Friday, February 22, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

the horrible thing is, i come home, and my junior high kids are having a kind of party. one girl has her friend over, while the boy is chilling on the couch; their music is competing. why is the friend over? because she lives way out in the country and needs a ride which we haven't promised; she has to wait for mom or dad. why is the boy on the couch instead of his room? long story there too.

my day is three classes, over twenty each, of sixth graders learning basic graphing and such kind of math skills. sixth grade math. i'm a permanent sub. they've removed my partner and i'm in there all alone with three batches a day of wild animals. they haven't had a regular teacher in a while, so they tend to want to see what they can get away with.

they got into the supplies today. someone had overused lotion and they went after the kleenex, and pretty soon they were throwing whole boxes of them around the room. they just reached in and grabbed them. trying to make me yell or get angry i guess; they know they can get away with this stuff sometimes because if i'm angry enough, i'll lose it and then they'll have beaten me too. i won't lose it. they can be real jerks. but they know better.

one girl broke into tears because she couldn't concentrate. she had also been rejected by another girl when it came time to assign partners. they need partners or they won't get it. but sometimes choice of partners changes their grade. maybe i shouldn't do partners. but i find it in the groove with current educational theory. they also like partners sometimes, as they actually learn more from each other than from me.

one boy got virtually nothing done. i tried to get him to focus but he wouldn't. finally i threatened him with iss, in-school suspension. i believed it might be good to stick him in a room where he'd simply be alone and wouldn't have other kids to keep distracting him. in the end i probably should have - he got nothing done. nothing. zero.

life goes on. tomorrow i give them the standardized test. they all know what that means, and they pretty much blow that off too. well i should say, some of them blow it off. they're kind overtested, to the point that they don't even think much about it. they do what they can and give up. they don't consider it life-altering in any way.

what bothers me is, my kids are just like those kids. so at home, my son is putting -uh on every word, to complain, and using words like "lit," maybe to impress his sister's friend. or just to be a teenager. it's not like i've never seen wildness. it's not like i didn't just witness an entire day of it.

the day will, eventually, end. i stepped out for a walk with the high school student and there was some guy with a flashlight at the neighbor's house, with his pitbull. he'd grabbed the pitbull. i think he, too, was a neighbor, after his stray wandering pitbull, but i wasn't sure. he was walking up and down the neighbor's house with that flashlight, and....but why would you take a pitbull to rob a house? well partly because a guy like me would never question your motives. it rattled me. the town was just a little too busy.

we're planning on moving way out there. where elk and deer are our main neighbors. where gunshots are relatively common, and we might start making our own pretty soon. wouldn't hurt to be able to kill a deer, my wife says. trouble is, you have to know what to do with it when you kill it. it seems like a bloody mess to me, but yet, that's what living off the land is, around here. helps with the grocery bills, they say. puts meat on the table.

finally i got this conversation around to something healthy. those kids don't want to be in school. math? they can't relate.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Cloud Quakers invite everyone to Meeting for Worship/Worship sharing SUN 7 pm US Mountain Time, on Zoom. This week's query: Does it matter if there's an afterlife? Join us on Zoom (download Zoom, dial 373 452 424). All welcome!

Sunday, February 03, 2019

ok so i'm still in mourning, my parents both died in january, my mom three years ago, and my dad last year. i was there at both occasions, and i felt like i was lucky that they went naturally - that their four kids are still around, and still get along, and still love them - yet of course we all have unresolved feelings about them. now it is february, and i'm still in january, and even dreamed of my mother last night.

here's the problem: my mother's mind went before her body. this was tough on everyone, especially my dad. they'd been married fifty years, then all of a sudden she didn't know who he was. he took it hard; we could tell. he couldn't be there for her death. but i made the mistake of visiting her one evening before she died. alone in hospice bed, she didn't know who she was or how she'd gotten there. right in that room, she accused me of putting her "in the worst position a woman can be in." i couldn't believe my ears. all those years, she had taken care of me. she knew exactly what i needed every morning on my way to school; she made sure i took baths and got haircuts. as a child who hated boredom and was adhd, i wasn't an easy customer, and she was always there for me, putting a new toy in front of me, loving me, making sure i had something to do. now, she wasn't really sure who i was, or why i was in her room at night. she was upset, confused, agitated.

i thought, at the time, that it would be ok. after all, sixty years of attentive mothering, followed by a few months of not having a clue who i was, i could easily forget that last part. unfortunately, i didn't easily forget that last part. it's kind of like when a friendship or romance ends on a bad note. that bad note kind of dominates the whole thing, in a way that casts a light backward and makes it seem like the whole thing was for naught, because it ended poorly. well, i wouldn't want to say that about my mother, but i will say that there was a problem there, that her not knowing who i was kind of changed things at the end there.

it's possible that i was hurt enough that i didn't really ask for guidance, or work through the steps to make myself feel like her son again, or feel better about our relationship. it's possible that i had to put it aside for a while. i know that my brothers and sister felt that same way to some degree. we know that wasn't the real her. toward the end we were all there, at her bedside, and we pointed that out to her, but it didn't mean anything to her. she just kept asking when she could leave.

so, in my dream, i walk into this restaurant, and there's a statue of my mother sitting there next to the cash register. in a kind of spooky way, it was like the colonel sanders who sat in the kfc shop as we bought fried chicken for my dad, which he really liked. but here it was, her, and she was a statue; the restaurant was using her to publicize its good food, no doubt. i immediately spoke to her, and asked her if it was alright that they had used her like this, and that she was like a statue. but, again, she had limited understanding. or, maybe it was limited movement. whether she liked it or not, she couldn't do much about it, and she couldn't really say anything either. and if i tried to pick her up and carry her out of the place, well, that might not have worked out too well, i figured.

i woke up upset and agitated, and i'm not really sure how that dream worked out. there was no representative of the restaurant in it. there were no other people. connection between my mom and me was blocked, by her physical state. she was stuck in a body, or at least, her body was still around, immobile, unresponsive, and i was still reaching out to her.

it's one of the harder things for a person to do, stick by a parent's side when the mind has gone before the body. if you think about it, it's just a matter of chance, and, if we're lucky, the body will go first. my dad was lucky, he was still there upstairs up until the very end. my sister lives in terror that her mind will go first - then what? i tell her, she'd definitely more like my dad, but that is somehow not much comfort to her.

as for me, i can only hope, and as it's been pointed out, one never knows what is in store. one should live every day as if one will never get better, and, at a certain point, one doesn't get better. i know, at the end, my parents didn't even want to do jigsaw puzzles any more. and when my dad finally, out of boredom, turned on the television, all there was was you-know-who. sometimes life is an infinite chasm, and, if we look too carefully, the sheer emptiness of it will stagger us. in my infinite quest to avoid boredom, still i get a peek at it, the ultimate boredom, every once in a while. and i don't like it. i go back to filling my life, and postponing true retirement.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

a friend of mine is the author of best of enemies, a book that has been made into a movie; the movie is being released this weekend. the attention given to the book on account of the movie is obviously good news, but to me it's quite interesting the path this friend has taken in his journalistic career. he's obviously a better writer than i am; he's been doing it all his grown life. he has written non-fiction books about the collapse of rural america, and about the solar revolution in germany.

in fact i've been mulling over serious changes in my pattern as a writer, since a small batch of books of short stories has literally gone nowhere. my problem is, i can't finish a novel (i have about two half-done), and my attempts at non-fiction haven't gone far either. i'm stuck on the one about the puritan leveretts, and, though it's almost done in its own half-baked way, i simply can't finish it. in my frustration, i just hang around making quilts.

my wife encourages me to go in a direction that would be more lucrative. one possibility is to write biographies; a whole slew of half-baked writers do kindle biographies of various people and make a reasonable living from it, since there are always people willing to shell out a couple of bucks for the bare outlines of someone's life, someone they are researching, or someone who has become their enemy. on kindle, you can get these poorly-written biographies for less than three bucks, but the writer is doing ok on the other end, and keep in mind, he can start with a wikipedia entry and get the outline of the book right there.

so my friend's story is about a rabid kkk type guy, and an equally vitriolic black woman, who get into a tangle and then become close friends. they ultimately realize that poor whites and poor blacks have more in common than the ability to blame each other. it's an uplifting story, but it comes at a time when the country needs uplifting, but may not know it. it speaks to me because i live with the frustration of being in a community where everyone simply blames the "libs" for everything. they are scared to death of people sneaking across the border and snatching their motorcycles, but really, it's more likely the oil deposits in the permian that are going to alter their lives permanently, if they truly want to live in the mountains and be left alone. i've taken the liberty to read in on their facebook page, where one after another endless rant against the libs, and against the sanctuary state idea, assault me. i feel like speaking to that kind of ignorance, yet the best i could do would be something like what my friend did, and even then, it wouldn't be as good.

when it comes to biographies, one name sticks in my mind, and that is arpaio. i see him as a symbol of southwestern trumpism, rampant jingoistic cowboyism, and somehow i feel that studying him would keep my mind off of trump and teach me that some people are even worse. but why would i want to spend my time researching a guy who is given a few million to run a police department, and spends it all harassing his lib enemies? or making a tent camp where temps go over 120, and bragging about how it's like a concentration camp? not sure why i'd want to, but somehow, i feel like this guy makes trump look good. and maybe that's reason enough.

we live in a sick, broken, desperate world. the methane is coming up out of the tundra; the ice is collapsing; the poles have melted and the sea is rising; yet we argue because our president has sold us out, robbed us of billions, and demanded a huge pointless monument to himself as part of the extortion he considers to be leadership. and my neighbors are all in favor; not only do they feel that a wall is good at all expense, but, seeing him steadily diminished by constant reports of corruption uncovered, felonies done, etc., they are all the more steady loyal supporters. they love him. they don't care about democratic process, or at least, if they do, one wouldn't know.

maybe i can write this book that will explore the limits of breaking the law, just for its own sake, just because you're a cowboy and think it's ok. just because you can. just because, in some cases, you feel like you represent the law.

Friday, February 01, 2019

cloud quakers
online at zoom, 7 pm us mountain time (8 in chicago, 9 in new york, 6 in california)
download zoom (~5 minutes, like skype), dial 373 452 424. all welcome!
we are quakers. we minister to each other; we share testimonies and support each other in living peacefully on this earth.

just a little break here, for two reasons. first, chinese new year: my three classes, on friday, sunday and monday mornings, are only meeting friday and monday, and then taking the following friday off; this means i sleep in a few more days. my students, who range in age from about ten to about thirteen, will be with their families eating dumplings and other feast-like treats. some, who will turn twelve in the coming year, are enjoying their special year, as "pigs." i asked one what that entailed, and she said, well, pigs are generally the sacrifice. they give their all so that we can eat well.

the other is that the alamo schools have conference days, both today (fri.) and monday; they don't need subs. we subs are on involuntary furlough. but i can handle that, too. i need a break kind of like thanksgiving gives you a taste of the christmas one. you need time to get back into the grind. just king day is never enough.

my schedule is a little frantic; i have three jobs and go to school. in addition, i am running a quaker meeting, and that has arisen to be very good for me and pleasant. it is on sunday night, and i will include a little publicity on this site as well as others, as time goes by. it has started out, really, with my best friends, people for whom i am already in the habit of enjoying their company. we meet online. we act like quakers. it's a nice meeting and i have come to some unusual beliefs with regard to it.

first, i think online environments are the savior of the religion itself. quakerism is quite fractured, so that even in a town like philly you have these hundreds of quakers, but some are unprogrammed, some are programmed; some are gay-friendly, some are christian/traditional; some have certain styles and others have others. out in the west it's worse; a college town like las cruces may have a quaker meeting of about eight or ten on an average sunday, but they struggle to find common ground and they lose a few visitors because they just can't be everything to everyone. and then there's me, who has to drive ninety miles across the white sands and desert just to be there, and three hours on a sunday is something i just can't give up. i have the added problem that i've had no patience for las cruces since my parents died, though it is just a town, and really, the meeting is nice there. i like it. i just can't attend every week.

second, the conservative tradition has a strong emphasis on community. i consider myself a new conservative; that is, if we could live in isolated farm communities, as a community, i would do it, but since we live in the modern world, we have to make our communities with modern technology. this can be done and is actually quite easy. keep in mind here that "conservative" in the quaker sense is "conserving the traditional method of silent meeting / no pastor". as it happens, ministering to each other and carrying on without a pastor is the conservatives' idea, though it looked quite different in isolated farm communities than it does in modern FGC college-town gatherings. the state of quakerism is fractured that way; you have college-town gatherings, many of which are alive and well (including even las cruces), then, you have this network of traditional more rural meetings, that are dying out and going away, unless they figure out ways to get young people more involved.

finally, i believe that a meeting can function as well with online tools as it can with a live place, with walls, window, woodstove, or whatever meetinghouses have these days. now i'm not sure about this last one; i think we'll have to carry this out and see what happens, but i think it will be interesting to see how it pans out. i can assure you that it will be quite a bit different online, but not worse, not better, necessarily. it's harder to hug online. but it may make for a very cool reunion, if cloud quakers could gather once a year.

i will write more on this on the cloud quaker blog or on my own quaker site. Most of the time we use the Facebook site where i have also gathered a collection of good quaker graphics. join us! see the post above this, which is sure to have the necessary information.