Friday, December 28, 2012

Spiritual atheism - the afterlife

My parents have been much on my mind this month.

The death of a loved one is always a test of faith. When I was young, I believed in heaven as a place where grandparents went when they got too old. St Peter welcomed them at the gate and they checked in to their room like a vacation hotel with a great view and all the amenities. It was a place, I was told, I should not fear. It was a place so wonderful that we should rejoice rather than cry when our loved ones passed over the threshold.

Later, I started to hear about reincarnation, about a vast nothingness, about hell and purgatory. Death’s destination was far less certain than I had been led to believe. And, it made sense; how would anyone know, really? It was all a test of faith.

I failed the test.

Then, my brother died. I was in college; he was a few months shy of his 40th birthday. His life had been . . . complicated; his death equally so. I believe the last thing I ever said to him was an expletive I couldn’t repeat in front of my mother. I was angry with him; had been angry with him for a long time. And I loved him; have always loved him.

What happens when we die? My mother hoped that she would see her love once again. I have to hope that is somehow true. There was that movie with Matt Damon and an actress whose name I do not know – where she died in the tsunami that hit the Philippians and saw a crowd of people before she came back to life. Were those others who were dying along with her? Or were they people waiting for their loves. Was that her grandmother she saw? Damon’s character could communicate with the dead when he touched the living who had been close to them. Are the dead around us, caring for us, watching out for us; ready whenever some wandering psychic happens by? When my sisters went to visit one of those who claims to communicate with the dead she found someone, I think she identified him as Bob, who didn’t want to come too close because he didn’t want to be seen as he was. My dad died in bed – not the way he wanted to go. At my mother’s wake, my Dad’s old friend Joe told us about a dream he had where my Dad said he was finally better and could walk around without the boot. He even jumped up and down to prove his foot was as good as new. Joe said that was great and now he could go back to work at the mill but my Dad said Ronnie didn’t want him back. He got in his truck and drove away. How did my Dad get better in the afterlife? Why did it take so long? Was he simply preparing himself for Mom? If so, are they dancing now? Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life? . . . I want so much to believe that my parents are holding hands again. What more could you ask from heaven? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Slice of Christmas

 At the end of Christmas day, I am sitting in my favorite chair by the tree, soft music playing, surrounded by opened presents. Greg is off to check in with some friends, the girls are relaxing with a movie downstairs, and the dog has abandoned her rawhide bone until morning. It was a lovely day and now we are enjoying some quiet.

I am so grateful for this lovely day. A few days ago, I was crying by my parents’ grave, dreading this holiday. How could I celebrate without Mom? But, Mom reminded me of everything I did have. I had extra hugs from my girls all week who were both moved by the season, and a little worried about me being sad. I had the loving, watchful eye of my husband, ready to swoop in and hold me as I cried, to take the girls so I could be alone, or to crack a joke to make me laugh – whatever I seemed to need. I had my sisters and brothers, all feeling the same loss, all supporting each other through it.

Christmas was a slice of love and beauty in what had otherwise been a difficult month. I miss my Mom and Dad, and more so during the holidays. But on Christmas, I felt their love more than their absence.

Merry Christmas everyone.

(My Slice of Life is posted a little late, but you can read more here.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slice of anxiety

Tuesday again.
Time to post with the Slice of Life Challenge.
But, I'm tired
and my wrist hurts
and I'm worried about my daughter
and I have night before school jitters 3 months after everyone else
because I'm starting a new job tomorrow
though I still have college essays to grade
from my old job.

So I'm not going to write.
I'm going to snuggle with my daughter
then ice my wrist as I recite my lessons in my head.
And, maybe I'll sleep tonight,
and maybe I won't.
Tomorrow arrives regardless.
Read what others took the time to write here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


After a productive day of running errands and tying up loose ends, I am sitting in our public library with my two daughters and their two friends. They are all working on a National History Day project.

If you don’t know about National History Day, you should check out their website. It’s a fabulous program that gets kids thinking like historians and requires the sort of critical thinking demanded by the Common Core standards.

Right now, I’m watching my 12-year-old work with a librarian to locate some good titles related to her topic. This, more than any historical interpretation or analysis, is my favorite part of History Day. My daughters, my shy daughters, are forced to work with adults they don’t know and ask and answer questions. The girls make meetings with teachers for help, and search out other resources they need.

On contest day, each student has to present her work to a panel of judges and answer 5-10 minutes of questions.

My girls don’t easily put themselves in front of people; they do not like to be the center of attention. But, if they want to participate in History Day, they have no choice. This is the most difficult part of the program for them, and my favorite part.
The girls and I will be at the library at least once a week while they prepare their projects. I stay out of their way; I’m only the chauffeur.

Side benefit, I get my work done, too.

Read about what other teachers are doing today at the Two Writing Teachers website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thankful-Day 27

Read a quick blog post in Humane Connection on the joy of doing good. Service to others is both a higher calling and a source of joy. So, it got me thinking about my work as a teacher. I get paid to help people, and for that I am blessed. I don’t just have a good job I have good work.

I feel true happiness when I work with students of all ages. I’m still working every day to be a better teacher and I have so much to learn. And, of course, not every moment is joyous. Last night I got an email from a student with a draft he wanted me to review before the essay due date 2 days later. This student had failed to show up for his individual writer’s conference last week where I could have given him individual attention. When he saw me later that day, he promised to send a second draft over the weekend for review but he didn’t. The draft he had originally given me missed key aspects of the assignment, despite a detailed rubric and several class discussions and workshops. I made detailed notes on that original draft. Still, what he emailed me yesterday was an inadequate response to the assignment. I was angry, frustrated; I felt like a failure, and like he was. In short, no joy. Then, I took a deep breathe, reminded myself that my goal in teaching this class is to support students in improving their academic writing skills, and carefully read the draft. I wrote half a page of notes and emailed it back to him as quickly as I could so he would have more time to revise. In the end, it wasn’t exactly joy, but I felt at least as if I had done my job. And, I love my job.

I am thankful that I get to earn my living as a teacher, doing work I love, despite the attendant frustrations.

Read a slice of other teachers' lives at the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.