I like to work in my garden, walk, hike in Ireland (or anywhere scenic), do art (make paper, paint, collage), read, write, do nothing! But usually I have a list of things to do, so I am not very good at doing nothing, even on holiday.
Some of my favorite movies are Four Weddings and A Funeral, the Ocean 11, 12, 13 films, and usually I enjoy whatever movies win the Academy Awards. Right now, I am watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and will watch it again next year. My favorite all time series to watch is Foyle's War, about a Deputy Chief Superintendent in Hastings during WWII, who has to solve crimes while the war is raging all about him. It is offered through PBS store or through NETFLIX. That series has me reading all the WWII books I can, especially about the European battles, generals, French resistance, and aftermath of the war. We are living in the shadows of that history.
As for music, I like my iTunes playlists - perfect for long airplane flights. If I could I would take a long flight to Africa every year in February, to the Serengeti Plains. Migrating animals intrigue me - how they know when to move and how to keep moving. Animals trust their instincts, their search for food and water and the right place to live.
An ethical instinct I have is to trust people and most situations. Maybe because one mantra I live by is to treat others as I want to be treated.
I like to visit Boyds Mill in northeast Pennsylvania where the Highlights writing workshops occur. The setting is always beautiful; this year there were autumn rains and a big golden lab accompanied me on my walks along the trails.
Every time I attend the Highlights writing workshops, I feel ready to write pages and pages. Even work on a website - ah, this new website!
Good news! School is out and I am free from office work for several weeks, due to the holiday break! We educators need time to do nothing and everything, to catch up on rest and cleaning and working in our gardens. Yes, even in winter, I find gardening clears the air and the mind. My walks keep me thinking clearly as well.
What would we do without decent breaks in the school year? Go crazy, that's what.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Seasons - this month has been a mixture of mild winter weather, some rain, and some warm summer days - in January. I have blueberry bushes ready to plant, but they need much colder days that we've experienced.
The semester is off and running and I am engaged in planning a new honors course, and helping with President Slabach's inaugural and finding time to work in the gardens. Life is good!
So where does the time go?!! I have been to France, Ireland, England, and Cuba since I wrote the last entry for this page, not to mention moved in to my house, renovated the garden, adopted another dog, and helped students with their dissertations. I hope to see them graduate this coming fall or spring - that is a very exciting reality! Life is good!
Don't they say that life speeds up when you are having fun! My elderly parents have required much attention this year, as has my job as director of our doctoral program. All of that is good - but I would wish that time would move more slowly so that I can absorb and understand better my parents' lives and so that I can attend to all the details of my work without forgetting something. Slow down is a message I hear often.
These days I am remembering the Chinese saying: "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." I am connected to friends, families, colleagues, students. Beautiful thought.
My son Cliff and I have just returned from a very quick trip to Prince Edward Island, which is a province of Canada on the far northeastern side. The island is a farmer's paradise, with rich soil and the right temperature and rainfall. Rows of tasseled corn drew my eyes straight to the blue ocean. It was as if the farmer drove his tractor into the surf, turned around and planted another set of corn rows. Lighthouses and farmhouses and barns add punctuation marks to the pastoral scene. What I didn't see were the signs of our Texas civilization: McDonalds, Starbucks, malls, Walmart, shopping centers, auto dealerships, stoplights, fast food - nada! A few banks, an occasional post office, and riding lawnmower tractors for the big back yards that surround the houses.
Could it be we could exist without all the added necessities of our daily lives? The PE Islanders do. Their cold winters can last from October 1 through June 1. Somehow the natives stay occupied, with books and puzzles and quilting and dreams of sunshine and the short growing season. Maybe they dream of Texas, while I am dreaming of PEI!
A friend sent this quote to me, and I love it.
"Allow beauty to shatter you regularly. The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again. You must allow yourself to feel your life while you’re in it." —Victoria Erickson
I wonder why Victoria Erickson said this, and what had happened in her life. But mostly I am struck by the chord "allow beauty to shatter you regularly." Her words remind me to search for what is beautiful, to wait for it, to anticipate it, and to observe it with all senses. I heard Beethoven's Triple Concerto on Friday night. Beautiful, beautiful! Daily I am watching for the beautiful.
When the autumn temperatures finally arrive, gardening and reading and writing stir - I'm ready to do more, play more, see more, enjoy more. It's ironical that nature is beginning to wind down, to slow down, to do less, to let go, to give in to the coming winter. What can I learn from this?
I am reminded again of the migration routes of terns, hummingbirds, and even elephants. Their cycles of life give meaning to the rest of us. They search for food, water, nesting areas, with a satisfaction of routine and continual expectation that they will survive. Are we humans in their way? Do we understand cycles like animals do? My parents are living out the last years of their lives and I want to know what they think deep inside about it all. I need to ask more questions, and listen for their expectations.
My sister Laura and my daughter Amanda joined thousands of women in Washington D.C. for the Women's March this past week. What I couldn't believe was the kindess, the stories, the enthusiasm for the event. Sooooo many people showed up for the rally, that the march itself was canceled. Too many of us - we couldn't go down the designated streets. So we ambled as a giantic mass of humanity slowly towards the White House. I have never been more proud to be a woman, a citizen, an American, a Christian, a feminist.
I am wrapping up a long teaching career (16 years in k-8, 28 years in higher ed) and have bittersweet emotions. I had planned to teach another year or so, but my current cancer diagnosis makes that a poor idea. Instead, I will retire June 1 and only teach courses as an adjunct. I also hope to chair dissertations as I am doing so now. Which means I wil continue to have teaching moments. I love to teach!
I have looked forward to retirement, in order to do some service activities. I want to work with first graders who are learning to read. I want to visit and help in orphanages. I want to carry out some good deeds for others, with encouraging cards and phone calls. I want to stay busy with art projects, writing, volunteering, and actively engaging in the "outside the University walls" world.
If I can conquer the present diagnosis, then watch me roar and LOVE retirement. Say your prayers.
What I have learned from this teaching journal, is that reflection deserves much time in a teacher's life. One can't teach without reflecting on what has happened and what should happen next with learners. This journal is only the tip of the iceberg of reflection that goes on as I teach. I know this, because I completed an interesting study on 3 teachers in various stages of service, and I caught some of their reflections upon their work.
Each pondered less on curriculum, and more on their students, the anxiety of mandated examinations, personal concerns and whether they were fulfilling a purpuseful life. To read more about these interesting teachers, please get a copy of my book: The Value of Academic Discourse, Conversations that Matter (2018, Rowman and Littlefield.
I may add additional posts as I move into less teaching. Namaste!