Thursday, January 31, 2013

Only Three Weeks Into the Semester And . . .

I lost my cool in my English 101 class. I try really hard to never let this happen, but . . ..

I could tell my ire was rising when a student who missed class on Tuesday came in and said, "I wasn't here on Tuesday. What did I miss? And I don't know what you mean by annotated bibliography." In my head, my answer was, "Ummmmm, you missed the explanation for the two assignments that are due next week, one of which is the annotated bib. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes going over both assignments on Tuesday, making sure those who were in class understood what is being asked with the assignments. That's what you missed." Out of my mouth came, "I went over the two assigments. What exactly about the annotated bib don't you understand?" And for the next ten minutes, I stood by this student, explaining again what I explained on Tuesday.

A few minutes later, another student asked for help. "I'm confused. I went to Google and typed in "citation" because you didn't explain what a citation is and now, after looking at what I have here, I'm totally confused." In my head, my response was, "I did explain what a citation is. During the last class, I walked the entire class through the program that generates citations, showing how to plug in the author's name, the title of the article, etc, because this information is what is needed for a citation. After doing this, I said, 'This is the citation. This answers number 1 on the handout.'" Out of my mouth came, "A citation is made up of all the information about the source: author, title, publisher, date, etc." Silence. The student then reiterates extreme confusion because the handout I provided listed the citation as being a required component for each annotation on the annotated bib. Not listening to the little voice inside my head telling me to remain calm, I said with a bit of flippancy, "Because a citation is part of an annotation on an annotated bib." I suggested the student visit a popular online writing lab to examine the examples of an annotated bib to see that the citation is the first component of an annotation. The response? A very deep exhale and, "I don't need to go there to see what an annotation looks like." In my head, I said, "Ooookayyyyy. Obviously you know more than I do, so you're on your own now, pal." Out of my mouth came, "Hmmmm, well, okay." After a bit more conversation, the student seemed to have a better idea for what was needed for the annotated bib.

Then, right at the end of class, a student asked about the due date for a journal entry. I said, "It was due on Tuesday." The student responded with, "You didn't tell us that." All calm was gone. All notion of staying reasonable had been used up. In a voice I normally use with my own kids when they've gone beyond what is deemed acceptable behavior, I informed this student that I most certainly did tell the class; they actually had it in writing on the course calendar, and unless I stand in front of the class and say, "Don't do this assignment,' it is their responsibility to make sure it is done by the due date and turned in. "In high school the teachers always reminded us. We didn't have to keep track," the student said. "Welcome to college," I responded.

I'm wondering if it's time for a sabbatical. I'm finding myself becoming less and less patient with students, and most of my impatience comes from these three things: 1) poor attendance which results in missing a lot of information provided in class. Upon returning to class, the student expects me to go over everything missed; 2) inattention while in class because the student is caught up in texting, Facebooking, or the belief he/she doesn't need to listen to the explanation of an assignment. When the "I have no clue as to what's being asked" hits because of not paying attention, the student wants me to go over it all again; and 3) the unwillingness to figure things out; students want to be spoonfed and they want everything to be "easy."

Thankfully classes are finished for the week, and I have my copy of Bicycling beyond the Divide to take me away from this nonsense. Hopefully, during the next few days I can find some down time to relax and recharge my patience battery.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Very Satisfying Meal

Bacon wrapped chicken thighs, creamy mashed cauliflower, and fruit. The smokey spice blend on the bacon and chicken added some sass, and the herb spice blend mixed into the mashed cauliflower created the illusion that they were actually mashed potatoes (though Hubby kept asking what veggie I'd used as he wasn't convinced they were mashed potatoes). The fruit offered the sweetness to balance all the spices. Probably too many carbs with the fruit along with the cauliflower, but there wasn't any added sugar so I'm not going to stress over it. Definitely my kind of meal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dinner Disaster

I know Hubby meant well in making the decisions he did for our dinner this evening, but the meal we just finished was probably the most disappointing one I've had in a long, long time. Because I try to eat sensibly for breakfast and lunch, I really look forward to topping off the day with a good, healthy meal that makes me feel like I've accomplished what I set before me in regards to food and my health. I admit, I veer off the healthy foods path far more often than I like, and that's why the last meal of the day is so important to me. Tonight, that still-bleeding, three inches thick hunk of meat with all that fat running through it, well, let's just say the dog enjoyed it. I felt immense sadness as I walked away from the table after only eating a sweet potato and a piece of birthday cake made for Angel Baby who turned 14 today, and now my mind is in anguish over not having eaten a healthy meal. This evening's dinner ended up being one of those moments that can't be taken back. There's no do-over.

To get my mind off the suffering it is experiencing, I'm going to go shopping. I have a list of foods I need for my healthy foods pantry and fridge, and I think walking the aisles, putting veggies, fruits and fish into the cart are exactly what I need to move past this painful event. See, just thinking about the shopping is making my mind slow itself, move away from the tragedy that was dinner.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


From the train, leaving Chicago. I should have sat on the right side of the aisle--the graffiti was much more colorful and artistic on the other side of the tracks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yet Another Beauty

This morning a fine dusting of snow lay on the streets, sidewalks, and trail. I couldn't wait to leave for work, riding the blue cruiser and leaving her tire tracks in the white powder. The temps had risen slightly overnight, and the wind blew from behind. I didn't have to double up my gloves or wear my scarf over my nose and mouth, and my heart didn't pound like the last few days because I had to push into the wind. No. This morning was quiet. This morning was still. This morning the daylight offered a glimpse of purity. And this beauty against the white sky.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Upsides of Life

The wind blew out of the north this morning as I rode to work. Smack into my face for most of the three miles. I thought what a great ride home I'd have this afternoon, with the wind at my back. The fickle Illinois wind, though, had other plans. When I walked out to my bike after work, I looked up at the wind turbine to see from which direction the wind was blowing. Southeast. Smack into my face for nearly the entire three miles home. The upside was the temperature had risen from the 7 degrees of this morning (real feel of -10 degrees) to 22 degrees (real feel of 12 degrees). At least the ride home was warmer.

Another upside to my day was the response a student offered to my essay, the one I'd written over break to share with my colleagues at our beginning of the semester meeting. I shared my work with my students to show them how I enter into a writing project and how I weave in primary as well as secondary sources. During class, I noticed many of the students reading the essay before they turned to researching for their own work. After class ended and most of the students had left the room, one young man stayed behind. He approached me and said, "I really liked your essay. The part where you talk about a family never really being prepared for a loved one's death because of the rollercoaster bad moments then good moments and how this can go on for years is exactly what I've experienced because of my mom. She has cancer." I asked the student how his mom is now, and with a smile he responded that she's doing well. "She still has markers, so she's not totally out of the woods," he said. "But she's doing good." I could see in his face and hear in his voice the love he has for his mom.

This connection with a student brought about through writing, my writing, was an unfamiliar moment for me. Before, there was always this wall between me and the students, the typical teacher possesses the knowledge v. students need the knowledge. Today, though, that moment between me and the student was shared knowledge because of a shared experience. While my heart hurt for the student having to live through the pain of seeing his mother deal with cancer, I was happy he felt a connection to what I had written and could talk to me about his experience because of that connection.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Slow Life Movement

Today was the coldest day thus far for riding to work. When I started out at 7:30, it was 2 degrees with a -11 windchill. The wind was blowing out of the northwest. Brrrrrr, to say the least.

To ward off the cold, I wore a pair of slacks I rarely wear as they are lined and make me too warm. I truly abhor sweating through my slacks. Not a good look. Today, though, the lined slacks were exactly what I needed to keep my legs warm. They along with knee socks (I love wearing knee socks; they make me feel 13 all over again), a heavy sweater with really wide sleeves that I found annoying when trying to write or type, my uber-soft wool scarf, my long wool coat, and my newest knit hat kept me toasty warm during my ride. The only spot on my body that cried a little because of the cold were the apples of my cheeks, but even they only shed a tear or two.

As I rode home late this afternoon, my thoughts turned to how riding in the cold has become just something that I do now. Everyday, my colleagues ask me if I rode to work, and when I say yes, they appear astonished. This morning, my eco-warrior, green is good, save the earth friend said, "You're killing me. You're making me look bad." Making another person look bad isn't why I ride. I ride because I want to see the morning awakening. I ride because the exercise clears my head. I ride because I want to slow my life down. I've created my own slow life movement.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Three Wooden Chairs

The other day I walked around the block to check out some fresh curbside trash, hoping to find something, anything, that might be my next trash to treasure project. I returned home with nothing. Quite disappointing. Today, while I was making chocolate chip cookies to satisfy the craving for chocolate chip cookie dough that attacked me with a vengeance while I was sitting on the couch, watching the last episode in the latest season of Bedlam, I looked out the window over the kitchen sink and saw what seemed to be wooden chairs. Those weren't there earlier, I thought. I put the first batch of cookies into the oven, pulled on my coat, scarf, and gloves, then walked the two blocks to check out the chairs.

Three wooden chairs. Jackpot! These would be the beginnings of my garden party table and chairs project I've been wanting to get started on. How lucky could I be? I stacked the two oak chairs and hoisted them up to carry home. A gentleman placing his trash out for tomorrow's pickup said hello and asked how I was. I smiled, saying I was just fine, thanks. "You got some treasures there?" he asked. I nodded, saying, "Yeah, I think I do." As I neared the edge of our property, Lovely Beautiful Daughter came around the fence and smiled.

Curbside chairs--these are not trash!
"I see you've found a new project," she said. She took one of the chairs and walked to the garage with me, helping me get them inside. She'd come downstairs to find me, and when she saw me through the kitchen window, she'd put on her coat to come help carry the chairs. I told her of my garden party plans, and she liked the idea of brightly painted chairs. There's just something truly happy about sitting in a brightly painted dinner table chair.

I am wondering if painting the oak chairs would be considered a horrible thing. They are kind of pretty just the way they are. Maybe a couple of colorful seat pads is all they need.

Thank you whoever put the chairs on the curb. They're exactly what I've been looking for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

5/200 and 18/7000

Yesterday, after cleaning up my work space in the garage and reading the first 5 or so pages in The Blue Book of Bicycle Repair (did you know the threads on bolts slope up depending on what side they're supposed to be on; bolts for the right side of the bike slope up to the right and bolts for the left side of the bike slope up to the left--that's so cool), I decided to take a break and enjoy a short ride. I didn't really have a destination in mind, but I did know I eventually wanted to go to the hardware store for some super glue. While I was cleaning my work space, I realized my super glue had dried up. It comes in handy for all sorts of things (though I tend to glue my fingers together each time I use it), so I wanted to have some on hand.

Like usual, I rode in the streets. Call me hard-headed, but I truly believe the more cyclists are visible in the streets, the more motorists will begin expecting them and driving more carefully because of them. I also believe cyclists must follow all the rules of the road if they want motorists to respect them (I'm shouting at you Hipster Cyclist who blew the stop sign at the four-way by the Marriott) and take care when driving in the same streets cyclists are riding. Unfortunately, there's always going to be those who don't like cyclists (again, thanks to cyclists like you, Hipster Cyclist!) no matter what.

I could have rung my new bell at the annoying motorist!
I stopped at a four-way then proceeded forward. Right after the four-way, the road widens with two lanes going straight and two lanes curving off to the right. I've taken this route so many times and never had a motorist demonstrate displeasure at my going straight, but for some reason, the person driving a maroon van decided I was impeding his desire to go right. First came the honk, then the less than required 3 feet of clearance while passing, then speeding up to cut in front of me to go to the right. If the person had merely waited 5 seconds, he could have easily merged right from behind.While I dropped the F bomb in my head (okay, I may have uttered it aloud), I didn't make any rude gestures. No sense in adding to the bad behavior already demonstrated by the motorist. (The new bell is courtesy of People for Bikes.)

The rest of my ride went smoothly. I visited the used book store where I found M.F.K. Fisher's only novel, Not Now but Now. I have several of her other books that center around food, so adding another Fisher work to the shelf makes me quite happy.

From there I went to the hardware store for the super glue. When I returned home, I tallied up my mileage for the week: 16. Yeah, pick yourself up off the floor over that number!  This gives me 5 days of riding so far this year, and 18 miles. 195 days to go to meet my 200 days of riding goal. 6982 miles to go to meet my 7000 miles goal. Me thinks I need to pick it up to meet these goals!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bike Maintenance


In my garage. 

With Old Faithful, my trusty blue cruiser.

And tools.

And the local bike shop dude

teaching me bike maintenance.

Two and a half hours,

in heaven.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Taken By Surprise

Today ended up being one of those days that took me by surprise. Even now, I still feel somewhat overwhelmed.

Just before the end of the fall semester, my boss asked me if I would present at the Division "jamboree" that would kick off the spring semester. I agreed, thinking because I'd been wanting to write a new piece, having a deadline and honoring my agreement would be exactly what I needed to get the piece finished. In addition, since I teach creative nonfiction to my second semester composition students, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write an essay about my mom and her battle with MS, that I could share with my students to show them what my process is when I write. I try to walk the talk I espouse in my writing classrooms, and working on a piece over break would fulfill this.

So I wrote. During the process, I decided to ask my siblings for help in the way of offering their perspective on Mom, the MS, and her decline in health. I also asked my dad for his input. I feared some or all would not feel up to revealing to me what could be considered sensitive information, but in the end, four of my five siblings responded to the questions I emailed them, and my dad wrote out his answers, sending them to me via snail mail. With their responses in hand, as well as Mom's poetry and the letters she had written to her parents through the years, I wrote.

Today I shared what I wrote with my colleagues. As part of my presentation, while I read my work, a picture video I'd created of my BTUSFMS ride, in which pictures of my family were woven throughout, played on the screen. The room was quite dim because the lights were off for better viewing the video, so I couldn't really gauge the reaction of the group while I was reading. It was only afterwards that the effect of my presentation became evident.

My boss came to my side, hugged me, and said, "You had everyone at my table in tears." A colleague hugged me and asked, "Would you send me a copy of your piece? I have a friend who is living with MS and I know she would love this." And a good friend stopped me in the hall to apologize for getting up and leaving. She was in tears as today marked the anniversary of her dad's death, and listening to my piece while watching the video was more than she could bear. She wanted me to know how moving my writing was. Many others came to me throughout the morning to tell me how my piece had affected them. All thought it powerful.

I never thought something I would write would have that kind of impact. Hearing people were moved and that many found a connection to their own lives through what I was offering, put me right back to finishing the BTUSFMS ride. Life is meaningful when one has purpose and that purpose is fulfilled.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

199 Days and 6998 Miles to Go

Finally able to get out and ride today. Granted it was a short ride--a mile to the bike shop to buy a rack for my cruiser--but just being able to hop on the bike, mosey along and enjoy the brisk air truly made me feel less stressed. Then, once I got home I pulled out the new Park Tools and put the rack on the bike. Come Monday, if the streets stay clear and dry, I'll be hanging my panniers on the cruiser for my ride to work. If the snow comes, I'll be walking. I'm hoping for clear, dry streets as I love riding my cruiser.

So, though I only got two miles in today, I'm going to count today as day 1 of my 200 days of riding this year.

Friday, January 4, 2013

One Short Ride, Two Longer Walks

We've had some chilly, windy days this week. Thankfully, the sun has been shining some, too, enough to spur me to get out for a couple of walks. I tried to ride my bike on Wednesday, but our street is still so slick with ice from our New Year's Eve winter storm that I did one lap and called it quits. The front tire slipped to the left once, making my heart beat a little faster, so that's all I needed to park the bike back in the garage.

The walks, though, have been good. I made the three-quarters of a mile walk to the grocery store yesterday to get dinner fixings. I used my pink backpack to carry my goods home, and since there wasn't anything terribly heavy, the three-quarters of a mile walk home went smoothly. While at the store, I decided to splurge on a $5 scratch-off lotto ticket. I don't play very often. I'm too uptight about spending money on nothing. Lately, though, the luck has been pretty good, ever since Hubby bought a $5 ticket on our way out of town in November, when I rode the Gravel Grovel. We won $100 and used it to pay for our hotel. He then bought another one just before Christmas. Again, we whooped it up over a $100 winner. He gave me half of that winnings and used the other half for more scratch off tickets. We kept winning little amounts--$2, $10, $20. I decided to buy one yesterday just for fun (see what winning even just a little bit does to a person's psyche?) and stuck it in my coat pocket to scratch off after I got home. When all of the groceries were put away, I pulled the ticket out. Though it wasn't a $100 winner, I did win $10, doubling my money. I'm okay with that.

Today I walked the half-mile to the thrift store, hoping to find a pair of good winter boots. With it being a week and some days after Christmas, I figured someone may have gotten a new pair as a gift and sent their old but still decent pair to the thrift store. Not so lucky in this department. In fact, the whole store was kind of depressing. No treasures at all.

Come Monday, I have to return to work. I've been thinking about how I'm going to get myself there if the roads are still icy. Since I don't have to be there as early as last semester, I'm considering walking the 3 miles. Lovely Beautiful Daughter thinks 3 miles is too far for walking. I believe her words were, "Mom, that's even crazier than cycling to work." I'm kind of digging the idea of walking to work, though. I definitely would  not need to visit the dreaded gym or the treadmill in the garage if I made this trek each day. I see a win-win here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year!!

There's just something about the first day of a new year. Clean slate. Anything's possible. So much promise stretching out in front of me--365 days of promise.

Promise. Potential. Possibilities.

To get me started, I created my profile for my ride with Bike the US for MS this summer. I signed up to do the Indiana/Illinois segment of the Northern Tier, and I'm already excited about getting all my gear together for the ride. Because I'm only doing a segment, seven or eight days of cycling, I'm considering going as minimalist as possible. Instead of using my tent, I might invest in a hammock. If I do this, I won't need a sleeping bag. I'm sure with a little more thought, other areas can be pared down to just the essentials. I'd like to travel light, lighter than I ever have.

I also began a new read, A Moveable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization. I had picked this book up at a used book store in Lincoln, NE while at a conference, mostly because I had just finished Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and I thought it very interesting I stumbled upon another book with the same title. Just thinking about Hemingway's A Moveable Feast makes me want to revisit it. Will my new read make me feel the same way after I turn the last page?

The final touches of the first day of 2013 were finishing up putting decorations away, cleaning out another kitchen cabinet (all three of my guys were horrified to see the bare shelves: "Where'd all the food go that was up here?"), and getting back to healthful eating. I actually did really well with not overindulging or eating unhealthy foods during the holidays. I had a Christmas cookie here and there, but I made sure I focused on eating healthfully 80% of the time. The day after Christmas, after not eating grains/bread for a month and a half, I ate a a PB&J sandwich as well as a large piece of pizza from a deep dish pizza (hands down the best pizza in town). The results from eating these delicious wonders of modern life were feeling heavy followed by tossing and turning all night. I've come to love sleeping soundly every night, so the chances of eating bread or pizza again soon are very unlikely. (Insert bottom lip stuck out and sad puppy dog eyes here.)

All in all, day one of 2013 was exactly what I'd hoped it would be. Here's hoping your day one of the new year was exactly what you wanted. Happy New Year!