Saturday, June 30, 2018

Moving issues

I've been trying to re-use existing nail-holes to hang pictures on the walls at the new parsonage, but the pictures keep ending up at eye level for NBA basketball players--except the one in the bathroom, which ends up at eye level for a four-year-old.

But if that's the biggest headache this move has caused, I'm not complaining. I have moved houses while eight months pregnant; I have followed a moving truck across the state while driving a Honda Civic carrying two small children, a cat, and a rabbit; and I have moved into houses that had holes in floors, collapsing septic tanks, and a basement full of mold. By comparison, this move is a piece of cake.

That's partly because we don't have to move everything we own, or even most things. One advantage of splitting our stuff between two houses is that both houses feel a little roomier, but a big disadvantage is that we don't have two of everything. We've had to buy a few things, and by "a few" I mean--well, I've lost count. We bought only two pieces of furniture brand new--a bed and a sofa--but everything else is secondhand, including two darling little end tables I picked up at a thrift store for $25 the set. (They remind me of my grandma's house.)

But in addition to the big-ticket items, I keep having to go out and stock up on annoying little doohickeys: dish drainer and dish towels and throw rugs and picture hangers, cleaning products, picture frames, soap dispensers, lamps and welcome mats and placemats and laundry hampers. Do we have an extension cord? Soap dish? Lightbulb?

But things are coming together nicely. We still need to haul a few pieces of furniture over from the other house and I'm still hunting for some things to hang on the walls, but the place is starting to feel more like home. Well, except for the pictures, which might make a basketball player feel at home but just make me feel short. But how do I move the nails if I can't find a hammer?  

And now, here's a challenge: 

This is the current state of the living room. I'm going to an art show next week and hope to pick up some things to hang on the walls and we'll be moving some houseplants over here next week, but I need some help with the fireplace. The fireplace opening is covered with plastic to prevent cool air from rushing out in the summer and in in the winter. It's a shame, because it's otherwise a lovely fireplace, but now I need to find a way to camouflage the white plastic. Hanging fabric? Large planters? Decorative screen? I welcome suggestions.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Julia Baird on brandishing titles like a torch

I remember the first time it happened: I was sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office, flipping through a magazine and trying to ignore the usual daytime television drivel, not exactly dreading my dental work but not much looking forward to it either, when the friendly hygienist opened the door and called for "Dr. Hogue."

Did you hear that? Not "Miss Hogue" or "Ms. Hogue" or "Bev" but "Dr. Hogue." I'm not a fool: living in Appalachia, I know there's no better way to alienate my neighbors than to brandish my academic credentials in public, but on the other hand, it feels good to occasionally receive a little professional respect, even in the dentist's waiting room. 

In today's New York Times, Julia Baird examines what happens when that respect breaks down (read it here).  In "Women, Own Your 'Dr.' Titles," Baird explains, "It had never occurred to me to add 'Ph.D.' to my name on Twitter until I was slammed for mentioning that I had one." Daring to assert her credentials subjected her to online attacks from those who "viewed the degree not as a sign of expertise but as a provocation, a pretension."

Academics were divided in their response to the uproar, "with a horde of women revealing that they, too, had been taunted for using their titles, while many men who had not received such criticism were baffled." She offers examples of the unequal treatment of men's and women's titles in media and academe, but I just sat there nodding, recalling the former administrator who consistently used "Dr." only for male academics, referring to women at every rank as "Professor." Nothing wrong with "Professor," but why the gendered distinction? And then there are the relatives who will introduce my husband as Rev. Hogue and me as just plain old Bev.

I'm happy to be plain old Bev in most settings, so I don't get bent out of shape when the "Dr." gets dropped, but Baird is correct in connecting this lack of professional respect with the long history of disregard for women's voices. This whole conversation harks back to Rebecca Solnit's essay "Men Explain Things to Me," in which she describes an encounter with a man who doubted her expertise on the topic of a book that she had written. "Every woman knows what I'm talking about," writes Solnit:
It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment in the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.
Julia Baird's encounter with online trolls who doubt her expertise is just the next step in this progression. "For centuries," she writes, "the voices of women have been muted, discounted and minimized. Our right to speak has been questioned, our power undermined, our authority mocked....We are repeatedly told to apologize, to shrink, to shut up."

"So don't," she commands, and let's give Dr. Baird the respect of allowing her to have the last word:
You don't need a title to speak. But if you have one, use it. Find your voice, and raise it. Stake your authority, and state it. Don't recoil. Don't back down.
Sometimes authority should be worn lightly. But sometimes it should be brandished like a torch. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Take me out to the ballgame, again and again and again

Friday night at the Cleveland Indians game I was suddenly tempted to pursue an alternative career (in case the whole teaching thing doesn't work out): baseball stadium usher. I suppose the pay can't be particularly good, but on the other hand, they get to attend every game and enjoy the excitement alongside the fans, and the ones I observed got plenty of exercise.

The woman who ushered in our section worked hard wiping rain off seats, leading people up and down the steps, reminding fans not to put their feet up on the railings, and fussing over the small children. We were in the family section so there were quite a few kids, and the usher was quite taken with our two-year-old grandson. She told me she works in a preschool so she loves being around children, and although she appeared to be in her sixties and limped a bit on the steps, she never stopped smiling.

And neither did I. It was a great game: Cleveland creamed the Detroit Tigers, and I got to see my favorite player, Francisco Lindor, hit a home run. It was Dollar Dog Night so we ate an absurd number of hot dogs with that yummy stadium mustard, and later my son brought me an ice cream cone so massive I had to share. The grandkids enjoyed watching the fireworks every time a player hit a home run, which kept happening. The game was rain-delayed by nearly two hours, so we left in the seventh inning because it was way past our bedtime--but not before seeing Yonder Alonzo hit a grand slam. 

Just about everyone fell asleep on the way home in the van, but before he nodded off, my grandson volunteered this assessment of the situation: "Baseball fun." Indeed it is, and wouldn't it be great to be able to enjoy that fun in person more than once or twice a year?

I need to rethink my retirement plan to include a second career as a baseball stadium usher. Sure, maybe I'd have to deal with the occasional intransigent fan, but think of the perks: The games! The fireworks! That great stadium mustard! I just worry about getting up and down all those steps over and over. I guess that means I need to retire before my bad hip gives out entirely. (How about next week? That way I wouldn't have to worry about my fall syllabi.)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Of buckets and birds

Can I still call it spring cleaning if I do it on the first day of summer? This morning I was washing algae off siding on the north side of the house, reaching as high as I could while the step-stool I was standing on kept sinking deeper into the soft ground and threatening to topple over on top of the bucket, but all I could think was: I'm glad I didn't try to finish this on Tuesday.

I did start the job on Tuesday morning, cleaning as much as I could without a step-stool until I was interrupted by a wasp busily building a nest below our electric meter. I'd have stopped anyway because the heat and humidity were oppressive. How hot was it? Hot enough to cause a local stretch of Interstate 77 to be closed after heat made the pavement heave.

The heat made me want to heave too, even when I tried to beat the heat by walking up the hill very early in the morning. I took the camera in hopes of finding butterflies among the blooming milkweed, but soon I was sweating so profusely that I had trouble holding on to the camera. At 8:00 in the morning!

Today was a better day for outdoor work: a little overcast, a little damp, but not too hot or humid. I had to ask the resident tall person to help clean the last bit of algae I couldn't reach even with the step-stool. And then I rewarded myself with some time amongst yardbirds and hummies, which have reached the territorial stage, guarding certain feeders and chasing away any visitors that violate the invisible borders. They're fun to watch and they sound like tiny motorboats zipping through the air.

Swarming hummies is a sure sign that summer has finally arrived--high time to finish the last bit of spring cleaning. At this point, anything that I've missed will just have to wait until next spring.

brown thrasher


song sparrow

house finch

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Richard Russo on writing, comedy, and life

In The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life, Richard Russo says some interesting things about writing, comedy, and life. In the title essay, on the quirks of fate that propel some toward achieving their goals while others abandon them, he writes:

A writer's truest self hides in the same dark terrain where self-doubt and anxiety dwell--those dread whisperers—and it’s that self they constantly assail. They are, I think, the original hackers, determined to hijack the code, to show us who’s boss, to confuse us into thinking the danger comes from without, not from within. Like Odysseus, we have little choice but to lash ourselves to the mast and listen to their Siren song, knowing all too well that they want us on the rocks. There is a narrow passage. There must be.
In "Getting Good," a long essay on what it takes to get good at writing (practice, guidance, feedback from a writing community, maturity, insight, and some other things I'm forgetting), he considers the difficulty of accepting rejection:
Writing communities provide the necessary understanding that the word ‘no’ isn’t personal; that’s important because personal is precisely what rejection (a nine-letter synonym for ‘no’) feels like. When a computer says no—as mine does several times a day—I don’t take it personally, unless I’m really pissed off. After all, it’s just a machine. It’s telling me I’ve done something wrong, which I’d prefer not to be true but invariably is….I don’t take the machine’s intransigence to mean that I’ll never be any good at operating it or that I’m not good enough in general, either. I just have to find my mistake and fix it, after which, assuming I haven’t put my boot through the screen, we can be friends again.
Helpful insight. My favorite essay, though, is "The Gravestone and the Commode," in which he examines the hazards of writing comedy and the close proximity between laughter and pain. A few choice excerpts:
My writing students used to ask, How do you make things so funny? To which I usually replied, I don’t make anything funny. I’m simply reporting the world as I find it....
The problem for a writer with a genuinely comic imagination is not “making things funny” or even locating enough funny things in the real world to write about. Rather, the problem—and it’s the same for any artist—is getting other people to see things as you do, to honor the truth of your idiosyncratic way of seeing. Art, in the end, may be little more than this: convincing people to set aside their natural reluctance long enough to register your vision....
The greatest obstacle comic writers face is that far more people truly see the gravestone than they do the commode. They look on the world and see death, ignorance, poverty, bigotry and injustice, and they see nothing funny in any of it. Worse, they suspect there must be something wrong with people who do....
The final test of what’s funny or not is whether it’s true. Of course I don’t mean if some incident actually happened, or even if the story has been embellished or exaggerated. What I mean is: Is it true to our experience of life? Is this the way people really are? Is this how the world truly works? Not coincidentally, this is the test of all good writing, not just comic writing....

The best humor has always resided in the chamber next to the one occupied by suffering. There’s a door adjoining these rooms that’s never completely closed. Sometimes it’s open just a crack, because that’s all we can stand. Most of the time it’s flung wide open on a well-oiled hinge, and this is as it should be. Those in favor of shutting it tight are always, always wrong.
So true--but those of us who like to stand in that doorway have to be careful or we'll end up getting our fingers smashed when the door slams shut.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

But trilliums can't swim! (And manatees can't fly!)

What's big, fat, and homely and swims slowly in Florida's rivers?

If you answered "a trillium," you are clearly delusional. Nevertheless Trillium is one of the proposed names for a young female manatee orphan currently residing in the Columbus Zoo.

As a press release from the Columbus zoo explains (read it here), a rescue team found the calf and her mother suffering from the cold in waters off the Florida coast in February. The article describes the mother as "negatively buoyant," which is bad news for a mammal that lives underwater but has to surface to breathe. When the mother died, the calf was taken first to the manatee rehabilitation facility at Sea World in Orlando and then to the Columbus Zoo.

Now that she's healthy and thriving, she needs a name. Her companion, a rescued manatee calf called Heavy Falcon, "received his name as a nod to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch that took place on February 6, 2018--the same day he was rescued." In what ways does a manatee resemble a rocket or a bird of prey? Look--up in the sky! It's a manatee! (Not.)

The other rescued calf, though, still lacks a name. Her caretakers have found her "more shy and cautious than some of the other manatees" and laud her "sweet demeanor," which may be one reason they've proposed naming her Trillium. Both trilliums and manatees thrive only in very specific conditions, but that's about the only similarity I see. Trilliums are small and elegant, while manatees are most definitely not.

Don't get me wrong--I love manatees! But there's just nothing about a manatee that says "Trillium." Fortunately, the Columbus Zoo has offered some other options for names, all associated in some way with Ohio:

  • Carmen, "A nod to 'Carmen Ohio,' The Ohio State University alma mater." I'm trying to picture a manatee lumbering along the sidelines at a football game while the fans sing "Carmen Ohio." Can manatees sing?
  • Scioto, the river that runs through Columbus; its water ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, home of manatees, a connection that should remind us "how actions we take in Ohio can make a positive impact for the future of manatees and their habitats." It's a noble sentiment but "Scioto" always makes me think of the Steve Canyon comic strip, and you'd never fit a full-grown manatee into those little square panels.
  • Sloopy, from the title of the state rock song of Ohio, "Hang on Sloopy." Not only has the rescued calf demonstrated an ability to hang on through difficult times, but the word "sloopy" sounds the way manatees look as they slide through the water. 
Decisions, decisions. I wouldn't want to be responsible for sticking a name on such an impressive creature, and I definitely don't want to hand the naming duties over to whoever came up with "Heavy Falcon." Fortunately, the Zoo is asking for our help: manatee fans can cast a vote on the Columbus Zoo website (here). Results will be announced June 25. 

If enough people vote for Trillium, then one of these days I'll go hunting for trilliums in my springtime woods and suddenly picture a massive marine mammal swimming toward me in her slow, sloopy way. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Warning: big trashy rant ahead

Lately when I walk up the hill through the woods, when I hear the wood thrush's call and see a deer crashing through underbrush and see the honeysuckle and chicory blooming, when I reach the stretch where the only visible house is the one the box turtle carries on his back, I often wonder what makes some people think This would be a great place to dump an old sofa--and let's toss some beer cans and a McDonald's bag out the window while we're at it!

I'm tempted to post a sign saying These woods are not a landfill, but I doubt that the kind of person who dumps a sofa in the woods would treat such a stricture with respect. What is it about this peaceful place that attracts such inconsiderate slobs?

I know the answer: the very remoteness of these woods makes people think that no one's watching. But don't they know there are more effective ways to discard a sofa? I mean, just set it out by the curb with a sign that says "Free." Someone will come along and take it away.

Or there's always the dump. Here's a true story: we don't have garbage pickup at our house, so anything that can't be recycled, composted, or burned goes into a big plastic trash can, and then stuff too big for the can gets stacked up in the garage. Sometimes it takes a year to fill up that trash can, but eventually it demands to be taken to the dump. So last week my husband filled his van with a couple of trash cans, some broken appliances, and various bits of scrap metal washed up by the creek. (For a while the creek kept bring us pieces of a washing machine. How long would we have to wait to get the whole thing?) Then he drove off to a metal recycling yard, where they gave him $48 for a pile of scrap, and then he went to the dump, where he paid $6 to dispose of the rest of the stuff. Even if you add in the cost of a couple of gallons of gas, he came out around $40 ahead.

So why don't the slobs take the sofa to the dump? They surely had a vehicle that could carry it, since they surely didn't haul it out to the woods on their backs. I'd gladly give them the six dollars to pay the disposal fee if they'd ask. But somehow they'd prefer to dump it in the woods.

Maybe they're trying to cover up evidence of a vicious murder--but no, burning would be the smart way to destroy evidence. Or maybe they carry memories of some horrible woods-related mishap, a camping accident or an encounter with a bear or a bunch of bullies, and they'll do anything to get back at the woods where the damage occurred. Or maybe they're just inconsiderate slobs.

But name-calling solves nothing. Here's what I'd like to do: I'd like to gather up all the people who toss their beer cans and fast-food wrappers out their car windows and who dump sofas off the backs of trucks, and I'd like to take them for a long, slow, quiet walk with a bunch of bird-watchers equipped with spotting scopes. I'd like to make them stand quietly and watch prairie warblers and indigo buntings in the tops of trees, listen to the sound of the creek water riffling over the rocks, watch a turtle make its stately way across the road, and feel the butterflies breezing past their cheeks. If they could see the depth and richness and beauty that suffuses the woods, maybe they wouldn't see the place as a landfill.

And then I'd like to hand them all a pile of trash bags and say Get to work.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A place for everything (except me)

After a long day of shopping various marvelous sales, my car is now crammed full of stuff to make our new parsonage livable: bed linens, waste baskets, towels, and a dish drainer, plus a laundry hamper holding a whole mess of cleaning products. We have enough kitchen things to divvy up between the two households, but I refuse to take any ratty old dish towels to a new place.

Even though it's fun to find just the right shower curtain at a tremendous discount and imagine the perfect spot for that peacock photo, I'm a little nervous about some other aspects of the move. I'm pretty good at organizing a move and getting all our stuff settled in to a new house, but I'm not so good at getting myself settled among a whole new group of people.

They are nice people, at least the ones I've met so far. Everyone has been encouraging and eager to help us adjust to a new place, but being surrounded by a large group of people I don't know makes this introvert want to run screaming from the room. All those names! All those relationships I'll need to figure out! All those private jokes I won't understand, perspectives I'll find puzzling, positions in the community I can't comprehend! How will I ever find my place?

I've done this before plenty of times, but this time I'll be hampered by splitting my time between two houses--and not just two houses but two communities, two groups of friends, and two positions. I know how to play the part of English Professor in any context, but the position of Pastor's Spouse has a more fluid job description that may include unspoken expectations. No one can measure up to that one pastor's spouse who baked wonderful pies or sang moving solos or played the piano or tended the nursery every Sunday. 

I don't do pies. Can't carry a tune or play a note. May not be able to commit to regular teaching duties because I'll be splitting my time between two places. I'm bound to disappoint someone fairly soon.

But maybe that's okay. Who wants to hang around with the perfect person who can do no wrong? Maybe they'll find my imperfections endearing. Maybe instead of trying to present a polished facade, I should drop the mask and let my ratty edges show.

But not on the dish towels. They'll be brand-new.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer? What summer?

This morning the barista behind the counter at the library cafe asked me how my summer's been going, and I could only laugh. An accurate answer would have to include too many disparate elements: floods, phone problems, and a stinging wasp, plus a new(er) car and all the paperwork it brings, minus a nephew, plus a birthday party and a visit from the grandkids and a former colleague, all the logistics involved with moving to a new parsonage and maintaining two households, lots of rain and not enough mowing, restful days in California and hectic days at home, and not nearly enough time to focus on research and writing projects. 

"Um, fine, how about yours?" doesn't seem to cover it all but that's the best I can do at the moment. Maybe things will slow down sooner or later. Or maybe this is just the pace of life these days. If so, I'm going to need a new set of cliches. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In case I need any hoops and staves....

Once years ago we moved to a little town in northwest Ohio and I asked a longtime resident whether the town had any claim to fame. "Well," he said, "you know those curly fries you can get at the county fair? The guy who invented the special blade used to cut those fries did it right here in this town."

I don't know how you'd put that fact on one of those little signs you see at the edge of town: "Home of the guy who invented--never mind."

Even further back we moved to a little Ohio River town that boasted of its past glory thus: "A hundred years ago we were the pig-iron capital of the world." Which is absolutely everything you need to know about that town. 

Since we learned that my husband would soon be serving a church in Jackson, Ohio, we've been asking people about the town, and we've heard all kinds of great things about canoeing and hiking, the annual apple festival, historic iron furnaces, and a nearby petroglyph. It's a charming little town surrounded by significant hardwood forests, including the Wayne National Forest and, not far away, the Zaleski State Forest, close to my heart for two reasons: 1. good canoeing at Lake Hope; and 2. the name. (I grew up a Zelesky. It's not often that I see a name that comes close.)

The wealth of hardwood forests feeds another local industry: the manufacture of bourbon barrels. Yes: Jackson, Ohio, is home of Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, which constructs barrels and ships them all over the world for use in bourbon brewing. So it looks like Jackson has all my cooperage needs covered.

But who will cover my mattress and sofa needs? That's our next task: finding a few select items to fill in the blank spots in the parsonage. It's a cute little house that won't take much to make it warm and inviting, but it won't feel like home until we can sit and sleep. (And not in a barrel.)  

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Random bullets of what just happened?

The good news is that my home phone service has been restored, hurrah! But the bad news is that my home internet connection went from slow to nonexistent nearly a week ago and we can't figure out what the problem is or how to fix it, so I've been unable to keep up with news or post photos of my adorable grandkids or respond to important e-mails unless I go to town. I'm feeling utterly disconnected from the rest of the world but incredibly connected to my grandkids, who were a constant presence during the first half of the week. I'm having difficulty sorting the week into a coherent narrative, so here's what I've got:

  • Garrison Keillor says "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted," and I sincerely hope that's true. It would be a shame if all those hand-washings and diaper-changings and storytellings counted for nothing.
  • Speaking of handwashings, Nice Grandma takes her grandkids berry-picking and feeds them ice cream, but Mean Grandma says Wash those sticky hands before you move another inch. Nice Grandma takes her grandkids to The Wilds and shows them giraffes and camels and a cheetah right up close to the fence, but Mean Grandma snaps Sit down! every time the bus starts moving. And Nice Grandma reads stories at bedtime and then gently closes the door on the darkened room, at which point the two-year-old climbs up on the headboard, turns on the overhead light, and says More play! Which inspires Mean Grandma to loosen the lightbulbs in the overhead light to keep the room dark, a move that does not go unnoticed by the young persons present, who object, loudly and at length. But Mean Grandma neglects to wear gloves while loosening the bulbs, so she suffers a burn on her finger. Poor Mean Grandma! Who will kiss it and make it better?
  • I'm pleased to report that my daughter continues to hone a valuable life skill she learned from her father: she's a champion stone-skipper, and she's passing her skills on to her children, albeit slowly. Throwing rocks in the creek can be endlessly fascinating for the little ones, so I'm really glad the creek is down to its normal summer level. The raging torrent that washed away our shed two weeks ago would have eaten us all alive if we'd gotten that close to the bank.
  • And speaking of the raging torrent, I was just informed this morning that the flood washed away all of our tomato cages, which had been stored in the shed. Every single one. Well, there's a good excuse not to plant 60 tomato plants this season.
  • The other day someone from Frontier Communications called me to make sure my service had been restored and ended the conversation with "Thank you for choosing Frontier!" I could not resist pointing out that we don't exactly have a choice and if we did, Frontier would not be at the top of my list. After three weeks with no phone service, the bottled-up snark just slipped right out.  
But at least I now have one reliable way to connect with the wider world. Too bad I can't think of anything terribly profound to say.  

The ostrich learned this expression from Mean Grandma.

Beautiful day for a wildlife safari.

Bobolinks were abundant at The Wilds, although difficult to photograph.

Who's a happy baby?

Making a splash.

"Grrr! I'm a monster!"

Hairy woodpecker?

Friday, June 01, 2018

Check-marks on the chore list

Look, sunshine! Oops, too slow---blink and you miss it. The wind keeps blowing and the rain keeps falling and the grass keeps growing, but who can mow when the ground is so wet?

So I sit indoors and cross chores off my list. Yesterday, for instance, I made a bed--a toddler bed for my grandson, who will visit next week and has outgrown the crib. I bought the bed at Toys R Us, which is going out of business (sad) and therefore selling everything at a markdown (yes!), and it was the last toddler bed this store had in stock (lucky me), although it would be more accurate to call it a "bed kit." It came in a flat box full of nearly identical parts, cryptic instructions, and the dreaded Allen wrench. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back, but the bed feels sturdy, fits the space, and looks good. The only thing it needs to be complete is my grandson.

I've also been working my way through a pile of scholarly articles and books in preparation for revising an article that got rejected not long ago. Rejection is always rough, but this was the kindest and most encouraging rejection I've ever received, so I'm moving forward to revise the article and send it elsewhere. First, though, I took a look at the MLA bibliography and discovered that a half dozen articles on the topic have come out since I last touched this article. So I am no longer in the vanguard (drat!) but no one else has approached the topic the way I do, so it's worth continuing, even if it requires reading a mess of scholarly books. Nothing against scholarly books in general, but here are some things I never again hope to see: a long summary of the chapter before the chapter begins; whole paragraphs composed of a patchwork of quotes from other authors; and cutesy neologisms like "matter" used as a transitive verb. (I would provide an example but it hurts my eyes to see references to something "mattering" something else.)

Next, I get to write thank-you notes! Not a bad chore because it reminds me of all the people who have been so kind and supportive during the past difficult weeks and, especially, after last week's flood. I'm surrounded by such marvelous people--what could I possibly have to complain about?