Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mangosteens and Blueberries

I am in the habit of periodically updating people with the following: "I still miss mangosteens." I miss them! I miss them! No purple fruit for me; nope, no sweet, juicy white interior for me. And yet with the same passion I have for my lost mangosteens, I still feel incredibly grateful the simple gifts of North American fruit. When I buy blueberries, raspberries, apricots, plums, and pluots,  I feel a little surge of happiness. I love this kind of fruit. Fruit I could not eat in  Thailand (well, I could have on occasion if I had been willing to fork over a too handsome sum of money).

There's something bitter-sweet about mutually exclusive things. I can't have mangosteens and blueberries. I can't have Thailand and America. I'm not omnipresent. I must be in a place, and I'm here: Central Florida. And there are many gifts of here--the amazing dark-cloud-run-while-you-can summer storms, the trees covered in Spanish moss, Florida birds (anhingas are my favorite--maybe it's because they are the only bird I really know), and the beaches--not too far way. I'm gifted with people too. People I wouldn't have known if I landed here: coworkers, neighbors, and friends.

Thank you Lord for the gifts of the present and the good-sweet memories of the past. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Strong emotions have a way of completely waylaying me. I am at work needing to prepare for class, but I can't concentrate. I have two different emotions washing over me. One is grief. Not a grief for me but for a student. Someone died in her family yesterday; she has given me no other details. She came to class today. I was surprised to see her. She came to class and had the look, and I've seen that look before and hate it--the shutting-down, the-not-quite-here, the damped-down sadness that comes after the news of a death. I hate the look not because I don't expect it or understand it but because I hate death! I hate that every school year (sometimes every semester) I have a student who loses someone. It makes me angry.

Then there's something else happening. An email in my inbox about an opportunity for someone I care about: not any opportunity--an opportunity to do something I love, so a wave of joy and excitement is crashing into this wave of anger and grief, and I have a class to prepare for.

I tell my students when they are struggling that it's hard to do life and school sometimes. That's true for teachers too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Student Anxiety

Today a student rushed into my office and said, "When I realized I hadn't turned in the assignment, I almost threw up." Then another student, as she was leaving my office after a hard conversation about her research paper,  said under her breath, "breathe". 

People describe the millennials as entitled, but lately the word that comes to my mind is anxious. 
I almost sent a whole class into a group panic attack this semester when I asked for a paper that was due on Thursday on a Tuesday. I quickly realized my error, but the students took some time to relax. 

I want to have high academic expectations. I want my students to be great writers. I also want them to live well and, yes, breathe. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

On Being an Introvert

I had five close friends in college who were all proud introverts. I used to tease them that I claimed to be an introvert just so I could belong. I've always said I'm an extroverted-introvert or an introverted-extrovert, but lately I've been claiming my introvert side more. Claiming it and trying to realize that I don't always live well as an introvert. I love people, friendships, connections--so some times I simply forget that I need time alone. Maybe I don't forget so much as I forget to be intentional about taking alone time. I need stretches of sweet solitude. Someone recently remarked to me, "I feel sorry for singles on Saturday night." That was kind of her to think about us, and yes being single does have its moments of loneliness, but sometimes a Saturday night home alone is a gift.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Gray Day

It's one of those days: blustery and gray, not-normal-for-the-sunshine state type day.

The sun was out earlier. I was walking back to my office then, and someone was playing the bagpipes from the other side of the lake. Bless him or her or them! (This is the second time I've heard bagpipe music this month.) My coworker saw me turned toward the lake and said, "The highlanders are coming." There is no high land here for the highlanders to come from, but it's nice to imagine. And even easier to imagine now that the day has turned gray.

It's a peculiar thing the joy in melancholy, the celebration of a gray day. It's not a celebration of sadness nor a honoring of depression. I would avoid both. But there is a pleasure in punctuation--in the variety that comes from change.  I'm grateful for a gray day, fog and mist, and some bagpipe music across the lake.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Walk Across Campus

It's been one of those days--busy, hectic, non-stop. There were classes to prepare for, a class to teach, multiple students who needed scheduling advice, and parents to reassure. There was no let up until midafternoon, and I'm still not done.

At one point a friend (another professor here) dropped in and asked if I needed a mental break. She suggested we walk across campus together to investigate our snack options. As we walked, we ran into different students. I don't always get to look objectively at the teaching profession, so it was interesting for me to watch my friend interact with her students. They were happy to see her and she them.

My friend found her snack and managed to convince a cafe worker to give me some lemon juice and honey (I'm sick). On our walk back I told her, "Sometimes we need to do this--just walk across campus to see why we are here."

Teaching is a busy profession. We teachers have to stop our work, come up for air, and remember the students we are doing the work for.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflections from 39,000 feet

I'm writing this post over Texas. Yes, I'm on an US Airways flight heading for Orlando.  Blogging is my way of reflecting--by my lack of posts this year, it doesn't seem like I've done much reflecting. The pleasure of flying (when all goes right) is it gives me the chance to think. I could be writing this looking out the plane window. (Somehow looking out the windows, whether in cars, or buses, or planes makes me sweetly melancholy--if there is such a thing.) However, I was requested to switch seats, so I'm on the aisle seat instead. Still, the calm of this flight, the conversations that aren't quite audible, the noise of the plane, most of the blinds pulled down all put me in a reflective mood. 

When I was home, my mom asked me to go through a box of my stuff that I had somehow missed in previous purges. The anachronistic assortment of memorabilia was a gift to remind of the good in my life: there was a miniature Eiffel tower from a Paris trip in 1999, a blanket from Thailand, a card from one of my college roommates, an obsidian arrowhead found while hiking alone down a riverbed, a painting from a high school art class, notes from an interview for a graduate school journalism class, and many other things.  

The one thing that caught my attention the most was a calendar from 2009. On it were meetings to attend, get-togethers with friends, and travel dates. What stood out to me the most were all the "resume due by" dates. These where the schools I had applied to work at, cities I could have lived in--then the most important date (for my life now) was a day in October to "fly to Orlando". 

Looking at all those dates, I am just reminded how grateful I am for how God leads my life. When I was filling out those resumes and looking for work, I couldn't see more than a couple of feet ahead. I wasn't even sure I would find a job. It's good for me now to look back and see how far I've come.