Where the Deer and the Antelope Waddle

Lots of whining lately about all the rain.

Understandable. It gets old. Those of us in the sunny West rely upon our average of 330 sunny days each year. The last two weeks of nearly unceasing rain has people making grumbling remarks about Seattle. They also make absurd statements like “Since when did Denver get a monsoon season?” This from people I went to high school with. Who have lived in Denver for 40+ years. They should know better.

Before the drought, our Junes were always cool and rainy. They’ve forgotten.

Memories are short. And subjective experience seems to be the shortest. We’ve been in a drought for ten years now. An entire decade. Did you remember it had been that long. I didn’t — I’d been saying eight years. Now I’m wondering which two years I lost… At any rate, this decade-long drought in the western states has exceeded the infamous Dust Bowl.

Nobody seems to know this.

Of course, we don’t have the icons of that drought. The enormous dust clouds. The ragged people fleeing the farms to wander the cites with their belongings on carts. Technology allows us to irrigate, to control the flows of the rivers, to truck in water. Instead of losing livelihoods, our urban lives are impacted by hot, sunny days, perfect for recreation.

Now people are saying they miss the drought. They’re right — there isn’t much of one at the moment. (That link updates weekly, so if you’re reading this later, the map might be different. But what it shows as of June 9, 2009, is small patches of abnormally dry soil in the West and huge swathes of soil with normal moisture — it’s a miracle, really.)

It was like this, in the before time. I remember the summer I turned 16. I babysat for two kids and we would ride our bikes in the chilly rain to their golf and tennis lessons. When I was young, I used to write in my books the date I finished them. (No, I don’t know why.) I finished Little House in the Big Woods on June 8, 1974 and I noted that it was snowing. With an exclamation point. Cold and rainy, yes — even then snow in Denver on June 8 was remarkable.

Of course we’re all tired of the rain. We want to sit on our patios. We want to play in the mountains and soak up the western sunshine. We’ve had enough of cold and want summer already.

But in all the wanting for the warmth, let’s take a moment to give thanks for the rain.

One In a Dozen, Maybe?

Facebook has all these silly quizzes. Some sillier than others. All great for wasting time in amusing ways. Terrific displacement activity.

So, this morning, while I was “deciding what to blog about,” which translates as sucking on Starbucks and screwing around on the ‘net, I took a quiz on how common my name is.

There are approximately 171,636 people with the last name Kennedy. This Surname ranks the 130 most common in the United States. There are an estimated 87,363 Females with the last name “Kennedy”. However, the first name Jeffe was not found in our database meaning that you are pretty unique. It is estimated that there are less than 5 people with your exact name in the United States.

Heh. “Pretty unique.” As opposed to “very unique” or “more or less unique.” The thing is, my friend Marin Untiedt got a definitive three women with her name.

No, I didn’t try plugging in Jennifer Kennedy. I don’t want to know. Which is part of the reason I never use Jennifer.

It feels like a constant battle though, trying to use “Jeffe.” People get confused, which they don’t like. I used to introduce myself as Jennifer first and then convert people to Jeffe, but many refuse the converstion and then I don’t know who they’re talking to. So I’ve gone to just introducing myself as Jeffe and forging through the first difficult exchange, which consists of repeating my name back and forth.

[Me] – Hi, I’m Jeffe
[Them] – Confused look
[Me] – Jeffe Kennedy
[Them] – Jeff?
[Me] – Jeff-E. Like Jeff, with an eeee on the end
[Them] – variety of responses at this point:
Like on Family Circus?
Like the peanut butter?
Isn’t that a man’s name?
Jackie Kennedy?
Is that short for something else?

Inevitably if I ‘fess up to that last question that Jeffe is short for Jennifer, they’ll gratefully run for the familiar and use Jennifer. It’s almost pathological. Interestingly, people not from the US are much more flexible about it and will assimilate “Jeffe” without a blink. So I know it’s not that hard.

The other thing I’ve learned is to give people a reason for it. If I explain that my dad made up the nickname and that he died when I was three, that I feel like this is a piece of him that I can carry around with me, they soften and agree. If I say there are ten million Jennifers out there, they act like I’m uppity, trying for a different call signal.

When I was in high school, this group of girls who didn’t like me decided to call one of their own Jennifers by my nickname. I’m not sure how long it lasted and I don’t think that Jennifer liked it very much. Or maybe she was just mortified by the strange and competitive maneuver. But I remember my shock when these girls, who never spoke to me, called out “Jeffe!” and turned out to be calling to this other girl. The cluster of them turned to see my reaction, avidly watching for my humiliation? Horror? Tears, perhaps? Instead I learned that they thought I had some power in my name. They wanted to show me they could take it away.

I suppose we all want our names, like ourselves, to be “pretty unique.” We’re willing to concede that absolutely unique may be asking for too much, but we all want to be that individual, beautiful snowflake.

But really, that kind of thing comes from inside. Which no one can take away.

Steal It Back!

Today is Tuesday — you know what that means? We’re gonna have a special guest!!

Okay, not really. Though I will have a special guest later this month: author Candace Havens is doing a blog tour to promote her new release Dragons Prefer Blondes. I’ve told her she has to adhere to the themes of love, power, fairytale endings and being generally careful of what you wish for, since I, myself, am so scrupulous about it.

Actually, today is the 9th of the month, which means I cross-post with Sole Struck Fashions. Yes, that’s right: they have NO criteria for deciding fashionista eligibility.

In keeping with my new Sole Struck role — last month I extolled the many virtues of second-hand and vintage clothes — I have a new shopping tip today.

Check out a Police Auction!

No, it’s not just for stolen bicycles anymore.

Have you ever wondered, say, what became of Imelda Marcos’ 1,220 pairs of shoes? (Well, actually they made a museum of them — no, really. Though maybe it’s gone now, because the link they give for the museum itself doesn’t work. However, you can salve your shoe-museum craving here and here.) But what about all those other ill-gotten gains? Naturally there’s a website to auction them off, once they’ve served their time as evidence.

So, okay, these are cops, so the descriptions tend to say stuff like “Womens Shoes, 2 shoes.” It’s always a great find, when you can get two shoes at once. But they have pics, which you can enlarge to play detective like the little “Steal It Back!” guy — which you have to admit adds a bit to the thrill — and see that, yes! these are Ann Marinos.

The inventory changes rapidly, of course, with auctions finishing all the time.

But that Dolce & Gabbana leopard print jacket you just had to have and couldn’t afford? Yes, still available! Only just under eight hours left on this baby, at the time of posting. High bid is $82. A small price to pay to channel Marisa Tomei in Cousin Vinny.

For the entrepeneurs: no visit to the Property Room is complete without a thorough perusal of the bulk lots. These are the “fell off the back of the truck” stories. Current bid on 20 pairs of Aeropostale jeans valued at $960? $99! 50+ pieces of womens underwear going right now for $180! More Aeropostale jeans! And Aeropostale shirts! Actually a LOT of Aeropostale stuff. One begins to imagine the late-night highjacking of the Aeropostale tractor-trailer. A driving rain, a dark night… Is that a car broken down in the middle of the road? Oh no, it’s a trap! Take everything, just don’t kill us! But wait… the cops are here! Bright lights flashing. Except they take everything, too. Evidence, doncha know.

Actually, this is the site disclaimer, provided by the Office of Inappropriate Capitalizations:

Our company receives hundreds of packages from many sources every day. These Packages arrive From: Store Closures, Insurance Claims, Misguided & Unclaimed Freight, Post Office Undeliverable Packages, and Unclaimed Merchandise. In Many Cases we do not know the Origin of these goods. Where we do Know the Origin of the product we will Describe it in the Auction. All products are Vintage, Pre-owned or Antique.

Okay, “antique” may be stretching it, but the savvy shopper can find many great deals here. And make up the stories to go along with them.

Look, you can even get the pants to match!


Sometimes I think saving stuff is just a way to soothe ourselves.

It becomes an intermediary step between the immediate decision and the final decision. Should I get rid of this dress? This dress that I’ve loved, that I wore to Suzie’s wedding and first kissed Harry in? I’ll put it in this trunk, with other old clothes and use it in a quilt someday.

Now what’s happening is, I’m faced with moving bags and boxes and trunks full of old clothes I’ve been saving. Sure, I sometimes use them in quilts, which is nice. But I never have made picnic blankets from all those old jeans. Never touched most of those beautiful fabrics I couldn’t resist buying. If civilization collapses, however, I can make blankets for all of you.

I give David a hard time (part of my job description) about his not-dirty, not-clean clothes. He has several intermediate stations for them. The chest by the bed is for clothes clean enough to be worn again, but too dirty to hang up. The bathroom floor clothes pile is for another level of dirtiness, though not quite to the point of being committed to the laundry room.

That’s part of it — the unwillingness to commit to the final choice. To be without the thing.

When I started the great Ruthless Revision, I also created an outtakes file. Which I hadn’t done in a number of years. As a young writer, I kept an ongoing outtakes file. Any time I cut even the smallest phrase, I attentively pasted it into this document that I saved. Kind of a living morgue. A museum of brilliant prose that could work somewhere, someday. But really it was just to soothe the pain of deletion. Much easier to cut, paste and save, than send it into oblivion. When you’re a young writer, it’s tempting to think that these wonderful words you weave together can somehow be lost forever. That you’ll never recover them.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.

Which is something I learned, when I discovered that I revisited my outtakes file about as often as I dig into my trunks of quilt fabrics. I admit it: often if I make a new quilt, I just go buy exactly the color and pattern I need. And often it’s easier just to compose something new than fidget with some old fragments, to finagle them to fit.

But, I created an outtakes file for the Ruthless Revision, because I was feeling that pained about it. It’s especially redundant because I’m saving the entire original draft. Enshrined, as it were. That first morning, though, it made me feel better to save the HUGE CHUNKS I was cutting out. After a while, I wanted to check for a bit of information from a section I’d cut. I discovered my outtakes document wasn’t even open. Not only that, I’d failed to paste that bit into it. I hadn’t pasted cuts in for pages and pages. It was easy enough to go look it up in the museum draft.

Apparently I didn’t need my little crutch anymore. I’d just been deleting away.

This ruthless mode can be liberating. Cathartic, even. I’m planning to sell my sewing machine and I’m moving no fabric to British Columbia.

Someone else can make the quilts when civilization collapses. I’ll be busy writing. And deleting.


A writer friend of mine who won a scholarship to Breadloaf, reported on her return that she’d turned down the critique from the famous author that was part of prize. My friend’s novel had won a contest and the famous author was to read it and give her feedback at the conference.

“But I told her I felt I was beyond that now, that I didn’t need more critique. So we just talked in general, about life and the business.”

I think it startled us all a bit at the time — her writers group — because it seemed, well, arrogant. Our friend felt the other author wasn’t any better than she was. Our friend wanted to be one of the pantheon, not one of the supplicants.

Don’t we all.

It’s a good question: when do you stop taking classes? When have you “made” it and no longer need anyone else’s input?

Faith Hunter, whose books I really enjoy, posted on Facebook this morning that she has published “20 books and I feel like [Skinwalker] is the first.” She’s living Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” she says, because she feels this one might be IT.

One thing I’ve noticed over time is that the published authors agonize as much as the trying-to-get-published ones. That’s how life is. The ancient Greeks said you couldn’t “rest on your laurels,” referring to the crown of laurels awarded in athletic competitions. You only are what you’re doing right now. Credit for past accomplishments depreciates rapidly over time. Before you know it, you’re in a “What Happened to…” feature. Presuming you were ever interesting enough to rate that much.

Continuing to grow and learn is part of this.

There’s also an idea that an artist can be contaminated by classes or writing workshops. That the originality of her work can be damaged forever. I do believe this can happen, like the phenomenon of the MFA workshopping, which tends to produce writing of a particular literary style, to the point that you can recognize writers from a particular MFA program by the “sound” of their work.

I’m currently taking an online class on plotting. This is in line with my recent efforts to see how I can change my writing style at will. As a writer, I never plot things out ahead of time. I have a general idea of where the story is going, but how I get there is always a surprise.

But I’m not liking this class at all.

And I’m torn: is it because I’m resisting changing my approach or is it because the class really is functioning at a level below my skills? One gal I know already quit the class for this reason. I’m still wondering if I should at least complete the lessons, basic as they may seem, for the exercise of it. But every time one of my classmates exclaims “oh THIS is why I could never finish a book!” I wonder.

It’s a constant choice, when to be confident and when to accept that you can improve. Maybe we need our own little mantra for this, praying for the wisdom to know the difference.

The Rest of the Story

So, I’ve found myself explaining to various wonderfully supportive friends and family types how the whole “refining my craft vs. selling out” crisis is going, over IM and email.

I figure I’ll write out the update here, then I can tell people just to go read my blog, which saves me typing the same stuff over and over, and has the bonus of irritating people, because I’ve found most people really hate being told to read my blog. It’s the techno version of “come over and see my slide show of my vacation and I’ll tell you about it then.” Beware of expressing idle interest in someone else’s obsession — you’ll regret it sooner or later.

For those listeners at home who may just be tuning in, I’ve been working this last week on trying to discern where the two different voices are in my novel, that this agent identified as conflicting with each other, to the detriment of the book. One is a more commercial voice and one more literary. Guess which has to go?

David, the love of my life, offered to have me read it aloud to him. This is a big favor, because he doesn’t really read fiction. I did once read the entire Ender/Speaker for the Dead series to him over a summer of road trips. Now that we have more comfortable incomes we usually fly places and have very few road trips.

So, I printed out the first couple of chapters, read them to him and he stopped me anytime he lost the thread of the story or thought it got vague. Which ended up being a lot. It’s a good thing he loves me because at one point when he stopped me, I snapped “What? I don’t get ANY description?!?”

But I marked all those sections and our relationship survived and was fully repaired over cocktail hour. It’s funny, because the agent told me that if I could make the fixes, she’d love to see it again, but that she also understood that this was the “hardest and most emotionally frustrating part of the process.” And she wished me luck. Turns out I needed it.

The next morning, I sat down to revise. And decided pretty quickly that David was an idiot who had no idea what he was talking about. All the stuff he picked out was really good stuff.

Just then, an email arrived from a contest I failed to final in, with comments from the judges. Now, I’ve pretty much stopped reading judge’s comments. I enter the contests for the opportunity to put my novel in front of editors and agents if I final. If I don’t final, most of the time it’s because at least one judge REALLY HATED my book. Like giving me a 50% score hated. Usually the other judge will give me a nearly perfect score. So between the two, I don’t get super-useful feedback. Just the love/hate thing.

But I decided to look at these comments, to see if any of theirs coincided with what David identified. These scores turned out to be unusual because all three judges ranked me highly, with just enough points taken off to keep me from finalling. And they ALL picked on the exact thing the agent pointed out. And their comments? Yes: exactly the sections David thought slowed the story.

Another writer friend told me she read her novel to her tattoo-artist boyfriend, who was not a reader, but spends his days talking to people. She says “I’d want to kick him when he’d stop me and say ‘what? wait? what?’ But he was invariably right.'”

There’s been discussion lately on the FFP loop, about finding someone to critique your work who understands your particular sub-genre. Several people have chimed in that their best critiquers don’t write anything remotely the same, but they know a good story.

I lost a page and a half in the revision of Chapter 1. I read it again to David and he didn’t stop me once. He was surprised when I stopped at the end of the chapter, he was so caught up in the story.

So, yes, it’s painful. But I see that I can do it now. One of the judges clearly also writes in first person and she warned me to watch out for “I wondered,” “I thought,” “I saw,” “I heard” and “I noticed,” as constructions that yank the reader out of deep POV (point of view). She means that it brings in the narrative voice and the reader loses the sense of being in the character’s head. She’s dead right. I’ve been searching for those phrases and they cluster in the “slow” sections. Alas.

I suppose it’s part of life, that you never stop discovering new flaws. As you get things polished and handled, new problems are revealed.

Guess I won’t run out of stuff to do!

I Know You Are, but What Am I?

Pacer Guy was back today.

I wouldn’t call him a rec center regular, because he’s not there every morning. He’s not even there on the Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings, like the three Walker Ladies who spend more time yakking while they “stretch out” than they do on the weight machines or on the walking track, where they insist on walking three abreast, which annoys the people trying to jog in the outside jogging lane.

No, Pacer Guy shows up more or less randomly. Often on Friday mornings, however. He’s distinctive in the lemon green ball cap that never comes off his head. And his behavior.

Pacer Guy had just gotten off the leg press machine when we arrived. Knowing from past experience that this is his favorite machine, with which he has a tumultuous relationship, I took the opportunity to get on the machine, hoping to use it before he returned. Cuz that’s what he does — he apparently leaves. Sometimes he wanders around the central pulley machine to stand and watch Fox news for a while. (This is Wyoming: of course they play Fox News in the gym.) Other times he’ll head off down the hall, past the basketball courts, through the glass doors to the atrium. I’ve seen him get all the way to the front doors — a straight visual shot from the weight room — before he turns around and comes back.

As I worked my leg press repetitions, Pacer Guy circled back a couple of times and I realized he wasn’t done. In some ways, it seems he never is. I finished and he jumped on, quickly shifting the weight pins to his preferred load. He did three or four reps. And headed out the doors.

He came back, of course. Pacer Guy does this most with the leg press machine. But, when he was safely on the biceps curl, apparently done with the butterfly one (can you tell I’ve never bothered to learn the actual names for these?), I started in with that. Every time I stood up to increase the weight, he jumped up from the biceps machine, only to retire back to his seat when I saw I wasn’t abandoning the field. Finally, he popped up and paced off somewhere. I finished and Curiously Tense Blond Jogger Girl got on. Pacer Guy returned, saw someone ELSE was on the machine and took off again. Then New Overweight Guy, who’s being very dedicated and earnest so far, marking all of his weights and reps on the spreadsheet the personal trainer gave him, used the machine. This was the last straw for Pacer Guy, who disappeared after that. I thought he’d left, but David, who was dodging the Walker Ladies on the track, reported that Pacer Guy had gone upstairs to stalk around the treadmills and rearrange the Pilates balls.

Yesterday I went to Denver to visit my mom. She’s back in the neighborhood for the summer, so we went for lunch at the Bent Noodle and hit Nick’s Paradisical Garden Center for supplies: pink impatiens, tadpoles and water hyacinths. She said she didn’t know Ruth has dementia. And we talked about how hard those debilitating chronic diseases are on the caretaker. I saw how it drained her, during Leo’s long decline.

“I don’t think Mother had Alzheimers though,” she said.
“Why not?”
“Because she always knew who we were. She didn’t forget things. It was more like…like her anxiety overwhelmed everything else so she couldn’t function.”
“That’s true.”
“I find myself doing that,” she admitted.
“Hell — I do it!” I told her. “I suppose it’s just a constant battle not to let emotions overwhelm what’s rational.

By 6:30, the weight room had cleared out. The machines quiet, ready for the next wave.

Nicely Done

For someone who has a bit of a rep as not being a “nice” person, I sure do get myself into binds because I’m trying to be nice.

Monday afternoon, I heard a crash outside. I looked out the window, which is right over my desk and saw a beige pick-up pulling away. The back of the truck was very near our parked car, but the car kept going so I didn’t think much of it.

Less than a minute later, the doorbell rings. A woman with a red geranium perched in one hand and a little dog circling manically at the end of a leash in the other says “Is that your green car out front? Someone just hit it! Backed into it and drove away! But I got the license plate. Mouthed to the driver: ‘I see your license plate.’ She kept going. Turned right on Grand.”

I should have run out when I heard the crash, I suppose.

As it was, I went to our neighbors across the street first. Ruth and Mike are in their 80s, very pleasant neighbors. From what I saw, the truck had backed out of their driveway and was likely driven by one of their many grandchildren who come to visit. Only Ruth was home. Given her dementia, the conversation was unproductive. She can make neighborly conversation, but has no idea who’s been there visiting or not.

I called the police. Gave them the plate number. They said they’d look for the vehicle. Called insurance. The whole deal. The damage almost certainly exceeds the value of the car. (No, no — it was the Buick, NOT the Jag!)

When Mike came home, David talked to him, told him what happened. Mike immediately phoned up the grandson, who came right over. They examined our car and his beige pick-up, then came over.

We had the conversation in our entrance hallway. The grandson says he thinks he would have felt it if he hit our car. He is twenty-something and earnest. Mike clearly believes him. Mike says how’s there’s no damage or green paint on the grandson’s truck. I refrain from pointing out that the kid has had three hours to clean it up. They also note that the paint left on our car is white. I don’t ask how beige scraped over dark green looks different than white.

What I do say is that right now the cops have the kid as a hit and run and he should go to the cop shop. I figure they’ll deal with it, match the paint, etc.

The cops call later, say the kid is playing dumb and they can’t do anything without my witness. Whose name I neglected to get. The insurance company is not so sanguine and is talking about having the claims agent check the kid’s truck while they check ours.

I’m torn. For us, there’s no fault. There is a $500 deductible. And it annoys me that the kid isn’t taking responsibilty, though I also believe that will catch up with him.

I keep seeing Mike’s face in our evening entranceway, the weariness on it. The need to believe his grandson wouldn’t lie. Mike and Ruth no longer make their annual trek to the sunny Southwest and instead have stuck out the last two long Laramie winters. Ruth is too far gone for it.

We’ve knocked on the neighbors’ doors, looking for the woman with the red geranium, who told me she was there visiting her dad on the corner. No luck. We’ll run a classified in the paper through Sunday, looking for her or her dad.

After that, I don’t know. Maybe it’s worth $500 to leave Mike alone.

Dying in Bliss

Alas Air France 447. It’s looking like we’ll never get to know what happened. What with the whole black-box-at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean thing.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a plane-crash, well, “obsession” is probably a fair word. I find that a big part of this is the wanting to know what happened. I can’t help but envision those final moments. What was it like for the passengers? Were they sleeping when the plane hit the ocean? Had they already vaporized before that?

However, I’m finding that knowing doesn’t provide full satisfaction either. In fact, knowing too much can be a real detriment to enjoying life. I work on tap water — I know what I’m talking about here. Sometimes the illusion of safety is what gets you on the plane in the first place, and in the 211th place also. Which is why I’m kind of sorry that I read the cockpit recorder transcript from Colgan Flight 3407. You know the one, the turboprop plane that iced up and fell from the sky like a big rock onto someone’s house in Buffalo, NY.

The kind of plane I fly on all the time between Denver and Laramie, through blizzards, etc.

You trust in your pilots. You have to. And you make certain assumptions in that trust: that they’re not exhausted, that they’re well trained, that they know what they’re doing.

You can read the whole transcript of course. I confess I skimmed. The interesting part is at the end, of course.

Which is also the really scary part. For example:

“I’ve never seen deicing conditions. I’ve never deiced. I’ve never seen any–I’ve never experienced any of that. I don’t want to experience that and make those kinds of calls. You know, I’d’ve freaked out. I’d’ve like seen this much ice and thought oh my gosh we were going to crash.”

That was from the young co-pilot who was only making $16K and had to still live with her parents, commuting from Seattle.

The pilot has asked her to see if there’s ice on her side of the plane, too. He talks about being a Florida guy, how all his flying hours are around the Phoenix area, how he’d like more flying time in the Northeast before he upgrades to a bigger plane. He does the wrong thing when the plane stalls.

One of the worst parts is the top of page 55, where they reel of the standard spiel about cell phones, seat backs and tray tables. Meanwhile the pilots are saying to each other “son of a gun, look at all that ice — wonder why we’re not crashing?”

Not that any of the passengers could have done anything. Except trust that their pilots have the knowledge to take care of everyone on the plane.

Sometimes knowledge is power. No matter unblissful it might be to know.

Lilacs for Terry

This time last year, I ordered flowers for David’s Cousin Terry.

I remember it because I called the florist in Seattle and asked if she could do lilacs. The shop was next to the big medical center performing Terry’s latest MOAS. (Mother of All Surgeries, as Terry’s sister dubbed them — a good name since the surgeries were too complex for a simple word like “bypass” or “extraction.” They seemed involve opening Terry up and scraping cancer off every surface they could reach and clipping pieces off of whatever organs were too far gone to clean.) So the florist was helpful, had a listing of patients, but wasn’t sure if she could find lilacs or not.

When she asked me what the card should say, I answered that I’d like it to say “The lilacs are blooming here — come home soon.”

She paused a moment. “I’ll find some lilacs,” she promised me.

I don’t know if she did or not. You don’t expect a thank-you note from someone who’s had her third MOAS. And by Thanksgiving, Terry was gone.

The funeral was Catholic and obnoxious, with the priest talking about how joyful Terry would be to be rejoined with her maker. How all the pain she suffered was for a reason. I wanted to stand up and shout that, no, there was nothing joyful about this. That she died far too young and in conditions no one should have to go through and that her death was a waste of a vivacious and beautiful woman.

But I bowed my head and pretended to pray.