Monthly Archives: March 2013

Prayer for Midterm: Holy Saturday

I try to assure my son that Easter always comes
(he’s worried they’ll cancel it because of snow),
but honestly, I have my doubts this time.
There’s still so much iron-ice that just won’t go

away. So gray. The only bright spot is the rain.
Officially not winter. Officially no drought.
Still can’t lift my mood this Holy Saturday,
shivering in my little cave of time, bound

tight by my to do list, behind in everything.
So many of my students have the same
time-panic in their eyes. What we need
is grace and strength and energy, not time.

Just faith that we could ever get caught up
would feel like Easter. A miracle, momentum.


My son with a peace lantern. Because it was summer. And it's peace.

My son with a peace lantern. Because it was summer. And it’s peace.

(Image of my son taken by my husband, nath, who can be found online at Nightjar Records.)

Can I get some hellfire from the choir?

(Because hellfire would warm things up, I’m thinking. “Amen” not so much.)


I am a woman on the edge of exploding.
Global weirding’s gone too far this time.
I’m sick of winter but the snowers keep on snowing.

How the hell can flowers start their growing
when it’s still dipping down to single digits at night?
I am a woman on the edge of exploding

because an IED mood would at least not be cold.
I’m like Miniver Cheevy, that’s who I am.
I’m sick of winter but the snowers keep on snowing.

Who cares if I assail the season? No one.
This winter cares not one whit for my sighing.
I am a woman on the edge of exploding.

I want the boat to stop, but the rowers keep on rowing—
finally, finally, finally I’ve lost my mind.
I’m sick of winter but the snowers keep on snowing.

I’m worried about the leopard frogs stuck under the ice.
Can they wait to emerge or will they all just die?
I am a woman on the edge of exploding.
I’m sick of winter, but the snowers keep on snowing.

Ranting here is a problem for two reasons.
1. It won’t melt the snow.
2. It will ultimately make me feel worse about the snow.

My friend Ryan Martin has done some terrific research with UW-Green Bay colleagues, and it got lots of attention this week. U.S News & World Report ran a story on it. Here’s a good paragraph, and a good quote from Ryan:

“Martin said venting has been described as putting a fire out with gasoline. But it’s not actually the anger that’s detrimental, according to the researchers. ‘There is nothing wrong with being angry and there are lots of things to be angry about, and that is healthy,’ said Martin. But he added that a healthier and more effective approach is to get involved and do something to effect the kind of change you want, or focus on problem solving.”

Hm. Well. Miniver Cheevy assailed the seasons and it got him nowhere except deeper down the glass he was drinking out of. (But as my students might point out, at least he didn’t end up like Richard Cory.)

Here’s the best I can do in terms of problem-solving: I’m in my parents’ sun room with the blinds closed so I can’t see the snow. I’m trying to get a few hours’ work in, so I feel guilt-free next Friday afternoon when I take a half-day off to spend with my son, who gets Easter weekend off. And in general, for this week, I’m trying to get a POOPLOAD of work done, so that when it does warm up, IF IT EVER FREAKING DOES, I can relax and enjoy the warm weather.

Also on tap: reading Harry Potter to my son and drinking a beer.

And ignoring the snow (fingers in ears, la la la la can’t hear you windy-wind, blinders on, can’t see you, snowy-snow) and hoping it will go away.

You do not do, you do not do, any more, white shoe

You do not do, you do not do, any more, white shoe

On National Down Syndrome Awareness Day: A Blessing

Because I worried about EVERYTHING when I was pregnant, I spent some time worrying about whether the baby I was carrying had Down Syndrome. Here’s what the universe showed me during the height of that worry:

A teenaged-girl with Down Syndrome in the Bargain Nook in Spring Green saying, with pitch-perfect aggrieved teen inflection, “Mo-om, no, I’m not wearing that.”

Then, waiting at the stoplight on Midvale & University in Madison, I watched a very self-important BUSY BUSY BUSY businessman walk hurriedly, head down, across the street. About 20 paces behind him was a man with Down Syndrome, carrying his backpack in this right hand, swinging it, at exactly the same pace the businessman was swinging his briefcase, and mimicking the pace and stride of Mr. Busy Guy absolutely perfectly. The biggest difference was wardrobe–suit vs. khakis & t-shirt. And facial expression: SCOWL vs. beaming.

I didn’t stop worrying about everything, but at that moment, I stopped worrying about Down Syndrome. And since then, I’ve watched the children of friends blossom and grow at their own wonderful pace, and I feel so lucky that the universe cracked itself open and expanded in a way I could GET IT and never forget it.

I Want to Be the One: Class of ’83

I want to be the one who doesn’t spend
one minute worried about how fat I am,
how fat or bald you are, if that’s Botox
smoothing out your smile. Are those boobs real?
No—none of that. I want to hug old friends—
yes, OLD, or old enough. It’s only time
that’s passed. We’re so lucky if our clocks
are still ticking. Ten years from how we’ll feel
more grief than we’ve felt yet. The 50s are hard
to live through–heart attacks, cancer, car wrecks–
we’ve already lost a few–who’s next?
At our 40th, we’ll just be glad we’re not dead.
I want to be the one who gets that now.
I want to really get it, the blessing of right now.

I’m looking forward to the 30th high school reunion this summer, partly based on how much fun I had at my 20th.

Lines that didn’t make this particular sonnet:

I want to be the one you want to see.

(cut: too needy.)

I want to be the one who asks you how
you really are, who waits to hear you say

(nice idea, just didn’t fit)

And besides, if it’s like the 20th, what I’ll be asking is, “Hey, have you seen my husband?” And I hope the answer is, again, “Yeah! He’s out in the parking lot drinking homemade wine out of Mark’s trunk.”

(IF I have enough to drink myself, I might ask the guy who keeps posting Bible verses on our reunion Facebook page, “What the fuck?” But we’ll have to wait to see about that. I feel as though I deserve some sort of massive bonus karma points for not posting that as a comment on f.b. already, although, of course, this whole paragraph pretty much zeroes out any gain in karma points.)

But in memory of those we’ve already lost, and with high hopes for good times in August, here’s to the class of ’83!

We've already lost some great folks.

We’ve already lost some great folks.


UPDATE: let me clarify, because I don’t want people to get offended for the wrong reasons: I think it’s perfectly fine to post a Bible verse on the reunion page. The verses posted thus far, though, seemed kind of random to me & the fellow didn’t post any context.   Verses that would seem less random might be “Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler.” Bonus points if you can name chapter and verse WITHOUT Google or a concordance. (Honestly, I just know it’s in Proverbs somewhere, but given my Baptist heritage, I shouldn’t even get partial points for that.)

Pedagogy Stew #2

The following can be found in the February 2013 Voice of the River Valley.  The March edition is available online in the archives (I will post it when the April edition comes out).

I appreciate everyone’s feedback on the column when I’m out and about–glad to know it’s hitting the spot (at least for some folks!)

Any requests? I’m about done with the April column, but what should I write about next?

[And here’s a curious thing–I’ve just now realized I mentioned my bad handwriting in February’s column AND March’s. Both in the context of teaching–this time in terms of writing on the board, in March in context of commenting on student papers. So, two things:  I should perhaps re-read previous columns right before I send off the brand new ones, and 2)perhaps I need to write a whole blog post on the handwriting thing. Apparently it’s heavy on my mind.]


Even though most college faculty no longer see themselves as “the sage on the stage,”

Look! A sage on the stage!

Look! A sage on the stage!

lecturing for full class periods, filling up the empty vessels of our students’ minds, the lecture-style classrooms we teach in are typically set up for someone to come in, and, sage-like, to stand at the front of the room and begin talking to students who sit with their desks facing forward. Now that a lot of us rely on PowerPoint slides for lectures (I like them because they keep me on track, and students can read them, unlike my handwriting, which is largely illegible—worst grade I ever got was a C in fourth grade for penmanship), even when we can move the desks around, we don’t, because we want students to keep their eyes on the slides.

I realized how attached I was to what I saw as the “default” setup for the basic humanities/social science college classroom last fall, when a fellow professor regularly had her students sitting in a circle—and often left the chairs in a circle when they left. I was annoyed at having to rearrange chairs, but I tried not to grumble—after all, “fusty don” is not the teaching persona I’m going for. (I do have students work in small groups in the course of most class periods, and 200-level classes more often have discussions in which they sit in a circle.)
I think my time volunteering at my son’s school makes me highly conscious of these matters. In a chapter from a book called Learning Spaces, Nancy Van Note Chism points out that “[s]pace can have a powerful impact on learning; we cannot overlook space in our attempts to accomplish our goals.” The teachers at the River Valley Elementary Studio School make an ongoing effort to support learning by shaping the space.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went in to help one of the kindergarten teachers begin work on an igloo made of milk jugs. What lucky students! Lessons in physical science, social science, math, environmental conservation, creativity—all right there in their room in a way they can see and touch. My son’s teacher, that same Saturday, was rearranging furniture she’d brought in so that their classroom now has a living room. On a recent morning she met with students individually on the sofa, to go over their most recent reading test scores (while I worked with the rest of the class as they did individualized literacy work). In the afternoons, students read to themselves in the living room if they want.
Van Note Chism finishes her piece with this quote: “No longer can we assume that any old furniture and any old room arrangement will do—we know better. Like all academicians, we should ensure that current knowledge informs practice.” For a variety of reasons, professors tend to tolerate “any old,” but we could learn a lot from the emphasis K-12 teachers place on space.
(Picture from flickr, Creative Commons. Tulane Public Relations, “student in class.”)

Either that, or spring training has started

Question #1:
“Things are gonna slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold
And it’s overturned the order of the soul”
Leonard Cohen, “The Future”

This describes
a. my mood
b. the weather
c. pop culture
d. the sequester
d. none of the above

Oh, we’re mighty tired of winter up north here in Wisconsin. Mighty tired.

But I’ve heard a rumor that, in Florida, the Cardinals have gathered, not to select the next pope, but to work their magic which will put all the gears in motion to move spring northward. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Question #2:
“You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

This quote is
a. from Bull Durham
b. spoken by Nuke La Loosh
c. spoken by Skip
d. a nice counter-balance to Leonard Cohen
e. all of the above

from the photographer: "It must be Spring Training. Motorcycle parked in the batting cages at Royals/Rangers Spring Training Stadium"

from the photographer: “It must be Spring Training. Motorcycle parked in the batting cages at Royals/Rangers Spring Training Stadium”

And this image, of course, reminds me of another baseball movie, which breaks my heart too much to watch most times my husband wants to watch it–Bang the Drum Slowly. Perhaps I should re-watch it, write about it, and have yet one more post for Bradley Cooper (on account of DeNiro being in the movie).

But for now, I’ll just mutter to myself all day, “We must never have another motorcycle in camp.”


(Photo from flickr, Creative Commons, by Charles Sollars)

Leviticus Tattooing Lent

What I want to say this Easter, a.k.a. “the end of Lent,” is “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The snow feels like some sort of collective meteorological flagellation (another storm tomorrow). Meanwhile, I’m trying to give up comparison for Lent.

But this Lent does feel like a journey (more than usual, I mean, you know, compared to other Lents, oops) thanks to one of my online guides, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran minister and founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. (Where they have had, among other events, “Beer and Hymns” and “Beer and Carols.”)

I like to imagine how fun it would be IF Paul’s bellicose advice in Ephesians 6 had said, in addition to,

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Also this, “Fashion sleeves of armour which are the holy images of God.”

Of course it didn’t say that, because if it did we might begin to think the Bible contradicted itself in the matter of tattooing. After all, if you were considering, for example, tattooing a verse from Leviticus that condemns homosexuality, you might want to consider the verse in Leviticus that forbids tattooing.

There will eventually be leaves on the trees, right?

There will eventually be leaves on the trees, right?

Or you could just go to Leviticus Tattoo in Minneapolis and get some sleeves in the fashion of Reverend Bolz-Weber who blogs and tweets as The Sarcastic Lutheran.

Or you could just thank the Lord for her and continue to make your way as a Zen Baptist in this world. (By which “you” I mean “I.”)

I started going back to church in the 90s (I suppose I could say Gay 90s but I honestly don’t think we were quite there yet), among other reasons, because I wanted my week and my year to be structured on something other than the work-week and the academic calendar.

Advent and Lent help me mark progress through each year in ways other than “grades turned in yet?” even now, when I’m not part of an official faith community.

(Let me just say, as an aside here, that Minneapolis is a happening place. Not only do they have a tattoo parlor called Leviticus Tattoo, they have a gay bar called the Gay Nineties.)

I’m too contrary to have followed each suggestion in this “House for All Sinners and Saints’ 40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent,” plus I haven’t quite remembered to look each day, plus on the day it suggested donating to Goodwill I wasn’t in a town where there is one when it was open, BUT, it has been one of my checkpoints this Lent.

Today’s suggestion is “forgive someone.” Tomorrow’s is “internet diet.” I’m on it for tomorrow, as long as diet isn’t interpreted as “fast.” This semester already I’ve avoided Facebook (which I dearly love) on several Sunday-through-Thursday stretches, just because I was feeling over-socialized. And this week is one of those weeks.

As for forgiveness, we’ll see. It’s not something I’m particularly good at. Perhaps I could work on forgiving myself for that. Or for something else. It is, of course, a point of pride for me that I am worse at forgiving myself than I am at forgiving anyone else.

I’m a mess.

On a morning after a night full of dreams when I went into buildings and couldn’t get back out the way I came in, or left buildings and couldn’t go back in at all, I think I will simply meditate on the path of forgiveness. Where does it start? How might I start?

And if you landed here looking for ways to condemn homosexuality and you’ve realized I’m ONE OF THOSE who love Jesus and support equality for all, or you want to condemn homosexuality AND tattoos and you’ve realized I think they’re both terrific, well–I forgive you. Do you forgive me?

(And by “I forgive you,” obviously I mean I will work on it. Seriously.)

But if we are in the business of taking the Bible literally (by which “we” I mean “you,” since I’m not in that business), we can agree that one is allowed, on the 491st visit to this site, NOT to forgive me, since Jesus said to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven. (491! We’re talking serious blog traffic there.)

In benediction I will say I am finding my Crocs good footwear this a.m. for proclaiming the gospel of peace.


(photo from flickr, Creative Commons, by Lime Spiked)