Friday, March 30, 2012

Romantic Gestures

Last month my sister-in-law called to ask if I knew any good poems under twenty-five lines. I was at work and didn't have my 1997 edition of Perrine's Sound and Sense with me, so I started searching for poems online.
I found a poem I felt compelled to share with James.
To My Dear and Loving Husband
By  Anne Bradstreet   Nicole*

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay; 
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.
The subject line read, "I wrote a poem for you . . . sort of."
This was James's response:
"I plagiarized a poem for you" sounds less romantic than it is. ;)
This was unexpected, so I replied,
So the gesture is still romantic?  
He wrote back,
Absolutely. :)  

Tonight James and I are going on a date. We're 
homebodies, so we're cool making dinner each night and hanging out with 
our children, so going out to dinner and to a party together is quite 
exciting. But even without Valentine's Day or date nights, I'm glad to 
know we can still keep romance in our lives through plagiarism. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Shhh . . . This is a secret just between us.

Yesterday, we played hooky.

Boo woke up late; I woke up later. She crawled into my bed and said, "Mama, I'm ready for homeschool." I thought, "I'm not."

Then I remembered the email we had received the night before. We found it at about 11:00 p.m. It was from Boo's teacher. Her teacher clarified our misconception about Boo's reading improvement. We thought that going from a level 18 to a level 24 was six levels up; it's only two. We also didn't realize that when Boo dropped from a 20 to an 18 she had only dropped one level. Nor did we understand that getting from level 24 to 28 is only one level. All of these ups and downs seem like a much bigger deal when you actually know how to count by ones. If counting by twos, then fours, the levels seem almost arbitrary.

But then her teacher was . . . not nice. She had called me last week to report the improvement in Boo's reading level, but assured me that Boo will never pass level 28 because she can't respond to her reading in writing. Okay. Negative, but we can work on that during our two and a half hours in the morning. It's a good and important skill, and Boo certainly has a hard time writing her ideas clearly. We work on writing every day, but we can incorporate that.

Again, she addressed Boo's behavior in class: she's talking back now, still not focused, not following directions. Talking back is unacceptable. I will address that with her. The other two seem to be her teacher's biggest concerns, or she wouldn't have asked, "Have you met with your pediatrician yet?"

What? She filled out the Conners test even though we told her we'd rather talk with a mental health professional, and now she's asking if we've gone to our pediatrician? I said, "I mentioned it to him, but we have not followed through with a diagnosis."

James was sitting next to me, seething. When he received a friendly email from her later that night, letting us know the read-a-thon would be in the afternoon to accommodate Boo's morning homeschool schedule, we were glad. Since she asked if I had told him about our phone conversation, he decided to reply. He clearly told her that we have researched ADHD and don't want to discuss it further with her, and we don't want it to be a part of her behavior plan. He was firm but polite.

I think that's when he hurt her feelings or sent her into a fury. In that late-night email she told us that we are limiting our daughter's "potential and ability to succeed in life."

We were ready to pull her out of the class completely. We were ready to tell the principal that she has a mean, vindictive second-grade teacher on her hands. We were ready to cry.

Instead of crying, I let Boo dress up for the day--all day. And skip school. And learn to sew. And eat pancakes. And go on an adventure.

She told me she sometimes feels "overwhelmed" at school. She gets frustrated because of the "reminders" her teacher gives, reminders to stay on task, reminders to stop talking. I tried to talk through her feelings and get to the core issue. I think, mostly, Boo gets tense and emotional when she receives any kind of criticism. She doesn't know how to deal with her feelings of insecurity, feelings that may be linked with her intense fear of abandonment.

Boo, Ji, and I walked to the library. Boo had her Rapunzel dress on and a flower wreath in her hair. Ji was Batman with cape and cowl. We picked out too many books and The Court Jester and met up with Daddy. We bought candies and bubbles and sidewalk chalk. Ji's laughter was encouragement enough to keep blowing bubbles. Boo danced in the backyard with her bubble wand. Later Boo made a fort out of blankets and chairs in our living room.

Boo told me yesterday that I'm the best mama ever. Except I still feel sort of guilty for pulling her out of school for the day.

And then I remember her face when we saw the daffodils and tulips coming up in a neighbor's flowerbeds. And I remember the joy of the sunshine and breeze. I think of Ji pulling down books and books, wanting all of them to come home with us. I picture Boo running to hug her daddy when he walked through the library doors.

It was a magic day.

I need to let go of the guilt and remember the magic.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Standing on a Soapbox

Usually people don't listen to me: I'm used to this.

As the fourth child in a loud and raucous household, I learned to shut my mouth.

My three older siblings would yell, "Shotgun!" and race for the front seat. I would say, "I want the back."

My sister continually cajoled me out of sodas and sweets by insisting that she have the larger portion. At the time she thought she was tricky; she knows now that I was just complaisant.

My daughter has recently developed an attitude of argumentation. "Why?" passes her lips instinctively after I ask her to go do something.

"Put away your sweater."


"Would you rather I throw it away instead?"

Whenever I tell my son, "Let's go change your diaper!" he runs away, laughing maniacally. Pajamas are a wrestling match.

But today I'm standing on a soapbox.

On our Everyday Mormon Writer website (where you can find a lovely new literary work at artwork every Friday), we've pulled out the soapbox. Unfortunately, it's only a metaphorical soapbox, a menu option on a website, not that good old fashioned wooden soapbox that would lift one above the crowd just enough to get the message out.

I'm hoping that my voice will carry. Maybe someone will listen.

Go ahead and argue with me, if you want.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thoughts from a University Writing Instructor . . .

Once upon a time, I went to college. It was a little college in a little town in southern Utah. I met all kinds of highly educated professors whose life experiences were as diverse as their hairstyles. They talked intensely about the sensuality of Klimt's Water Serpents, the potential of Locke's social contract, and the resonance of Richard Wright's graphic violence.

I graduated from the college and went to a university. Then I went to graduate school.

Now I stand in front of my classes with my long, blonde, hippy hair and talk to my students about poverty, education, immigration, healthcare, and politics.

But part of my job as a university writing instructor is to bring up issues that will upset my students enough to get them to form opinions. Once they have figured out what they think, these students need to formulate arguments. Then, I teach them how to shape their arguments for audiences who initially disagree with them. Because I teach at a religious university, many of the arguments end up defending more conservative viewpoints. They do, however, have to figure out "how to talk to a liberal" despite Ann Coulter's insistence that it's not necessary. A surprising number are more politically liberal arguments, something that many people, including Rick Santorum, would immediately blame on the indoctrination of the liberal university system.

The Desert News just published an article reacting to Santorum's claim. Apparently, a lot of liberal professors have spent a lot of time looking into how education relates to religiosity. (A student emailed the article to me because we had discussed the issue earlier in the semester. See, they are thinking.) The article shows that the more education people get, the more likely they are to be religious. One study looked into different aspects of religiosity (scripture study, prayer, volunteering, church attendance, etc.) and found that those whose education is above the seventh grade are more likely to participate in all religious activities. A handy bar graph shows that only one percent of people who graduate from college are less likely to be affiliated with a religious group (85% down to 84%). Unfortunately, post-graduates (PhDs, MDs, attorneys) are down to 81% compared with 85% for high school graduates.

So if 81% of post-graduates (including Rick Santorum and his Juris Doctorate) are still affiliated with a religious organization, why is the education a constant battleground for liberals and conservatives?

My theory: Because educators teach.

No matter what teachers do, we are going to upset someone. We get a classroom of twenty to five hundred students whose life experiences are as diverse as their hairstyles and are expected to never offend or upset any of them.

Now I'm not being defensive. The system is set up this way from kindergarten. Educators need to be more than just masters of our subjects: we also need to be respectful, understanding, unbiased, politically neutral, compassionate, fair, patient, generous with our time and feedback, and constantly available by email.

This isn't a bad list of responsibilities, really. I know most people expect the same things from their parents, best friends, spouses, therapists and pets.

Except that I am not my students' parent, best friend, spouse, therapist, or pet.

I'm a teacher.

And I am in front of the class because I possess some knowledge that is necessary for them to gain. So I share it the only way I know how: I teach.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blitzing Out

James and I were talking (as usual) one night and discussed the possibility of a web magazine devoted to short Mormon works.

We were really excited about the possibility of heading up this project, but who would contribute? Would people read it? How do we get writers and artists involved?

James posted about this on the Association for Mormon Letters blog, and Scott Hales came on board. They devised the Mormon Lit Blitz, a contest to feature works of 1,000 words or fewer that would appeal to an LDS audience.

Pass-along card by Scott Hales

The response was awesome.

We received about 230 submissions.

Scott, James, and I read through them and picked the top 32.

Then our everyday readers picked up packets of eight works and ranked them.

We ended up with thirteen finalists.

They've all been featured on the Mormon Artist blog, and now it's time to vote.

We've had thousands of visitors the last two weeks, but we need you to speak out. Not just to see who wins the contest and the Kindle, but come show your support for a compelling field of literature that needs to know there are people out there ready to read.

Then, you should keep reading when James and I get that magazine going.