Hey, Look! A Poem.

So in the spring of 2010, I began having some serious anxiety about my poetry.  Here I was, with a degree in poetry from the University of Houston, two books of poems under my belt, and a job teaching Creative Writing and English at a tiny high school which had developed enough of a reputation for Creative Writing that at least a couple dozen kids a year applied there because they wanted to be writers.

That’s all great, I thought, but a part of me was slowly turning to dust inside because I hadn’t written what I thought was a decent poem in several years.

To be fair, I was embroiled in writing a novel and had made some forays into memoir.  And I had always considered myself a fiction writer more than anything else, even from the time I was a child.  (I think the first time I read one of my short stories in front of an audience was during fourth grade, and yeah, I knew then that Story was It.)  But though I’d begun my education at UH as a fiction writer, about halfway through I felt stymied and switched to poetry, and then I wrote nothing but poems for about three years.

What did I learn from that?  Simply, how language works.  How to navigate the relationships between words.  So after writing only poetry for a while (other, of course, than the literary analysis essays — about other people’s poetry — required for some of my classes), when I came back to fiction, the result stunned me.  My stories were a lot better.

But back to 2010.  I hadn’t been writing poems.  I had barely been scraping together enough time to draft more than a chapter or two per semester on my novel, thanks to my job teaching high school.  I was coming slowly out of what some might have called a mid-life crisis but which my artist friends assured me was really an artistic crisis.  My identity, which had for most of my life been at least partially wrapped up in my ability to be creative, was suffering due to a lack of time for anything creative.  After having two kids and continuing to teach high school full-time, I had quit my hobbies (dancing, painting, jewelry making), and I was treating my writing (and please forgive me for this) like a hobby.

So Aaron encouraged me to sign up for a poetry workshop at Inprint over the summer (when I do not teach).  I took it.  It was transformational.  (And here I must give a shout out to the most excellent Paul Otremba, who was leading the workshop.)  I wrote a lot of poems that summer, and many of them received a good welcome, but beyond that, I was actually satisfied with my work.  I felt so relieved, every other aspect of my writing career began to flourish in the wake.

* * *

When I began teaching, lo these many eons ago, one of my classes challenged me to write a sestina with six words they chose on the spot at random.  They gave me a week to do it, in what I imagine they must have thought was a fun table-turning moment.  I laughed.  I’m not a trained monkey.  Why should I perform?

“Come on,” they said.  “If this form is so much fun, just do it.”

I sighed.  “Okay, this does sound interesting.  What are the words?”

They came up with them quickly, enthusiastically.  Flower, grace, cold, water, coward, chump.

“You’re on,” I grinned.  “I won’t need a week.”

* * *

So why am I telling you this story now?  I have learned, in the past month, that my poems are making their way into the world again.  Of those poems I wrote last summer, several are under consideration for publication right now, and one has been selected for print in two different anthologies.  I’m also going to be a Juried Poet at Houston Poetry Fest again this year.  I’m jazzed.

So I wanted to share a poem with you.  Since I can’t put any of those newer poems here on my blog while they’re under consideration or about to go to print, I thought I’d share that poem my students challenged me to write way back in the day.  (It has been published, in the e-magazine PHUI and in my book Gypsies, but I own the copyright.)  It’s also sort of an important poem for me because I think when I wrote it I crystallized, internally, the generally stoic nature toward most of the world which I hoped to adopt in my life.

If anyone is interested in the mechanics of a sestina or how to write one, please post a comment.  (And apologies:  one of the lines in this poem is really long, and the margins of the blog template won’t allow it to fit all on one line, and I can’t figure out how to tab it over, so it looks like two lines, but it’s not.)

Enjoy!

For the Cold Lovers
(or, Survival of the Fittest)

I must have been a real chump
to be excited by that rare treat, the flower
you gave me.  Maybe because I had been a coward
then, I thrilled to see the graceful
petals even after they’d fallen – gracefully – into the water
glass on the table in the cold

corner of the room.  (I thought the cold
would preserve (my chump-
euphoria and) the life (in the watery
grave) of the tiny flower.
I was wrong.  It died a pathetic – yet graceful –
death, leaning slowly toward its demise like a coward.)

That plant was a coward,
and so had I been, unafraid of the cold
(the wrong thing to trust) and worried, like a graceful
music box dancer, by the independence which might protect me.  We’re a bunch of chumps –
me, the satin-slippered chick, that slowly dying flower –
and we ought to be put out to sea without food or drinking water

in the hopes that the salt-water
creatures will overturn our craft of cowards.
Then I will try to hold, to comfort the choking girl as she weeps for the flower
(that has already found a grave in the cold
sea) and thrashes about (like the chump
she is proving herself to be) in that graceful

way she has, until I say,  “To hell with this grace
and daintiness, you’ll drown in these waters
if you don’t stop acting like a chump
waiting to be rescued and grow some strength!  The cowards
can’t swim to shore, and the cold
will overtake you if you aren’t wise.  The flower

is already dead.”  She’ll weep for the flower
and the death and the woe until her pathetic, graceful
thrashing convinces me not to care anymore, and I leave her to the cold,
unforgiving, undrinkable ocean water,
letting her gently (tired from the thrashing) weep, a quieting coward
sinking into the deep, the grave of the chumps.

And I, no longer a chump or a coward,
will swim back through those waters, strong of arm and a new grace,
wary now of the cold and unimpressed by flowers.

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Too Much (This Post Will Be Short)

I want to follow up last weekend’s post about anxiety with this weekend’s antidote:  getting stuff done.

There are times when it feels as if my life, in a particular moment, is spiraling out of control.  I have piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the dishwasher needs unloading, I really should sweep the floor, those piles of things to be sorted or filed or catalogued in the office aren’t going to take care of themselves.  I have papers waiting to be graded, a novel that needs to be revised, a blog post to write, other people’s blogs to research and follow, email inboxes that need to be purged, the bed to be made, my workout to be done, my seasonal wardrobe to rotate, damaged or dead plants to rip from the garden, the new Hallowe’en shop to explore.  Playdates to arrange, decorations to bring down from the attic, a decision on which word processing program I’m going to buy now that my computer’s operating system has been upgraded, my children’s homework to look over, groceries to shop for, toys to be sorted and packed up for Gramma and Grampa’s house, donations to itemize and box.  Episodes of Arrested Development to catch up on, books to read (some of them written by my friends, which ought to make them a higher priority), manuscripts to critique.

You might have noticed — as I did while writing that list — a lack of prioritization.  I think this might be one of my problems.

So instead of whining about how little I can ever get done in a day, I’m going to make this week’s post awfully brief and hopefully do better next time, after I knock some of that nonsense from the second paragraph off my to-do list.

Cheers!

When Ostriches Bury Their Heads in the Sand, They Are Looking for Water, Which Makes Them Optimists Rather Than Cowards.

Anxiety is a funny thing.  And by “funny,” I don’t mean amusing.  I mean odd, weird, nonsensical, irrational, wretched, terrible, horrifying, crippling, cruel.  It primarily affects women in much the same way anger management problems and color blindness primarily affect men.  And anxiety runs in families.

My mother and sister have anxiety disorder.  I have “adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features,” which loosely translates to an inability to tolerate high levels of stress on an ascending scale correlative to the increasing level of said stress.  Meditation and mindfulness, rather than medication, help, but I am lucky.

My daughter is six years old.  She’s starting to show symptoms, too.

* * *

My first feelings of sharp, painful, destabilizing anxiety — ones I remember, at least, and remember with a vivid tingling tremble in my body — occurred when I was only a little older than my daughter is now.  In 1981, President Reagan was shot by a psychopath trying to impress Jodie Foster.  Reagan lived, but I didn’t know yet that was going to be the outcome as I stood in the hallway, plucked from my first grade classroom, trembling and choking out tears and unformed words about my terror to the school counselor.  My teacher wanted me out of the room so I wouldn’t frighten my classmates as they all watched the breaking news coverage, the president stepping from a building into a street soon pierced with bullets, falling, the scrambling, getting him into speeding cars, over and over again.  I remember the light was turned off, the blinds drawn, so we could all see the television better.  I remember seeing the president smiling and waving then sharply falling, over and over.

I don’t remember being allowed back into the classroom until I calmed down, but I know that when I reentered the room, my glassy-eyed classmates turned to look at me as if I were no more familiar to them than the strange TV program they were being forced to watch.  My Otherness lingered throughout elementary school and junior high, until we all graduated in eighth grade and went on to high school, our class then to be diluted by other students from all over the city.  I don’t know how much of that day made me forever strange to them.  Perhaps it only made me strange to myself, and that Otherness I felt within me then took root inside my personality, sprouting into the kind of tree one might find in a Tim Burton film.

The next year, my first fears of terrorism occurred, at the Sunday family breakfast table.  My father’s cousin in Lebanon had just been elected president a few weeks before and had been assassinated.  (His brother would then be elected president to survive him and lead the country for most of the rest of the decade.)

My mother remarked in what I would later remember as a cloyingly dramatic way how sad it was that his family’s joy that he had been elected had abruptly turned to sorrow and mourning.  But I was focused on an anecdote my father was recalling, about an earlier assassination attempt in which the dead man’s car had been blown up.  Although that incident had been unsuccessful in its target of Bashir, his driver and eighteen-month-old daughter had been killed in the blast.

I looked at my baby sister then, just two years old.  She was quietly chewing toast and scrambled eggs, looking back and forth at everyone in the family while she studiously munched.  With a pang, it occurred to me that if that toddler cousin wasn’t safe, then my toddler sister wasn’t safe, and if adults were being killed, how could I protect this baby?

This anxiety about protecting my younger brother and sister would linger all the way into adulthood.  A rash of kidnappings in our city when we were all in grade school nearly paralyzed me, to the point where I hid letters about neighborhood safety, sent from school to our parents, in the back of my desk drawer.  I was too anxious to let both my siblings go out shopping or to a movie theater unless both my parents or one parent and myself were with them.  The two kids together were just too rambunctious, I thought, for one parent to handle.  I was needed to make sure the family would remain intact.  It was my silent crusade of protection, and it left an indelible mark on my psyche, perhaps because it was so silent.

The question of why such a task might fall to me never entered my mind.  As my father often reminded my siblings and me as we were growing up and not always getting along, you have to be friends with brothers and sisters, because when you get older, all you have is your family.  You can’t really depend on anyone else.

* * *

Separation anxiety is a funny thing, too, in the heartbreaking sense of the word.  Even though my daughter has been in school for four years and has never shown anything but enthusiasm for the three schools she has attended, in the early weeks of first grade, I have spent several mornings with her barnacled to my hips and weeping at the door to her classroom.  How many minutes have she and I spent on either end of a staircase, waving and blowing kisses, reminding each other the school day is only a few hours long and that everything is going to be all right and that if there’s any emergency, her teacher will call me and I will come running like Dash Incredible from my side of campus to hers?  She can rattle off my cell phone number like it’s her ABCs.  The school counseling psychologist assures me her behavior is not uncommon and, perhaps, to be expected, considering our family history.  She also reveals, with a kind smile, that the kind of behavior my daughter has exhibited only happens in families which are warm and loving.  Now there’s a silver lining.

The only thing like separation anxiety that I remember feeling when I was a child was a dull ache, a malaise that inexplicably made me cry.  It occurred when I would wake up in the mornings in my parents’ bed, music from the easy listening station on the radio.  The room would be dimly lit by sunlight filtered through the taupe linen curtains.  The king-size bed was far too big for my toddler body.  Both my parents would be at work, and the babysitter would be in the house, waiting for me to wake up.  I felt lonely, mournful, as if I had been abandoned.

Even at that age, I knew intellectually that this was silly, that my parents would be home again before I knew it.  But that didn’t stop the longing for their presence or my tears.  And that’s no way to start your day.

* * *

This morning, on the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I have been awakened from my Sunday bed by the radio.  It’s NPR, playing impactfully arranged broadcasts from that first 9/11’s Morning Edition.  It’s a powerful thing to wake up to, but not something I especially want to hear again; I had listened to it the first time, ten years ago, on that Tuesday morning.

Both our daughter and our four-year-old son have climbed into bed with my husband and me at some point in the last couple of hours.  We are sleeping like sardines, all snuggled together in a bed not meant for four.  The children have instinctively edged us toward the middle to avoid perching in their slumber on the drop-offs on either side.  Aaron and I wake and begin coaxing them gently back to their own beds.  Our son walks back down the hall to his room, where he will climb onto his pillow and turtle down back to sleep.  Our daughter merely slides from the bed to the floor, not even waking as her body pours itself gracefully across the carpet.

The radio is loud enough to wake me up.  That’s how we’ve designed it, because the morning broadcast is usually less violent than a shrieking alarm.  But today is Sunday, and we’ve no reason to get up early.  I turn the radio way down so the coverage can’t permeate anyone’s dreams.

* * *

In the first couple of hours after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field, I had to return to class and, in the absence of any other directive, teach.  In my tiny Creative Writing class that semester I had six students.  We were studying plays.  I had been contemplating writing a stage adaptation of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I had just read and loved the week before.  I was supposed to be discussing with my students that day Our Man in Madras, a one-act play about a nuclear bomb blast.  (For a week I tried dutifully to cover that material until we all just sort of agreed it was a bad idea.)

I looked at my students on the morning of 9/11.  One was absent.  One was in the office in tears trying to find news of her family:  her parents had been on a plane that morning, leaving D.C.; they had been visiting her older sister, who worked at the White House.  She had been fed uninformed information and thought her whole family had been killed in the attacks.  (Fortunately, everyone ended up being completely safe.)

I had four students left in my classroom.  A senior girl who was immersing herself in homework to avoid the situation around her.  A sophomore girl who was silently freaking out.  Two eleventh-grade boys.

I looked at those children and felt sad.  You didn’t have to be a military expert to know that a war was coming.  These kids had grown up during peacetime and would remember it wistfully.  I looked at the boys and felt a deep, frightened tenderness.  For over an hour, I could think of nothing but please don’t let them reinstate the draft, please don’t let them reinstate the draft, please don’t…

* * *

On the first anniversary of those terrorist attacks, a friend forwarded me a newspaper cartoon that if I could find now, I would post a link to.  I’ve looked; I can’t find it anywhere but in my memory, but that’s good enough.  Nine years later, the fact that it’s still there is perhaps the point.  The cartoonist’s implied question was how one could possibly memorialize such a traumatic event.  The single-panel comic depicted a television that had been unplugged from the wall, beneath a window through which a mother and toddler could be seen playing together, all smiles, outside.  The toddler was laughing, playing catch-the-ball with Mommy, and the mother didn’t look anxious.  The unplugged television let us know the events were present in the mother’s mind, but she wasn’t letting them cripple her.

I have been advised that avoidance is not the way to deal with anxiety.  Good advice, but easier said than done.  I am trying to be mindful of the symptoms when they manifest in my young daughter’s behavior as vigilantly as I monitor my own.  I am trying to be cognizant of everything, to counteract the paralysis and tears with positive, healthy, stable fortitude and sound reason.  Sometimes it works.  It’s a process I’ve had to teach myself in adulthood.  And it’s getting better.

Today will be a relaxing day.  We will not attend the numerous vigils and ceremonies and memorials and events we have been informed of and invited to, although I am glad they’re happening for those who need them.  We will play with our children, visit good friends for dinner, do some housework, read and write.  We will prepare for tomorrow’s day at school.  We will discuss Hallowe’en costumes with our kids.  We will admire our daughter’s newest drawings and collect a picture of a spider web our son has drawn for his idol, Spider-Man.

The world will turn at its rapid, steady pace.  The news cycle will do the same, but tucked into another corner of our house where we can participate in it or not.  The events of ten years ago will be remembered.  We will honor the fallen and remember the heroes.  We will incorporate those feelings into the fabric of our lives but not let them dominate unnecessarily.  We will choose to forge ahead with awareness and reverence, but not be stuck in a despair-filled past.  Some people will hate us for our choices, but their hate is not my responsibility.

Tomorrow we will publicly resume the other parts of our lives.  Participating fully in them, demonstrating our strength and our love for the people still around us, being survivors for the survivors, helping everyone to move forward without stagnation — that is a healthy and loving tribute, too.

Vacationing in Purgatory: The Spice Lady of Maine

In light of this being the “last official weekend of summer” — or at least, the last official weekend for summertime traveling — I thought I’d post about an extraordinary vacation Aaron and I took about ten years ago, the summer after we were married. We were going to Bar Harbor, Maine, where he and his family are from, with his parents and his brother Jason’s family (consisting at the time of Jason’s wife, Kim, and their two-year-old daughter Samantha). Aaron was hoping to do some historical investigation into his family’s history on the island, which was extensive and dated back over two hundred years, and so I welcomed the idea of this trip to Maine, even though it meant we would be missing my cousin’s wedding that same week – a family reunion on my side, of sorts, being replaced by a family reunion on his.

Aaron’s parents were making their own travel arrangements and would not be staying with us, but Kim and Jason and Aaron and I thought it would be fun for us to have our vacation entirely together. We were right about that, I think, but I made some serious errors in booking our travel arrangements; I had taken on the task quite willingly because I had the most free time, and because I wanted to impress my new in-laws with my enthusiasm. Famous last intentions.

* * *

Getting to Maine by air is not as easy as it sounds. Unless you have a private plane, you cannot simply fly into Bar Harbor. One cannot apparently fly directly into Maine from anywhere in the country father away than the other side of Maine. Getting there and getting home were exercises in creative frustration. Three weeks after Tropical Storm Allison had dumped thirteen feet of water on Houston in a single night, her remnants were still lashing the northeast, wreaking havoc with our travel plans. We’d started out flying from Houston to Philadelphia, then to Boston, and then to Bangor, where we’d stay one night and visit my mother-in-law’s people the next day before continuing on to the island by car. But the flight to Boston was canceled when the airports there were closed down by the weather; when one major northeastern city’s airports shut down, it wrecks the rest of that region of the country for air travel. After twenty frustrating minutes with some overworked ticket agents, we had to settle for rerouting to Rhode Island. The flight to Providence was several hours delayed and double-booked. From there we rented a car and drove; in the middle of the night, it took us only five hours to get across four states. We made it to our hotel in Bangor a little after three in the morning. Aaron’s parents and Jason’s family were already there, asleep.

No one’s luggage had made it to Bangor yet.

* * *

Aaron and I had stayed at an exquisite B&B in Bar Harbor called The Chiltern Inn for our honeymoon. I had never been to a B&B before that, and I fell in love with it. So even though Kim and Jason were more interested in staying at the oceanfront Holiday Inn (boasting air conditioning and a swimming pool), I persuaded everyone that the charming Windhaven Inn, another B&B I had discovered in my tourism research, would be a lot of fun. It sounded wonderful: “a museum-quality Edwardian inn on the ocean owned and operated by the Spice Lady of Maine, a gourmet chef.” The travel guide promised the place was “famous for its antiques, fireplaces, and big rooms with spruce ceilings.” A gourmet breakfast every morning, afternoon tea in the British tradition on the patio, and the inn’s custom of a glass of port in the evening sounded delightful, and so I gleefully made our reservations.

When we arrived, we discovered the guest rooms were tiny. Each had a full-size bed, two miniature nightstands, and a single straight-backed chair that appeared to have been salvaged from a long-discarded dinette set. Beyond that, there was barely room to walk, especially if you put your suitcases along the wall – which was a necessity, considering the lack of closets. The low ceilings were in fact made of spruce, but the “paddle fans” which worked “in conjunction with the ocean breezes” to keep the rooms “at a pleasant 68 degrees” were really just run-of-the-mill ceiling fans you could find at a Home Depot. They did not cool the rooms at all, perhaps because said ocean breezes were two miles away. Far from being a waterfront inn, the house was located in the middle of three concentric blocks of homes populated apparently by frat boys who liked to host raucous parties day and night.

Cynthia, the owner of the inn and resident “gourmet chef,” informed us when we arrived that breakfast was “at 8:00 a.m. sharp, in your street clothes.” Since we were all sharing one tiny bathroom, we had to start taking our showers at 6:30 in the morning in order to be dressed. If any of us was even a few minutes late, Cynthia would scold us into our chairs around the large circular table in the dining room. While we ate, we were subjected to her emphatic lectures, replete with maps and handouts and props and utterly devoid of any logic or historical accuracy whatsoever, about the history of Mount Desert Island. In between serving our three courses, she perched herself upon a stool on one side of the breakfast table and yammered on and on, preventing us from holding any conversations of our own.

But what she lacked in good sense and fact, Cynthia made up for in the staunch conviction that the idiotic nonsense she was making up as she went along was God’s own truth. For example, she told us that a Celtic coin from 400 B.C. (“the time of the Vikings”) had been found in Blue Hill on the mainland. (She was about 1,400 years too early for that detail to be even remotely plausible.) She also asserted that Maine had been discovered not by Champlain but by Ponce de Leon – which she pronounced as if it were a French name. She also told us her cat, a Maine coon (not actually), had belonged to Ernest Hemingway, and that her own daughter had earned two Master’s degrees, in business administration and in Cantonese, in two years from Yale. The daughter was reported to speak about ten languages fluently. Yale had apparently also sent this prodigy to Beijing to learn Mandarin.

The food was even better than the entertainment. And when I say “better,” I mean it was extraordinary. The Spice Lady’s culinary bravery knew no bounds. Our first morning, she served us a small dense loaf she called pioneer bread, which came with a lecture on its origins that included anecdotes about the Hebrews traveling through the Egyptian desert. The bread was followed by a plate of fruit covered with sticky triple sec and then a blueberry-filled crepe made of barley and covered with powdered sugar.

That evening, Kim and Jason and Aaron and I stood on the narrow landing outside our bedrooms for our glasses of port. There wasn’t enough room for any chairs, and six-foot-two Jason had to lean against the door jamb of the bathroom so as not to step on anyone’s feet. Cynthia brought a crystal decanter half-filled with the garnet-colored liquid on a tray with four crystal cordial glasses and deposited it on the short bookshelf between the two bedroom doors, then went mumbling back downstairs.

I was looking forward to the nightcap. We each took a glass, toasted each other, and then sipped. Jason was the first to speak, after his lips had stopped puckering. He smacked his tongue against his teeth a few times and grimaced.

“Tasty,” he said, putting his port back on the little tray.

I was disappointed by the rancid syrup, too. I like port. None of us liked this stuff.

The next morning, breakfast began again with spongy pioneer bread and moved onto a strawberry shortcake made of a pasty muffin which tasted like a dry scone that had been left in the oven for too long. The entrée was a soupy chive omelet with venison balls on the side. The meatball-like mounds were cooked in meringue and then dusted with powdered sugar. When Cynthia brought it out, she introduced it proudly as “the reason you all came to Maine.” My two-year-old niece, Samantha, who was given the exact same food we were but on smaller plates, looked down at her runny omelet and venison balls and said, “Yuck.”

That morning Cynthia informed us of the two leading theories on how Mount Desert Island had gotten its name. The first was that “a fat-cat, cigar-smoking rich guy” named Desert used to vacation there, but the explanation she preferred was that when Ponce de Leon was looking up at Cadillac Mountain at dawn, as the sun rose behind the mountain, it heated the ocean waters in front of the island, and the subsequent steam rose up and obscured the top of the mountain so that it seemed to de Leon that the mountain was deserting him. (We knew better, though, that the name came from the French word désert, meaning in some connotations “barren” and aptly describing rocky Cadillac Mountain and the surrounding terrain.)

That day, my sister-in-law Kim and I discussed our options during afternoon tea – two sweating glasses of Lipton on a rickety bistro table, on a small wooden deck off the breakfast room. We were shielded from the sun by overgrown morning glories and an anemic wisteria vine. Samantha was with us, leaning against Kim, who was gently sproinging the child’s ringlets to soothe her while we talked.

“Don’t feel bad,” Kim said to me. “There’s no way you could have known this place was run by a lunatic. The description in the brochure sounded good to us, too.”

“I guess,” I said, feeling pretty terrible that I’d persuaded them all to stay here. I looked past Kim through the sliding glass door to make sure Cynthia wasn’t eavesdropping. “But we can’t spend the whole week like this. Not with this awful food.”

“The Spice Lady is scary,” Samantha said carefully. Kim hugged her. “I know, honey. Don’t worry.” Samantha climbed onto her mother’s lap, and their folding chair creaked under the shift in weight.

After our watery tea had lost so much flavor that we couldn’t drink it anymore, we went inside to find Cynthia. We asked her if, since we were the only guests at the inn that week, we might postpone breakfast until 9:00, which wounded her to the core almost as deeply as our conciliatory requests for more simple fare. Not just for Samantha, who wanted Froot Loops, but also for us. I explained, “We aren’t used to such elaborate breakfasts,” and chuckled a little sheepishly that they were “wreaking havoc upon our metabolisms.” Cynthia agreed without even an attempt at graciousness.

The next morning we cheerfully came into the dining room just before 9:00. “Good morning!” we said.

Cynthia snapped, “Well good grief, it’s practically the afternoon!” and grumbled about her entire day’s schedule being thrown off. She informed us we could eat cereal if the Belgian waffles weren’t “simple enough” for us. The cereal was on the table, the bowls were stacked on the sideboard, and neither spoons nor milk was anywhere in sight.

Later that day, Cynthia ostentatiously put the inn up for sale. We even had to vacate our rooms while she marched a real estate agent through. We left for a couple of hours and when we came back, Aaron and I walked into our room to find Cynthia leaning over our bed, the comforter folded back to the foot of the mattress, ironing the sheets.

* * *

So what is your weirdest travel episode? Please comment and share your story.