Thursday, December 22, 2005

In Praise of My Children and Other Stuff

Read that as "students" since I don't have any children of my own! Knowing that I was going to Nicaragua for Christmas, the kids chipped in together and got me $200.00 in American Express gift cards to use on my visit! And many got me other things $150.00 in Barnes & Noble gift cards (which I will use to buy books for the classroom.)

It is a tradition to buy teacher's gifts; and frankly, I don't NEED anything. But my kids are generous and just can't help themselves. Each will receive a post card from Managua; and I will try to find other items to use in the classroom while I'm there. But frankly, I might also pay for a fresh lobster dinner for myself at some point, too!

On another score, Delta has changed my flights and on the trip down made it IMPOSSIBLE to make my connection. Arriving into Atlanta at 9:33 AM and departing for Managua at 10:10 AM? Are they smoking crack? IF the plane arrived on time, sitting in seat 32D, I'd be lucky to emerge from the gangway by 9:45!--and Atlanta with it's four terminals accessible by light rail is no place to only have 25 minutes to navigate. Don't they have a computer program that can flag asinine combinations like this? They ought to! You know, back in the 80's, Delta was the premiere airline in America. What happened to them? And why is there no institutional memory there that holds those responsible for its downfall accountable? Why must bankruptcy be the answer?

So cutting to the chase, I was able to change my first flight, and I now have to be at the airport by 4:15 AM; which means leaving my home by 3:40 AM. How do YOU spell "saint"? I spell it L-A-U-R-A, as my most faithful friend Laura will do me the honors of taking me to Thurgood Marshall/BWI.

Again, I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful HOLIDAY season! And that the war mongering Fascist-Christians who huff and puff about their victim status while bullying everyone else into kissing their (mostly) lily WHITE asses, stumble upon the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! May it be so.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Holidays

I hope that I've told you at some point in the past that I am a teacher. I have, in fact, been teaching since 1984!--21 years, and I'm no where near burnt out by it. Every day just seems to jazz me more and more.

And some days provide wonderful surprises. Like yesterday: standing in the hallway, greeting my students as they arrived....and a little boy approached me and thrust a bulging envelope into my hand. I recognized that he is the younger brother of a former student. I taught A. back in 2003/04. I opened the envelope only to discover a holiday gift and well wishes. It was a gift card to Barnes & Nobles for $25.00. Very generous by any standards, but unheard of from a former student two years removed!

A. is an amazing young man. Very well versed and profoundly analytical in his mental capacities. While conducting an experiment with meal worms, a classmate of his inquired of me whether her specimen was a "boy" or "girl" mealworm for the purposes of naming them accurately. I explained to her that the animal was in a phase of their life cycle where they did not have a gender.

A. responded to the conversation by asking, "So they're hermaphrodites?" And I responded that they weren't because they possessed no gender, while hermaphrodites were born with aspects of both. He persued the conversation, and I suggested that he take it up with his parents, to which he replied, "Oh, I've asked my dad, but he's a doctor, and he doesn't know anything!"

Later, his dad and I discussed this interchange with great humor and sympathy.

The family is Iranian; and I have taught children whose parents come from every corner of the planet, but none are as wonderful as Iranians. So tender and supportive of their children, and SO supportive of us teachers. Guess I shouldn't have been surprised by A.'s gift.....

May something gracious surprise you this holiday season! Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

One State's Stats

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I am really personally intuned to the War in Iraq. Not simply as someone who opposes it. Not only as someone who recognizes the lies and obfiscations that drew us into it. And not only as someone who desperately would love to see those who perpetrated this evil brought to justice.

But I am someone who completely and totally honors those who have served our nation in this cause. I acclaim all who have and are in the threatre of this conflict. And I deeply revere and pray for the souls of those who have been sacrificed in the prosecution of this conflict. The cowards at the top may go free for now....but eternally they will face justice. And if they don't, then there is NO JUSTICE.

Imagine, with me, that for every one of these soldiers, there are 10 times as many Iraqi's who have been martyred. And WAY TOO MANY of them are women and children.....

Who is going to STOP this MADNESS? Who is going to come clean and declare that enough is enough?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Light Perpetual

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Once again, we are confronted with the stark reality that we as a nation practice the barbarous act of capital punishment. The death of Stanley Tookie Williams only highlights a practice that goes on week after week all across our nation -- even, here in my beloved Maryland. My faith deeply informs my thoughts about this. I did not always believe that it was wrong, but my heart turns more profoundly toward the image of unconditional love with each moment that life is my gift.

Why do we do this? Some claim it is a deterant. But it's not. The states with the highest per capital murder rates, have the death penalty: Texas, Louisiana, Florida.... citizens of these states are NO STRANGERS to the execution of murderers. But it doesn't stop people from killing....

As a Christian, I must tell you that faith is not for the arrogant -- no matter how many so-called Christians stomp around shouting and guilting others toward submission. It's not for the faint of heart, or the small of spirit. It's not for the weak of conscience. It pains me that the most vociferous of proponents of the death penalty too often hide behind their "Christian" faith....which is, of course, ridiculous.

They are not acting in faith, the nature that drives their passion is completely human. And as such, I totally understand it. But it's NOT Christian. Jesus was clear when he told us that life is precious; that redemption is our mission, that forgiveness is the key that opens that door; and judgment is not as powerful as mercy. Mercy enlightens and unburdens our souls, while judgment only promises us the same in equal measure.

Now I know the details of S. T. Williams' crimes and they UTTERLY HAENEOUS -- words cannot describe the evil; nor can they hope to comfort the survivors. But and eye for eye honors nothing. Here's a thought: "Unless a seed fall to the ground and is buried, it bears no fruit." We are all bound for death, we should all live our lives with this reality in our hearts, and no matter the circumstances; pray that our lives mean something to others...change the world for the better. That's redemption.

Now here's a hard and heartfelt statement: should my life end violently and unfairly at the hands of a cruel and ignorant person. No thing would make my soul rest more peacefully than to know that by planting my seed, others lives florished.... Let us not play God. Let us not ignore evil, but in our desire to accomplish justice, we must not forget the power of grace to accomplish redemption, that everyone is called to lives of forgiveness and mercy. That vengeance is easy and shrinks our spirits, while mercy in the midst of great sorrow demands divine unction, and expands our souls toward a hallowed, transformative love.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow Day! -- Great Day

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
With the unplanned freedom to spend today as I pleased, thanks to this early season snow storm, I chose to finally get to the National Museum of Women in the Arts to see the Alice Neel show. Called "Alice Neel: Women," the exhibition presented portraits from the beginning of her career to the end. Many of the images were also included in her 2000-2001 retrospective, which I experienced at the PMA in Philadelphia.

The museum was typically sparse in visitors, and so unlike the PMA experience, the galleries were quiet and the opportunity to experience the images was very hallow. And yet, the psychological intensity and intimacy of the works ellicited a verbal response from me more than once.

In portraiture, there are two concepts: technical accuracy versus phsychological intimacy. Tech masters include Gilbert Stuart, Inges, and Close; and psych artists would enlist, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Neel. And having said that, each blurrs the lines! No one is either/or. And with Neel, you discover an artist whose technique continually refines itself, while her sense of psychological understanding is consistantly acute.

The show is open until January 15th. Make the time, you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What I'm Listening to #7

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The soundtrack to "Brokeback Mountain."

No surprise, eh?

And I love most of all Rufus Wainwright's rendition of "King of the Road."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Random Quote #35

"Christmas, as we know it, is a symbol, a recognition, a flower on the altar, a bow in passing. It says a tiny yes to the dream, it sings a little song.... "

~ Harriet Monroe, 1907 - 1995

Happy Holidays

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Amidst the current flap over the difference between "Christmas" trees and "Holiday" trees, there runs a tradition that harkens me back to my youth every year. The TV animated specials are Christmas for me! It wouldn't be a Holiday season without them.

There are 4 that stand head and shoulders above the rest: "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer," "The Grinch that Stole Christmas," "Frosty the Snowman," and (first among equals) "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I own the VHS. I can watch it any time that I like. But it seems nearly blasphemous to shun the national ritual of watching it on TV as it is broadcast to everyone, versus creating a random and private viewing.

And when Linus speaks of the true meaning of Christmas...the noses of magical reindeer glow, the hearts of crumudgeonly creatures grow, and Snowmen resist the urge to melt.... It's pure Christmas magic.

Like the the virgin birth, and unconditional love: it instills in us a sense of the possible, even if the present argues against it.

Happy/Merry Holidays/Christmas!!

Random Quote #34

"God gave men both a penis and a brain, but unfortunately not enough blood supply to run both at the same time."

~ Robin Williams, 1952