Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

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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


with 4 comments

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.


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

with 3 comments

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

Letter to a young(er) friend

with 2 comments

I stood in your cute little sparkly flats about 14 years ago.

I had served as the bridesmaid in my seventh wedding (second as maid of honor). And although I was so very happy for my friend who was taking the walk down the aisle, I ached a bit (sometimes more than a bit) on the inside.

I wondered if I would find wuv, twu wuv.

The Princess Bride.

When those same friends started having babies and I became “Aunt Amy” to lots of little boys and girls, I was thrilled with the honor but also knew that there was some new sorority to which I didn’t know the secret handshake.

In my loneliness, I made some not-so-wise decisions about boys. I spent way too much time trying to capture the attention of guys who made it clear that I was nothing but a casual date. (Their definition of casual being vastly different than mine.)

I told myself that this was fine with me.

I told myself that I didn’t want to get married or settle down. I convinced myself that I was a romantic.

Then I got into therapy.

I learned that my time is a gift. I learned that it was okay to not be the life of the party as a way to mask some sadness.

I learned that when I was crystal clear about what I wanted out of life and stopped sending the universe so many conflicting signals that love would come…even if that love was simply a deep and abiding commitment to my truest self.

I learned to pray. Not the remote, automatic prayers of the give-me kind, but the long meditations to value what I had in the present.

So when the opportunity came to reunite with a man that I knew I shared a sincere connection with, I told him I wasn’t interested in just the right now. I didn’t want to go on any more first dates. He was unsure, but he didn’t walk away.

A year later we were engaged.

In three days, we’ll celebrate nine years of marriage.

I don’t know what path your life will take, my dear friend. And, I can’t tell you not to worry any more than any one could have told me that then.

What I do know is this simple thing: when you are truly ready to live to YOUR fullest measure, the right person will recognize your light because it will shine so bright and you won’t try to diminish it…and he won’t ask you to.

Written by The Long Way

April 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Friends

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