Saturday, September 24, 2011


The calendar tells me it is now Autumn. You couldn't prove it by what I've seen. Sure, the days are getting noticeably shorter. But it has still been in the 80's and 90's during the day and my cucumber and squash plants in my garden are showing absolutely no sign of slowing down.

Changings in season can sort of creep up on you like that. There I was, going full tilt boogie in my summer and all of a sudden (or so it seemed) there it was fall.

But if I had really been paying attention I would have noticed some subtle things...

Like how the nights really have been getting cooler
or how that one tree on my nightly walk with the dog is actually starting to drop some leaves.

We still have a ways to go before it will FEEL like autumn. But pumpkins are fat in the field and apples are getting ripe.

In a way I'm sad to say goodbye to summer. I have had the absolute best summer of my entire life this year. For a lot of reasons, I have savored this past season. I've taken some great trips, made some new friends, and very gladly given up my status as "new kid" in Boise. Now that I've lived here a full year, I'm finding my niche and feeling more and more like this is HOME. I belong.

But that's no reason to grieve the passing of summer. If I really do believe this was my best summer, why can't I follow it up with my best ever fall? I love autumn. I'm hoping to get to do some trips to where I'll get the full spectrum of colors and maybe - just MAYBE I'll be making some changes in the near future that will give me more freedom in that regard.

So goodbye summer. Thank you for some fabulous memories.
Hello autumn. Let's dance.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What a Pain in the Neck!

One of the reasons I've been writing less these days is that school has started, so much of my computer time is spent writing class lectures or grading student papers.

The other issue has been some struggles I've been having with my neck and back. That image you see with this is not just some random picture off the internet. It's my actual X-ray.

I've been to three chiropractors, a physical therapist and an acupuncture doctor. I'm still having a fair amount of pain. Apparently I have a bit of arthritis in my neck. Beyond that I have too many years of bad posture and mega hours sitting in front of my computer working against me. Put that all together and I've got one big pain in the neck (and back). Sigh.

So I've adjusted my work stations at both my home office and at my full time job...raised the monitors to my computers several inches higher and changed the way I will sit. I'm doing some specific exercises that help increase my flexibility and strengthen my back muscles. Also I'm trying diligently to get more regular sleep.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be able to get a handle on the problem. But even though I do expect to see improvement, the reality is that as I age I can probably expect more aches and pains. How I choose to cope with that will be up to me.

I'm trying to be mindful about focusing more on what's RIGHT than what's uncomfortable. I truly do have a whole lot of blessing going on all around me. Still, it's just hard to be positive when you are hurting.

This is definitely giving me more compassion for those who must deal with ongoing chronic pain and/or disability. I think of my sweet husband's grandmother whose whole adult life was spent twisted and crippled with agonizing rheumatoid arthritis. All the family who knew her say she was never one to complain. Her children sometimes heard her crying in her bedroom when she was really suffering. But she never got cranky with them, no matter how badly she felt.

I want to always remember her example. I may not feel great in body right now. But I can choose to focus on all that gives me joy instead of on what hurts.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Let the Whining Begin....

We've only been back to school for TWO WEEKS and I've already received my first whiny email from a student saying my class is too hard. I am not sympathetic.

I work hard to make sure my class is very engaging and that I continually tie it to real word examples to show its relevance. But I make no excuses, it IS hard. When my husband looks over the syllabus he smiles and say, "Babe, I love you but I'd drop your class."

So should about a third of those who sign up. Term after term students fail my classes NOT because they don't comprehend or can't do the work. They simply take on more than they can realistically accomplish (full time work, family responsibilities and full load of classes with no established study skills) and then blame me when I will not adjust deadlines when they find they have to work extra hours right before a major assignment is due.

I'm very clear in the beginning what my class involves and give them a detailed schedule of what is due when. I also make a big point of letting them know that anything turned in late will count half off and they only have a 4 day window for that beyond which I will not accept it at all. Do they not believe me?

I fully expect students to be feeling overwhelmed by week 7, but I've got 12 students out of 31 who are already falling behind in week 3. In talking to other faculty on campus, many of them are experiencing the same thing. A large proportion of our students sign up who just never follow through with the work. I find that a very troubling trend.

In an article on student entitlement Maryellen Weimer, PhD defines the issue as "a self-centered disposition characterized by a general disregard for traditional faculty relationship boundaries and authority” (p. 198), or it can be described more functionally: “a sense that they [students] deserve what they want because they want it and want it now.” (p. 197) "

Sadly I see increasing amounts of this, not just in my classrooms, but in society in general.

So many are concerned with their RIGHTS and what is owed to them without giving the same attention to their responsibilities. I see this as a dangerous trend that is gutting the vitality of our nation. There are so many examples....

For now I just take a deep breath and recommit to how I will communicate with my students. I will be firm but fair. I will be respectful of them and as supportive as possible. I'll work hard to keep my courses interesting and show how they are relevant to real live. But I will not budge when it comes to deadlines and rigor. Too many classes are watered down - especially when finances force schools to keep increasing class sizes. I well understand why many faculty cut back on writing assignments because they simply don't have the time or energy to grade all the work.
I'm not there yet. I'm keeping my bar high. It's exhausting at times. But I teach because it means something to me. I'll sleep when I'm dead.

The class is a pretty even split between males and females, young students just out of high school and older folks coming back after having lived some life.

Me thinks this is going to be a LOOOOONG semester. Oy veh.

Enrich Your Word Power!

Word of the Day
Quote of the Day

This Day in History