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The Courage to…

April 22, 2018

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Today the sun is out–and the snow is finally melting.  Last week we were digging ourselves out of the TWO FEET of snow that accumulated in the BLIZZARD.  In April.  The middle of April.

I figured that I could dig myself out of not showing up here for a year and a half.

It does take courage to begin again.  Especially because now that I have decided to sit down and write all the people in the house need to talk to me.  Weird how that happense

I don’t really have much to say.  I just wanted to start.  Starting is the hardest thing for me, and just getting something down might help me come back again.

This morning I looked at the stack(s) of boeks that I have to read.  The one I have chosen for my summer faculty book club was suggested by one of the Deans last summer:  The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer.  I read it twenty years ago, and new it is a new and improved “twentieth anniversary” edition.  I ordered it last week.  It came in the mail on Friday.  I picked it up this morning, and read all of the accolades on the beginning pages.  I am so excited to read it again!  I remember it being hard the first time.  Very academic.  I wonder if it will be as hard this time–twenty years later.  I wonder if I will connect to the words more easily, if it will ring true in a different way.  I remember being so blown away by the concept of disequilibrium.  It taught me that it was normal to be frustrated when learning something.  That if you believe something, and something else proveseyour belief wrong, your brain has a hard time coming to terms with that.  And that is okay.  I wonder if he left that part in the book.  I wonder if there will be more to it than I remember.  I wonder if there are more brilliant nuggets that I missed, or at least don’t remember now.

I have a lot on my plate for the summer (weird, I know), but it is self-inflicted.  I have decided I need to fall in love with my discipline again.  Dig deep.  Read a lot.  Figure out how to love it so much that I can convince my students to love it too.

I thought about beginning a new journal for this journey.  Or to write in my catch-all writer’s notebook.  Or to write here.  I might do a bit of all three.  One thing is for sure, writing is how I love my discipline.  I haven’t done it regularly in a very long time.  And this was a start.  A new beginning.  eScreen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.33.33 AMe

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And it begins…

December 23, 2016

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Today is the day!  It is Christmas Eve, Eve which marks the beginning of our family celebration.

This year has been a “denial” year in terms of Christmas.  I just finished my finals last week, and I was wiped out.  Jeff and Nicholas traveled to Duluth for a hockey tournament and I stayed back with Sarah and Katie, mostly to shovel and drive them places.  Those two girls decorated the house and put the tree up.  Sarah put all the lights on the tree herself.  It was wonderful.  On Sunday night we put on the ornaments, and I began Christmas shopping.  I finished on Wednesday…sort of.  I still had two things to get for Katie, but it was planned:  I would pick up one thing after I dropped Nicholas off for hockey that night and we would go to get her tap shoes when I dropped the girls off for their movie on Thursday.  BUT…dun, dun, DUN…instead…I got the stomach flu.  So did Katie.  Such bad timing!  Actually there never is a really great time to get sick.  I came home from my hair appointment on Wednesday and went to bed.  I stayed in bed most of the day yesterday, but did get up to wrap the presents.  They are currently under the tree looking festive.  I told Katie we would try to get her tap shoes today (I need her feet to get them) and that she can pick her own sweatshirt when she goes to dance….Merry, Merry!  So, she gets the flu and gets stiffed on the presents!  Poor kid.

This morning, I am still in bed.  My first task is to go to the grocery store.  I will be making our traditional lasagna for dinner tonight, and I will be making Christmas dinner on Sunday, as well as Christmas breakfast.  As I gaze out my bedroom window at the lightening sky, I am aware how little time I get to gaze, and how much I miss that.  There is a squirrel’s nest in our tree, and I wonder if they are still snuggled in sleeping, or if they are out searching for that elusive acorn.  I am excited to have a little bit of time to gaze before going back to work.

I am also happy to begin the celebration.  This is the season of love and giving.  I am trying to hold on to those things.  I still need to finish the cards, and go to the post office.  And tomorrow we will deliver the cookies to our neighbors.

I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  May love lead us all into 2017, and be the beacon of hope for all of us.

Words to Live By

November 11, 2016

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“All you need is love…”

~The Beatles

 

 

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

~Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope


“With the last vestige of consciousness she jerked her mind and body. Hate was nothing that IT didn’t have. IT knew all about hate….
“Mrs Whatsit hates you,” Charles Wallace said.
And that was where IT made IT’s fatal mistake, for as Meg said, automatically, “Mrs Whatsit loves me; that’s what she told me, that she loves me,” suddenly she knew.
She knew!
Love.
That was what she had that IT did not have.
She had Mrs Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and her mother’s, and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’, and Aunt Beast’s.
And she had her love for them.”

~Madeleine L’Engle:  A Wrinkle in Time
(Special thanks to The Diamond in the Window for inspiration)


“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

~Barack Obama


“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

~John 8:7


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

~Nelson Mandela


“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

~The United States Constitution (Preamble) [spelling is from original document]

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

~The Declaration of Independence


“13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

~1 Corinthians 13


“Love wins.”

~Glennon Doyle Melton


“‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

~Matthew 25:40


“Imagine all the people living life in peace…you… you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one… I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

 ~John Lennon

 

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

~Mother Teresa


The key is you have to know yourself and take the time to get to know yourself.

Because then, and only then, are you taking responsibility for getting your core needs met.

I knew a woman who loved ironing so much she would ask to iron my jeans. Seriously, that was her meditation she was always looking for more things to iron. The steady movements, the smoothing, removing wrinkles, folding, smell of fresh laundry, the steam? I have no idea what part made her most happy. I just watched her satisfaction in the beauty she created. She loved the process of ironing and had no shortage of rituals around it.

Find the beauty in the tasks and do them mindfully as an offering to the day, an offering to the vibration surrounding you. Take pride in your effort, particularly when it is hard, particularly when it really pulls from the bottom of the bucket.

I promise you, there are many nights I see dishes in the sink just as I am about to head to bed and, if I am deeply tired, the thought that I can just do them tomorrow is more than tempting, it seems justified. And yet, that is not where my joy lies. My joy lies in coming down the stairs in the morning to a clean sink. I know this about myself and so, I give this to myself and it is a gift that carries with it a sweet satisfaction and deepening trust.

Please understand. This is not about dishes. You may love doing dishes in the morning or not doing dishes at all. Don’t get distracted by my examples. The point is to find your daily rituals that link one to the next to the next until from the moment you wake up, to the moment you drop into bed, your day has been experienced, felt, witnessed.

the spiritual life is active, joyful, and intentional.
It is a middle path between extremes
that transfigures everyday living

Eknath Easwaran

~Elizabeth Duvivier
(E-This is what I return to…again and again.  Sorry my homework is late!)


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

~Margaret Mead


“We will not betray ourselves. Self betrayal is allowing the fear voices, the rage voices. the hopelessness voices to drown out the Still Small Voice that tell us the Next Right Thing. The next right thing has and forevermore will be: Get back to work.”

~Glenna Doyle Melton

A different anniversary

September 12, 2016

As of today, I have been married for 24 years.  Twenty Four.  TWENTY FOUR!  Good golly, that is a long time, and I don’t feel much older than 24, so.  It’s weird.  IT IS.

We went out to a fancy dinner last night and today we have barely seen each other.  I had to take Sarah to school early, and then my taxi job filled my evening.

Last night we talked for a couple minutes about what life would be like when we are empty nesters.  I can’t even imagine it.  Seriously.  I want my chicks in the nest.  I can hardly remember life without them.  We were married for nine years before we had children, so you would think that I would be able to picture it, but I can’t.

Here is what I love the most about my husband:  When he lets his guard down, he is probably the most compassionate person I have ever met.  And, he is funny.  He makes me laugh.  Also, when my dad was on his journey last year?  He was THE most awesome support ever.  I am so lucky.

Now, I have some grading that needs attention!  xo

Almost Bed Time

September 11, 2016

Everyone else has ascended the stairs.  Each in their own rooms.  Some lights, I’m sure, are still aglow.  Some are extinguished.

I am sitting alone.  Feet up on the ottoman, computer in my lap.

It is quiet, save for the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

Someone left the light on in the family room.

I have two lamps alighting my work in here.

It is quiet, save for the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

I feel the weight of darkness slip in from outside and settle on my shoulders.

My eyelids are relaxing.  I yawn intermittently.

Someone is finally getting into bed, their footsteps loud against the quiet.  I wish them still.

I can feel the pull of my own bed, my smooth purple sheets, my cool, soft pillow.

I still have work to finish before my slumber.

I wonder how long it will take?

My wish for you:  Sleep well.

Good night.

On balance

September 10, 2016

It should read “On balance“but I couldn’t get the strike through to work…

I am procrastinating right now.  Have you ever seen this?

It makes me laugh every single time, because I have that damn monkey in my head.  This post is my case in point.

An illustration:  I have been telling myself that I need to to laundry for about two weeks.  (Could be longer, but that’s just embarrassing.)  Yesterday I wore a skirt that “looked okay” when I put it on and about half way to work I understood why it was NOT okay.  Oh, well.  I lived through it.  Now.  One would think that as soon as I got home, a load of laundry would be happily splish-splashing it’s way to being hung up in my closet.  Or at the very least, the first thing this morning…  It is 1:45.  PM.  No laundry.

HOWEVER:  The guy who has been slotted to fix my dishwasher has been waiting for a part for a long time, and it came in last week sometime.  I texted him last night to see if he could come this morning.  He texted me at 9:20 that he would be here at 10:00.  I washed all the dishes in the dishwasher by hand, cleaned the kitchen, and took a shower…I was ready when he rang the doorbell.  All of the kitchen NEEDED (desperately) to be cleaned, but wasn’t yet on the nonexistent list.  And now it is done!  And my kitchen is all sparkly!

I also said to myself that the stack of 50 papers needed to be done before I got out of bed.  Well.  I had to clean the kitchen.  And after the guy left, I watched Youtube videos for a while and ate lunch and read some blogs and checked my email and decided to write a post instead.

I get frustrated with myself.

So the papers are next to me.  It is a glorious fall day.  The windows are open.  And I. don’t. want. to.

I have hundreds of more papers on the floor.  Those 50 are just my first job.  I should really put in a load of laundry too.

 

A most embarrassing moment

September 7, 2016

It was the end of fall semester, and snowy.  I was a sophomore in college.  I had finished my finals and was ready to sell my textbooks back to get some extra Christmas money.  The sell-back place was in the basement, and there was one narrow staircase to go down in order to get there.

Did I mention that it was snowing?

The stairs were steep and covered with black rubber matting.

And it was snowing.

I embarked on the decline, arms loaded with large textbooks.

And

Down

I

Fell.

It was spectacular.  The sound alone:  thud, thud, thuudddd, thud, THUNK.  And, since it was the end of the semester?  EVERYONE was at the bottom of the stairs.

“ARE YOU OKAY?”

People rushed at me.  I jumped up and acted like I didn’t just fall down very hard, steep stairs.  “I’m fine!  No, really, I am just fine!”

I sold my books without limping or crying or anything.  That could wait until I was back in my dorm room.

*

So, today I had my Fast Track Class.  I team teach this course with my friend, Jan.  We have dumped our two classes together, so we have 50 students.  They seem to ALL need to talk to us after class, and we are always running late to our next classes.  We are both in the same building across campus.

Today we had to take the tunnels because it was raining, so we were even later, because we usually can take a short cut outside.

So.  We were rushing.

I had many bags and my arms were full of books.

We were entering the building where our classes meet and…

SWOOOOOP!

I was on the floor.

People were rushing at me.

“ARE YOU OKAY?”

I got up and said quickly, “Yes, I’m FINE, really, I’m fine!”

Someone had spilled what looked like a whole bottle of Gaterade on the tile floor.  I was wet because I landed in the puddle.

I went to class.  I entered and told the class that I had fallen and that Josh, my Supplemental Instructor, would hand out the quiz while I went to dry off and assess the damage.

I knew my elbow hurt.  I landed on it.

Yep.  My whole elbow was split and was bleeding.  I tidied up with toilet paper, found some instructor’s offices, asked the nice man at the desk if he had a bandaid so I wouldn’t bleed all over my clothes, and went back to class.

Falling in public.  So awful.  And, YES.  My elbow still hurts. A lot!  Haha!

Anniversary.

September 5, 2016

So, I have been writing this post in my head all week…but I have not figured out a good way to begin.  I guess I just have to dive right in the deep end, even though it isn’t at all the way I want to begin.

A year ago, today, my dad passed away.

My dad had Lewie Body Dementia.  He was having trouble with his Parkinson’s symptoms more so than the dementia, however, he definitely had his moments when he was off his rocker and in a world of his own.  He was still lucid though.  He still knew who everybody was and could talk about current events and could remember things that were happening.

Every day since Tuesday I have been trying to remember what happened on that day.  A week of anniversaries.

I didn’t write at all during this time last year.  Everything was just too much.  And now, I regret that .  I wish I had recorded that last conversation.  I wish I could remember the exact words.  Here is what I can remember:

8/30:  I get the call that my dad is sick, and I go to my parents’ apartment.  It is decided that we will call the ambulance and take him to the closest hospital.  He is admitted.  We have no diagnosis.

8/31:  I go to work.  It is the second week of the semester.  After work I speed to the hospital and hang out with my mom and sister.  My dad is talkative and accuses me of not voting for him.  I tell him that of course I voted for him and he says, “Well, then I mistreated you.”  I tell him to be nice.  We also have a normal conversation, but I can’t remember it at all.  Still no diagnosis.

9/1:  I go to work.  Diagnosis:  Congestive heart failure.  He had a valve replaced with a bovine valve several years before and now it is leaking.  He wouldn’t understand surgery, and open heart surgery is invasive and painful.  We opt not to do surgery.  We decide hospice is the best choice.  After work, I speed home to bake cookies.  It is the first day of school, and it is my tradition for my kids.  I race to the hospital  when I am done and hang out with my mom and sister.  I stay after they leave and Jeff joins me.  We hang out with my dad.  He is really talkative.  He isn’t really making sense, but he is entertaining.  There is something about hamburgers running a machine?  It was a fun night.  I am so grateful for it.

9/2:  I go to work.  I race to the hospital after work.  He is moved to N.C. Little Hospice in time for dinner.  I get there way before he does, and the nurses show me around.  I ask what the average stay is…they answer:  three days.  I am shocked.  I assume we have weeks to go on this journey.  I have class, so I meet him there and make sure he is comfortable and dash back home to get on the computer for class.  My sister stays with him and eats dinner with him.  I know she is grateful for this time.  She encouraged him to have some mashed potatoes, “I don’t care for potatoes,” he said.

He shocks the hospice nurses in the middle of the night by getting out of his bed and asking for them to show him to the bathroom.  We still don’t know how he got out.  The bed rails were up, and his mobility was limited.

9/3:  I go to work.  I speed to N.C. Little.  I get there to find my dad in a very different state than I had left him. He is awake -ish, and dozing.  He is trying to talk but very hard to understand.  My kids and Jeff are coming to eat dinner.  I thought we would be eating with him, but it is obvious that he won’t be eating.  I can’t remember if he had been awake in the morning when my mom arrived, or if he had slept most of the day.  I think he was out of it most of the day, though.  I remember thinking that it must be because he had been up at night.  Denial is strong.

My family still comes to eat.  We sit with my dad, and then the kids go into the basement to play a little.  My dad tries to talk a little.  He definitely perks up when the kids are in the room, but he is still hard to understand and still looks like he is struggling.  We decide to go get some food, and Sarah hangs back.  She tells me she wants some time alone with Grandpa.  The rest of us go get our food.  Once everyone is settled, I go to check on Sarah.  She leaves his room and bursts into tears.  He had his “moment of clarity” with her.  He sat up and asked her if she would be alright without him.  He told her he was leaving soon, maybe on Saturday [which was accurate].  He was going to see his mother and his Grandpa Chris.  He was going to read books when he got there.  Sarah was a wreck.  After several conversations, she was grateful that he told her.

9/4:  I go to work.  I speed to N.C. Little.  I get there to see a sleeping father.  He doesn’t wake up while I am there.  I sit and talk to him, but I can’t remember what I said.  I have dinner plans with my in-laws.  They have no idea what is going on, and I don’t really want to tell them.  It is too close.  It is too hard.  It is too much.  I check with the nurses to see if it is safe to leave.  I don’t want my dad to die alone.  They assure me it is fine, and they have my cell number if anything changes.  I go to dinner and pretend to be normal.

Jeff comes back to N.C. Little with me.  We find a nurse sitting with my dad.  She had been sitting with him since I left.  She knew I didn’t want him to be alone.  I am awed.  So grateful.  We sit with my dad until 10:00-ish.  Jeff leaves to go home.  I stay for another hour.  I don’t want to leave.  The nurses come in to ask if I am sleeping there.  I show my ambivalence and reluctance.  They tell me to go home.  They will watch him.  They will call me if anything changes.  I am grateful.  I want to sleep in my bed, they helped illeviate my guilt.

9/5:  I get up early and pack my grading.  I am at N.C. Little around 7:00-ish.  My dad’s breathing is awful.  It sounds like he is drowning.  I am upset.  I sit with him for several hours, talking and grading, but mostly not grading.  The nurses come in late morning to give him a bath.  I am weepy, and the nurse hugs me.  I tell them how awful it is to witness him drowning, and they quickly correct me.  The breathing is not because his lungs are filling with fluid (congestive heart failure) but it is the “death rattle.”  This is oddly reassuring to me.  I thought he was struggling, but evidently this even occurs with people who are concious that are approaching death.  The nurse tells me she has asked patients if the “death rattle” bothers them and they have said no.  This helps my composure.  My mom arrives.  We sit with him.  A therapy dog comes to visit.  The dog is disinterested.  The owner says something like “Dogs can tell when there isn’t any response.”  My sister arrives.  We decide to eat lunch.  The social worker comes at lunch time and gives me books about death to give to my kids.  We chat and linger in the living room.  Finally I decide I need to go back in to my dad’s room.

The rest I will save for my notebook.  My mom and sister and I were all there when my dad passed away.  I am so grateful that I was there.

 

I really can’t believe it has been a year.

A Busy Sunday

September 4, 2016

I woke up this morning at 5:30.  Since I am old, sometimes sleeping makes me sore, so I went downstairs to get some Advil.  Of course, Franklin needed to get up because I was up.  I don’t really understand this cause and effect.  Literally anyone else can get up and he doesn’t care.  But if I get up–well then everybody needs to be up.  It is annoying.  I took him outside and then brought him back to bed with me (he usually sleeps with Sarah).  I was pretty much waiting for Jeff to get up so I could get some work done, but instead I fell back to sleep!  I slept until 9:00!  (That is really late for me.)  So, that put me behind.  I had to go grocery shopping, make potato salad, clean up the house, and take the kids school clothes shopping before taking Sarah to Choir at 3:00.  Jeff’s dad was coming to dinner.

I got everything done.  Whew.  I had about 10 minutes to spare.

Jeff got up early and tended the brisket in the smoker all day, and then made “beer can chicken” to boot.  Dinner was delicious.

Jeff’s dad stayed later than usual talking, so I just sat down because we had some cleaning up to do once he left.

I am tired, but it is a good tired.  I have a stack of work I am going to try to get through tonight.  I hope I can find some motivation.  Then I have another stack for tomorrow.  I have forgotten how much I hate grading papers.  It sucks.  However, I have some fun things to read, so once I get started I know I will be interested.  I am grateful for that!

Tomorrow we go to my sister’s house for Labor day.  I will have to prepare fruit before we go.  I am so blessed with a full life and a loving family.  Grateful.

I hope your weekend has been as wonderful as mine! xo

Today

September 3, 2016

Today I woke up and read things for fun.

Today I didn’t leave my bedroom until after noon.

Today I got a little work done–things crossed off my list.

Today I talked to a good friend on the phone for longer than I should have.

Today I went to a movie with my family–the new Ghost Busters!

Today after the movie everyone scattered, and I had the evening alone.

Today they found Jacob Wetterling’s body.

Today I opened my door to a 13 year old boy who was dropped off in my neighborhood to sell candy for a cause that is not known.  I googled it.  Nothing.

****

He rang my doorbell as I was watching the clip about Jacob Wetterling.  I asked him who dropped him off at 7:00 at night in a strange neighborhood.  I asked him if he was okay.  I worry so much about these kids.  But what can I do?  I don’t want to get him in trouble.  And he is alone.  And he is vulnerable.  Gah.  He was such a cute kid.

Today my heart is broken.  For Jacob.  I was 19 when he was taken.  I remember clearly.  The whole state was praying for him to be found.  Everyone was keeping an eye out.  Patty Wetterling became an advocate for missing children.  Because of her, we have a national registry of people who have a history abusing children.  Because of her we have “Amber Alerts” that puts the public on the look out for missing children as soon as it is found out that they have been taken.  When we were at Target a couple of weeks ago buying school supplies, all of a sudden there were alarms coming from everyone’s phones–Amber Alert.  That ended in tragedy as well.  A seven year old girl.

Today I am worried about that 13 year old boy who came to my door.  I worry that he is alone.  He is from North Minneapolis.  That is not close to here.  I hope he is okay.

Where are you from?

September 2, 2016

A couple of years ago a friend of mine, and a colleague…more a colleague, I guess, but I like her…decided that we would like to teach a learning community together.  She teaches Sociology, and she “gets” my students. She understands that they have a steep hill to climb when they come to college.  She wanted to pair my Reading class with her Diversity class–sounded good to me.  Long story short, we didn’t do the paperwork.  I didn’t really know about the paperwork, actually.  So, we were denied.  We were still talking about it when I was slotted to teach the course that could be paired with her Diversity course, so I decided to pilot some new books and use the theme:  Diversity.  I taught it last spring.  It was a fun class.  I was uncomfortable sometimes, but some topics will never be easy to talk about, and learning how to have uncomfortable conversations is a skill everyone needs to practice…including me.

And then the summer happened.

So much violence.  So much hate.  So much blame. So much fear.

Everything I read from higher ed was about diversity.  Everything on Facebook was about racism, or the police, or…or…or…name your group/cause.  The politics that were racing around were not helping anything, either.  I began to rethink my theme.  Everything seemed to be such a hot topic.  Everything was divisive.  That is not how I wanted my classroom to feel.  To be.

But.  But, but, but…isn’t it my responsibility to teach students how to function in our society?  Isn’t that EVERY teacher’s job?  I know my methods are narrowly focused on READING, but still.  I let this marinate in my head during the summer.  I didn’t want to give up the books I read last semester.  And I wanted to make some sort of difference.  I wanted to help students confront being uncomfortable without being divisive.

Therefore, I decided to change the name of my course.  I would call it “Living in a Pluralistic Society.”  I felt good about that change.  Academic language.  No automatic groan because–more diversity.  Then I thought some more…and changed society to Community.  I wanted to stress belonging…  And then I thought BELONGING!  That is perfect:  Belonging in a Pluralistic Community.  Ta-da!

I also thought that I needed to begin the semester in a place that was comfortable.  To make sure everyone felt like they belonged in our classroom, to make our classroom a community, before we approached any subjects that were uncomfortable.  The best place to begin:  Identity.  Who were my students?

We began with an image assignment.  Ten images that represent who you are.  We shared.  Then they had to revise these images down to five or less.  We talked about the difference between what someone likes and who someone is.  It was a wonderful discussion.

Next, we read the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.  We talked about her choices that she made as a writer.  Why did she come from “clothespins?”  What did she mean by “He restoreth my soul…and ten verses I can say myself?”  Then I sent them home to use the same pattern as George Ella Lyon.

We shared our poems yesterday.

Now they have to pick one line that fits their idea of themselves the best and one image that might (or might not) depict their line.  I will piece together our class poem this weekend, if everyone posts to the discussion board.  I am so excited about this!

We also had a terrific discussion about “belonging.”  How it feels.  What it looks like.  And how it feels when you don’t belong.  What are some things that make you feel like you don’t belong.  They were all so thoughtful, and sincere.  It has been a great place to start.

Here is my poem.  I was deliberately thinking about my audience:  my students.  And my context:  belonging in a pluralistic community.  And my own identity:  heritage, faith, culture, etc.  I wanted to push some boundaries, and take some risks.  And yes it was scary.  But they were so great, it gives me hope.

 

Where I’m From

___

 I am from chocolate chip cookies made from scratch

still warm with a side of milk.

I am from dressed up Sunday mornings

turning into Sunday mornings in my PJs.

I am from the swimming pool in the back yard

blue with helicopters floating on the surface.

I am from entitlement and privilege.

*

I am from sleep-overs and junk food,

talking too much, and flirting with boys

I am from being loved to loving freely.

I am from use your manners and respect your elders.

*

I am from “them” to “us.”

I am from doggy-kisses in the morning,

from General Hospital and playing cards.

*

I am from kissing in the family room

long after dark

I am from spoiled rotten to spoiling rotten.

I am from just playing

to just working.

*

I am from “clean your room” to “this house is cluttered”

From “calm down” to “chill out.”

*

I am from rocking chairs and lovies

“let me kiss it” to “say you’re sorry”

from “ask me anything” to “be kind to your brother.”

I am from Love matters most

and Love wins.

___

What would your “Where I’m From” be like?  I would love for you to share!

Ready? Ready.

September 1, 2016

Today I was scrolling through my RSS feeds to take a quick break, and something caught my eye.  Elizabeth wrote a blog post!  I am so excited, and grateful.  I have been having a little bit of a hard time this summer, and especially this week.  I am happy I saw her post.  I am going to try to blog along for the month of September.  I already have a few things I know I would like to write about.  Here is to the first step…cheers!

Off Balance

July 2, 2016

For the past year, possibly two, maybe even three years, I have been pulled in many directions.  It seems like I always have something BIG looming on the horizon, or I am undertaking a HUGE project.  I keep thinking to myself…once I do x, y, and z THEN I will have time to [insert things I actually want to do].  But it is not like I don’t EVER do ANYTHING that I want to do.  I am writing here right now, and there is no deadline, no expectation (although I did challenge myself to write….), no consequence if I don’t write.  I just want to.  I like to write.

I feel like the x, y, z things just get replaced by the a, b, c things and then we run through the alphabet again.  So, I think I just need to be okay with “cheating,” and maybe I shouldn’t call it cheating.  Maybe I should call it “living.”  I don’t think I will EVER be done with the HUGE projects and the BIG things looming on the horizon.  I do think I need more balance in my life.

Last week, or maybe it was the week before last, I had a big project due in my class, plus I had our weekly homework of reading and posting a response to the “prompts” that my teacher assigned.  I started it right away, and read whenever I could in between softball games and baseball games and all the other driving responsibilities that I have.  I had my post done early, and then I started on my project.  I did my responses to my classmates posts and did my second weekly post and then finished my project.  It really took all week with no real breaks.  Once I was done with that I was in charge of a faculty book club at work.  We read The College Fear Factor by Rebecca Cox.  I hadn’t read the last section, and we were meeting on Monday.  So, I had to read and take notes and then figure out talking points (that I knew I wouldn’t use) because I was sort of in charge of it.  On Monday the book club went great, and I wrote up a little reflection–and yay! Done.  But I was DONE on many levels.  I had my next assignment for class due on Wednesday, but I just couldn’t face it.  I did a crappy job this week.  And that feels yucky.  But, Tuesday?  Was divine.  I played.  I relaxed.  I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to read my textbook.  Wednesday was hell.  I was up until 4:00 AM doing my homework.  So, I am not sure it was a good solution to take a day off.

I finished all my homework yesterday, and began on my reading for next week today.  But I was distracted.  I also played a little bit.  I am having people over for the 4th of July, so I really need to get my reading DONE by tomorrow.  And go grocery shopping.  And clean my house.  See?  How do you achieve that balance?  How?  I honestly don’t know how to schedule my time so I can relax.  Except to just say fuck it, I am writing a post.  And then, of course, pay for it later.

I guess I have some thinking to do.  I really do need to figure this out.

A New Month, and a Challenge

July 1, 2016

July.  It’s been a while.  Again.  I am not apologizing for my absence, but I am sharing my regret.  My life has turned into a crazy thing that I have a hard time keeping up with.  Even now, I should be in BED, because I have been up so late doing homework this week.  But, I felt drawn here.  I have on many other occasions as well, but there was always some other fire to fight first.  So.  Hello.

I went fishing tonight with my husband.  It was the perfect summer day: sunny, warm but NOT HOT, no wind.  Perfect.  The lake we went to was not really developed.  There were a couple of houses on the lake and there were a handful of boats out on the water, but for the most part it was quiet.  OH!  And there were loons!  We saw three of them, but we didn’t get close enough to get a picture.  They have the most distinct call, it is beautiful.  They were talking to us all evening.  Jeff caught fish.  I casted and reeled.  I watched the dragonflies, admired the trees and the sky.  I was wishing that I brought a Mary Oliver poem book with me.  Then it would have been perfect!

So, there!  A post here in July.  Now  I hope I can come back and write more  again!

Contradiction

August 15, 2015

Jeff is up north at a friend’s cabin–fishing and having fun.  I am so happy he finally could GO.  He has been asked several times the last couple of summers but always when there were major kid events that he was required to attend.  He never gets away, so I am happy that it worked out!  When he is gone I feel like I have no responsibilities, and I also feel kind of lost.  It is nice how quiet it is this morning, as I lie in bed and gaze out the window at the dappled sunlight that shines through the leaves of the tree outside my window.  It looks pleasant outside, like the shady tree would bring refreshing shade and the sun the warm glow that is so attractive to Franklin that he finds the nearest sunbeam to nap.  You can’t see the humidity that sucks the life out of you as soon as you open the door.

On Thursday, we took the kids and a bunch of their friends to the Cannon River and floated down the river in tubes.  It was an all day event, and we had so much fun!  Everyone brought their own lunches/drinks and we stopped off on a sand bar to eat lunch and then tubed some more.  By the time I got home from driving all the kids home–Jeff only had to take one neighborhood kid home, but he was making dinner–it was almost time for dinner.  I remembered that I had to text my mom to let her know we were not lost in the currant forever, and that’s when I got my sister’s text.

My dad is going through a downward slide right now and this is throwing my family into a transition.  He needs more care.  My mom needs more help.  And I feel like I should just move in to their apartment, but in the same breath I want to ignore the whole thing.  I am trying to be neutral.  I am trying to gather all of the facts so we can make a good decision about the kind of care my dad needs, and the kind of help that my mom needs.  These two things are also at odds.  One family member in particular has very strong opinions and not very good listening skills….oh, who am I kidding, WE ALL have very strong opinions and the listening skills are at the low end.  I am probably the only one who actually listens to anyone.  It is HARD not to put in my own two cents, but I try and let people have their opinions, and keep mine out of it.  But all of this will effect my mom’s well being on one hand, and my dad’s well being on the other.

Jeff has been great.  Really great.  My sister’s text told me that my dad went to the ER on Thursday because his blood pressure was so low.  He was dehydrated, so they gave him an IV drip and a couple bags of fluid.  I was told by my mom and my sister not to go to the hospital.  It didn’t feel right, but I sat down to dinner and tried not to worry.  It was Jeff that insisted that we go.  He drove me there and we ended up driving my parents home when my dad was discharged.  I slept over there to do night duty.  I probably wouldn’t have done that if Jeff wouldn’t have driven me to the hospital.  I am so grateful that he did.

My dad was up every two hours.  My mom got to sleep.  It was a good set up. I spent the day yesterday choreographing more care for my dad and setting up appointments to orchestrate even more care.  My mom has about had it.  My dad is depressed and crabby with her.  My heart is breaking.

The contradiction in every part of this is so difficult.  How can you feel opposite things at the same time, but I do.  It sucks.  Jeff has been my rock this weekend, even from afar.  It is helping me not to unravel completely.

AND??  I go back to work next week.  I kind of want to run away.

The End of Summer–Already.

August 10, 2015

On the Eve of a New Semester

I didn’t feel like I could use the same title for this post as I did on the last one–even if it is true.  Students begin in two weeks, and I have been going in to work almost daily for over a week now.  I am still on summer time, schedule-wise, but I am beginning to get serious about plunging into work again.  I haven’t written here at all this summer, and I regret that, however, I have been writing in my notebook which has been really nice.  No censor necessary, just me and my idiosyncrasies.  When Lizardek (Happy birthday to you Liz!) posted that she created a new category for defunct blogs called “You Never Write, You Never Call” I got scared that I would be banished from her “inner orbit.”  I made the decision that I had better write a post.  Even a bad one is better than none!

So, that PERFECT schedule last semester opened up time when I could do all the other CRAZY stuff that happened outside of my teaching responsibilities. I think I worked harder last semester than when I had 18 credits in the fall.  When I was finally done teaching for the summer, my summer class began…which was HARD.  It was called “Advanced Writing” and was instruction on how to write a scholarly journal article.  It ate me alive, that class did.  I also took my favorite Literacy Institute this summer, but still…that was another class.  By the time I actually had time to unwind it was August.  Don’t worry.  I did take some time.  I read several books:

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

This book is still with me.  I can’t really stop thinking about it.  I love the writing and although it has two specific parts that are haunting, I am aware that it could have been written with many more details of torture and horror.  I appreciate that it wasn’t, because I don’t know if I would have kept reading.  This book narrates Amanda Lindhout’s experience being kidnapped and held captive for 18 months (give or take) in Somalia.  It is a tough read, but I really liked the book.  I also would like to read Nigel Brennan’s book The Price of Life.  He was kidnapped with Amanda.

The Terrorist’s Son by Zak Ebrahim

I bought this book because of Mr. Ebrahim’s TED Talk.  I wanted to know more.  It was a short, simple book.  I thought it was interesting, and I got what I wanted out of it.  I loved his message, and I was happy that his life has been well lived.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

I was obsessed with this one!  I loved it.  I love Elizabeth Strout.  This book is another master of characterization–with all the characters.  It also dips briefly into the Somali community and the perspective of an immigrant.  It was excellent.  I am also still thinking about this book.  I love how Elizabeth Strout can describe characters so well, and so honestly that you see yourself in them.  Sometimes a not-so-good look at who you are, and that makes you think about how to make yourself better.  Her words are powerful.

A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer

I read this one with a class in mind, but it was pretty good just for me.  I decided against using it in my class mostly because of the hard cover, $25 status.  I can’t really ask my students to pay that much for a book in addition to their text book.  Especially one that is not *perfect.*  I liked the premise and I thought it would be an engaging read for my students.  Being curious is a wonderful concept, and one that is not encouraged even if it should be encouraged.  There were many interesting parts, but there were also many “name dropping” parts.  Brian Grazer is a movie producer who partners with Ron Howard.  He is an interesting person, and has interesting stories, but he also likes to tell about all the famous people he is around and how great his movies are.  And, they are great movies.  And, he does rub elbows with many famous people.  But it got over-bearing at times.  I loved his concept of “curiosity meetings” with a diverse crowd of people.  The list of people he has interviewed, just because he was curious about them and to learn something from them is astounding.  I wanted more stories from his interviews, but it was not the premise of the book.  He wants EVERYONE to be curious and to live curiously.  As I have said, I like that premise.  I enjoyed the book.  Maybe when it is out in paperback I will revisit this one for a class.

My current read was suggested by our CTL leader (staff developer).  It is called Make it Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel.  It details “The Science of Successful Learning.”  So far I am on chapter 2, and it is fantastic.  I can’t wait to think about my classes and how to integrate some of these strategies this semester!  I also have two more books I want to read:  Making Thinking Visible and Discussion in the College Classroom.  I don’t think I will have time, but who knows.  I have a new English class that I am taking that begins August 21, I am sure all of my reading will be for that class!  Composition Pedagogy is the class….I am scared.  It is with the same instructor that I had this summer, so I know it will be…a….challenge.

I am sad that I didn’t read what was originally on my list for this summer:  College Fear Factor, and How Children Succeed.  I have had these books for a year now, and I know they would inform my teaching.  ACK!  TIME!

As far as family time, we did take a trip to the Black Hills right when the kids got out of school, like the day they got out of school.  It was such a fun trip!  It would have been even better if I was not in the middle of my HARD class at the time.  I spent late nights in a chair in the hotel hallway reading articles and writing.  But during the day we saw Mt. Rushmore, did a cave tour, drove through Custer State Park (and saw Buffalo–babies too!), toured a real archeological dig sight for Mammoths, and MORE!  It was busy and fun.  Then, for the rest of the summer, of course there was hockey, softball, tennis, baseball, golf, dance, and plays.  I should get paid for my taxi driving.

OOOO.  And!  I got a new car!  Well, a new, old car.  Jeff bought a used van about 18 months ago, and he bought a brand-spankin’ new van last month–so I got the other one!  I am so happy to have air conditioning again!  Woot!  I feel very fancy in it as well.  Oh, and safe.  My old van was almost 12 years old and had housed babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary school children.  In a word, it was trashed.  I still miss it though.  I am not used to the other one.  We are going to donate the old one to some mechanics’ school.  They will have a lot of practice with that van, I tell you.  Still, I am sad to see it go.  My kids grew up in that thing.  Not that I would choose to drive THAT instead of my new one!  Um. No.

I am not at all ready to go back to work on their schedule.  I am loving working on my own.  I know it will be here in a blink of an eye, so I guess I will take some time now to read my book, and pretend it is still July.

See?  This is nice.  I have missed this dusty blog.  xo

On the Eve of a New Semester

January 11, 2015

I have been on pins and needles my whole “break” because one of my classes…the SIX credit one…has not filled.  My dean tried to cancel it during one of my finals before “break” but the chair of my department interceded in my behalf, and continued to intercede.  On Tuesday, he decided NOT to cancel it even though I only had 4 people enrolled in the course.  (Now it has NINE.)  Whew!  I also found out on Tuesday that I would NOT have to teach a night class that I really didn’t want to teach, but was slotted for because of factors beyond my control.  So win-win-win!  It is a gift to have this schedule.  It is what I wanted and I can’t believe that it worked out.  The first blessing of the New Year!

That being said, because I was in limbo (which is a GREAT excuse, by the way) I haven’t really done much planning for this brand new semester.  As in, I haven’t really revamped anything.  And, I am very uninspired right now.  Mostly I am tired.  I feel like I have been running around non-stop for a month.  I have done some things that were for me.  I have done a lot of running for my kids and Christmas.  I really want some time in my house alone!  To play, to work, to get the house in order.  The best part is I may get to have some of that this semester if I play my cards right!  Woot!  I also may have time to write a little bit!  It would be fun to do some more blogging again.

So, tomorrow I begin again.  I have a list of what I need to do in the morning.  My babysitter is putting Katie and Nicholas on the bus so I can go in early.  My hope is that it is a peaceful and happy day!  Both for me and for YOU!

Ten days in

January 10, 2015

I was listening to the radio while playing taxi-driver this morning, and between all of the analysis about terrorism, somebody said the date in that official reporter voice, “Today is January 10th, 2015.”  And I thought, “Has it been TEN days since New Year’s already?  How can that be?”

It feels like I am in constant motion, like it has been one L-O-N-G day since January first.  So much thinking about a new start to the semester, what classes I will be teaching, what my schedule will be, how to get my house back in order before the students parade into my life.

Not being tethered to grading has felt light and free, I have read some for pleasure, some for work, but I have read very little student work since posting grades on December 23.  I have been working with Katie and Nicholas for their play.  Working lines with them every day due to Influenza A.  The play was originally set for December 19, but so many kids were sick, they postponed it until after winter break.  Therefore, I became a director for two weeks.  Thank goodness, the play was on Thursday night!  It was cute and they did great, but I am so glad that it is OVER.  And a little sad, too.  It was their last play in Elementary School.

I am getting off track, as I seem to do a lot.  I wanted to come here and talk about how Ten days feels so fast and sounds like such a long time.  And, how beginning the year this year with violence sucks.  I feel so many things about this attack at Charlie Hebdo and at the Kosher Deli in Paris.  The overwhelming feeling is sadness.  I am just so sad about it.  Sad for the victims.  Sad for their coworkers.  Sad for their families.  Sad for France.  Sad for the innocent Muslim people that will feel the backlash of racism.  Sad for the human race.

I am listening to how the news and the media are handling this “breaking news” and it is predictable.  Outrage.  Vengeance.  Spin.  It is easy to nod along with some reporters.  I was listening to the TV last night, and I think it was CNN, but I can’t be certain.  They were comparing the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo that made fun of Islam with what has been said to make fun of the Catholic Church.  Their take away was that Catholics don’t storm places of business and shoot people because they make fun of the Pope.

Effective, isn’t it?  To group all Muslims together as crazy fundamentalists because look how normal the Catholic Church is?  They don’t get all bent out of shape at a joke, right?  What is wrong with those people?

It is easy to nod along, until you begin thinking.  Wait a minute.  The Catholic Church has its fair share of scandal.  But we are unwilling to call all Catholics crazy pediphiles.  We are also unwilling to profile kids who gun down their classmates.  Or enter schools in general to kill students…even seven year old students.

We have a problem in the world.  Violence.  The other problem is that violence is seen as a solution.  We, as people, always want to explain why something bad happens, and for some reason this need to explain ends up creating more problems.  It is the fuel to the fire.  It puts us in a catch 22.  The more we blatantly blame groups of innocent people for the crimes of a few, the more those innocent people think that maybe those fundamentalist are right.  Maybe all of this “westernization” is evil.  And then we have more people willing to be recruited into the fundamentalist movement.

The more I think about it, the more sad I become.  I offer no answers.  I just wish that we didn’t have this in the world.  I am sending healing prayers to all the families who have lost loved ones.  I am holding peace in my heart and hope.  I have many Muslim students.  They are just as wonderful as my African American students.  And my White students, and my Asian students.  I am holding them close to my heart after this because their lives just got complicated again….or still.

I hope after another TEN days we can be in a more peaceful place, although it doesn’t look promising.  I guess that is the definition of hope, isn’t it?

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015

We have had such a lovely day today.

There was:

  • staying in our pajamas much longer than is appropriate
  • a parade, with beautiful floats, and NO commercials
  • knitting
  • watching the U of  M play in the Citrus Bowl (and lose…boo)
  • skating at the park for all but me (our rink is not ready yet…but soon!)
  • (because I was…) cooking… a lot of cooking
  • watching The Winter Classic (hockey, of course!)
  • party mix and other various junk food to consume
  • gnocchi with our favorite sauce and meatballs…all made from scratch
  • a fire in the fire place
  • playing the new Monopoly game:  Monopoly Empire  (SO much better than the original!)
  • And there were s’mores with roasted marshmallows.

There are also other things that are making me worry, but I am doing my best to breathe.  This is all job related, of course.  I am uncertain of my course load at the moment.  I also have a student who wants to meet with me next week, which is troubling.  I think something is up, but I am not sure what.  I hate feeling unprepared when walking into a meeting.  And, I haven’t begun my course planning.  There.  It is all out there now.  (Not to mention taking Christmas down, and LAUNDRY…)

I am choosing to focus on my lovely start to the New Year.  If everyday can feel this productive and fulfilling, I will be living a good life.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The end of the year

December 31, 2014

I received my wordpress email yesterday where they crunch all of the numbers from the stats of this poor, neglected blog.  I learned that I wrote 10 (ten) blog posts in 2014.  Five (5) of which were in one week in June.  I decided to make it eleven (11) today.

As I look out my window at the snow covered roof of my neighbor’s house, the trees all bare skeletons, the sun dappled through the branches, I am searching for words.  This year has had many ups and downs, just like every year.  But all of it is in the details.  The moments that speed by and often go unnoticed, or are forgotten, ignored, pushed aside.  The moment when I watch my father struggling to get into the front seat of my mother’s car on Christmas eve.  The moment when Nicholas skates ahead of all his teammates to rush on the goalie from “coast to coast.”  The moment when Sarah walks up to receive her award for academic excellence.  The moment when Katie sings, by herself, when she thinks nobody is listening and I am shocked by the beauty of her voice.  The moment when Jeff lets his guard down and I can see the boy that I fell in love with so many years ago.

That is what I love about reading blogs.  I love witnessing other people’s moments.  I love to wander around in the perspective of people I admire.  I love seeing the beauty in their lives, whether it be heartbreak, elation, or hum-drum-everyday routine.  I also love writing about the details.  Remembering to be present enough to notice the details.  Showing up at a blank screen and choosing words that will attempt to recreate those moments, for readers, but also for me when I scroll back and look at the moments of my life that are here.

This year.  Well.  This year.  Writing was not a priority, obviously.  But I am okay with that.  I did other things.  I finished my College Reading and Learning Certificate out of Cal State, while teaching full time and parenting three kids.  I helped move my parents into assisted living.  I cleaned out my own basement and main level…decluttered, threw a lot away, rearranged.  I wrote curriculum for a brand-spankin’-new course that I piloted this past semester.  I chauffeured children hither and yon, spending more time in my car than I care to think about.  I read a lot of articles, chapters and books.   I taught 18 credits worth of reading this fall.  I fed my family…reluctantly cooking dinner most nights.  I won an award for excellence in teaching from my colleagues.  (One of three people in my college.)  I did a little laundry every once in a while. I took a fabulous class called “The Magic of Myth” from Elizabeth. I graded thousands of papers.  I took Nicholas to a hockey tournament in Duluth, just he and I made the trip.

Basically, I showed up for my life.  I just didn’t write it down.  In retrospect, I wish I had the time to sit and reflect on all the moments.  They deserve to be preserved.  However, I refuse to let guilt creep in here.  I did all I could.  And sometimes watching Scandal is more cathartic than writing a blog post.  It is what I needed to do at the time.  Maybe in 2015 things will fall into place so I can write more.  There is a possibility of that, but I won’t know until the new semester begins.  My tummy is tumbling because of the uncertainty right now, but I am trying to accept any outcome, while hoping for the one I want!

Tomorrow we have the privilege of getting a whole new year.  We get to begin again.  Start over.  Keep on, keeping on.  My wish for you…if I even have any readers left out there…is to see the opportunities and choose to be happy.  Choose things that bring you joy, and choose the tribulations that are worth traveling through in order to find that joy again.  Sending love out there as we say good bye to 2014 and begin anew with 2015.  xo

Storm

June 7, 2014

Rain

Dark day

Water pelting

the roof, the umbrella, my head

 

Lightning

Blinding in the dark

Zig-Zagging

across the horizon, across black skies, across the insides of my eyelids

 

Thunder

Rumbling, growling

Building the crescendo

until CRACK it makes you jump

 

Soggy

clammy

Drenched

Better to stay in bed.

Losing Focus

June 6, 2014

My motivation is not great to begin with, but it is always worse during the days right after I get done teaching, and before the kids get done with school.  I have gone into work a few times, and I have done a few little things here and there…the laundry most notably, but I have started cleaning out little places.  Nothing that has made a noticeable difference, but I know that a few things are done.

It feels so much like wasting valuable time, no kids, no schedule, I dream about that when I am running hither and yon the rest of the year.  But something holds me back.  I think I just need to recuperate.  I need to rest, and play a little.  And completely veg-out.  I am still feeling exhausted by the time I start dinner.  I am still so tired.  I do have a good list going, and I have crossed a few things off!  Woot!  But not anywhere near the amount that I had planned before finals week.

It really bothers me.  A lot.

This is the time that I cherish, yet I feel guilty about it, and feel like I am squandering such a great opportunity.  I am mostly disappointed in myself.

Here is what I am proud of:  I have walked every ding-dang day this week.  Yay me!

Here is what I am grateful for:

  • Nicholas having his best friend over tonight for a sleep over.
  • Sarah’s ambition
  • Katie being willing to take a risk and join a traveling softball team in addition to her city league.
  • Having a long, leisurely lunch with my best friend today.  It doesn’t happen often enough.
  • Crossing several things off my list, and keeping up with putting things on my list as I think about them.

Everyday Magic

June 5, 2014

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It looks a little bit like snow, doesn’t it?  The first time my kids saw the cotton seed drifting in the breeze on a warm spring day, they thought it was snowing.  They were confused, because it was warm out, but how can your eyes be wrong?  I had to let them out of the car to go and touch it.  To feel the soft downy, cottony seeds.  I also had to show them the cottonwood trees where the seeds were born before they took flight.  That day was full of wonder.  I remember it every spring when I see little drifts in the corners of the curbs.  My friend at work loves cottonwood seed.  She calls it “magical” because she grew up down south, where there are no cottonwood trees.  She was lucky enough to be on a photo shoot with her kids when the cotton was flying.  The way she said those pictures turned out, made me remember my own kid’s wonder….magical.

I believe there is magic all around us, should we choose to look.

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I have been playing around with writing my very own myth this week.  I am not far at all.  The story isn’t even there yet.  Only a character and a tree house, and the weather. I have a whole bunch of writing exercises that I plan on completing the next time I sit down with my laptop intent on writing an original myth.  I am SO not a writer.  I am eternally stuck.  I know I need to PLAY with this, but I don’t really know where to start.  The starting is always my weakness.  My fatal flaw.  Elizabeth is amazing though.  I can’t really even put into words how much magic she is radiating through the computer screen at me.

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I will stick with it, and hopefully I will have something to show you at the end of it all.

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I still have a long way to go, however!

 

The wild raspberry plants are flowering!

The wild raspberry plants are flowering!

I hope I can find that specific magic sometime soon.

Just a little patience

June 4, 2014

Tonight was Nicholas’ night.  He and Katie are both playing ball on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Jeff and I switch kids.  I like watching Nicholas and Katie.  It is the rest of the team that is the problem.

Being a teacher is hard.  It means I have expectations for behavior of other people’s kids.  I am sort of hard-wired now to correct behavior of Elementary aged kids and it is a hard habit to break.  It was nice to have these expectations during my years as a Girl Scout Leader.  It is also nice because whenever Jeff coaches ANYTHING I stress the importance of DISCIPLINE.

Nicholas’ baseball team needs some DISCIPLINE.  Right. Now.  By the end of the game tonight I was ready to blow a gasket.  Kids were being sneaky and putting a bat between a teammate’s legs and pulling up quickly….ouch.  They were sitting on the end of bats and others were kicking the bats.  They were climbing the fence in front of the bench.  They were pulling grass and throwing it at each other.  They were sword fighting with the bats.  They were doing anything you can imagine, except paying attention to the game.  And the (four!) coaches were doing NOTHING.

I yelled a couple of times to sit down so we could see.  (Okay, maybe more than just a couple.)  I also yelled at some of the butt poking boys to stop being gross, which got the coaches attention enough to say, “Knock it off.”

Poor Nicholas, he can’t join in the fun because he looks at me and knows.  He knows I am about to lose it.  What is amazing to me is all of the kid’s parents are sitting right there as well! Nobody says a word.

I may be crazy, but I think it awful.  I think that kids should be expected to act appropriately during organized events.  I know that I have high expectations, and I like to goof around just as much as anyone, just not during a game.  And I feel the same way when Katie’s team is goofy, although her team doesn’t hold a candle to Nicholas’.

We have always supported out City teams.  These are the teams where there are no try-outs, teams are made so they are kept fairly even, and there is not a lot of pressure.  I love that because then if we miss a game, it isn’t a big deal.  It is fun, and light. (Hockey is NOT like that.  It is very serious.)  However, after this year, I think I am going to support going to a traveling team.  I don’t want to, because it is very serious.  I don’t think we need to be very serious all year round,  but I can’t stand the behavior and lack of respect that I saw tonight.  It is sad.

I hope I can find a little more patience so I am not so worked up the next time Nicholas plays.  I really like watching him and Katie play ball.  It is all the other kids that I could do without.

P.S.  I would like to add:  If the coaches set high expectations for the kids, I am certain that the kids would rise to the occasion.  Many are joining in because nothing is done when you are goofing around.  Baseball can be boring, so who wouldn’t want to goof around?  If the coaches were engaged and using the time on the bench to teach as they watched the game, my guess is we wouldn’t have a problem.

I will leave you tonight with a little Guns and Roses (This is where I got the title for the post):

How My Parents Met

June 3, 2014

I was working on my remaining tasks for The Magic of Myth class today.  I know that the website is going to close down soon, and I really want to finish it!  So, I went back to the April 10th class.  I had commented on that post, but I wanted to figure out where my BRAIN was.  I also went back in my Writer’s Notebook to see what I had written.  It is amazing how my thinking throughout the first three (four?) weeks shifted around.  I just shake my head and say a prayer of thanks that I talked myself into signing up for this class.

Anyway, there were many questions that were asked at the end of Elizabeth’s posts. We were invited to answer them, or not.  We could go our own way if the spirit moved us, or we could list out each question and answer them.  I did both.  Some days my thinking was already off and I ignored the questions, some days I needed the questions to find out what direction I wanted to go, some days I took one question and ran with it.

Now I really need those questions, because the flow of the class has been interrupted.  Therefore, I began re-reading and re-thinking the questions I had answered.  Finally, I found where I had left off, with this question:

How did your parents meet?

And, I didn’t know.

So, I called my mom.  Here is the story:

My mom worked in Minneapolis, close to downtown.  She was a Dental Assistant, and loved it.  Those were the days where you went out to lunch with your work friends every single day.  They would go to Murray’s on Wednesdays (I think?) because they always had a fashion show during lunch. 

My mom, Mary Helen, and Jane went to lunch at a bar (the name long forgotten, but the sandwiches that were piled high with roast beef clearly recalled) one day in early to mid April, 1962. 

My dad saw them come in.  I don’t know who he was with, but he was working at NCR at that time.

When my mom and her friends were getting ready to leave, my dad approached her.  “I’d like to meet you,” he said.

When my mom caught up with her friends she was a bit flustered.  “I gave him my phone number, and I don’t know if I should have done that!” she told Mary Helen and Jane.  Jane remarked, “You never know, you’ll probably marry him.”

My mom remembers that he came to her birthday party that year.  Her birthday is April 28th.  She doesn’t remember their first date, but she knows they went to some movies and went to Matt’s Bar a lot.  My dad and his friends lived across the street from Matt’s.

They dated one month before they were engaged.  They got married on September 23, 1962. My dad’s birthday.

 

I can’t believe how fast it all was!  My mom was 26 when they got married.  Contrast that with me:  I dated Jeff for SEVEN years before we got married!  However I was 16 when we met.  That is all the information she gave me, but I think it would be fun to ask my dad from his perspective too.  I will have to do that the next time he is having a good day.

This was just ONE question that was posed for our class. There were many more, and all so interesting and engaging.  It is like taking a class on yourself!  So wonderful.  Thank you Elizabeth!  Without this question, I would have never known this story!

Do you know how your parents met?

An Open Heart

June 2, 2014

Yesterday I took the kids to the movie Maleficent.  I looked online, and the listing said it began at 3:00, but when we got to the actual theater we found out it began at 3:30.  Annoying, but I am calling it divine intervention.  This made time for me to go and buy new running shoes.

I made it a goal to walk this summer, knowing how much I would rather sit on a soft surface instead.  I am out of shape.  Really.  I also knew that it would be hard.  Hard to get out of bed.  Hard to “make time.”  Hard because it will not be fun for a while.

Today, I woke up at 4:30 AM anticipating my first day of walking.  Jeff was still sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake him.  The wild card is Franklin who always gets up with me.  He will stay in bed with me, but as soon as I get up, he gets up no matter who he is sleeping with.  And once he is up?  He wants EVERYBODY up.  I stayed in bed until Jeff got up at 5:30.  Then, I didn’t want to wake SARAH up.  So I stayed in bed until 6:00.  Then I got up.  I put on my new shoes and walked out the door.

It was raining.

I kept walking.

Soon I heard a car coming from behind me.  It was my husband.  He threw me my raincoat.  It warmed my heart.

I kept walking.  With an open heart.  I noticed the cardinals flitting here and there, and heard the songs of many birds.  The rain dripped from my bangs, and the rain darkened the front of my blue sweatshirt.  The evergreens were showing off the mint green tips of their branches.  They looked like they had just gotten a manicure.  There were worms in the street taking a squirm of their own.  The breeze was slight and fragrant, the rain steady, but also light and gentle.  I let my mind wander taking in the spring beauty, and letting sadness come remembering the dog who died earlier this spring when I approached that place in the road.

I was out later than usual, so the sun was up and there were a few people about.  I felt the uncomfortable spots on my feet, and noted that I needed to get the inserts from my other shoes into these new ones–STAT.  I greeted the people I met with a smile.  I noticed the lilacs and the green of the grass and how black the pavement is when it is wet.  I began today with an open heart.  I would like to greet every day, and every moment that same way.

Just a Glimpse

June 1, 2014

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Hi Everyone!

I finally feel able to sit down and write.  I have been thinking about this dusty little blog on and off for what, FIVE months?!  Well.  Yes.  Almost exactly five months.  I have been reading and keeping up with those of you I know about, but for those I don’t know about, or those who don’t write, I hope you have had a wonderful 2014 so far.

So, here is just a glimpse of what my life has been like:

1.  Work. 

I taught four classes (16 credits) this past semester.  I taught two classes of the lower-level developmental reading course, and two classes of the upper-level course.  It was easier to grade papers when I only had two of each type of course, but I also had to prepare lessons for two different courses, which is harder.  It was nice because I had a lot of students from last semester take their upper level course with me.  But that was also hard because it is still me teaching, and I think they didn’t get a new fresh perspective.  It was “more of the same”.  I had great classes, great students, and a great semester with them.  I totally miss them, but not the grading.

2.  School.

I took my last class to earn my Post-Secondary Reading and Learning Certificate from California State/Fullerton.  I am SO HAPPY to be done with this certificate.  It was a hard class focusing on creating a “model” reading program.  It was intended to be really idealistic, pie in the sky, make your dreams come true…but I would have rather focused on how to make a difference with what I have to work with.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still idealistic, but I have a bit of realism that has crept in as well.  I earned my “A” but that last paper was not up to my potential, and I am trying to talk myself into believing that it doesn’t matter and I don’t care, but I still feel guilty that I didn’t do my best.  Any way….Who CARES?  I earned my certificate and with straight A’s to boot!

3.  FUN SCHOOL.

In the midst of my crazy life I decided last fall to take a fun class with Elizabeth called The Magic of Myth.  Oh, my.  It was THE BEST part of the year so far for me, and I am not even done with the class.  I was fully engaged in the first three weeks, and then?  I had to do my other (graded) school work (see above) and I had to do work stuff for students and for my department.  I had to hang it up for later.  Which means soon.  The website closes in the next couple of weeks, so I have to go back and finish up the writing part.  I will tell you all about it, but right now the only word that comes to mind is:  WOW.  Elizabeth is an incredible person.  She just is.  I can’t wait to share my experience with you!

4.  Family.

My parents are still not moved into their Assisted Living apartment.  We have packed and moved boxes, but the lion’s share is still to be done.  They have furniture in their new place, and some stuff, but my mom is really dragging her feet.  We have randomly selected Father’s Day weekend to move more stuff and Monday, June 16th as their moving day.  It still sucks.

Jeff’s mom is still the same.  We have gone to visit her a few times, and she is at first kind of alert, but it usually ends with her sleeping.  This sucks as well.

Jeff has been fishing a few times, and has been back to the keyboard writing about it.  He is not coaching this summer.  He is making good food as usual.  Yesterday we had Breakfast Pizzas.  They were delicious.

Sarah, Katie, & Nicholas are all ready for summer, but sad that school is ending.  None of them want to learn anything ever again, but they are going to miss their friends.  We have had a break from hockey and are gearing up for a hockey summer day camp that will start this month.  We have finished with choir, the kids sang at Orchestra Hall (downtown) for their big spring concert.  We have finished with dance as of last night, three recitals in one day.  We have started baseball and softball (Katie only) and Sarah will be starting rehearsals for a summer play that she is in:  The Wizard of Oz.

The three singers at Orchestra Hall

The three singers at Orchestra Hall

Franklin has been sweet, and calm.  He has also been a freaky dog with the barking.  The usual.  He made it through a thunderstorm last night without shaking or panting.  He is weird.

5.  The House

is a mess.  I am attempting to gut it.  It is slow going.  I have done all laundry.  I have a vision.  I still am just as resistant to cleaning as ever, but it MUST be done.  I can’t stand it any more.

I am happy to be back here!  Writing feels good!  Any updates you would like to share? xoxo

The Power of Story

January 8, 2014

I just watched this:

My favorite quote is:

“There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

Wow.  What do you think?

I think I want my students to watch this.  Maybe they can tell me an instance of how a single story has affected them.  Has a single story affected you?

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

January 6, 2014

I am still in bed, but even sitting up to type my neck and back are feeling the chill.  The next three days are going to be brutal temperature-wise.  It really started yesterday.  When we went to Nicholas’ hockey game in the morning it was -10, but it “warmed up” to -1 by the time we got out of there.  Last night we went to my niece’s birthday dinner and it was -18 when we got out of there.  I woke up to this:

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The windchill is -47.  This is all Farenheit, by the way.  So, um, it is a little chilly.  The Governor canceled school for today for the entire state.  Everything else seems to be canceled too…choir, dance…but not hockey!  We were supposed to have OUTDOOR practice today, but they switched it to INDOOR practice.  How sweet of them.

In other news, the tree is down and in its box.  The decorations are packed away as well.  I just have to go arrange my back room to make sure everything fits the way it should, and then Christmas is officially over.  Sigh.  Today is the day to do that and to work on my syllabus.  I also have to register for my LAST class for my Post-Secondary Reading and Learning Certificate.  I am excited about that!

My classes are in limbo still, so I am hoping my night class gets cancelled so I can teach a different night class.  I am scheduled to work on Wednesday nights, but we have MANY kid activities on Wednesday nights.  I need to be home to be the taxi!  Tuesdays would lessen the load there.  I also hope that they take my advice and just change one of my classes from an every-day class to a block class (meets 2 days a week instead of 4, for two hours).  I have a waiting list for my other block class and I think that if they change my every-day class they will move to that class.  This whole thing gives me a stomach ache.

So, that is what is on my mind.  What is on yours?

A Fresh New Year

January 2, 2014

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Oh, how I love a fresh start.  All the endless possibilities.  A blank page.  I get to design it!

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I have not done much thinking about 2014.  In fact, I have just looked back on my 2013 post, I remembered that I had chosen a word, but I couldn’t remember the word.  So.  That worked out.  But in retrospect, I really did strive, (THAT was the word!) at least through half of the year.  I call that a success.  I think this year needs to be a whole phrase:  Just Do It.  I have heard this before….somewhere.  I do not own any Nike apparel.  Maybe I should go shopping too…JUST DO IT!  Ha.  On the other hand, I also want to focus a little bit on self-care.  It is so easy to get taken away by all of the external demands of life, I need to do something for ME.  And, I do think that has to do with health and well-being.  Mindfulness, yoga, meditation?   Exercise?  Eating better?  All of these things sound cliché, but I think I need to try at least one if not all.  I will feel better.  I will have more energy.  Then I can Just Do It.  And if you need to know what IT I am talking about, see any past New Year’s post.  My goals don’t change.  I just keep thinking I should be a neat, organized, thin person.  Just Do It.  Baby steps, and I will feel better all around.  I just know I will!

IMG_0750Happy New Year, Everyone!

New Year’s Eve: 2013 in Review

December 31, 2013

When I think back through the year, I am just amazed.  Things change so subtly, and yet those changes can be life altering.  And as it happens, often I think about how big of a change the event might be, but it takes time and perspective to see just how profound those changes are.

January 2013.   I was waffling between applying for a job, and not applying.  And I chose to apply.  I got the job.  Because of this job prospect, I chose to begin to take classes for a Post-Secondary Reading and Learning Certificate through California State University at Fullerton.  Both of these decisions are inter-related.  Without the decision to go for the job, I wouldn’t have taken the first two classes.  Both of these events have altered the way I see my career, and how I view my job with students.  I am still struggling to figure out how to be a better teacher, I don’t think that will ever end, but now I have tools and research to help me make my decisions and to change my practice for the better.

Winter 2013.  We began to prepare for middle school.  We visited the school, and went to orientation.  This was the first step away from the security of elementary school for Sarah.

January 2013.  My dad’s diagnosis of dementia was shared with us.

March 2013.  Jeff’s dad falls, breaks a hip.  This becomes a hands on education about long term care insurance, aging parents, and caring for Alzheimer’s patients.

March, April, May 2013.  Jeff’s mom moves in.  Education consumes us. End of life decisions are discussed.  Facing institutionalization of a close loved one is awful.  And that is not really a strong enough word.

April, 2013.  Trip to California without Jeff.  Unknowingly, our last trip as we know it.

April, 2013.  Interview for BIG JOB.  Yikes!

April 2013.  My dad decides not to drive anymore.

May, 2013.  A new JOB!  Woot!

May 2013.  Jeff’s mom moves into a nursing home.  Begins accelerated decline.

June 2013.  Sarah “Graduates” from Elementary School.

June 2013.  Apparently, my dad only decided not to drive in CALIFORNIA.  Doctor then forbids him to drive in MINNESOTA as well.  This is not taken well.

June 2013.  First time leading an inservice for teachers.  Hoping to do more of this in the future.

Summer 2013.  Baseball.  Softball. Golf.  Hockey.  You know, the usual.

Summer 2013. Dance–Sarah invited to take the “pointe” class and loves it.

Summer 2013.  Revamping course (again).

July 2013.  Fourth of July.  Last Family celebration where Jeff’s mom is present.

July 2013.  Blogged EVERY DAY!  WOOT!

August 2013.  Sarah goes to “Cougar Camp” and begins her middle school adventure.

August 2013.  NEW OFFICE!  (Still not all the way moved in, and it is New Year’s Eve.)

Fall 2013.  My dad’s decline accelerates.  Assisted Living apartment is confirmed.

November 2013.  Blogged ALMOST every day.  THIS was a huge ACCOMPLISHMENT!

December 2013.  Katie steals the show as the Magic Mirror in the school play:  Rockin’ story of Snow White.

December 2013.  Christmas happens.  Everything gets done.  It is a Christmas Miracle.

December 2013.  So busy I get sick (not unusual).  Still recovering.  Feel better today.

These were the  big things of the year.  There were many small things as well.  There were so many things to be thankful for this year.  I am blessed beyond measure with family and friends and usefulness.  I hope that 2014 delivers with good things as well.  But really, I am the one in charge of that, am I not?

Happy New Year Everyone!