Family Bonding

They say that marriage is about not only the joining of individuals, but also of their families. Long ago, this involved swapping of farm animals, land, and the like. Of course these things hardly apply to us in a modern society, so we have begun by doing things our own way: having a meal at a significant restaurant.

Fuller’s is a Southern/soul food spot with a couple of locations. It’s flagship used to be Lumberton, NC until the recent hurricane and subsequent flooding that wiped out large parts of town. I had really been looking forward to having a meal in that spot, given its place among her family’s traditions and such. Sadly, this wasn’t to be.

They have relocated, probably permanently now, to the former Western Sizzler building on Raefort Road in Fayetteville. We surmise that it will be permanent, because the parking lot was so full that several circuits were required in order to find a place therein. Even so, the atmosphere initially wasn’t too bad. However, a party of 30 soon arrived, and well as usual I could hear only what was spoken directly into my ear. It was ok though, as I enjoyed some delicious fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, and a sliver of chocolate cake, along with that most Southern of staples, sweet tea. Most people partake of the buffet, as we did, and so you could consume as much as your heart desired. I always have to be careful not to overeat in these situations, as it makes me feel bad for a long time afterwards. I did opt for some popcorn shrimp though in addition to everything else, because I love that stuff and don’t get it very often.

The main goal here was to introduce both sets of parents. And by all accounts, they got along famously. Boisterous conversation continued for nearly 3 hours, with the servers anxiously circling that highly prized table but unwilling to force us to depart. During our time there, we heard at least three birthday chants, and much boisterous laughter, along with the obligatory really loud kid that makes you want to ask their parents if they can quiet her down!

Even with all that I still enjoyed it, and especially the sports talk (mostly about our opposing sides in the Carolina-Duke rivalry). Mixed in with the fun and funnies was useful advice about how to proceed down this fun but complex path toward marriage, much of which I have spent this day contemplating.

I admit I’m not entirely sure what’s coming next in this journey, but I’m enjoying the ride. I hope you too have benefited from this little piece of positivity amid all of the current madness. Back with some sort of entry next week, I hope. Working on Class 1’s major project, the good of that is it will be over by next Saturday! Not surprisingly, this is also the bad as I’ll be skating on the raisor’s edge for the next week. Ah, such is my life!

Meeting Carla Buckley

A moment for which I had been waiting nearly since I completed her fantastic book, The Good Goodbye. Very rarely have I read something whose characters stick with me long after the last page is turned, or word is played in my case as I consumed the Audible version. The two mothers, and two cousins have such complicated, entwined issues as the kids prepare to start university in a less-than-expected situation that I find myself unable to stop pondering them. Then you throw in a female professor taking advantage of the shakiness of things and a male who becomes involved with both of them, and the story becomes filled with intrigue. All of this literally goes up in smoke, creating the major event that separates before from after. If you’ve not read it, I shall spoil no more. But go check it out!

That’s right, I had the pleasure of meeting Carla Buckley, after having inquired about when such an opportunity might be available via Twitter and being told to drop in on her speaking engagement at the Chapel Hill Public Library. As I strode in, tired from a long workday, Buckley immediately came to shake my hand and even had a picture of us taken seated together. Then I graciously consumed the cookies and coffee that were offered me, giving a needed energy boost.

There were an appreciable amount of people in the room by the time 4 PM, its start, had approached. I think she wanted to go ahead and start so that things wouldn’t get too loud for the library atmosphere. A brief introduction was given, wherein Buckley’s birthplace of Washington DC, the four published novels she has out as well as her forthcoming work were noted. And then she began to speak. They had already moved me to the front of the room, as I’d informed them of my hearing issues, and she also repeated information received from the back of the area.I really appreciated that, as I thus missed little.

Her speech wasn’t too long at all, focusing on the art of writing and what helps her do it well. “I write when the kids are at school,” she says “whether I entirely feel like it or not”. I think initially out of necessity she had begun writing while in the library, and now she finds it to be the most productive way to engage in this craft. “I don’t like writing sometimes as much as I like having written,” she says. Now that’s an interesting thought. I know sometimes I don’t quite feel like writing either, but letting those words out then feels good when I have managed to produce something no matter what.

The audience posed some excellent questions as well. “How do you structure a book?” She’s a Plotter, not a Seat-of-your-pants writer (or pantser). She laughed about the friction that can exist when individuals from both camps are attempting to work together.

“How do you come up with your stuff?” “Not everyone writes this way of course,” she replied, “but for me I write about things that deeply emanate with me”. Those are most often family issues, how they are formed and thought of by the individuals who comprise them. This could also be seen in The Deepest Secret, another of her books which I have read and enjoyed about a boy who has a rare disease that makes it dangerous for him to be out in sunlight. In this story, she wanted to explore the relationship between mother and son, which may have differences from that between mother and daughter. Incidentally, she notes that this novel also has her favorite opening line, a “great question!” that someone asked but had not been previously considered.

Not long before closing, she discussed how research involved in one of her four unpublished books regarding watching a building being taken down with dynamite had informed a scene in her later work. “I love conducting research with people who are passionate about what they do,” she says. “It is amazing and gives so much insight.”

I enjoyed the presentation, and the chance to encounter someone whom I had only known through the pages and social media contacts. I also met a kind volunteer who has worked in the library for a number of years, I think public libraries actually get much of their service from such, in many cases older, individuals. I thank them for the work they do as well in bolstering our communities.

So that was the first major event of 2017. What you got next, year? Assuming I can surface from these projects that roll like waves, breaking from them even in ways that I probably shouldn’t but must in order to maintain my sanity. Now to hit submit and get back to work on this discussion board! More soon.

Three Days of Solitary, and Grad School Year Two

And counting? Oh Old Man Winter, I’ll grant that I did hope you would grace us with your presence and in so doing grant me another short vacation. The only thing, dear sir, is that it causes me to be locked behind this door and hardly able to remain upright for more than five hours at a time. I am slipping further and further into hibernation mode already, wherein all I really feel like doing is burrowing deep under the blankets and venturing out only to obtain necessary sustenance.

That’s right, we got brushed with just enough of the good stuff to ground us, but what would be laughable to those in colder climes. The biggest problem at the moment is that the sidewalk is a solid sheet of ice from my door outward. Actually there probably is a different way that I could exit more safely, but because the temperatures were barely out of single digits when I went to check, I didn’t bother going to survey that avenue. Should work open tomorrow, I might MIGHT take a look at going out that way. Truth be told though, if it’s delayed I probably won’t bother both because it then costs me unnecessary amounts of money that detract from the point of going in anyway and, well, I am storing up all this sleep for later. Not to mention there is a college football National Championship game on tonight that I could then watch in near entirety without worry of grogginess in the AM.

I’ve been ok in here for the most part. I do have the requisite food, though I just ran out of bread because I hadn’t properly anticipated how much I would consume. Still plenty of other stuff to eat though, so I won’t starve anytime soon.

I have also stocked up on books, grabbing four in my most recent go. I just started one called The Woman In Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, in which a British travel writer, after suffering a break-in, embarks on a luxury cruise aboard a boutique ship and, I think, hears the voice of a woman about to be thrown overboard? I’m not exactly sure, I’ll admit, but it has a “The Girl on the Train” kind of feel. Might be good.

The “reading” I really need to be doing of course is that for my Master’s program, which just restarted officially today. This course is one on Organizational Identity and Brand, which I’ll admit doesn’t sound like the most stimulating topic ever? But, it is good to know for one who wishes to help an organization set its course. I’m going to be more interested in the nonprofit angle, to which one of the texts does allude so I hope it will be addressed. Given that most of my other major projects have focused in some way on the Norrie Disease Association, I will continue in that vain if I am able to do so. This should help in my efforts to become a more effective leader. There are two projects in this class of note: we have to write a paper on why identity and brand are important, a seven-page lit review and blog post; and we’ve to do a podcast interviewing three “employees” about how they see their place in their brand. I admit I don’t entirely understand the premise of the second project (any employees or those of a specific organization) but it should be the more interesting one. I’ll just need to have a teleconference with the professor, whom I’m having for the second time, in order to clear up my issues.

And that’s about it. Just over here now looking forward to thawing out and the 70 degrees we’re to experience by Friday. Here’s to wild weather swings! More later as this crazy 2017 really gets going. Hope yours is off to as interesting a start.

Goin’ To The (Floating” Chapel

This year, as we marked our second New Year together with wine she could hardly finish, I had the honor of asking for this beautiful woman’s hand in marriage. In my clunky way yes, but I managed to do it. And with that comes, as she puts it and I agree, a mix of excitement and some trepidation. Not because we don’t actually want to do it, but because we are aware of the awesome responsibility that comes with melding two distinct lives in such a way that we both benefit and enjoy each other. It will be an ongoing process, that’s for sure.

While we are aware that most of what needs to happen will be after that ceremony of course, we are also hoping to have a different experience for a wedding. At the moment at least, this would happen aboard a Carnival cruise ship before setting sail to the Bahamian ports of Nassau, Freeport, and some Cay that I’ve forgotten at the moment. The price is actually lower than that of most traditional weddings, and we have the added benefit of not having to do too much planning. I think it’s a really cool idea, and am surprised that more people don’t do it. We are hoping to do this close enough to my birthday to celebrate that at sea as well.

So having expected that the proposal would occur around New Year’s Day, I’d spent much of my holiday pondering it. Mixed in of course with lots of relaxation, especially as the weather was fantastic from Monday the 26th until Friday the 30th. During that period, I managed to complete two great books while living outside and absorbing the rays that I will need as we finally plunge into the gloomy heart of Winter. This marks the first year in four that I’d not taken an actual vacation somewhere, but truthfully I welcomed the stillness.

Other than the already documented momentous event, I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day with her folks. On the former, we ate at a Lumberton NC area Chinese restaurant. I think more Chinese restaurants tend to be open on Christmas anyhow; then there was a quick gift exchange at her family’s home. And to begin 2017, I had the requisite dinner of I think something like blackeyed peas but not those exactly, collards, fried chicken, potato salad, white rice with gravy, and dressing. I admit I may have eaten too much, but I enjoyed every morsel.

And that pretty much makes up my break. I am a bit bummed that it is ending and I must return to work, but have a whole lot to look forward to as we move deeper into this new year. I do have many hopes and dreams for how everything will turn out, but suppose the more interesting part is not knowing exactly how things will go in the end. I continue to hope that it all goes well for us, and wish you a happy new year!