Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Christmas Carol by G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,

His hair was like a light.

(O weary, weary were the world,

But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,

His hair was like a star.

(O stern and cunning are the kings,

But here the true hearts are.) 

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,

His hair was like a fire.

(O weary, weary is the world,

But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,

His hair was like a crown,

And all the flowers looked up at Him,

And all the stars looked down.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

I think it was Hannibal from the A-Team that said that. He had a good point. There's something encouraging about seeing things fall into place the right way. I was particularly reminded of this yesterday in my Logic class when everything we had been talking about for a couple of weeks now was able to come together to help address an issue among the students themselves.

The last several weeks we have been talking about why you believe what you believe, and why you do what you do. We have looked at the fact that behind every idea there is a person or group of people propelling that idea. That every belief they have can more than likely be traced back to a point in time when someone shared that belief with them and it became their own. Similarly, why you do what you do is a direct result of why you believe what you believe and is thus often springs from the influence of an individual as well. Over Thanksgiving break I had my students create a "Memory Board". Basically, I wanted them to come up with a timeline, a creative representation of each year of their lives—from 0 through to their present age—and attach one or two people to each year of their lives. The person that they remember most at that point in their life and what they remember about them. Obviously they had to dig deep and ask family members about their early years, because who could remember what person influenced you the most at age 0! So I told them a good place to start was to ask who all changed their diapers in addition to their parents!

Yesterday the memory board projects were due. At the beginning of class we have a "Pensive Session", a.k.a. journal writing time. I gave them this assignment, "Write all the good things you know about the following people," and then listed 4 members of our class. My reason for doing this was because there is one student in particular in our class who gets picked on quite a bit because he is “different”. I threw in his name amongst one popular, one quirky, and one shy student to force the kids to stop and think about the good qualities they saw in this young man. Two minutes into the assignment, I had several students ask, “What if we don’t know 2 or 3 of these people?” My first reaction was, “Wow! We have been together in this class from August until November, the students share more than just this one class, and we can’t come up with a few good things to say about 2 or 3 specific people.” It made me wonder about the people they didn’t share a class with. I told them to use the great skills of logical observation and come up with at least one thing per person. That gave me some time to stop, pray, and think about where to go next.

When they were done I told them that in my English class the previous period we had talked about being observant and how that often requires effort. I told them that there are times when I can be half way through a day and not be able to recall what I did up to that point. There are times when I am driving when I have gone several miles and couldn’t recall a single thing I passed and barely remember where I’m going. I told them that I started an exercise to help me be more alert and observant. For instance, when I am driving I look for VW Beatles and point them out in my mind. They serve as markers for what I am driving by, and points to notice my surroundings. After doing this for a while, it’s hard not to pass a VW Beatle and not shout out—whether mentally or audibly—“Punch-buggy!” So it is with people. We can walk through the halls at school every day for months and not think about the people we are passing by. The fact that they are people. The fact that they have a story. It takes effort to get beyond that. But often it can start with a little effort, like stopping to ask someone how their Thanksgiving break was. Even if all they say is, “Great! My family from Wisconsin came to visit,” then that’s one more thing about that person that you didn’t know before—that they have family from Wisconsin.

Then we had our project presentations. I’d like to think they were more attentive than normal as each student shared parts of their past and pieces of their story. Maybe they were. But I do know that when that one particular boy who stated all my thinking and praying in the first place got up to present, there was a change in the class. Not dramatic, but it was evident. There was slight snickering at first when he got up, then an occasional perking of ears when the boy said something about his father’s “period of indifference”, and then inquisitive glances back at me when the boy mentioned that his name had changed after his mother’s second marriage. His was the longest presentation of the day. I let him talk. I let the class listen. It was a moment that cannot be written in to lesson plans, given as a homework assignment, or conjured up through brainstorming. It was a moment when their lessons and learning were applied and embodied in something, in someone, tangible. And that kind of lesson no teacher can take credit for, however good his or her teaching techniques.

My goal for next semester is to move my students towards being able to debate. But before I teach them the structure of debate, the fallacies, the art of argument, I want them to realize that behind every position there is a person. While they should not attack the person, they should seek to know the person. And while some event or circumstance of a person’s life cannot be an excuse for their belief, it sometimes can be an explanation. The better you know the person, the better you understand where they are coming from on an issue.

Behind every idea, behind every belief, behind every action there is a person. Behind every person there is a story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Excuse v. Explanation

A good friend and mentor once taught me that there was indeed a difference between an excuse and an explanation. The Oxford American Dictionary says:

ex-cuse—an attempt to lessen the blame by attaching a fault or offence; seek to defend or justify

ex-pla-na-tion—a statement or account that makes something clear; a reason or justification given for an action or belief

I can read those definitions and still not get it. I had to experience the difference myself, get caught in the act of trying to come up with an excuse when all I really needed to do was give in and point to my explanation.

I’m a control freak. I’ll admit that from time to time. I’d rather “attempt to lessen the blame” by attaching my own fault so that I can see that there is something different and better I can do the next time to make the outcome change. It’s easier for me. So naturally defending and justifying my actions fall easily into place when I hand out an excuse.

I had no control. But I wanted it desperately. I was just trying to be with my family during a time of unrest and upheaval, and I couldn’t manage to get my schoolwork done. Nothing was clear to me. I wanted to justify, show that I could do better. That’s when I was told, “Amy, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation. What you have right now is an explanation.” I suppose the part I couldn’t grasp was the “reason or justification given” part. The reason was already there, the justification already given: I didn’t have to make it up.

Suddenly it was clearer. My family situation was no typical, “My dog ate my homework” excuse. It really was different. For all the effort in the world, sometimes circumstances hinder you from working out what you know you should—or what you think you should—be doing. And there is no amount of control you have over the situation apart from acknowledging and putting the next foot in front of the other.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Letter Art

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


O Spirit of God.
Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load
of sorrow,
Perplexed and knowing not what to do,
Slandered and persecuted,
Made to feel the weight of the cross,
help me I pray thee.
If thou seest in me
any wrong thing encouraged
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk the way of
thy commandments.

Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy, holy person:
Help me to walk the separated life with
firm and brave step,
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee,
with the music of heaven,
And make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude
to thee.
I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.
Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Preserve me from the intoxication that comes
of prosperity;
Sober me when I am glad with joy that comes
not from thee.
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

Feel me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

from The Valley of Vision

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Reasons: Thoughts from a Logic Teacher

Our favorite word in Logic class is "tangible". Not because it seems to contradict what Plato is known for, but because it best describes our worldview in teaching logic. I want my students to be overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the world of thought. But in the end I want them to have such a practical grasp of the scope of thought that it prods them into deliberate awareness and attentiveness. In other words, I want them to think about what they are thinking about and act accordingly.

Our second favorite word is "obstreperous". Not because it seems to contradict the lessons of "tangible", but because I was once called that by one of my teaching mentors who happens to be of Welsh birth. I want my students to see me modeling tangibility. I have come to be more aware than they are about themselves at this point of who I am, why I do what I do, and the people that have helped shape that awareness most. And now I want to share that realization with them. Do they know at the beginning of the school year why I use the word "obstreperous" so much? No. But that too is intentional. I want them to be curious about the word, to be annoyed by my frequent use of the word, to call one of their friends "obstreperous"—after they have used our class dictionary to look up the word—and then I will share my Welsh "obstreperous" story.

Everything in life has a meaning. Everything a purpose. As teachers, we must be deliberate about thinking through such things ourselves then walk with—and sometimes pull along—our students as we discover together.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ohhh Hoodie!

You will start hearing me say "Ohhh hoodie"! It'll even be in an endearing tone of voice. I love the NFL's Ode to the Hoodie commercial. I'm sure that I'd seen it before but in watching the Pre-season opener between the Tennessee Titans and the Washington Redskins I viewed it again for the very first time! Seeing as the actual commercial is no where to be found in the worlds of YouTube or other Internet video, I thought I'd share these wonderful lyrics:

Oh hoodie-
Monument to the durable.
Fast friend.
Uncomplaining sucker of sweat.
In our most trying times, you still tried.
When other garments stopped at the neck,
you said, “Oh no, the head needs a garage.”
Our arms would pull off well before yours-
yet this is how we treat you.
Oh hoodie.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Books As Art

Since I've lived on my own, I've always seemed to have more books than any other possessions. My chief decorative concern has never been "where do I hang my pictures because I have so many of them," but "where do I hang my pictures because the books have taken all my wall space"! But even though I've tried to hang things tastefully around my bookshelves, I have also sought to order my bookshelves—and the books on them—in a tasteful manner. While I'm not anal enough to have my books in alphabetical order according to author, I do strive to keep them arranged according to subject. And always, always take special care with how the top shelf looks! Using books themselves as bookends has always been a favorite decorating tool for me. I'm sure it began with a lack of money to buy real bookends, but it has certainly developed into intentional decor. And let's not forget the strategically placed volumes stacked neatly in front of the over-crowded shelves. One must have some double-stacked shelves as a sign of being a dedicated bibliophile.

All that to say, I love strategically placed books. I like to look at them. I like the way they look. So one would ask, "can books be art"? And my reply would be, "absolutely, why not"! For those who share my "why not" enthusiasm, boy howdy, do I have something fun for you....
Floating Bookshelf

A friend told me about them a couple of days ago and I have since bought 5. I love them! Books as art! No wood inhibiting! Suspended magically upon a wall—a wonderful incarnation of the very mysteries they hold within their pages! Finally, an enabling device that makes art out of books by merging the practical with the aesthetically intriguing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Family Fun

I love my family! I hate having my picture taken. But when you combine the two, toss in the added dry wit and sarcasm of my father, the sheer cuteness of my little brother, the excitement of my mother, and the bickering between the three of us girls..."family" and "pictures" end up being a memorable experience with somewhat satisfying results! At least I think these are good pictures so I thought I'd share. Take a look for yourself at my Family Pics page!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

T minas Quatro

Meet Nolan...I can't believe he's giving her a different last name!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spontaneous Poetry

I’m playing around with poetry. Reading a bit of it in verse form but also reading authors who are quite poetically eloquent in prose form as well. I just decided to spontaneously write a poem. So I did.

I obviously have not gotten past the rhyme-every-line-what-is-this-supposed-to-mean stage! And apart from deleting two words for the sake of one better one I didn’t edit anything either. I think I’ll keep at it. If you don’t know what this little poem means…don’t ask me because chances are I’ll just make something up!

Truth is stranger than fiction,
One must weed through all the diction
To get to the very core.
The lie of every lore
Is compelled to stand
Atop the lay of every land
Surveying across the ages
Through the eyes of ancient sages
The battles and the buildings,
The forests and the fieldlings,
The nobles and the knights.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Sense of Time

In the wake of 9/11 there was much publicity, much puzzlement, and much pain. It was a saga that seemed would never end. A wound that seemed too deep to heal. In the midst of the chaos and confusion there were those who just wanted to do something. So as a part of that action taking number my friends and I, hundreds of miles away from the scene of the terror, piled into a couple of cars and went to our local Red Cross.

There was the obvious humanitarian connection to be made that "giving blood saves lives". There was also the variant philanthropic twist that even though we here in the Nashville area were so far away, we too could do something to aid the people of New York City. At every turn, with every click of a remote there was the in-your-face realization that death and suffering are real and a part of life in this poor fallen world.

We all had varying degrees of fear and hesitation as we reclined, feet propped up, to give blood. A lot of us had never given blood before. Most of us didn't like the idea of that knitting sized needle actually staying in our arms for 10-15 minutes! But as I layed there--having never willingly given blood--time stopped. Yes, the nurses continued scurrying around tending to the hundreds of donors. Yes, the news channels carried on with their live coverage and up-to-date reports. But in that few seconds when time stopped only for me I came to a life altering realization: "This will be over in 10 minutes."

It was the first time in my life that I had a real sense of time. The "AhHa" moment that told me "this too shall pass" but in a way that I finally understood. It was an unpublished realization that couldn't be comprehended by the humanitarian connections and the philanthropic twists. It was a truth that couldn't ever be adequately broadcast by the media.

The next time I felt real, emotional, disparing, hopeless pain I realized that, though it may not be over in only 10 minutes, the hurt would eventially be alleviated and the hope would eventially return. I began to ask myself questions like, "Will I still be reeling over this in two months?", "Will I even think about the turmoil in a year's time?", or "Will things look brighter in the morning?"

Though I'm not sure that I agree with the old addage "Time heals all wounds", I am quite sure that time makes them more bearable. And a genuine sense of how fleeting time is brings with it both a caution against waisting time in sorrow, as well as a hope that with time there will be fresh starts and happier moments. This truth has caused me to relish moments of great contentment and happiness all the more, being thankful that, even though this too shall pass, this time is here at least for the moment and is a beautiful reminder of the eternal hope to come.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A New Interpretation of Genesis 1

I've never been big into forwarded e-mails but recently I recieved one that I just feel needs to be shared. It goes along with the humor theme I love so much! Enjoy!

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then using God's great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. And Satan said, "You want chocolate with that?" And Man said, "Yes!" and Woman said, "and as long as you're at it, add some sprinkles." And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.

And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figurethat Man found so fair.

And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat, and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14.

So God said, "Try my fresh green salad."

And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, "I have sent you heart healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them."

And Satan brought forth deep fried fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.

God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it "Angel Food Cake," and said, "It is good."Satan then created a chocolate cake and named it "Devil's Food Cake."

God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds.

God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald's and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then said, "You want fries with that?" And Man replied, "Yes! And super size them!" And Satan said, "It is good"

And Man went into cardiac arrest. God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dry Wit

This is my kind of humor. The subtlety. The profundity. The stupidity. Oh, the irony! It's the kind of humor that people roll their eyes at when they hear it come from me. THIS did not come from me, but oh how I wish I could take the credit!

Get it? "Doctor" and "pepper"!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pistol Pete

I took a look at these videos and the first thing that came to mind was, "Damn he was good!" I had forgotten how good. As a kid I wore out my VHS copy of The Pistol movie. I got his basketball camp videos from the library. I'd go in spurts of either sleeping in my basketball shoes or sleeping with my basketball. And then there were the times I'd sleep with both. Oh, and them there was the "life sized" basketball pillow. White socks. I don't think I wore anything but white socks until I was a senior in high school! I learned the pistol ball control drill. I could dribble between my legs. Hook shots were always a little hard for me but that never stopped me from trying. Except for maybe when my coach benched me 'cause I kept trying in games. And then there was the LSU Pete Maravich basketball card my father dished out the bucks to buy me when I was about 12. Still have it.

I've just gotten one of the recently released books on Maravich called The Pistol that I'm planning to start this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes, but until then enjoy watching the man's incredible art!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Deep Roots

“Because the soul has such deep roots in personal and social life and its values run so contrary to modern concerns, caring for the soul may well turn out to be a radical act, a challenge to accepted norms.”
—Thomas More

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I've been known to make stories out of a few of my craziest dreams. Mostly the vivid I-feel-like-this-is-real dreams. Oh, and the dreams that I can actually remember that vividly when I wake up! Here is another one. Rather short. But some times I have to wonder, on what level of sleep-induced oblivion do my neurological impulses actually account for such notions as logical and realistic? At any rate, I give you a swimming dream involving my dear friend Brianna (who is by no means as illogical as the story portrays her).

The pool was huge, like nothing I’d ever seen before. Brianna picked up on what her team was all excited about way before any of the other teams or the judges even. Half the crowd surrounding us in the stands picked up on it at that point as she enthusiastically tried to explain to me the move her team was trying to make.

Water filled the entire pool complex. There were no lanes, flags, or diving boards. The bleachers, walkways, and slides all either were themselves or were supported by inflatable objects. The excitement spread like wild fire once Gardner-Webb scurried and scrambled to send their swimmer down the slide before the hosting team picked up on what was going on. Brianna explained in all sincerity—as if it were some common mishap they should have realized and capitalized on long before—that there was a rule the hosting team’s facilities can only be located a certain place within the state.

The crowd was more than a little obvious now about its suppressed loud whispers of intrigue and excitement as Gardner-Webb’s swimmer skipped taking her mark and shot down the inflatable slide quicker than a greased turnip on a hockey rink! As she reached the slightly upwardly curved end of the slide, the swimmer flew into the air with obvious signs that all poise and form where to be abandoned at that moment for the simple goal of hitting the water as soon as possible. That being the case, it was the most well executed belly-flop I had ever seen.

According to Brianna the rule was simple, once you catch an obvious oversight of the rules—like the hosting team’s facility being in the wrong part of the state—then if you get one of your team members into the water before the hosting team figures it out they are disqualified.

The judges were all in agreement. The hosting team was disqualified. Gardner-Webb won by a belly-flop!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The craziness of January has swept me off my feet. Quite literally. I feel that right now—this more-than-30-seconds-of-sitting-down-by-myself time—is my new years. Here in the sounds of silence, it has just now hit me that it's time to start afresh, begin anew, anticipate what is to come. I was too loopy during bed rest last week to realize there was a new beginning, but now I'm longing to take full advantage of it.

Years and months are good times to start anew. The beginning of the week is even a good place. But why not start on a Wednesday! The day of the week that is the hardest to spell. The day that falls right in the middle of the work week when you can't say you're starting a new week but you can't quite say you're finishing it either. The only day that starts with a "W"—shoot, there aren't even any months that start with "W"! Speaking of "W"...The day (right nowish really) that "W" is giving a presidential speech. The day after House and American Idol.

Yes, today is my New Years celebration. So here's to Wednesdays! May they ever be wild, wondrous, witty, whimsical, warm, welcoming and whistle-worthy!