Not at ALL What You Thought

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quoting (and agreeing with) Smart Friends

An friend spoke some wisdom to an online forum recently, and another friend quoted him. I'ma go and do likewise:

"This is NOT directed to the originator of the thread, but at everyone. There are some people who are immediately going to vote for McCain on this basis alone. Those people are idiots. The PUMA person immediately talked about how this was great for women everywhere.

Well, if women everywhere believe that abortion should be illegal in every case, including rape and incest and life-threatening pregnancy; if women everywhere want creationism taught in schools; if women everywhere think global warming is a hoax; etc.

The PUMA people, who supported Clinton, appear to be willing to completely ignore anything of substance she ever said. With supporters like these---

But there is another group of people- who were turned off by the sexism against Clinton during the campaign and are thus predisposed against the Dems- and there are many reasonable people in this group. I don't agree with every single example of sexism that they give, but I can see a lot of it.

So, preemptively, for those of us who are progressive, let's not push those people toward McCain-Palin. Let's not focus on her gender, let's not talk about her appearance, let's not use sexist terms like bimbo, let's not make vpilf jokes.

Let the Republicans do it. Let Pat Buchanan, in raving about her, call her "gal" repeatedly. Let McCain do his transparent tokenism thing. Let them focus on her breeding capability as somehow indicative of her value. Let her display her own stunning lack of regard for other women. Let the Republicans be who they are. And let us be who we are.

In short, focus on her absolutely crazy policy positions and her relevant experience. Criticize her- but please don't be a dick about it."

Thank you and amen!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Schooooool's In. For. Autumn!!!

My lit class didn't make (again), so I'm teaching only comp, which I don't really mind as much as I thought I would. Especially when I'm in the Developmental Writing classes. The older I get, the more helpful I feel I am for these students, the ones who, by no fault of their own, "test into" that class, hate being there most, and yet (or consequently), are the most grateful for the help in getting out of that class.

DW isn't all I'm teaching this semester, but it's the only class I'm enjoying. Already.

Because, today, I read my classes' first essays. As diagnostic essays go, they were brief (I asked for only one page to mollify folk who hate writing in the first place), but pithy. I had forgotten how easily I slip into the psyches of nervous, desperate, and often sarcastic neo-writers, when I read their first essays. Emotions lie right under the skin, especially when the prompt is "How do you feel about writing? No, really? Can you remember a positive writing experience? A negative experience?" Lordy.

So, of course, today, I read the standard fare, where some students actually tried to respond seriously to the prompt: "Writing has always made me nervous, especially for tests." Or "The only writing I enjoy is in my journal, where nobody grades me." But I also have several ESL students in my classes (as usual: an unfamiliarity with English means that a person can't write effectively), so I also got quite a few "I am learning English. This means I think in [Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, etc] and then translate to English. And then I have to re-read for grammar and punctuation. It is a very long, tiring process" essays.

My favorite today (probably my favorite this semester) began with a student recounting what a high-school teacher had told him about writing: It's communication, like speech. "That's a bunch of bull-crap," the student went on to say.* I was hard-put not to burst out laughing right there. Y'all know how I laugh. My laughing at students has been the subject of many a student evaluation. ("She doesn't have to laugh at us the way she does.") So I try not to roll on the floor during class, no matter how funny the essay (or remark) in class, unless the student clearly means to be funny.

Some essays were neither run-of-the-mill nor funny. One student wrote about the hand-made cards he made for family members, like his 90-something grandmother, the time she fought off a thirty-four-year-old, and ended up in the hospital. Another student's essay ended with a sentence like, "You wouldn't believe the stories I could tell you." Well. By the time we finish the semester together, she's going to realize that, yes, I would believe.

Dear Jesus, my Brother, help me help somebody this semester.

*And he's right: who puts punctuation between their lips?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mint Condition

Juice, my 17yo, fantasizes a LOT. Hey, I guess she is just like I was at her age, only Juice fantasizes about things, while I (used to) fantasize about people. These days, she's fantasizing about her very own car, fantasizing because I have (strongly) suggested that her father's promise to give her a car, before she begins her senior year in HS, may not be realized.

Today, I was picking her up from work, and she said, "I wish I lived in the days when cars cost $500. I wish I could just go back in time."

I pointed out to her that since she was a black young woman, going back in time for a $500 car probably wouldn't be worth the trouble.

"Oh. Right," she said. "Well, then I'd send a white friend back in time to get the car for me. . . . Like one of those Starsky and Hutch cars, only brand-new." Skirting the issue of whether she could buy a "Starsky and Hutch" car, brand-new, from the past, for only $500, I agreed that such a car, in mint condition, would be worth a lot of money in 2008.

"'Mint condition'? Does that have to do with your breath --'minty fresh'?" she asked. I told her that, in fact, the expression had to do with making money at Fort Knox (among other places).

"So mint condition doesn't have anything to do with mints?" I told her no; I tried to explain that mint was also a noun meaning "the place where money is printed" or a verb meaning "stamp" or "print," but then the child said, "Does the word for the place where money comes from have to do with the way the money smells? Like a minty-fresh smell?"

I told her that the expression minty-fresh comes from the name of a plant, "mint," that grows in the ground.

"So money's made from mint?"

Jesus, my brother, just give me strength.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Morning Off

Since Monday, the girls've been going to HS band camp in the morning and the afternoon. They're both very excited about it, mostly because this is Goobs' first time in band with Juice.

I'm not so excited: I have to do all the driving. But last night, Juice arranged for a driving, band-camp-attending friend to pick them up in the morning. I went to bed fantasizing about sleep, wonderful, uninterrupted, morning sleep.

Fantasies are cruel.

On the nights before band camp, I set my alarm clock for 730 am (because the girls have to get to camp by 859). This morning, however, I didn't need to set my clock, not because I was sleeping in, but because somebody got to knockin on my door at 7 am (yes, a half hour before I usually get up). I thought I was dreaming. I thought somebody was knockin on somebody else's door. But when I didn't respond to the knockin, somebody opened my bedroom door.

"Why are you in my room?" I asked Juice.

"Mommy, should Goobs get up at 7 or 730? Cuz it's her day to get up first, and she's not gonna do it, so can you wake her up?"

"Get out of my room," I said. Then I got up and woke Goobs. "Get up, Goobs. Get UP." I said, pattin her on her negligible little butt. Then I went back to my room, closed the door and got back into bed, where I yelled, "GET UP, GOOOOOOOOOBS!" I listened intently and finally heard mattress squeaking and the shutting of the bathroom door.

By then, I had to pee. So I got up again and listened, from my bathroom (which shares a wall with theirs) intently for the sounds of running water. (Goobs doesn't tend to use a lot of it. Soap, either.) Eventually, I heard the other toilet flush. Then the door opening. (Any hand washing between opening and closing? Any? Anyone?) Then I heard somebody knockin on my bedroom door again.

"I'm in the bathroom! What do you want??"

"Oh!" said Goobs. "Never mind." Then I heard the other bathroom door closing. Then I heard water running. I left my own bathroom (after washing my hands) and went back to bed. Then I heard the bathroom door open and Goobs' bedroom door close. Then I heard her say, "Oh!" And the door opened and I heard her knockin on Juice's door.


Then I pulled out my bible and started reading it. Maybe I could sleep after people left the house. Juice went into the bathroom, (ostensibly) washed up, and went back to her room.

Where she began to play some crazy music as loudly as possible, singing loudly along. I got out of bed and asked her what kind of idiot she was. Juice just looked at me during my tirade and then giggled as she turned off the music. On my way back to my bedroom, Goobs accosted me.

"I didn't run my scan [on her PC] last night, Mommy," she informed me.

"I do not care," I said, still walking. "Y'all eat something. Don't forget the dogs. And don't forget to get your instruments and sheet music out of the car." I went back to my room and shut the door.

"OH!" said Goobs, who then went out to the car to get her stuff. It was Goobs' day to put the dogs out, so she was the one yellin at Frody when he got to barkin at nothin under my bedroom window. She brought the dogs back in.

The two of them left about twenty minutes later. Then one of them came back and went back out.

I think I would've slept more soundly in the car, driving them to band camp.

Dear Jesus, my Brother, please help me not to kill my children.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My Brothers, Stay On Top of Your Health. . . .

. . to quote Field.

We have all suffered a great loss.

Jesus, my brother, remind us that we still have a lot of work to do, so we should take care.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Legitimate Ministry, Bastardy and Sore Feet

So this week, my church held its annual Holy Convocation. Simply put, we invite all the churches from our organization, and everybody else who will come, to enjoy what we think is the best: preaching, teaching, singing, dancing and fellowship. The sound level, despite (or, maybe, because of) the most expert tweaking, was deafening. Seriously. I sat down after helping to sing during praise and worship service, turned to a fellow tenor and said, “I think I’m deaf.” He responded, “What??”

Apart from that (and the sore feet, which I’ll get to later), it was a pretty cool convocation.

I enjoyed the preaching. The theme this year was “Legitimate Ministry.” So all of our* preachers/teachers talked about what made legitimate ministry legitimate. At least three separate pastors used the word bastard from the pulpit. Makes sense to me: in order to discuss legitimate ministry (and legitimate ministers), you might wanna talk about what it is not.

• It is not the new “prosperity doctrine.”

• It is not substituting “God told me” for true knowledge/interpretation* of the bible.

• It is not ignoring what your community needs.

• It is not believing yourself to be a law unto yourself.

It is sacrifice. It is getting a degree in theology (if you can). It is remembering that the word minister really means “servant.” It is submitting to accountability. Anything else, especially the “law unto yourself” stuff, is bastardly. Or so my pastor* and his colleagues said, in their several messages. I enjoyed them greatly.

I enjoyed singing. At one point, the choir was singing, a beautiful song called “Sovereign God,” and I had the soloist part; then, the choir started its part. The singers sounded so good, I almost dropped the microphone. I yelled, “Y’all SINGIN!” at ‘em and pretended to give ‘em a group slap. (Our director gave me the fish eye and admonished me telepathically: Could you please just pick up the mike and do what you do? Please.) I finally remembered to do what I was supposed to be doing, and everything went fine. That was Wednesday night, and I really believe that was the best singing we did the entire week. Others disagree, but I don’t care what they think.

We’ve had a guest minister over the choir for the few months leading up to the convocation, Pastor John Walker, from Fayetteville, North Carolina*. Pastor Walker is hilarious, intelligent, and extremely serious about the gospel (and by that, I do not mean the music some people sing). He taught us about dynamics and execution; he fussed at us; he threatened us; he preached to us; he prayed for us. At the end of the choir rehearsals, we were ready to be legitimate ministers (of music).

But while I was watching for Pastor John Walker’s dimple, Juice and Goobs were falling in love with Pastor Walker’s wife, Pastor Lorna Walker. (She used the word bastard twice from the pulpit.) That woman is a pistol, she is. When she gets tickled at something, she laughs –often right then and there, often in the pulpit. She tells the unvarnished truth when she speaks. She studies and researches, so when she speaks, she knows what she’s talking about. She jumped up and down and flung a handkerchief around, like a little kid, after introducing my pastor before his message. She and her husband* are probably in their forties, but she looks younger every time I see her. My daughters are smitten. First Goobs then Juice asked for personal introductions to her, and, after that, the woman acted like they were her favorite people in the world.

So you know how I feel about Pastor Lorna.

I enjoyed teaching. Kinda. The convocation had morning sessions. My pastor paid our LLC to hold a three-day mini-workshop on “Compassion Fatigue: Dealing with Difficult People.” Nearly all the pastors, and many other ministers, participated in the workshop, all three days, and we had a ball. My best friend’s husband made everyone participate in an art project, a metaphor for how ministers interact with church members. My best friend’s mama (who has a Master’s degree in counseling) and her mama’s colleague (ditto) offered counseling exercises and information on how to deal with difficult people.

I got to find scenes from movies (Spanglish, Ray, Waiting to Exhale and The Gospel) to exemplify four* different types of difficult people. And I sang. I had so much fun, I should've been payin Pastor.

But, in the end, we realized that we –ministers-- are Difficult People. We –ministers—have to work on our legitimacy. We –ministers— have to strive to avoid bastardly lives.

C’est la vie, yes?

And my feet hurt. At my church, women wear pumps (often with 2+-inch heels) and fancy dresses and shoes; men wear comfortable shoes and sensible suits. What's up with that? The choir was in uniform, a different color outfit (yes, from your own collection of church clothes) every night. We didn't have to buy special clothes for the convocation, but my feet won't be the same (although I studiously avoid 2+-inch shoes) for days. Days, I said.

Also c'est la vie. I'm lobbying for a "dress down" day next year.

*This year, we didn’t send out for “famous” speakers. We satisfied ourselves with messages from ministers of our own organization. It was an inspired idea.

*As one pastor put it, “hermeneutics and exegesis.”

* "The Honorable Bishop blah, blah, blah."

*Our organization, including the folk we call our covenant churches, exists mostly in the south south -–Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina—- but we also have a new church in Massachusetts and one in Maryland.

* They sit nearly everywhere together with his arm around her and her head on his shoulder.

* Not exhaustive.

Dear Jesus, my brother, help us always to behave like members of Your family.