Name Change?

I enjoy blogging.

It gives me the opportunity to write about things I care about and share them with others. Plus, blogging puts me in touch with other like-minded people who may think similar things….or who can teach me a thing or two about topics I’m interested in. Some people blogging as a waste of time. I see it as good practice.

Today it’s time to make some changes, and I’m hoping that by writing about past and current blogs, I’ll gain insight on how to proceed.

Over the past dozen years, I’ve begun and maintained and discarded several blogs, each with a different purpose. It takes a lot of energy and time to compose, proof, and post a blog, and following the principles of reciprocity to read and respond to others’ blogs is a huge time eater.

At one time I had six blogs; now I have two.

The first was Mom’s Musings. It’s one of the two I still have today although I have become neglectful of late. When I created Mom’s Musings, that’s how I saw myself: a mom. Things have changed now, expanded. I’m now a grandmother and a retiree. I’ve kept the blog because it’s a catchall place where any and everything goes. Travel, religion, politics…it’s all there.

When I was still working full-time and looking for a way for my students to express themselves and perhaps earn a little extra credit, I began a blog titled PsychCentral. It worked well. I’d post once or twice a week, and in its heyday, I could always count on some responses. It was popular because of the topics and the extra credit. Students who were reticent about speaking up in class found a forum for their thoughts.

This blog, Gossip and Solitude, is supposed to be about all things writing: personal projects, writing woes, critique groups, writing tips, book reviews, and personal writing discoveries. The title came from a phrase in one of writer Nancy Peacock’s books in which she says writers need two things: gossip and solitude. Yes!

I enjoyed using the WordPress format and decided to start another blog, Beating a Path, about teaching in a community college. It included experiences in and out of the classroom and advice for students who wanted to succeed in college. That blog eventually became a self-published book, Crossing the Bridge: Succeeding in a Community College and Beyond.  Since many of the posts related to teaching, I’m now using some material in what I hope will be a fun and interesting book about teaching in a two-year college.

Soon after Crossing the Bridge was published, I developed a blog based on the book. It had minimal activity and quite frankly, was a lot of work. Many writers base blogs on writing projects and post updates hoping to engage would-be readers. Or at least, I think that’s their purpose. After a few months, I deleted Crossing the Bridge.

Several years ago, I used Blogspot to post Eve’s Sisters. A sister-in-law invited me to a Bible study about Queen Esther, and the course ignited an interest in learning more about the women of the Bible. Before that experience, I had naively thought of Ruth, Rachel, and Rebekah as paragons of virtue—if I thought of them at all. And Rahab and Tamar and Bathsheba were strangers to me.

I began learning more about the women of the Old and New Testaments and started a blog exploring how their stories bore many similarities to our stories today. It was fun. I was on fire. At some point, I realized I had enough material for a book, and my blog became Eve’s Sisters the book. I’ve deleted the blog and have been faithful to WordPress ever since.

Summative statement (at last): Blogging can be fun. It provides writing practice, puts you in contact with people with all sorts of interests, and can even provide material for a book. For me, I’m down to two blogs, one on reading and writing and the other on life. But now I need a new title besides Mom’s Musings. Help!

Posted in Biblical women, blogging, books, books on college success, books on teaching, college success, community college students, community college teaching, nancy peacock, reading, stories, teaching profession, Uncategorized, women in the Bible, writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

I’m Doing, I’m Doing

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Whenever someone asks my husband how he is, he often replies, “I’m doing, I’m doing.” By his tone of voice, I know that means, “I’m doing okay.” When someone asks me how I am, I usually say, “Fine.”

Neither of us is very specific.

Today a friend asked me how I was, and I immediately thought of something I’d read years ago. Although it was in some psych literature, it wasn’t scientific—but interesting. According to the writer, there are four basic emotions: glad, sad, mad, and scared.

There are layers of feelings within each of the four categories. I was feeling fine today, relatively upbeat and “glad.” Then I heard a friend laugh. And laugh again. And again. Before long, I found myself laughing along even though I was in another room. A person who’s sad could have the blues or be clinically depressed. A scared person could be a little anxious or downright terrified.

Back to the question from my friend. It prompted me to think of how those four emotions apply to me today. Tomorrow might be a totally different story. A lot can happen between now and then.

I’m glad to be part of a network of family and friends, one of them a two-year-old granddaughter who likes to have her toenails painted a bright pink color. She makes me laugh. Another granddaughter has a bearded lizard whom she loves so much that she brought him to Camden with her this weekend. I found his mealworms in the refrigerator this morning. Ksjf98emks (I just learned that’s a keysmash, a term used to express strong emotion). I’m glad that my children are all well and responsible and sane and kind. I’m glad to have had about a dozen high school friends over for lunch today. We had not one, but two, delicious desserts, and some people sampled both.

I’m sad for all the suffering in the world and for the hungry children. Even the Palmetto State has its share…and then some. Some sources say one in five children in South Carolina has hunger issues. I wish I knew for certain what these children were doing for lunch now that school’s out for the summer. And don’t even get me started on the refugees.

I’m mad at man’s inhumanity to man. I’m heartsick/helpless/angry about Otto Warmbier and his senseless death. What can be done to combat such evil? Anything?

I’m scared of the boogey man, of uncertainty, of the world my grandchildren will inherit. I shudder when I imagine Warmbier’s reaction to the news that he’s being forced to stay in North Korea while his friends are flying home. I’m upset (good all-purpose word) when I allow myself to think of his parents and the horror and pure unadulterated fear they undoubtedly experienced month after month.

Looking at the above list, I can say truthfully say, “I’m fine.” Sure, I feel sad and mad and scared, but it looks like glad heads the list for the evening. I could easily get on a soapbox and expound on social injustice, prejudice, judgmental attitudes, and a host of other issues. But not tonight. Tonight I’m counting my blessings and pondering what I can do to make more things right.

What about you? How are you? 

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Just-World Fallacy

 

 

This morning a Facebook post from June 4, 2011 popped up among my memories of that day and prompted this post.

Have you ever wondered why good things happen to bad people, especially when the cheating, no-account, lazy, shiftless liars appear to live charmed lives? I’m overstating the situation, but honestly, I do see good people suffer in especially painful ways, and I have to ask myself why.

A friend recommended You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. “a compendium of information about self-delusion and the wonderful ways we all succumb to it.“ I’m enjoying the book and its reminders of the dozens of ways we delude ourselves in order to make sense of the world. Among others, we use the confirmation bias, self-handicapping, groupthink, and the self-serving bias (love this one). Rereading about these fallacies in thinking was like taking a refresher course.

But then I came to the just-world fallacy, the tendency to see the world as just and fair. It stopped me in my tracks.

People have a misconception, McRaney writes, that people who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it. Maybe they’re lazy bums. Or perhaps they made poor choices or are addicted to drugs, cheated on their income tax, or dropped out of school. The truth, like life, is more complicated than that.

Since we like to view the world as just and fair, we perceive the people with the trophies, the winners, as having worked hard. They buckled down in school, dressed for success at work, paid their tithing at church, helped little old ladies cross the street, and set goals with the best of them. While this is sometimes true, McRaney reminds his readers that it’s just as likely that the beneficiaries of good fortune did little to deserve it.

Sometimes good people who follow all the rules can’t seem to get a break no matter how hard they try. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to teach a young woman whose goal was to become a pediatric nurse. She had served a stint in the Air Force before beginning the nursing program at Central Carolina. That summer Tricia was in one of my Human Growth and Development sections, and she made an immediate and lasting impression. Bright and spirited, she enjoyed sparring with her classmates over issues of child development. I sensed that a compassionate heart beat beneath that tough exterior.

I was right. We became Facebook friends after her graduation, and I learned of her desire to serve a medical mission in Haiti. She served several such missions and developed a love for the Haitian people.

On a somewhat regular basis, Tricia posted about her work in the medical field and her love for God. She’d often post a scripture and link it to something that had happened to her at work or within her family. She and her husband had a baby, and all was well.

About a year ago, I realized I hadn’t seen any recent posts on Facebook from her. I figured she’d probably just moved on. Or maybe she’d deleted her account. Then again, hmmm, perhaps she’d unfriended me. At some point, I put her name in the search bar.

Her cover photo was one of many taken at her Memorial Service in April, 2016.

How could it be that someone with such promise, someone on the cusp of her adult life as a wife, mother, and nurse, die?  There was no information about cause of death.

Months later,  I was cruising along I-95 when someone in the front seat asked, “Did you ever teach _______ _______?”

“Yes. But she died. Not sure why, but I’d be willing to bet her husband did it.”

Silence from the front seat. And then, “Yeah, that’s what happened. It was in the Sumter papers. Air Force, right?”

“Her husband was still in the Air Force, but I think he was stationed somewhere else. Virginia, maybe.”

My informant shared the particulars of Tricia’s murder, and I confirmed them for myself that same evening. Her death was untimely, gruesome. She left a bereft family behind, including a precious child. And this young woman was a winner who had a heart and mind and spirit superior to many. Her death is yet another reminder of the just-world fallacy.

Why do bad things happen to good people? 

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Work-in-Progress

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Anyone who’s read this blog on even a somewhat regular basis knows I’ve written a book about teaching community college students. Truthfully, the book is more of a project, a work-in-progess, since it’s still on my Mac awaiting edits. It needs some jazzing up, something to make it more enjoyable to read and a format that’s more inviting.

Last month I read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. Interesting, I thought.

Last week, I read it again, this time with a greater appreciation for Kleon’s creative approach to encouraging artists, writers, musicians, and creative people of all sorts. How does someone so young know how to put together such a plethora of information in a work that’s both engaging and instructive?

I’ll add motivational to the mix, too. Kleon’s inclusion of Craig Damauer’s quote brought a smile to my lips and a nudge to my muse:  “Modern art = I could do that + Yeah, but you didn’t.” I asked myself, So what if people don’t like your work? So what if they think they can do it better? Get it out there, Jayne.

I recently gave a friend a copy of William James’ Talks to Teachers on Psychology, and although the cover is colorful and trendy and not my friend’s style, the font is larger, and there are spaces between paragraphs. It’s basically all text with no frills, but the updated version is easier to read. Some people expect more these days. They don’t want just to learn…they want their books to be pretty too.

Have magazines with their slick photographs and engaging layouts spoiled us, thus upping our desire for something more than straight text? Or is it the digital age allowing everyone the freedom to express themselves without fear of censure that’s whetted our appetites for more than just “good” writing? Have mediums such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and various blogging sites encouraged people to thumb their noses at would-be critics?

Editing is hard, especially when there’s a lot of tweaking to be done. I want my book to hit somewhere between Steal Like An Artist and Talks to Teachers. I want it to be interesting and inviting, but I also want it to be educational and beneficial. As it is now, the manuscript is heavy on “Thou shalts” and light on illuminating stories and fun experiences.

Everything I know about teaching is what I learned after joining the profession. Observation, evaluations from supervisors and students, and discussions with colleagues went a long way in shaping my thinking, attitude, and performance. So did courses and seminars.

On my first day of class, I somehow found my voice and jumped into the business at hand. I called the roll, distributed the syllabus, and went over all six pages of notes scribbled on my yellow legal pad. Then I gave out some note cards and asked the students to answer three or four questions about themselves before leaving for the day. As the first person rose to turn in his note card, I noted that it was 10:20. All that work, all those notes, all that talking, and it was only 10:20!

I learned two things that morning: (1) I enjoyed the classroom magic, and (2) I had a lot to learn. I want my “project” to morph into an informative, fun book that introduces  would-be teachers to the magic of a classroom and offers beneficial advice about what to do once inside that classroom.

Students and teachers, do you have some advice for me to include? Or an amusing or enlightening story? 

Posted in books, books on teaching, community college teaching, competent teachers, Uncategorized, writing, writing projects | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pistol Packing Grandmother

It’s turning out to be a mammoth task, this family history that I’ve been working on for a couple of years. I’ll start and stop and then start again. I’m fascinated by the people and their lives, but well, I feel inadequate to tell their stories without more research.

I’m working on the research aspect, and in the meantime, I’ve have been jotting down thoughts and memories on a daily basis. Or at least every other day. Last week we saw a second cousin and his wife at a local restaurant and had an interesting and enlightening chat in the parking lot.

“What do you write about all the time?” his wife asked.

“Whatever I’m thinking about. Or sometimes I just jot down notes in a journal.”

“Like what?” she wanted to know.

“It depends. Sometimes it’s a list of things I’m thankful for, and other times, it might be a scene or conversation or memory I want to get down before I forget it.”

She looked disappointed. “Oh,” was all she said.

“Lately, though, I’ve been working on a family history, and it’s turning out to be harder than I thought.”

“How so?” she asked, her interest piqued.

“Well, for one thing, ignorance. Plain old ignorance about people. I know their names but very little about them.”

I looked at my cousin who’d been quietly standing by. “For instance, I have only one memory of our great grandmother, and she was old and frail and gray haired. Seems like her hair was in a bun.”

“Yep, that’d be her. She spent a lot of her last months in a wheelchair, but she wasn’t always sick and weak.”

“I wish I’d known her better. I understand she was a feisty little woman in her younger years.”

My cousin smiled. “I’ve been told she was quite handy with a pistol. Used to stand on her front porch and wait for a chicken to walk past and then she’d raise her pistol and shoot it for dinner.”

“No! Are you kidding?” I could visualize my great grandmother standing on the high front porch that overlooked a long road leading from the highway to the Hegler home. The yard was her focus on chicken-shooting days, though. Not the road.

“Nope. It’s true,” he said. Grinning, he added, “When she came to our house in Camden, Mother would always make her check two things at the door, her pistol and her snuff box.”

My knowledge of Great Grandmother Annie Jane was growing. The chicken shooting story gave credence to the daughter-in-law shooting tale I’d heard. Apparently, Annie Jane thought her son’s wife was an intruder when she came in from work one night, and thinking to teach the would-be trespasser a lesson, my great grandmother shot the younger woman in the stomach.

We parted company with my cousin and his wife with a promise to take a day trip to check out the stomping grounds of our shared relatives. Unless my math is off, one eighth of my DNA comes from a pistol-packing grandmother who shot chickens for dinner and “intruders” for protection.

Today I had lunch with a couple of old friends, and at some point our conversation turned to family and the need to preserve our memories of those who came before so that their posterity can know of their heritage. A few hours later, I’m sitting on our screened-in porch listening to birdsong and watching the tree branches dance and sway to the breeze.

Did my grandmothers ever have the leisure to sit and listen and think and write? It’s time for me to get to get back to work on their history and see if I can discover more about how they spent their days.

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Fourteen Years Ago…

Braden texted me yesterday afternoon to remind me that today was his fourteenth birthday. I smiled at his words and texted back. “Hi! You still have about nineteen and a half hours. I know because I was waiting in the hall with Granddaddy Crolley.”

He texted back with pictures from the middle school yearbook and the words, “Yep, then I’ll be 14.” Braden added a few emoticons, and right there next to the bananas, my eyes began stinging as I recalled the afternoon of his birth. I marveled at how a tiny newborn could have grown into such a handsome fellow exchanging texts with one of his grandmothers fourteen years later.

I wrote about Braden’s birth in a story entitled “Older Brother,” and although I can’t find the original manuscript, I’m copying some of it from the 2011 The Petigru Review.

My sweet daughter, a tough little cookie, had delivered a perfectly formed, three pound baby boy on a December night a year and a half before Braden was born. The baby, Spencer Paul, was stillborn, the word itself an oxymoron. He was still, unmoving and without breath or cry, and yet he was born.

Here’s part of the story from TPR.

“….we stood outside the door, me with my chin trembling and trying not to weep. Her father, on the surface, appeared calm, but I knew he too was troubled.

“A woman, probably in her 30s with brown hair and dark glasses, looked at us with concern. She walked over, hugged me, and said some reassuring words. I later learned she was a doctor. There’s a lot to be said for the kindness of strangers and eight years later, I still think of her compassion.

“Carrie’s father and I made small talk while we waited, me tearful and him stoic, a rock. Memories of the events of a year and a half earlier flooded my mind, and I became increasingly agitated and anxious.

“What’s taking so long?” I wailed.

“It hasn’t really been that long,” he replied. “Things are fine. Nothing to worry about.” Whether he believed his own words, I don’t know.

“The minutes ticked by. All we could hear were muffled sounds coming from the other side of the closed door. Was everything okay? Why didn’t they tell us something? Was the baby here? Was Carrie all right?

‘That’s when I heard it—the cry of a newborn. At first weak, Braden’s cry became stronger and louder. It was the most wonderful sound I’d heard in years. Laughing and crying at the same time, I looked at his grandfather and read relief and joy in his eyes.

“After what seemed like an eternity instead of a mere twenty minutes, we were allowed to enter the room. There was my grandson cradled in the arms of my beautiful daughter, her face beaming. Weeping with happiness and relief, I hugged her tightly and then put my hand on Braden’s tiny chest as it went up and down, up and down, breathing in life.”

That was fourteen years ago, almost to the minute. Now Braden is an awesome teenager. Responsible, smart, handsome, and kind, he’s a delight to be around. He’s chosen to spend his birthday weekend with the South Carolina side of his family in Myrtle Beach this weekend. Why the beach? It’s one of his favorite places. 🙂

 

 

 

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Two Words

A friend posted something on Facebook yesterday that I’ve been pondering ever since. She wrote of her ambivalent feelings about Mother’s day and her awareness that it’s not a happy flowers and chocolates kind of day for everyone.

There are mothers who have lost children and children who have lost mothers. I have a friend whose mother passed away when my young friend was only age seven, a deep cut that never completely healed. There are mothers and children with strained relationships. There are women who’ve chosen not to have children and those who long for a child. There are are those with children they didn’t want…or who are a disappointment or burden to them.

This morning I listened to a podcast that reaffirmed the fact that while there are excellent mothers, there are terrible ones, too. The things some parents do to their children are Horrible, Horrific, and Heinous. In my sheltered little world, mothers were kind and loving. They washed your clothes, prepared your food, and kissed your boo-boos. I recall having a visceral reaction, a nauseating one, as I read about the cruelty inflicted on Chris Sizemore, the real “Eve” in The Three Faces of Eve.

Trust me when I say that I’ve read about and listened to accounts of mistreatment and neglect by mothers that haunt me. Like my friend, I’m sensitive to the negative emotions experienced on Mother’s day. I too feel ambivalent about its celebration. At the same time, I had a wonderful mother and wish others could have had the same experience. Would keeping quiet about her virtues assuage their pain? No.

As writer Marianne Williamson said, your playing small serves no one (paraphrase). Downplaying my mother’s life and influence serves no one.

Here’s an incident that occurred late in my mother’s life that, in two short words, shows what kind of woman raised me and my fortunate siblings.

About two years before she died, my mother and I were going through some growing pains that were trying for both of us. Determined to make my own choices at the ripe age of fifty, I turned a deaf ear to her entreaties to straighten up and fly right.

Talking didn’t work. Nothing did. Neither of us wanted to say anything to wound or upset the other. I decided to take Melody Beattie’s advice and detach with love so that both of us could simmer down and develop some empathy.

For years, I had faithfully called her each Sunday evening at 6:00 PM. In those days, a long distance call was serious business—expensive too. But Sunday night arrived, and I couldn’t/wouldn’t dial her number. I felt burdened, bothered, and befuddled, and I didn’t want to hear any words of wisdom no matter how well-intended. She didn’t call me either.

Another Sunday came and went. No call, no words, no communication. I swallowed hard, a lump in my throat. Was she angry? Hurt? Uncaring? I could be stubborn, too!

 The following Sunday was Mother’s day, and as the week unfolded, I began to get antsy. I had never missed spending that day with my mother and knew that regardless of my attitude, I couldn’t miss this one either. She was my mother, after all, and a darned good one. The best.

On Friday morning, I dialed her number. The phone rang and rang until finally her message machine clicked on. Phew, I didn’t have to talk yet. I left a cryptic, matter-of-fact message about coming to see her on Mother’s day and hung up, relieved that I’d done something. The ball was in her court.

The phone rang five minutes later. This was before the day of Caller ID, and I didn’t dream she’d be calling back so soon.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello, Darlin’,” my mother said, her voice the first I’d heard upon my arrival on Earth, the voice of reason, comfort, assurance, discipline, forgiveness, and love. Always love. In those two words, I heard everything I needed to know.

That’s the kind of mother I had.

While I appreciate Mother’s day and all it symbolizes, I realize that everyone doesn’t feel the same way. There are women and men, boys and girls, who suffer each of the twenty-four hours of the day and just want it to be done. I’m sensitive to that, and yet I couldn’t let another day pass without paying tribute to Mama.

 

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Hello Honey

My father visited me in a dream on a cruise ship in Alaska.

Who am I? Where did I come from? Who are my people? Those questions have haunted me for years, and now that I’ve begun writing a family history, I need more answers.

In September, 2015, we went to Alaska with two other couples, and some experiences there reinforced my longing to learn more about my roots, my ancestry. On at least two occasions while on excursions in AK, we heard presentations in which the speakers spoke of the importance of knowing your people.

The first presentation was by Carol Reid a native Athabascan. By this time we arrived at Primrose Ridge, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, we were getting a tad weary of getting on and off, on and off, the bus, but like good soldiers, we complied. No one was prepared for the treat in store for us. A petite gray-haired woman stood on a slight incline, poised to address us. With her long hair flowing behind her in the slight breeze, she shared the history and traditions of her people.

Until that afternoon, I hadn’t given much thought to the various tribes and their languages and traditions. Carol opened my eyes, not only to her own culture and background but to my own as well. I looked at her face and saw the features of her ancestors. She reminded us of the importance of knowing your family as a means of better understanding yourself.

She cast a spell on all of us. Even the tough guys in the group were mesmerized by her words, gestures, and essence. After a moment’s hesitation, I walked over and asked if I could hug her. She smiled as if to say, “Of course,” and I took her up on her inviting expression. I told her that her words had touched my heart and asked if it would be okay to have a picture made with the three gals in our party.

A few days later found us outside Juneau visiting the Saxman village. As a friend and I listened to the young man talk about his heritage as part of the Eagle clan, I was impressed with his pride and loyalty. “You have to understand your people and where you come from so that you can know who you are,” he said.

Who am I? Where did I come from? Who are my people?

The morning after the Saxman village excursion, I awoke from a dream in which I was visited by my father who died in 1998. In the dream, there were tables and people in a large room, and I felt like we were in a school—perhaps the middle school where my daughter worked. I stood at one of the tables busily going through a large box with files in it. Noise and commotion surrounded me.

As I stood rummaging through the box, I felt a presence on my right. I glanced in that direction and was surprised to see my father standing there looking at me, neither smiling nor frowning—just looking. His expression was one of love and peace rather than concern or sorrow. He appeared to be in his mid-40’s and still had black, wavy hair.

“Hey Daddy,” I said, stopping my paper search and resting my hands on top of the box.

“Hey Honey,” he replied, calm and composed.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I just came to see you,” he said.

When I woke up, I lay there trying to recall each nuance, sight, feeling, and sound so that I could recollect them later—always. He didn’t approach me to give me a fatherly hug (that wasn’t his nature), and I didn’t stop what I was doing to give him a big ole squeeze. Neither of us cried out for joy or demonstrated strong emotion. We simply looked at each other, secure in the knowledge that we were connected, that he was “my people.”

Other situations, including visits to Ellis Island, have heightened my desire to know more about my ancestors, and prompted by my daughter Carrie’s example, this morning I sent a DNA sample to Ancestry.com. I’m feeling excited, anxious, and curious. Answers will aid in recording a family history.

If you’ve had a DNA revelation, will you share it? Please.

 

 

 

 

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Enlightenment

I’ve been doing more reading than writing this week. What can I say? So many good books to read, so little time. And I’m trying to follow the advice of successful writers who say good readers make good writers.

I finished Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity last night and posted a review on Amazon this morning. Here it is.

My only regret about reading this book is that I didn’t do it sooner. A friend recommended it three years ago, and although I promptly purchased it, the book remained squeezed tightly between other unread volumes on a bookcase until last week. I thumbed through it, stopping at many passages and thinking, “This is fascinating,” or “I need to tell so-and-so about this,” or “Wow! I wish I had someone to discuss this with.

Borg covers too many topics for me to treat them all fairly, so I’ll focus on a few of my favorites:

Thin places. “This way of thinking affirms that there are minimally two layers or dimensions of reality, the visible world of our ordinary experience and the sacred. Borg reminds his readers that a thin place is anywhere our hearts are open and then tells us how to find them. Thin places don’t have to be explicitly religious and can be found in nature, music, art, and literature. He also lists practices one can follow to access thin places, practices that are doable.

Two relationships are at the core of Christian life. The first is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, life force, mind, and strength.” The second is to love your love your neighbor as yourself. While we know these things with our heads, we don’t seem to know them with our hearts.

Borg’s words about practicing compassion and justice made me squirm a little. Charity and compassion are easier than seeking justice and social transformation for those in need. It’s easier to donate money, time, or old furniture. It’s harder to seek actively seek social justice…or become politically involved.

The Bible’s relationship to time and place. The Old and New Testaments are both sacred and human products with metaphorical importance. Those of us who live in a modern Western culture tend to identify truth with fact and thus devalue metaphorical language. Reading Borg’s statement about the truth of the Bible not being dependent on its historical factuality was an aha moment for me since I too am a product of my time and culture.

There is much more that gave me pause for thought in this illuminating book, including religious plurality in America and how it came to be. There’s a thought-provoking passage on salvation, too, one that makes the reader realize it’s much more encompassing than avoiding the flames of hell. In the Bible, salvation can be light in the darkness, enlightenment, return from exile, healing of infirmities, knowing God, and resurrection from the land of the dead.

Highly readable, interesting, informative, and thought provoking, this is the book for those with open hearts trying to live more authentically Christian lives.

It’s a book I’ll likely return to many times. It’s that good. In the meantime, later tonight I’ll get back to Tribe, a nonfiction book I’m reading based on my brothers’ recommendation. Maybe the three of us can have our own little book club discussion afterwards. My friend Lynn recommended One Thousand White Women, a work of historical fiction based on the journals of Mary Dodd, and maybe I should start with that.

What are you reading this week? Do you have a book you’d like to recommend? Hope so!

 

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Read the Syllabus

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I listened to a great podcast this morning, engaging and informative—engaging because of the personalities, enthusiasm, and energy of the podcasters and informative because of the tips they shared with listeners.

Professors/instructors at a two-year college, Paul Crolley and Carl Beckham feel the frustration and stress that arrive at the end of each semester, and realizing that their students experience some of the same negative emotions, these two young profs offered helpful suggestions for students everywhere.

I listened to the podcast while on a morning walk and smiled pretty much all the way through it. Been there, done that, I thought. Below are three of their recommendations. I’ve taken the liberty to add my two cents’ worth from a slim volume I wrote entitled Crossing the Bridge: Succeeding in a Community College and Beyond.

#1. Read the syllabus. And then read it again.

syllabus

“A syllabus is a document that gives information about topics you’ll be covering, how final grades are calculated, the name of your text, and your instructor’s contact information. Chances are good that any question you might have has already been anticipated and addressed on the syllabus.

“Still, you could be confused about something, and if that’s the case, contact the teacher. By the way, in a technical or community college, faculty keep required office hours, and those hours will be listed on your syllabus.” According to Carl and Paul, students rarely visit during office hours.

#2. “Pay close attention to requirements and important dates. In addition to the above, your syllabus includes test dates and assignment/ paper/ activity deadlines, holidays and school closings, and dates like the last day of add/drop and the last day to withdraw from a class without a penalty. Even if you don’t anticipate having to change your schedule or drop a course, it’s a good idea to know these dates.”

syllabus2

#3. “Follow instructions to the letter. I recently submitted a story to a magazine. Before I hit “Send,” I read and followed every guideline on the website. I was a little annoyed that I had to save my document as a .doc instead of .docx, but the instructions clearly stated that failure to do so would toss the writer’s story out of the running. I sighed and did it their way. I didn’t want the story returned unread so I took the time to learn.

“If the instructions say to double-space and use one-inch margins, then do it. If the instructions indicate that the paper should be three pages, don’t write five in the hopes that your teacher will be impressed with your diligence. She won’t. In fact, she’ll likely be aggravated because you didn’t follow instructions. If you’re asked to give a five-minute speech, then give a five-minute speech. Going over the time limit shows that you have no respect for other people’s time. Speaking less than that shows that you haven’t prepared well.”

The podcasters shared an incident in which a student submitted a paper using PDF instead of Word despite written and oral reminders from the instructor. I’m pretty sure it went unread.

“If a teacher says to send a paper or assignment to a dropbox, then do it his way. If a teacher says to use APA formatting for a psychology paper, then do it without becoming miffed and telling the teacher that MLA is used for English classes. Your psychology and history teachers already know that.”

Paul and Carl use rubrics to help their students, and I’m going to follow their example. Letting students know more specifically how their work is going to be evaluated is a huge benefit for parties on both sides of the lectern.

“If it seems that I’m going a bit overboard about following instructions, there’s a reason. Teachers care about student success and get flabbergasted, frustrated, and flummoxed when they ignore instructions or appear to take educational opportunity for granted.”

It’s the midnight hour, the critical time before the end of the semester, and students are scrambling to get their work in. Their teachers are feeling the pressure, too–pressure to read, grade, and assign semester grades by the due date set by their employer. The process would be more efficient and less stressful if everyone fulfilled his or her part of the bargain.

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