Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thought domination

When teaching writing, I usually give plenty of prompts and brainstorming activities in an effort to decrease the chances that a student will say "I don't know what to write."  But sometimes I want my students to come up with their own subject matter. I recognize that doing so can be challenging.  My advice to students who must write something without any parameters is to write about what is dominating their thoughts.  Every minute of every day we are thinking, but usually there are thoughts that continue to pop into our minds more frequently than others.  These thoughts are fodder for writing. 
Of course, allowing students to write about what they are thinking can be dangerous. Do I really want to know what a teenage male is thinking about most of the time?  Don't I already know?
And yet, I am a risk-taker. Those thoughts may become wonderful pieces of writing. If nothing else, I will learn a little more about my students and who they are as human beings. 
When reading my students' writing, I may step into dirty places where there are strange and offensive ideas.  I may also enter into worlds of sadness or fear or even anger.  But alongside this, I will also experience joy and excitement.  Through their writing, I will enter into their worlds.  I will see what they see and feel what they feel. And I will use what I learn to make their education fruitful.  That is what dominates my thoughts.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kill two birds with one stone

If there is one thing I love, it is efficiency.  Nothing is closer to perfection than the balance that comes from perfectly organizing my activities so that the total time taken is minimal.  Just last week I had to run two errands, and the route I chose to get from one place to the next ended in the least amount of time taken to complete the task that I deem possible in that situation.  It was perfect!  It was four o'clock on a Thursday before a three-day weekend, so the traffic could have been horrific.  And yet everything worked in my favor.   Even with two erroneous choices made while driving on the highways, I still made terrific time.  How is this "killing two birds with one stone?"  I accomplished two errands with only one car trip.
According to, the adage refers to a hunter's skill at killing two birds using a slingshot and only one stone.  That definitely would take great skill.  With all of the tasks and requirements that I need to accomplish, I view this adage as one that only practitioners of effective time management can accomplish.  Interestingly, the adage is over four hundred-years-old and actually had a negative connotation.  In our ever-busy lives, it seems that killing two birds with one stone could never be negative.  What do you think?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The euthanasia of Ozora

________ is coming over. I am cleaning a large closet that one encounters when entering the house through the front door.  This closet happens to be the place where I chose to put my cat Ozora's two litter pans (recently downgraded from three).  This is why I am cleaning the closet.  Some may think that cleaning two litter boxes and ridding the house of the odor that permeates would not be a difficult task.   I would agree. I would agree if that were what I was doing. But I am not simply dragging the pooper scooper through the gravely wasteland to pick up turds and clumps of pee. I am attempting to conquer a magnificent feat. One that requires the dew of spray bottles spritzing chemicals on nearly every surface that I tread upon.  As you know, what is tread upon is lived upon.  And I am living in cat urine and fecal matter.
Ozora pees and poops in almost every corner of my house.  It is irritating and disgusting. I am appalled at myself for living this long with pee pads strategically placed throughout my dining and living rooms. It is awful. I am embarrassed to have people come to my house because I am certain that as they cross the threshold, hints of cat piss will creep up to their nostrils.  I do not want my house to be the house that reeks so badly that visitors talk about "the smell."  But Ozora is old.  She is nearly 20 now. I have known her all of her life.  She was my pet throughout middle school and high school.  She was there to cuddle with when I came home from college.  When I moved to live on my own, she and her sister Fluff Fluff came with me.  And so I ask you this: What am I to do with a beloved pet who is a part of my family, but who defecates around my house?
  Ozora may be in discomfort. I don't know. I should take her to the veterinarian, but I am terrified that he will tell me that she is sick and should be put down.
  My mother, who parented Ozora and Fluff Fluff when I was young, is visiting.  She definitely has opinions about Ozora. They change frequently and with her mood.  Her statement that I should, "go ahead and kill her," tells me how she feels about the euthanasia of Ozora.
  I am even having difficulty finding an appropriate term for what I need to do.  I am killing her if I ask the doctor to give her a drug that stops her heart. It is such an ugly word. K-I-L-L. I don't like it being attached to the subject "I". I guess "put down" is the euphemism that is currently used.  Even that phrase seems derogatory to me.
 Recently Ozora has been reposing in one corner of the living room.  She has never released herself in this corner. A grandmother clock that belonged to my grandmother furnishes the corner.  Ozora lays next to the clock so much that her fur collects on the carpet. I collect gray tufts of it as I pass by the spot.  I cannot help but think that Ozora is some kind of connection to my grandma. When my grandma was alive and living in my house, Ozora would visit her daily. So many times I walked passed her room and saw Ozora, cozy as a kitten, lying on the bed next to Grandma.  They would both be relishing the warmth provided by the cream blanket or the space heater, I don't know which.
  Grandma will be gone for one year in September.  It could be mere coincidence that Ozora cat naps next to my grandmother's grandmother clock.   But I'm superstitious enough to take a step back and think.