Saturday, September 29, 2007

[Epiphany of the Week]

Having read a plethora of constructive criticisms from my students and having had my emotions fluctuate along every point of the spectrum moment-by-moment, I've come to a conclusion. My teaching style will not work for everyone. For some, it's exactly what they need and want. For others, it's too much work. For others, it's not enough work. For some, it's the right energy level. For others, it's not enough excitement.

Even if I tried to adjust my style to suit some people who are discontented, others in the classes would become discontented. My teaching style is my teaching style, and while I will and will be able to make some minor adjustments for improvement's sake, thanks to some of the feedback, sometimes, I just have to stick to my guns and 'fess up that I have to do what works best for me as a teacher. For me, electronic submissions are the most reliable and fair means of turning in assignments. For me, posting on rough drafts on Blackboard works best, because it allows my students to see what others are doing and to give positive feedback. I can't be holding everyone's hand, and if they work together, they'll get more accomplished. Journals and Blackboard postings may seem a lot of commitment, but the benefits outweigh the annoyances.

Oh, and I need to learn how to separate my emotions from teaching a little bit more, or I'll find myself a nervous wreck from now until retirement.

Side note: I'm now the proud owner of the DVDs for every season of Gilmore Girls except for season 7! I love birthdays. I can't wait until I can get my hands on them. Homework will be so much more delightful running off of the high that comes from watching an hour of Gilmore Girls' fast talk.

Oh, and my dog is mad at me. I have a suspicion why--something to do with my paying more attention to my computer and grading papers than her--and I'm thoroughly convinced that she is beyond spoiled. Brat. But I love her anyway.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

[Anyone Wanna Go Fishing? I Got a Can of Worms, Here...]

Ohboyohboyohboyohboy...

I fear I've opened a can of worms, and I better brace myself to take the heat.  Today, in my English 110 class, I assigned a journal entry to my students: constructive criticism for your teacher.  I asked them to tell me what I'm doing right, wrong, etc., and to be honest with me.  I've gotten one back, and it was honest--in a good way.  Still, some of the criticism stung, though it's not her fault.  Really, it's mine because everything she said was true.  At times, I didn't know how to improve those things because I had just received the information myself, and I was still trying to work it out in my own mind.  Thank goodness I'll know what's coming next semester when I teach this class!  I can have everything figured out beforehand, instead of trying to come up with examples and explanations the week I assigned the stupid thing.  

Another good criticism I received: I apologize too much.  "I know this probably isn't your favorite class..."  I have a reason for that--I do know it's one of the dreaded classes.  I mean, at times, learning to write a critical analysis is like pulling teeth--hard and painful.  Explaining it is just as rough!  But I do need to be more confident.  

One issue that makes this first semester so difficult is that we get most of our good advice on certain assignments either at the last minute or a week after we really needed it!  Why couldn't someone have suggested that we start out the critical analysis assignment with a summary, progress to an opinion, and then progress to an intellectual judgment based on the text--BEFORE the last week of the assignment?  I know my students were frustrated, and so was I.  My understanding of textual analysis was pretty much limited to the fact that I know how to do one--I didn't know how to spell it out to someone who has never had to do one before.  

I really wish we could have taken these teaching practicums and composition theory classes the summer before we started teaching.  It would have made a world of difference, and I know I would have felt more prepared.  Right now, the feeling I have is comparable to being swept down a raging river, just barely keeping my head afloat.  I better hope there are no rocky rapids ahead!  

I'm serious about wanting to be a good teacher.  That's why I asked my students to give me this feedback.  It's hard to take, because like many new teachers, I labor under the deluded dreams of being the perfect teacher the first time out.   However, I need to shake off that craziness and accept a healthy slice of humble pie.  I'm not completely screwing up, on the one hand, but on the other hand, I'm far from getting it perfectly right.  

That verse from scripture, the one about how He'll refine us as fine silver through fire, makes more and more sense.  While the end result will be worth the trial by fire, it's a painful process in the meantime--really painful.  Frankly, I like to get things right the first time, but life does not operate that way, especially not the further along in life I get.  

Growing pains, anyone?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

[To Write Love on Her Arms]

Overall, I tend to be a relatively upbeat person.  I get into the occasional moody funk, especially around that certain time of the month, but I can always find joy and laughter in life.  At times, though, life reminds me that I have been so extremely blessed to be exposed to Christ at such an early age.  No matter the pain, I have always been able to rest in His arms and cry my pain away, receiving peace in the place of passionate anger and sorrow.  I have known for as long as I can remember that He understands and shares in my pain even better than I do myself.  

But at times, I remember that so many in the world do not have that sanctuary.  So many find temporary peace in self-destruction that helps them numb the pain and fear.  Some cling to food, some to drugs or nicotine, some to sex, some to alcohol, some to on-the-edge living, and some to carving their arms with knives.  As their worlds crumble around them, they cling to any relief.  Unbeknownst to them, someone knows and His heart breaks.  He knows that if they would turn to Him, He could start them on the road to recovery and joy.  

One song I heard on the radio recently has a chorus:
Lord though I walk through the valley of death
I'm not scared 'cuz I know you're holding my breath
I only fear that I don't have enough time left
To tell the world that there's no time left

Not to get into end-times philosophies, though I've spent some time pondering that doctrine on my own, but I think this chorus has more to do with the reality that life is so unpredictable.  Life could end at any time.  Furthermore, for those who experience that hardcore pain and depression, time may be further limited.  How long before these habits of relief go too far?  How long before it's too late to reach out and let them know they are loved... by God and by those who love God?  

When I stop and consider the agonies people experience, I can hardly bear it.  It breaks me down and shatters my heart.  My love for these people, though strong and pure, is a mere shadow of God's love, and I can only imagine what He feels knowing their situations.  He wants to heal and restore, not condemn.  

Between the Trees, "The Way She Feels"

She's upset
Bad day
Heads for the dresser drawer to
drive her pain away
Nothing good can come of this.
She opens it, there's nothing,  there
is only left over tears
"Mom and dad had no right" she screams
as the anger runs down both of her cheeks.

Then she closed her eyes
and found relief in a knife
the blood flows as she cries

All alone the way she feels
Left alone to deal with all the pain-drenched sorrow relief
Bite the lip just forget the bleeding

Curled up she's on the floor
relief left her, she had hoped for something more
from it
He leans down to comfort her
She is weeping and he
wraps his arms around
and around and around and...
The deeper you cut
the deeper I hurt
The deeper you cut
it only gets worse

Now she's slowly opening...
new eyes...

Then she opened her eyes
and found relief through His life
and put down her knives

Then she opened her life
and found relief through His eyes
and put down
she put down her life

The video for this song really makes it hit home.  I just want to hug these hurting people and let them know they are loved... so loved.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

[Beauty for Ashes - my final literacy narrative draft]

Today, I am three years old. Mama—my grandmother who is raising me because my mother is now a quadriplegic—has dragged me along with her while she picks up a prescription. I don’t mind. Armed with newfound knowledge, I march up to the pharmacist and announce that I’m learning to spell. Mama beams proudly—she has sat on the floor with me from the time I could speak, trying to teach me to say my alphabet, read, and spell. The patient lady at the counter smiles serenely and requests a demonstration.

“Cat. K-A-T. Cat.” My first unofficial spelling bee, and I am already disqualified. Mortified, I vow never to misspell that word again—and I never do.

In kindergarten, we are learning to spell three letter words and even put together basic sentences. One day, after I draw a rabbit, I decide to label the poor creature so no one will be able to mistake my sketching for a dog. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned any five letter words besides my middle name (Marie). Devastated, my eyes well up with tears and I drop my head in my arms on my desk.

Lauren, the only friend I have this year, taps me on the shoulder and inquires about my tears. After explaining my dilemma, I sigh. Lauren smiles, shrugs, and blurts out, “B-U-N-N-Y.”

My jaw drops to the floor. I’m convinced—my best friend, the only person at school I know who doesn’t let my speech impediment creep her out, is a genius. She is my hero. I vow I will catch up before the first day of first grade.

I spend the entire summer cramming my head full of words and letters. By the first day of first grade, I proudly march down the hall for reading—in a second grade classroom. My hard work has paid off, and for one hour each day, I get to learn to spell big words. During my class’s spelling hour, Mrs. Denbow allows me to sit apart from the class and read chapter books. I devour Ramona Quimby and Bunnicula books by the day, while my classmates are lucky to achieve a whole Clifford, the Big Red Dog book in a week. I have fallen in love with language.

My love affair increases exponentially the following year. Upon moving across the state, I discover the Nancy Drew Files, and I spend many hours curled up in a dark corner of my bedroom, my adrenaline racing as Nancy comes face to face with the true villain of the story. I “borrow” the magnifying glass, grab a notebook, and spy on summer guests staying in the RV park. I attempt to hide under trailers, in the laundry room, and behind the public restrooms. I am bitten many times by many insects. I am now terrified of spiders. I decide detective work can wait until I turn eighteen, like Nancy. Or better yet, maybe I’ll leave it up to the professionals. Maybe I’ll just be a supermodel.

In third grade, we are given the opportunity to write our own books. Being the avid reader that I am, the wheels in my head begin to turn. Should I write a Babysitters Club-inspired novella? Would a Nancy Drew-style mystery grab my readers? Or should I embrace my own history and create a story from real life?

I think back to my friendship with Lauren—my only kindergarten friend. I have not forgotten the rejection I faced. The voices that once sang out, “Why do you talk like that? You sound so weird,” still remain etched my memory. I remember countless recesses during which I spent the entire twenty minutes walking along the wooded beams that outlined the playground, while my classmates dragged Lauren away from me, informing me, “Lauren doesn’t want to play with you.” Lauren looked back sadly, and I walked alone.

Grabbing my pen and paper, I write my first story title: Teasing Trouble in Kindergarten. The story itself soon follows, and being a bit of an artist, I fill in the blanks in my writing with illustrations. In third grade, I can only describe so much, so I rely on my drawings to convey the utter rejection: the image of a small child helplessly watching a group of girls whispering viciously as they walk away. Mama saves the story in the cedar chest. She has not forgotten those days either.

In third grade, I am no longer merely living with my grandparents—three years ago, they adopted me. Now Mama and Papa are Momma and Daddy, and my mom will always be Mommy. Mommy has been sick for as long as I can remember. Having battled cancer of the spinal cord during her nineteenth year, she is now left paralyzed from the neck down—and I can remember no differently. I am growing closer to her, now that my level of understanding has begun to mature. That Christmas, when she spies me spying on my presents before dawn, I join her at her bedside. Talking the rest of the night, the two of us welcome the holiday sunrise. Soon, the rest of the family joins us, and our quiet mother-daughter repose is broken with Momma taking directorial control of the day’s activities. My mom and I exchange amused glances—that woman will never change!

As Easter draws nearer, my mom’s begins to show signs of improvement. One day, on the nursing home parking lot, she single-handedly teaches me to spell “Honolulu,” showing me the patterns in the repetitive spelling. Proudly, I demonstrate my genius to each of the nurses on duty. The nurses and my mom have become best friends over the past few months. No one can resist Michelle’s smiles. In spite of her pain and helplessness, her smiles bring a glow to a building so often filled with despair. Everyone around celebrates with us the day she lets slip that she has begun to feel tingling in her legs again. Hope!

However, only one month later, our hopes are dashed. The Wednesday before Easter, she wakes in a fever, flushed deep red from head to toe, and she immediately finds herself in Cox South Hospital for the last time. An infection from a surgery some months before has silently spread upward over the preceding months until it seizes her lungs. By Easter morning, the doctors have moved her to Intensive Care, and I may no longer see her.

I stand in the doorway, begging to be let in. “She’s my mom. What if she doesn’t make it this time?” My pleas fall on deaf ears, and the doctor tries to assure me that my mom will be out in no time. I take one last look at my best friend hooked up to a room full of machines, and I surrender.

I soon return to school, engaging in my favorite arts and crafts. Wednesday, I find myself particularly engrossed in a glitter project and laughing at the banter between two of my classmates, when I see Momma and Daddy motion for Mrs. Porter. My stomach sinks, and Mrs. Porter embraces Momma. I don’t often see my parents tear up, and I have a distinct feeling that it has to do with my mom.

Mrs. Porter walks over to my desk, squats down, and quietly explains that my parents have come to pick me up. I nod, take her hand, and walk to the door. All the way to the car, I beg them to tell me what is going on. They refuse to tell me. Sitting between them in the truck, I stare at the silent radio. Dad always listens to the radio. I look up at Momma and see that her eyes are red and glittering. Glitter—my project—Mom’s eyes. My head spins like a top.

I have moved along to fourth grade, despite the fact that my world is forever crushed, and once again, we have a writing assignment. For once, I do not need to ponder possible topics. I know what I’ll write. Everything I can remember about my mom fills the pages. I hardly need to think to write this story.

Years have passed, and now I attend college at Truman State University. All who have known me my whole life continually tell me that my mom would be so proud. As for myself, I remember her having once declared that she only wished to live to see me graduate. Her story has been written time and time again—I have probably told her story so often and in so many forms that I could fill a novel.

My faith has grown over the years, and I have spent many hours pouring my heart out in prayer: spoken words, scribbled verse, drawings, and song. Being an artist of many mediums, I convey my grief and joy with many brushes and pens. Music soothes my passions, writing helps me remember, and the canvas fuses the three together.

My junior year of college, and I am taking Old English Literature. When I sit down, a very cheerful girl introduces herself. “Hi! I’m Andrea.” I smile back, and before long, we are best friends. We share crush stories, daydream about the future, have deep philosophical discussions, have less deep and less philosophical giggle-fests, and even brainstorm about writing projects. One day, over the summer, I read her blog to catch up on her life—after all, summers have always been a strain on my friendships, since I am a rotten correspondent, and I’ve found my dearest friends here at Truman—I don’t want to risk losing those friendships out of my own foolishness. Laughing over one particularly witty entry about men and their exasperating denseness, I spy three words in her webpage banner: beauty for ashes. The phrase sounds vaguely familiar, and I recognize it as a Biblical reference. Eventually, I look up the reference, and I come across a verse from Isaiah:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3).

After years of pouring my heart out on paper, canvas, and willing ears with reckless abandon, I finally recognize why I devote myself so fully to these arts: they have been my gift of healing. With each stroke or note, I apply a healing balm to my deepest wounds. With each word I write, I remember the path I have trodden.

He has given me these gifts to remind me that He will not leave me to hurt alone, and one day, I will receive beauty for my ashes of mourning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

[I Gotta Be Me]

I am one sleepy chica.  I've only been home this week long enough to eat and go to bed.  My nose twitch is growing in frequency.   Is it Christmas yet?

I'm looking forward to teaching full-time without taking classes on the side.  One or the other wouldn't be so bad, really, but the combination is rather wearing me out.  I'm ready for next semester's schedule to come out so I can make better plans and have something less exhausting to look forward to.

Have you noticed that many of my posts lately have a common thread?  

I've been sitting here in the student union, because of student conferences, for over an hour, and this one girl has talked on her cell phone this entire time--loudly.  I have not not heard a single word of her conversation.  Cell phone etiquette, anyone?  Seriously, I don't want to hear about how you hate every person on earth except the one you're talking to.  It's annoying.  

Oh, my gosh.  She actually hung up.  Oh, she's dialing someone else.  Oy.

So, I've got this booger in my nose, and it's bothering me, and I'm in a public place without tissues... and I have officially grossed you out.  My mission in life is complete.  

Apparently some of my coworkers think I'm weird.  I guess English graduate students don't typically make a habit of asking random questions about Humpty Dumpty.  Ah, well.  I could change my personality to fit in, but I would far rather find others who strive to achieve the same levels of amusement that I thrive upon.  I have not changed for anyone since high school, and I don't plan to start now.  I can be no one else but myself, and most days, I'm quite alright with myself.  I don't see my sense of humor as a flaw, any day, so there.  

I do want some close friends to laugh with again, though.  I miss having friends with the same weird sense of humor--life was happy that way.  

I'm finished rambling for now.  Peace out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

[Scrambled or Poached?]

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Did you ever notice something? They never actually said he was an egg!!!

This is why close reading teaches you stuff, even if it is ridiculous stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

[Sisterly Love]

The Closet Sisters

I may not have any blood sisters, but my heart sisters are just as real to me... and just as much fun to pick on!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

[Ah-Choo]

I've been living alone too long.  I talk to myself all the time without even realizing it.  'Tis sad.  And funny.

Well, sinus infection season has descended upon me once again, and I'm back on the icky antibiotics.  Antis drain me of all my energy.  If you need proof, I've been napping every day thus far and still manage to fall asleep at night within a reasonable amount of time.  This, from the queen of insomnia!  

So, with that knowledge on the table, you probably won't hear much from me over the next few days.  Not only will I be drained, but I'm doing Eng 110 conferences all week.  If I'm not at school or struggling to get mi tarea finita, I'll probably be conked out trying to heal.  

Yeah... good times.  It's times like these that I remember that I really don't have time to date anyway, so it's pointless to pine.  Eat, sleep, work.  That's all the time I can spare for now.

Perhaps next semester I'll be able to set my schedule up more effectively.  I'll know in a few weeks, and you can count on me to keep you posted (all two of you!).  

Beddy-bye time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

[Old or New?]

What's the verdict?  Old background or new background?  I'm really indecisive on this one.

[Survivor: Grad School Island]

Niki... soooo .... tir-ed.

I don't understand why, but when I have to get up at the crack of dawn I always struggle with falling asleep the night before---without fail. Mondays are the worst, since I'm in class from 9:00 am to 9:30 pm, with two meal breaks. I'm definitely going to do a better job scheduling classes next semester, although I really did not set it up this way this time. Originally when I signed up, I was not a GTA, and so I just decided to take three night classes and substitute during the day. Then, with the assistantship, I ended up with two more classes during the day in addition to the ones I teach. I did drop one night class, but 10 hours plus teaching 6 hours (2 classes) is more than enough stress.

I gave up on looking "nice" today. Today's agenda only contains one goal: survival.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

[Twitchy Niki - The Sequel of the Sequel of the Sequel]

The twitch is back. I need to learn realize that I will not make all A's, and that's okay, and I will not be able to be Miss Perfect Professor, not as long as I'm going to graduate school at the same time. I can't do it all perfectly, and that's okay.

Deep breath... and take a break. I've decided not to try to grade any more papers this weekend, for their sake and my own, and to simply focus on the homework I need to have finished for tomorrow.

...and someday my prince will come, whether that means a husband or the Lord, who will come no matter what. Either way, in the end, I will find my heart's desire, and I will forget all about the feelings of being left behind.

I do wish my nose would stop twitching. The location of the twitch severely irritates my sinuses, which makes my nose stuffy. Bleh.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

[Stuff]

Good evening.  How was your day?

Twelve papers down, 31 to go.  I'm enjoying reading them, but I'm a little overwhelmed, because I want to devote enough time to give my students the time and attention necessary for me not to be a robot or even start grading with irritation--I have moments where if I see another run-on sentence I may scream!  Still, I know they've all worked hard, and many of them have shared personal stories, and I don't want to sound like I'm grading their memories--I'm not.  I just want them to tap into all the potential their stories contain.  

Plus, I've got a crapload of my own homework due next week.  

I overcooked my steak this evening--I managed to cut off and eat about four bites.  Will I ever learn not to do three very separate things at once in the kitchen?  Ah, well, I enjoyed the rest of the meal: boiled red potatoes with butter and garlic, and spinach salad with strawberries, mozzarella, romano cheese, sunflower nuts, and raspberry viniagrette dressing.  Nummers!

My breath, though, is pretty funky.  My love for garlic bites me in the butt again.  

I stayed up late reading the text from my old xanga I deleted a couple years ago.  I copy-and-pasted all the entries into a MS Word file before I killed it, and oh, Lord, it's so funny!  It improved my spirits considerably.  Here are some lines, exact and paraphrased both, for your enjoyment (or so you can roll your eyes pompously):

You know what I want?  I want a stud-finder.

Did you know that Michelle once accused me of a diabolical crime?  She did: Attempted seduction by use of chocolate pastries.   A jury of my peers found me guilty.  

Can someone help me track down the mirror I broke or the ladder I walked under?  I'd like to take a swing at it.

It's winter... And it's a warm day in Kirksville! That's kind of like saying it's a cold day in hell... which must mean............................................ my 21-year-single-streak's gonna come to an end!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

Stolen from a friend's blog: Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just take the rotten apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy....... The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who's brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. Share this with other women who are good apples, even those who have already been picked! Now men.... men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with

ChosenWarrior35: i just drinked
ChosenWarrior35: soda
ChosenWarrior35: and I burped
ChosenWarrior35: and it came up my nose and burned
ChosenWarrior35: lol
ChosenWarrior35: lololololol
NikiStarsNHrEyes: what
else have you been drinking, child?

I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE I'M DONE

HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD, I'M FINALLY DONE WITH THAT CONFOUNDED 12 PAGE PAPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, the memories.

[Pithy Pity Party]

Warning: Potentially nauseating self-pity ahead. Patients with weak stomachs should read no further.

I'm lonely. I'm ridiculously lonely.

I have not hung out with a friend my age (or close) since March, when Andrea came to visit. I thought I would get to spend some quality time with my cousins when they visited in July, but they were all too wrapped up in their own lives back home to really for any of us to enjoy one another's company--though, for the most part, I can certainly understand why.

But the point is, I'm in a bad spot. I'm literally aching with loneliness, and I don't know what to do about it. Even if I did start to make friends, real friends, with someone from MSU, I'm so busy right now that I would probably have to turn them down if they called me up to get out of the house and do something.

The friends I've made at church are incredibly sweet; I would love to sit down and have long heart-to-hearts with any of them. But we're at such different points in our lives. For example, most of them are married; I've never even dated. It's hard. I mean, their being married and my being single doesn't exactly keep us from being friends or anything, but the truth is, I need a friend--one who lives nearby--who is in the same or a similar spot in life.

I just feel so utterly alone right now. I hate this.

Plus, here I've got this cute little studio set up perfectly to have friends come over for movie nights or dinner nights, just like we had at Truman, and the only guest I've had so far is my 69-year-old mom--and that was only last night.

I hate hate hate hate hate this. I haven't felt this lonely since sophomore or junior year--perhaps not even then.

I think I'll go cry myself to sleep.

Friday, September 07, 2007

[Literacy Narrative Drafting]

The first two pages:

Beauty for Ashes

Today, I am three years old. Mama—my grandmother who is raising me because my mother is now a quadriplegic—has dragged me along with her while she picks up a prescription. I don’t mind. Armed with newfound knowledge, I march up to the pharmacist and announce that I’m learning to spell. Mama beams proudly—she has sat on the floor with me from the time I could speak, trying to teach me to say my alphabet, read, and spell. The patient lady at the counter smiles serenely and requests a demonstration.

“Cat. K-A-T. Cat.” My first unofficial spelling bee, and I am already disqualified. Mortified, I vow never to misspell that word again—and I never do.

In kindergarten, we are learning to spell three letter words and even put together basic sentences. One day, after I draw a rabbit, I decide to label the poor creature so no one will be able to mistake my sketching for a dog. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned any five letter words besides my middle name (Marie). Devastated, my eyes well up with tears and I drop my head in my arms on my desk.

Lauren, the only friend I have this year, taps me on the shoulder and inquires about my tears. After explaining my dilemma, I sigh. Lauren smiles, shrugs, and blurts out, “B-U-N-N-Y.”
My jaw drops to the floor. I’m convinced—my best friend, the only person at school I know who doesn’t let my speech impediment creep her out, is a genius. She is my hero. I vow I will catch up before the first day of first grade.

I spend the entire summer cramming my head full of words and letters. By the first day of first grade, I proudly march down the hall for reading—in a second grade classroom. My hard work has paid off, and for one hour each day, I get to learn to spell big words. During my class’s spelling hour, Mrs. Denbow allows me to sit apart from the class and read chapter books. I devour Ramona Quimby and Bunnicula books by the day, while my classmates are lucky to achieve a whole Clifford, the Big Red Dog book in a week. I have fallen in love with language.

My love affair increases exponentially the following year. Upon moving across the state, I discover the Nancy Drew Files, and I spend many hours curled up in a dark corner of my bedroom, my adrenaline racing as Nancy comes face to face with the true villain of the story. I “borrow” the magnifying glass, grab a notebook, and spy on summer guests staying in the RV park. I attempt to hide under trailers, in the laundry room, and behind the public restrooms. I am bitten many times by many insects. I am now terrified of spiders. I decide detective work can wait until I turn eighteen, like Nancy. Or better yet, maybe I’ll leave it up to the professionals. Maybe I’ll just be a supermodel.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

[I'm so dizzy my head is spinnin'/Like a whirlpool it never ends]

I don't feel so good. Perhaps I've been bitten by one too many spiders. My head is spinning.

Nevertheless, here I am, back at school, preparing to grade 44 memoir papers. Ohboyohboyohboyohboy. I'm looking forward to reading these papers, but I do wish I didn't have four of my own classes to worry about at the same time.

I hope I hear from Andrea soon about all the wedding details! I'm excited to find out when, where, and what theme.

I never did get that cry. By the time I got back to my apartment, I was in better spirits--perhaps because I knew I was placing 45 miles between me and the hungry spiders.

My head is still spinning.

Monday, September 03, 2007

[I'm in Spider Hell!]

Scratch chiggers (no pun intended). My now SIXTEEN bug bites are the result of one very-fat-on-my-blood black spider that Mom killed five minutes ago. Furthermore, while inspecting the source of spider-entry, Dad pulled out the window screens--and found about 20 spider egg sacs.

I may not come home next weekend. It might be worth paying $1.25 per load to do my laundry in my apartment complex.

No wonder I itch!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

[The Hurricanes of Change]


I have at least 12 chigger bites tormenting the life out of me.  How ever did I end up spending 23 years and 11 months of my life living in Missouri among the chigger-nuisances?  

I'm not the only one suffering at the hand of bugs--yesterday, while my dog was performing her duty of neighborhood watch dog by staring down the road in the direction of a rather suspicious sound, a hornet flew straight into her rear end.  I felt wretched for laughing--especially laughing as hard as I laughed--but when she jumped and jerked her tail down with the speed of a mousetrap, then spun around and glared at the air, then attempted to snatch the beast out of the air, then stood there for a good thirty seconds with--I swear, it's true--her lips pursed in perfect schoolmarm form, all hope for my keeping a straight face was shot to pieces.  

She gave me the silent treatment the rest of the day for laughing.  

I itch.  I mostly wretchedly itch.  Chiggers are miniature demons with masterful powers of evil.

Andrea called me today with big, big news--she's engaged.  I wonder how many engaged/recently married friends I have now?  I'm fairly certain it's up around a 33% margin.  Oh, don't get me wrong!  I'm excited for her--ecstatic, even!  I know she's going to be happy with Lee, and I know they're just crazy about each other.  But I'm feeling a little raw right now, not to mention rather lonely.  

I've just had so many changes happen in the past few months, mostly for good, but many changes nonetheless.  Within the past year, I've graduated from college, moved back home, gotten the sickest I've been in over five years, changed career directions, had five different jobs, applied to and was accepted at two different graduate schools, applied for assistantships at both schools, was only accepted by my second choice, moved to Springfield, almost lost my dog to grief, gained ten pounds (yuck), packed up all my belongings three times, started attending a new church... among other changes.  I've gone to two weddings this year and have had countless other friends get married without my being able to be present.   Also, about three or four of my old crushes have gotten married this year, and I thorough expect a couple others to announce their engagements before May.  It's a lot to process, believe me.  

At this point, I'm overwhelmed and emotional.  I need a good cry, but it will have to wait about 24 hours--I'm not about to cry at home and have my parents wondering what's wrong, when it's really nothing at all--just everything at once.  

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind."  II Timothy 1:7.  

Perhaps I should meditate on this verse.  And maybe I just need a close friend, both in proximity and friendship, again.  I feel so isolated.