Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Magnetic Vocabulary



            My classroom desk is a melting pot of magnetic words. 

            Fueled by my love of all things Star Trek, I bought a set of space words years ago. It contains astronaut, asteroid, accelerate, and android, plus dozens more.

            Fed by my love of all things Jewish, I sprung for the Yiddish words some time later. Klezmer, klug, klutz, and kvell join a multitude of vaguely familiar words.

            I don’t know where the other three sets came from. The pet words showed up like a stray cat. There’s a set of school words, including homework. And a set of generic English words. And some more English words that seem to be geared toward emotional health. Gutt, I could use some.

            And they’re all mixed together on the front of my metal desk because bored madelas and pishers like to create silly sentences combining words from multiple sets. Problem is, the school has closed, not just for summer but forever, so I must pry my words off my desk and take them home, along with everything else that’s been mysteriously multiplying in my classroom for the last fifteen years. Feh!

            But I must sort them into the correct packages first. The space words blessedly are white print on black background, immediately distinguishing them from the other sets. I don’t have to read them, but I end up reading some anyway. Cargo bay. Planet. Meteor. I noticed yesterday that several smaller words have lodged themselves into the seam of the desk. I will have to bring tweezers since I can’t transport them out, and I don’t want them to be Lost in Space.

            The pet words are larger and orange. The set includes a picture of a dog and a cat and a fish skeleton. I suppose the stray cat ate the fish. I think I will send them to a friend, so she and her newly adopted kitten can bond while they play with them on the refrigerator.

            This sorting would have been a good activity for my young fraynds during final exams week; we could have kibitzed while they purged my desk. But I didn’t know the first week of June would be my last final exams week at WCA. Oy vey!

            I’m fairly certain I will not find all the words that settled into the crevices and crannies of the classroom. Even the industrial vacuum cleaner will likely not locate them all. That’s okay. I gladly (and sadly) leave little pieces of myself behind to bless the space that has so blessed me..

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Tale of Two Employees



            Being a procrastinator with no Independence Day plans, I went to my local grocery this morning to hunt hamburger and bun bargains. I found both. I also found two employees, strangers to me, who unwittingly taught me a lesson.

            The first was a young man, maybe high school age. 

            As I navigated my cart towards produce, an upbeat song started to play on the store’s sound system. I felt the rhythm. I wanted to dance, but I usually save spontaneous public dancing for Jamaica. The young employee also felt the beat and had no geographical inhibitions. He danced. Even when he saw me watching him and grinning, he danced. He continued to dance as I followed him down the aisle.

            The second teacher was an older woman, maybe my age, maybe a bit younger.

            I chose her checkout lane…and wished I hadn’t. She didn’t want to work this holiday and she made sure I (and everyone in earshot) heard her. She kvetched* about her wages and the company which pays them. She whined about not having time to prepare a dish for the picnic she would go to when she finally got off work. (I assured her the hosts would be happy to have her anyway.)

            After I escaped her tirade, I asked, “God, what are you teaching me?” I encountered two employees experiencing the same circumstance:  working on a holiday. One chose to boogie, while the other chose to bellyache. Their choices were likely unconscious, but were still choices.

            Those of you who know me in real life (as opposed to online) know I act more like the grumbling woman than the grooving young man. God and I are working on that.

* kvetch  (kvɛtʃ)
vb


slang chiefly  ( US ) ( intr ) to complain or grumble, esp incessantly
[C20: from Yiddish kvetshn,  literally: to squeeze, press]

kvetch. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/kvetch (accessed: July 04, 2014).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

God is the template



            Comforting, encouraging words and phrases surrounded and permeated me as I looked up Bible verses about God’s goodness and how he expresses it and how we experience it.
mercy, compassion, refuge, unfailing love
upright, forgiving, caring, providing
teacher, guide

            Good has become a weak word in English vocabulary, almost as scrawny as nice or fine. How’s your hamburger? Good…but I wish it were a T-bone steak. How are you feeling? Good…except for my intermittently throbbing ankle. How was the writers’ conference? Good…but I didn’t connect with a publisher who wants to give me a $100,000 advance.

            The way I hear good being used, it generally means not horrible.

            When the biblical authors wrote about God using good and goodness, they meant, “God loves you so overwhelmingly much that he wants to provide everything you need and tenderly care for you forever.”

            If there had been punctuation in biblical times, they would have added a kazillion exclamation points.

            God told Moses, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD [YHWH], in your presence.” (Exodus 33:19, NIV) Then when God caused his goodness to pass in front of Moses, God spoke these words, “The Lord, the Lord [YHWH, YHWH], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6 – 7, NIV)

            This is one of many places where God says, “This is what my goodness is all about.”

            So I’m reading along, basking in the goodness, when I run smack into Mark 10:18, with Jesus responding to someone who respectfully called him good. “Why do you call me good?…No one is good—except God alone.”

            Here’s what hit me alongside the head this morning:

            God is the template for goodness. If I want to be good—and I do, and scripture commands it—God’s character and behavior created the model. I (and I suspect many other Christians) tend to define goodness in terms of keeping the rules, not sinning any of the big ones. But God expands the definition of goodness, and his word catalogs its features in hundreds of passages.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1, NIV

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What’s in your locker?




            Our school secretary sent an email to our school families, listing all the lost possessions she discovered in the locker rooms. I can’t make this stuff up or improve on it. However, I am highlighting my favorite entries. And adding remarks in brackets where I can.

FROM THE GIRLS' LOCKER ROOM:
1 (YES, ONE!) black sandal - for the left foot, size 6.5; has zipper at the heel
1 soft winter hat-white, light blue, shades of pink striped
1 very ugly towel - it may have been pink at one time
1 water bottle - with lime green lid- still has water in it - I'm not cleaning it [Maybe the lid was white before the mold multiplied.]
1 pair of short shorts fuchsia with neon orange trim and black undershorts attached [Just burn it! It violates dress code.]
2 belts; 1 white, thin; 1 wide, felt brown with aqua stones on buckle
1 silver-ish hair clip
1 navy blue Dodgers baseball cap
1 gander mountain baseball cap - camo & pink
1 pair pink sweat "Imagine" pants [I’m trying to imagine whose they are.]
1 black t-shirt with midnight blue sparkle stars
1 bright green Walk for Life t-shirt
1 extremely sheer floral top [Just burn it! It violates dress code.]
1 pair Hollister jeans size 0 - waist 24
1 pair Jordache jeans size 14
1 purple/white/silver check shirt with grey flannel inserts at both sides
1 nylon "Josh Biddle" drawstring tote bag with "stuff" inside [Who is Josh Biddle?]
1 nylon Susquehanna Health drawstring tote bag with "stuff" inside [What kind of stuff?]
1 pair of size 8 Basics sneakers - pink blue and black
1 jewelry shop Christmas village-type figurine
1 pair women's small mesh red gym shorts
1 pair of Tweety Bird pajama pants [Did the owner come to school in pajamas and get dressed in the locker room?]
Mr. W.'s "bird" CD - don't worry - I'll see that he gets it! [See that you do!]


FROM THE GUYS' LOCKER ROOM

several pieces of sports uniforms that were never returned - I'll take care of these - no worries
1 extra ugly and dirty towel - I think it was the "community" towel [Ewww]
1 Honduras wrist band
1 2XL black mesh gym shorts
1 track & field nylon drawstring tote bag
1 pair cargo-type shorts - men's 32 waist - Faded Glory
1 blue/black/green/white plain short sleeved collared shirt - size 14-16
1 pair beige Land's End cargo pants with elastic waist
1 black, white, yellow, turquoise plaid short sleeved collared shirt - men's small?
1 plaid short sleeved collared shirt-same colors as above - size 14-16
1 pair dark blue Land's End elastic waist pants - "Lucas" written inside [Hmm. I think I might know who these belong to.]
2 men's ties - 1 silver-grey     1 blue white black kind of checked
1 dirty inside out stiff white sock [I hope you washed your hands after this inventory.]

[Students:  Next year, will you please abandon clothing and other possessions that I can actually wear? What was the size of the Tweety Bird pajama pants?]

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the good ole summertime



            You know that feeling when you step off the roller coaster? When you stumble about, disoriented, because all that whipping around sharp corners and plunging down steep hills has suddenly stopped?
            Yeah, me neither, because the last coaster I rode was the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas, sometime between 1975 and 1978. Why choose to be terrified? Life is scary enough.
            However, I have experienced a disoriented feeling after I dismount my carousel horse at Knoebel’s. I’ve been going round and round and up and down while my ears are assaulted with loud calliope music. I can hardly walk a straight line.
            (When was the last time you read anything with the word calliope in it? You’re welcome.)
            So that’s my metaphor of choice for this teacher (and I wager many others) after the end of the school year. Now that the terrain has ceased twirling and the clamor has quieted, what’s next? Do I get on another ride? Sit on a bench? Buy a funnel cake?
            Past summers since my teaching ministry—I’d call it a career, but they’d have to pay me more—began in 1999, have had themes of rest, recovery, gadding about with other exuberant educators, and eating lunch out, which, technically, can be including in gadding about.
            (That past sentence/paragraph is why they call me the Comma Queen.)
            And I have to do something, anything, to my neglected house every summer.
            But this summer presents a challenge I’ve not experienced before. It falls into the be-careful-what-you-pray-for category. This summer I must begin writing to fulfill a contract for two sequels to Surviving Meemaw. And I must begin writing to fulfill another contract for eight biblical short stories.
            The opportunity I’ve prayed for and dreamed about waits expectantly for me to engage, as TNG’s Captain Picard would say.
            Lord, teach me to number the minutes, hours, days, and weeks in my summer, that I may gain a heart of wisdom. (adapted from Psalm 90:12)