Surprised by Another Kind of NC Barbecue

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Barbecue is a big deal in North Carolina. And for the uninitiated, barbecue is a noun, not a verb. It always pork, and it is prepared in a specific way. The thing is, there are two specific ways: Eastern NC style and Western NC style. And most varieties of both are smoked over hardwood.

There are three main differences between Eastern and Western style. Eastern NC barbecue is made by smoking whole hogs, while Western NC barbecue is made by smoking pork shoulders. Eastern NC is chopped and Western NC is usually sliced. And finally Eastern NC sauce is vinegar-based and Western NC style is more likely to be a tomato-based. Continue reading “Surprised by Another Kind of NC Barbecue”

My Last Indiana Sunset

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I have spent the last year and a half watching the sunset from my rooftop deck in Muncie, Indiana. And this is the last sunset I’ll watch from this deck. Sunsets are amazing symbols. They usually mean an end to something, but with every end comes a new beginning. The next day the sun comes up again to start a whole new day.

Tomorrow the movers come to pick up all of my things and drive them south. I am moving back to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Even though I’ve been going back about once a month to see my kids, I really do miss North Carolina. They say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone (there have even been several songs written about that very idea) and that is definitely true about a place. I just never found my home here in Indiana. Continue reading “My Last Indiana Sunset”

The Phases of the Sunset

I try to watch the sunset every night and I have discovered there are different phases of the sunset. Here’s an example of pictures from each phase of the sunset in a single night. There may be scientific terms for these, but I’m just going with early, middle and late. And rather than try to explain these phases in non-scientific generalities, I’ll just show the pictures and let them speak for themselves.

Two things to note. First, even though these pictures are taken from the same spot (my roof deck), they have different degrees of zoom. That does not affect how the sky appears. And second, the tower on the right is a church. It is often in the way, but it also adds some context to the photos.

The Early Phase
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The Middle Phase
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The Late Phase
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In Memory of Bob, My Step-Father

bob-dwyerI was 7-years-old when my mom married Bob. This meant that my sister and I moved into that big white house at the top of the hill in Purchase, NY. Bob already had four kids, so with the addition of us, there were now six kids living in the house. We became our own Brady Bunch. But we had more bedrooms than the Bradies. The older kids had already reached their cool Greg Brady stage and had their own rooms.

Today this would be called a blended family. But we were welcomed in and we were just a family. And many years have passed since the six kids have been together, Bob made it happen again today. Continue reading “In Memory of Bob, My Step-Father”

Every Night I Watch the Sun Set

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Every night I watch the sun set. I live in a four-story building and there is a deck up on the roof with a wrought-iron table and chairs. The height of the roof is just right so I can see over the tree line and watch the sun sink towards the horizon.

My apartment faces south and I can see the western sky from my windows. The first signal that sunset is near is when the sun shines in my eyes. I am usually sitting in the comfy chair in the den when the sun clears the window frame. It means I have about an hour before sunset.

I watch from my window as the sun sinks lower in the sky and I know when it is time to go up to the roof. With about 20 minutes to go, the sun is still a blazing, orange ball. On nights when there are scattered clouds this is the time when their edges get highlighted in oranges and pinks as if they are on fire. But on a clear night like tonight it is different.

The sun darkens as it retreats towards the edge of the sky. It imperceptibly changes from orange to red. And it grows. The sky around it begins to darken too. This is transition time. Everything changes color as day moves into night. It happens faster than I realize. Just like it does every night. And this how summer fades away. Minute by minute. Sunset by sunset.

Suddenly the sun is gone. Sometimes I imagine a sound as it just drops below the tree line. It sounds like a splash. Or a sploosh. But softer. And drier.

And now it’s time to go back downstairs. Because it is night. And dark. And soon there will be a chill in the air. Even in the summer.

My First Commencement at Ball State

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Today was the commencement ceremony, more commonly called graduation, at Ball State University. It marks the end of my first semester in academia. It is also my first commencement ceremony that I attended as a faculty member.

The first thing this meant is that I had to borrow the appropriate attire from a professor who was not attending the ceremony. Bachelor degree candidates, or undergraduates, wear a cap and gown to commencement. But professors wear academic regalia, which consists of a robe, a square mortarboard or a six-sided beret, and a hood, which is more like scarf that hangs down your back. All of these things are symbolic, and they represent the level of your degree, the type of degree and maybe even your school. I have no idea what my robe and hood represented, except that it indicated that I have a PhD. Which I don’t. Continue reading “My First Commencement at Ball State”

My Daughter’s Spring Break

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My daughter spent her Spring Break in Indiana with me. We jumped on trampolines and paddled boats. We went to a play, a movie, an NBA game and the Indiana State Capitol building. We ate doughnuts and bacon. She went to college classes in the drama department. We watched Netflix and the rising river after heavy storms. We laughed about aliens, water places and photobombing sorority selfies. We toured the Ball State campus, braved the wind and the cold, and enjoyed the sun on the warm days. And we ate meatballs the size of our heads.

Sleeping Grace in Indiana

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My daughter has always been an expressive sleeper. It is another way that she shows her creativity. Years ago, I used to take pictures of her daily and post them online as part of my Sleeping Grace blog. The dedicated blog moved to a Flickr photo set and I took photos much less frequently. It was no longer cute to post pictures of my daughter online as she got older. It was cute when she was five. Not so much at 9 or 10.

She is visiting me in Indiana for her Spring Break and my loft apartment provided a perfect overhead view of her sleeping. Her position is no longer as expressive as a teenager, but the pile of pillows and blankets she buries herself under is. In a recent hotel room she surrounded herself with seven pillows.

After taking the picture, I realized that it had been about four and a half years since I last posted a Sleeping Grace photo. Without further ado, here’s Sleeping Grace:
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