Posted in Balance, Holidays

I Dread Christmas

I Dread Christmasimg_1589

Like the cliched tangle of several strands of colored lights, I am a mess of knotted stress and on-and-off joy. For me, the Christmas smiles and laughs of surprise get swept away by the demands and deadlines of consumerism. First of all, why do we put so much money, effort, and worry into a holiday season? We spend hours spending dollars we cannot easily spare on presents most folks do not truly need or want. We drag out dusty decorations and spend more hours making our homes “merry and bright” for a few weeks of over-hyped, commercialized holiness. Why?
Perhaps when I was a kid or when my 20-something sons were kids, I enjoyed the getting and the giving. Back then we had Santa’s magic and loads of brand new playthings. Now I mainly see just the aftermath of the Christmas explosion: cookie crumbs, dirty napkins, discarded toys, and dead pine needles. And after the overdone turkey, off-key caroling, and cranky kids, all the cleaning and organizing and putting away looms large. Why?
I know. I know. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how do days and days of shopping and decorating and shopping and planning and shopping and cleaning and shopping and cooking and shopping and traveling and shopping and visiting and shopping add up to celebrating the birth of a savior who praised love over possessions?
Call me Scrooge or the Grinch or just a grumpy old lady. This is my truth. Christmas comes too soon and demands too much from our bank accounts and our time sheets. I enjoy holiday time with my family . I savor our delicious holiday meal. I enjoy the thrill of opening presents (and watching others do the same). I still get misty-eyed when singing Christmas carols. But I need to turn the whole thing down several notches. Today is December 14 and I have not bought my sons a single present. May I stick with my “single gift for each person” plan. My home has not a single decoration. May we simply trim the tree on December 24 and call it Christmas.
A picture of a Finnish proverb is taped above my desk:
“Happiness is a place between too little and too much.”img_3375
May this thought rule my life and especially my Christmas this year. A shorter and simpler holiday leaves me more time for true joy and peace.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Little Bit Out of my Depth

David Bowie once said the following in an interview:


“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?