Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Year

It is hard to believe that summer has passed and another school year has begun. Back in May, I had all these plans for the three months of summer break. I was going to clean out my closet, weed out things in the kitchen cabinets, garden, and read the books that I collected in a mountainous stack during school last year.

My closet is still a mess. No, in all fairness, it has been upgraded to a disaster. This is because one of the cats thinks that the closet is his primary residence. He is quite happy to nap on the extra blankets that are stored on the upper shelves. The problem comes when the dog, upon seeing the cat's return "home" after a visit to the food bowl or the litter box decides to follow, or chase, him to the closet. This results in a scramble of fur that sends shoes flying and clothes falling from their hangers as the animals navigate through my shirts as if they were an obstacle course.

And then there are the kitchen cabinets . . .has anyone seen the sifter? The lemon zester? The metric measuring cups? I had hoped that Brooke might take part in restoring a sense of order to the cabinets. She uses the kitchen and all that it has to offer more than any of us. * NOTE: The dishwasher maintains itself as too technologically advanced for anyone here. I had hoped that the working conditions around here might be deemed unacceptable and that Brooke might take it upon herself to better the situation. No such luck. I also thought that she might like the perks from this job because she is moving into an apartment this year at school, an apartment that she chose based purely on the kitchen and its amenities. I guess that isn't such a bad criterion to use. She could have chosen her place of habitation based on its proximity to a tattoo parlor or boys' dorm. Brooke does nor leave for another month. If she wants to equip her new kitchen, it may be in her best interest to organize the cabinets here so that she can abscond with all the cool gadgets that I have forgotten I have.

I did garden . . .once, maybe twice . . .this summer. I planted the front flower bed back in May. I watered it . . .once, maybe twice. I thought about dumping the four bags of mulch that are sitting in the driveway . . .once, maybe twice. Both the plants and the weeds are doing well in this flower bed.

I did read some, mostly poetry and not nearly everything that accumulated on the "to read" shelf. In fact, for every book that I pulled out and read, two more made their way to the already overcrowded living conditions found on my personal bookshelves. There is always Christmas break . . .

Despite the fact that I feel like I have wasted my summer, because I can't tell you anything that I accomplished during the months of May. June, July, or August, I am glad to return to the grind of my school schedule. This year it is a little different. All of my three regular classes are at capacity. And this year I have been given an extra class to teach. Preparing for this extra class is no big deal, but teaching it does involve and extra trip to Dallas every week.

The biggest change for me now that school is back in session is the necessity to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Over the summer, 3:oo am is a reasonable hour because the next afternoon always holds the possibility of a nap. A 3:00 am bedtime is a huge mistake when the alarm goes off at 6:00 am on school days. I will miss my middle of the night ruminations on the poetry I am reading, or the daily meditation from my favorite book , or drawing, or writing into the wee hours of the morning. My creative side works on a totally different clock than does the rational thinker in me who knows she needs more than three hours of sleep each night.

So, the new academic year is in full swing. The theory is that when the economy is bad, students flock to the colleges and universities for a place of respite as well as for an opportunity to hone their current skills or acquire new ones in order to be employable during these bad economic times.

To all of you who are involved in education as either a teacher or student, may the joy of learning never escape you. For the rest of you, remember those school zones - tickets for going over 20 mph and more for talking on your cell phone while travelling through a school zone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Little Things In Life

It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the big things that happen in life. Sometimes though it is the smallest of things that gives us the ability to look at life from a slightly different perspective and maybe even cause us to pause and smile.

Such was the case this morning. This flower poked its head up from amidst the gravel along the driveway. It was all alone but seemed perfectly happy to stand tall and greet the new day. Perhaps this little flower has something to teach us all.

Stand tall, smile, and greet each new day with joy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

One Little Question

It is show time again. Quite a bit goes on in the arts community in Denton. For the performing groups, this means being creative when it comes to finding adequate rehearsal space. Several local venues have been gracious in allowing us to use their facilities. Tonight we were in a new place, our local senior citizens' center.

When we moved to Denton back in the eighties, all of the Chamber of Commerce information about Denton touted it as a great place for both young people, because of our two local universities, and older people, because of available services to seniors, to live. Back then, as a young graduate student, I didn't pay much attention to what our city had to offer for its older citizens. Now that information seems a little more relevant.

Rehearsal began at 7 pm. As I entered the building, there were twelve or fifteen senior citizens gathered in a sitting area chatting and watching TV. They all seemed to be enjoying the company of one another. I made my way to the multi-purpose room to set our makeshift stage. It is a wonderful room with lots of space to work. While the costumer measured some of the actors, I wandered around the building just to see what was there. I must say that I was impressed.

There was a room with two pool tables, a library that works on the honor system, a gym area with treadmills and exercise bikes, and a cafeteria that serves lunch daily. I also looked at the bulletin board listing all of the upcoming events. Trips are being offered to local baseball games, to Southfork Ranch, to the Texas State Fair, to the casino just across the Oklahoma border, and to some local museums. These are some busy people! And if travelling about is not your thing, the center offers many classes right there on the premises - conversational Spanish, computer literacy, tap dancing, self defense, and belly dancing. They seem to try and find something for everyone.

The physical building is also well laid out for people who may be using walkers or in wheel chairs. Much of the space is open and the rooms that do have doors have extra wide ones. All of the hallways are lined with railings much like those that are found in hospitals, thus making it easy for those who may be a little unsteady on their feet to make their way through the building.

It is not surprising to me that every stall in the ladies' room was a handicapped friendly stall. There was one thing, however, about the restroom that was a bit puzzling to me. Why did they have sanitary napkin and tampon dispensers on the wall? Surely there must be some justice in the world. When I am old enough to enjoy all the benefits that our senior citizens' center has to offer, I better not need to be carrying a quarter for one of those machines "just in case"!

Other than that, the golden years in Denton aren't looking half bad.

Friday, August 8, 2008

God or Coincidence?

Life is full of those weird moments when you wonder what the heck is going on - like when a friend calls on the phone at just the moment you were thinking about them, or you find $20 in the washing machine as you are whining about no money for that cafe mocha from Starbucks, or the perfect song plays while your ipod is on shuffle, or there is a snow day at school on the only day that you have not finished your homework. I think you get the picture. The question is, are these occurrences happenstance or are they the work of the Divine hand? I suspect that at one time or another, everyone has entertained this question. What do you think?

The youth minister at our church has been called to another position so as the kids begin the new year, they are without a youth minister. In the interim, four of the teenagers will unite to lead the group until the position is filled permanently. One of the things that the youth group does when they gather on Wednesday evenings is direct theological questions to the youth minister. He answers and then entertains discussion in the group. He is now trying to prepare the four youth leaders to respond to such questions from their peers.

Erin is one of the youth leaders and her question this week dealt exactly with the question at hand - is it coincidence or is it God? She responded by saying that if you are always looking for God then you will always find him/her. If you're not looking then you won't. Does that then make it coincidence? If you believe in the power of God can anything be coincidence?

Coincidence is defined by as two or more events occurring at the same time presumably by mere chance. Presumably? That does not help us here. Why is that word "presumably" even in the definition? Presumably means that I have to presume that things happened due to mere chance. Presume based on what? Based on the fact that God is too busy to worry about manipulating the shuffle on my ipod, too busy to make sure my kids leave their money in the pocket of their jeans rather than in the wallets, or too busy to keep track of my neediness factor so that He can nudge a friend to call at just the right time? What if I don't presume anything?

To presume means to take for granted or assume without any warrantable evidence. What am I taking for granted if I assume that something is purely coincidental? There is a God? There is no God? This definition of coincidence conjures up more questions than answers.

The academic in me loves wallowing in the questions, but the realist wants some answers, some good answers. What information do I need to determine if something is God or coincidence? As I sit here thinking about this, I realize that there is no information, or studying, or innate knowledge that will help me make sense of this question. Proof, one way or the other, does not exist.

In the absence of concrete data, I have to turn to faith, faith in a divine being, faith in God. Once I rely on my faith, the answer seems so simple. Nothing happens without God's hand setting it in motion. Therefore, unless God is out sourcing and the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing, for me, there is no such thing as coincidence. These strange occurrences now become not coincidences but signs from God. Perhaps they are like those orange road signs that say Caution. Work Zone.