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You don’t get to keep it

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“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”

Pema Chodron

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I love this as a metaphor for life, and for attachment.  Many of us get attached to “things” (me included).  I try to remind myself that we don’t *really* “own” anything in this world, we merely get to *use* things for a time.  We come into the world without possessions, and we leave the same way.  While we’re here, we get to use some material objects, but they aren’t a part of us in any real sense.  Or at least they shouldn’t be.  They’re just tools.

I try to remember this when I experience the loss of something (some thing) I’ve deemed important.  I try to remember that material objects have no inherent meaning, other than the meaning I’ve given them.  And I try to examine my attachments, and whether they truly serve my peace of mind.

We get to use things while we’re here.  Let’s use them for our good, and the good of others.

Blessings,

Annette

 

 

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Shadow Syllabus by Sonya Huber

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Dear friends,

I came across this today, and it seems appropriate as tomorrow is the first day of classes at our university.  My teaching friends should particularly enjoy it.

Blessings,

Annette

Shadow Syllabus by Sonya Huber:

  1. I’ll tell you exactly how to get an A, but you’ll have a hard time hearing me.
  2. I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  3. Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.
  4. I had bookmarked a citation for that fact, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
  5. The only way to seek knowledge is to open your hands and let your opinions drop, but that requires even more fear.
  6. The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled.
  7. I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about.
  8. I desperately needed A’s when I was in college because I didn’t know what else I was besides an A.
  9. Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.”
  10. “The real world” isn’t the real world.
  11. I realize that I, as the authority figure in this room, might trigger all kinds of authority issues you have. Welcome to work and the rest of your life.
  12. I have a problem with authority figures myself, but I’ve learned how to work with it. Watch my cues.
  13. I think I have more to teach you about navigation than about commas, although I’m good at commas.
  14. This is about commas, but it is also about pauses and breaths and ways to find moments of rest in the blur of life’s machinery.
  15. I hope we can make eye contact.
  16. One of you who is filled with hate for this class right now will end up loving it by the end.
  17. One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite.
  18. One of you will drive me to distraction and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  19. Later I will examine the reason you drive me to distraction and be ashamed and then try to figure out my own limitations.
  20. There will always be limitations, and without my students I wouldn’t see them as easily.
  21. Sometimes I will be annoyed, sarcastic, rushed, or sad; often this is because you are not doing the readings or trying to bullshit me.
  22. Students are surprised by this fact: I really really really want you to learn. Like, that’s my THING. Really really a lot.
  23. I love teaching because it is hard.
  24. Someone in this classroom will be responsible for annoying the hell out of you this semester, and it won’t be me.
  25. Maybe it will be me. Sometimes it is, but often it is not.
  26. I won’t hold it against you unless you treat me with disrespect.
  27. You should rethink how you treat the people who bring you food at McDonald’s, if you are this person, as well as how you treat your teachers.
  28. I hope you are able to drop the pose of being a professional person and just settle for being a person.
  29. Everyone sees you texting. It’s awkward, every time, for everyone in the room.
  30. Secret: I’ve texted in meetings when I shouldn’t have and I regret it.
  31. Secret: I get nervous before each class because I want to do well.
  32. Secret: when I over-plan my lessons, less learning happens.
  33. Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.
  34. Secret: It’s hard to figure out whether to be a cop or a third-grade teacher. I have to be both. I want to be Willie Wonka. That’s the ticket. Unpredictable, not always nice, high standards, and sometimes candy.
  35. What looks like candy can be dangerous.
  36. Secret: Every single one of your professors and teachers has been at a point of crisis in their lives where they had no idea what the fuck to do.
  37. Come talk to me in my office hours, but not to spin some thin line of bullshit, because believe it or not, I can see through it like a windowpane.
  38. Some of you will lose this piece of paper because you’ve had other people to smooth out your papers and empty your backpack for as long as you can remember, but that all ends here. There’s no one to empty your backpack. That’s why college is great and scary.
  39. Maybe there’s never been anyone to empty your backpack. If there hasn’t been, you will have a harder time feeling entitled to come talk to me or ask for help.
  40. I want you, especially, to come talk to me.
  41. You can swear in my classroom.
  42. Welcome. Welcome to this strange box with chairs in it. I hope you laugh and surprise yourself.

-by Sonya Huber

(I’m so happy teachers like this and want to use; it’s fine if you edit a version to take out the swearing if you’re using it with students! All the best, Sonya)

Edit: Here’s a Shadow Syllabus for your use.

 

Book review: The Astonishing Color of After

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Dear friends,

This book is a journey into imagination and emotion.  I’m going to give “trigger warnings” for depression, suicide, and mental illness.  If you have raw feelings about those issues, you may wish to skip this one.  Aside from that, it’s a magical tale about processing loss and moving on.

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The main character and narrator, a high school student named Leigh, is an artist who sees color in all of life’s experiences.  An act of kindness may have a lavender hue, or desire might be bright orange.  When we meet Leigh, much of the color has gone out of her life, as she is working to process the loss of her mother, become closer to her distant father, and grapple with her romantic feelings for her best friend.

To resolve these problems, Leigh must revisit her mother’s past, and discover the people and experiences that shaped her family (and by extension, herself).  Leigh is accompanied on her journey by a red bird, and imagines that it might be her mother in another form.  Or is she just seeing things that aren’t there?

While this is classified as a “young adult” or “teen” novel, the deep dive into grief and recovery resonated with me.  While the story is told from the point of view of a high school girl, her emotions and thoughts would be relatable to just about everyone.  The writing is lovely, and I enjoyed the use of color as metaphor for different states of feeling.

It’s on the long-ish side, but an absorbing read.  Recommended.

Blessings,

Annette

After you get up

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Dear friends,

All those inspirational metaphors about “falling down and getting back up” have never worked for me.  I understand the sentiment, but I always think: everybody gets up.  It’s what you do after you get up that counts.

Some people will stand still.  Some will move forward, slowly, dragging their feet and resisting the need to move on.  Others will run recklessly toward the same situation that made them fall down in the first place.  Some might sit down for a moment and reflect on what went wrong, some might ask a loved one to hold their hand for a while, and some might forge ahead without really processing what happened so they can take a lesson from it.

Here’s a different metaphor that I like better.  Imagine a long pole across your shoulders, with bags hanging on each end, and each of the bags has weight – these are “burdens.”  Some might be related to work, or to family, friends, or finances.  Some are heavier than others.

Sometimes life hangs a new “bag” on your pole.  This leaves you feeling unbalanced, as you were used to carrying your burdens a certain way, and now there’s a new one.  You have to adjust, get used to the added weight and the way it’s distributed over you.  Then you can start stepping forward again.

Fortunately, weights can be removed, too.  The resolution of a problem or a difficult situation makes the burden lighter – but we still have to get used to the change.

We can also take on the burdens of others, in an attempt to lessen their load.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks.  I fell down, and I got back up … because that’s what you do.  Now I have to adjust to this new weight, and start stepping forward.

Blessings,

Annette

Inspiration is for amateurs

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“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Chuck Close

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A message for my students

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Dear students:

I was touched by a video message from former first lady Michelle Obama (link below) for college students, and I echo the things she said here.  I wanted to take her four points and express them in my own words:

  1. Don’t doubt that you deserve to be here – Everybody feels like an impostor sometimes.  You’ve got game, or you wouldn’t be here.  Believe it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to try new things – Every day, you’ll encounter something that pushes against your comfort zone.  That’s what college is for.  You’ll keep getting stronger.
  3. Don’t try to do this alone – There are all kinds of resources available to you when you need them.  Need writing help?  We have that.  Need mental health counseling?  We have that too.  You are not on your own here, you have a whole staff of professionals whose job it is to help you.  And it’s not a weakness to need help.
  4. There are people who believe in you – Including me.  In fact, I’ll lead that parade.  When people complain about “kids these days,” I’m one of the first to say – let me tell you about MY students.  They’re bright, energetic, and filled with purpose.  They’re going to make this world a better place.  I believe in you so, so much.  You’re going to life a meaningful life, and I’m already so proud of you.

Follow this link for Mrs. Obama’s video message:

Michelle Obama’s message to first-generation college students

Stop by office hours to talk.  I’m here because of you.

Blessings,

Dr. Hamel (here with Annelise Wilp, class of 2018)

annelise

 

Book review: Matchmaking for Beginners

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Dear friends,

This one is light, romantic, and lots of fun!

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Matchmaking for Beginners centers around two women:  Marnie, who at the start of the book is about to marry Noah, and Blix, Noah’s quirky great-aunt.  At the party celebrating Marnie and Noah’s engagement, Marnie gets caught up in a strange and magical bond with Aunt Blix, a bond that will last through many life changes.

Aunt Blix is a self-styled matchmaker, who can see colors and auras around people who are destined to be together, and she gets a “read” on the Marnie/Noah relationship right from the start.  Marnie herself has seen colors and auras around others, but has never understood what they meant.  Through Blix, Marnie learns that perhaps she, too, is meant to be a matchmaker.

With the help of Blix’s odd friends and unusual neighbors, Marnie begins to see that her life could take a new direction, much different from the one she’s planned.  Her life with Noah is destined to be buttoned-up and upper class, whereas Blix’s world is bohemian and strange and very intriguing.  Marnie ultimately finds herself at a crossroads where she must make a choice between the life she’s planned, and the new direction that’s tugging at her heart and imagination.

A great read!

Blessings,

Annette

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Life update 8/22/18

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Hello friends,

Here we are, one week out from school starting, and these rascals are slowing me down:

Still working on syllabi and lesson plans, attending meetings, and all the busyness of the start of the school year.  This morning I served on a Q&A panel for new faculty, which was a lot of fun.  We have some really clever and eager new colleagues joining us this year.

Take a moment today to breathe, to just stare into space and think.  This is life, right now, this moment.

Blessings,

Annette

Truth to power

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“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” –Theodore Roosevelt

— The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

Life update 8/16/18

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Hello lovely friends,

I’m here in the office, setting up the course websites for Fall 2018.  School starts a week from Wednesday (August 29), and I have various meetings and appointments next week.  Fall semester seemed so far off, and now it’s like a freight train barreling down the track at us!

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I’m also moving offices – just two doors down, but a bigger (corner) office with much nicer walls and carpet than my current one.  The current occupant of that room is moving downstairs to an office that’s being vacated by a retiree – but his stuff is still in that room, so the process can’t begin just yet.  The retiring colleague is the first “domino” in this process.  I’m just hoping I won’t be trying to move during the first week of classes, but we’ll deal with it if we have to.

I still haven’t finished the book manuscript, but that has to be moved to the “back burner” for now.  Must finish course prep and get this move done.

Going up north for the weekend to visit my parents.  I’ve discovered that it’s futile to wait until a “good time,”  I just have to make time and go.  Otherwise there’s never a good time and I never stop working.  Girl needs a break now and then.

The days are already getting a bit shorter, and the nights are cooler.  Autumn is my favorite time of year – can’t wait for football and “hoodie weather!”

Blessings,

Annette