Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Spark in the Hollow Emptiness

Today a student confided in me that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend of three and a half years. As he uttered this, he turned his gaze to the floor and I could see him struggling to stay composed. He went on to say that because of the breakup he hadn't been able to concentrate and work on the paper he was writing for class. I told him I understand. And I do. Losing someone, even a young love, leaves a dry, hollow emptiness inside.

For the last five months, I have not been able to concentrate. The result has been no writing of my own. The logical side of my brain is saying get to work, you're so close to having this collection of short stories finished, just an hour a day. I'll sit, then, in front of my computer. I'll even pull the collection up on the screen. After a minute or two, I'll close it out without having written a single word. I feel nothing when I see the words of my stories on the screen. I feel no desire to pick up where I left off. I feel only a hollow emptiness.

My friends tell me to give it a little more time. I'm afraid to, though. Time has a way of making dreams fade, disappear.

In talking with my student, the conversation took a turn, each of us saying where we find ourselves most happy right now. For him, it is when he's working out and running. For me, it is when I'm out riding the rural roads. It is in these activities that we find comfort, perhaps because of the control we have over the outcome.

Ever since the conversation with my student, I've felt tiny sparks of what I could do to the story left unfinished. While I haven't pulled the story up to work on it, I did go to my bookshelf for a book I've read before but feel the need to read again--Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. As I thumbed through it, I came to a page I'd marked years ago: "Run fast. Stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. Observe almost any survival creature, you see the same thing. Jump, run, freeze. In the ability to flick like an eyelash, crack like a whip, vanish like steam, here this instant, gone the next--life teems the earth." And another spark glows.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Yesterday I rode with a group of women out to the lake, and during the ride, we passed some fully leafed out, in bloom lilac bushes. The sweet scent made me take a deep breath in. When I did so, fleeting memories of my childhood came to me, of living on a farm in Michigan that during the spring came alive with the scent of tulips, lilacs, and that moist, earthy awakening that happens when the soil warms beneath the sun. For just a second I was seven years old again, bending to inhale the fragrance of a silky red tulip, pulling a lilac branch close, brushing the light purple blooms against my nose to take in the sweet scent. And I thought of Mom. She loved lilacs. She created bouquets to set in the house to refresh the stale air that hadn't stirred during the cold months of closed windows and forced heat. Lilacs meant spring had officially arrived.

All around me the signs of spring are bursting. The crab apples, the cherry trees, and even my dwarf apple trees are in full bloom. The tulips, the daffodils, and the lilacs have joined in. Not to be outdone, my hostas are beginning to unfurl their leaves, and the lilies have poked their way above the surface of the earth. Hubby has even had to mow twice already. In March. Unheard of. It truly seems as if the very essence of life decided to blanket the city and the countryside to show just how powerful, how wondrous, and how glorious it is.

On the way back, my friend and I marveled at the beauty around us. Neither of us wanted the ride to end, so we dawdled. Everyone should dawdle.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yearning For Last Week

Oh last week, wherever did you go? Why did you have to leave so quickly? Now you are but mere memories. How my heart yearns for those days, hours, minutes, seconds to return.

Yes, I'm back at work after a lovely week off from classes, reading papers, prepping materials, fielding emails from wayward students. Thankfully it's now Thursday, and I am close to finishing the individual conferences scheduled the week before spring break. While I love doing these conferences, and I know the students enjoy them as well (heck, why shouldn't they since they essentially get another week off from the class?), they do tend to make my brain turn to mush by the end of the day. Seeing a student every 20 minutes during an 8 hour period over the course of four days is exhausting.

So yes, I yearn for the moments of last week when I was out on the rural roads, turning my face to the sun as the pavement passed beneath my tires.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another Beautiful Day

This week has been just awesome! Though it's only mid March, the weather is making me feel like it's mid June. More sun than clouds. Upper 70's. All the ingredients needed to awaken all those things that sleep through the winter. Trees are leafing out. Daffodils are fully bloomed. And the bugs . . . I rode through a cloud of gnats, getting them in my mouth and ears. Ughh! I'm not complaining, though. I'll take the gnats any day I can get out and ride thirty or forty miles. Today, riding with a friend, we covered thirty miles. We took our time and simply enjoyed being out.

Even the wind couldn't get us down today. We faced the wind head on for half the ride then rode with it pushing us from behind on the way back home. I think I heard my friend saying, "Weeeeeee, weeeeeee, weeeeee!" as we rode down a hill on the way back, not having to pedal, only having to feel the delight of speed and the freedom that comes with riding a bike.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Being Happy Tired

Since last Thursday I've been stalking the weather forecasters. Having a week of no classes ahead of me, I was really hoping for a chance to get outside for a ride. The trainer has been great, but I need the road to pass under my tires. Plus, for whatever reason, I just have a hard time on the trainer. I hear people complain about not getting a good workout in on the trainer, but for me, maintaining a 15 mph speed on the trainer takes everything I've got. I find riding outside to be much easier, so when I heard the 70 degrees and light winds forecast for today, I knew it was time to take the bike off the trainer and put the road tire back on. I awoke this morning to plentiful sunshine with just a slight breeze out of the west, a stark contrast to the 30 mph winds during most of last week.

Farmer burning off a field
I was out the door by 9:15. At the end of the street, I noticed the lilac bushes beginning to leaf out. It's only mid March, but already the tulips, the crocuses, and even some trees are awakening under the warmth we're experiencing. During the ride, I saw red-winged blackbirds, robins, and even a killdeer. As I passed over a creek about 15 miles into the ride, I could hear frogs croaking. Spring has definitely arrived in central Illinois. It couldn't have come at a better time. With only 75 days (plus or minus a few days) to get ready for the Bike the US for MS ride, I need to get out to ride as much as I possibly can. Today went well. After 45 miles at 15.8 mph, I rolled into the driveway, tired but definitely happy tired.

My new handlebar bag from the front and from the side. This is the very first purchase off my list of Need to Get for the ride. Hubby bought it for me for my birthday. The hope is that I will be able to pack it daily with all the things I'll need for the day's ride. It's roomy and has 2 front pockets as well as side pockets. I love, love, love the plastic covered top for my map. Overall, a groovy bag.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Art From A Pawn Shop Bike

For awhile now, inspired by a gift from my sister-in-law, I've been hankering after an old bike to dismantle then use the different parts for art pieces. I finally visited the nearest pawn shop after work yesterday as I knew they had a row of bikes out front. To my delight, I found an old bike with rotted tired. Just what I was looking for. Almost before Hubby had come to a complete stop in the garage, I was out of the truck, unloading the bike, turning it over onto its seat and handlebars, and setting to work.

The first project was to take one of the wheels and turn it into a picture holder. This meant I would have to use tools to loosen the bolts holding the wheels to the frame. I'd already told Hubby he couldn't help. He has a tendency to just take over and do what needs to be done. This is something I wanted to do, so I was going to have to figure out what tools to use. I got to work finding the right fitting wrench. Within just a matter of minutes I had the back wheel off. The front wheel came off even quicker. The only other piece of the bike I wanted for the time being was the chain. That Hubby didn't have a tool for, so after some thought, he grabbed the lopper and cut the chain.

For my first picture holder, I decided to remove the tire. I then drilled holes on the rim to attach the chain which will be used to hang the wheel on the wall. Add pictures and wa-la. Done. As usual, after finishing and stepping back to take a look, I was happy with what I had created but all kinds of "next time I can do this and this and this" started in. Now I'm thinking for the second wheel I can spray paint it white or any number of other colors. I can use one of the pedals as the way to hang it on the wall. I can use the brakes as part of the overall presentation. Several options exist that I just might give a go.
Now I'm working on the next project which involves other parts of the
bike. First, though, I have to visit one of my favorite stores to get the one necessary piece for this project to work. Such a shame I have to spend time browsing amongst so many fun, fun things.

 And the final product . . .
a BTUSFMS key chain!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

:) and :(

The promotion portfolio is officially out of my hands and into those of the portfolio reading committee. :)

Lovely, Beautiful daughter is officially on a plane heading back to Shanghai. :(

Officially, I had the most awesome birthday dinner last night with my kids: grilled peanut butter and jelly followed by apple pie and ice cream. :)

I opened that social networking site this morning to find a message from someone of my past, someone I can officially say I really, really dislike. :(

I officially put my dismay out there for some individuals I knew would give me great advice, and they didn't disappoint. :)

I recieved an official verbal commitment for another donation to BTUSFMS! :)

Wow, happiness and sadness are definitely taking turns right now. Thankfully, happiness is winning.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pulling Out A Reminder

Back in September, I received notice at work that I was eligible to apply for promotion. I filed the email away, not sure if I wanted to actually go through the motions of putting a promotion portfolio together, and when only a couple of days remained for me to declare my intentions to do so to the VP of Instruction, I decided I would go ahead and let the chips fall where they may. At that time I had six months to work on the portfolio, so I began sorting through all the "stuff" from the last three years and categorizing according to the different sections of the portfolio. Then Mom collapsed. The promotion portfolio was the furthest thing from my mind. And with Mom's death, thoughts about the promotion portfolio became nonexistent until about three weeks ago, when I could feel myself beginning to ease out of the grayness of grief.

With encouragement from Hubby and colleagues, I began considering trying to put the promotion portfolio together. I didn't think I had enough time. Three weeks to write up four different sections--teaching philosophy, instructional design, assessment practices, and academic engagement--along with teaching six sections of composition, along with grading, along with family commitments, along with training means not having a lot of down time. Somehow, though, things are getting done.Slowly but surely, the four sections are getting finished up and the supporting documents are being put into place. Classes are going along well. I was able to attend and thoroughly enjoy Angel Baby's band concert the other evening, and I've been on the trainer at least four times a week for an hour or longer. With a couple of hours put in on the portfolio tomorrow, I'll be able to finish it completely and be ready to walk it to HR on Monday.

Though I might not receive the promotion, at least I will have made the attempt. I know I wouldn't have felt good about myself if I had just let the opportunity slip by. I went this route a long, long time ago over something I was scared to attempt, and a wise woman, a sadness in her voice, sat next to me on the living room couch and told me I would regret my actions one day. It didn't take long for that day to come, and ever since, I've kept that decision I made so long ago near just in case I needed a reminder to live in such a way as to have no regrets.