Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #12--My Heart on Display at Home

Thirteen Things about My Heart on Display at Home
I may have just missed out on a fabulous opportunity provided by Mrs. G. over at Derfwad Manor, but I'm going to press on and hope that folks will still stop by from her home and visit mine too.

So this was supposed to be my Thursday Thirteen as well, as you can see, but Thursday, when I thought I would have time to do this, turned out to have other plans for me.

Without further adieu, then, I present to you the room in my home where my heart is. It's not the hub of the family, but it does house the spirit of the woman who is the hub of the family.

May I office:
  1. The full view:

  2. The painting section. Painting is wonderful. It's one of my favorite things to do, but I still have hangups about doing it. You know. That perfectionism thing. That and the thing about doing things that are just for your own, individual, solitary pleasure? But when I let myself, gosh, I just can't imagine why it took me so long to give myself permission again. But I'm working on this issue. Oh, and ssshhhhhh...this is what I've been working on for a while now:

  3. A close-up of my painting supplies, that probably need to be dusted at the moment, unfortunately. Like I said, I'm working through this. Once I have finished summer school, I'm going to be all about painting. Having to grade papers all the time has really kicked my yearning to paint up a notch. Make that about five notches. Ah....a pallette and paint and brushes, oh my:

  4. The painted pony ornament I bought on my solo trip to Albuquerque in the summer of '06. This one is called "War Paint," and was the one, out of the available ornament ponies, that I felt captured my Native spirit...not the war part though...well, I just think in warrior of Life.

  5. The carved Willow Tree angel by Susan Lordi, titled "Thinking of You." Oh the expression. The hand on the heart. The ear to the shell. This is me, dreaming of love and the ocean.

  6. My hand gathered cotton bole from Mississippi. Cotton is the most amazing plant. I couldn't believe it when I saw it for the first time. It proved to me that there just had to be a Higher Power taking care of us little naked human beings. Cotton. On. A. Plant. Now it reminds me of the idyllic days I spent in college in the Mississippi Delta, meeting the people who would change my life forever...for the better. And it's where I discovered poetry. And not just literary poetry that's been put in a book with a halo over its head. The poetry that is the kind that makes life worth living. Really, it was a recognition of the poetics of life. Call me a Romantic. I won't be offended.

  7. Ah, my Cape Cod shells (some of them) and my Walden white birch bark, right in front of Thoreau, Emerson, The Transcendetalists, and so forth. This is home. I grew up in Massachusetts, but didn't discover the Transcendentalists until I made it to Mississippi. That's when I learned who I was and where I fit in...and how the transition between those two geographical locations was like a birth canal from heaven to seeing the light for the very first time.

  8. This hand made oil lamp was thrown and glazed by a friend of the family who I always admired. I've never used it because I broke the oil holder one day trying to get it ready to put oil in it. Now it sits and looks lovely in front of my grandmother's collection of Rudyard Kipling volumes.

  9. And now that I've mentioned a few of the books on my shelves, here are some close-ups of my favorite sections. This is the feminist section. Everything from Lizzie, written by my journalism professor at Delta State, to Susan Faludi's Backlash, to a really cool compilation of woman-centered science fiction called, Women of Wonder: The Classic Years. (And that's my Queen Power tiara sitting atop the lot of them--my wonderful friend from Mississippi sent it to me as a gift.

  10. And here is my Native American collection, as well my Latin American, Asian American, philosophy, Romanticism, and others that seem to fit here. The book Spirit Walker came from an undergrad class in, you guessed it, Native American Literature, but it was like taking a philosophy and religion classes (heck, all the literature classes I loved were like that though), but what happened was that I fell in love with this book. It's gorgeous. It made me want to paint. I made me want to write poetry. It made me feel like Native American philosophy must transfer in the genes (felt like home). And it made me want to visit New Mexico, where both author, Nancy Wood, and artist, Frank Howell, were living at the time. And so I did. Quite a few years later, and not Taos, where they lived, but I did go to New Mexico. Alone. And I had an amazing experience with a mountain and a town called Albuquerque that is still one of the best things I've ever experienced in life. I just have to remember the trip to smile and feel peaceful. Like nothing in this world is big and bad enough to make me forget how big and beautiful this life and this planet really are. The trinkets from the trip are all in front of the books (still no picture in the adobe frame!):

  11. There were a whole lot of other things I could have taken pictures of I suppose, but this one makes me smile and actually feel like I've accomplished something outside of the home. No, not the diploma hanging on the wall (it was in the first picture with a flash reflection on it!), but this nifty little plaque that a student anonymously recommended I should be honored with. Being that it was anonymous, I wondered if it were a scam, or a joke, but then I found out how the nominating process worked, and so I figured I could at least take it as a sign from the Universe that I was on the right track. Most days I feel like I don't know enough to be teaching, but then I remind myself that if I teach everything I know, including how to be nurturing to the mind, then I can feel good about my abilities. And as the saying goes, I've learned more as a teacher than perhaps my students do. It's the wonderful two-way exchange that makes teaching such a blessing. (That I have trouble remembering only when my eyeballs are falling out, I'm tearing my hair, and mumbling to myself about, "Is anyone listening when I talk?" But hey, I remember eventually.):

  12. My life just wouldn't be the same without vanGogh's work. I've mentioned before that when I see his paintings in museums, I am overcome with emotion and cry. It's like seeing a soulmate across the distances of time and space. I just understand something when I look at them. And I feel what he's expressing. I really believe that his emotions are still in the paint, at least, that's what I feel I pick up on when I regard them. So, since I don't have enough money to buy the real things to gaze at around the house, I settle for prints, notecards, and whatever this box that the notecards came in...and yes, vanGogh makes me want to paint too:

  13. This is the only living thing in my office, besides me, and this little thing is just a little bundle of personality. Really. The picture shows that she is just a loyal friend to a human who spends way too much time facing a monitor these days. Normally, like right now, she's gruffing out the window at the FedEx or UPS trucks, people walking by, birds, squirrels, stray dogs, butterflies, and the elusive nothing, running back and forth from one window to the other and back to her spot and then back down again. Sometimes it's annoying, but when I haven't heard anything for a while, I turn around, and there she is, waiting:

So thanks so much for stopping by today! I have a million other things I need to go do now, but seeing these 13 pictures of the place where I spend most of my time, second only to the kitchen (a girl's gotta eat, right?) or the bed (and sleep?), well, I just feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It was nice having you over and showing you around. Hope you enjoyed your visit!

Hope to see you again soon! Muah! =)

© Nicole J. Williams, 2008, all rights reserved.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #11: Home Remedies?

Thirteen Things about Home Remedies I've Used

I just spent the last week and a half with "The RhinoVirus from Hell." Hence, no TT last week. I was teaching that Thursday morning/afternoon, thinking it was all but gone (after three days of the stuff). But then I came home, felt instantly exhausted, went to bed, and woke up three hours later with a fever and the chills.

I still haven't kicked it out of me completely, only farther up into my sinuses it seems like. So today I was thinking that I actually had a moment, and I could breathe properly, and it was Thursday, so, what the hay, I'll write a blog! And since I was just so darn grateful to be able to breathe, I started writing about that.

Well that turned into a diatribe of home remedies from my childhood and I hadn't even started anything that looked like a list yet, so I decided to put all the remedies and their accompanying stories in list form. I used a piece of paper to jot some down and got up to nine, so bear with me. Even I don't know yet if this is going to get to thirteen or not! I'll give it the ol' college try though!

Oh, you want to know where this penchant for the mundane came from? Well, in a family full of nurses and "health-nuts" and chiropractor visitors, we were all about the diagnosis, the prognosis, and the best remedies God, Mother Nature, the Pantry, or the Medicine Cabinet had to offer. You could say it is a bit of a family tradition.
  1. Flat gingerale and dry toast. Sometimes it was fun to get sick. I mean, I have always, always, always loved ginger ale, but soda wasn't something I could have just any old day. In fact, the bottle of ginger ale was usually around for mixing into cocktails on very special occasions. But if I got sick to my stomach, I knew that once I stopped vomiting profusely, the ginger ale would follow. (I didn't HAVE to throw up to get it, mind you, but if I did, it was always a consolation in mid-heave to think about warm ginger ale--yep, flat and warm and I still loved the stuff!) These days, I drink extra ginger, ginger beer when I'm sick and it always makes me feel happy, even if I don't have a tummyache!

  2. Vicks Vaporub--on my chest, neck, upper lip, inside my nostrils, and even a little spot on my pillow case to sniff, just because I loved that stuff. I've always been a sucker for an upper respiratory virus it seems, and the Vicks would come out right away so that I could breathe enough to get to sleep at night because nobody likes to be up all night with a whiny, sick kid. Those were the days before OTC decongestants remember. To this day, the smell of Vicks just makes me feel safe.

  3. The Misting Humidifier. Another one of those magical remedy machines of old. Sure they still sell them at the pharmacy superstores, but does anyone use them for anything other than babies or older folks? Perhaps. I had one for a little while when the kids were little, but I guess they just weren't as sick as I seemed to be. (This list is making me see what a little sick kid I really was!! Good memories surrounding regular illnesses? No wonder I'm so weird!) Did I mention that the white noise of the thing was so wonderfully soothing? Yep. Weirdo.

  4. Peroxide and Mercurochrome. Ok, so on to the injuries for a while. I was a wild urchin of a child. By that I mean that I spent any inside time watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, or The Lone Ranger, or Grizzly Adams, or Rin Tin Tin, or Tarzan episodes, so that the REST of the time, when I was outside, I was in a state of Zen. I was one with Nature. I was in the sandbox, in the trees, hanging upside down from the swingset (and regularly knocking the wind out of my lungs when I would inevitably fall because I swung too far out), exploring in the woods, eating the local fruit (blackberries, grapes, crab apples, beans and carrots from the garden, you name it), and even--do I dare say it?--following the "call of nature" rather than have to go inside (mostly because I had a lot of room to explore and I always waited until the last second and just couldn't make it back in time!). So yeah, all that to say that I got my fair share--and then some--of cuts, scrapes, bruises, and scratches. Three out of four of those required peroxide first (loved the bubbles...) and then, if I were really hurt, the red stuff. Man I loved to be really hurt! The red stuff was like war paint. Bandaids schmandades! (And whose idea was it to make mercurochrome CLEAR??!! It's totally ruined now. I guess it must have had some horribly toxic red dye in it or something. Figures.)

  5. I am stuck on Bandaids, cuz they frickin' stick on me! How cool is THAT?? Ok, so I liked me some bandaids too. This was war paint you could wear acceptably to school. And what kid isn't facinated with tape? COME ON! So something that sticks to you? Sweet. And I didn't get any of those fancy Disney character bandaids. Nope. Plain old bandaids. (Maybe Scooby Doo snuck in eventually, but maybe that was at a friend's house) And I always wanted to try the round bqndaids, but there were only a few, and it seemed like Gram always horded them "just in case." Because you know, nobody ever seemed to have a booboo that those worked on. Never. And so, I kid you not, when I was old enough to buy my own bandaids, I bought the pack with the round ones and used them the first chance I could. They didn't stick very well though. Live and learn.

  6. Butterfly Bandages. We've got us a theme going now! These were THE COOLEST bandaids of them all. If you had to have one of these puppies put on your booboo, you had a wound, ok? I think I had an obsession with being wounded. (Hey, in my family, it was an acceptable way to get sympathy and attention. If anything were wrong emotionally, well, sorry Charlie, go get yourself a good scrape and then we'll talk!) So the story is...I had this horse on springs. You know, the "hobby horse" I believe they called it. And it was a big contraption, and it was noisy and annoying to grown-ups (and probably came from my dad...just kidding), so it had to go outside on the patio. Well, it was exposed to the elements, and all the springs got rusty, and finally, one broke. I am here to tell you that a three-springed hobby horse is still a lot of fun; until your mother gets a bright idea to ride WITH you on it. Ok, picture this CPS agents. Mom's on, facing front, "riding" normally. I'm on behind her, facing backwards so that if I do fall off, which, we all pretty much figured I think, I can slide off and land on my feet. One problem. The broken spring is in the back. So off I slide, as we are all laughing and hooting (because it just wouldn't be dangerous fun if the whole family weren't involved--aunts and grandparents and all!) and I feel something hot on my leg, but I'm still laughing. Then I feel wet on my leg and look down. I AM BLEEDING like nobody's business. Well don't all the nurses on the floor react like, get her inside "Stat!" So then we can't stop the bleeding and the peroxide bubbles run pink for what seems like forever and people start whispering something about "stitches," which makes me freak out. "Fix me here," I plead. So then Gram says something solemnly about "butterfly bandages," and I'm yepling, "Yes! Please! Butterfly bandages!" having no earthly idea what that means but, knowing how beautiful butterflies are, it HAS to be good. Well, long story long story, the bleeding relented, the butterfly bandages held, and I still have a half inch wide scar on my right calf and a story that makes my mother cringe to this day. (No need to tell you the second butterfly bandage story here.)

  7. The wild and wacky, the miraculous, the all-purpose Ace Bandage. Notice by now that we didn't have off brand items either. This was back in the day when Bayer meant aspirin and Tylenol hadn't been invented yet--ok, well at least not offered to the general public anyway. So ACE Bandage it was. Now it's something like brown, stretchy bandage I guess, but then, it was Ace, and that meant something. The Ace Bandage was like Vicks. It was a source of comfort in an otherwise uncomfortable emotional landscape. So, I pit myself against the physical landscape, and how, and often came out with more than just a bruised ego. I think my grandmother understood this relationship between me and the Ace Bandage, but my mother was not as willing to hand it over any time I said ouch. She was always worried that I would lose the little metal thingies that held the loose end on. I can't blame her. I'm always at least one short to this day. But hey, I'm all about if this little bandage makes you feel better then go for it sweetheart. Ouch I twisted my ankle jumping off the big rocks in the backyard; I need the Ace Bandage. Ouch I hurt my wrist hanging off the swingset; I need the Ace Bandage. Owww, my knee is bruised and sore from falling off my bike on the sidewalk; I need the Ace bandage. Oh, how I love Thee, Ace Bandage!

  8. The Homemade Splint. I REALLY am starting to feel like I was more of a "tomboy" than I ever thought. Like I said, I was Nature's Child. If I was not outside running around until my cheeks were red and I was salty and sticky, then I was miserable. I think this is why I always have had such trouble sitting still to read books, and why, out of everything else I've ever done, I have stuck with my dance lessons for so long (I know, a year, but STILL, this is ME we're talking about here, people!). I just LOVE LOVE LOVE to be on the go. And, apparently, at one time in my life, I was fearless. Gosh I miss those days. So, what happens when I get stuck in the house with all that energy? Well, if I couldn't have the card table to build a fort, or go play "Cherries Are Ripe" on the piano for an hour, then I would just have to jump off of the couch until I hurt myself. And oh, let me tell you, I did not get much sympathy for this one because NOBODY liked it that I jumped off the couch (it's like tape like to fly through the air to feel how cool it is to get "up high" again), so when it looked like I might have sprained my pinky finger, all the screaming in the world wasn't going to save me from the "now maybe you'll stop jumping off the couch" lecture. There were pained expressions and whispers of "x-rays" and "expensive" and "what if it's nothing and she's just making all that noise for attention." So I got the homemade splint. Colored toothpicks all the way around, held securely against the finger with first aid tape. Too cool. And no, I didn't need an x-ray. In fact, it didn't hurt after a few hours, but since it had been such a big deal, I was afraid to say anything until about 24 hours later. But 30 years later, when my daughter actually DID break her pinky finger (volleyball, not couch jumping), I was the mom who put a tongue depressor splint on her finger and sent her to school the next day. (Hey, in my defense, it didn't LOOK know, blue, swollen, throbbing, ouch ouch ouch all the time. That took a day to happen. Gosh I felt horrible. Kinda erased the whole hobby horse story, huh? CPS agents, are you still reading?)

  9. Teabags and Clay Masque. Let's go back to the more calm and gentle stuff, shall we? Teabags and clay masque are useful when you have something under your skin that you would like to draw OUT of your skin. In other words, a foreign object of sorts. Usually accompanied by pain, redness, and swelling. Like a huge pimple with no head in sight. Or a wasp's stinger. Or an ingrown pubic hair (Ew!). Or what you think is a huge pimple with no head, but what actually turns out to be a sebacious cyst that finally gets infected and grows to a ginormous size and hardens from all the evil bacteria and pus inside of it. That requires surgery because you kept applying mask and teabags just knowing that any day now they will work their magic. That leaves a ginormous scar on the only part of your body visible in a bathing suit that, until now, did NOT have a scar on it. So large and ugly of a scar, in fact, that you, who never even considered getting a tattoo, see before and after pictures of a woman who had a tattoo put over her tummy scar, so you start picking out one for your back. The moral of this story is, try the teabags and masque for a few days, and then go see a dermatologist. STAT!

  10. Saline Sinus Flush: Makeshift, Neti pot, or the Anti-Gravity Kind. I didn't know what a Neti pot was when I put salt in a plastic party cup, got in the shower, filled it with warm water, and poured it into my nostrils until it came out the other side and/or went down the back of my throat (no swallowing of course). It's the Texas Rhinovirus from Hades that made me do it I tell you. I'd never been so overwhelmed with mucous and sinus pressure in my entire life--and then again this past week of course. This time, I got the anti-gravity flush and used that. Ahhhhhhhhh. Basically it's a squeeze bottle with a hole in the top and a "straw" sticking into the bottle so that you can slowly squirt nice warm salt water (salt packets included) over your raging sinuses and clear them out without blowing your nose off. Twice a day is recommended. In the throes of the mucous, I sometimes did it once in the middle of the day as well. Works like a champ, as my husband would say.

  11. Two B's, Two C's, Two Cal-Mags, and an E (and sometimes a Zinc). This was the Shaklee-inspired mantra for combating the common cold. My mother got on the "natural health" bandwagon when I was still in elementary school, so there have been vitamin supplements in my world for almost as long as I can remember. Gone were the Vicks and humidifier remedies of my early childhood. Now it was up to the vitamins and forced fluids and the avoidance of dairy and wheat to cure us of the common ailments that keep OTC drug companies in business. Us, well, we kept Shaklee in business. The nice thing is that Shaklee was the all-natural solution. Back before anyone really spoke of organic food and even before "health food" became a nationwide sensation, we were walking hand in hand with Shaklee's organic vitamins, minerals, makeup, detergents, cleaners and various and sundry other items. I was the only person I knew who took Calcium-Magnesium for menstrual cramps rather than Midol or some other thing. Thanks Mom! =)

  12. Parsley and Candida Cleanse. Ok, so we've kind of grown up here and now the scrapes of the little tomboy have evolved into the yeast issues of the grown woman. But I'm not just talking about the kind of issue that everyone is probably thinking right now. I'm talking about recurring urinary tract infections or a sluggish loss of weight (the plateaus so many women find themselves upon in the battle against extra pounds for instance). Some urinary tract infections can actually be cause by an overgrowth of yeast. With a little intuition and some internet research, I figured out that was what was happening to me (accompanied by mild dehydration from the Texas weather) and I went to my favorite health food store and got some parsley extract and the two week Candida Cleanse (Gaia Herbs) and I haven't had a problem since. As mentioned, yeast overgrowth can also keep people from losing weight AND can CAUSE intense cravings for sweets (those little buggers can actually make you crave the food they crave!). And I'm not talking about the yeast overgrowth that is female in nature and obvious. I'm talking in your gut. One of the surest signs is the intense craving for sweets, even when your willpower says you really don't want them. I mean, some of us have sugar "habits," but if you have a combination of symptoms, and wicked, wicked cravings, it might just be the yeasty beasties! (Check it out online!)

  13. Traditional Medicinal Teas. These are just lovely. When I used to smoke, I always had a box of "Breathe Easy" on hand. It's great for the upper respiratory crud too. It tastes good plain AND has noticeable effects on your breathing health. The others I have right now are "Daily Detox," for the liver and all those "toxins" everybody is always talking about; "Throat Coat," for the sore, scratchy throats in the world...soooooo soooooothing!; and "Ginger Aid," for the tummy, better digestion (or to soothe indigestion), or just for the cleansing properties of's GREAT for you! The best way to make it is in a big Eeyore mug (ok, you can pick what's on your mug) and let it steep, covered (I use a salad plate or a saucer), for a full ten minutes. I even leave the bag in until I'm done. And don't add anything except maybe a little raw, local honey. Yummmm!

Wow! I'm always amazed when I get to the end of my Thursday Thirteen lists. Thirteen is A LOT! And thanks for reading all the way to this point by the way because, wowsers, that one was a doozey, huh? I'd love to hear from you--anything from a "hey" to a "here's my favorite home remedy!"

Have a great week! Kiss the booboos and stay healthy y'all!

Muah! =)

© Nicole J. Williams, 2008, all rights reserved.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Phyllis

The Queen of Memes has struck again! This time, she was all sly and tricky and said, "I'm not going to tag anyone, but..." And then in the actual meme there's the part where she lists two people she hopes will fill it out too, and guess what? My name was one of the two.

So since Phyl is such a cool ebuddy, I immediately wanted to make her wish come true! =)

This is for you, dear Phyllis!

Two Names You Go By:
1. Darling
2. Mommy

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1. A new pair of cream colored capris with matching satin belt
2. My comfy, leather, Sketcher flips.

Two Of Your Favorite Things:
1. The Ocean
2. My Books.
(I left people out altogether and just picked "things" to be fair to all those I've loved before...hehe)

Two Things You Want Very Badly At The Moment:
1. To not have this sinus thing that is making my ear canals itch!
2. For someone to make me food and put it down in front of me and say, "Enjoy!" because I'm hungry and too tired/sick to want to make myself something to eat after teaching all day.

Two Favorite Pets You Have Or Had:
1. A Jack Russell Terror, I mean Terrier, named Emily. (Have)
2. My very best friend as a kid, my loveable mutt Freckles. (Had)

Two People You Hope Will Fill This Out:
1. Eeney
2. Meeney

Two Things You Did Last Night:
1. Slept through my dance class time because I was feelin' so wretched.
2. Prepared for today's class...I made my students a fill in the blank outline to HOPEFULLY help them get organized to write their next essay.

Two Things You Ate Last Night:
1. Green Goddess Juice (Romaine, Cucumber, Celery, Pear, Ginger and Garlic=good for colds)
2. Raw peanuts in the shell. Well, I shelled them first. =)

Two People You Last Talked To:
1. My Hubby, to whom I was ridiculously cranky with and have since apologized.
2. The friendly lady working at Walgreen's.

Two Things You Are Doing Tomorrow:
1. Teaching for the last day this week.
2. Going to swing dance club!

Two of Farthest Trips Taken In The Last 5 Years:
1. NYC
2. Cape Cod, Mass.
(And there was a trip to Daytona, FL too...not sure on the mileage there!)

Two Favorite Holidays:
1. My oldest daughter's birthday.
2. My youngest daughter's birthday.

Two Favorite Beverages:
2. Is tequila a beverage? =)

It's true, all I drink is water or tequila. WAY more water of course!!!! I don't count green smoothies or fresh made juice as beverages, but maybe I should. In that case, they would be my favorites.

Eh, voila! C'est moi!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #10: My Life Changed

Thirteen Things about My Life Changed

Over the past year or so, I've been making changes so that my life "on the outside" looks more like what I feel like on the inside. I had an awakening, through a series of events, that made me realize just how much of my life so far had been a compromise.

What I mean by that, I think, is that I had given up my own ideas about how I wanted my life to play out in order to remain "safe" in some way. I had given up freedom of choice in order to be saved from my least favorite uncertainties.

I wrestled with this idea for a long time...still am if you want to know the be sure that I wasn't just being ungrateful or some weird version of spoiled. And really, there probably is a touch of both in the mix and that's why I can't be sure. But what I do know now, without a doubt, is that too much of my life has been a giant wimp-out in the face of challenges, commitments, and chance.

It's one thing to choose safety and security and to derive great comfort from those states of being, and another entirely to be angry all the time because "this isn't at all what I had in mind."

Wait! Don't run away! The list is positive. I promise. I'm just having one of "those" days, and I need to get to where I take action...the next step...and forsake the wallowing guilt trip. I think making myself write out this list will do the trick.

Ok, so here's a quick list of small steps of action I have taken to move towards what I DID have in mind for my life. =)

  1. I have changed my eating habits. I am now a near vegetarian and high raw foodist. (I have a post called "Have a Chat with Your Fat" coming up soooooon!)

  2. I have installed energy efficient lightbulbs in my home. I don't know that I can tell the difference yet, and now that the air conditioners run all day and all night, it won't matter a WHOLE lot, but it feels good to know they are there.

  3. I switched to an eco-friendly electric company. This was one of the first big steps, and it feels great knowing that "my" energy comes from wind power alone.

  4. I switched my kitchen and bathroom cleaners. This one is tough. I'm still trying to get the knack of it, and I still need to find something that scrubs the hard water deposits (but they were always a problem anyway). Laundry detergent and bath soap are next.

  5. I started taking dance lessons. Yes, I am amazed at myself! I have been dancing twice a week for a YEAR people!!! Here's one commitment I have no problem keeping!

  6. I have started exercising more regularly. Got a gym membership after I took that weight training/fitness class and I really enjoy going. Now that school is out for the kiddos and I am teaching, it's more difficult to get there, but I still have TurboJam for when I get stuck on this side of town and it's on the to-do list for tomorrow.

  7. I lost weight. This is a byproduct of #1 and #6, but it's also a state of mind that I have chosen to commit to. I've really been working through my "food issues" (i.e. addiction). I watched to see what my triggers are. I noticed how I felt when I ate. I also went so far as to have "a chat with my fat," which I'm looking forward to detailing in a post in the near future.

  8. I took more responsibility for myself. Ok, this was so HUGE! I mentioned this before, but it's soooooo goooooood! Here's my new mantra when I start feeling sorry for myself: "Failure is an opportunity. If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame. Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistake. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others."

  9. I got off my husband's back. Mostly. And using the mantra. I had to finally look myself in the eye and say, "YOU are the only person who is responsible for your happiness." It's that whole, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" idea (thanks Eleanor Roosevelt!). Plus, it's not his responsibility to make me happy. It's mine. Mine, mine, mine!! All. Mine......Muahhahhahhahaaaaaa!

  10. I forgave my mother. Ok Ladies, you know who you are. How many of us drag that trunk of junk from our childhoods around with us for years and years and years? And even the stuff from after childhood that resembles the stuff from childhood! Taking responsibility for yourself has a magic side effect: you let OTHER people take responsibility for THEMSELVES too! Poof! Amazing.

  11. I started expressing how I really feel. Yep. Lumps and all. No more trying to nicey-nicey, smiley-smiley, it's ok, don't worry about it, no problem, your wish is my command for me. It's the difference between being my own person and being a doormat for others. What a breath of fresh air it has been to just. say. NO!

  12. I am gathering information. I've been following up on anything that interests me. Organic farms in Oregon? Check. Raw food chef training schools? Check. I name it, I'm looking it up. And soon that will include hands-on investigation. I want a new adventure once my chicks are out of the nest, and I have lots of exploring to do in the meantime.

  13. I am writing more. This cute little meme has gotten me thinking all the time: "Ooh, I could talk about 13 of this or 13 of that!" And it's gotten me into the blogosphere more often and I've made a few friends so far and hope to make more. God Bless the Internet!

So that's my happy list of changes. And I bet there's more, but those were the ones that came up today. I'm sure I'll have a new list before too long. There's always room for change, after all.

How about you? Been changing lately, have you? Way to go!

Muah! =)

© Nicole J. Williams, 2008, all rights reserved.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

First Day of School...

I haven't taught college English in a year and a half, but the summer session started today. Gosh it was fun to be back up in front of those bright, shining faces again! And, as usual, I gave "The Sponge Theory of Success" demonstration, showing them what they already know to get them focused for a rip, roarin' 22 class meetings in five weeks.

In honor of today, I thought I would "reprint" this entry I wrote the year I formulated the sponge theory of success. Hope you enjoy!

What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?
What’s that spell?

Doesn’t that word look weird now? Isn’t it funny how looking at a word too much can make it look like gobbledygook—or at least like it’s spelled incorrectly? When that feeling of assurance that the word you are looking at is indeed the word you understand it to be disappears and your mind hesitates and questions—you second guess yourself.

I started back as a face-to-face teacher last week. I make that distinction because I also teach in the highly unsatisfactory online environment. Really though, it isn’t the environment that is so unsatisfying—it has more to do with being caught between the corporate, money-making administration’s minions and the disgruntled students who have been thrust into an online writing course against their will—it’s required. But I digress, and I won’t be talking about the very different issues that those students face. No, instead, I thought I would share my newfangled approach to teaching.

I’ve been asking myself the “difficult” questions lately—What do I want out of life? Why? How can I get more of it now?—and one of those question and answer sessions had to do with teaching. It’s what I have been doing for the past four, going on five, years now, and it hasn’t been an incredible source of inspiration and joy; I needed to know why. What am I drawn to and what repulses me in relation to teaching?

Well, for starters, I love the first day! It’s like giving birth. Shiny new faces, assumed potential, a wellspring of love in the heart for the challenges and the nurturing and the growth to follow. I get to have that “new baby” feeling twice a year. It’s addictive. I have to say that I pastor my flock through my courses. I break down previous mythologies, assuage fears, release past guilt, and lead them to the Promised Land.

The rest is good parenting. I am compassionate and I care and I praise and coach and cheer and sing halleluiahs to move them from point A to point B. I set up clear boundaries of expectation, blow on and bandage boo-boos when they fall, reprimand them when they should know better. I have multiple roles: pastor, shepherd, care-taker, boundary setter, locater of the lost…surrogate mother.

That brings me to what I don’t like. I don’t like wiping noses or changing diapers or spoon-feeding. After all, these are adults—or at least quasi-adults! When they ask for too much, which is often, I balk, and rightly so of course. And sometimes, parenting or shepherding 50+ quasi-adults can get downright exhausting! My “good-naturedness” spills over into enabling. Or their quasi-adult status plummets to infancy. Whatever the case may be…they push, and I fall over.
So I thought I should have better boundaries. More enforceable guidelines. More logical consequences and fewer exceptions to the rules. But what to do? I mean, this is a life theme…not just a teacher theme…and it’s THE BIG ONE.

But still, I thought that teaching would be the place to start experimenting. I had a clear external motivation for change, a captive audience of guinea pigs, and any tangible results might spur me on to a more personal success in the same problem area. Basically, I was looking for insight into this condition, and because I recognized myself in my procrastinating, detached, overwhelmed, and forlorn students, I thought that if I could convert them, then I could do the same for myself. This might be backwards, and it’s definitely a conservative approach, but I thought I would do well to practice “on camera.”

I have to perform as a teacher. It’s my job. It’s what I do. I am accountable to at least 50 other scrutinizing people. Here is where I can prove to myself that it is possible to succeed. So I asked myself what differentiated the successful students from their unsuccessful counterparts. We all know that the answer is never as simple as “intelligence.” In fact, we all know that sometimes, the smartest folks are the ones who just can’t seem to move forward at all. So. I came up with the general stuff...prepared for class, plans (and works) ahead, has drive, is committed…did I mention “doesn’t procrastinate”? Yeah…that’s the big one. Slow and steady wins the race.

All this thinking led to a metaphor or analogy that I “acted” out for them on the first day. These are children of the visual world, so I must be a visual Girl. I set three clear plastic cups on the desk. I produced a bottle of water from my bag and said:

I am this bottle. The water represents everything I know about writing and teaching writing. The cups are your learning environment—the classroom, if you will.

I poured some water into the cups. I set another cup off to the side and told them that this cup represented the “real world”—the world out there that they were striving to get to by going to college. I continued:

I create the classroom environment by sharing my knowledge with you. You bring yourselves. There are three basic kinds of students—Student Rock, Student Sand, and Student Sponge.

I showed them the students in representative form and asked them to guess which student was most successful in the classroom environment. They knew! Just like you do. Student Sponge. So I demonstrated to reinforce the point.

Student Rock comes to class and is hard-headed and impenetrable. I don’t need this class. I’ll never have to write once I’m out of here, so I just need to pass and move on. I already know how to do all this anyway. Hmph!

I put Student Rock in one of the cups. Nothing happened. I took Student Rock out, shook it, and said:

You see. You can’t even tell that Student Rock was in the class. Nothing has changed. And when I put Student Rock into the “real world,” it brings nothing to that environment. It is the same rock it was before and has nothing new to offer.

Then I picked up the bag with Student Sand in it, and explained that it was made of the same material as Student Rock, with opposite properties.

Student Sand can’t get it together. It comes to the classroom in scattered pieces that can’t find their way back together in the classroom. Student sand is bewildered, fears failing, believes that it cannot accomplish the goals of the course, for whatever reason. I swirled Student Sand around in the water. Student sand is overwhelmed by the environment—it can’t make use of the environment because it has no form, no discipline, no consistency. It may try haphazardly, but fails because it is constantly at odds with itself.

It rarely makes it out of the classroom into the real world intact. It can’t synthesize and utilize the knowledge it is exposed to.

Student Sponge appears in my hand and everyone is ready to be a sponge. They are imagining sponge-ness. Who wants to be a rock, or sand? (Students may peg themselves, but they may vow to be more sponge-like; after all…most people don’t set out to fail on purpose!) I smile at Student Sponge and hold it up, examining it.

Look! Student Sponge comes to the classroom PREPARED to soak up the learning! It’s READY before it gets there. It’s function…it’s purpose… is to learn.

In goes Student Sponge. It swells with water.

“Look!” I say. It’s taking knowledge out of the classroom! And when I put Student Sponge in the “real world,” it has something to use, to share, to draw on…something to show for its time in the classroom.

I squeeze a little water out of the sponge into the real world cup.

There! It’s contributing to its new environment! It’s obvious that Student Sponge has learned something and taken that knowledge with it into the new environment! So what makes Student Sponge ready?

It is…
Not willing to quit,
Genuine, (and)

I won’t go on about how those qualities translate into the composition classroom exactly…you can pretty much guess…but I will say that I linked those qualities to the expectations inherent in my syllabus so that they could see that I wasn’t just spouting rules at them. Oh no. I was showing them what to do in order to be a successful student.

And now they had this visual in their mind’s eye of a sponge taking water from one cup to the next. And every time I see them, I can say: “I hope you are all feeling like sponges today because we have a lot to learn in the next 80 minutes!” And they will be immediately transported to the visual center of their brains and remember and understand what I mean in a primal, limbic way.

It’s already working for me. I use the sponge mantra on myself. “Are you feeling like a sponge today, Nicole? I hope so! Because you have a lot to learn today! And you need to take it with you in order to get to the next level…to reach those goals of yours!”

How about you?

Of course we’ll all have rock and sand days from time to time…but OH! to be a sponge most often! That is my goal.

Hopefully it is working on my students too. I’ll keep you posted!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2005, all rights reserved