Monday, August 27, 2018

Afoot and Lighthearted

Good Monday morning.

Last week I promised you pictures of Henry's first day, & so we will begin with those.

The above were taken before we made the drive to school last Monday morning. He was not in the mood to have more pictures taken with the props provided by the school when we arrived, but he did oblige that afternoon. These were taken *immediately* after he was roused from his nap, so I got about what I expected.

Last Monday Henry began his last year in Pre-K. He could have gone on to Kindergarten this year. He turned five in June. I thought & thought about this. After spending the last two years with high school students, I thought about the males who were eighteen during their senior year of high school. I thought about the males who were seventeen for most of their senior year. I thought about another whole year with Henry at home versus sending him off to college shortly after his eighteenth birthday. I talked to a handful of women who teach Kindergarten as well as a handful of elementary principals. I am happy with my decision. I want him to have one more year to be a little boy for whom school is a complete stress-free blast. 

Last week was a lovely week, but it was not without a handful of frustrations. I will of course share those with you. I think today we'll start with last week's lows & end with the highs. There were many highs, & they far outweigh the lows. That's about all a girl can ask for.

I knew when last Monday dawned I had a mountain to climb. For weeks I'd had no luck accessing my work email, & come Tuesday I was going to instruct all my new students to use my Delta email to contact me in the event that they have questions or emergencies. It seems wrong to encourage students to contact me using an email address to which I have no access, so I knew I had to get the issue resolved quickly. 

I was told by kind women in HR that my old email account with Delta Community College had been reactivated, but I certainly didn't remember the password, & I suspected since the account had been deactivated & then reactivated the password would have defaulted to some generic password the IT guy knows. I saw the IT guy Monday. He let me sit in his desk chair & reset my password using his big fancy computer. He said he thought that would resolve the issue. 

It did not resolve the issue. I won't share further details of this saga with you. I'll skip to the end & simply say my old Delta email WAS NOT reactivated. I suspected all along this was at least part of the reason for my email access issues. I think they *thought* they reactivated it, but the system was like, Um, no. They kept resetting my password & having me change it to something new, but I was setting a new password for an email account that was never reactivated. Once I tried annazeigler instead of azeigler (my former email user name), magical things happened. 

Now I check my work email about three hundred times a day to make sure I still have access; I guess I was more traumatized by the experience than I thought. 

Pictured below you will see evidence of last week's other major frustration:

We did get some rain last week, but after the rain dried up I spotted this nonsense on our front sidewalk. I was very, very afraid of what might cause a sight like this. I envisioned spending thousands of dollars on some major sewage &/or plumbing issue that could only be fixed by digging up half of our yard. Thankfully it was a wiring issue with the sprinkler system. Y'all, sprinkler systems are wonderful when they work as they should, but they do not always work as they should. We didn't build our house; it came with the sprinkler system installed. I tell you, I do not know if I would opt for an in-ground sprinkler system if I had to make that call today, especially now that the kids are old enough to go move sprinklers around the yard per my instructions. 

The final low of last week pertains to this month's book club book. Last week I told you I'd return with more details of this month's book club book, The Kitchen House. The Kitchen House is a 2010 novel by Kathleen Grissom. It is historical fiction set on a Virginia Plantation. The premise is promising. The novel tells the story of Lavinia, a young Irish girl who is orphaned while on a ship en route from Ireland to America. Lavinia's parents die during the family's attempt to reach America, & she is soon separated from her brother & taken to a tobacco plantation where she is to live & work alongside the slaves who live in the plantation's kitchen house.

I don't want to hate on the book too much. Like I said, the premise is promising. The first half of the book kept me turning the pages. I think the strength of the novel is the author's convincing depiction of the familial bonds that develop between Lavinia & the slaves with whom she lives. She is traumatized when she arrives on the planation. She won't eat. She has just lost her parents to death & her brother to separation. The way the slaves slowly coax her out of her shell of grief & loss & gain her trust &, eventually, love, is touching.

The reason I can't highly recommend the novel is that what begins as a promising premise fizzles into a plotless mess of one horrific incident after another. At first the violence is shocking & disconcerting, but as the book wears on it becomes apparent the author is at a loss for ways to drive the plot aside from yet another act of violence. Nearly every thread of the story is driven by someone's rape & subsequent pregnancy or someone being beaten or someone becoming addicted to opium.

I know many slaves were raped by their masters. I know slaves were beaten. I know slaves were sold & separated from their family. I know slaves were hung. There should be a place in literature for works of historical fiction that depict the horrors of slavery in the same way there is a large bookshelf in the literary world for historical fiction that intermingles the stories of fictional characters with the realities of WWII. I just need my historical fiction to be both historically accurate but also heavy on the triumph of the human spirit (& the triumph of romance!) even as world war rages or even as the institution of slavery goes unchecked for years & years. I think it's lazy writing & somewhat unrealistic to have the entire plot of a novel driven by beatings & rapes. Were I to write historical fiction set during WWII, I would shy away from something war-related happening every time I needed a twist in the plot. I hope this makes some sense.

The book club is meeting tonight to discuss the novel, & I want to be a ray of light & positivity when we meet . . . so I am unloading on you, dear reader. Thanks for listening.

With all that ugliness behind us, let's get to the good stuff. A list:

(1) I now spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

(2) I became a soccer mom.

(3) People are sending me books.

(4) My teaching schedule is fantastic.

(5) Twilight will be rereleased in theaters in October to celebrate the film's tenth anniversary.

(6) LSU plays football on Sunday.

I know. It's a lot of stuff. I can't address it all individually at this time. We all want to get another cup of coffee & get back to our Monday morning. I am happy to be back at Delta Community College. I have never before taught there (or anywhere) when both of my children were in school all day long. In fact, in the past I spent much of my time at Delta either pregnant or nursing; now when I am there I feel there is something I should be doing or worrying about that I'm forgetting, like, you know, giving birth or lactating. 

It is good for my mental health to drive the kids to school, kiss them, & leave them there. That is just the truth even if it sounds awful. On Monday, Wednesday, & Friday, I leave their school & head somewhere with fresh hot coffee & Internet access. I sit alone & uninterrupted & I prepare for the classes I teach on Tuesdays & Thursdays this semester. I take care of the details of the kids' lives. Last week I registered Reagan to play soccer. She insists she wants to play soccer despite complaining about having to run in P.E. I explained to her what happens when one plays soccer. Stay tuned for further updates on this development. 

When I feel I've worked enough for the day, I run errands that are simple but would be a bit more complicated were I to attempt them with both kids in tow. Last Monday morning I worked for about three hours after dropping the kids off. I drove back to school to help Reagan with her lunch insulin. I bought groceries. I then drove home & put all the groceries away, & I still had about an hour before I needed to be back at school to retrieve the kids. What is this life? This past weekend I just enjoyed the weekend. I felt no pressure to grade anything or plan anything school-related. This may not sound revolutionary to you, but for me it was an amazing feeling. 

And yes, if you caught my comment above, I did in fact have books (that's plural, books) sent my way last week, one delivered digitally & one delivered the old fashioned way. I am not a perfect person. I make my fair share of mistakes, but I have to feel I am doing something right in life, that I am surrounding myself with the right people, when books are randomly dropped in my lap. You may recall (or not) that when I was a  freshman in college Trey sent me a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four for my eighteenth birthday. Some may consider this an odd birthday present for a young lady, but I knew then I would probably have to marry him. 

Despite a few paragraphs of negativity above, this new life of mine is quite exhilarating & something around which I still haven't fully wrapped my mind. I don't have a lovely theme with which to wrap this blog up neatly with a giant bow on top before sharing it with you. Someone once told me they enjoy reading the blog because I always tie things together thematically (I do love a good theme). You better believe that comment rolls around in my head when I sit to type. Some weeks a theme leaps out at me, hitting me over the head until I finally sit to write. Some weeks things take shape as I write, events & pictures from the week connecting in ways I would not have considered had I not attempted to write. 

Today (& for all of last week) the thing dominating my thoughts is the Walt Whitman quote above: 

Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me. 

There's a lot happening in the larger world right now that I am choosing to ignore both in life & on the blog. I have a whole mess of complicated feelings about the death of John McCain (& the varied reactions to it). I also have complicated feelings about the sad things unfolding concerning the Catholic Church. I mean, I am not totally ignoring these things, but I am not going to dwell on them or pen a treatise on them (at this time).

If all this positivity is too much for you, please know it is certain something will irritate me soon & I will write a lengthy, vitriolic blog about it. LSU takes on top-ten ranked Miami next week, so this balloon of positivity in which I am currently floating is likely to soon lose some air.

At some point I want to discuss what I am teaching this semester in greater detail. The speech class I am teaching is not Public Speaking; it is Fundamentals of Communication. I last taught this class when George W. Bush was president. I am working with a new text that so far I am enjoying. I am also teaching a handful of sections of the Freshman Year Seminar, which is a class for which students receive one-hour of college credit & in which they are supposed to learn how to be a successful college student. Stay tuned for more exciting details on this front.

I hope this last week of August is a good one for you. Tomorrow Dear Miss Moreau officially turns one year old. I don't have much planned. I will say DON'T BUY A COPY right now; on September 1 the paperback price will permanently drop by several dollars.

I greatly anticipate returning to you in September if for no other reason than it will be September. 


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