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Shift Happens.

img_3280Shift Happens.
When I studied poetry with 9th graders, I told them to look for the “shift” in a poem. “Shift happens,” I’d declare. The poem may begin with a young girl crying over a loss in her life, but then end with an epiphany about acceptance of life’s impermanence. “Notice where the poem changes course,” I’d advise. There they could discover the poem’s kernel of truth.
Making sense of this recent political shift is a challenge. I read one comment that stated, “The people have spoken. Deal with it.” However, the popular vote did not go with the guy who won. The majority of voters SPOKE for Hillary. How do we all deal with the discrepancy? I do not believe the election was rigged or flawed, but I feel utter disbelief and confusion that so many voters supported a person I consider a bully and an instigator.
I taught public school for 34 years, and I saw kids from ages 5 to 17 who acted like this person does. I dealt with fearful, ignorant bullies who mimicked and insulted other students who were different. I handled these public assaults by counseling both the bully and his/her target. Other times I dealt with trouble-makers who tried to start fights in classes and in courtyards by using prejudice and hate to spur others to violence. Often these ringleaders would stir up the more impressionable or discontented kids in an effort to create chaos. These were kids and teens. How do we deal with adult bullies and instigators?
Calm and rational words do not tame people full of unpredictable bluster and unnecessary tantrums. How did a person who blurts out immature insults and encourages others to chant asinine threats gain the most powerful position in our government? And how do the people who voted against him handle our new reality? There is no ISS (In School Suspension) or expulsion for this bully. We are charting new territory now. Teachers often guide students who have opposing views to listen to one another and to learn how to compromise and collaborate. Who will guide this self-obsessed bully?
Let me remember that “Shift happens” in life as well as in poetry. Our country has felt a monumental shift. I have given up on predictions and likelihoods. Anything can happen. Right this moment fear and worry rule my head, yet I do not know what this major shift will bring us. All of us need to be observant and vigilant. Instead of whining and crying, let us use intelligence, wisdom, and strength to outwit instigators and out-maneuver bullies. Bullies may sometimes be beaten with hate and violence. However, blustery bullies may also be subdued with clever elements of surprise. If we reach out and connect with those whose views are different from ours, if we seek to understand and to learn from our differences, we may navigate this frightening shift in productive ways. The shift HAS happened. Now let us seek to understand its message. I am still confused, but I do know we all need to learn from each other and work at finding new American epiphanies. More of us have to come together and cooperate to navigate this new SHIFT.img_3282

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Don’t Forget the Elderly

Add these thoughts to John Prine’s “hello in There” message.

EttingerWriting.com

By David Ettinger

I recently came across this gut-wrenching poem, written by an elderly women living in a nursing home, and obviously someone who tragically does not know Christ. The author’s name is not known. Here it is.

A Crabby Old Woman
What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
Is this what you think, when looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try!”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe!

Who resisting and not lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes; you’re looking at me!

I’ll tell…

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October 12, 2016

Strong, timely thoughts!! by Shane Gannaway

Here Are Things You Can Read

hillary_1_1971

 taking a crack
at fall,

future leaders

smile smartly.

oh! how cute & rich.
later they’ll learn to bomb

people in a pinch
& look less-than-demonic

next to a devil
in orange dust with a golden
handle, dick, ego.

what does this november
hold for us? we all smile
sweetly,

wondering what will wave
up on our proverbial shores.
you haven’t heard, dear. it’s
death, far & near. tsk, tsk

your vote matters. don’t be
defeatist. a brown body burning

only scars those who see it. our news
knows how to let us sleep at night.
we’re america anyway, we’re right.
we can bury dead ethically. we fight
for freedom, and god, we look good doing it.

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Poulette

(I read this at my mom’s memorial last year).

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My momma’s nickname is Poulette, Cajun for lil chicken, because she was always pecking around, picking up, cleaning, cooking, just always moving. Growing up I remember Momma always with a dishrag in her hand, ready to clean any surface she passed.
I have many Momma memories, and one of my favorites involves my sweet Poulette and a hibou, Cajun for owl. I was about 17 years old and I awoke in the middle of the night to sounds in the front of our house. I hesitantly walked towards the sound until I reached the kitchen. Perched in our kitchen sink was a large barn owl! It was white, brown, and gray and about two and a half feet tall. We stared at each other in quiet surprise, and then I rushed to my parents’ bedroom.
“Momma, Dad, wake up! There’s an owl in the kitchen!”
“Wha? Huh?” my dad said.
“I swear there’s a big owl in the sink!”
Dad just rolled over started snoring.
Momma was already putting her robe on and coming my way. “A hibou? Let’s go,” she said. We cautiously approached the kitchen and stopped about four yards from the sink and had a staring contest with the owl. After a minute of silence, Momma went to the utility room for her broom. Silently, I motioned to her that I would open the back door as she shooed the owl outside. This seemed like a sensible plan until our blind cat Cupid dashed inside as soon as I opened the door and Momma was waving the broom at the owl. I started screaming, worried the owl would attack Cupid. Momma turned her broom to Cupid and yelled “Chat! Chat!” as she swept the cat toward the back door. Cupid quickly ran outside.
The owl did not budge.
The cat commotion shook both of us up, and Momma held the broom shakily.
Suddenly the owl flew out of the sink and toward our small den. At the same time, Momma and I were yelling and running out of its path. Then the hibou settled on a foot stool in the den. Next, Momma and I ended up in a short hall near the living room. Standing close to the front door we suddenly had the same idea: Open both front and back doors to create a draft so the owl knew where to escape! As I propped open the front door, Poulette Momma bravely raised her broom and advanced toward the hibou. My 5’ 2”, 100 pound mom, who shrieked and hid when she saw a small lizard, now had warrior bravery. Cowardly, I held the back door way open so it totally covered me as I peeped at the mighty Poulette’s face-off with that hibou. The owl had been looking longingly out the huge picture window in the den, and then he did that slow creepy head turn as Poulette neared.
With her broom above her head, Poulette yelled,”Shoo! Shoo!” and she lowered the broom and swept the air around his feet. The bird blinked twice, opened his wings, and smoothly flew out the back door as I cheered from my hiding place. Momma’s courage expanded as she whooped and continued sweeping the intruder out of her home.
“We did it!” I bragged as Poulette and I hugged and danced by the door. “What a big hibou!,” my momma declared. “But not too big for a poulette with a broom,” I said. She hugged me again, laughed, and said, “I gotta sit down.” So we sat in the kitchen and drank coffee and laughed.
We never did find out how the owl made its way into our house. Maybe it was stunned or slightly hurt and a strong wind blew the back door open, so it wandered in. Maybe some prankster put it in our house.
The Hibou Mystery has become part of our family folklore. However, one part of that story holds no mystery whatsoever. Poulette has heroic bravery when it comes to protecting her “chicks.” My Momma may have ended up in a wheelchair and she no longer rushed about the house cleaning and organizing her family’s lives. But when she looked at me with her crystal-blue eyes and gave me her pure-love smile, I still saw the spark from her brave spirit that chased the owl from our kitchen many years ago.

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a simmer is coming

A poem by my oldest son, a groovy poet (and of course I am totally unbiased).

Here Are Things You Can Read

There is a heat that rises up off the road
this time of Texas. It is supernatural.

You don’t even have to be adjacent. Stand 100
yards from a hot blacktop and still get smacked

in the face by it while you were expecting a cool breeze.
Only shelter is underwater it seems

sometimes. You got your swim holes and pools all over,
but if they’re good, they’re crowded. Even in the parking
lot of some chlorinated oasis you can see that summer-ghost shimmer
spread out over the cars and soon-to-be swimmers. It ain’t even past spring yet.

Get pool noodles fast, buy water guns before the demand goes high,
and pack up on popsicles and push-pops; a simmer is coming.

Just you wait till. We’re gonna feel the boil this time, baby.
The wind will drop, clouds will cease to speckle the sky, and hell is gonna hit hard.

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Rodents of Worry

Rodents of Worryscary attic 1

Rodents rule our attic.
Hopefully raccoons,
Maybe rats,
Or both!

XYZ Pest Control finds holes in the water heater’s door.
They spray wolf urine scent and set big traps
To frighten our Intruders.

We listen at night;
We wait and we pray,
Hoping the rodents retreat.

Rodents also rule my mind.
Raccoons of worry,
Rats of fear,
Both run rampant!

Friends and family sense my sources of anxiety.
They offer advice and tell me they care
To free me from my stress.

I listen and learn;
I read and I pray,
Hoping my rodents retreat.raccoonfamilyatnight

 

 

 

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What I Learned this Semester

henry james quote

  1. My keys to contentment are connections and balance.brass-key
  2. Not everyone’s keys or locks are the same.
  3. Social media is not always a devil.
  4. Technology is a fickle friend.
  5. Vlogs and “vines” create a kind of reflective “writing.”
  6. Four hours makes for a lonnnng class.
  7. Math, like riding a bike, will come back to you if you give it a try.
  8. Poetry does not appeal to everyone.
  9. Poetry does speak and will be heard in surprising places.
  10. Students, even studious ones, will SLACK.
  11. millieHaters gonna hate, BUT you don’t gotta hold on to their hate!
  12. Noticing is necessary.
  13. Only your dog and a baby 7 months old or younger give you unconditional love.
  14. I truly do “get by with a little help from my friends.”
  15. Learners learn more with time for reflection.
  16. Directions for cfriendslass assignments can never be too specific.
  17. Revision rules!
  18. Inspiration sneaks up on me and tests me and opens doors both dangerous and wonderful.
  19. People are NEVER too old to learn from the young.
  20. People are OFTEN too young to remember to learn from the old.
  21. Not even gumbo can lure everyone to a “final” gathering.chicken-gumbo
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Wabi-Sabi, Ya’ll!

Simply stated, wabi-sabi refers to a Japanese world view that embraces and finds beauty in life’s imperfection and transience.  This kind of philosophy sums up how I feel about not accepting the world’s pressure to be perfect.  I’m a “cracked plate,”a failed ponytail, and a lopsided cake.  I don’t believe advertisers’ lies that say that beauty is defined by a woman’s slender hips and perfect make-up or a man’s thick hair and perfect pecs.   As Robert Herrick once observed in his poem “Delight in Disorder,”

“A careless shoe-string, in whose tiewabi sabi cup
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.”
Since I lead a sorta careless and crooked existence, I have the frequent urge to declare, “Wabi-Sabi!” in my daily life:
As I look at my backyard and notice that the weeds outnumber the blades of grass,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I hurriedly pull on tights just minutes before hurrying to a dress-required affair and I notice a thigh-high hole,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I’m handing out the semester exam I spent 3 hours and 17 minutes typing using the “hunt & peck” finger method and I see that the word “How” is typed twice on the last question on page 2,
Wabi-Sabi!
As I lovingly hold my momma’s favorite coffee cup with the small chip on its floral base,
Wabi-Sabi!
Mess-ups and crack-ups and even fuck-ups do not a disaster make!
That deep scratch on the right back corner of Grandma’s antique end table does not diminish its beauty or value. That scratch is where my  younger sister suddenly dropped a brass bud vase when she had a grab a watch battery from  my one-year-old niece’s little fist on its way to her mouth one Christmas Eve.
When I practice acceptance over perfection, I am so much more in tune with this very messy life.
Wabi-Sabi, Ya’ll!
wabi sabi sign
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A Little Bit Out of my Depth

David Bowie once said the following in an interview:

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“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you are not working in the right area.  Always go a lil farther in the water than you feel capable of being in; go a lil bit out of your depth and just when you don’t feel that your feet are capable of touching the bottom, then you’re just about in the right area to do something exciting.”

I feel like I’m totally working in the right area these days!

When you start a new job or take on a new responsibility at work, you often can feel “out of your depth.”  However, such challenges often get your adrenaline flowing and your creative juices going, and cool things may happen.

So teaching an education class at the university level has been both an over-whelming and a thrilling teaching experience.  First, I was faced with hours and hours of preparation as I learned about the course I was to teach , the students I would have, the department I was part of, and the university as a whole.

My guiding stars were “Connections and Balance” as I melded traditional teaching tools (composition book journals) with a bit of the new literacies (blogging).  Also, I made sure each class I taught included teaching strategies I had found successful in my 33 years of teaching public school .

So far, I have totally enjoyed this semester.  My students are talented, creative, quick-witted, and eager to become teachers.  They cooperate well with each even though they have very unique personalities.

One of my favorite memories so far was the second week of school when we shared “stunning sentences” from things we had read, and we made a class poem with those beautiful lines, stood in a circle, and read that poem aloud.  Right then and there, I realized that even though we were not all English majors (our group represented health, math, and history as well as English), we all recognized and appreciated powerful words.  We made a poster out of our sentences, and as students left class that day, a non-English major stopped to take a picture of the poem with her phone.  So I did likewise.  IMG_2256

A successful day in class was last week when my students taught mini-lessons.  Such variety!  We studied irony in a short story, took a sleep survey to understand connections between sleep and exercise, worked an Einstein-level word problem, examined part of a presidential speech and considered a cell phone phenomenon called “Phantom Vibration Syndrome.”  These future teachers displayed poise in front of the class and all used “choice words” to build a safe and respectful classroom atmosphere.

My biggest challenge so far is learning more about education’s “new literacies.”  The technology can be so daunting to me that one of my students had to help me with something as basic as showing a video clip!  I’m trying to face my nervousness around computers and my distrust of the iCloud, so I  now return to my Bowie quote.

beach waves

As a child, I vacationed in Pensacola, Florida every summer, and I loved, loved, loved playing in the waves.  I embraced the excitement of swimming out as far as I could to get beyond the breaking of the waves.  As my sisters and I got to the place where we could only touch the sandy bottom with our tippy-toes, the thrill increased.  In my new job I’m reminded of that lil bit of danger mixed with the adrenaline of pushing my limits to try something exciting.  And doesn’t most new learning  involve that same sort of rush?

 

 

 

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Teacher Gratitudes

The reasons why I am thankful to be a teacher:

  1.  The students.  For over 33 years, they have given me wisdom, laughter, challenges, and hope.
  2. Other teachers.  For over 59 years, they have shared lessons, advice, struggles, stories and laughs.
  3. The support staff.  For over 54 years, they have kept schools clean, safe,helpful, friendly, and amusing places.
  4. Administrators. For over 35 years, they have offered me guidance and support mixed with conflict resolution and funny ways to grow.
  5. Parents and guardians.  For 34 years, they have provided valuable background information, new insights into parenting, and witty comments.
  6. Books.  For over 59 years they have given me creative and inspiring ways to learn and to interact with my crazy and funny world.
  7. Movies.  For over 55 years they have made me laugh, cry, wonder, and dream.
  8. Music.  For over 59 years songs have helped me make sense of all that is serious and silly in my life.
  9. Family and friends.  For all my life, they have given me perspective and laughter and love to sustain me in the teaching profession.
  10. Nature.  For as long as I can remember, the great outdoors with its wonder and its wicked sense of humor has provided me with both beauty and danger.
  11. Strangers.  For probably 56 0r 57 years they have surprised me in sweet,helpful ways, or they frustrated  me in thoughtless, ridiculous ways.

So I suppose, in retrospect, I can thank teaching for helping me develop an advanced sense of humor!

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