28 September 2010

Let forgiveness beat your anger (please)

One morning, my grandpa and I were watching a televangelist lecture on the dangers of anger (strange, I know), and he turned to me and inquired "I don't think I've ever seen you get angry, do you?" I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders and answered "not really." That calm summer morning, I realized just how temperate my nature was.

I'm not an angry person - you will have to push several buttons on an already bad day if you want to get a rise out of me. But even then, my wrath won't last long. Still, I found myself irritated this week as I watched the various stages of a ridiculously drawn out argument. I felt their anger start to rub off on me, and I had to work hard not to join the fray.

Whenever I caught glimpses of their argument - I thought about how easy it would be for them to reconcile. If either person asked for forgiveness (because both were in the wrong) the strife would end. Instead, they decided to remain angry, held fast to the unhelpful position of "I'm in the right," and made us (the ones unfortunate enough to have witnessed the exchange) walk on eggshells.

I'm not sure how the quarrel ended - probably by a few mumbled "I'm sorry's" or maybe nothing at all - maybe they just got tired of bickering and moved on. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the importance of forgiveness.

Most people think forgiveness happens like the time in grade school after that guy who tripped you was forced by the teacher to repeat the words "I'm sorry" in your general direction and you, standing straight and lifting you chin said, "that's okay." I suppose in some small, pathetic way that is forgiveness. But true absolution starts in the heart of the hurt long before it's requested. Pardon should be readily accessible so as to remove any barriers hindering a relationship.

Why cling to anger, when you could forgive and move on?

Said Alexander Pope

24 September 2010

What class am I teaching today?

My current job title is a substitute teacher - I don't think I've said that before. I prefer to sub for high school students, but my bills tell me to accept anything offered. So, this week I taught some not-quite-kindergartners, some 3rd graders, and some high school students. (I also filled in for a janitor, but who wants to talk about that?)

First, the adorable 5 year olds. Well, mostly adorable. The class was actually labeled "developmental" kindergarten, which (I think) means they weren't quite ready for real school. They're the ones who haven't figured out how to write their names, struggle when counting higher than 10 (we definitely hit a wall there), or can't sit calmly during story time, etc. Anyone who knows me will recognize this isn't my area of expertise. Still, they made me laugh - "Teacher, look at the pretty zebra!" she says as she holds up a book about alligators. Yes, there was a zebra, but it was in a green mouth and nearly underwater. Pretty wasn't a word I would have used. Then, they made me shake my head in exasperation as one kid got all the others to repeat the word "poop" in a kind of prebathroom cheer. And they made me find my inner-mother and comfort the child who ran out to recess only to fall down and hit his head on a slide. One of many crying episodes, I'm afraid. I had to take a nap when I got home.

Then, I taught some 3rd graders - I suppose you could call it a promotion. Some were incredibly sweet, but all were whiny. It didn't help that sickness seems to have hit the school early and 2 went home sick. One threw up all over the bathroom before heading out. I let 4 others go down to the office for temperature checks. The rest felt good enough to talk over every lesson. I think the only time I had complete control was during read-aloud time. And I don't even like Charlotte's Web. My favorite thing about 8 year olds, however, is how suddenly everything hits them. When they figure out what I want them to do in Math - their faces light up and they just have to interrupt class to say "I got it!" When they kick a ball over the fence, it's a big surprise, even though they had come close 3 times before. When their friend says "I'm going to punch you," they still act surprised at the follow-through (we had a discussion after that incident). Ah, to live in the moment once more.

Finally, high school. I got to teach some English lessons today (my field). :) I tried to inspire some poetry, worked through a section of Beowulf, reassured them that To Kill a Mockingbird really was worth reading, and administered a practice essay test. These are things I know how to do. But after having an enormous amount of interaction with the shorter pupils of previous days, I was disappointed by how quiet high school students can be when they aren't discussing football games, who their dating, or Justin Bieber. It was pathetic. Apparently Grendel isn't impressive enough as far as monsters go. It seems Sparknotes is sufficient when studying racial tension in the South. And poetry is for emo's and they're more like hipsters. They would rather plan a banner for homecoming week. I wanted to find a soap box and tell them the importance of all the above, but the bell was about to ring.

I realize there may not be immediate gratification for these assignments, but couldn't you at least try to care? I don't understand.

Some day I'll get a classroom of my own and figure out how to inspire interest in great literary works, but until then, call me if you're feeling sick.

22 September 2010

Validation and Gratitude

I haven't included a video before, but this one is a favorite and works well with what I have to say today. It's a short film, so if you don't have 16 minutes - come back when you do.  If you're one of the 4 million people who have already seen it - don't you want to watch it again? (I would also like to give a little shout out to Bones which starts back up again tomorrow!)

Among other things, this video demonstrates the power of a compliment. I used to believe I didn't need them and that I should be able to do meaningful things without people reassuring me. But I was wrong. I thrive on compliments. I melt when a guy says I have pretty eyes. I often doubt myself and hesitate to do something without support. And while I don't need reassurance to do what is right - I constantly look for it when I going about those daily activities which seem morally neutral.

Like blogging

I started out thinking I would be comfortable posting even if no one read this blog, ever. I just wanted to start writing. But as you have started reading and started commenting - I have been given a wonderful sense of connection. I guess what I'm trying to say is thank-you. I'm grateful for the chance to share these little thoughts.

Thanks for the validation.

21 September 2010

Life - tragedy or comedy?

Horatio "Horace" Walpole once said, "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think." Little did he know how often people would state and restate his epigram.

You've probably never heard of dear Horace even though he wrote several historical works, coined the word "serendipity," and is generally credited with inventing the Gothic novel. (He was also known for over-supporting corrupt monarchs, but I'm interested only in his literary achievements.)

Anyway, I did some research on him because I wanted to know why someone would say such a thing. At first, I assumed he was a feeler having a bit of a pity-party for himself, or a thinker laughing at a well-composed satire. But as it seems, Horace was decently balanced. And even though I appreciate the wit - I have to believe this particular quotation is misguided.

I would have expected Mr. (Sir?) Walpole to have recognized this either/or fallacy. Maybe he did, but ignored it. Life is neither a comedy nor a tragedy - it is a mixture of the sorrow that makes us stronger (or bitter), and the joy that lifts our spirits (or makes us complacent). If you think the world is tragic (as you might after hearing/seeing this moving piece of music), take a step back and look at a bigger picture - one where there are people working to make it better (like the songwriter and the artists spreading awareness).

One moment life looks tragic, another makes you laugh at it's comedy. Therefore, I confront the fickle-feeler in me with the knowledge that this life is not a logical fallacy and remind the detached analytical in me to be willing to feel sadness as well as happiness.

18 September 2010

Conversation with a door (or, What one writes after reading too much Emily Dickinson)

I've opened you and closed you - 
felt the wind move as you passed.
I've left you ajar plenty of times
but shut you when there's a draft.

I've waved at people seen outside
and welcomed a few elect.
I've shoved a few intruders out
and slammed you for effect.

I've pressed my ear against you -
listened at great length.
I've rested my head upon you
and trusted in your strength.

What more then can you ask of me?
There's nothing more to do.
Well, save that little, tiny thing,
but I don't see the need, do you?

16 September 2010

A list of people I love to follow on Twitter

I'm relatively new to Twitter. I wasn't going to jump on that bandwagon, but then I saw a TED talk and warmed up to the concept. Then I thought about how great it would be to receive news updates while I'm online. I also thought about how well I could keep track of the musicians I love. Finally, I broke down and got a twitter account.

Now I follow (gasp) 92 people/groups and actually know a few breaking news stories before my dad (something I've been working on for years). I have also found some very amusing, intriguing, and inspiring people to follow. So, I decided to make a list.

*Deppisch - I don't know who he is, but he can be hilarious. Example: "He wasn't playing a piano, but "Sing us a song, you're the harpsichord playing guy." didn't have the same ring. #RockRetractions."
*Book of Odds - I never know where their links will take me, but it's always interesting.
*Yesterday Today -  Appeals to the history buff in me. They send a few tweets everyday of things that happened on the same date, only maybe a hundred years ago.
*XIANITY - It's better to follow if you are part of those various religious circles with laughable quirks - but hilarious in general.
*SoulPanake - I'm not sure where I found this site, but thanks to whoever sent me there. Latest: "Is a slinky by any other name still a slinky?"
*Arjunbasu - By far my favorite guy to follow. He tweets mini-stories. Consistently impressive. Example: "The sadness in the room was pervasive, like humidity. There had been no closure. Just unfulfilled desire in the form of an empty cookie jar." 
*BestFilmQuotes - Because I love quotes and because I love movies. Best one I've found.
*Bright Quotes - Quotes that make me feel smarter.
*Paste Magazine - My favorite place to find new artists. Also, my friend interned there.
*Fake AP Stylebook - Humorous, fake writing tips. Love it.
*Paulo Coelho - Constantly amazes me with his depth of compassion, kindness, and wisdom. Everyone should read at least one of his books.

Who do you love? 'Twould be better to follow 100 people than a mere 92.

13 September 2010

Just Doing It

On the right I've included a link to 43things.com. It's a goals site. A place where you make a list (up to 43 things) of what you want to do. You can cheer others and post regarding your progress. Not meaning to sound like an ad, but I loved using as a bridge to start writing more, start sharing more, and ultimately start blogging.

This summer I made it a goal to run/jog 50 miles. By nature I'm more of a walker - about 2 miles a day - but I knew to lose weight I needed to step it up. I decided to make myself start jogging. I had 3 months to do it and a sister who agreed to join me in my quest, so I felt pretty confident. And I made it through the first 25 miles just fine. Well, a lot of huffing and puffing, but all in all, I was on the right track. (so many unintended puns in this post)

Then the summer got busier. I did some traveling. My sister's work schedule changed so she couldn't run with me. My normal jogging place flooded. And I got out of the habit. I went from jogging 3 times a week, to jogging once every other week. My thoughts dwelt more and more on all the things I preferred about walking, and I started bemoaning all the things I hated about running.

Quick example: When you walk, people look at you, then lose interest and look away. When you run - people watch until you pass them, and probably continue to watch. Not all people, of course, but most. It's creepy. (To clarify, I don't stare, but when your peripheral vision is triggered by a person's head turn, you notice.) I've glared; I've ignored; I've started wearing sunglasses so I could steal glances and we wouldn't make awkward eye-contact - they also work to block my peripherals.

Anyway, during this period of low motivation, I came across a quote I recorded years ago. C.S. Lewis once said "Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him." I kept it because I liked what it said about love, but now I realize it transcends just one idea.

I took this picture while walking, you can't do that when jogging
If you want something done in your life. You need to do it. Then do it again. And when it gets so hard you don't think you will be able to keep going. Do it anyway. The habit comes later. Behave the way you wish you did, and your nature will follow. I finished those miles this morning and it felt great. No more do I dread waking up to run. Instead, I anticipate the sight of a beautiful morning sky, the feel of fresh air flowing through my lungs, and the sound of the steady cadence my shoes make on the ground.

11 September 2010

Dreams vs Reality

My dreams are brief and hard to hold
lasting seconds before they're cold.

They live a minute, sometimes less,
But for those moments I can think
One day I'll be the greatest . . .

(friend sister daughter
teacher writer motivator
musician poet philosopher)

. . . this world could ever see.

For sixty seconds I imagine myself
having an impact in the world,
making it better.

That brief moment fills me up,
lighting my face and lifting my features
until I could almost burst.

But then reality sets back in
throwing a blanket over my passion
smothering its flames.

I remember my limitations
my faults and inadequacies

No - my dreams will never last
Reality is too strong,
too stifling.

I return to my stoic self
and wait
for the next precious minute
to live.

07 September 2010

Thoughts after painting my room

I know it looks busy, but I like being surrounded by books
I redecorated my room this week (see picture). I was going for classy, so even though I love color, I ended up going with a plain beige hue for the walls (although I am calling it white-chocolate mocha). While I was painting, organizing, hanging pictures, and doing everything else that goes with said process, a few ideas occurred to me. I record them here for you in a format reminiscent of report card comments.

1) Does not paint well with others - I found out very quickly that when I am painting a room, I want to do it myself. You can help me move heavy items, and perhaps give advice, but when it comes to painting - don't try to pick up a brush or roller and help. I am way too critical to appreciate it. When I paint, I go over and over my work to make sure there are no flaws. When you paint, however, I have to either fix it while your back is turned, try to let you know without sounding judgmental, or let it be. If you wish to remain friends, just don't try to help.

2) Is organized, but a bit cluttered - I have soooooo much stuff. The picture includes just 2 bookshelves of my things. I know I'm a bit of a pack-rat, but where did this stuff come from? And now that I have become more environmentally conscious, I don't want to throw any of it away - I want to put it to use. Maybe I should take a trip to Salvation Army.

3) Easily distracted, needs better focus - I found the right bedspread (thanks Kohl's), painted  rather quickly, and arranged the bigger items in no time, but when it came to putting away all my books, trinkets, and other books, I was quite a bit slower.

4) Has matured since last quarter - While I was hoping to add some color to the walls, I couldn't come up with a properly subdued combo that wasn't overly cliched already (see red, black, and white). But the effect is what I wanted. My way of transitioning into the adult world. (My last room was pastel-themed and had an overabundance of hearts and stuffed animals - uplifting perhaps, but juvenile as well.)