Monday, July 30, 2007

Time Alone

Today I spent about five and a half blissful hours alone.
The only other thing moving in the house was the cat.
Now for most mothers, this is probably not a big deal, but for a homeschooling mom, this is fabulous. I managed to send my three children to the same day camp. For five days they will be catching the shuttle at a rec center and heading up to the Scioto River for sailing camp before I return to get them at the rec center.
My 11-year-old is making noises about not going back. He didn't like it. He had a stomachache. Too bad. He's going.
I have a lot of work to do while the kids are gone, but I have those restful moments too where I sit in front of the computer and listen to Stephanie Miller's radio program or sit down to a roast beef sandwich with a book spread out beside me.
I'm going to make the most of this week of sailing camp, whether the kids enjoy it or not.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Peaceful Passing

Sometime between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., our dog Rosie died.
She'd been a three-legged dog for about four months, getting used to negotiating stairs on three legs and licking her shaved hindquarters faithfully until the hair grew back. Amputating her leg was supposed to save her life, but the cancer had spread to her lungs, so she began coughing and started refusing all but the most delectable food tidbits. Yesterday, she turned up her nose at a hot dog and wouldn't take any medicine. Her last week was spent mostly lying under the porch swing as the flowers in the backyard waved gently in the breeze and the finches alighted on the bird feeder. She would lift her dry nose to feel the air wafting past and wag her tail at the approach of her family.
In spite of our coaxing, last night she wouldn't come in the house. While the kids and I went to the book store to retrieve the latest Harry Potter book, my husband sat on the ground beside her and she burrowed her nose into his lap, perking up her ears at his voice. He thought she had weeks to go. I thought otherwise. I watched how she wouldn't make eye contact with my daugher when we returned home. Grace sat with Rosie in the dark until friends arrived, taking Grace to an all night reading party.
I asked Rosie again if she didn't want to come in the house. She lapped at the water Grace had placed beside her and settled her nose on her tan paws. The clock read 1 a.m.
At 6 a.m. I wrenched myself from my bed. I was meeting friends for a run. Our black and white cat raced ahead of me down the stairs, anticipating his breakfast. I poured the dry food into his bowl and stepped to the sliding glass doors. Rosie lay on her side in the grass, her paws folded in front of her, no longer breathing.
I am sad she died, but I appreciate the way she lived and how she spent those last weeks of her life. I could learn a lot from her.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Community College Students Get No Respect

I'm fairly new to the college teaching arena. I jumped into the English classroom two years ago. I've been slogging away in the class, enjoying the interactions with the students, but I haven't seen too much of other teachers until this quarter.
This quarter, I'm tutoring in the Writing Center, so three of us are generally in there, sharing stories when students don't show up for appointments. I'm also taking an adjunct faculty workshop and that gives me even more time to listen to community college professors. Maybe I'm naive, but it shocks me how little the teachers respect their students.
One math teacher kept going on about how the college's real problem is getting students to even show up. I finally jumped in and said, in the students' defense, that was not a problem I'd seen. But I began to wonder if her students weren't showing because she expected so little of them. Her feelings of contempt must bleed through into her teaching. Why should they attend her classes?
Not many of these students come straight from a suburban high school to community college. Most of them have children. Some of them come from tough neighborhoods and their essays are filled with stories of alcoholic parents, cousins in prison and guns at parties.
They have clawed their way into college, even a community college, and they dream of coming out the other end with an associate's degree in landscaping or nursing. They work full-time jobs and juggle childcare and search out extra help for their essays, hoping to be a good example to the little eyes that watch them from home.
As an English professor, I spend a number of hours marking the rough drafts my students turn in, and that is the latest debate I've had with the other English professors. One claimed, "We don't get paid enough to grade rough drafts."
Well, really, who ever gets paid enough? That's not the reason we do this, though. I mean, we do it for the money, but every teacher who puts in extra hours in her job knows that the end isn't about the money. It's about the student.
I understand the point some teachers make, saying the students will only correct the mistakes that I mark. So I will start weaning them off their reliance on me, by correcting grammar through the first few paragraphs and pointing out the issues they need to work on. But I can't ever feel that "I don't make enough money to..." do whatever the students need to become better writers.
Sure, some of the students are slackers. They leave in the middle of class or only show up when an essay is due. Some of them will drift away from class, forgetting to drop, and end up failing. But for the ones who come everytime, who work hard, I'll pull out my pen and keep marking their essays.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not So Dark Harry Potter

Last night, I dressed all in black, not because I live in New York (I don't) but because I was Belatrix LeStrange at a Harry Potter party. After helping my kids gather their costumes, I didn't have the energy to do much more than slip on black clothes with a black felt cape over it, knowing my naturally frizzy hair and pale skin could fill in the rest of the role.
I was in it for the long run. The party started at 7 and the movie began at midnight. Usually, my husband does the midnight movies. He has seen all of the Harry Potter movies as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. My job is to come home with my youngest son and we are snoozing by 10 p.m.
Yesterday, my 11-year-old decided he was ready for the midnight movie. There I was, yawning in the theater seat at 11:30. I was a little apprehensive on his behalf, having heard the rumors about the darkness of this movie, following the teen wizard angst Harry Potter showed in the book.
Yet, I stayed awake for the entire movie and thought it was great. Rather than being overly dark, scary and violent, I was inspired by the moments of love, friendship and light-heartedness.
Everyone who has read the book, knows that at the end, Voldemort tries to inhabit Harry's body, but he can't stay because Harry feels love and hope. So during this scene, which could have been fairly gruesome, Harry is flashing back to all of the love he felt throughout his life and throughout the movie. Flashes of Harry, Ron and Hermione sharing a grin after Harry's first kiss. The joy of the students as they created patronus spells and watched the animal shapes gallop around the room. Harry's parents grinning at him from a picture frame. Harry's godfather embracing him in a bear hug.
In the end, I found the movie much more hopeful than hopeless.
Today, my children slept until almost noon, recovering from the late night. But as my 11-year-old climbed in my lap today, proud of his late night, I could still see the faint lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Running is a lot like childbirth. After a too short time, we forget the pain involved and decide it might be fun to try again.
Since I started running with my group again on Saturday mornings, I've been adding up the miles each week. Now I'm going between 25 and 30 miles per week. Today's run was 10 miles and I'm in pain.
No, it's not my feet or my leg muscles. My butt is rubbed raw from my running shorts. I guess I forgot that feeling from a piece of material that rubs back and forth, back and forth for 100 minutes. Sometimes after a run, before I know that I've chafed, I'll hop in the shower. Once the water hits the tender spot, I shriek in pain. Often the chafing is from the running bra, just under my breasts.
Today wasn't a good run, although last Saturday, my nine miles was invigorating. I dragged today and stopped to walk for a minute. One of my friends, Pam, slowed down, waiting for me to catch up. I felt guilty that she was running alone, so I had to start jogging again.
So, now that I'm feeling raw and wounded, when I get up in the mornings and my ankles and knees are stiff as I come down two sets of stairs, I have to wonder again why I'm doing this. Sure, overall the running is healthy. It puts me in a better mood when I jog down to the park and do a few laps, coming home sweaty and salty. The main thing that keeps me going back to the running group at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, is my friends. We run and talk for miles and soon it will be hours. We have conversations about interesting books and rebellious children. We cheer each other on with new jobs and different endeavors. And no children interrupt us. We never have to run put in the laundry or load the dishwasher in the middle of a great idea. For the miles that we pound on the trail, we can talk and analyze and laugh to our heart's content.
So, I guess I'll keep slogging those miles, but on the next long run, I'll remember to cover my tender areas with body glide to prevent chafing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I know, I'm probably the last person in the United States to get a website, but I'm very excited about it.

I've been working with the guy who created it to perfect it. The home page was a little blah, so I decided to use paintings as the buttons. It made me realize how little I know about art. I was doing image searches with things like "artist who throws paint" which was Jackson Pollock, of course, I just couldn't remember his name. I never did find the name of the artist who uses dots.

Magritte was an easy choice. I love his clearer than life painting. Hopper was another artist I wanted to use. I was leaning toward a painting of his that shows a woman sitting in front of a table with a cup of coffee for "About Me." But she looked so depressed. I didn't want everyone to think I'm that sad. So instead I went with a Seurat. I think it's a Sunday picnic painting that looks a little formal for my life. I did use a Hopper painting for the "Home" button. It shows a woman looking anxiously, maybe anticipating something fabulous, out of a gorgeous bay window. We're buying a new house in the next month or so. Maybe I'll have a window like that as I peer out the window, waiting for the perfect offer to come from a publisher.

Stop by my webpage and look around. Hopefully, all the changes will be made today.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...