Monday, October 25, 2004

Here is a picture that Michaela made using the Paint program on the computer. Posted by Hello

A picture of the twins.

Picture by Angela Morris. Posted by Hello

Angela took this picture about a year ago and I really like it, so I'm using it to see if I'm figuring out how to post pictures correctly. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Notes on the week

A shuffling of Keith Jarrett. I loaded the music from his Vienna, Paris, and Koln concerts, and one track from the Munich concert and I'm listening to them on Winamp with the shuffle play on. Nice effect. Wish I had the Lausanne concert on disc instead of just an old tape. I love this stuff after the week I've had. I don't know if it is the softness, the phrases building on each other, the wild improvisation, or what, but these tracks really calm me in a way that no quieter music can do. However, gentle reader, I very much recommend The Melody at Night With You and the two disc Rarum set from ECI.

Committees. I can't be specific right now, but I will say that committee work sucks much of the time. I'm glad to serve and I can say that I've been blessed to serve on committee doing work that I think is important and certainly interesting to me. However, the work has come for me at a very bad time. Okay, is there ever a good time? Anyway, I have not been able to grade papers as quickly as I want to (who does?), and so I feel more behind than every before. I'm going to quit complaining about it now, because my problems are no worse than any other person, and bitching doesn't get the job done.

Writing. Got an email from Mark Long this week about the essay I've submitted to Best Practices. He suggested adding material about how I practice getting my students to read and hopefully read more effectively. I ran something together and sent it off. He sent me a note I need to read in the coming days. But I think the piece is getting better. Still don't like the title.

Nothing else written this week except for responses to student papers and a couple things for committee work.

Publishing. Other than the aforementioned essay, I did get an email this week from someone about two of my personal essays. He said he'd like to "hold them for consideration" for a Spring or Winter issue. That sounded good when I read it, but it isn't really an acceptance. The journal (?), Ducts, seems like a good place, so I'm sure that it will be worth the wait to find out. The only problem is that ethically, I should not send it anywhere else until they either accept or reject it. But as I said, this is a pretty good zine. I think I'm willing to wait.

About a year ago I submitted an essay to an online zine, one that I felt published some pretty good stuff. I got a note back suggesting some things about my piece. I enthusiastically revised the essay and sent it to them again because I thought their ideas made my essay stronger. I have yet to hear from them.

Uncle Bryan. Today is my brother Bryan's birthday. I didn't get around to sending him a card, but I do have some pictures my kids drew for him. Of course, when I got my hair cut a couple weeks ago, my devoted children said they liked it because i looked like Uncle Bryan. Christina told me a couple days ago that I needed to go back to Mr. Aubrey (my barber for many many years and friend for even longer). Apparently, I don't look like my brother anymore and need to be fixed. Can't win.

A bientot. Well dear readers, I must go. There is much more to write about (like the jerk that keeps messing with my office), but it is ugly o'clock in the morning and Alex has a game (unless the rain gets to us) in the real morning time. I do wish to leave you with this. If you like what you see here, please check back often and tell your friends.

Enjoy the peace of Christ.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Work getting in the way of work or Life as a process

Sunday night/Monday morning I finally finished a draft of the essay on students and reading. I found that I had to practice more of what I preach and was unable to do much that I would like to do when writing.

Though I often say that writing can take place by composing in pieces and putting the good or important stuff together, I usually don't do this. Most often I have a general outline or plan (or vague notion in my head) and I write a draft from that. Then I like, when time and circumstance permit, to revise. I add specific content where needed, remove what doesn't fit or advance my main idea, rearrange paragraphs for greater effect or coherence. Then I like to edit the work a couple times to sharpen my prose. This may take days to achieve. (So, gentle reader, I'm sure you will notice that this doesn't happen on this blog). Of course, the process is adjusted to fit the context and the type of writing I do.

For this essay, I ended up writing probably four different introductions. I made a short outline, but only after I had drafted several disparate (and sometimes dissolving) paragraphs. I did not make several revisions, and because I was on deadline, I did not edit the essay as closely as I would like. The latter problem is not so much of a dilemma because I know that I will have more opportunity to edit the essay, particularly after it has been reviewed by the editor. (By the way, the piece is to appear in a premier issue of the online journal Best Practices.)

Mark Long asked for about 1,000 words. I gave him more than 2,400. I often tell my students that it is easier to cut material than to add some later after one feels a paper is "finished." But one of the problems I have in the revision stage is that for every word I cut, I often end up adding two more somewhere else. Let's hope they are good words. I will say that I don't feel emotionally tied to any particularly part of this essay. Whatever gets cut is not likely to be upsetting to me.

I am excited about this project. It is the first time I've had a chance to put in "print" my thoughts concerning pedagogy. My composition students also responded to a survey for me, a first for me, and I think a positive step. I'm also glad to see some non-fiction getting out there. I haven't written as much or published any in a while. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to suffer in a way that I hope will help me grow.

So what the heck happened? Well, like many other writers, I have not only another job (the one that pays the bills, and one I am very happy to have) but the responsibilities of being a parent. Perhaps, dear reader, you might say that I just haven't figured out how to juggle time as a teacher, writer, husband, father, churchgoer, television watcher, etc. Granted. But doing so is not so easily done as said (to pervert a cliche).

Many writer/teachers spend their summers and holidays writing. That is true for me. However, I am not content to keep my own writing to those limitations. I don't think it is healthy for me to do so, both as a writer and as a teacher.

I am a firm believer that to do well as a writer, at least for me, a particular time needs to be set aside just for this. That's the rub. Too often that time gets encroached upon by the demands of my other "jobs." This is true for all people and for things unrelated to writing or creativity. It is easy to say to myself, "It's okay that for today I need to spend my writing time grading papers or attending to a sick child. Life is full of such adjustments. But I find that too often that time is infringed upon for days in a row until other people (and I) see the "writing time" as something that can take a back seat to the rest of the world. Writing seems to be a hobby, not a job or a vocation. Before long, I find that I have to reestablish the habit.

Okay, so what? Well, I've noticed that the same problems can occur in all of our real lives. Humans need solitude and need to connect with something other than themselves. We need to do something creative in our lives. We all do not need to be writers or artists or musicians, but unless we create, we destroy.

And it is work to create or to connect with the creative world. One way I try to be creative rather than destructive is to read. For instance, I have a set time each day to read my Bible and pray. Hopefully I learn. Hopefully, I connect in a real (not necessarily powerful) way to the ultimate source of Creation. It is not always easy. Often I don't feel like getting up. Often the very thing I pray about is a distraction to my prayers or my reading. Sick children and stacks of papers do not respect the need or sanctity of one's private communion.

Yet when I neglect this area of my life, the world falls into various states of disrepair. It isn't a matter of "things going wrong" or that God is going to "get me" when I don't have my quiet time or my students will hate me for not practicing what I preach. But over time, it gets harder and harder to see the world as anything except but a decaying entity and action as futile. Work not only "gets the job done," it helps us to unite to what is good and real.

So much of life is struggling, not juggling, the various works and working actions of the world around us. We commit, then struggle, then reevaluate, then hopefully commit anew. What I must do is not let the trials of working get in the way of the really important work that is ongoing for my mind and soul.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Voting my conscience?

For the first time in a couple of elections, I plan to vote. I won't, right now, get into all the reasons I have not voted lately, but I will say that none of those feelings/ideas/attitudes have changed for me. In fact, what disturbs me most about this election is that I will be voting despite the things I believe/know about the electoral process.

I know that I am not voting so much for a candidate as against another one. I believe that King George Bush is the wrong person for the job, but that does not mean the Mr. Kerry is the right one. Yet, I am likely to vote for the senator.

The last time I voted in presidential race, I voted for a third party candidate. While I believed then that this person was the best available candidate, I see why my vote may have done more harm than good. I considered voting this time for Mr. Nader. Concerning some policies, I like him better than Kerry. Concerning most, I like him better than Bush. But I also know that in the last election most who voted for Nader would have voted for Gore had they only had the two candidates. Thus Bush won partially because votes were taken away from Gore, not because he was the popular candidate. I am not fully convinced that my vote actually matters, but if I am going to vote, I am unfortunately left to vote for a candidate who can win. That leaves me with Kerry and Bush. No matter how much better anyone else is, we are stuck with these two.

Why people who believe that the two party system not only works but is central to American politics can't see the problems here is really beyond my comprehension. Most of the people who support the two party system present circular arguments. I hear/read: "The two party system works/is best because only two candidates have a real chance to win." Am I the only person to see the problem here? Isn't this a sign that the system is broken?

I am also troubled by the fact that I have become, despite my own beliefs against it, a one issue voter. I am bothered when people see one idea or issue and vote for the candidate that supports their position, or more likely, votes against a candidate who does not support their position. Yet, I find myself in much the same place. I do not support the war in Iraq. Therefore, I cannot support Bush. Kerry isn't exactly what I want, but I do think he has a better idea of how to handle the mess.

There are many things for me to like about President Bush. Had I been voting then, I might well have supported him as governor of Texas (the state I live in). And yet because he refuses to believe that he made errors not only in going to war, but in the way he has handled terrorism, I cannot in good conscience support him as leader of our country.

I do not believe that it is a coincidence that politicians, at the last minute, encourage citizens to register to vote. While they say they believe the process works best when more people vote, the truth is they really don't care what the turnout is. If Bush really wants to win the election, then he not only doesn't want me to vote, he doesn't want me to register because a registered voter is more likely to try to influence others to vote the same way. Bush does not want me to vote because I do not support him. I have one brother that I am pretty sure will vote against Kerry (by default voting for Bush). I doubt the senator really wants my brother to vote too.

Andy Rooney wrote/said, "I'd be willing to bet that it's the dumbest people among us who are least likely to vote too, and that's fine with me. I don't want anyone dumber than I am voting." I think I understand where he is coming from, but doesn't this idea highlight another significant flaw in the process? Mr. Rooney is using humor to make a point. However, if mostly the smart people voted, then why such system? Why a system so flawed it cannot be fixed by those within it? The truth is that the because people are so easily manipulated, they often vote not from the convictions of their consciences, but according to the voice of their emotions.

I will vote on Election Day. I will take the matter seriously and proudly do what I'm told is my civic duty and responsibility. But I'm not going to feel good about it. When it is all over, no matter who wins, I'm not completely sure the country will be better or worse off. I will vote what my conscience tells me to do. But a large part of what my conscience says will get ignored.