Friday, September 30, 2011

Procrastination: Periadolescence and Stereo Projects

I have LOTS of grading to do:



All those piles aren't ALL grading. Some of the papers are graded papers to return, copies of handouts, and administrative papers. Those books are copies of the selections for my class book club. I am still missing two books, so I will post pics of those later. If you look closely, you can see a small, white bottle of ibuprofen at the far end of the table.

I think ibuprofen should come with a teacher discount.

&&&&&&&&&&&&

My daughter is almost 11 and 1/2 years old. Things are happening to her body. THOSE things. Along with THOSE things come the moodiness, fits of temper, and the prerequisite acquisition of knowledge superior to adults in each and every way. Might I call it periadolescence? Between HER hormones and mine, I am pretty much aggravated at her every waking moment.

I have little reminders, though, of the actual PERSON she is in the midst of all of this. I bought some mini pumpkins the other day for her to decorate. This is what we have scattered around our living room right now:

 Harry Potter pumpkin



 Traditional Jack-O-Lanterns


 I think this is a girl pumpkin.


 Angry pumpkin. Grrrrr!


Another girl pumpkin. Apparently the long bang, swept to the side is popular right now.


When I see these, strategically placed around our living room and entry way, I remember that underneath all that pre-adolescent angst and know-it-all-ness is my crafty, hands-on, creative girl.

She thought very carefully about WHERE to put each pumpkin. "Which one goes with a horse, Mom?" Here are the results of her contemplations:






Please note blue plaid curtains from Target. The folks at Wrath of Mom are quite fond of them.

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My husband has worked on a few projects around the house lately. The results of which mean I can listen to music on two different systems in the living room or one in the dining room--RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER from the living room.



System One: Please note directions. This isn't my husband being overly picky. They are necessary so that I am able to listen to music when I want and so that I do not blow up the precious amps.


 System Two: Good for listening to music and for listening to the television. Please pardon the blurry picture. It is what it is. The truly spectacular part of this system is the volume control. Done with the device pictured below:



Even more special is that it is connected to Sound System Two via this lovely cable: 


And now, System Three:

   This system features an extra fancy "Now Playing" indicator:


Extra fancy tech. That's how we roll in the LUE household.

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Well, that was truly a decent amount of time spent procrastinating. Mission accomplished!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Surprised by Waltzing (A LUE Rerun)

Somehow, on the first day of my Tuesday night class, the subject of my favorite band came up. Without hesitation, I said, "The Band." Then I had to explain to a group of people, who were mostly under the age of 22, who The Band is. To be absolutely truthful, I don't know that The Band is truly my favorite band. It might be The Blind Boys of Alabama. However, The Band, as featured in the documentary, The Last Waltz, represents so much more than just music to me. Here is a post I wrote about that movie a few years ago:
 
Sometime in the first year after I graduated high school, I read Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis and his definition of joy as "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction" captivated me. Joy, to Lewis, was a feeling inspired by any number of things from encounters with nature to the sound of friends' laughter. Eventually, as he sought out these moments of joy, he began to believe the emotion he was experiencing was a recognition of the divine which creates in us a longing for God.

At 18, I sensed the truth in his words. I knew that joy as he described was different than the happiness we are often taught should be our life's aim.

At 18, I felt I had experienced those longing glimpses into the divine.

I'm sure I had, but as I reflect on my life with its grown up burdens and responsibilities... as I consider the sad and tragic circumstances that can befall people, those glances of joy are more poignant to me. Sometimes they are almost boringly obvious: the heart-bursting ache that comes with a glance at my son or daughter; the gasp that comes with the sight of the local mountains, freshly covered in the snow after a storm. I think these are universal experiences which don't lose their depth of meaning in their prevalence.

Sometimes, though, I get that sense of Beauty and Longing in places I wouldn't expect. Today, Sober Briquette* picked up on a recent post of mine in which I chose a shopping cart to represent myself in a transportation metaphor. Her choice is great and the options she eliminates along the way are very funny. At the end she embedded a You Tube clip of Van Morrison singing with The Band from The Last Waltz.



The Last Waltz has been on my mind of late. We have the DVD and Colin recently purchased The Band's Greatest Hits (along with The Best of Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett's Greatest Hits and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band--this kid has great taste in music). The film brings back fond memories. The first time I watched it was the first time Paul and I discussed forever. But more than that, the film and the music in it evokes in me a sense of the sublime. It is just so good it almost hurts--that good hurt.

Here's where my descriptive powers will fail me. How do I go beyond the Valley Girl-like "It's so awesome!!!" to communicate how the interviews with the members of The Band, along with the footage of amazing musician after amazing musician singing and playing with the band is just a little slice of heaven here on earth? How can I explain that I see God in the community these men had with each other or that the musicianship seems to be the quintessential example of being in the moment with the music? I don't know.

I'm not really a music person. I like lots of music but I don't pursue music in my life and I'm not musically literate. I can't tell you anything about what makes a good song. There's something more than music going on in The Last Waltz, though, and it surprised me with joy.



*Sober Briquette is no longer blogging under that name or I would link to that post for you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dipping my toes back into the blogging waters...

Hello?

HELLO???

Is this thing on????

It has been months and months since I blogged. Recently, though, I've been reconsidering getting back into the swing of things. With a little encouragement from some Twitter friends, I thought I'd take it slow by republishing some former posts. Maybe it will inspire me. At the very least, I know enough people NOW, who I didn't know THEN, it will give them a chance to read some words I wrote before I went to grad school and started teaching. This first post is one I have republished before. Someone liked it enough to nominate it for a Perfect Post, an award I don't think exists anymore. I am reminded of this post every time I read or hear about someone sending his/her first child to kindergarten. It was such an emotional experience for me; one for which I was completely not prepared. Well, you'll see HOW unprepared I was when (or IF) you read on.

**************************************************

Kindergarten

She walked into the classroom, son’s hand in hers, and looked at all the desks, searching for his name. Colorful and inviting, the walls were decorated and the room ready for its new students. Today was the kindergarten tea, a time for her son, along with his classmates, to see his classroom and to meet his teacher so that he would be more comfortable for his first day of class. She didn’t anticipate any trouble. He had attended preschool on that campus for three years and she worked at the church office just across the parking lot. He was in comfortable and familiar territory.

As she showed her son all the room had to offer, a wave of emotion swept over her. Afraid she would start crying, she made excuses to leave early. Hurrying out, she took some deep breaths and the emotion subsided.

"What was that?" she asked herself. She was confused by the strength of feeling and unable to identify the specific emotion. She knew some mothers became emotional as their children started school but surely this was too strong a feeling to be that. Besides, she told herself, he had been in preschool for so long and would just be across the parking lot from her. She hadn’t thought this would bother her.

Pushing the thoughts and emotions aside, she went about her business the next couple of days. The first days of kindergarten were uneventful. Her son was fine. She was able to suppress any overwhelming feelings yet was never completely at ease. Friday came, and with it, the first school chapel. This was the only day the children had a specific dress code: shirts with collars and pants for the boys, skirts or dresses for the girls. No shorts allowed. The no shorts rule presented her with her first power struggle of elementary school. He only liked jeans or shorts and t-shirts. No collars on his shirts and no fat pants--his name for anything other than the hand-me-down Wrangler jeans he favored.

“It’s the rules. You have to wear this.” she stated patiently.

“No! I want shorts!” he demanded.

“You can’t wear shorts. It says in the student handbook. No shorts. I read it. You have to respect the rules even if you don’t agree with them,” she attempted to reason with him. Eventually, she won the battle but not without losing her patience and it was exhausting.

At the chapel hour, she headed over to the auditorium to sneak a peek at her little boy. The students filed in, class by class. She noticed one student, then another and another in shorts.

"Wait a minute. What is going on here?" she thought. Spotting Karen, the school vice principal and a good friend, she made her way over to her.

“Karen, so many boys are wearing shorts. The handbook said no shorts.”

“Dress shorts are allowed,” Karen answered matter-of-factly.

“I read through it more than once. I’m sure it said no shorts at all. I would have let him wear shorts. He wanted to wear shorts,” she began to get distressed.

“No. It says dress shorts are acceptable,” her friend reassured her.

She did not believe this and wouldn’t accept it until the manual was brought out. There in black and white were the words she had missed for some reason.

“For boys, acceptable dress includes collared shirts including knit polo shirts tucked in, pants, dress shorts, belt, sneakers...”

The dam burst of tears was released. All that fighting and struggle for nothing. Her friend tried to console her but she wasn’t in a place to be comforted. The emotion that began the day of the kindergarten tea was released now like a tidal wave and it had to run its course. She made her way back to her office sobbing. She would get the tears under control until someone would walk by and ask her what was wrong.

“I made him wear paaaaaants! I’m a horrible mom!” she wailed.

The men in her office, while sympathetic, did not quite understand this response. They humored her and gave her hugs, reassuring her that she was a wonderful mom. Although the shorts issue didn’t make sense to them, they were dads and knew not to reason with a mom in this state.

After she calmed down, she decided to try to at least alleviate her mistake. Rushing home, she picked up some suitable shorts and took them to his class. After asking permission from his teacher to help him change, she took her son into the class bathroom. As she helped him, she apologized tearfully.

“I’m so sorry, honey. I read the handbook wrong and you are able to wear nice shorts.”

He was happy to have shorts but otherwise seemed none the worse for wear. Obviously this was an experience that scarred only the mother and not the son. Over the next few days, with a little distance, she began to recognize the emotion she had been feeling: grief. That first shocking emotion that day in class was grief. She realized it now. It was the same feeling she experienced at the death of her grandfather, her brother, her grandmother. It didn’t make sense to her, though. Nobody had died. Her son had just started school.

Eventually she realized it wasn’t about being overprotective or nervous about her son’s readiness for school...

It wasn’t about being a horrible mother...

It wasn’t about shorts...

It was about what his beginning kindergarten represented: the death of his unencumbered life and his entering into a world of expectation and responsibility. He was no longer a child free of the world. Her baby was hers alone no longer. He was part of the world now.

He was ready. She was not.



**************************************************

That boy, whose entry into the world of expectation and responsibility I grieved, is 19 years old now! He's faced many more milestones. As with kindergarten, I was usually not ready. Often he was. Sometimes, though, he wasn't. Growing up is hard. At 5. At 19. At 46. Lest you worry for my emotional sanity, let me reassure you by the time my second child went to kindergarten, eight years later, I practically skipped out the door--with nary a twinge of grief.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Chutes and Ladders


Right now my life feels a little bit like that game of chutes and ladders. One day, I find myself flying down a chute to some new destination. I have to reorient myself to my new locale and then move on. Another day, I may be looking at the bottom rung of a ladder, facing a long climb up to the top. Now, I am not sure that I remember which one of those scenarios is better in the game: down the chute or up the ladder. I just know that life seems like quite an adventure these days, for all that it might seem mundane to an outsider's eyes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Um... er...

Well, it's been almost three months since I've written anything here. I think that is a clear sign that it is time for me to hang a "Closed Until Further Notice" sign up.

I WANT to write but there is just too much going on.

I will tell you that my experiment in self-binding (see last post) was successful. I finished my master's project and now have a M.S. in Education, Reading. I am also teaching four classes this spring--two at the community college and two at the state university. With that load, I seriously doubt I will have time to write here.

You can find me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/MaryLUE). I have a protected account, so you will have to ask me to approve you. I am also blogging every other Monday at Sleeping with Bread, my blog for doing a form of the Examen.

It's been great, but sometimes you have to take a break from writing about Life, the Universe, and Everything to experience Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Until some unknown time in the future. . .

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Time Suckers

So the whole point of this self-binding experiment was to reclaim some space in my life, right?

With my project push on, it is important that I take that time to focus on my writing, right?

Well, not if I listen to my husband, who encouraged me to upgrade to Windows 7.

Why, why, why?

I know these things never go as quickly or smoothly as you want them to. I KNOW that. However, because I am currently able to get a special student deal (Windows 7 Home Premium for $29.99), I decided to go ahead. My computer has been having these little hiccups for awhile now so I've been hoping the upgrade would take care of these persistent problems. The jury is still out on that. However, the jury is not still out on finding myself guilty of software-installing naivete and misguided persistence in the face of overwhelming odds.

12 hours. By the time it was all said and done, attempting to install the update, finding fixes for my Toshiba issues, realizing my computer wasn't responding well to those issues, performing a clean install, reinstalling Office 2007... what a nightmare.

AND...

in the middle of all that, I had to take my son for his senior pictures... my son who HATES getting his picture taken.

Grrr...

So... I ended up actually being online to look for fixes and stuff... but I DID stay away from Facebook and Twitter. It was tempting to whine and vent but I refrained... until here and now!

I am so frustrated that my good intentions to get one or two sections of my literature review written got sucked into the Software Time Wasters Universe. There were several points in the day when I think I should have told myself to STOP! and work on the computer later. But I didn't.

Looking at the brighter side of my disastrous day, my computer is ready to go. Today I have some obligations in the evening but I have ALL day to get back to work. Developmental Education and the Millennial Generation, here I come.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No NaBloPoMo for Me

I have participated in NaBloPoMo twice. It was always worth it, although I believe the resulting posts were not always all they could have been.

This year? I just can't do it. I have too much on my proverbial plate. However, I did think I would try to do something a little different. You see, I am trying something new. I am self-binding. And while that does conjure up an image for me that is less than pleasant, it is actually an attempt to create some space in my life... space that The Internet is taking up. The author of the article, Stop Your Search Engines, defines self-binding as...

"intentionally creating an obstacle to behavior I was helpless to control, much the way Ulysses lashed himself to his ship's mast to avoid succumbing to the Sirens' song..."

(3 November 2009)

I've announced this on Twitter and Facebook so many of you will already know about this. However, here at Life, the Universe and Everything, I thought I might take some of my Internet-allowed time to share a little bit of my experience as I go along.

Regular readers (Hi there, all 5 of you!) will know that I am really, truly, FINALLY trying to write my masters' project. Life had thrown a few obstacles in my path. I have thrown a few obstacles in my path. But the countdown is on. I need to start knocking out chapters... like NOW, baby. But I am addicted to my social networking time. I had discussed this with my sister-in-law and when she read the article, she forwarded it to me. I don't have the right computer (a Mac) to install the program that it mentions, called Freedom, which lets you tell the computer when NOT to let you use the Internet. However, I do have a removable wireless card for my laptop, which is a long, embarrassing story of a woman who was so anxious to order her new computer that she accidentally deselected the internal wireless card during the ordering process.

The good news, though, is that allows me to hand over my wireless card to my husband at 10 a.m. and retrieve it from him at 8 p.m. These are somewhat random hours... it gives me time to do a little hanging out on Twitter with some of the bestest people ever in the morning and also attempts to make me available to my family for the afternoon and evening--without a laptop in between us.

Yesterday was Day One of my Ulysses-inspired experiment and things actually went very well. I did a little bit of writing on my project but the most beneficial aspect of it all was that I interacted with my family in a more meaningful way. It is really quite embarrassing to admit this but I am really glued to the computer for hours and hours a day. Homework was completed with less frustration and no raised voices... bedtime happened with less bother.... I felt better about myself to be honest. I did experience some anxiety about an hour or two before 8 p.m. but I think that was more due to worries about the writing process for my project than withdrawal from Web 2.0.

Over the next month, I am planning on giving updates... on my writing progress... on the dynamic at home... anything related to this bid at reclaiming space in my life. I'll see you around the 'verse... before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m., Monday through Friday!