Category Archives: Social Justice

Fiction Friday, On Saturday

This week my students read a couple of texts that are worthy of note: “The Women Men Don’t See” by Alice Bradley Sheldon and the Old Testament book of Job. I’m not saying they are both fiction, but we’re studying the bible as literature, so we discussed how Job is part of the wisdom literature tradition. I’m not really going to say much about Job, except for that it was interesting watching church kids really read that text and try to figure out why their ministers or youth ministers had never mentioned Elihu…

“The Women Men Don’t See” is a strange story that, at first, seems to be your run-of-the-mill adventure story where some folks get plane wrecked and some of them wander away to find water or help while some of them stay at camp just in case they might be rescued. However, this story gets stranger and more awkward as it progresses, because the two people who wander away to get water find some other folks out there in the wilderness. The man, Don, hurts his knee on a weird mangrove root, and then it appears as if he also gets stabbed by one of the other folks, though the way Sheldon describes the stabbing is much similar to the way she describes his knee pain, so I wasn’t sure if it was a new injury or the same, just inflamed. At any rate, Ruth, the woman who is also questing for water, makes friends with the others, who turn out to be aliens that look like tripods. The intriguing part of this is that Ruth can understand their alien language, but Don can’t. In the end, Ruth takes her daughter Althea and leaves with the aliens, dumbfounding Captain Esteban and Don and leaving them there by the plain wreckage. See, it’s weird.

My students had an amazing discussion about the way the women in the story are described throughout the story as aliens or others, so they weren’t bothered by the fact the women could understand the alien language. In fact, my students were interested in the ways in which that then turned the tables and marked the two men in the story as other. Since through the first two thirds of the story women are described as interchangeable (Don can’t remember one of his secretaries from another), Other (as opposed to men), or mundane (they behaved by the manual). Once Ruth meets the aliens, the men then become the Other; they can’t speak the language, nor can they understand the customs. And as such, the women leave the men. I was bothered by the fact that the women only ended up having partial agency, because they were able ot then step out of their “manual” interchangeable roles, but only by the empowering force of the aliens. The students loved the idea that language can help turn the tables. Still, the text was a good one, and we’re going to discuss it some more this week.  They did an excellent job of using the de Beauvoir theory to discuss the text as well; let’s see how they do with “The Cyborg Manifesto” this coming week.

Final Weeks of School. Half Ironman and Nutrition. Thoughts on Boston.

We’re quickly closing in on the end of the school year here in good ol’ east central Indiana. My students are antsy, and so am I. My colleague Abbie and I are getting ready to begin a really cool project with our students. For the entire month of May, our students will complete a self-directed project based on those topics, writers, texts, or themes that we were unable to cover throughout the school year, but the important part of the project is that they will not only choose their topics, they will also design their final essay/project based on their research. We’re really excited to do something that we think is pretty cutting edge for high schoolers. Of course, we’re requiring them to complete certain things during their course of study, but for the most part, it’s up to them to carry out the study while meeting with us once a week to discuss their work. I’m sure this project will beat the pants off of the ECA (end of course assessment) they’re required to take for the state.

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The Muncie 70.3 is twelve weeks away. I’ve been training, but this next week I put the pedal to the metal as the miles increase from here on out. I need some help with accountability, and I know that it’ll be obvious if I don’t train well, but I tend to skip workouts because of exhaustion from work. I’m hoping if I post MyTrainingSchedule here, some of you who read this and who correspond with me on Facebook or Twitter will help keep me honest. Seriously, I’d love it if you ask me once a week or so whether I am sticking to my training or not. I am generally pretty disciplined, but every little bit helps!

I’m also working on moving back to a mostly paleo diet for the fueling of this adventure. I’ve been “cheating” a lot and drinking beer, eating wheat products, and snacking on ice cream. None of these help me accomplish my goals: the alcohol makes me tired, the wheat makes me bloated and gaseous, and the ice cream makes my joints ache. When I eat paleo, I feel so much more energetic and clean. I am sure the food I eat will make or break my venture.

I’m also in need of losing a few more pounds so I don’t look like a sausage in my new Muncie Area Fun Squad tri-kit. If I train consistently and eat properly, I have no doubt that I’ll lose the 15 pounds I need to lose by July 13. Incidentally, I am pretty proud to be finishing this Half Ironman the week before my 39th birthday. Now I just need to finish a marathon by next July, and I will have accomplished both of my “before 40” goals. Maybe my “before 50” goals will be an ultra-marathon and a full Ironman! Haha!

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When I heard the news about the Boston Marathon bombing, I had several reactions, none of which I believe were any different than those reactions had by others: shock, dismay, fear, compassion, anger, love, and pretty much every other emotion a person can have, all rolled into one. I feel this way every time I hear of a tragic event like this one.

Now, a few days later, I just want us (humans) come together to provide healing for the victims, healing for the family of the two young men, a legitmate (not hate-influenced punishment) for the remaining bomber, grace to those people who can’t get past their hate, and safety for those folks who are part of big, un(or poorly)guarded sporting events like marathons. I don’t want people to be scared. I don’t want people to be angry. I don’t want people to seek revenge. I want peace. I want justice. And I want grace. I want to imagine.

The End and the Beginning

New Year’s Eve asks us to look back into the past year in order to assess where we’ve been, and it simultaneously begs us to look forward with hope that our future is brighter than, or at least as bright as, our past. Everybody and their brother is posting their reflections and their resolutions, so I figured why shouldn’t I. At the very least, this post will give my friends a heads up about the resolutions I’ll be breaking come January 3rd or 4th.

Obviously, if you’ve read this blog in the past year, you’ll notice that the past 365 days haven’t been a cakewalk for me. While my life has been incredibly blessed, I’ve had a really difficult time recognizing my blessings and reveling in them. My goals for this year in no particular order were:

  1. Eat paleo.
  2. Watch less TV.
  3. Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running (barefoot) a race a month.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Read more, including the Bible and Common Prayer.
  6. Play and find my inner hippie again.
  7. In short, do things which bring me joy. Relax.

Listing my goals out like that reminds me of Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 Virtues or John and Charles Wesley’s tabulations of their moral behaviors. I suppose if I am going to list my resolutions or goals, I should keep track of how well I am doing with them in some manner. I don’t. I ate mostly paleo and lost about 50 pounds (I did gain some of that back this holiday season!). I can’t say I’ve watched less television; in fact, I may have watched more (Oh, Mariska, how you tempt me!). I did exercise a lot, but not as much as I would have liked. I finished my first triathlon, so that’s pretty decent. I totally left out meditation and prayer for a good portion of the year. I felt so disconnected, and I am not sure whether my lack of meditation caused the disconnection, or if I didn’t meditate because I felt disconnected. Either way, I didn’t spend enough time alone with my thoughts and God. I read a lot more, but not the specific texts I mentioned I would focus on. I played more, and playing was lovely. I did things which should have brought me joy, but they didn’t always. Instead I feel as if I just focused on the negative, even when I swore I would focus on the positives. I’m a realist; it’s difficult for me to be to be positive. I am going (to try to) to fix that this year. #PollyAnna2012 will become #joyful or #merrymaking or #radicaljoy for this year.

In short, I want this year to bring less of this:

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And much, much more of this:

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Speaking of this year, here are my goals in order of their current importance to me and my mental and physical well being:

  1. CULTIVATE JOY: Do things which me bring me joy. Embrace the random. Enjoy the mediocre. Don’t stress over things I can’t control. Live in the moment and revel in those I spend my time with. Put down my phone or my other distractions and really love and live the moment.
  2. CONSUME CLEANLY: Eat better food. Drink less cider and more water. Put into my belly those foods which will best fuel my body for physical activities and mental joy. I’m going to attempt to jumpstart this with a new Whole 30, beginning on January 7. I want a clean slate and a clean body for the new year.
  3. EXERCISE: Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running at least a mile a day. Finish a Half Ironman triathlon before my 39th birthday. Carpool or walk or ride my bike to work every day. Use the body and the buses for transportation as frequently as possible.
  4. BE INTENTIONAL: Watch no TV, except an occasional movie. Use social media for no more than half an hour each day. Replace the time spent on nothingness and meaningless conversation with strangers with pursuits of intellect and kinship. Meditate, pray, read, and contemplate theological and academic things. Practice silence. I also would love to finish this dissertation.
  5. PLAY: Play and find my inner hippie again. In the spring, I’ll start a disc golf club at school.
  6. STAND UP: Begin standing up against injustice in a real and tangible way. Use grace and love to resist those things which are unethical or immoral. Help the Burris GSA, Prism, to be more active and visual by bringing meaningful activities into my students’ lives.

These are my hopes, dreams, goals, resolutions for 2013. I hope to use Sunday mornings to write in this space about these goals and about current events. I will begin tomorrow morning, though it isn’t Sunday, by writing in depth about that first goal of practicing joy. Practicing joy will no doubt be my most difficult goal, but for me it is by far the most important. I can’t have another year like this year. Any suggestions you have about cultivating joy are welcome! How do you cultivate joy?

For some running inspiration, join us with this challenge:

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The Real Advent Begins on Sunday . . .

and I can’t access the Bible from my school computer, because of our new filter. I can post here, but I can’t read the Bible. This is hilarious, right? I mean there is all that sex and violence in the Bible, so maybe we’re trying to protect the children from that, but I assume the reason we have the filter is pressure from folks who read the Bible and try to live by it. I can’t even get on the ESV bible site, and it’s one of the most conservative translations of the text. But still there is all that sex and violence: Jael and her tent peg, Lamentations in its whole, David and his dirty dealing with Urriah and his lust for Bathsheba, the murder of several prophets (one by crucifixion, one by stoning, and a host of other atrocious ways to die), and then there’s the end times with all those locusts and horsemen. That’s some scary and scarring shit right there. Good thing we’re protecting the people who believe in it, from it.

and last night at Burris, we had our first SafeZone training. I was so moved by the way my colleagues sacrificed their time and really came to the meeting with learning hearts. The training, along with our baby GSA, puts us well on the road to providing a safer environment for our GLBT students, faculty, staff, and families. The training was by far the best one I’ve attended at Ball State. They seemed to really tailor the training to our needs here at Burris. We were even able have some time to discuss issues specific to Burris, as well as thoroughly covering GLBT issues in general. I was so excited by the time we spent learning together, that I couldn’t’ sleep until almost 1 o’clock this morning. I also teared up a bit on the way home as I thought about how my colleagues sacrificed their own private time to come and support me and to learn about the diverse people group to which I belong. Their dedication to equality and safety moved me.

and I still haven’t had a chance to work on my dissertation as much as I would like to work on it. I feel like I have three full-time jobs, and I only have time to do one. I can’t work all day at school, then come home and grade and plan, then get up early and work on my dissertation. AND work in running, piano, cooking, and real life. I really don’t know how people do it.

and I’m not really ready for the anticipation of the coming of our Lord. I know, this year, I am certainly not worthy of the magnanimity of his coming.

Too Many Days of Lent: I’ve Been Revelling in the Weather

How much of a blessing has this weather been?! The trees are bloomed out with leaves and assorted flowers, the wild flowers are brightly colored and diverse, the grass is growing and growing and growing, and the birds wake me up every morning with their anger or sexual desire, whichever is worse I am unsure. They scream and chatter and occasionally whistle and chirp outside our bedroom window at the bird feeders. They are my natural alarm clock, beautiful and harsh.

Every time I look out the window at the beauty of the day, I want school to be over so I can play outside. I want to go swimming, biking, running, disc golfing, kayaking, and I want to do every other activity that someone can do outside! I want to roll down a hill and make myself sick. I want to be free. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: God wants us to play. There is a whole theology of play that helps us to better relate to the divine through spontaneous acts of creative play.

Part of play for me is recognizing who I am in Christ and being free from societal constraints. In other words, I feel free to play when I realize that my identity lies in Christ and not in what other people think of me. And, I play with reckless abandon, which means I have a few people in my life that don’t quite understand me. My greatest desire is to be unencumbered by those things that other people see as necessary. My mom always says to other people, “I think she just wants to be poor.” Yeah, I do. I don’t want to be tied down by earthly possessions or monetary things. I never intended to buy a house. I would love to get rid of all my stuff until everything I own or everything I need could fit in my camping backpack. I’m pretty sure that would make me perfect for monastic life, which is still a kind of dream of mine. I’m not sure I want to be monastic in the “I’m celibate and live in a cold cell with a hair shirt” kind of monastic, but more in the new monastic, communal living sort of way where I share things with my community members.

When I am having these thoughts, my morning prayers typically confirm my thoughts or dissuade me from them. Today they confirm with this quote from Peter Maruin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement: “The world would be better off if -people tried to become better. And -people would become better if they stopped trying to become better off.” I think living in a self-sustaining community and trying to be better and more compassionate is definitely a way for me to be better off. I think of communities like Simple Way and the way they intertwine work and play in all aspects of their lives.

I would be able to work hard and play hard without trying to conform to some arbitrary economic constraints.

I would only have to please God and provide for my “family.”

I would have plenty of time to revel in the beauty of God’s world and word.

I could play.

Peace.