Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Short Blog Break

Hi Betty Peeps!

I hope you are all doing well.  I have been busy at school and will be for another week or so.  See that pile of tires?  Imagine taking it down and stacking the tires neatly.  That's what work feels like these days.  It will get done, but I need to focus on it for a bit.

I miss visiting your blogs and catching up on your lives.  I'll be back in about a week or so.  Until then, I send big Betty hugs to you all!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Smoky Skies: Part Two

I heard the winds before I saw and smelled the smoke.  Around here, we have great weather most of the time, but when the Santa Ana winds come, we baton down the hatches and wait for the howling, hot winds to pass. 

A month ago, I would have rushed out into the back yard and tried to prop up my rickety fence, hoping beyond hope that the boards I wedged beneath it would keep it from being pushed over by the punishing winds.  

However, this time around, I looked at my brand new fence, recently built by my friend David.  It’s solid, every board screwed in place, and every post planted firmly in concrete.  

What relief I felt at knowing my fence was strong. 

Then I saw the dark clouds in the distance and I stepped outside.  I could smell the smoke.  A fire was raging in the somewhere in the nearby mountains.  My stomach tightened.  The dry conditions and the winds would surely add up to trouble.  

I looked at my fence and realized that my sense of security in my fence meant nothing to a fire that would simply sneer at my feeble attempt at defense and lick up the wood on its way to bigger game. 

So many of my friends are going through rough times right now.  Job loss, cancer, depression, legal issues, and foreclosure have plagued individuals I love.  Two have recently lost parents; another recently faced the unexpected death of her brother. One friend stands by her phone expecting word of her mother’s death any minute now.  

The list is long and I ache for their suffering. I see them search for emotional lumber with which to fortify their fences.  Even though it may be only an illusion of protection and shelter, I help when I can, for it is a necessary illusion. 

In the distance, there are fires that burn and capricious winds that howl. 

Years ago, our beloved cat Donald got trapped in the dryer and was tumbled around in the high heat for ten minutes.  He was near death when he came out, but ultimately he survived though looking worse for the wear. His ears were ragged and his tail was broken.  Even so, to us he had only gained in stature and beauty. 

To us, he was the most beautiful cat in the entire world.  We loved him more than ever before because of what he had survived.

These experiences that are tumbling my dear friends around right now may indeed make them feel vulnerable and fragile.  I know some of them feel bruised and scrawny, beaten up by the hot dry winds that surround them. 

But what I want them to know is that to the people who love you, these experiences you are going through only serve to make you more beautiful.  We marvel at your strength and grace, even when you feel weak and awkward.  

In the end, these powerful, painful forces shape us all into deeper, more empathic human beings. 

Rough winds and fire come and go in our lives.

We survive.  

We learn to help each other out, to give each other shelter.

Together, we build our fences, alert for more fires in the distance. 

We go on with life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Morning Flowers

Good Monday Morning!

Time to get out there and make the world a great place!

Hope your weekends were good ones!  

In your comment let me know about the best thing you ate all weekend long.

Me?  I had an amazing peanut butter cup cookie!  


All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.

       --Charles Schultz

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Smoky Skies

The current Southern California Wildfire started on the edge of our town. 

As a result, the past few days around here have been strange. 

Can you see the water helicopter in the above picture?

We are so grateful for the 1000 firefighters at work.

High winds have not been helping the situation.

Lots of smoke and lots of ash falling from the sky!

Zelda is still going outside, but likes the protection of the patio umbrella.

Thanks to all who asked about our well-being!  We are just fine, but eager for fires to be out!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Teaching Through Texting

From the beginning of the semester, I try to impress upon my students the fact that they are not writing in a vacuum.
We discuss writer-based writing versus reader-based writing.  We talk about audience awareness.   I emphasize that the lack of circumambient activity means they must think about how they are connecting to their readers. 
Soon, their eyes start to glaze over. 
I try a simpler approach. 
“Writing is powerful,” I say. “The words you write should matter to you AND to your reader.”
Alas, as the semester wears on and they lapse into flat, dull, bland, all-purpose writing, I lament that my message has not gotten through.

The other day, my class had just ended.  The students started filing out and I saw the screen on my phone light up with a new text. I glanced at it.  It was a message from that Certain Very Nice Man with whom I am deeply smitten.
I picked up my phone and read the text—a tender, sweet reminder that he was thinking of me at that moment.
Putting my phone back down on the desk, I turned to see my student Sarah standing there, smiling a smug smile at me.   
“Well!  That text made you very happy, didn’t it?” she said in that slightly sing-singy, teasing voice nineteen-year-old girls use so well.  
I nodded and maybe even giggled a little.  (The text having made me feel a bit like a giddy nineteen- year-old girl myself.)
“I could tell by the way you reacted to it,” she said.
She turned to leave, but then hesitated and turned toward me,  “You know,” she said. “I text all the time and I’ve never really thought about what people look like when they read what I write. Watching you just now makes me think about that.”
I smiled and nodded, knowing enough to leave the moment alone and not kill it with teacher-talk.  (Though I was tempted!)
She stood there for about three seconds, just looking at the phone in her hand.
Then she looked at me and said, “Sweet!”
“Sweet, indeed,” I replied.
She walked toward the door, waving over her shoulder. 
“Bye, Professor.  See you next time!”
“Bye, Sarah.  See you next time.”