30 May 2006

The Singing Niece

Here's a photo of the Alaska Youth Choir touring group--the group going to Italy in July--with our little songbird, Mary, my youngest niece, front and center. Here are the words of her proud daddy (my twin brother), desribing our darling practicing her craft.

"Two weeks ago, as the season for the main choir ended, Missouri, the choir director, had individual sessions with each of the choristers. Jeannie and I sat in the back of the chapel watching Mary have her individual lesson. The chapel was dark, except for the lights at the altar where Missouri sat at the piano and light streaming in through the stained glass behind the altar where Mary stood singing. She was singing a song in German by Bach, and she has such a beautiful voice, and the whole scene was simply overwhelming--such a beautiful moment that as she sang I couldn't hold back the tears."

And of course, I too got all weepy-eyed just reading this. Thanks for indulging me in this moment of filial pride and joy.

15 May 2006

Mother's Day Thoughts

This Mother’s Day, and Mother’s Days for some years now, I neither am a mother nor have a mother. If I were a certain kind of person, I’d let that anger me or make me bitter. And while it does make me a little sad, remembering Mom, I’m so surrounded with reminders of the people who love me and think of me on Mother’s Day that I can’t be sad for long.

On Mother’s Day, I’ve heard from most of my nieces and nephews, the “real” ones—my brother’s kids, who are related to me by blood—as well as my best friend’s girls, who have always called me “Aunt Judyy.” In fact, I often visit my friend and her family for Mother’s Day and get the whole treatment—breakfast in bed, cards and flowers, and so much sweetness from three girls who aren’t my own but who love me like family. It’s especially nice because my brother’s family is just too far away for more than annual visits. But these three nieces of my heart make it a wonderful holiday.

And if mothering is nurturing, I can’t forget all the students who have variously suffered and blossomed (most of them, a little of both) under my instruction. I’m not one of those teachers who thinks of herself as functioning in loco parentis; that is, a teacher, at least at the university level, isn’t a surrogate parent, at least in my view. While I care deeply about all my students, it’s a different sort of thing from what their parents feel for them. For one thing, I have no urge to spoil them or coddle them or accept less than their best efforts. Not that every parent does those things, but I think the impulse to do them is stronger in the parent. What’s most important to me is that students succeed in my class and learn what they need to learn from me so they’ll be prepared for the next step. And yes, parents do that too, but for me, it’s THE goal.

But that’s all just details. Bottom line: I love teaching, I love my students, and I really do feel that to teach is to parent the world.

07 May 2006

You Asked for It: My Favorite Joke

My favorite joke is really a comic--a visual pun, actually--so since I can't draw to save my life, you'll just have to visualize with me:

A hot dog is standing at his mail box, reading his mail (yes, this is an anthropomorphic hot dog--with a face, arms, legs--all the things humans have, but he's a hot dog). He has a perplexed look on his face. We zoom in to see what's written on the card:
"You may already be a wiener!"

Cracks me up every time.

06 May 2006

Big Training Day

Big training day today on the bike. I rode 20 miles. Not that that’s so long, for a touring cyclist, or even that I’ve never done it before—I have; but it’s been a couple of years or so. Between back and knee injuries, taking care of Dad, and of course, working, all I’ve done since about late 2003 was a half-hour or so ride here and there, though for most of last year I was doing 20-30-minute stationary bike workouts, a couple/three times a week. So I guess that helped.

Still, this is the longest I’ve been in the saddle for ages. And with a new seatpost and saddle to make it even more interesting. I won’t say it was painless—there’s a certain amount of adjustment going on—to the new saddle, the new leg position, and most importantly, the new upper body position. Since I jammed the saddle toward the back to make my knees more comfortable, I now have a somewhat longer reach to the bars. I’ve compensated somewhat by raising the bars as far as the stem would allow, but it’s still not the same as it was before I moved the saddle. It’s not awful, but it’s definitely requiring an adjustment period. I’d like to find a handlebar stem with a shorter extension, which would bring the bars even closer, and that might be possible eventually. But my tour starts in two weeks, and I don’t it happening before then—not even sure I could find the right stem before then, never mind get it installed and get accustomed to it. You try out new gear BEFORE a tour, not ON the tour. But it may be that I’ll simply adjust to the bars where they are. It’s not a huge difference from the previous position—just noticeable.

And the new saddle. Well. It’s not awful either, but it’s not my old saddle for sure. That one practically disappeared—I was generally not even aware of it. This new one, by contrast, starting announcing its presence at about mile 16. Again, not awful, but it required some moving around and scooting forward and back before I felt comfy, and it still wasn’t as great at the old saddle. But the old one is too short for the knee comfort that I need. Arrrrgggghhhh!

So, why do I love this sport so freakin’ much? Because despite the need for apparently constant tweaking, the minor pains and stiffness, on the bike is where my body wants to be.

04 May 2006

Where I Want to Go

Where my heart wants to go: Juneau, Alaska, where my twin brother lives, with his kids—my two nieces and three nephews (though the two eldest are in college in Portland just now). Sometimes I miss them so much it’s like a physical pain. I dream about them all the time. I adore the Chief, but my brother is the only human being who understands me entirely.

Where my sense of adventure wants to go: on a cycling tour of the west of Ireland or the south of France. Either one would do. But since I can’t afford that just now, a cycling tour on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay will have to do—think I can live with that—about two weeks from now!

02 May 2006

Could'a, Would'a, SHOULD'A

What should I be doing now instead of writing this blog post at my computer, or checking out the scrapbook galleries on my computer, or reviewing my workout track record at my computer, or dreaming about my upcoming bike tour by looking at the website about it…on my computer?

Grading. That’s ALL I should be doing. It’s the hectic and challenging end of the semester here at UWF, and I’ve got stacks of final papers and bibliographies to grade. Actually, though I still have a whole class of upper division critical essays to grade, I’m almost done with the freshman work; but I’ve been relocating to the bottom of the stack those papers that I know are going to be terrible and hard to read and grade, so what’s left are the worst and most difficult ones. I know, I know, I should'a done those first and gotten them out of the way, and in some semesters, I actually would'a done that, and that way, I could'a probably been done with at least this stack by now. But this semester, I’m just not that virtuous.

Instead, I’m . . . dreamy. Daydreaming about riding my bike, about paddling my kayak, about hanging out with the Chief and Cocoa on our big summer road trip up the East Coast. But since I can’t actually DO any of those things now, am I DOING the things I should be doing so I can get out and play sooner? *John Belushi, Saturday Night Live voice here* Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I’m net-surfing for sites where I can read about the objects of my desire—bikes, kayaks, and road trips (oh my!) So at least for the nonce, "wanna" trumps "should'a," "would'a," and "could'a."