2008: A Touch of Grey

The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love.
— Mary Baker Eddy

I’ve posted the above song before, but I didn’t realize why I liked it so much until I was sitting in church this evening, listening to others’ testimonies about their experiences over the past 12 months, and it occurred to me that some of the lyrics more or less sum up my year:

Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive
— The Grateful Dead

In the absolute, there’s nothing but silver linings — no clouds at all — but in the human experience, those silver linings often seem to come with “a touch of grey” as we find ourselves giving up some (usually material) thing we cherish in order to advance spiritually.

Oh well a touch of grey
Kinda suits you anyway
That’s all I had to say
But it’s all right
I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

Mrs. Eddy refers to this process as a “chemicalization” of thought: the disruption to our mental (and sometimes material) status quo that occurs as error is being brought to the surface and destroyed.

I’m finding that it’s these touches of grey that often serve as the catalysts for spiritual progress. Every illness or injury brings a demand for greater insight. Every obstacle overcome forces me to seek a higher understanding of Truth. Without the occasional challenge, I’d be tempted to grow lazy and complacent.

Sometimes a touch of grey kinda suits me anyway.


Rest Haven

Just a little eye candy for any neon junkies in our midst this morning:



The sign stands outside the Rest Haven on Route 66 in Springfield, Mo., where Ron and I stayed on Christmas Eve. Good motel — clean and inexpensive, and the owners are very nice. They get bonus points from me for doing such a great job of maintaining this beautiful sign.


I should be ashamed of myself.

OK … I have to post this, because it’s too typically, classically me to be left unblogged:

Ron and I love good barbecue, so my parents took us out to dinner at 17th Street Bar and Grill — home of maybe the best ribs north of Memphis — while we were in Southern Illinois last week.

As we were waiting for a table, I noticed that they were selling green-and-white baseball shirts with a smirking pig and the words “Nice Rack” emblazoned across the bustline.

For some reason, this struck me as the funniest thing I’d seen all week, and by the time we got done ordering our food, I had decided that I simply could not live one more minute without one.

I was wearing the shirt this afternoon when we went to Arby’s for lunch … where, predictably, I ran into two of my students. Fortunately, I was sitting at a table with my back to the boys when they came in, so they didn’t see their English teacher schlepping around in a “Nice Rack” T-shirt, but it strikes me that perhaps this would be a good time to rethink my off-duty wardrobe….


Watching the wheels

Oi. I just spent the past eight hours writing curriculum. The good news is that I have all of my regular classes’ work mapped out for January. The bad news is that it took a lot longer than it should have to get it done.

Between my past teaching experience (in a school so devoid of resources that I had to design all of my teaching materials myself) and Zaphod’s utter contempt for teachers who rely too heavily on textbooks for their lesson plans, I’ve picked up a bad habit of reinventing the wheel without first bothering to look for any prefabbed resources that might fulfill whatever objective I’m targeting with a particular lesson.

This means, of course, that I wasted the better end of two hours designing worksheets tonight before I opened the comp textbook to find an entire chapter full of exactly the same kind of exercises. D’oh!

Ah, well. On the up side, I’ve got a month’s worth of lessons ready for five of my classes, they’re generally better than the ones I used first semester, and now that I’ve gotten a better handle on the resources at my disposal, I should be able to plan the remaining four months’ worth of lessons a lot faster. Oh, and I cleaned the kitchen, living room, and bathroom while I was procrastinating on my schoolwork this afternoon, too. Not bad for a lazy Sunday….

Hope your evening was at least as productive as mine.


Resolving the issue

Human will is an animal propensity, not a faculty of Soul. Hence it cannot govern man aright. … Will — blind, stubborn, and head-long — cooperates with appetite and passion. From this cooperation arises its evil.

— Mary Baker Eddy

A friend e-mailed me the other day to ask what I thought about making New Year’s resolutions.

I made some resolutions last year, mostly in response to a blog meme. I didn’t make any the year before, for reasons I outlined here.

I don’t, as a general rule, make New Year’s resolutions. Something about the whole idea just bugs me, although I couldn’t put my finger on what it was until I started to reply to my friend’s e-mail the other day:

Many New Year’s resolutions are designed to address unhealthy behaviors of one kind or another. Most such resolutions crash and burn in less than a month. Why? Because willpower and a deadline won’t heal the underlying spiritual problem that leads most of us to participate in unhealthy behavior in the first place.

For example: How many of us have resolved to lose weight, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, or pay off credit-card bills?

Smoking, drinking, overeating, and overspending are all addictive behaviors. If January 1 had some magic power to break addictions, the Betty Ford Clinic would be out of business. To quit smoking, we need to be healed of the desire to smoke. To quit drinking, we need to be healed of the desire to drink. To lose weight, we need to be healed of the desire to overeat. You get the idea.

The trouble with a New Year’s resolution is that we are imposing an artificial deadline on healing. I can tell you from experience: That doesn’t work. It only tempts us to rely on our own willpower at the very moment when we most need to silence human will and let divine Mind — God — govern our thoughts and actions.

I won’t be making any resolutions this year. Instead, I will continue to work toward healing in those areas of my life that need it, and I will continue to be grateful for the spiritual progress I’ve made up to this point. Anything beyond that seems counterproductive.


Eeeee! Bees!

It is too cold to play with my bees, and it is going to stay too cold for a long time, so I decided to get my Apis mellifera fix via retail therapy. (Marilyn, you do NOT want to click the preceding link.)

These ridiculously cute galoshes, which I just ordered from Amazon, should inspire me to walk to work once in a while.

I saw this adorable cake pan at Williams-Sonoma the other day. I was very excited to find it, but Ron talked me out of buying it. I have since decided that my judgment is better than his, so I am going to Utica Square tomorrow after my Reading Room shift to buy one. I’m thinking I might use it to make a cake for the first homework night of 2009, which will probably happen in mid-January.

I also bought a bee-and-flower cookie cutter set the other day at Hobby Lobby, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.

I wish I could find an umbrella with bees on it, but apparently they don’t exist. Maybe I can get a black umbrella and paint some bees on it. That would be way cute.

I’m told it’s weird that I keep buying bee stuff, but I think that’s wrong. It’s not weird when cat owners buy sweatshirts and coffee mugs with kittens on them. Bees are cute and fuzzy, too. They’re just more ambitious than cats.


Folk Thursday: The Marvelous Toy

Sorry for the long hiatus — we were on the road, visiting family for Christmas. In the craziness of finals and winding down for the semester, I forgot to post goodbye.

Anyway, I hope you got whatever marvelous toys you wanted for Christmas.

And now, on to something with a little more substance:

Happy Christmas. I’ll post some photos later … and I’m working on a year-in-review piece, in honor of the madness that was my life in 2008.


Folk Thursday: Janis

I’m claiming this as folk on the grounds that it is acoustic. It is also awesome, and I am sure it has not escaped your notice that awesomeness is the primary factor in determining who does and doesn’t qualify for Folk Thursday honors. 

Speaking of folk, they’ve announced the lineup for next year’s Woodyfest. I will certainly be in attendance, with the Rebel, the Holga, and the Diana in tow….


Special bulletin (boards)

Today was cold, but a big bowl of chicken and dumplings from Evelyn’s warmed me right up. 

After lunch, we went by the teachers’ supply store here in town, where I picked up about $40 worth of stuff for bulletin boards and a $10 workbook on the Holocaust. (I am teaching Night next quarter.) 

I spent most of the afternoon planning some bulletin boards and making things for class. Here’s what I came up with:


This is the layout for a bulletin board featuring next quarter’s essential question for the magnet program. (I’m posting it here not because I think you’re particularly interested in seeing diecuts scattered across my bedspread, but because I plan to use this picture as a guide when I actually put this up tomorrow morning.)


I thought this turned out kind of cute. It’s going to be a place to display excellent student work, which will be posted in that large open area on the lower right-hand part of the board. The tag says “Gifted and talented thinkers.” (I know a lot of my kids are not officially classified as “gifted and talented,” but I reserve the right to celebrate every student’s gifts and talents, regardless of his I.Q.)


Here’s another view of the gift bulletin board, along with the beginning of a new-and-improved version of the newspaper-themed bulletin board I started but never quite finished this fall. The date and “Vol. 1, Issue 2” will go between those black lines. Below that will be a big headline that says “Students of the month named,” with brief articles and pictures of the honorees. It should be pretty cute when it’s finished.

I also printed out some more business cards (which my kids love — they’re printed on cheap, cloud-themed cardstock from Office Depot, and I put an inspiring quotation on each one) and made some more ink pen sunflowers to replace some of the ones that have vanished from my desk.

Hope you’re feeling warm and productive, wherever you are.