Sunday, February 26, 2012

Party of Woodstock

Seriously. Rick Santorum has called the Democratic Party the "Party of Woodstock." I'm trying to picture President Obama jamming in the mud to "Purple Haze." Ooops! Fail.

I'm old enough to remember Woodstock, and truth be told, much more has been made of it in the ensuing years than was made of it at the time. I do know that the televised images of young people cavorting in the rain, in various states of undress and in various states of altered consciousness, scared the crap out of Middle America. But it took a while for that to happen.

Actually, the fact that we aren't a Woodstock generation should say it all. A true Party of Woodstock would be way left of center, we would have legalized weed, and corporations would be required to smile on their brothers, everybody get together, gotta love one another right now. Does that sound like America to you?

Let me tell Moron Rick and all you young whippersnappers what life was like in the years immediately after Woodstock.

In public school health class, segregated by gender, we girls were told exactly how to prevent pregnancy. We were shown all the different ways it could be done. The teacher passed around an unopened package of birth control pills and told us where to go to get them for free. We passed around a diaphragm and saw a film on how an IUD worked. Many of my friends promptly went to the state-funded free clinic and got their pills. They didn't need to tell a parent about the appointment or the pills.

I had plenty of high school classmates who were sexually active. No one got pregnant.

When I went into college, still in the 1970s, I got free pills from the state-funded dispensary too. I used them. I never got pregnant until I wanted to. One of my friends was not so lucky. Friend's mom found Friend's pills in the medicine cabinet (while snooping) and demanded Friend stop taking them immediately. Within three months, Friend had to get an abortion, which she had to hide from her family. She got it without question (and without ultrasound) at a state-funded clinic.

Why are we going backwards on this? Who are these people, and why do they care what women do with their lives? I don't understand it at all.

You know what I think? I think we need a Party of Woodstock. If I could get family planning classes in 1975, and now I can go to my 35th anniversary class reunion and see photos of plump, smiling grandchildren, I don't think anyone got harmed by learning how to prevent pregnancy.

If there are any young gals reading this here Pagan diary, let me just say that I feel sorry for you. What was easy for my generation has become a struggle for you ... and it looks to get worse before it gets better.

I'll do my part to put things back on track. But girls: It's really up to you. Vote for your autonomy. And above all else, act responsibly ... no matter how hard it is to find those pills these days.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pagan Backyard Shrine

Day One of the stomach flu, I pretty much stayed on the couch watching t.v. After a day of that, having a job seemed like a great big blessing.

Day Two, I felt better. So I grabbed the Netbook and started messing around.

"The Gods Are Bored" is such a fabulous intellectual property that I thought I'd better secure its name elsewhere. So I fumbled through Tumblr and made one for "The Gods Are Bored." If you have a Tumblr, come and follow me! I'll be posting different stuff there from here ... but this blog will still be your central clearinghouse for all things bored god.

Day Three, it's cold as can be outside, but I took a minute to mess around with the camera in this Netbook. Voila! Here's my Shrine of the Mists, lieblings!
Okay, okay. It's not quite focused. Neither am I.

Most of the rocks on this shrine are from my former farm. I brought a few at a time every time I visited over the last 18 months. There's some Marcellus shale and some brachiopod fossils. Around the flat stone are landscaping pebbles, Marcellus shale,  sea glass, quartz crystals, marbles, various weird stones I've found, sea shells, and leaves from the surrounding trees. At night I put a single candle on the flat stone and shield it with a hurricane globe, but only if meteorological conditions are right. This is the place where I "All Hail" the very most ancient deities whose names have been lost to time.

Some nights I speak to the Green Man here. I have learned to be very careful what I say.

I went back and forth philosophically over whether to post pictures of my shrine, since it is such a personal thing. However, I have had many people ask me how to make one, and what it should look like. Well, here's what it looks like, and if I get enough comments, I'll write a post about how it was made.

Trust me, you can do this. I only worked as a stone mason for part of one summer. And that was a long, long time ago.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Stomach flu navel gaze

I think it's a bit of serendipity that I'm sitting here at home with a case of the stomach flu on the day that my grandfather's property passes out of my hands forever. As I write this, the settlement is being completed out in Bedford, PA on the place I lovingly called Big Rock.

Today would not have been a good day for me to be at school, dealing with 110 teenagers and various adults. If I felt well I would be irritable and snappish, likely to do or say something out of character. Perhaps the bored gods saw that eventuality and stuck me in bed for two days.

Funny thing is, the sale of this land is almost exactly the same situation in that movie, "The Descendants," except that in the movie there are a lot more cousins in the mix. I just have an uncle, a sister, and three cousins. And no George Clooney on hand to save the day.

My sister sent me an email. She and her husband and their newly-adopted 8-year-old are going to the settlement, so they can sign the papers and get their check today. Sis was angry when I held up the sale for irregularities, back in January. Apparently she is desperate for the money.

Sis took custody of two boys back in May of 2011, wards of a private Christian adoption agency from which they were bought (something like $30,000). This agency did not require any parenting classes and did not contact next-of-kin for references. Nor did they disclose that the boys being adopted were born to a mother who was abusing alcohol and crack cocaine while they were in utero. Sis has already "returned to sender" the younger of the two, a boy who has all the symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a boy who was shuttled between indifferent Christian foster families and orphanages and a crazy grandmother for the first years of his life. He was in Sis's home for about four months.

In her email, Sis said she was taking the remaining boy up to the property settlement "so he can meet at least a little bit of his family."

From where I'm sitting I think it would be better if the kid had the stomach flu himself today.

I dunno ...  I just don't see a property settlement table as an optimal place for a troubled adoptee to meet and greet the last remaining member of my dad's generation. Two hours in the car one way, a lawyer's office, maybe lunch at a diner in the little county seat, maybe a long back-roads drive down to the house that is being cleaned out ... Long drive home with a vague memory of some tall old man with an odd stare and a white beard. Who may himself be crying today, given that he's signing the papers on the place he has called home since 1978.

This is just another example of Sis's inability to engage the reality portion of life.

I wonder what she will do with the $23,000-and-change portion of the farm that is her due? She says that she and her husband have exhausted their retirement savings. To hear someone admit this at age 47 -- having just adopted an eight-year-old -- is rather frightening.

So. I get $23,000-and-change too. Which is either two years' state and local taxes in Snobville or a year of college tuition for The Spare.

Now, now, readers ... Don't tempt me to blow the dough on a fancy new car or a couple trips to some island. I don't roll that way. Maybe, four years or so from now, I'll buy a couple of acres of land. Or maybe not. It would be better to hear America singing right where I am, close by the ghost of Walt Whitman.

Oh ... one piece of big good news! The East Coast Vulture Festival gave the a-okay sign to the buzzard costume rental! I may be the only vulture at the fair!

I hope you don't get this stomach bug. It's a ripper.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Still Not Believing My Eyes

If you live in the Delaware Valley of the US of A, and you turn the TV on and see Rick Santorum as a serious presidential candidate, you are absolutely baffled. Baffled, I tell you! You want to open a window and shout, "HEY, IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY CABLE?"

Since the founding days of "The Gods Are Bored," ex-Senator Santorum has been a favorite whipping boy (tee hee), winner of more "moron par excellence" citations than any other imbicile on the planet. His presence at the top of the political scene proves that all investors, including Super PACS, want to buy at bargain basement prices.

Don't let the sweater vest fool you. Oh, wait a minute. You're reading "The Gods Are Bored!" You learned not to let sweater vests fool you at your mama's knee.

Anyway, it's time to re-acquaint non-Pennsylvanians with the antics of Santorum. Not the ones that made the public stage, like his suggestion that men would want to marry dogs. No, the antics that lost him his seat in the Senate.

Over the weekend, this moron par excellence heaped vitriol on public schools, pretty much calling for them to be abolished. He favors home schooling, because, of course, his long-suffering spouse home-schooled his brood of brats.

But wait. Read the fine print.

The Santorum brood was home-schooled at the expense of the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. Yes indeed, the Keystone State paid for the books, computers, testing ... everything except maybe the copies of Of Pandas and People that round out the liberal education of every unfortunate offspring of a wacked Christian zealot.

Here's the wrinkle:

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paid to educate the Santorum brood while said brood was actually living in Virginia. This came to be a sore subject on the old home turf around election time. Many citizens felt they had been ill-used. They voted accordingly.

Charter school? Santorum didn't use it. Parochial school? Santorum's kids did not attend. No, folks. The bitty babes may have learned Pandas in the comfort of their suburban Virginia McMansion, but they got a fully funded public school education. Rick Santorum's outlay for this education? Whatever the heck the property taxes were on the little house he called "home" somewhere near Pittsburgh. You know the place. The one where no one bothered to mow the lawn. Why should the grass be mowed when the family was living in Virginia?

I did a little research.

What do Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan all have in common? Oh geez. They all attended public schools. Word! What a hoot!

Ladies and gentlemen, I call your attention to Rick Santorum ... suggesting that his esteemed predecessors in the Republican ranks did not get good educations. Moron. Par. Excellence.

Someone fix my cable box. Please. I can't watch this guy run for president.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Modern Magick

Welcome, as always, to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from an undisclosed location in the Middle Atlantic states of the US of A! A bored god-sanctioned web site since 2005.

Don't know about you, but I don't like getting angry and popping off at people. I'd rather sit and stew. Or better yet, go out in the woods and bitch to an indifferent tree.

Technology has made it so much simpler to avoid people you don't want to talk to.

When I was a kid, you didn't know who was on the other end of the line when the phone rang. It could be your best friend wanting to go for a swim in the Antietam Creek, or it could be your nasty aunt, pissed at your mom ... again. You had to take the call. It was like gambling, sort of.

Then came a wonderful tool called the Answering Machine. Suddenly you could screen your calls. No more crazy Mom, ruining your weekend on a Saturday morning. Then again, you still had to listen to the message: (cue Mom, with menacing tone: "Call your MOTHER.")

These days the sweet little cell phone, which also doesn't even ring if you don't want it to, can tell you exactly who is dialing you up. Just look at the screen and make a decision. To talk, or not to talk: That is the question.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" say, damn all tradition, this new phone era is simply magickal! The only human variable in this is your personal self-control. Keep steady, and a great deal of aggravation is funneled into the Message Center, where you can delete without even listening!

There's a generation just older than mine that doesn't know how to text. This is the biggest blessing of all.

Part of the problem with many religions is that they don't bend with the arc of science and technology. Even though Jesus had nothing to say about abortion, people infer what the rule is on that, based on flimsy evidence from an ancient scroll. The bored gods favor evolutionary religions that rely less on hidebound traditions and more on the big, broad, flexible outlook. Bored gods are willing to change -- it's way better than extinction.

Therefore, when I see phone numbers blink up of people who I would just chew out if I spoke to them, I praise all the bored gods for cell phones. And I don't pick up.

The one downside is that I won't be able to identify the Republican pollsters, who I enjoy keeping on the line for 45 minutes, just to keep them from calling someone else (and also running up their phone bills). Oh well. A small price to pay for avoiding the people who will make me shout at trees.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Omens

Do you look for omens, or do you consider them superstitious rot?

If the latter, you might not feel too at home here at "The Gods Are Bored." Go play with your chemistry set.

Farmers are very prone to looking for omens. Heck, they have an Almanac full of them, published every year!

On Saturday I set out looking for an omen.

I live about 50 miles inland from the Atlantic. Even after 20 years, this is still a phenomenon to me. When I was in my formative years, a trip to the beach was an all-day affair that involved the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and a long trudge across the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It took five hours to drive to the shore from where I lived.

Now I can get there in an hour, if I drive due east (which puts me amongst the casinos in AC).

On Saturday, very early, I set out to collect sea glass with a colleague of mine from the Vo-Tech. We had arranged to meet at a diner halfway between my house and the seacoast. From there she was going to take me to her secret beaches in Atlantic City where she finds scads of sea glass.

Driving toward the diner, I asked for an omen as to how I could bond with the beach.

In the past I have never liked the seashore much. Growing up with a bipolar mom who wanted to vacation there, a mom who didn't believe in seasickness or a fear of those rough Atlantic waves, I have always had a slight inner aversion to the coastline. But that is the destination around here. Wanna have fun, yo, go to da shore.

The bored gods lost no time in giving me Their sign.

Arriving at the diner, I discovered that I was expected to ride in the back seat of my colleague's red SUV. On the agenda: sea glass AND five estate sales.

It was a stunning day at the beach, sunny and about 50 degrees. But the sea glass expert quickly (and accurately) diagnosed her choice areas as not being very good on this day. Still we climbed over pilings and over rocks to get to the jetties... not an easy task for a trio of middle-aged school teachers. As I jumped down next to a piling, I got pinioned on it and tore my favorite pair of jeans. I was lucky I didn't get a four-inch splinter in my thigh.

That's all the omen I needed, right there.

The bored gods thought otherwise. They sent that red SUV the length and breadth of Atlantic City and Ocean City, mile after mile of disastrously over-built shoreline, into the homes of people who had died, whose accumulation of stuff was up for sale. Then on into the Pine Barrens, for another pair of homes under similar dire straits.

I went looking for sea glass and came home with three pairs of scissors and a glass salad bowl. And some sea glass -- not much. And an ugly gash in a pair of jeans I have had for a decade.

The bored gods have spoken. I can listen to Quadrophenia as often as I like, but the beach is not the place for me. The omens are clear. Clear as the water running through Terrapin Run.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Most Horrible and Dreadful Tragedy Yet!

Steer clear of "The Gods Are Bored" if you are sick and tired of the long litany of laments. Today's is the biggest, most mind-boggling of all. It shakes me to the very core of my being.

Every year I rent a buzzard costume from a theatrical outfit in Ohio. Every year the price of shipping goes up. Granted, it's a big, bulky box. But it weighs about 20 pounds, including the box. How can that possibly cost $130 to ship regular rate via UPS?

And so, it was with deep regret that I suggested to the steering committee of the East Coast Vulture Festival that we forgo "Buzzy" this year. Even after I was willing to spend fifty bucks of my wages on the costume, it would be barely a drop in the old bucket.

The costume costs $225. For one day's rent.

Now, those of you with deep pockets -- don't reach out and feed my Buzzard Worship habit! It's a matter of conscience here. I could pay the whole thing from the ill-gotten gains I'll receive from the sale of the farm. I just think it's too much. And the festival is held every year. What costs $225 this year will cost $250 the next.

Gotta draw the line, even in Buzzard Worship.

The news gets worse.

This has been a very mild winter here in the Mid-Atlantic states. It was cold in December, but since Christmas we've been almost spring-like.

This has affected the roosting behavior of the buzzards. They are no longer flocking to Wenonah. They're bunking elsewhere.

Excuse me while I rend my garments!

Heir and I went to Wenonah in December, and the flock was there. Maybe a little smaller than previous years, but definitely a presence. With this warm spell, they've drifted away. Literally.

I've always been concerned that the winter roost in Wenonah would not be a permanent thing. Vultures do like to roam about a bit. They're probably looking for new adventures. After all, they're bored deities under the precise definition offered up here at this handy web site. But ... oh ... oh ... my precious Golden Purifiers! My sweet scavengers! The birds I love and live for! Gone, dispersed, blown away ... perhaps forever.

I'm not much of a drinker, but I hear a bottle of gin calling my name. Go ahead, publishing house -- shove my poor old novel into the storm drain! But the loss of the Winter Flock? TRAGEDY.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Real Crystal

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," offering sage and thymely information since 2005! My, has the thyme ever flown!

Occasionally I wear a quartz crystal to school. It's on a string. It's not a really big one. I would say it's just slightly smaller than my thumb.

Yesterday afternoon one of my students challenged me on it. He said it was fake. I couldn't convince him it was real ... and as a teacher you know that doing so is wasting valuable learning thyme.

Several of my students have expressed the same skepticism since the beginning of the year. One said that crystals never got that big.

I was thinking about this last night as I played with Decibel.

The student who couldn't believe that my crystal is real probably spends less than one percent of his life on grassy surfaces -- and he plays baseball. The vast majority of my students are entirely bound to asphalt. They walk on sidewalks to the corner store, they jump into the school bus off the pavement, they stay inside at home, and they hang around the basketball court at school. If they aren't in a building, they also aren't in the grass. They are prisoners of the city.

This is so sad.

I suppose the opposite is the case out in the hinterlands. There are probably kids who only hit the asphalt when they get to school. Those kids wouldn't challenge the reality of a crystal -- they might even have seen crystals growing in caves.

One year I had a student named Crystal who had never seen a real crystal. I gave her one.

Personally I would like to give every one of my students a quartz crystal. But that would violate the First Amendment, as quartz crystals impart calm. I would also like to lead my students on a hike.

Oh well. I'll teach them English instead.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Missed Calls

WT TGAB, beginning a unit on acronyms tomorrow in school! Practicing here, in the safety of my blog.

On Friday I signed the papers to sell the family property. If you missed the back story, this was under duress because I was the only person in the family who wanted to keep the farm, and I couldn't meet the asking price.

Anyway, putting those legal documents in the mail is one of the toughest things I have ever done. There's something so doggone final about signing and notarizing a deed of sale. I know the mountain is still there, but it felt dead to me.

About two hours after leaving the Snobville Post Office, I got an incoming call on my cell phone. The number registered as belonging to the soon-to-be owner of my former family farm. He calls at least once a week, usually around 7:00, and at that time he has proven to be so voluble that one can only assume he's had a few.

On that night (and the following as well) I could not bring myself to listen to this guy tell me yet again that nothing has changed. I'm sorry he feels so guilty about buying a property he has wanted for 30 years, but I just can't listen to him absolve himself anymore ... or to make promises that his homeowners insurance salesman would cringe to hear.

Anyway, after missing that call, I suddenly became keen to see what other calls I had missed.

There must have been nearly 60 missed calls.

Six were from New Owner of Farm

Two were from recent hospital tests, seeking further information for insurance companies.

28 were from The Heir

15 were from The Spare

Nine were from Mr. J

As I deleted them, one by one, I had a facepalm moment.

What if there were no missed calls from The Heir? What if I suddenly would no longer get missed calls from The Spare? What if Mr. J never called me again?

My reality check came through the missed calls on my cell phone. There may come a day when I will be able to buy a little sliver of ground somewhere. But I could never, ever replace my family.

Gracious bored Gods and Goddesses of all pantheons, known and unknown, please preserve and protect my husband and children. Land may be sacred, but people are uniquely sacred. Bored deities, let me never experience a single day without the serene knowledge that my people are alive and thriving!

So might it be.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Decibel Sings

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," praise and worship suggestions for No Child Left Behind! New Jersey has been released from NCLB ... I know not why. Since I get most of my classroom's books from NCLB (and since the vast majority of my students pass the demanding high school proficiency test), I'm not sure I'm happy about this. But anything that takes some heat off teachers should be warmly welcomed.

Teaching has been very hard on me. Sadly, it has been harder on Decibel the Parrot.

When I worked at home, I used to be around Decibel all day. Now there are days when I uncover Decibel's cage in the dark of the morning and don't return to her side until bedtime. She is alone, all alone, all day.

Matters have been worse since my desktop computer suffocated (under the weight of parrot dander). Now there's no reason to go into my home office at all, and that's where Decibel has located for the winter months. Her name is Decibel for a reason. She can be heard two blocks away when she gets heated up -- which is frequently.

Lately, when I have found a moment to grade papers or blog on my netbook alongside Decibel, we have been singing to each other. I sing. She mimics. It's adorable.

But I think it should be a swan song.

Unless I get a reprieve from my school teaching, Decibel will be doomed to near-solitary confinement for the next ten years. I wouldn't wish this on an enemy, let alone a poor little parrot.

I am seriously considering putting Decibel up for adoption at the local bird store. She would be "consignment," but I wouldn't want any money for her -- only a home where she could split the eardrums of her family and be around some hustle and bustle.

Decibel is very attached to met, but I am getting older, and she is still young. She bites, but I think that the right owner could get her back into pirate mode.

Just another cheerful thing for me to contemplate at this juncture in my life. When people speak of "empty nest syndrome," they don't usually think about pet birds. I'm thinking about it. For all her love of me, her vocabulary and occasional tunes, Decibel isn't living with the stimulus a parrot needs. It's hard to know what to do. She can speak, but she can't speak her mind.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Going Back to School

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," plowing through the old mid-life crisis one freakout at a time! I'm the crisisee, Anne Johnson. No, I did not make the name up. My mom gave it to me (embellished a bit). I'm named after a princess.

For some time I have been considering my options for continuing education. School teachers are expected to seek master's degrees and such, in order to better their practice. I myself am enrolled in a master's class in teaching right now. And the shoe doesn't fit.

Nor am I particularly interested in trying to shove my creaky feet into a master's degree in English literature. And I literally sprayed selzer water across the keyboard ten minutes ago when I opened my email and saw a message for an online master's degree in creative writing. For the love of fruit flies and first drafts! Can anything be taught online these days? Oh, snap. Not for me.

On Sunday I went to an ADF Ritual. I've visited with this Grove for a few years here and there, but they're sort of hard-core, camping and such, and my camping days are behind me. However, the ADF does have a formal program of study. Reading, writing, reflecting, doing Ritual, improving spiritually.

Voila. I'm going back to school! Requesting ADF study materials. Don't mind doing this online, or even penning the work onto vellum. If I am to pursue continuing education, it must warm my soul in the autumn of my life.

This study will not be undertaken to improve my employment opportunities or to inflate my grandeur. Quite the opposite. It's high time to get serious about studying, in an effort to understand myself, the deities, and other people better.

Don't worry. "The Gods Are Bored" won't go all Druid. There are too many other bored deities who need praise and worship! But you gotta pick from what's out there ... and ADF is out there.

[begin optional edit]

Some of you come here for laughs, so here's a previously unpublished tale from the Annals of Anne.

Back in the previous century, when the Heir was a little girl, I enrolled in a Bible study class, mostly just to get out of the house twice a week. It was part of a large pursuit called "Precepts" that billed itself as being scholarly but, in my observation, was not particularly scholarly in nature. To whit, there was only one correct answer to every question. Nowadays this doesn't even work in math.

The first 90 minutes of "Precepts" was a tedious trudge through a specific book of the Bible. The one I enrolled in was the Book of Daniel, which (thank goodness) is a splendid read. But of course, anything parsed verse by verse in 90 minute trudges is going to get tedious. Can't avoid it.

The final hour of "Precepts" consisted of watching a videotape of some female evangelist. Her name completely escapes me, but she was absolutely fascinating. For one thing, her clothes were to die for, week after week, tape after tape. For another, she was a mesmerizing speaker. It didn't matter that her "one plus one" didn't add up to two (at least in my opinion). She was just dynamic. Didn't convince me, but it was entertaining to watch her try.

Here's the funny part. Sometimes when I'm teaching, and I feel like I'm losing the audience (which is easy to do if they're 15), I tap into the old memory cupboard and bring out that evangelist. She taught with her whole body, lots of gestures. Guess what? It works! Pep is a real asset to a teacher.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be a Druid preacher with lots of pep. I'll ditch that part about only one correct answer, though. Can't build a civilization on that.

[end optional edit]

It's exactly time for me to go to my master's degree class. The class begins at 5:15 and ends at 8:15 ... and it's held in a classroom 15 miles from my house. After a long day teaching teenagers, this holds no appeal.

Pick your battles, pick your books. The time of life is short.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Better Go Give Blood, Because ...

Okay, so I know we are all supposed to be rational, thinking beings, able to calmly and rationally think away everything that makes us feel bad. It's called the Power of Positive Thinking or something like that.

What I want to know is this: Who thought up all this "rational" business? Did that person ever feel anything at all? I'm not Mr. Spock, and damn it, I don't want to be! The pox take rationality! A plague upon its house!

My sister and cousins decided to sell the family farm in Appalachia. I can't stop them. This isn't some George Clooney movie.

And yes, you kind readers have reminded me that I will always be an Appalachian, even if my name isn't on some parchment in the  Bedford County Courthouse.

And yes, the man buying the property has called me multiple times (mostly on weekends at happy hour, when he's feeling particularly garrulous) to assure me that I will always be welcome to come and walk the land.

And YES, Bedford County long ago named the road where the farm is JOHNSON ROAD, so never mind that there's not a single Johnson left on it now ... it used to be nothing but Johnsons. Ergo, the name, Johnson Road. With all the Johnsons gone.

I am a raging beast over this.

What makes me rage is the fact that most rational, educated Americans are just that -- Americans. They may know what country their ancestors came from, but it's a dim memory. So they tell me to ground, center, grieve, and move on.

Trouble is, the rational Americans have gone unglued from their origins. They are blissfully unaware of the agony their ancestors must have felt when leaving the parent country behind. Let me tell you, being a first-generation expatriate is one agonizing haul. The Israelites were Psalming about it back in the Old Testament, when they got carted off to Babylon!

I am happiest now amongst my students, many of whom are expatriated from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and most of them not completely. They still identify as "Dominican" even if they have citizenship. It's great to be around them, because they have the same pride of place that I have, the same white-hot links to a home land. Make no mistake, Appalachia is the Dominican Republic within America. Many of the people who live in Appalachia consider themselves part of another nation, same as the Native Americans. Same as my Dominican students. Same as the Israelites, who wanted to dash their captors' children's heads against the trees.

I'm not going to dash anyone's head against a tree, but I can understand the passion that propels such feelings in an expatriate. In short, I feel like an exile. Maybe I'm not Dante, banished from Florence upon pain of death. But that's how I feel.

Therefore, I, Anne Johnson, do hereby plan to have the Zip code of Artemas, PA tattooed onto my back. I'm going to use part of the ill-gotten gains from the sale of the property to have this done.

Go ahead and be rational if you like. You might devise a method of purifying water ... but you won't write Inferno.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Imbolc 2012: Free Advice

Imbolc 2012 has begun with rejoicing here at Chateau Johnson! All hail Queen Brighid the Bright, the Great Goddess of creativity!

Today an envelope arrived in the mail for The Spare. It was from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She was accepted. Additionally, she was given a $16,000 annual scholarship. This scholarship recognizes her potential as an artist with a promising future.

Ironically, Spare almost didn't apply to the University of the Arts.

You see, Spare is one of those people who can't dig into standardized tests. Give her a number two pencil and a bubble sheet, and she just cringes. Therefore, when the SAT scores arrived in this household, they were greeted with a great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. University of the Arts requires the reporting of SAT scores.

Spare never thought she would get in the door of that school when they saw her numbers.

Turns out -- and this will be bitter news to Snobville parents -- the numbers don't always cut it. With little to lose but her fifty buck application fee, Spare took her portfolio and her moxie to UArts for an interview. The lady who talked to her frothed at the mouth. A week later, Spare got her letter,

So here's my free advice to all you young parents out there who are worried about getting your kid into the right college. Instead of enrolling them in the right preschool, let them play in the back yard. Instead of making them do math homework, let them fool around with scraps of old clothing. Instead of parking them in front of a video game, get them outside: snowballs, flower walks, treasure hunts, hikes, fairy festivals.

For more than a decade, Mr. J and I have wondered if we've done right by Spare. First we nagged her about her grades, then we gave up and let her follow her Muse. Turns out the Muse is a bored deity. No big surprise there!

Congratulations, Spare! We may not be perfect, me and your dad, but we love you.