Sunday, November 29, 2009

Prune surprise

Today, I discovered that pruning shrubs has a great deal in common with plucking eyebrows. You start small, intending just to tweak a little here, pluck a little there, tidy things up a bit, but it's so hard to know when to stop, isn't it? After you've evened up one side, the other side doesn't look quite right, so you tweak a little more here and pluck a little more there, and pretty soon you're looking altogether quite surprised!

That's all I have to say about my front yard right now except that it's probably a good job that the sun went down when it did, forcing me indoors to confront the laundry. Joy tells me, apropos of nothing, that there's a reason people aren't supposed to cut their own hair. Meanwhile, I worry about Tree Top Joe's feelings next time he passes down my street with his shears. Perhaps there's a reason he charges $40 a snip, and perhaps there's a reason I can barely tell he's been. Perhaps that's the whole point!

Monday, November 2, 2009


For my beautiful daughters and my wonderful friends on my 43rd birthday. Thank you for being. You rock my whirled. xoxoxoxo

Friday, October 9, 2009

Congratulations, Mr President!

President Barack Obama was announced Nobel Laureate for Peace today "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." The Nobel Committee.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This morning at Bat Nha...

On my mind and in my heart today are the monks and nuns at Bat Nha who were forced out of their monastery and shoved onto trucks this morning in the pouring rain--400 young monks and nuns and 100 lay people. They are seen in the picture to the right taking part in a tea meditation ceremony in more peaceful times.

Please consider writing your representatives in Congress and asking them to send a letter of inquiry about the situation to the Vietnamese Government. It is vital that those in power in Vietnam understand that the international community is watching.

Find who to write to by scrolling down the left-hand side of this Blog and sticking your zip code in the "Hassle your reps" box. Whatever your belief or worldview, please consider giving 30 minutes to the cause of peace today. Thank you for being. xox

More on Bat Nha here:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I heard an interesting article on NPR this morning; apparently, houses of worship are risk sites for H1N1.

Holy water, offering the sign of peace, kissing the Torah, ritual washing, and sharing of prayer mats all came under scrutiny.

A Jewish Rabbi is suggesting the implementation of "Buddhist bows" at his temple. What a delightful interfaith idea. Namaste!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Teaching with Twitter

Dallas Telelearning featured an interview with yours truly this month on the subject of "Teaching with Twitter." You can read it here. Apparently, I am a social media guru. Goodness! Does that come with a hat?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

White girls running...

In my doctoral studies, we're wrestling with the interesting problem of how to be fair-minded critical thinkers. Many of us can argue a strong case about a subject on which we're knowledgeable or about which we're passionate, but to be fair minded means having the integrity not to skew the facts or give in to the temptation to select only the evidence that supports our own position. To be fair-minded also means I need to try to wear the shoes of those who offer differing views of the world from my own and to look at their ideas and data in disinterested (not to be confused with uninterested!) fashion.

This is easy to say and very difficult to do. Our perspectives are frequently so much a part of us that we don't see them. Let me offer a short story to illustrate my point.

Yesterday, I was driving in Dallas with my daughter Joy when she pointed out, "Oh look! A whole line of white girls in pony tails running!" She thought this sight was rather peculiar and funny. The world we live in is rich and diverse, and to see a group of only white girls who all looked the same was odd and somewhat amusing--they looked like a row of Barbie dolls bobbing up and down as they crossed the park.

For completeness, I should mention that Joy is a white girl who frequently wears a pony tail. What I pointed out to her was that seven years ago she would probably have said, "Oh look! A line of girls running!" The first seven years of her life were spent in a small village in Cumbria in the north of England. The population was entirely white--so white that it couldn't see the whiteness of itself.

This is parallel, to me, to those who tell me they don't have an accent or a cultural background. The truth is we all do, but when we live only with those who speak and behave like ourselves, we simply don't notice it.

Thinking with fair-mindedness, to me, begins with acknowledging my own blindness and struggling forward, hands held out, feeling for clues...

Friday, July 10, 2009

The opposite of love

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, said this: "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

Be the change, people!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Patriotic irony

On this day of days, July 4, when as a dual British/American citizen I celebrate my country's liberation from the tyranny of (ahem!) my country, I am reflecting on the double-irony that "My Country 'tis of Thee" is sung to exactly the same tune as "God Save our Gracious Queen." Perhaps if I simply hum, I can feel whole again!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

This is where I come from

This is where I come from. This is what I sometimes miss... the rough edges of the earth, the way light and shadow chase each other across the valley floor, the browns and greens of home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Application of learning

It's good to know the things we teach in the classroom are not only understood in terms of lesson material but useful in the everyday lives of our students. I've introduced Twitter in class this summer, and it's been fun watching the Tweets roll by.

My favorite student Tweet from last night: "Now I know how to use pathos n logos to get to date many hotties."

Ha ha ha

I have created a monster!

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Did I Miss Anything?"

Did I Miss Anything?
Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place

And you weren't here

by Tom Wayman
From: The Astonishing Weight of the Dead
Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Digging my friends

Only a philosophy prof. is likely to turn up unexpectedly at your door with a shovel and a trunk full of canna lilies and start digging in the front of your house--all the while expounding to your daughters on the quality of your dirt, the meaning of life, and the importance of knowing about Pablo Neruda.

Lizzy later posted on facebook, "I love my mom's friends." Yeah. Me too! All of you. Thank you for being xox

Read Liesl's blog at If you're a student who liked me, you're gonna love her, so take her class already! One of these days, we're gonna get that learning community together, Liesl--maybe with a service learning component involving community gardens?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Introducing Joy's Poetry Pants!

Joy added some of EAP's Bells to her poetry pants. It's a new fave. She made me read the whole thing to her immediately I staggered in from the lake. It's long, but how could I refuse when she'd vacuumed? a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire...

The poetry pants fade in the wash, but Joy re-scribes them in lessons if the teacher is being dull--the more boring the lesson, the more interesting the pants. Participial phrases always produce great creativity!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"The Guest House"

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī
جلال‌الدین محمد رومی

Sunday, May 3, 2009

6 October 2001--a memory

today, a five-year-old,
with da
ncing eyes
and d
ripping hair,
shed through puddles
the edge of the muddy world
and looked on her first rainbow,

Nearly nine years ago, but it seems like yesterday--the day Lizzy saw her first rainbow. Joy, Lizzy, and I had been playing with mud and sticks down by the river. Racing up the fields to get home, Lizzy stopped and looked up. Her mouth was wide open and she was laughing. "They're REAL!" she yelled. "I didn't know they were REAL!"

Happy Birthday, my beautiful teenage daughter--13 today. Wow!xoxoxo