Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Always Have and Never Hold

I can't sleep. I drank a glass of wine. I took a Tylenol PM. I'm so exhausted, and I really need to sleep, but closing my eyes right now tonight feels selfish.

I went to a wedding this weekend. Two of my friends fell in love and are married. And I went with good friends and my sweet boyfriend. It was so beautiful, surrounded by so much love. It makes you feel protected. So I can't imagine how safe and happy my two friends must have felt.

That ended yesterday. The bride's mother suffered a sudden stroke, and today was taken off the machines keeping her alive. Three short days after her wedding, the most love-filled day of her life, she feels the most intense sadness of her life. I am constantly amazed at the suffering this world allows. It just doesn't seem fair.

And it doesn't seem fair that I'm safe and warm in my apartment, all my most loved ones still alive and well. It doesn't seem fair that I should sleep soundly tonight when a good friend is hurting so deeply.

I really can't imagine losing my mother. It's naive of me to admit this, but you know that saying? That God will never allow anything to happen to you that you can't handle? I think maybe it's in the Bible or something. Or at least I had Sunday School teachers tell me it was. Anyway, I always thought that was why I still have my mother. I'm afraid right now of writing these words and putting them down, like I'm tempting fate or the devil or some force in the universe to prove me wrong. It's especially ridiculous to write this down today when my friend is experiencing a tragedy she thought she was protected from for many years.

I could not imagine life without my mother. She's on vacation right now, and it's been hard not being able to speak to her these past few days. I can't imagine a lifetime without her nagging or her laugh or her unsolicited advice. I moan and whine, but I love her so much. I can't imagine trying to navigate through life without her or without any of my most precious people.

How does anyone manage to survive such dark places? I guess by focusing on the ones they love that are still here. Thank God she has her husband. Maybe that's it. She couldn't have survived this any sooner than the moment it happened. I'm taking this too far, I know. No one can find an explanation for tragedy, but I think part of that saying comes from the belief that God loves us. And other people love us. I love my friend. I wish I could be with her now and that I could take her pain away and put her on her honeymoon with her sweet, loving husband where she belongs. I would do anything for those I love.

I'm mesmerized by the trailer for that sad movie Things We Lost in the Fire. It looks heartbreaking, doesn't it? The song from that trailer gets stuck in my head.

Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
Be my baby
I'll look after you

It's always have and never hold

When tragedy strikes us or nearby, we're reminded of how short life is and how unpredictable. It makes us want to reach out to those we have and make sure they know how loved they are. And the difference they make in our life.

Go call your mom and tell her you love her.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Teachers' Dirty Looks

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teachers' dirty looks

Do you know why teachers have dirty looks? Because students are annoying and dumb.

Ok, ok, not all of them. But a lot of them. And freaking lazy. No wonder there are so many people in the working world who are unqualified, can't write a complete sentence let alone appropriate comma usage and no wonder there are so many fat people. Because once you realize that you really can coast by with laziness and still end up in the average or above average segments, why even bother trying to realize your full potential?

I gave a test a couple weeks ago. When I asked if there were any questions about the test, one student asked me how hard it was and another asked if I really expected them to read the loooong chapters they were being tested on. I told them if they studied, they should do fine, but if they didn't want to read the book, they could just study their notes and see how well it works for them when they get their grades back. Ha.

I think some of them took me up on that. The highest grade in the class was a 90, meaning that student missed 5 questions. The average was a C. I immediately felt guilty and blamed myself because, after all, it's my responsibility to teach them before they can begin to learn anything. I apologized to the students, facilitated an open discussion about the test and ended up giving the highest curve since curves were invented. Only to hear yesterday from one of the students that the majority of the class didn't actually read the book as instructed. Shocking.

Oh but the whining doesn't end there. Students turn in assignments late because they "had trouble with it" and assume that's a valid excuse to save them from any penalties. I had two students scheduled to give presentations yesterday that didn't show up at all. Of course, at the end of the day, one of them emailed to tell me he's had the flu for days and beg me to let him make it up because he's trying to graduate in the spring. Not trying that hard, I can tell you.

They're not just lazy about school, they're lazy about the real world too. One of my colleagues told me a funny story about a stupid comment someone had about his test (they all bombed too). My friend included an "application question," meaning a question that requires you to apply a concept or identify which concept has been applied. Simple enough. They have lots of those on the SAT so surely this is not their first encounter with them. My friend's student told him that it was unfair of him to put that particular application question on the test because he hadn't used that specific example in class. He told her that the point of an application question was to test if they understand the concept, not how well they can memorize their notes.

Another great "I'm too lazy for the real world" example. I decided, being the darling that I am, to give them an extra credit question on the exam. I thought I'd be nice and give something so easy that everyone would get it. I even made a bet with a friend that five or less out of the 40 students would miss the question. Uh...yeah...I was wrong. 14 out of 40. 14 out of 40, get this, could not name one presidential candidate in each of the two major parties. Wha-huh? Yes, that's right! These idiots vote! And they serve on juries, by the way. Oh the future's so...not bright.

I don't even know if it's laziness as much as apathy. Yet as graduate assistants, we depend on those student evaluations so immensely that we're encouraged to practice grade inflation. Hence, my steep ass curve. What we're teaching these students, in my opinion, is that they can get by or even soar with flying colors by doing a minimal amount of work. And once they've learned that lesson fully, we're shipping them off to your offices, my dear friends, to ask you stupid questions like, "Do you really expect me to write that proposal today? But it's so loooong!" and "I had trouble with that powerpoint. It's haaaard! And then I had to leave because it was 5:00 and I had plans."

Make sure your business is stocked with Kleenex for all the sorry tears they'll cry.

Woman, Be Strong

I always thought I was a strong person. I've been through a lot in my life and managed to make it out alright. I struggle daily with more than most people. But then there are those whose lives have been filled with more obstacles and difficulties, whose daily burden outweighs mine. I always try to keep that in mind when I feel down about something. What I don't think about is the difficulties that may lie ahead.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the past. And then a lot thinking about the present or the future as far as next week. But we don't spend much time thinking about the real future. "Right now" is about all I think I can handle. I torture myself still with memories from the past. But the future is too fuzzy, too far ahead, too early to tell to even spend any time thinking about it.

I just had the toughest conversation I've ever had about the future. I even cried a little. There are a lot of scary possibilities in the unknown that is the future. A lot that I never imagined in a million years I'd ever have to think about personally.

I am in love. Aw. It's true. Totally and completely. After two years of on/off, the timing was finally right. And when I say timing, I mean me. Because I'm a dysfunctional slowpoke. Ha. Well, maybe not that bad. I had a really rotten relationship, and after that, I just wasn't ready. It took me a long time to feel comfortable and to be at a point where I could truly open up and truly trust someone again. And through a series of events over the past few months and the feeling that it was "now or never," I opened up and let go.

All of that is puppy dogs and ice cream as my someone would say, but the real meat of this future talk I mentioned was more like dark clouds and stormy weather. He risks his life for a living. And will for 25 years until he hits retirement. I've always loved firefighters. I experienced New York in the aftermath of September 11th, went to firefighters' fundraisers, watched the first anniversary ceremonies and even was helped out by a few firemen when my own apartment was on fire.

But firefighters risk their lives. Every day. And so do the people they share their lives with.

He's technically not a firefighter just yet. Still in the academy. And this week the theme is 'Saving Our Own.' They're learning how to save their own ass in tough situations and how to rescue their fellow firefighters. More than any other week at the academy, his mind is on the very real possibility that bad things may happen to him. This, of course, has been on my mind since the first day he mentioned that he wanted to apply to a fire academy, but it hasn't been a real concern of mine until recently.

Shit. And I thought I was strong. I don't know strong. Can I be strong? Will my strength ever be really tested that way? I don't really know what I'm capable of, and I'm not sure I ever want to know the boundaries of what I can and cannot handle. How do people do this? It makes my stomach hurt.

template by