Monday, December 22, 2008

152 insights

Seeing as I am only on my fortieth post, I have made the decision that I shall end at 152, as I jokingly considered at the onset of this venture. Of course, since it has taken me nearly a year and a half to get just over a fourth of that number, I guess I won't being discontinuing the blog any time soon.

Still, this number gives me a goal to shoot for, an end to anticipate, an inevitably anticlimactic moment to await. Maybe I'll even give away a "You've Got Mail" gift basket to mark the occasion. I'm already planning it:

                • the movie, of course
                • the soundtrack
                • a copy of Pride and Prejudice with a scarlet rose
                • Boy, by Roald Dahl
                • a pop-up dinosaur book
                • hot tea and a mug
                • a small Starbucks gift card
                • Echinacea and Vitamin C
                • Tic-Tacs
                • Scotch tape
                • a bouquet of sharpened pencils
                • daisies or daisy-themed items
                • a box of Kleenex
                • an embroidered handkerchief
                • Anne of Green Gables
                • Blue, by Joni Mitchell, on which "River" appears
                • "twinkle lights" and funky ornaments
                • a mango
                • a Clark bar
                • a lone reed
                • an "I ♥ NY" item
                • a dollar
                • the Shoe books by Noel Streatfeild, except for The Skating Shoes (It really is out of print, and you won't believe how much it costs on Amazon.*)
Okay, so this basket is getting really huge and expensive, but it may be years away, right? Perhaps I'll have married my rich old man by then. Tell me, fellow diehard fans, have I left anything important out? I mean, that's affordable and small? Cans of olive oil are too big, and caviar is, of course, out of the question!

Update: The Skating Shoes is back in print, so that old Amazon link takes you to a paperback for $6.99. Yay!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How old is way too old? (or way too young?)

Yesterday my wonderful doctor, who said she's no matchmaker and doesn't usually do this sort of thing, suggested setting me up with a pharmaceutical sales rep she knows. He's a great guy, never married, who's been waiting for the right one. He really wants to get married and have children. The problem? He's in his 40s! She doesn't know whether he's 41, or 45, or (gasp!) even older.

So whaddya say? Would one blind date hurt? Or is he just way too old? I've got the biblical example of Boaz and Ruth, I suppose, on the side of going for it (and according to tradition, Joseph and Mary). Then there's the literary examples of Emma and Mr. Knightley, Jane and Rochester, etc. But ewww.

Such a weird age, 30. Especially when you're a total innocent (and a young-looking one at that) in the dating world. I had a former student (about 20 yrs. old) practically flirting with me the other night on facebook, telling me I wasn't old and talking about all the cougars at the bars in Statesboro. This after a sixth grader had told me the day before that I'd look like a model if my hair were blowing in the wind and I got some fly (or "fie" (fire)--don't know which term he used) clothes, not those old-lady church clothes I wore to work! Don't worry. I shushed him and explained the inappropriateness. No Mary Kay LeTourneau here.

But still. Seems I've always had little children and old men in love with me. Very few fellas of the right age have ever asked me out. Am I old before my time...or just frightfully immature?

Got any suggestions for dating my age--as opposed to my shoe size (10) or my hip measurement (ahem...)???

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ubiquitous Metonymy (or, shut up and find a new way to talk about me!!)

Metonymy (defined here) is a useful and sometimes lovely tool in our language. Because of it, we have these lines from Robin Hood (forever etched in my memory by the LP of the movie we absolutely wore out as children): "Traitor to the crown?!! That crown belongs to King Richard!" In these two sentences, crown moves from a metonymic reference to royalty (Prince John at the time) to a literal reference to the crown that "keeps slipping down around that pointed head." Metonymy allows us to refer to President Bush's administration as The White House. Such references to the domicile on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue make sense to us in a kind of shorthand: we automatically register that a sentence talking about "The White House's revised plan for an economic bailout" isn't talking about the house at all.

So, yeah, metonymy's a good thing. I love it. I love that Fleet Street still stands for the London press, even though the actual street is mainly shops now, and the papers do their printing elsewhere. I love that the term Wall Street makes it easy for us to refer to our financial system in such an efficient way. English is cool like that.

But...(and you knew a but was coming!) since when did the American people become Main Street? Oh, yeah, I'm sure it was cute the first fifty or sixty times folks made this reference. I'm sure its originators were thinking, "Look, repetition is cool: I repeat the word street, I get everyone's attention. I reference a street that invokes small-town America and baseball and apple pie, ZING! Now they're listening." Of course, one has to think that if a politician or pundit had made this choice back in the Ozzie and Harriet days, the street would have been Maple or Elm, but we have Rod Serling and Wes Craven to thank for Main Street's making the cut.

So somebody started saying it. Obama may have been the first, but who knows? Anyway, he started saying it. And then McCain started saying it. And then every single newscaster on the planet started saying it. And after everybody started saying it, something fundamentally changed about what Main Street was, and is, and evermore shall be. It went from somebody's cutesy idea of a soundbite-worthy metaphor to straight-up metonymy, a convenient shorthand for middle-class America that has become about as common as, well, apple pie.

It doesn't get on my nerves because it's stupid, though it is. I mean, if we're going to be reduced to a street name, it might as well be a name that makes sense. Isn't Main Street usually comprised of businesses, restaurants, the post office, etc.? The folks using this shorthand aren't talking about small-town business, but about our houses, our bank accounts. We are Main Street.

Nope. I'm not reacting to the stupidity of it, but the ubiquity. We are lazy creatures. Blessed with the vast resources of our amazing English language, we consign ourselves to the vapid metaphors someone else impressed us with a few days ago. Makes me think of Jim Carrey's line from Dumb and Dumber, when the waitress defines the soup du jour as "the soup of the day": "That sounds good. I'll have that." It's kind of like plagiarism, isn't it? I mean, I just don't understand why EVERYBODY has to say the same thing in the same way! Do reporters and politicians repeat these buzzwords and catchphrases because they want us to catch something, or are have they themselves been overtaken by the viral words that latch on to those with the weak immune system of poor vocabulary?

I'm not saying I'm immune by any stretch of the imagination--my vocabulary is rather limited, my metaphors often threadbare. In fact, I completely understand the malady. Several regrettable words remain so ingrained in my speech that I may be attempting to expunge them for the rest of my life: like (for as if), cool, totally, etc. Fortunately, I totally let go of proverbial like way before it stopped being cool to everyone else.

But I don't make my living talking to thinking adults. My every word is not judged, except by God and maybe the occasional reader of this blog (and you're all occasional readers now that I never post!) The press, the pundits, the future President (whoever he may be)--all these folks are smart enough to figure out how to kill the overkill and at least move us to MLK Boulevard, or the 'burbs. Or better yet, lose the metonymy and just call us who we are: Americans, taxpayers, voters, PEOPLE.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

White lady rap

I've warned some of my classes that every time they start to beat on the tables they will be subject to a lame white lady rap. I hadn't had to follow through with my threat until yesterday, when my sixth graders would not stop making beats and quietly mumbling raps. So Mi' D started spitting rhymes:
It's lame, it's lame
Mi' Dean and her rhymes is lame
White lady oughtta feel ashamed
If it weren't for Taylor and James*
Fifth block could be reclaimed
Yes, I know I only rhymed the same sound, but it impressed sixth graders for me to come up with that pretty much on the spot (yeah, I did have the "lame" bit in my head already, but they didn't know that). See, I'm writing...

*my rowdiest students in that class--not an ironic reference to my beloved Mr. Taylor

Lessons from my job (warning, boring post ahead)

So, I know I haven't posted in forever, that it's more like 35 insights into my soul rather than 152, that my faithful readers have all but given up on me (hello, Erin, are you reading this?)...but I just haven't been inspired to write. Even though I love writing essays and poems, I have never been much of a journaler. I'm such a prolific talker, you know--so good and analyzing and over-analyzing myself and my little world verbally that I've never done it much on paper. I've journaled a good bit in the past when I had a ridiculous new crush on someone, or was going through some kind of crisis, but besides that, no. I've often thought that if I become a famous writer some day (uh, Leah...that would require that you do some WRITING--hush, self!), that there won't be much to publish in the way of personal papers. Of course, if I had the kind of job that gave me lots of time for reflection, I'd make myself write everyday, no matter what. I've had some excellent results in the past from forcing myself to write. But I'm not there right this minute.

Anyway, folks have been wondering about my job. Well, I've learned a few things in 9 weeks.

1. South Georgia is not Middle Georgia. Some of the comments about the South that I've bristled at all my life seem a little bit more warranted down that-a-way.

2. I am not an artist.*  I love art, and I like to make crafts, but I am a word person. I miss talking and thinking about words and ideas.

3. I was not meant to be an art teacher.* Paper has always been a problem for me, what with all the written assignments of the language arts classroom--stacks to be graded, stacks to be returned, etc. Now there's paper everywhere. And broken crayons. And charcoal dust. And glue. And paint.
And clay. And bits of wire. And crumpled up pieces of Leah's sanity.

4. I'm done with the public school (or private, for that matter) classroom. I've tried different grades, different subjects, and different schools, and I'm convinced that this profession is not something I want to spend any more of my life on. I haven't ruled out college, but we'll see.

5. God is sovereign. Yes, I already knew this, but I've realized that whether this was a horrible decision that He's working together for good, or the right decision that just happens to be really hard, divine purposes are being accomplished. Whether it's loving a kid who doesn't get much attention at home, or learning how to be more disciplined, or sharpening my French skills (by podcast!) on my long commute (yes, there could be divine purpose in learning French!!!), or being a good friend to some of my colleagues, there's a reason for this season. Pray that I'll keep this attitude and get my mind right. So far, I haven't been handling it too well.

2017 update: 
*I no longer consider this to be accurate. I am definitely an artist. While words are my preferred medium, I wouldn't be whole without creating visual art as well.
**Ha, ha, ha. Only what I've done for the past 4 and a half years--in elementary, no less. Still finding bits of my sanity everywhere amongst ribbon scraps and marker lids.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

From the Vault

It has been three years since I went to London, and it occurs to me that very few of my friends have seen the great little video that my friend Jenny did of our trip.

Warning: Please do not be offended by Jenny's first song choice ("Let's Get Retarded/It Started in Here"), her occasional spelling errors, or some highly offensive white knee socks that yours truly is shown wearing.

Otherwise, enjoy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Click on the baby horsey for a moment and let us contemplate the existence of such creatures.

Not the horsey--he's cute--the folks who would pay that much money for him. Pretty sickening, eh?

Update: The link no longer shows the price, but he was 209 dollars!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

To be spiritually minded...

On Wednesday, I spent several hours facepainting a bunch of middle schoolers for a special AR celebration. "AR" is Accelerated Reader, a program in which students earn points for taking comprehension tests on books they have read; the celebration was for those who had met their grade-level point goal. I didn't get an exact count, but I know I painted around 40 kids at least. It was a fun time in spite of my soreness from sitting in a strange position all day and from the sunburn on my neck. I love being artistic and interacting with kids, so the day was right up my alley.

That evening at intercessory prayer, though, I realized what an opportunity I had missed. In those hours spent painting wolves and initials and soccer balls and ballet shoes, my hands touched dozens of little faces. In serving them, I believe I served Christ, but how much more could I have served Him if I truly were spiritually minded? If my first thought were the spiritual instead of the natural, I could have asked the Lord for words of knowledge, and without saying a word, prayed back to Him the things He was showing me. I could've asked Him for specific encouragement to give to each child who sat down in my chair.

Of course I interact with people all the time without feeling like I've missed something, but it was the fact of physically touching so many people in one day without really thinking about God and his purposes for them that really struck me later on. Is the anointing that breaks the yoke on me or isn't it? Does the power that raised Christ from the dead dwell in my mortal body or doesn't it? Though I can think of no sin I committed in my time facepainting, I definitely failed to seize the day.

Aren't there so many days like that? We haven't done anything wrong, but what have we done that's right? I'm not talking about being so heavenly minded we're no earthly good--we have to live here in these physical bodies and do the day-to-day mess that constitutes a life--but I am talking about an intentionally spiritual mindset, a choice to think with the mind of Christ. I want to wake up with some divine initiative, a heart that says
Where's a need I can meet?
Let's pray about that right now!
Why don't we look and see what God's
word has to say about it?
You blessed me today!
What can I do to serve you?
I love you!

This is my Tres Dias/Vida Nueva/New Attitude heart, but I want it to be my default attitude, my automatic response, my repent-quickly-and-get-it-back mindset. "For to be carnally minded is death," Romans 8:6 tells us, "but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." I want to stay there.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another poem from my thesis that will never be published

Again, not good enough, but definitely an insight into my soul.


My mom thinks Harry Potter’s probably wickedness,
but this is progress. When I was five, Rapunzel
got a haircut, became Lydia, New Testament
seller of purple, sponsor of apostles. Every
frog and owl was tossed away. Demons.

No He-Man, as God alone
was Master of the Universe.
Only Aslan had the kind of power
we could celebrate, wild as Jesus, and each summer
we read his endorsed enchantment together
in my parents’ king-sized bed.

Now when my aunt hears Bible babbling
from my brother’s lips, from mine,
she chides, expounds the magic of change,
warns us not to be so sure of anything
in our twenties. She remembers when pants and
bacon came from the Devil, when the TV
hid shame-faced in the closet, when exorcism
was en vogue. She fears we might be under the spell
that made her sister a troll, hoarding the jewels of
revelation with Mine! Mine! Mine!

She must not see the wands
behind our backs. We’ve turned that troll
into a jolly Mother Goose, and she’ll be a princess
yet, well-versed like us in the magic of change,

of granite turned to soft, pink flesh.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring Broke...

is how I'm usually feeling at the end of spring break. Usually I've spent most of my time sleeping, eating, and wasting time on the Internet, and by the last day, I'm regretful of my choices and anxious to get back into the routine, if only to save me from myself.

This break was different. I visited the wonderful old Southern city of Charleston (to which I'd never been), crammed my head full of history, walked all over the place, took in the sights, enjoyed time with family, finished a book and started on another one, and graded all but one set of papers. It was a wonderful break!

A few pics from our time in Charles Towne (I took very few, as I had forgotten to empty my SDcard before I went and didn't have my USB cable with me):

at The College of Charleston, which I heard one local refer to in passing as "The College" (in a lovely Charleston accent)

Daddy at the grave of "Our Beloved Pastor" in one of the fascinating old cemeteries

at the Battery

the amazing Angel Entwife (I mean Angel Oak)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's official.

Yes, it's is a cobweb site. It appears I cannot have a life and a teaching job at the same time. Maybe one day I'll be able to manage the twain, but that is not this day.