Today's Lesson: Perseverance

Existentialist chalkboardImage by adactio via FlickrHave I told you about my day job?

I teach remedial composition at a nearby university. It's a working-class school with lots of commuters and part-timers and people scraping by just to buy books. At my school, no matter who you are and what your major is, you have to pass a writing proficiency class in order to graduate. If you fail that test, you can take my class!

My students are bright and hardworking. They just can't write. Almost all of them are immigrants or international students, so a lot of the problem is that their English is weak. But the bigger issue is that they just don't get writing. They don't break the world down into paragraphs or chapters. They don't see how a pause in a conversation could be visualized as ellipses or even periods. They haven't thought about how ideas can be like building blocks: Ideas need structure to stand up. Ideas need to fit together in order to make sense.

None of my students want to take my class. They want to take what they're good at: engineering, accounting, nursing, child development. They want to plow through their majors so they can move on to bright futures, and who can blame them. My credit/no-credit class doesn't even add to their GPA.

But I am dogged because I want them to have those bright futures, and if they can't write, they probably won't. Professionals write. Engineers write project reports. Teachers write lesson plans. Cops write narratives of events. If you manage people, if you communicate with people, you write -- now more than ever. I tell my students this. They listen, and sometimes they crumble a little because they believe me and they really want to succeed. They want it more than anything. They can taste it, and they have worked so hard just to be in my stinking remedial class that they hate. But they are in my stinking remedial class because they know all about failure, and so after they crumble, they pick up their pens and write, and they keep writing, and they keep writing. And I think, maybe, they are going places.
Enhanced by Zemanta


Goddess of the Week: Fortuna

Archaeological Museum in Milan, (Italy). Roman...Image via WikipediaDaisy needs a goddess of luck. Really, she needs a goddess of luck to thank after some bad/scary car business.

Well, Daisy, belly up to the altar and give thanks to Fortuna, Roman goddess of fortune. Typically depicted veiled or blind, Fortuna disperses luck and good fortune without much discrimination. She's funny that way. She tosses luck like penny candy. If it lands near you, so much the better. If not, well, nobody ever said life was fair.
A lot of people think they can woo Fortuna. Take Pliny the Elder. He said "Fortune favors the bold" right before sailing his ship toward the erupting Mt. Vesuvius and being killed by molten lava. In fact, you can't woo luck. That's what makes it luck. You just have to wait for it and, like Daisy, be grateful when it finds you.

Don't worry if Fortuna keeps missing you though. As Seneca noted, "Whatever Fortune has raised high, she lifts but to bring low." (Just ask poor Lindsey.)

Channel this goddess: I'm telling you, you can't channel her. If you try, she's likely to go all psycho on you. (Just ask poor Lindsey.) Lay low. When she visits, give thanks.

Need a goddess: I got goddesses! Post a comment telling me what you need, and I'll see what I can do.
Enhanced by Zemanta


Goddess of the Week: Cloacina

The Cloaca Maxima canal of Ancient RomeImage via WikipediaLA Fine emailed me looking for a plumbing goddess (old houses, you know). Would you believe it: there is one! Cloacina, Roman goddess of sewers.

Smirk all you want, but do you really want to chance offending the one goddess who understood that empires and happy homes are built on good sanitation?

There is actually a nice little essay with photos about Cloacina by Jon C. Schladweiler here. In it, you'll learn that a shrine to Cloacina stood in front of the Forum -- right above the Cloaca Maxima (which sounds way more regal than its translation: the "main drain.")

In the essay, you'll also discover this wonderful poem in her honor:

O Cloacina, Goddess of this place,

Look on thy suppliants with a smiling face.

Soft, yet cohesive let their offerings flow,

Not rashly swift nor insolently slow.

Channel this goddess: You'll know when.

Need a goddess: I got goddesses! Post a comment telling me your need and I'll see what I can find.

Enhanced by Zemanta


On Wrinkles and Flat Butts

Old woman pouring tea, unknown artist, 19th ce...Image by Black Country Museums via Flickr
Can we talk some more about aging? Can we?

I am 45. I am squarely midlife. And I mean that literally because I'm booked solid until ninety.
I've got wrinkles. I've got graying hair. That's OK. I expected those things. Here are the things I didn't expect:

1. My butt to get so really, really, flat. I mean there is no definition at all. From the backside, I'm like a door. From the frontside, well, not so much.

2. The skin on my hands to get so inelastic. If I pinch it, it doesn't spring back immediately. It just sort of deflates like egg whites that you haven't whipped enough.

3. My skin to get so dry. There's this great description of the lead character in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale using butter as moisturizer. I loved it, but I never got it. Not only do I get it now. I've done it.

I wouldn't say that I'm troubled by these things, but I have lingered over them. I know a lot of women get cosmetic surgery to negate the physical affects of aging. (Check out 70 year old Rachel Welch.) I don't have a problem with cosmetic surgery -- for other people. If Rachel wants to look like a hot young mama that's fine with me. But I'm holding onto my originals, wrinkles and flat butt included. To be me, I have to be honest about who I am. I am a woman squarely in midlife, and I look like it. I reserve the right to change my mind, but today at least, I want to be reminded by my mirror image that I am getting older and that I will one day die. That's the truth, and my body -- all our bodies -- are testimonies to that truth. That's not a bad thing. That's just a fact. That doesn't mean I'm eager to die or decay, but it does mean that I'm OK with where I am in my life, and I'm OK with knowing that things will end badly for me, as, indeed, they end badly for all of us.
Enhanced by Zemanta