Monday, December 30, 2013

A late Merry Christmas

Nativity, by Eric T. Wright

This post was scheduled to go public at 6AM on December 25, 2013, while I was away in Topeka, Kansas, celebrating Christmas with Eric's side of the family.  For some reason, it did not post.  So, despite the failed Scheduling feature of, it will appear now:

I have spoken at great length about the fantastic Ringling Bros. Circus of a Nativity that my mom made for me years know, the one with the extra wise men, a stockyard of animals, an unglazed baby Jesus and a bearded lady (not really)?  Well, we have another Nativity here at the Bungalow, one that came to us from Eric's mom and dad, a Nativity that was brought all the way back from Burkina Faso.  It is a fragile Nativity that we cautiously put up each year in very protected areas of the house.  Eric has talked of building a creche for this Nativity, and on the heels of his successful building of our built-in bookcases, he did so.  I think it is a fine creche for the Holy Family.  I especially like the distressing that Eric did to make it look old.  There was much poking with the screw driver and roughing up with the hand plane. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Built-in Bookcases

Almost four years ago, we acquired The Bungalow.  The living room fireplace surround looked like this right before the closing:

After painting and placing utility bookshelves where we wanted to create built-in bookcases in the future, we lived with the fireplace surround looking like this:

After much thought and many other more important home projects, Eric got on building the built-in bookcases last month.  Now, the space looks like this:

High-five, Eric!  My comments upon completion:  "I would totally pin that on a Pinterest Board."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dog Fennel

Of dog fennel:  "The stems and base are covered in leaves so dissected that they resemble green hairs coming out of the stem in fractal patterns. When crushed, the leaves and flowers smell rather unpleasant."  (

This small weed is growing at the fence between us and the neighbor.  I believe it is dog fennel, which I've noticed growing in one other spot in our back yard (among the rocks of the terrace, getting about two feet tall before being cut back in the bi-weekly summer edging).  It may be one of my favorite weeds, so fern-like and delicate when young, and I am hoping that my string trimming mate will allow it to live out its life unmolested in the safety of our yard. 

From all I've read about dog fennel, it is not a toxic plant, but can cause skin irritation.  We can live with that.

An unlikely time of year to be growing, but I think the warmth of the brick it happens to be growing against has something to with its successful germination.  This is a part of the yard gets a long stretch of midday sun that is warm even in the cold of winter.  Booker chooses to sun himself a few feet away, a sleepy-eyed Sphinx with a stick.

Booker, by Eric T. Wright.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The ceramic Christmas tree that could.

Eric rarely comments about liking Christmas decorations.  So, when he mentioned (wistfully and nostalgically, I imagined) his mom having a light-up ceramic Christmas tree in the house that he and his brothers grew up in, I decided to find one for our home.  After consulting with Eric's mom about what the nostalgically remembered tree looked like, and having his mom offer to UPS a spare Wright tree to us, and then discovering that the shipping of said spare Wright tree was to cost $80 (stop the mail!!!), I sprang over to the Salvation Army Thrift Store and picked up this beauty for $3.99.  It was chipped, lacked its light kit, and was missing almost all of its light pegs, but it had potential.  Which is the only thing that is required in a situation like this.   Within a week, I had the chipped snow-covered limbs retouched with paint, added a light kit from Hobby Lobby and light pegs from eBay.  The only thing missing is a felt tree skirt with a hand-quilted bear on a swing, swinging in the falling snow...

We turn it on every evening and admire its kitschy vintage charm. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Marilyn Carpenter June 18, 1936 - November 20, 2013

My Aunt Marilyn passed away last week.  She was generous, loving and just all around wonderful.  Eric and I were able to visit with her this past May.  She was deep in her struggle with ALS, but she was bright and shining and beautiful to me during that visit.  I could tell that she was much loved and well cared for by her husband, Uncle Ralph, and her son, Jim Foxx. 

In my Mother's Day 2013 blog back in May (written the morning after our visit with Marilyn), I described her the following way:
"I recall her helping me with my math homework on one of her visits to Alabama.  I was far more taken by her glittery owl necklace than the math.  Marilyn also once bought me a very sophisticated two-piece, royal blue, terry cloth Gloria Vanderbilt pantsuit because she thought I could pull it off.  You read right, a two-piece, royal blue, terry cloth Gloria Vanderbilt pantsuit.   Yes, I appreciate the pantsuit, but I appreciate more the encouragement and the confidence she gave me to wear that pantsuit."
I will miss her.

Her obituary:
"Carpenter, Marilyn, Age 77; Independence, KY; Devoted wife of James Ralph Carpenter; Loving mother of James Foxx, Donald Carpenter, Karen Carpenter and Bryan Carpenter; Dear grandmother of Johnathan and Laura Beth Carpenter; Sister of Kenneth Roark; Aunt of Michael Roark; Preceded in death by siblings, Ronald, Robert and Carol Roark; November 20, 2013; A funeral service will be held on Monday, November 25, 2013 at Day Springs Church, 1060 Smiley Ave., Cincinnati at 11:00am with an hour of visitation prior to the service; Remembrances may be sent to the ALS Association. Condolences may be left for the family at"

Friday, November 8, 2013

To whoever urinated down the front of the women's staff toilet and failed to clean it up...

I have held my job for over seven years now.  During those seven years, I have witnessed some pretty disgusting things that have occurred in the public bathrooms of our library.  Unfortunately, I have also witnessed some pretty disgusting things that have happened in our staff bathrooms, things that have left me absolutely dismayed (and disgusted) at some of my coworkers.  So, from this point on, I refuse to go quietly and clean up someone else's bio hazardous waste.  After having in the past cleaned up things such as fecal matter, menstrual blood (What?!?  Has someone just been shot in here?!?) and then just staring in dismay at someone's used pregnancy test (negative, by the way), I will make my voice heard.  I will clean up the messes, but I will send out mass staff emails and I will share them here on my blog. Shame can be a powerful teaching tool.  I'm sorry to have to expose you to this...

Here is my first bathroom-related email, sent two days ago: 
To whoever urinated down the front of the women's staff toilet and failed to clean it up...

Greetings, ladies (gentlemen, you may stop reading now unless you used the ladies' staff bathroom this afternoon),

I regret that I find myself having to write another email in which I have to mention something that should not ever have to be mentioned among adults.  But this is something that I feel compelled to mention merely because it was so alarming for me to stumble upon in a staff bathroom.

This afternoon at approximately 1:55 (I know the time because I was about to make my way to the 2PM staff meeting), I went into the women's staff bathroom to conduct some business when I discovered that someone had urinated down the front of the toilet and onto the floor.  

I understand that we all get in a hurry sometimes to do our business in the lavatory so that we can get back to work, but this kind of expeditiousness is completely unnecessary and, frankly, not in any way efficient or hygienic.

You: urinated quickly and haphazardly.

I:  scrubbed your urine (with the Clorox wipes that were on the shelf in front of the toilet that you could have easily used yourself) off of the toilet seat, the entire front of the porcelain base and the floor (including the grout in between the tiles because it had seeped into and had stained). You. Are. Welcome.

As with past incidents, I do not care to know who you are.  I only hope that you will take more care in the future.


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Piñata of Fahrenheit 451

Two amazing lectures in two days, both part of Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451.  Friend Chris Harrison of Gadsden State’s English department delivered his blisteringly-hot The History Of Book Burning: From Cultural Annihilation To Symbolic Tantrum on Tuesday.  And Bradbury Center fellow Dr. Robert Woods’ passionate presentation on Fahrenheit 451 Wednesday, a presentation so moving that by its end, Amanda Jackson was wiping tears from her eyes and I was on the verge of shouting, “Hallelujah!”  Eric’s thoughts on Dr. Woods’ lecture the next morning after sleeping on it, “You know, it was like he hit a piñata of Fahrenheit 451 and scattered all these pieces of really amazing information all over the place…”  Yes, that is EXACTLY what Robert did.

Gadsden Times Article on Dr. Woods' presentation here.

Chris Harrison

Dr. Robert Woods

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rumblings of War at the Ballet

Since we do not know the exact date of our anniversary, but we do know that it was a little over two weeks after we went to the Prom at the Pitman on September 4 of 2008 that we began to date for realsies, Eric and I declared our anniversary to be whatever date the Autumnal Equinox falls upon.  Which means that it is a fluid date.  And it also means that our anniversary was this past Sunday, September 22 this year. And to celebrate, Eric took me to the ballet, because the Alabama Ballet was performing a collection of pieces entitled Ovation here in Gadsden.  And we try never to miss seeing the Alabama Ballet when they come to town.  There are no excuses when ballet is being performed only five minutes from your home.

We sat in the balcony with dear friend Beth and her brilliant former-ballerina-daughter Erin.  Balcony seats are best.  You can see the feet of the dancers better from there.

Ovation consisted of:  Bananchine’s Allegro Brillante (set to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 75), Petipa’s The Kindom of the Shades Pas De Deux from La Bayadere (Ludwig Minkus), Van Fleteren’s unRAVELed (Maurice Ravel), and Jiří Kylián’s SECHS TÄNZE (Six Dances set to Mozart’s Sechs Deutsche Tänze, KV 571).  Both Allegro Brillante and the la Bayadere Pas De Deux were very classical pieces…more traditional ballet.  UnRAVELed was a modern, sensual piece.  And SECHS TÄNZE was…well…it was absurdly hilarious and frightening all at the same time.  Bare chested, powdered-wigged men cavorted about the stage with wild-haired common girls.  There was much skirt-flipping and flirting, and scary rolling black ball gowns worn by saucy young men.  And rumblings.  Of war?  My interpretation may be completely wrong, but I felt that it was a commentary on depraved and deposed nobility in the face of war.  Eric felt that the foppish men represented government and that the women perhaps represented the public. Too difficult to describe.  And ridiculous.  Ridiculously great!  You must watch it yourself here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love Letter to a Challenged Book


We kicked off Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451 last night with a participatory performance art piece, a ceremony celebrating intellectual freedom and our right to read.  The audience sat on borrowed church pews and faced a borrowed alter covered in candles.  The candles sat on replicas of banned books.  At the foot of the altar were the charred remains of discarded books, a reminder of what could happen if the right (or wrong) circumstances occurred within a community.  Our officiant was Mario Gallardo, artist, art teacher (at Gadsden State Community College) and director of the Walnut Gallery (the newly acquired Walnut Gallery space is an old church from which Mario loaned the borrowed pews and alter), dressed in his academic robes.

The service was reverential and reflective.  Thoughtful movements that took the participant from writing the name of their favorite book on a page torn from a banned book (The Great Gatsby), rolling that page into a scroll and tying it with twine.  Destroying the scroll by casting it into a fire pit.  Lighting a candle in memory of that book.  Finally, writing a love letter to the lost book.  It was moving.

I was unable to write down the name of my favorite book, nor was I able to write a love letter to it, just too busy with minutiae.

But I did write that love letter after the fact.  And here it is, dedicated to Jaimie.  You deserve better.

My Dearest Absalom, Absalom,
I’ll never forget the August that I first read you, an August that was hotter than the stoked fires of hell’s floor furnace.  I started reading you at Sherry Yates’ cabin on the banks of the Chattooga River in Cedar Bluff, Georgia, little more than a stone’s throw from Cornwall Furnace, that furnace built by the Noble Brothers in 1862-63 to supply Confederate forces with pig iron for products used in the War Between the States, the same furnace that was blown out by Union forces a year after it began production. 

You confused me, Absalom, Absalom, what with how you jumped around a lot and wouldn’t hold still long enough to tell me the whole story all at once.  I wanted to take you and hold you under the water to show you, to bring you up just long enough for you to catch your breath and tell me what was happening by Gawd.   Who were all these people that you kept introducing long after new characters should have EVER been introduced?  And why the hell were you repeating yourself over and over again like I wasn’t listening to you?  I WAS LISTENING!  You just didn’t notice because you were too busy being all stream of consciousness…

I suffered that August to finish you, suffered not just at the cabin by the Chattooga, but back in the old chicken coop at momma and daddy’s place in the country, me perched on an upended milk crate.  And later in the parking lot of the University while sitting in my car before going to speak with my advisor, my reading interrupted only by the talking alarm on the car beside me that calmly cautioned "Step away from my ride." anytime anyone breathed the same air as it.

Absalom, Absalom, I sweated you out in the August humidity, sweated you out like a fever, or a night of too much liquor.  I sweated you out so much that I thought I had seen the last of you with your final sentence, “I don’t hate it!" because I thought I hated you and never wanted to see you again!

I should’ve hated you Absalom Absalom especially after what all you put me through but I didn’t and I don’t I love you Absalom Absalom I love you so much I read you two more times AND hosted a pub crawl in your honor and I am currently encouraging my dear friend Jaimie who is reading you AT THIS VERY MOMENT I tell her that you are worth it because you are you are

My sincerest regards,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Monument To a Pest

Frenetic work and social schedules forced aside, Eric and I took a much-needed beach holiday with my family.  Spending time just lazing around with family and food is something I can really put my efforts into.  No schedules.  No meetings.  No putting out programming or grant fires.  Very little phone use.  Even less computer use.  It is the only way that I am able to really recharge my battery properly.

The trip down to Ft. Walton, FL is usually the same for us.  Leave early.   Stop at Murder Stuckey’s in Verbena for an annual beach trip breakfast Butterfinger Blizzard (try saying that fast five times).  Drive until we need gas, at which time we inadvertently find the next most murder-y filling station.  Drive on in until we hit the beach and loved ones.

But this trip was different.  We had to board Booker at the vet’s for this trip.  No dogs allowed (in the tradition of Snoopy Come Home) on this jaunt.  So, I dropped our puppers off the night before we left.  I was THAT person…the one with the hand-made dog bed, box of special grain-free food, Kong with all natural peanut butter, a list of instructions a mile long and tears in my eyes.   Could I call to check on him while we were away?  Yes, of course you may, Ms. York.  Eric and I hardly slept that night.

Another thing that was different on this trip:  Our Murder Stuckey’s in Verbena had been cleaned up, un-Dairy-Queened and turned into a respectful Sunoco.  There was absolutely nothing scary about it at all.  Which is terribly disappointing.  We are really going to miss the falling down Stuckey’s sign, the friendly clerks and the ice cream & French fries from the Dairy Queen that was tucked inside.  We’ll miss less the overtly racist bumper stickers for sale, the hand-made, child-sized pioneer dolls that hung in the window (also for sale), and the dilapidated serial-killer trailer out back.  Sometimes change is a mixed bag.

And to really throw a new spin on things was the fact that on this trip Eric and I decided to detour through the lovely town of Enterprise, AL to see the world’s only known statue dedicated to an insect responsible for destroying a town’s cash crop, the boll weevil.  See, back in the early 1900’s, Enterprise was doing pretty well economically by growing cotton.  Then came the boll weevil, which destroyed their cotton crop.  The farmers of Enterprise and Coffee County had to find another crop to raise in order to survive.  They turned to peanut farming, which saved their town.  So, to honor the pest that caused them todiversify, they built a monument to the boll weevil.

The boll weevil statue of Enterprise is located in the center of town, a lovely thirteen-foot iron rendering of a female figure holding aloft a boll weevil trophy.  But what stands in the center of town is not the original statue.  The eight pieces or so of the original statue reside in the Depot Museum, just around the corner from the crossroads.  You see, like the finger of our Emma Sansom statue gracing Broad Street here in Gadsden, the boll weevil statue of Enterprise has been vandalized and stolen over the years, the final act of vandalism resulting in it being irreparable broken into a number of pieces.  Visit the Depot and see the statue.  Notice how some well-intended soul attempted to repair her arms by using PVC pipe.  It did not work out.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Gadsden or Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451

There were several disturbing photos on the front page of the Gadsden Times a couple of days ago.  The images were of Gadsden Public Library director Amanda Jackson and yours truly pulling banned and challenged books off of the shelves of our library.  These books were temporarily taken out of circulation to the public and will remain out of circulation until September 23rd, which is the date of our first Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451 program.  On September 23rd, we will put all those books back on the shelves from which they were pulled and celebrate their being released back into public circulation.  During the month that our banned/challenged books are out of circulation, any student who needs any of those books for a school assignment will be allowed to check those books out.  Otherwise, those books are not available to the general public.

Why is the GPL doing this?  That is a question that I have been asked many times in the past three days by concerned citizens who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times of the books being removed.  My answer is this:  As American citizens, we have access to, and the right to read any book that we desire at any time we desire it.  We have earned this “freedom to read” by virtue of being a democracy, a democracy that has been defended by its citizens and its armed forces for a very long time.   Our pulling of the banned and challenged books from our GPL collection for a few weeks will be inconvenient, but it will not be anything like the inconvenience that people all over the world experience every day of their lives when they are denied access to information-a denial of access to information that is not temporary.

This is an exercise in experiencing what it would be like to not have access to Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  But it is also an exercise in experiencing what it would be like to not have access to Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On the Prairie and Martin Hanford’s Where’s Waldo.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  Webster’s Dictionary.  The Holy Bible.  All of these books have been challenged and/or banned here in the United States and all over the world.

But what the GPL is doing is just an exercise.  Next month all these books will be back on the shelves of our public library, and we will go back to living our lives the way we were living them.  But if even one person in Gadsden thinks differently about the relationship between books and reading to a healthy society, if one person in Gadsden is more willing to stand up for their Freedom to Read, if one person in Gadsden is more likely to call their local library to fight to have challenged books put back on their shelves, then we will have accomplished what we set out to accomplish for Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads.

And as for all of the folks here in Gadsden with whom I’ve spoken over the past couple of days, folks who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times and were concerned that we were removing books permanently from our collection, folks who saw the photos in the Gadsden Times were worried that something terrible was happening in their community, I want to thank you for your concerns and for your calls.  I am thankful that you noticed something was wrong and that you spoke up.  I am thankful that you were willing to stand up for your right to read and to fight to keep books on the shelves of your public library.   I am thankful for your vigilance.

Banned Books Week Gadsden Reads Fahrenheit 451 is supported by funds granted through the Freedom to Read Foundation Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund.

More on our September programs soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cedar Dreams

Home-made dog beds of cedar-filled pillows, fashioned from tarp cloth.  We’ve covered them in pillowcases sewn from the softest old bed sheets.  Booker sleeps on a cedar-scented field of lavender flowers, a happy forty-one-pound hamster.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Biscuit Rain

Eric and I were in the kitchen the other night, he rummaging around in the catch-all drawer while I was standing in the doorway thinking of scouring pads and abrasive cleaners, when we had one of those moments that every couple who have been together for a long time has:  one person speaks their interior monologue while the other person selectively miss-overhears what is spoken. 

Eric:  “Something, something, something…biscuit rain.”

Me (Snapping out of my trance):  “Biscuit rain?  Is that anything like acid rain, but with biscuits?”

Eric:  “I said, ‘There’s that biscuit ring.  Not biscuit rain.’”

Me (Disappointed):  “Oh.  But wouldn’t biscuit rain be cool?”

Eric:  “Polluting our atmosphere with unnaturally high levels of buttermilk?”

Yeah, he went there.  And I love him for it.