Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lambs of God

So, Saturday afternoon, there was a knock on the front door. When I answered it, about a half dozen young girls stood on the porch with plastic bags in their hands.

"Would you care to donate some canned goods to the food bank?" one of them asked.

"Sure," I said. "Hold on."

I went and fetched a couple cans of beans and some pears. I brought them back and put them in one of the bags. I thought I had done my good deed for the weekend, and that my transaction with these young philanthropists was complete. But, no.

Another youngster piped up through her braces. "Is there anything you'd like us to pray for you for?"

I think I did a Scooby Doo, "Hrrr-uh?" Quickly recovering, I mumbled, "Uh, no, thanks."

But, she wasn't done. "Do you know where you'll go when you die?"

This time, a Shaggy, "Zoinks!" Followed by, "No, I don't."

She had me, she thought. "Would you like to know?"

I looked at her, as kindly as possible, and said, "You can't know, and I really don't want to talk about this with you. Thanks."

And, they turned and left. Leaving me disturbed for several minutes. I felt like somehow, these proselytizing babies were being used by someone. Had I been conversion-missioned by a twelve year old? Was I supposed to engage in cosmological, philosophical, spiritual, dogmatic, ecclesiastical, and eschatological discourse with a child? Whose idea was that? It made me feel creepy, but not because of anything I did. I felt creepy about whomever organized that little children's crusade dressed up like a charitable excursion.

I mean, I'm just saying.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Anonymity Remains Intact

This week is shaping up to be a big one for the Monkeys, let me tell ya. First, I just spent the better part of an hour making three pounds of pasta. Three different kinds, all in one pot (i.e., in succession), for tomorrow's food day at school. We have a food day about once a month, organized by one of our colleagues to celebrate birthdays and such. Now, this is not to say that on other days we don't have food. We always seem to have food. But, on these special monthly days, we all pitch in to have a themed feast. This month, it's pasta. And, I am the preparer of the pasta.

Add to that, the fact that I will be taking off from work on Friday AND Monday. This is unprecedented for me. It is usually all I can do to make myself take one day off to accommodate travel, but two? It's simply decadent. I am freaking out, but, most likely, all will be well in my absence.

Of course, the big thing, the thing that is prompting this Four day weekend, is CoMo's annual True/False Film Festival. Monkey and I are heading back to the Education Capital of Missouri, home of the first land grant university west of the Mississippi, to partake of our usual bill of a dozen or so documentaries.

Looking forward to several (really all), but, to name a few in particular: War Against the Weak, and Waltz with Bashir. The film I might be most looking forward to, I don't even have a ticket for, yet: Loot. It seems that for each festival, Monkey and I want to see something different on Sunday morning. This year is no different, but, in order to facilitate our ticket purchasing, we just bought two tickets to the film she wanted to see, and I will stand in the queue for mine. I expect no problems.

I could give you a run down of the films I just mentioned, but that would be redundant, since you could simply go here to read about anything festival. Plus, at this time, I REALLY should go grade at least a half dozen essays.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Others' Words (The Thursday Edition)

I guess I am making up for lost time (and letting everyone know they can breathe a sigh of relief: I did not eat the left over sandwich). I really have nothing to write about this evening, but I've been thinking about this poem I read for the first time today. It's by the late Stanley Kunitz, a former US Poet Laureate who died in 2006, a centenarian. I remember reading a Kunitz poem to my class the day that I read the news that he died. I think they might have been more interested in the fact that he was 100. Anyway, it hit me in a good way, today, and, so, I present it to you. Here it is.

The Round

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words
I scribbled on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Long Can A Sandwich Last?

So, yesterday, probably just before the time I was metaphysicalatin' on some others' words, the Monkey House Nebraska was suffering its second major appliance breakdown. As the old song goes, "The hot water heater, she ain't heating no water no more."

Good fortune smiled on the Monkeys, however, since the demise of the hot water heater did not lead to a full-fledged release by said hot water heater. You see, often, when a hot water heater (I'm beginning to see this common name as a redundancy--why would you need to heat hot water? It would be like having a hot toast toaster, right?) gives up the ghost, it often leaks all 30-50 gal. of water (depending on the size) out onto your basement floor. It's not good. This one didn't do that. Sure, there was water on the floor, but it was slow leaking, rather than flushing all about.

At any rate, I spent the rest of last night messing with it: looking at it, draining it, shutting of the water and gas lines (not in that order, by the way), inspecting it for rust and such. We decided to have a plumber come replace it in the morning, which he did. But not before I had to go to work without any hot water (i.e., no shower). And, tonight was parent-teacher conferences for third term.

So, I looked and felt my best while facing down hordes of mostly pleasant parents. Oh, but wait, I am getting ahead of myself. See, I was distracted most of today. Mostly by the specter of P-T conferences, but also by the lack of a shower this morning. I felt like I touched my hair a lot, today. It didn't feel good.

At lunch, I was so distracted that I didn't finish my sandwich. I wrapped it back up and put it in my desk. Where, distracted by the glorious end of P-T conferences, I left it when I exited the building less than an hour ago. So, what I really need to know is will said sandwich (ham and cheese on whole wheat with mayo) be okay to eat tomorrow after sitting in my desk for all of today and half of tomorrow? My future health may depend on prompt responses.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Others' Words

I have been away, my friends. In proximity, I have been no more distant than usual, I admit. In my heart, in my mind, however, I think I have been far, far away. What brings me to this place of being and not-being? If only I knew. But, here's what I have been thinking.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This from William Wordsworth. I have been thinking that the world is too much with me. It's not an overly materialistic quality that is with me; it is not that "getting and spending" have laid my powers to waste. But, I am too much wrapped up in the matters of the world that matter to me, namely my job, and it is driving me to distraction. It is a familiar lament you have heard from me, but those several students collected in my mind, those ungraded assignments pooled in the corners of my stacks of "to do," those impending conferences penciled inevitably on my calendar seem to have a stranglehold on me right now. Too often Monkey has to ask if I am okay, as I stand by the stove pouring a cup of tea with a far off look on my face. In some ways it is just the price of doing business, but, in my more gloomily reflective moments, I wonder if I can pedal through these recurring swales of dread (for that is more than half what they are) for many more seasons.

Then again, maybe I just need it to be Spring, and fast!

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

This from HD Thoreau. Why this metaphysical crisis? [He shrugs.] Does he think there is something else out there for him to be doing? [He yawns.] Is there something that has been brewing somewhere in his creative soul? Something that he feels all mankind needs to hear or see or read in order to complete their lives? [He blinks.] Is there a song in there that has yet to be sung? [He smiles.] Why is he writing about himself in the third person? [He exits.]


I thought to regale you last week with the line up of films Monkey and I will be seeing at CoMo's T/F at the end of the month, but I didn't. And I thought I'd give you an hour by hour recap of my snow day on Friday, but I didn't. Then I thought I'd make a big deal out of the start of Spring Training, but no. This is what you get. I hope it was worth the wait.

Steering a course for clearer skies ahead.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Steelers = Oprah?

Oprah Winfrey is famous for a lot of things. One thing is that she is always (any exceptions?) on the cover of her own magazine, rightly called O.

Sports Illustrated, by the same Oprahian logic, might want to change its name to PS. For the fourth time since December 22, the Steelers are on the cover of the magazine. Sure, they won the Super Bowl (don't expect me to like it), but, how much publicity can one organization expect? I know that the media loves them some Steeler defense. Troy Polamalu is everybody's long-haired boo. And they dig on Ben Rothlisberger, one of those "he just doesn't seem that good until he beats you with ANOTHER last minute drive!!!!!" kind of quarterbacks. But, they've been cover fodder enough, and, besides, some other important things happened this past week, too, in the realm of sport. In tennis alone, two big things occurred.

First, Serena Williams won her tenth Grand Slam title. That's a big deal. Big enough to fit on the cover of a prominent sports magazine? Um, no.

As well, Rafael Nadal took the Australian Open men's title from Roger Federer in another five set slugfest that many are calling a passing of the torch from the great Swiss to the amazing Spaniard. Even if it's less significant than that, it was still a match worthy of coverdom. But, alas.

Instead, we get the Steelers. Again. Ugh. I think my bias is showing.

Monday, February 02, 2009

That Magical Day

And then a week goes by....

How does it happen?

Today is my favorite minor holiday. I decorated the teachers' office area with pictures of groundhogs, and the names of famous (and not so famous) marmots, like Octara Orphie, of Quarryville, PA; French Creek Freddy, of Buckhannon, WV; Gen. Beauregard Lee, PhD, of Atlanta, GA; and Shubenacadie Sam, of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada. Unfortunately, the grandaddy of them all, the "seer of seers and prognosticator of all prognosticators" Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, leaving us with the six more weeks of winter the calendar has promised us.

As happy as I am for that little tidbit, I am just as (actually more) disappointed with a run in I had with a student today that resulted in his being sent to the office. He was suspended later in the day, but I don't know if that was because of the misunderstanding we had had. I can't imagine that is the case, since our issue was merely a test of wills, but, it's possible that his choosing to go to the office over compliance eventually led to his suspension-inducing behavior. Whatever the case, any time a student is referred to the office, I feel like I couldn't handle my business. But, I gave the student a choice. The student made the choice. It always feels like a failure on my part, though. That's just my mentality.

And, the Steelers won yesterday....