Monday, October 30, 2006


once upon a time, almost everyone was an artist. the butcher (ok, maybe not him), the baker, and the candlestick maker. the shoemaker, the tailor, the cheese maker.

maybe one reason many of us are so dissatisfied with our jobs is because man's task is now to manage machines that perform tasks that should have been ours.

once upon a time, i could have made bowls for a living. there was a village and a village musician.

even education seems like an assembly line process--no creativity left in it.

well, mike is brilliant at what he does. and it gives me great joy to know he is doing his thing in the classroom.

yesterday we made homemade bread and then created art together.

and today, it is time for me to work with my hands presenting the laws of exponents to my students.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

it was great to have bethy spend the weekend with me. as i told her, it was the best possible way i could have chosen to celebrate my birthday. mmm! thank you for coming, little sister!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

la verace via

-after listening to my oreja cd a bazillion times i finally decode this lyric:
"Lo que hace bello al desierto es que guarda agua en su interior."
which today i can take to mean that sometimes things must be kept to ones self.

-last night i translated micro-loan documents & sent them to alex
-i found cheap tickets both to ireland and peru for next year
-today i checked 8 books out of the library in a whirlwind of whimsy & curiosity
-instead of grading i'm going to curl up with hot chocolate and this book, which i have a very good feeling about:

p.s. i turn 30 on oct. 31. if you feel compelled to look at my wishlist, it is here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


bleakness has come over me. i don't feel optimism in any direction.

dreams are fragile things. when you express a hope, and someone counsels you: "well, you know, you would probably still feel frustrated even if you __________________ [moved elsewhere, found a different job, met a significant other]."

not to mention that getting any of these things seems so elusive anyway!

is the message to simply accept a dissatisfactory existence and not go for better?

this is not the full source of my melancholy. other things make me paranoid--has something shifted? have the planets aligned themselves so that i am now entering a dark phase? did i bring upon myself a double dose of 'the shadow'? it's this vague unease. i don't feel free to love generously, and when you withdraw that generosity, that hope, things change in your heart.

i don't like being superstitious. i hope this passes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

this photo brings back memories of my very happy days in arequipa. there was something magical about walking the streets alone, aimlessly, with no pressure or obligations. looking through them again i see many more great shots i'd forgotten about. i'll be posting them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

i was supposed to go visit b. today, but the forces of traffic at the holland tunnel and no cash when i tried to park at metropark to catch a train later, overcame me and i ended up staying home, reading, thinking, journalling, making fried potato pancakes, and now drinking decaf. still thinking. i can only call this my midlife crisis in full swing.

Maybe i just don't believe in the educational system any more. But if that's what we're stuck with, is it better to leave it or to try to work within its flawed structure? I feel stifled by the requirements put on me by it. I feel like a pawn of a system that I don't believe in.

I want to drop out of the system.

Questions (from It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now)
Where am I going?
Did I do the right thing with my time so far?
What's ahead?
What are my greatest fears?
Why do I really want in my future?
What do I definitely not want any more of?
What regrets would I hate to have when I look back on my life in later years?
Why am I on this planet?

-I'm not going to do anyone any good if I'm not doing what my heart of hearts wants.

"It is from our parents that we learn how to think for ourselves or how not to, how to have relationships or how not to, and how to succeed or how to live a life of "quiet desperation"...The main injunctions...tend to come from one of the parents, and the parent of the opposite sex is often the source. The parent of the same sex then teaches the youngster how to comply with these injunctions and attributions."
--from Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow

as you can see i'm reading all the 'fix your life' books i can get my hands on. some of them seem directed at bored 40 year old men who are married and work in a cubicle. it doesn't really matter. i'm turning thirty and i want freedom and a different life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


i've really enjoyed the daily prayer on this site yesterday and today.

today is the first day that i get to teach in the "smart" classrooms, with a computer & projector for the computer. i'm hoping i'm able to find things online to make class more engaging & colorful.

i think i'll show them the trailer for the movie flatland.

also, even though our class is stuck in 2 dimensions finding where two lines intersect, i spoke to them the other day about finding where planes intersect, in three dimensions.

i think they could even do this algebraically. mmm. i feel some life in my veins.

Monday, October 16, 2006

my job is making me feel very middle-aged today. i want something more dramatic, intellectually engaging. today, i don't feel like making young adults pay attention while i explain long, complicated things (boring things) to them.

i say today because every day my mood seems to shift. but the unhappy voice is getting more and more insistent. i don't believe in what i do.

i want a free-thinking, unstructured artist's job. perhaps in a foreign country.

or i want a high-tech, brainiac brilliance job. very glamourous.

oh....the conflict! do i quit or no?

Sunday, October 15, 2006


friday night i had dinner with my favorite (and only) priest friend. he mentioned that his brother has a house on the west coast of ireland which is not used very much, especially in the winter. he suggested that it might be an ideal place for a solitary reading & thinking escape. he mentioned rough weather, walks on beaches, and reading by the (peat) fire.

wow! i already looked at tickets. awesome!


yesterday i decided to go to a town that i thought would have some fun artsy shops. i drove north about 45 minutes. wandered through an international bead shop, where i inquired about how they get their foreign merchandise. i avoided the used bookstore and went into an interior design shop instead, but ended up getting a book i've admired before online:

after eating dinner alone at a mexican restaurant that was quite full (and repeatedly convincing myself that it was ok that i was using a table by myself), i went to see the movie "the science of sleep" with gael garcia bernal, who starred as che guevara in motorcycle diaries. the movie was so poignantly human and honest, while quite funny and strange at the same time. it's been a while since i've seen such a vulnerable portrayal of the confusion that is our experience.

to round out the evening, i came back to my car and realized the battery was almost dead, and the engine wouldn't start. the cold evening and my low gas tank together were what did it. i'm not sure why low gas makes my car struggle to start, but it does. so...i eventually got a guy to stop and help...fortunately his battery was located in his trunk, because i was parked on the street and pulling up nose to nose with my car was a logistical problem. i've never heard of a battery in the trunk before, either.

i drove home and slept well.


i spent a lot of time today looking for fun math things online to use in my classes which as of this coming week are moving to rooms equipped with a computer and a big projector and internet access.

mixed success.

then i started looking for things to use tomorrow night at grad group with the catholics. they were at a loss for a topic, and i mentioned that i'd been really excited by my discovery of the euthyphro by Plato. so i guess i'm 'leading' a discussion on that and faith and reason. i'm also going to photocopy excerpts of the pope's controversial speech and a little bit out of the catechism, and maybe some m. scott peck. i love weaving bits together. i have no idea how it will go over.

finally, tonight, after intervarsity (non-catholic) bible study, beer and a stromboli and excited discourse about the gospels with tony.

though i seem to be coming down with something, i feel full of surprises and blessings.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

this week

sometimes we have experiences that bring our shortcomings right up to our noses, unavoidably in our faces. no escaping, and they are smelly, too.

it's so much nicer to live with the illusions about ourselves that we so carefully cultivate.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


this poorly lit picture doesn't do it justice, but i find the image of a woman standing with such grandeur around her, and opening a book--so powerful. according the caption (i tore this out of the patagonia catalog & taped it by my bed) she is studying for an alpinism exam.

i'm exhausted--it was a full day. 4 of us drove up to a conference, then went for a hike in the fall woods. mongolian grill for supper, and home for a shower & hot tea. time with a good friend rounded out a long, but surprisingly balanced day.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

i am foolish

1. decide to make chocolate milk at 11:40 pm.
2. don't make it in the microwave. make it on the stove, with the really good mexican chocolate bars.
3. leave it cooking on high for about 40 minutes.
4. be in your room with the door closed, blissfully updating your online planner & feeling really accomplished and organized
5. catch a whiff of a foul black smell, and have a lightbulb moment
6. dash into the kitchen, which is thick with black smoke, and turn off the burner
7. open all the windows in the house, wishing like mad for a howling gale.
8. hope the roommate is already asleep, so she won't find out how dumb you are.
9. realize you have no fan, and the smoke is not leaving.
10. realize that when she goes to the bathroom in the night, she will think the building is burning.
11. feel relief when you realize she is still awake. borrow a fan. explain your stupidity.
12. go to bed.
13. wake in the morning to the lingering wretched smell still there.
14. attempt to clean stove top & chip black carbon chuncks out of the pan
15. while scrubbing & chipping vigorously with a fork, get a carbon particle in your eye.
16. slosh big glasses of water into your eye, moan, slosh more, hold your eyelid up, cry, look in mirror, slosh some more, pray, cry.
17. call mom because i am utterly wretched.
18. go to the doctor and get numbing drops & find out the offending black particle is now gone.
19. come home. feel utterly exhausted. and relieved.
20. vow NEVER to leave the kitchen while something is cooking, EVER.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

the fear of beginning

i found this list in an amazon review of the book Uncommon Genius. #8, especially.

1. Find your talent.
2. Commit to it and make it shine
3. Don't be afraid of risk. Or even failure, which if seen in its proper light, brings insight and opportunity.
4. Find courage by looking to something stronger and better than your puny vulnerable self.
5. No lusting after quick resolutions. Relax. Stay loose.
6. Get to know yourself; understand your needs and the specific conditions you favor.
7. Respect, too, your culture. We can't, any of us, escape the twenty-first century. It's tucked up around our collective chin as snugly and as firmly as the bedsheet.
8. Then, finally, break free from the seductive pull of book learning and research and the million other preparatory steps that could delay the entire span of a life and immerse yourself in the doing.


then also a very striking (&scary, for me) parable about pottery:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the ‘quantity’ group: fifty pounds of pots rated an ‘A’, forty pounds a ‘B’, and so on. Those being graded on ‘quality’, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an ‘A’.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”


i was really struck by this. not intellectually, but on an emotional level.

Monday, October 02, 2006

on the hunt

what does the truth smell like? how do you know when you're getting "warmer" (remember that game)?

recently a person was heard to say "i know it's the truth because it makes me happy." while the reasoning sounds like it falls short, i can relate. there is a certain peaceful, free feeling that comes. and if you're holding something really, really tightly, then i don't think you can have that sense.

perhaps part of the game is to let go of the need to know you're right all the time (mike's big thing). not that there is no absolute truth--reality is definitely there to crash into all the time... sometimes there is no knowing, just taking steps with a heart open to guidance.

i'm reminded of a quote bethy copied into a book somewhere: a big belly laugh is a way of saying "ain't that the truth".

i have to run off to do you recognize the truth?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

kindred spirits

i wandered into a restaurant in arequipa & found a tree painted on the ceiling. delight! this is not the exact tree i want in my living room, but it's thrilling that someone else feels similarly.