cell phone self-portrait

cell phone self-portrait
things are looking up

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thinking About My Father

This one's raw.  My feelings are all over the place when it comes to the man who married my mother in Washington, DC in 1964 and was there to (welcome?) me into the world in December of 1965.  I don't like him most days lately, and I haven't liked him on many days in previous years... I've had a lot of deeply held resentment, embarrassment on his behalf, frustration, and a sense of his having little or no regard for who I am.  And those were during the years when I actually knew where he was and had some sort of contact, communication, and relationship with him.  From eight years old until I was twenty-five, I had none of the above.  Those were the lost years, and I don't really know how I feel about them except that I was aware that he was absent. It takes a lot of energy to think about this.  I'll have to come back to it and write a bit at a time.  For now, here's a song that makes me think of my father.  It's from a whole movie about a father and son, in fact, called Smoke Signals.

Father and Farther

Friday, March 04, 2011

What I Should Be Doing

I should be grading, answering student e-mail, or planning tests and next-week lessons.  I should be cleaning the house.  Here's what I'm doing instead:

Reconnecting with my sister-in-law (who is now my "ex" sister-in-law but will always just be my sister in my mind) by reading the blog I didn't know she had.

Enjoying the fireplace and some sweet tea and occasional glimpses of whatever adventure movie my husband is watching.

Checking Twitter for great tweets to retweet and adding my own from one of the books I'm reading, including I Am a Pencil:  A Teacher, His Kids, and Their World of Stories.  Right now the author recalls teaching Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways to See a Blackbird," and leading students to create something similar by describing something simple in different ways ... a tree, for example.  I decided to write one about a drummer but haven't finished it yet.

Here's one of my favorite lines from the original poem:

I do not know which to prefer.
The beauty of inflections
or the beauty of innuendoes.
The blackbird whistling
or just after.
I understand what the poet means because the crisp silence that comes after a bird's caw is just that... crisp, bare, open for anything.

I'm also playing some Facebook games here and there, such as Zynga Poker.  I have over a million dollars and 36 current requests.

Well, what do you know... I've just opened my work "homepage," and I may actually get something done now that I've written myself toward it.  I've graded one student's work and answered her e-mail.  It took me all of one to two minutes.  More importantly, I now have this student's face in mind, a vision of her in class with a smile, and the awareness that I don't know her well and don't talk to her much one on one.  Her grades look good; she's got a high "A."

Hey ... I just found Levar Burton and William Shatner on Twitter because they had sent tweets to each other.  Now I'm following them both.... so cool.

Back to my students.  I had to write a corrective e-mail to a student who didn't follow directions for her assignment and did not submit it properly.  Instead, she turned in the wrong material and did so by e-mail.  I feel my impatience, my irritation as I write her back a version of the same note I have to write so many times a semester to so many students, like this:

I don't know what this is.  Which class are you in?
You were supposed to...
I don't accept this by e-mail. (If I'm feeling fed up) or I typically don't accept this by e-mail, but I'll make an exception.
You've missed the deadline for this; you'll need to do extra credit to make it up.

Another student has written in with another kind of repeated question that requires a repeated answer:

The material you are looking for is ...
I explained this in class, so please ask one of your group members.
I sent an explanation via e-mail to the whole class.  Please check your e-mail.

That's all the student e-mail; I've knocked it out, and now it's time for a break.  I might even go to bed soon and see if I can get some snooze.

Friday, January 07, 2011

A Sentimental Journey at Starbucks

I just want to say that I've never appreciated more the ability to plop down in a comfortable chair with soft lighting, good jazz music, and a cup of chai AND be able to have free internet service so I can work and not be lonely ... thank you, Starbucks.

I've just come from looking at a couple of assisted living facilities for my father, who may eventually need that ... if he can, in fact, recover enough from his current medical crisis to move there.  It's too early to tell, but he's not doing so well in terms of kidney failure and mental recovery from the strokes he has had --- and he's still on a nasal feeding tube because of swallowing difficulty and related respiratory issues.

The facilities were both beautiful, immaculate, and extremely expensive.  We'll see what we can do.

This post is really just a gratitude post to all the people I meet on a daily basis who cheerfully and thoughtfully contribute to my life and the lives of my loved ones.  To the doctors, nurses, and other staff at North Fulton Regional Hospital ... to the eldercare advisor, Valerie Morse, at A Place for Mom, to the owners and caretakers at the assisted living facilities who welcome me in and take me on pleasant tours and offer me kindness... to the staff at Starbucks, who give a lot of pleasure for about minimum wage.

God bless all of them...

and playing now, "Gonna take a sentimental journey... a sentimental journey home."Sentimental Journey by Doris Day


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Entering the New Year on Birds' Wings

Owls and other birds are on my mind this morning.
Proud or timid, flying, perching, nesting, or falling from the sky,
they all demonstrate the work of a Holy Spirit,
looking, finding, interceding between man and the Being
who lives in a vast space man fears he cannot reach,
 it being so high and removed
from the steady earth on which we gather here,
always looking up.

This new year, too, we will go on seeking the face of
that God, and depending on intercessors who caw
and cheep and cry out in hunger or victory with all of us lowly beings,
and who sometimes sing like angels and even fly.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Whether God Cares What I Think

I've always been taught that God listens to my prayers, and that the purpose of prayer (primarily) is to worship Him.  I use the male gender here to refer to that God because He is the God I was raised with.  However, I now believe that the gender of God, and the very idea of gender in terms of God, is arguable.  I will leave that discussion for another day.  Anyway, I am aware of other purposes for prayer, including (without cracking open my Bible, the following):  intercession (prayer of behalf of others), supplication (a request that a need be supplied), confession (the admission of sin and request for forgiveness), fortification (a request for strength to face certain circumstances), and rededication (a renewal of one's spiritual commitment).  I can think of other reasons but I'm not sure which "-ion" word would work here:  a request for blessings on an event or union, for example, or a request for healing.  My point in making this list is to show that God wants and expects my prayers.  The least he expects is my praise.  I have been taught, however, that he does not need my prayers.  He wants a relationship, but he does not need one.  Alternatively, I find that Christians often emphasize that salvation (a prayer for which I left off my earlier list) is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Doesn't a relationship imply that two partners relate to each other?  Even assuming that one party is superior to the other --- that one is subordinate, surely the greater one is aware that the lesser one has the same feelings, aspirations, sufferings, etc. that the other has faced.  (Does God suffer?)  Christ did. 

I am making my way, slowly, to my main point, which is that I don't agree with everything God is supposed to have done and said (according to the Bible).  I think some of those Old Testament acts apparently ordered by God were evil, (example: the destruction of entire cities, including women and children) and it is this that gives me pause.  I will come back to this.  My time for writing is up. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Biting My Nails, and Other Bad Habits

I'm 44 years old. Seriously --- it's so past time for me to stop chewing on my fingernails and cuticles. It's got me thinking about how hard it can be to stop any bad but persistent habit. We actually talked about this today in my College Skills class, along with a discussion of how our core beliefs contribute to our thinking patterns, which then contribute to our emotional patterns, which then contribute to our behavior patterns. Now I'm wondering what core beliefs it is that I keep going back to that keep me thinking and feeling in the same old ways, that then keep me doing my old nail-biting behavior. I'm going to try to see if I can trace the causal chain here, going backwards.

When I bite my nails, I'm using feeling anxious and/or irritated and embarrassed by the appearance of my nails (which, ironically, leads me to make them look worse by biting on them) --- so there we have the behavior and the feeling(s). My thoughts at those times usually go something like this: "I've got to stop biting my nails. They look terrible, and my cuticles are sore. Why do I do this? God, I am so anxious, and this is ridiculous. There's nothing to be anxious about (or, alternatively, there is something to be anxious about, and I'm dwelling on that.) Now, the big question is what are the core beliefs that keep me starting the cycle all over again and lead to the thinking and feeling patterns in the first place?

One of them must be, "I am an anxious person; I'm neurotic, that's just the way I am, and I will never be able to stop biting my nails."

There may be others, but this one is apparently relentless. I've got to target it and replace it with a new core belief, which I understand is possible. I've told my students it is, so it better be.

I'm considering some of the advice offered at a website on Changing Core Beliefs. I've provided the link in this post, in case somebody else wants to try it out.

I see that the first step is to "simply stop believing" in the false belief. Really? Can I do that? In order to do this, I have to make a shift in my point of view about the belief and, more importantly, stop judging the belief." This is what I'm going to start with. Join me if you have a bad habit to break and want to get to the heart of it and finally make a change. Let me know what you think.