Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm back...

OK, not that anyone really cares, but I'm back to a point where I can post a little more often. After the school year ended, I took a big break from the world. Except for one week of paid work, I pretty much ignored the rest of the world. I apologize to Xofezura and others who I've been conversing with (although it looks like Xofezura has had the same phenomenon occur).

Anyway, when July came around, I went on several mini-vacations, including a 9 day retreat at the Benedictine monastery where I took my oblate vows. I also visited friends and received a few out-of-town visitors. Actually, right now I'm visiting my daughter for a couple of days.

Next week, I go back to full-time work. I definitely do not have my "stuff" together for this. And I did not get around to all kinds of goals I had set for my summer; getting the flower garden in order, planting a vegetable garden, beginning some finish work on the basement...

But I did read some good books, and I have had some interesting discussions with various people about the direction of Christian ecumenism, the theology of the Holy Spirit, and what kinds of changes may be in store for my Catholic brothers and sisters in light of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. But I'll save those for another day-- which I promise will be soon. Right now, I need to check in with my blogger friends and let them know I'm still alive.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The 5 Things Game

Well, I was tagged by Xofezura (Journey to Scetis) several weeks ago to play the 5 Books game, and I started to do it, but got called away by the end of school. Better late than never. Also, since I'm brand new to blogging, I don't have 5 other people I know to tag. Xofezura got them all. But I will e-mail some other teachers with this. They don't have anything better to do this month.

Total number of books I've owned: Since the age of 8, when I first started a library -- maybe about 1200 - 1500 (it ain't that many, people). I've given away most of those. My current library is only about 250, divided between home and the classroom.

Last book I bought: Translation Nation, by Hector Tobar. I'm just now beginning to read it, looking for insight into Hispanic-American culture to help me as an educator of ESOL students.

Last book I read: The Bishop and the L Train, by Andrew Greeley. OK, I'm a huge mystery buff. I read Greeley, Sue Grafton, and Agatha Christie. It's my way of escaping (and better for my health compared to binge drinking).

5 books that mean a lot to me: That's a hard list. Here are the first five to pop into my head.
Lincoln (Gore Vidal) Best "fictional" treatment of Lincoln I've ever read. I read it about once every 2 years.

A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter Miller, Jr) Best science fiction book I've ever read, although it's really about man's moral responsibility to his world. The backdrop is a monastery over several hundred years, beginning after a nuclear holocaust.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (William Shirer) I read this book in 6th grade (precocious little squirt, wasn't I?). I knew then I was destined to toil in the dusty stacks of academia.

How Then Shall We Live? (Francis Schaeffer) A very important part of my Christian education. Schaeffer taught me that what we think has vast implications and consequences for our society. Words matter. Ideas matter. Christianity, no matter how mysterious, is also supremely rational and consistent.

The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursala K. LeGuin) The second best science fiction book I've ever read. Themes include isolation, xenophobia, and the yin and yang within ourselves.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Time is on my side...NOT

One of the big things in Benedictine life is balance. Benedict wrote of the daily duties of a monk in great detail, not so much to direct the monk's life in minutae, but to make it clear that life is not all work, or all prayer, or all lectio. Life includes all of these things, but in moderation.

I have a problem with moderation. When I get engrossed in a good book, I drop everything until I'm finished (fortunately, I'm a fast reader). When I'm hungry, I like to eat until it's all gone or I'm one bite from being sick. Coffee? Let's not even go there.

I'm having a lot of problems these days with prayer. Lauds seems always so hurried. Vespers frequently gets skipped at the end of a busy day. Compline depends on how tired I am. But that is really a problem of discipline. The real problem is balancing all the other things in my life.

Work. Friends. Family. Lectio. Meditation. Relaxation. Church. I seem to have time for about three of those things in any given week. Then I feel guilty for not giving time for the others. Every time I try to schedule this stuff, I feel legalistic. Or an emergency happens, and poof! it's all gone. I'm not sure what to do about this.

From what I can tell, I'm not alone. I keep thinking that the only answer that makes sense is to keep simplifying my life and to make sure I have more uncomitted time. There's a limit to that, however, and it can also be taken to an extreme so that I become a loner.

Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, May 16, 2005

The price of being a parent

Last motel room in a 50 mile radius of your daughter's college: $150
Renting a storage unit for 4 years worth of books: $170
Gas and oil for a 30 hour round trip: $50
Buying a dolly because you forgot to bring yours: $100
3 square meals for a starving college student: $60
Extra money to make sure she eats after you leave: $100

The chance to be a hero to your daughter one more time and hear her say, "Thank you, Daddy":


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

While we ramble on...

This is a poem written by an anonymous child who was interned at Terezin (or Theresienstadt) concentration camp during World War II. Terezin was the "model ghetto" the Nazis used to convince the world that such camps were benign. In reality, it was a way station to Auschwitz. Of the 15,000 children who came to Terezin, only 100 survived.


He doesn't know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn't go out.
He doesn't know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth's aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open up your heart
To beauty; go to the woods some day
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if the tears obsure your way
You'll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What do you do when community sucks?

As an oblate, I have promised to live out the Rule of Benedict, "in so far as my circumstances allow." That usually means that our jobs, relationships, and other more-or-less secular constraints on our life force us to look for the spirit of the Rule, rather than the letter. One of those adjustments is in the field of community.

Actually, I have many communities: church, family, work, even this community of bloggers. Right now, I'm having a terrible time with my work community. I always thought this was one of the best group of teachers to work with, and the fact that this was my alma mater made it even more special. I knew it wasn't perfect, but it still seemed special... until this last couple of weeks.

I have a friend that is a good teacher. Maybe not great, but neither am I. But he's different: he's very conservative, he's a bit of a geek (even for a teacher), and he has some chemically-related emotional problems (of which he is aware and gets treated for it). Now it appears he's on the radar of the administrative staff and they want to get rid of him. I'm also finding that there is not a lot of love or loyalty for him from the other members of the faculty.

I'm pretty depressed about it all right now. I thought I knew some of these people, and now it seems like they have no compassion for someone a little different from themselves. Others just don't want to be bothered. I look at my friend, and I know I'm not so very different from him. I've been the geek before, and it feels like s***. I'd still be there but for the grace of God and some fortunate circumstances that put me in a position of some unofficial influence at this school.

Assuming I can help him in some way, I'm still left with the feeling that I can never look at some of these people again without being very angry. This is a real test for me in terms of my commitment to this community and the ability to forgive people. Frankly, I don't know if I'm up to it. Right now, I really don't care; I just want to help my friend.

I'd appreciate any insight.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Being Invisible

I've noticed that no one has commented on any of my posts (other than the first, and that was another teacher who was teaching me how to blog). I suppose that is to be expected. I haven't really told any of my friends about the site, or if I have, I haven't told them the name of it. I don't really want them to read this with me in mind. And strangers obviously haven't seen the site either. I don't know precisely why; I surf quite a bit several times a week looking for new blog sites to visit. I suppose there is something about my settings that keeps it from coming up on the random surfer of blogger. I also know nothing about the search requirements for this site.

Maybe one of these days I'll figure that out. I'd like to just offer these thoughts for others to see and think about, without seeing me.