Junior high......

I officially survived the first day of student teaching at West Minico in Paul, Idaho. Luckily there’s only 11 weeks and 4 days left. I’m back to living in junior high where the grease almost visibly drips off the students’ faces. Their glasses are covered with soot. No one showers. No one washes their faces, but every day, they put more goop in their hair and more make-up on their faces. The girls wear their clothes too tight, their hair too big, their make-up too thick. The boys wear their clothes too big, their pants too low, their hair too long. It’s junior high…just how I remembered it.

We had too-mashed potatoes with clumpy turkey gravy for lunch today. The milk was warm and I had to plug my nose to swallow it down without tasting it. Then my milk fell into my clumpy gravy and squished my potatoes all over my tray. It was as if I never left that junior high realm. I felt as clumsy in those halls today as I did when I was 12. The only difference is that now, I’m trying to fit in by pretending to look and act like a teacher rather than pretending to look and act like a student.

As I pushed my cold corn around my tray, listening to the other faculty members talk about how many points each portion of their meal was according to their new weight watchers program, I wondered—what will happen to me in 11 weeks and 4 days when I finish my student teaching? Will I come back to the public school system forever? Will I really be eating soggy potatoes with clumpy gravy until I retire? Sigh. No sense in worrying about it now.


And the Oscar goes to...

Well, I have just called the important people in my life and emailed Sara Shawcroft, (who so thoughtfully emailed me), so now I can let you know:

We're having a little girl!

At least I hope she's little. I try not to think about the actual birth part too much, but big is not good, I know that much.

I have a cold and I'm queasy and I have one miderm left before I'm done with stressful midterms and I DON'T FIT IN ONE OF MY SHIRTS ANYMORE! Which is the true travesty. I wanted to write something worth reading but I just started whining, so I'll stop now.

Pickle is obviously out, so please people, give me a girl name that goes with Sobczak!

I don't want to be an elementary teacher. Can I say plainer? I don't think so, but apparently there are a lot of people in my life who are confused by that statement. I do not, under any circumstances, want to be an elementary teacher. So just leave me alone about it. How is it it that I have studied this for the past four years? Why have I dedicated the last four years of my life to this? I do not like it. And there is no way I am going to become one of those people who teaches for the next 40 some years of their life because they are too afraid to try anything else. And as each year passed by they become more and more embittered until the very water they drink is acid. No. Not me. I don't want this. I don't want this. I don't want this. Can I say that again? I do not want this.

And yet, there are still people who think that this is what I should want. How is it that I have let others control my life? How is it that I have let other people tell me what I want for this long? Well. It is not happening any more. I am either getting into this English program or I am taking the year off. Yes. Off. I am taking the year off and I will write a book of my own accord. I'm not sure what or who it will be about or anything but it will be great. Grand, even. And I will show all those who did not want to let me into their program what a bunch of wrong sided people they were about the stupid girl who applied to their program who didn't even have an English degree. "How dare someone have the audacity to apply with an ElEd degree!" they are saying, "How dare you have the impertinence to suppose that you might have the creative genius to compete in our program? Not likely. You didn't even have the courage to get the English degree. What makes you so special now?" I wanted the bloody English degree. I wanted to study English and I cannot for the life of me understand why I didn't. I don't know what kept me back. I don't know why I thought it would ruin my love for it. I don't know what happened or why it happened or what happened. I just know that I didn't and now I am regretting it from the souls of my feet to the molecules that make up the scalp and dandruff of my head. What was I thinking? Who was I listening too? I could have done more. I could have been more. I could have told myself, "Yes. I am going to be an author." And I could have done it. I know I could have. But I never believed it. Or maybe I did, but I told myself not to. And now. No. No. No. And that is all.

And I am sitting on this couch of mine listening to someone else tell me what I should want. What I should do. Well I will not. I won't do it. I won't have it. I DO NOT WANT THIS!!!!!!! I do not want this to be my life. Why doesn't anyone else understand that. Why is it that I feel I have to justify why I am doing what I am doing. Why is it that when I get on the phone with my mom and she asks me what the bloody heck this stupid program I am applying to will do for me, I can't think of anything. Why can't I just say that I am going to be a writer. A good one at that. Why can't I just say that I need to do this. Why do I am to sit to myself and think, okay, why am I doing this. Is that what I really wanted. Oh yes, I remember, I wanted to be a school teacher for the rest of my life and never return from the depths of despair that is our educational system. No. That is not me.

And these past four years, do you want to know what people have been saying? "Oh you'll like it when..." You'll like it when you get into your junior year, you'll like it when you get to practicum, you'll like it when you get to methods, you'll like it when you get to student teaching and into a classroom, you'll like it when, you'll like it when.... I want to have liked it now. I want to have liked it all along. But haven't, and I didn't, and I don't. I haven't liked it before, now, and I want to know why everyone is so convinced that I'll like it then. Because, to me, that doesn't make a lot of sense. But we have established that I am neurotic and probably don't understand a lot of basic concepts in this life. So. Will someone please kindly explain this thing to me? Please explain how this miraculous change will come over my life and suddenly I will like teaching elementary school? Please. I am begging you. If this is likely. Just explain it. Even broken English will suffice. But I have yet to experience that.

I do not want to. That should be enough.

And that is the end.


To Chandler Warnick

Ode: Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections Of Early Childhood
by Bro. William Wordsworth

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!


Thinking of Leanna and Julie

"Ten thousand flowers in spring,

the moon in autumn,

a cool breeze in summer,

snow in winter.

If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,

this is the best season of your life." Wu-men


Three Examples

Today I decided that I am just plain neurotic. No hiding from this fact anymore. Touched in the head. Neurotic. The definition of who I am.
For the past 21 years of my life, I've given myself excuses for my....oddities. Oh, I just act that way because I am ________. (Please fill in the blank with any of the following applicable responses: tired, sick, hungry, full, sad, happy, school is stressing me out, hormonal, homesick, and then there's my favorite "it's the holidays" excuse--definitely a classic). But now it is time to face facts. Allow me to illustrate with a few examples:

Example One:
Today I couldn't write how I was feeling unless I was on the "Posting" screen for the blog. I can't write unless I am on this screen!!!! Do you know how many times I have written things on this screen only to never be posted? I write, copy and paste it to a Word document, and then save it in a little folder called: "Blog posts that are never posted because I can't write openly unless I am on the blog screen, and I can't actually post everything I write on the blog because if I did then it would flood the Writing Center page and it would only be evidence of my neurosis!" Okay. It's actually not called that. It's just called "Blog Posts" but you get the idea. This one probably won't even get posted, now that I think of it.

Example Two:
I cry-- a lot. And for no reason most times. What is this exactly evidence of? I don't know. I just know it happens and that I don't think it is normal. End of example.

Example Three:
I bought my husband a bonsai tree for Valentine's Day. That, in and of itself, I don't feel is neurotic, but my deliberation of the purchase was. I thought of the idea a few days before. I googled, "Bonsai trees Hershey, Pennsylvania" and what do you know? A store shows up completely devoted to the nurturing and growing of bonsai trees. And aptly named "Nature's Way." The next day I set out to find this place. First I get lost (as usual) but eventually I find it. The shop is out of a person's home. There's a big sign out front that says "Nature's Way" and I can see a greenhouse looking thing attached to the house. But I hesitate and my brain begins to think. What if this isn't actually a shop that sells bonsai trees? What if this is some way to lure nature seeking neurotics to one place? What if as soon as I go to the door I'll get hit over the head with a frying pan and sold into the slave market across the world?
Is this normal train of thought? I don't think so.
Finally (after 10 minutes or so) I take courage in the fact that there is the big sign out front and approach the house. It was just a shop that sold bonsai trees.
It took me awhile to pick one, but even when it was purchased and I was walking out the shop, I couldn't help looking over my shoulder to ensure that there was no frying pan about to hit me over the head.

I think three examples is enough for today. But in case any of you need a good laugh, just mention it and I am sure that I can supply more good stories.

PS- Sis. Morgan, is that you in that picture with Megan over to the side in NY? David and I have been debating this fact ever since it has been up. And, are you wearing glass? I think that you are.

My fears

I heard that at the party, everyone discussed their fears. I've been thinking a lot about it, and this is what I have come up with.

I fear every cramp, strain, or pull, always praying that it's not a miscarriage. The thought of being blessed with this little life inside of me and then having it tragically taken away makes my mind become fully alert, and I suddenly become more aware of how much I already care for this little life. So many times, before going to bed, I have prayed for Baby, that Baby will be able to grow to be healthy and strong, and I have asked Him to bless my body that it might do everything necessary in order to make that happen.

Next to my fear of miscarriage is my fear of losing my identity as I become a mother. I don't want to always be seen or be identified or be defined by just motherhood. I still want to be me. I am afraid to lose myself, but I know that I will to some point and that it will be good. Isn't self sacrificing a big part of what a mother is? But at the same time, I hope that I won't be one of those mothers who never takes care of herself but her children look magnificent. That really frightens me. Is it pride? Vanity? I don't know. Right now it just feels like self preservation.

We'll see how everything comes together later, but right now, in this moment, those are the things I fear the most.



It's haunting

Sis. Morgan, I want you to know that every topic you address in seminar haunts me incessantly until I figure it out. This time, it's about Writer's Block, and I find myself constantly thinking, "I need to write even though I don't feel like it." It has actually made me want to write more, which I appreciate, but it is still a little kind of funny how much it is weighing on my thoughts. Every topic we've discussed has done the same thing for me. Like writing in our real, multi-millenial voice; it's a novel concept which makes so much sense to me. I'm trying a lot harder to write how I want and forget the audience's opinion.

So thanks. It helps keep me real when I'm alone. Still working on my public performer face.



Sis. Morgan said that this doesn't have to be profound or long, so here it is. I was told today that I relate well to 6th graders (student teaching). I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or not. I think I'll choose to accept it skeptically.


Writing About Spaces

Something has been nagging me as we’ve discussed ‘spaces’ in our seminars. At first I thought it was something to do with the space I’m going to write my essay on. Then I realized it didn’t have to do with that at all—it had to do with the very process of writing about space. It finally hit me today: I’ve done this before. I was seventeen, on a fishing/camping trip with my dad and brothers. I was sitting on a rock in the middle of Wyoming nowhere, trying to figure myself out. Reading over it again I can see it's something I still haven't resolved; perhaps I should write about it again, and try harder to name the space this time. But here, in all its plain, hand-written, mostly un-edited honesty, is my first experience with writing about space:

Have you ever missed someone and not known who you were missing? I look around at all these astounding sights, and I feel like someone else belongs here too. I even catch myself turning to empty air to point something out, or forming remarks that are never made because the addressee is unknown. I’ve gone through images of my friends trying to find the one that fits, but although some are close, none of them quite match.
The country here is so vast and remote, but of itself it does not seem lonesome. Rather, it seems to invite the solitary: A craggy peak breaks the sky; a tree rises alone from a hillside of sagebrush; a large boulder sits in the center of a river. The land, air, and water all call for me to leave my family and sit on my own, but once there they increase my loneliness in a beautiful, tugging way. The wind blows across a lake and whistles through the trees and through my ears; waves are created that attempt to scale the boulder on which I’m perched. They all talk to me, and I seem so far from alone, but I’m distanced by the fact that I cannot speak their language.
A massive boulder surveys several bends in a river, and raises me enough to again see the mountain peaks above the river bluffs. Fish jump here and there, and an Osprey makes a breathtaking dive in search of dinner. I can’t see if it succeeded, but two crows follow it closely as it flies off into the distance. The sun is playing with the mountains as it sets, highlighting some and throwing others into shadow. Clouds and the sun’s descent alter the picture unceasingly, like nature’s kaleidoscope.
Way off I can see my family gathered around tying flies for tomorrow’s fishing. I’m the only one not involved. I’ve enjoyed the fishing as well (and have sunburns to prove it), but I needed a bit of solitude, and they understood.
There’s an empty space beside me on the boulder, and again I turn, and almost manage to see the person I’m coming to expect, gazing at the river as I have been doing. They appreciate the sights and sounds as I do, and this time I feel no urge to speak to them.
The sun drops lower, and this river valley and most of the mountains rest in shadow. A cool breeze makes me shiver, and as I glance around I realize I can see no other signs of civilization than our small campsite. How many people have seen this? How many of those stopped to notice and appreciate it?
When you’re this alone so many people go through your mind. I can see people I’ve not talked to for years as though they are here. They take their turns on the rock beside me, but none stay long. Some laugh, and remind me of time spent together; some cry, and I cry at time lost. Others simply smile or wink, and then they’re on their way. And there’s still at least one that I cannot place, which frustrates me to no end; to him I write these musings: my solitary friend.



Cats and Late Night Blizzards

The cat is lying sideways on my arm, stretched out full-length with her paws touching my neck. This makes it very hard to type the profound entry I had in mind, since I don't want to disturb her. She purrs deep in her throat, though sometimes it feels like its rumbling from her upper chest. I can't think of many sounds more relaxing than a cat purring. What is that anyway? Is she asleep when she purrs? I wonder if cats dream. A snowplow drives by, which makes me turn to see if it's still snowing. Cat turns her head with me and opens her eyes to small slits. She can't be bothered with something as small as a major blizzard. She moves her head to my shoulder and rests her paws on the computer. I have to lift my head higher to see the screen.I wonder if the blowing snow will block the road again and envy the cat as she taps my hand with her paw. It's like she's saying, "Forget the wind; you were scratching my neck, remember? Keep your priorities straight. I am Cat. I am very important."
The heater kicks on. Patch whimpers in his sleep, probably seeing some clear image of the deer by the river that he doesn't dare follow onto the ice. He remembers the ice as blue-green liquid that constantly moves and can swallow up small dogs. It puzzles him to see other dogs and deer walk on water.

In New York, Megan and I talked about how our fears had changed over the years. Gangs and guns don't scare us. The homeless only make us sad because we've been there. Now, she's afraid of unpaid bills, cars that won't start, of husbands who get ill.
I don't know what I'm afraid of . . . I can certainly think of events that would scare me--like losing her again, or losing one of my sons to death or sin--the same. I would be afraid of ever losing touch with the Lord, where I couldn't hear Him or sense His nearness. But, right now, I don't feel any fear. This cat is warm, and she fills up my ears with her "catness." She rolls over on her stomach and pushes my arm again and, for me, tonight, she purrs away the blowing snow, the icy streets and blocked roads. She purrs them away into thin air like I blow away the dead heads of dandelions.


Look me in the eye!

I’ve found myself occasionally doing something I’m not overly proud of. Here’s some back story. While I was home between summer and fall 2007, I attended a fireside about the horrible conditions of African leper colonies, and during the night, the speaker related a life-changing event. She had been walking and had come across a disfigured person (I’m not sure if this was before her work at the leper colony or during.) In an awkward moment, she looked past the person and didn’t recognize their presence with even a glance. Instantly, she felt a wave a shame wash over her. She then resolved to never again deny any child of God the right to the acknowledgement of their existence.

Anyway, while walking to and from class, I’ll sometimes do the same thing. It’s not too bad when you’re in a crowd, but when you pass a single person on the sidewalk, it feels slightly awkward to greet them. They are a stranger, an unknown who could react to your pleasant greeting in any number of ways. I’m a very outgoing guy and don’t normally feel any social hesitation. I shouldn’t have any problem saying, “Hi!” to someone I will never see again. Unless, I do start seeing them again. And again, and again, and every time I take the same path to class. Then it gets really weird. Are they a friend? Do you start brief, in-passing conversations when you see someone so regularly? Or do you take the much easier but shameful route, and ignore the person? If you acknowledge them just once, you have to do it every time or else you a jerk. It’s a complicated situation.

I’m still trying to figure this out and what is okay- greeting every single person I ever see seems unrealistic. I need to at least work on giving everyone the dignity of a greeting. Who am I to deny them the right? Me, lowly and egotistic Matthew, to judge the value of a person simply by choosing to look at them or not?

Something to improve on. Like so many other things.