailors them to my interests and he is often scratching my back when he tells them.

The Favored Virginian does not keep the stories short. He plays all the parts. Funny voices, mannerisms, odd colloquialisms, foul language... he includes it all, except for back scratching. This should disqualify the Favored Virginian from any further contact with me. That and his over-dependence upon cheese in his lasagna recipe. Instead, he makes it to favored status?

Here's my thinking on this: it does not matter what the Favored Virginian tells or that he LOVES the sauerkraut/Law. Watching a grown ass, articulate, professional man work his way through a five character, three act, courtroom theatre of the absurd by himself is a damn good time. I don't remember the cases - I remember the characters he brought to life for me. I would be a total sucker for him as a juror. As long as he kept telling the story, I'd want to hear more until I was completely overwhelmed by hunger and the need to hear a guitar. The Favored Virginian understands that sometimes the story can just run away with you. I love that.

Oh, damn. That's what the Dude Harpy has been saying to me for months. His whole premise is that the story's the thing. You keep telling the story and at some point you are able to capture more than what happened - you capture the fascination we are all brewing up inside of us. He thinks that shrimp, grits, lasagna, lawyers, beer... it all counts. It's all worth telling.

Maybe he will accept this as a forged hall pass on all of the not-writing demerits I have racked up. I sat down to whine and I ended up telling a story or two. I feel like the kid who accidentally ate and enjoyed the dreaded sauerkraut.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Thanks to the overwhelming response of the Auspicious masses I am posting this although it did not make the cut 8 months ago. For my empathetic readers, I am happy to no longer be in the place I was when I wrote this. I stand by my views on Don Johnson, however.
There are many ways to look at life but I have never found a mathematical approach to be helpful. I do not recommend taking a tally of any aspect of life even though so much in life suggests that we should.

Facebook friends. Why does facebook promote the tally of the number of friends anyone has? It's not like you are having tea and crumpets with them all each week?

Weight. As a tall woman I have never wanted to talk numbers on my weight. I was a teenager the first time I read a description of a man who was supposed to be the epitome of masculinity and weighed... the same amount as I did. I had to abandon my marriage plans to Don Johnson because of an age difference, a weight similarity, and height issues that need not be addressed here. I am still torn on that decision.

Number of academic degrees. Salary. Number of trips to wherever we are supposed to be travelling now. Cholesterol level. Failed marriages. Speed limits. They have their purpose these numbers, but we are usually misguided as to the breadth of their import.

I have never found any of this to be telling of anything intriguing about who I am or anyone else is, but I still fall into the traps. (And not just the speed traps.) With my defenses down in my mourning time, I don't feel the traps coming at all.

Today I looked at my weight on my driver's license, and determined that I filled that out BEFORE the birth of my second child. Today I also kept quiet about the years spent in academic study post-high school for fear of being judged by people I do not know well. Today I was self-conscious about my age twice - once too old, the other too young. Today I looked at my children and counted the years I have left to treasure them in my house.
All of this is ridiculous and could not be less Zen, but in times of stress, counting is easier to deal with than big thoughts on overwhelming emotions.

I have been counting the days of life without my aunt in this world where she belongs. I counted my stomach aches, but got over that (the counting, not the stomach aches.)I counted all the sympathy cards but they had far more power than their numbers would suggest. I counted the number of vegetable types in supper - 7! I counted the minutes in traffic until I thought that was stupid, then remembered that I was counting because it was better than crying, and so I resumed counting minutes in traffic.

I almost counted the words in this seemingly purposeless post but decided to count reasons to be forthright and honest about grief instead. The numbers were about the same.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Non Sequitur Buffet

Returning from a Wi-fi free camping vacation I realized I left the 15 Jots faithful in a lurch again. That's a shame because I had some very deep thoughts on that air mattress in the tent in my Uncle's backyard in Florida, but I have forgotten all of them. I received a traumatic brain injury from staring at the highway for 16 hours on the solo drive back that I took straight like a Jaeger shot with Cuervo chaser. All I have left are random thoughts with the intellectual calories of a Fox news commentary. But now that you have all outed yourselves, I know who my readers are and you are a forgiving bunch.

First up - In the interest of building the kingdom of heaven on Earth, let's boycott chicken. I have decided that poultry farming is inhumane and unreasonable. All people are created equal and none of us should have to ever be near a chicken or a rooster. I came to this conclusion when some red-crowned bastard rooster from Germany started cock-a-doodle-annoying-the-ever-loving-crap-out-of-me-dooing in small-town Florida every morning at 1:30 AM. (That's how I knew he was German. He was on time in Stuttgart.) The way I see it is simple math. No eggs + no chicken fajitas = no roosters and peaceful sleep in small-town America, which will most likely lead to peace on Earth. If we start the boycott now we should see results by Wednesday.

Next up - I should go into another writing block built of self-loathing and grammatical inertia after my Florida trip because another week with my Uncle Dan confirms that he is one of the funniest people I know. I have said it before, but it is so true that it needs repeating- I come from a long line of superb story-tellers and I am not one of them. In a super story powers ultimate tale match I am in only the ninth tier behind my cousin Ellen, my aunt Libby, all of my grandmothers, Uncle Dan, my Dad's dog Scruffy, and my mother's architecture library. I do squeak in ahead of my sister's security blanket and my cousin's travel photos from Piankatank Shores, but barely.

I looked up one of my uncle's favorite expressions and it turns out, as expected, to come from a Western series - "Rawhide" to be exact. My uncle who survived multiple near-fatal crashes and has more scars than I have years of life, who hand-raked two-and-a-half acres in preparation of our visit and wore a different Hawaiian shirt every day we were there... as if he were not colorful enough, he peppers his speech with expressions from old Westerns. He is a jack of many trades but blogging is not one of them so I can continue to write if for no other reason than to introduce him to you. The word, by the way is "jasper" pronounced /jay-spur/ and meaning kid or doofus.

For the dessert course: I am taking an editorial vote. I found some old posts in the Jots archives that did not make the cut. I could pull a Salinger and wait until I'm dead to post them but I believe that the best part of dead is that you get to forget all your passwords. Not that remembering "JasonStathamLoveNugget1" takes all that many living brain cells. Would you like to see that which did not make the cut in the past 9 months or keep the vault sealed? Comments welcome. For you Facebook readers, now taking votes on the comments page at

In conclusion - (as if there was any logical progression here and I did not just think of this last little vignette... but in sermons I used to say "in conclusion' to let people know that freedom was nigh) I passed one of my readers on the street today. He looks awesome. Spring in his step, good coloring, lost some weight... I resisted asking if I could use his health and well-being as crass blog marketing. I'm thinking something along the lines of "Auspicious is as Jots reads" or "Auspicious Jots is for Optimists - the next post has got to be better" or something classsy, witty and subtle like the blog itself. Something like "Reading Auspicious Jots will make you Hot, Baby".

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lent 2010

Ever feel like the jackass who walks into the wedding and blurts out something about the bride's ex-girlfriend? I am normally blessed in being the minister who watches that outburst and thinks, "Not this again. Hope they have bacon wrapped scallops at the reception." But today - I am the jackass.

After my recent post it has been brought to my attention that I have not three but twelve readers, and nine of them would like recognition. Sorry that I did not see you there in your lovely bridal veils. I apologize with glee and thank you all for the affirmation that you would rather read my blog than scrub your toilet. I will post more regularly starting now.

(For my reader who IS the jackass at the wedding, you should probably start blogging, too, boy-o. I know five of these people would read you because they have more than one toilet to avoid cleaning. )

Today is a bright shiny Saturday morning on the 40th (** explained below, bitte) day of my Lenten diet/cleanse/purge/meal time death march. For my reader of the Zoroastrian persuasian, that means I am three meals away from being done with this spiritual experiment gone nuclear.

** For my savvy Christian reader, you know that Lent can be 40, 44, 46 or 55 days depending upon one's sect. I meant to go for 40 and figured out at 10:40 PM on the 46th day that I'd gone for the gold, at least in Western Christendom's Lenten terms. I will be seeing Jesus tomorrow for a 6 day refund.

I cornered a possible 13th reader at the elementary school yesterday who claimed he would read the blog if I wrote about the Lenten cleanse. I have a quota to fill or Blogspot reduces my clearance level which currently allows me to use asterisks and occasional German words (and as exhibited above ** I really need those. O Tannenbaum.) So it looks like it is the request hour here at Auspicious Jots.

Lent, duh... what?

Lent is the Christian observance leading up to the celebration of Easter. In my case it lasted from Ash Wednesday until the morning of Easter Sunday. Some denominations take out the Sundays in the count, celebrating multiple "mini-Easters". Others stop at Palm Sunday, others at Maundy Thursday; and the Eastern church does some hard core math that brings them to 55 days.

There are many Lenten traditions, but the most commonly known ones are a dramatic dietary change and fasting. One of my readers thinks that Lent is a time to quit coffee, chocolate, and sex with the lights on, but she is confusing New Year's with Lent. She is seeing Jesus tomorrow about a whammy of a refund.

What was I thinking?

I have observed a Lenten/Passover combo plan off and on for years. Each year at this time I pay more attention to whatever spiritual discipline I am practicing. Some years I go to Lenten lunch lectures at the Episcopal church. Other years I journal and meditate. Some years I do lectio divina (** to be explained in a different entry, Kartoffelnkuche). I find that the end of Winter is a great time to do this because as the practice becomes harder to sustain, Winter becomes easier to endure. By the time Easter and Passover roll around, I am one happy camper.

What was the plan?

The plan was to strip a little slice of joy out of my life every week. No, that was the result. The plan was to progressively remove foods from my diet in order to think about sacrifice and blessings every day of Lent and into Passover. The progressive method was something I learned from a former judge who used to do an annual diet cleanse that she described as transcendent.

Here's how it worked. Every week I removed another element of my diet without replacing the previously removed items. On Ash Wednesday I lost beef. February 24, I lost pork. March 3 - chicken; 10 - eggs; 17 - seafood; 24 - dairy; 31-wheat. I also removed caffeine about half way through and alcohol out of necessity because chickpeas do a crappy job of absorbing vodka.

How hard was it?

It was hard in the out of shape couch potato running 10 miles world of hard. It was not Mt. Everest hard. The worst was at the end when I lost dairy and wheat and dishonored the pork fat heritage of my ancestors by becoming a gluten-free vegan.

At that point my son began calling it "that crazy diet." My husband began eating meals with friends. My co-dependent enabling best friend bought Tofutti cream cheese and started putting his hand over his plate so I could not see his meal, as if a hand can cover the smell of Jerk Chicken.

What made it easier was that it was progressively restrictive but I was not required to go cold turkey (went out with the chicken). I had plenty of time to adjust to each stage before the next came. Next time I will take the wheat out at the beginning of Passover but this go round I couldn't handle it that early. I also cheated with a couple of things: milk chocolate was allowed all along in small portions; I intended to go to water only to drink but let myself have juice if I was having trouble keeping my blood sugar up; when my mom brought me a philly cheese sub on week 3 I ate it anyway because I felt like throwing out animal flesh was a greater sin than eating the meat. And because my mama is bigger than I am and scares me.

Has it been worth it?

Yes. This was the most eye-opening Lent ever. I thought about Lent every single day with increasing concentration as my menu shrank. In addition to the spiritual benefits, I slept better. I developed a healthier view of eating as sustaining instead of eating as a hobby, friend, escape, reward, or reflex. Eventually I had more energy. And, honest to Elijah, once the wheat was gone I had far fewer cravings and overate only once. Exercise was easier. And I did happen to lose weight although that was not the purpose of the cleanse, Reader #7.

Why did I not think of this earlier?

You would think that a minister would come up with this before leaving the ministry when one could share it with a congregation. The 13th reader may do just that for next year's Lent. The problem with a rewarding career that requires creativity, empathy, boundless energy, and an extremely flexible schedule is that it is untenable on this planet. At some point you lose one or more of those attributes and the whole system transforms from a fluid dance to a... what's the word? Struggle? No. Chaos? No.

Oh yeah... the Alcatraz of the creative spark.

I did not think of this when it would have been a useful tool for the seekers within my congregation because being a minister meant that I raced my days at a full gallop, without a saddle, holding on to mane for dear life. Now that I stand at a copier, look at boxes, and have a complicated relationship with a telephone system: these things come to me. Go figure.

In 12 hours I will be eating pot roast with roasted root veggies, orzo salad with feta, brown rice in organic chicken broth, fresh pineapple, and broiled scallops with shrimp. It will be the best Easter dinner of my life. It will also be eaten in very small portions because I am appropriately fearful that it will make me vomit. After that fiesta de tastebuds I plan to ease back into food on a 20 day plan, give or take 6 days.

And Reader 8 thought tomorrow was about bunnies.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dear Bob

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your recent fan letter. These days at Auspicious Jots due to our blogging negligence we only receive spam mail so it was exciting to recieve a note that was in English, pertinent to the blog, and complimentary.

Regarding your questions in order:

1) The long delay in this response is due to many obligations to my fans. This is an award winning blog that examines life and death issues, the heartbreaks and joys of parenting, and honky tonk music. With such a wide-ranging scope we have a breadth of readership that is... what is the word... ? Ok, well... by breadth I am referring to the two other fans named Gray and Mary Rose. Lovely people those two. I'll introduce you some time. They were probably at my local watering hole when you celebrated my birthday in my honor but without my presence. And by my many obligations to them I am referring to the concentration required to change the subject quickly and dramatically when they mention the blog.

2) I do not need an intervention. I stopped writing the blog because I no longer had an audience. Or so I thought. Now that the three of you have let me know your interest, I will resume writing. I will just need you to intervene periodically and remind me of my blogging purpose, give me encouragement, threaten me at times, and prod me. But this is in no way an intervention.

3) You asked about my new vocation. My latest career move involves many, many copies. Copies and file folders and facsimiles and duplicates, because I can't say copies any more without looking dim.

Each day I sit at my desk after a long round at the copier. Once rested, I offer a meaningful look at the phone. Sometimes I cock an eyebrow so the phone knows that I know, but I don't really know. Eventually I break eye contact to get up and move the furniture until the phone rings because I stopped watching it.

After I tend to the phone's needs I look around the office. Eventually my eyes fall upon boxes of my own writings and hundreds of books that I collected in a 15 year career. I try not to give these boxes meaningful eye contact. I try to give them the disinterested face I give lotion hawkers at the mall. But the boxes stare and I think they sometimes lift a communal cardboard eyebrow to let me know that they know. And it seems that they really know.

When the boxes are staring me down I take a deep breath because that's what I used to do for a living - I led by example in breathing deeply. Sometimes I open a flap on one of the boxes with my pinkie finger to peep inside. If I open the flap wide enough to let in some sunlight I see orders of service with my name on them. I see sermons and funerals and newsletter articles and meditations all in my handwriting or with my name on them. The books have meaningfully turned down pages and enthusiastic marginalia and on the inside covers -my name. Occasionally there is a photo tucked in of someone who looks a lot like me. Like me if I wore a robe for a living which is a silly but oddly familiar thought.

And if the phone still does not ring I stare intently at these papers who would very much appreciate some collating or filing or even a little shuffling. I stare at the books with their bright underlinings. I stare inside these boxes full of my name and the office gets very quiet. I take another deep breath. I blink. I breathe again.

Then I look away. I break eye contact with the boxes, slide my pinkie back closing the flap, and I walk back to my desk adjusting the rocking chair on the way.

I say to myself that my name being all over those things is a coincidence like when you have cereal with honey for breakfast from a little plastic honey bear and then driving home from work the radio plays Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears. I say to myself that somewhere very close by is a piece of paper that needs to be duplicated then I look hard at the phone to hurt its feelings so it will go away for awhile.

This is what I do.

Thank you for your letter, Bob.