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tall grass

My friend Nergui is learning Vietnamese. The first six verbs she’s learned are:

eat
go
listen
do
be
invite

As luck would have it, these describe exactly what I intend to do for the next year.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s funny that so many people asked me what I was going to miss most when they found out I was moving to rural Mississippi, but no one has asked me what I’ll miss most now that I’m not going for another year, and will instead be here in northern Virginia with no visable means of support. I’m still stepping off a huge cliff … bigger in a way since I don’t even have a specific plan for my life right now.

Now that I won’t be going to a job every day, I think what I’ll really miss is serious conversations. This will be a priority for me to find some sort of opportunity to engage my mind in interaction with other people on a regular basis. There’s a definite social aspect to any office environment, and especially working among journalists where the coin of the realm is ideas.

waterway
So I will be taking a year off. My appeals to the university were not heard — at least not in time to go forward on the contract to sell my home. I’ll take one class in the early summer session, and then have the summer off. Then I’ll do some substitute teaching in the fall if I need to.

I know it’s a complete cliche, but this week has been a real journey constantly hurtling through anger, fear, panic, resignation, discovery, joy, and peace. Not necessarily in linear progression, either. But probably impossible without the love and support of so many wonderful people along the way. Thank you all of you. You know who you are.

I’m actually looking forward to having this time to myself. I haven’t really done that since I stayed home for 3 years with Emily. I’m also interested in finding out how simply I can live. It’s a good benchmarking activity before heading down to Mississippi.

For the past 3 or 4 months nearly everyone I know has asked me about what I will miss most when I move to Mississippi. For some reason almost all of them immediately suggest Thai food, though I think the food answer is probably pho. The effect this has had is for me to be very aware of everything around me and to realize I will miss the song sparrow who wakes me every morning with his impossibly complex song, the exact shape of the faucet I chose for my kitchen, the feel of that third curving dip on Cherokee Avenue. So now I have this wonderful opportunity to live a year in a sort of hyperaware state of my surroundings.

It’s a real gift.

So I’ll just follow this year wherever it takes me.

road closed
Events here are looking more like I will have a year's delay in joining the Teacher Corps. They've said they can postpone my acceptance to 07, so I have a year to deal with. Of course, I'll have no job as of May 13. The young woman who will be taking my job has already resigned hers, and is a dream come true — so it just wouldn't be right for me to upset that applecart and then to start a new search in 6 months. I can work around a contract on the house so I won't be homeless. I've got some possibilities on jobs that would pay at least a living wage. Add to that the fact that I'm educated, white, living on the east coast of the U.S., and, like I said: I'm better off than 98% of the world.

So I'll probably have …

mom at bretts wedding 2005.jpg … a year to spend living near my mom, whom I'd had some regrets about leaving just as we'd gotten to a good place in our relationship

Em & Nathan … a year still living within a day's drive of my daughter who is really coming into her own as a woman I'm proud to know

women of the R.jpg … a year to enjoy friendships with a group of amazing women — oh, and JA

paint chips behind iris.jpg … a year to finally get that bathroom painted

dishes of color.jpg … a year of not doing creative work on deadline so I can return to making some art for myself

snowfence … a year in which there might be one more humongous mid-Atlantic snow storm that closes the federal government for days

standing there august poplars … a year to watch for the one thing to come along that will prove to me there was a reason it happened this way.

Of course … if my appeal to the dept. chair and dean is granted I'll ditch all that stuff above in a red-hot minute and head straight to the Delta! And that'll be the right thing, too.

I'll know within a week. Hmm. Crossroads.

just let go

Thanks, Hank. I can feel you holding my hand on this one … and no matter what, I’ll still be better off than 98% of the world.

working saturday

It’s Saturday. It’s raining. Downtown, there’s the Cherry Blossom Parade, but the blossoms peaked last weekend and then we had rain and wind all week, so you know … I came into the office.

I have another month of work left and besides cranking out magazines, tabloids, newsletters, workbooks, and other things, the one last big project I’m designing is a book that my association’s School Health Programs department, in a partnership grant with the CDC, is publishing about students affected by HIV/AIDS. I’m really honored to be working on this project. It’s first-person accounts from 10 students (ages 12-20) of how their lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of them are HIV-positive, or have AIDS, but a few are affected by their parents’ deaths. We gave them cameras and asked them to take photos of their friends, their families, their lives, and to include pictures of themselves, too. We wanted to see their lives through their eyes.

So then last month I sat down with hundreds of photos of teenagers, kids, dogs, grandparents, parents, friends, sweethearts, on picnics, on skateboards, getting their blood drawn, playing soccer, in the sun, in the snow, on mountains, on beaches, in school, in the hospital and each and every one broke my heart. We made our choices and sent them to CDC for approval. (Lots of levels of control and confidentiality in this project.)

Now today, I’m laying out the pages of the book. Styling the text, placing the pull-quotes, working with these photos. Reading the essays over and over as I copy and paste the pull-quotes, or select the opening words to restyle the font.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m a normal kid. Some people forget that.

I was born with HIV, but I didn’t find out about it until I was five years old.

I was supposed to die when I was six, but I’m 15 now, and still going strong.

It’s still embargoed, so I shouldn’t really be quoting at this point. I’ll put up a link to the site where you can see/buy the book when it’s done.

Meanwhile, if I have to live in a world where 12-year-olds are philosophical about their HIV status, I’m so glad I also get to live in a world where THIS is happening, too.

jookjoint.jpg

Yes. Rolling Fork.

I was out for a long farewell lunch with good friends, and 5 minutes after I got back to the office, my phone rang and there was Dr. Andy Mullins with the news that come August I will be teaching English at South Delta High School in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.

Image from the South Delta district site

OK. So then I pretty much spent the rest of the day Googling, instead of getting started on that book layout I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm still taking this in. What I know so far is that I will be one of 4 Teacher Corps first-year teachers. (1 math, 2 biology) This is MTC's first year at South Delta.

Some 2003-04 enrollment stats from the National Center for Education Statistics:

9th Grade: 126; 10th Grade: 110; 11th Grade: 53; 12th Grade: 67

There's a roughly 50% dropout rate between sophomore and junior year. All but one of the students are eligible for free (not reduced-price) lunch.

Andy Mullins said, "You asked for a small Delta town placement, and you got it." Oh did I ever.
Jook Joint in Rolling Fork