Mend: Advent Word 6

Manufacturers of athletic shoes suggest that they be replaced every six months. College students who depend on government-subsidized Pell grants and student loans to support their families rush to the Apple store for an upgrade as soon as Tim Cook announces the next iPhone. Many tech devices and front-loading washing machines are manufactured so that batteries cannot be replaced and repairs cannot be made. In this age of planned obsolescence, when “disposable” is high praise on Madison Avenue, mending has lost its cachet. Continue reading

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Heal: Advent Word 5

Pavel Derka celebrates his successful treatment under the skilled hands and the compassionate care of hematologist-oncologist Dr. Jeffrey M. Crane

“Write what you know,” I have often told my English composition students. What I know about healing began when my husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the summer of 2010 and continued through two rounds of increasingly toxic chemotherapy in 2014, a stem-cell transplant in 2015, and the slow process of recuperation that is ongoing. My education continues, of course, but I can speak with confidence about three things I have learned: Continue reading

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Simplify: Advent Word 4

The things we want and need are plain and true: To live in peace in a safe, warm home; to eat soup and bread and drink wine; to sleep curled in the arms of one we love; to speak words of awe or pain to one we call friend; to sing songs of joy; to read, to work, to play; to seek, to find, to cry, to dream. To wait and hope for the Lord to come to us in strange new ways. Continue reading

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Gather: Advent Word 3

Recounting his efforts to find the Holy Ghost in private prayer, John Donne confessed:

I lock my door to myself, and I throw myself down in the presence of my God, I divest myself of all worldly thoughts, and I bend all my powers, and faculties upon God, as I think, and suddenly I find myself scattered, melted, fallen into vain thoughts, into no thoughts; I am upon my knees, and I talk, and think nothing; . . .  I gather new forces, new purposes to try again, and do better, and I do the same thing again. I believe in the Holy Ghost, but do not find him, if I seek him only in private prayer. (Sermon LXXVI, 1622)

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Journey: Advent Word 2

Journey (n.)
c. 1200, “a defined course of traveling; one’s path in life,” from Old French journée “a day’s length; day’s work or travel” (12c.), from Vulgar Latin diurnum “day,” noun use of neuter of Latin diurnus “of one day” (from dies “day,” from PIE root *dyeu- “to shine”). . . . In Middle English it also meant “a day” (c. 1400); a day’s work (mid-14c.); “distance traveled in one day” (mid-13c.), and as recently as Johnson (1755) the primary sense was still “the travel of a day.” From the Vulgar Latin word also come Spanish jornada, Italian giornata.
                                                —Online Etymology Dictionary

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Awaken: Advent Word 1

This year, I have decided to participate in the daily discipline of #AdventWord, a project of the worldwide Anglican  Communion  designed to create a global Advent calendar where we can share images and meditations that reflect the spirit of this season of preparation and contemplation. Today, we begin with #Awaken.

I am seldom awake to see the sun rise, but when I am, I often want to take a picture. Occasionally, circumstances favor this desire, and the results are invariably stunning.

One operative word in the preceding paragraph is occasionally. Not every dawn offers the rich palette of the scenes I have captured at Monument Valley, Lake Mattamuskeet, and Pine Knoll Shores. Most often, the sun rises with a gradual change from gray to white over concrete and asphalt, without the added interest of clouds or cypress trees or early fishermen silhouetted on a an ocean pier.

The other operative word is awake. Continue reading

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The Armistice: A Remembrance

The 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I took center stage in my English 112 class on Friday, November 10. For more than a year, I have been preparing to guide my students on this journey through the trenches. I have read the novels, watched the films, bought the first editions, combed through the trench magazines, and immersed myself in the literature so that I could not only teach them how to research and write papers in three scholarly disciplines, but also engage them with the events that happened a century ago and cast deep shadows over the hundred years that followed. Continue reading

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The Classroom, the Headlines, and a Lesson in Perspective

By  the time I was in the third grade, in thrall to the eccentric Mrs. Nina Williamson who taught us our multiplication tables and read Thornton W. Burgess to us after lunch each day, I had decided that I wanted to be just like her–a teacher. When I was a freshman in college–even though I was a pre-med student at the time–I finally understood why. My English class read an essay by a Columbia professor who had refused to cancel his classes during the student strikes of 1968; despite his support of the students’ causes, he explained, he could not allow his political beliefs to imperil the ability to use his “longing to impart,” which he called “the soul of the teacher.” I recognized that longing and adopted it as my raison d’être during the long years during which I waited for my place behind the lectern and my office in the halls of academe. Continue reading

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The Land of the Free

 

 

 

 

Despite the turbulent events in the world outside the mountains that sheltered our childhood, we in the Globe High School class of 1971 were little concerned with politics. In her Social Problems class, Mrs. Allison Roenigk provided about as much turbulence as we ever experienced when she told us, “You can’t have the war in Viet Nam and the Great Society at home.” The extent of our engagement with her pronouncement was to write it in our notebooks and regurgitate it on the test. One group in our English class used the Byrds’ antiwar song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” as the narration for their slide-tape project, but the photos illustrating the lyrics neither represented nor awakened any sense of adolescent rebellion. We had, after all, stood in the schoolyard as fifth-graders and cried as the flag was lowered to half-staff on the day President Kennedy was shot. So seven years later, we still said the Pledge of Allegiance and stood for the National Anthem played every morning on the PA system. Continue reading

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Let Me Count the Ways

I am not certain I ever heard the name Harvey Weinstein before October 5, when The New York Times published its initial exposé of sexual-misconduct allegations and hush-money payoffs. Nor have I followed the increasing media firestorm with any interest though the story is impossible to avoid, even on my medium of choice, National Public Radio. I simply don’t care about  Harvey Weinstein or the women crawling out of the Hollywood woodwork with their stories in some cases over thirty years old, often detailing advances they rejected.

However, this tawdry story contains many elements that I do care about–and care about deeply. Let me count the ways. Continue reading

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