Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

Whoopi – we graduated!

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The Graduates: (from l) The author, Jenny D., Austin Floyd, Kate H. Photo courtesy of fellow graduate, Kristine Stevens Beeco.

On Saturday, we all – “the writers” – got together one last time to celebrate SCAD Commencement.

We sweated like crazy under all that regalia – the gown that melts in rain and under irons, the velveteen hood with an appendix-like tail, the stole of gratitude (?) which apparently makes mothers cry, and a mortar board which no one looks especially good in (We’re all holding out for the hats the Ph.D.’s wear).

EGOT extraordinaire Whoopi Goldberg spoke, thanking the parents for biting their tongues when their children said they wanted to attend an art school, encouraging the students to “surf” and be flexible in their uniqueness, telling us that it’s okay to be different and strange while understanding that – at time – different and strange can be lonely.

And so…there was much laughter, some long hugs – the kind where you think if you let go you’ll lose something essential, and a few tears (most of them shed out of sight in some place like the shower).

Commencement is such a strange word for an ending.

But, it’s a beginning, too. Here are some of the new beginnings we look forward to:

  • Austin will now be Professor Floyd at Coastal Carolina. How lucky his students are!
  • Jenny is headed off to Brooklyn, where she is looking for work in PR, especially crisis communication. So employers – pay attention! She’s a gem.
  • Kate is headed to Dartmouth for ANOTHER degree in creative writing and is teaching at Armstrong Atlantic in the fall. Can’t wait to read her first novel!
  • Amber is working for This I Believe and spending the summer in Savannah with Ben before they head off to their future together in Austin, Texas in August.
  • Eli is going back to Charlotte, NC, where she’s applied for her dream job in student success and communications.

Stay in touch!

Written by The Long Way

June 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Friends

Half-baked

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The message I had been waiting for since April finally floated into my Inbox.

It read that I had been accepted into the inaugural Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers. The Oxford American is my favorite magazine. I’ve been too timid to submit anything for publication…but I was compelled (commanded by Jonathan Rabb, really) to enter a writing sample for consideration.

The message from the OA’s editors ended with this passage from Goethe: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” (Serendipitous that I used to have that phrase hanging on my office wall.)

I needed boldness. The price tag for the Summit is steep, and I felt as if I shouldn’t go because it would occur two weeks after my mom’s surgery.

But…

Mom said I had to go.

And then…

The amazing Jenny D. and Dr. James Lough organized a bake sale so that we could raise some funds to help pay for my tuition.

Oh, the power of a cupcake.

Courtesy of Google Images.

Lynn Schneider and Sarah “Sweezy” Boutwell baked muffins and cookies. Classmates donated doughnuts, candy, books, and time staffing the table.

(There was a little drama with the Art History folks. I thought Jenny D. was going to get into a throwdown with one of them.)

We still have one more day to go, and we’ve already raised 1/3 of the total funds – thanks in no small part to the generosity of three people who simply asked – “What do you need?” With other support, I’m going to go.

I have a hard time asking for help. I was raised to be fairly self-sufficient, but I’m learning that letting other people help you let’s them know that they are needed and appreciated.

I don’t really know how to say thank you to everyone. I’m humbled beyond words. But I want everyone to know that your kindness and friendship enriches my life more than cream cheese frosting. You all are the icing on my cake. And if I only had one biscuit left, I’d give you half.

Written by The Long Way

June 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Friends

First Impressions

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So today is the last day of graduate school for the five of us who entered the Savannah College of Art and Design’s writing program together in September 2009.

Whoopi Goldberg is slated to deliver our commencement address. I wonder if she’ll cut the stinky cheese like she did on The View this past week. It must’ve smelled like a rotting animal carcass by the way Barbara Walters jumped into Dr. Oz’s lap [maybe Barbara was just looking for an excuse to give Oz a lap dance, that saucy minx!]. Dr. Oz was explaining how farting is healthy, and Whoopi let an SBD rip. This is good news, because I guess my husband is going to live forever.

But, I digress…

We five – Jenny, Amber, Austin, Elisa and I – sat around a table at SCAD’s book store (how appropriate) with the chair of the department and introduced ourselves. We straddled generations X and Y. We were very unsure of one another.

Dr. Lough was professional in his tie and perfect posture, but he immediately established that he was affable and a little bit subversive. I thought we were going to get along…until he made some comment about Foucault, and I ran screaming (in my head for the nearest reference book, believing I was such a fraud to think I could ever make it in a grad school writing program).

Jennifer Marie Dunn

The fabulous Jenny D.

Jenny D. sat there in her wife-beater with a trucker cap that read, “I just got paid and am looking for a good time.” She mentioned that she worked in construction…in New Orleans…after Katrina. I was scared shitless of her.

Amber may be pint-sized but she's a force.

But I was more scared of Amber, who wore a flannel shirt over a T-shirt and said she’d been in the Peace Corps and now ran a biker bar in Daytona Beach, Florida – the epicenter of authentic black leather Hogs (not ridden by Rubs). She didn’t smile once.

The amazing Austin with vegan cupcakes.

Austin wore skinny jeans and a retro Cowboy shirt. I couldn’t understand a single thing he said, low-talker that he is. But, I could tell he was intelligent and deep. He wore burlap shoes – Toms, I think – that respected animals. He was the epitome of hipness, without the trust-fund disenfranchisement skulking around Savannah.

Eli Ridiculi - the festive party girl.

Eli smiled broadly and bounced like a cheerleader. I could tell she had been in a dance troupe at some point in her life. She spoke about a break-up and a layoff, and about how both of those events caused her to take stock of what she wanted out of life. So she took the bull by the horns…and enrolled in grad school, which is what we all did.

I’ve been told that I came across as a know-it-all brownie hound (Urban Dictionary, #4). That’s what happens when you are nervous and latch on to anything that sounds familiar.

I could not have foreseen at that moment how much these people would come to mean to me. As we took classes together and shared our writing, we revealed our innermost – the dark scary parts, the lyrical moments, the sublime, the understated, the laugh-out-loud, the lessons, the failures, the hopes. We overcame those first impressions and grew into a family. We celebrated birthdays, engagements and weddings. We consoled heart breaks and hardships. We forged bonds that will last beyond the grad school daze.

I will never forget –

  • How Jenny Dunn’s poppy-seed cake nourished Brian and I as we drove all night to be at my father’s bedside as he left this life to pass on to the next.
  • The sound Jenny’s foot made as it fractured against her tile floor after she made a perfect leap to Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.”
  • How Amber brought me food when I was too sick to get out of bed. So did Austin. He brought me groceries from Trader Joe’s and homemade tomato soup made by his mom.
  • When Eli bought a round of drinks to celebrate the cookbook.
  • Going over to Austin and Lyndsay’s place the day they brought Olivia home.

We all watched each other’s dogs. Maybe that’s why we got along so well – we’re dog people…and word people.

We’ve carved pumpkins together. We’ve workshopped our stories, talked about our futures, made Boilo, endured medical scares, drank too much, and we welcomed others into our little band of gypsies – J. Char and Nate, Kate, Cameron, Lynn, Sarah, Becca and Jim…
We don’t completely know what’s next, but we had no idea how this chapter of our lives would turn out when we started it…and it’s been a great read.

Written by The Long Way

June 1, 2011 at 6:00 am

Memorial Day Film Fest

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In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve made a list of my favorite war movies. That might seem like a strange thing to do, but I find that the news fails to bring the stories into our homes often enough and well enough for us to understand the sacrifice…but I find films – ones done well and not as propaganda pieces and that really seek to find the humanity within the stories of the soldiers as well as the one’s who remain at home – make us more aware.

Note: This list is by no means a comprehensive one. Pleas share with me the ones that matter to you.

 

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Director: William Wyler

Truly the first movie ever to deal with post traumatic stress syndrome as well as how hard it is for service people and the ones holding down the fort to readjust to life together.

2. Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Director: Clint Eastwood

These back-to-back films illuminated how both the Americans and the Japanese – bitter enemies – weren’t so different after all. They play upon our concepts of “the other” and reveals that the Japanese soldiers, who knew Iwo Jima was a suicide mission, thought about their moms, wrote letters to their wives…same as the Americans.

3. To Hell and Back (1955)

The story of the most decorated soldier of World War II – a Texas boy named Audie Murphy. Interesting to note, actor Charles Durning was the second most decorated and the most decorated living veteran.

4. Platoon (1986)

Director: Oliver Stone

I remember seeing this film in college and walking into the lobby to find Vietnam vets crying, as if finally someone understood.

5. Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Katheryn Bigelow

I had the good fortune of seeing this film at the Savannah Film Festival and of meeting the film’s cast, including Jeremy Renner. I found myself white-knuckled and unable to breath through much of the film…and that final scene, when you know he’s forever altered by battle.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

That first half hour and those last five minutes…they earned it.

7. A Few Good Men (1992)

Director: Rob Reiner

What I love about this film, which isn’t directly a war film, is that the writer Aaron Sorkin allows each of his characters to actually be right. That scene between Demi Moore and Jason Pollock sums it up: the deep need to feel protected versus picking on someone weaker.

Worth Mentioning: The television series China Beach, Schindler’s List, Beautiful, Patton…

Written by The Long Way

May 31, 2011 at 3:13 am

A letter to me

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I just love this Brad Paisley song and video that he wrote from his famous self to his high school self.

So, I thought I might just try my hand at writing a letter to myself and to share it with you. (I know it seems long, but it’s a quick read. Pretend it’s poetry.)

Verse 1:

If I could write a letter to me

I’d send it back in time when I was sweet 16

To prove it, I would say look inside the desk

There’s a journal of your writing that proves you’re one hot mess.

But then I’d say I know it’s tough to feel like you’re never enough

But trust me you’ve got heart and Mel just thinks you’re awesome

By sophomore year of college, you’re really gonna blossom

Chorus 1:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re not thin like the other girls

You’ve got curves and boys seem to like heroin chic

You’ll make it through the wonder years and see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.

Verse 2:

When you get the chance to sub in that play

Don’t shut down, be your freaky self and unafraid.

And when Mike kisses you in Laurie’s pool, don’t get shy and swim away

Homecoming was coming up and you might’ve had a date.

Each and every time you have a fight

Let Mom think she’s sometimes right.

And you should really thank your teachers;

You were blessed with quite a few

Who saw beneath your holding back and knew what you could do

Chorus 2:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re so unsure of yourself and if you’ll find true love

Don’t worry; you’ll make it through high school

And college then you’ll see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.

Bridge:

You’ve got so much to look forward to,

You’ve got the bestest friends

And you’re going to make a lovely bride.

And I’d end by saying, have no fear,

This life’s one joyful, wild ride.

I guess I’ll you in the mirror in about 25 years.

Remember to find the laughter even through your tears.

Final chorus:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

I wish you’d learn another language

And never be afraid to fly.

Open up your heart and you will see

It all falls into place eventually.

If I could write a letter to me.

To me.

Written by The Long Way

May 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Three cheese coins in the fountain

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This is a picture of me, circa 1968, after a massive throwdown with chocolate cake.

This is a picture of me, circa 1969, after indulging in a plate of spaghetti.

As you can see, I wore my food, which means I really enjoyed it. Sometimes even today, my husband will walk by me and point to peanut butter in my hair or a bread crumb on my cheek or barbecue sauce on my shirt.

I’m what “they” call a “foodie.”

I like to cook. I like to bake. I like to eat. I like to throw dinner parties. I like to write about food. Strangely, though, I didn’t want to write a food blog. But someone said the other day, “I’m really surprised you didn’t write about food because you talk about it a LOT…and I was really hoping for the cheese coin recipe.”

Well, my friend, you are correct. I talk a LOT about food. And your wish is granted…

Three Cheese Coins

1 loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread

1 three-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

3 ounces feta cheese, preferably tomato-basil

3 ounces parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon course ground black pepper

1. Using a 1-inch round biscuit cutter, cut 48 circles out of the bread slices. Set aside. Save the bread remainders for homemade croutons or stuffing.

2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper.

3. In a food processor, blend together the cheeses, the egg, the peppers and salt until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

4. Using a small flat spatula, mound a bit of the cheese mixture, approximately 2 teaspoons, onto a bread round – higher in the center and smooth at the edges – then place onto the prepared cookie sheet.

5. Once you have covered all of the bread rounds with the cheese, place the cookie sheet in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the coins are golden brown on top and a little puffy.

6. Serve immediately with sliced pears, roasted almonds and a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio. These make a great appetizer for a party or as part of cheese course after the main entrée.

P.S. I’ll post a picture of the cheese coins once I get them baked. They usually don’t last long.

 

Written by The Long Way

May 29, 2011 at 12:40 am

Posted in Food

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The Big C

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I’m not that in to writing my blog this week…so forgive me this one. I’m warning you that it’s not a particularly happy one. It doesn’t have links or fun pictures or cartoons. I just can’t bring myself…

Instead of thinking about songs or food or jobs or clothes, I have been reading blogs from women undergoing treatment for uterine cancer. Some people whisper that word – cancer – as if saying it lightly will mitigate its power. Unfortunately, whispers give it strength. As far as I’m concerned, we need to say it like any other word so we strip it of its power to bring us to our knees.

I am heartened and heartbroken in equal measure reading the words of these other women, as I search for clues to what lies ahead. I feel more like a lazy Susan, though: scared, fighting mad, hopeful, sad, wounded, weepy, peaceful, pissed.

I am trying to get up-to-speed on Uterine Serous Papillary Carcinoma. My mother was diagnosed with this type of cancer on Wednesday of this week, so I’m learning an entirely new vocabulary, all about CA125 counts, taxol chemotherapy, radiotherapy, abdominal washes, and staging.

Mom’s cancer is Stage III. (There are only four stages.) She has one tumor in her uterus and another near her stomach. We’ll know after her surgery in two weeks whether it has metastasized.

I have learned that it is incurable, but can be treated as a chronic disease. This particular cancer has a high rate of recurrence.

Mom and I have held some odd conversations this week, about life, death and belief. But, we’ve found room for laughter amid talk about wishes, regrets, and hospice – should that need arise. Instead of working on homework, I’ve been writing her Last Will and Testament, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney.

This is one of those times I hate being the writer in the family.

Written by The Long Way

May 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Posted in Family

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