Monday, October 31, 2016


Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie 

If you've been here since the beginning, or you're an observant person, you know that in 2011, when I began blogging, it was basically all Reagan, all the time. She was a baby & I took a lot of pictures of her & blogged when she did, well, anything. I thought I was so busy at the time because I had one child (whose pancreas was still churning out insulin), a teeny, tiny house to clean, & a part-time job teaching Public Speaking. I posted seventy-four blogs in 2011 (& I began blogging three months into the year), though admittedly not all seventy-four of them are what I'd deem "substantive." 

There's something I need to address re: last week's blog & then we're going retro. Reagan had quite the week last week, & pictures abound, so today I blog like it's 2011. 

In my classroom I recently discovered what I initially thought was a DVD of Dr. Elliot Engel discussing Chaucer & Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Upon closer inspection, the disc was revealed to contain only audio of Dr. Engel, but that didn't deter me from foisting Dr. Engel on my students. If you recall, last week was Homecoming, & students weren't at their most studious, so rather than halfway listen to me for several days, they halfway listened to Dr. Engel . . . although truly the man is such an excellent public speaker that even without a visual it's incomprehensible to me that anyone could tune him out.

It was a Homecoming of sorts for me to hear Dr. Engel's voice again. I first fell in love with him as a high school student when he visited campus on multiple occasions to discuss, if I recall correctly, the history of the English language, Edgar Allan Poe, & Charles Dickens. I looked at his speaking schedule (which can be found on his website) & he's slated to give a talk titled The Brilliance of Jane Austen on November 29 of this year,  but sadly it's to be delivered in North Carolina. I'm unsure of field trip rules, but I think it's safe to say this is a no-go, sadly. The audio of this lecture is available for purchase & it's likely I'll have bought it before I blog again.

I say all this to let you know I've been steeped in Chaucer & Engel's incredible explanation of the satire in The Canterbury Tales, & sarcasm is my second language, & I suppose I was in a whale of a mood when I wrote last week's blog, which, yes, is deeply satirical.

I know what you're wondering. Why in the world have we not moved beyond Chaucer? Here's the thing. Our text is divided neatly into four sections covering British literature basically since Rome pulled out. Of those four periods in British literature, the Middle Ages (aka the Dark Ages) is by far the longest. It lasted a thousand years. Literally. While the British weren't producing a lot of literature during this time (because they couldn't decide on a common language for hundreds of years & they were dying from the plague), highly significant historical events took place. So, we've been hanging out in the Dark Ages, which ended about the time Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, give or take fifty or eighty years. Also, my schedule suffered a setback due to a handful of days spent reviewing grammar, & also all the vomiting. We'll soon sail through Henry VIII & his wives, read & pick apart some of the incredible poetry of John Donne, & by then it'll be 1600 & Shakespeare will put British literature on the map forever & ever. Amen.

Chronology is important, I think, to an understanding of British literature. Most of the early stuff is religious in nature (either mocking the church or attempting serious reform) & if you know nothing of the dominance of the Catholic Church at that time, & of its relationship to the British monarchy, the literature produced during all that turmoil is not going to make much sense. Plus you can't appreciate what Donne & Shakespeare & others did (& continue to do) for British literature if you don't know that a few hundred years before, there was no common language, no printing press, & people weren't much interested in writing poems & plays because they were trying to stay alive. We are examining the roots before climbing the tree, if you will.

So, onto Reagan & a pictorial chronology of her week.

Last week the kindergarten students took a field trip to Curry Farms. My mother met them there & took these of Reagan, who clearly enjoyed herself. 

Last Thursday night I took the kids to a Fall Festival that I *hope* will ease their trick-or-treating desire. Cousins Maisie & Michael also joined us. There was a variety of things for the kids to do, candy (in small, reasonable amounts) was dispensed, & as far as Fall Festivals go, it was not bad at all.

At the conclusion of the Fall Festival, I left Henry with my parents in anticipation of Friday's Homecoming activities. The kids didn't have school Friday, but I thought Reagan might enjoy accompanying me to watch the ladies in their fancy dresses.

We were looking pretty fancy ourselves. 

After the crowning of the queen, the day was still young so we went to Target, naturally, & then I took her to Cracker Barrel. 

Our Friday date continued that evening at the football game:

And lastly, rocking after Sunday lunch:

I am aware that today is Halloween. I don't have much to say about that. I am not opposed to dressing up (see: Homecoming week below):

However, while costumes are all fun & good, all the candy makes me crazy. I just cannot & will not ever thoroughly enjoy Halloween. What Halloween means to me every year is that (1) LSU is about to play Alabama, (2) my children & I (& now my students!) can begin listening to Christmas music with no guilt or shame, & (3) the actual cooler weather is perhaps on the way, not the cool mornings that tease you but meld into ninety-degree afternoons that make fools of people in sweaters & turtlenecks. 

Speaking of things that make me crazy, our yard has been removed from that list. 

I came home to this one day last week:

By the next afternoon, things had progressed nicely:

I don't have any before pictures of the flower beds because I didn't take any. I've no need to be reminded, though unfortunately I cannot erase the memories. 

Life has changed considerably since I posted the aforementioned seventy-four blogs. It's funny because Reagan's doing a lot of amazing things these days, more amazing than say, spitting up & dribbling food on herself, but the blog count has not (& likely never will) again reached the seventy-four-a-year rate. 

In addition to all the merriment pictured above, yesterday morning Reagan marched into my bathroom & let me know she has her first loose tooth. She is a little obsessed with when the tooth is going to finally break free of its roots; I am a little obsessed with how nauseous loose teeth make me. 

Yesterday, I repeatedly heard myself telling Reagan to leave it alone, to give the tooth time. I give nothing time; I confront time combatively, determined every moment must be filled with some purposeful activity, which for me is a rotation that goes like this: grade something / type up notes or a test / read something / do some household chore. Often I turn on Gilmore Girls in the background so it's usually not as awful as it sounds. If & when I stop, physically & mentally, often I think, What am I doing? What is the point of this crazy schedule I keep? How long can four people live happy lives dressing themselves straight from the dryer? 

Weeks - months - may pass before any semblance of an answer reveals itself. About a month ago Henry & I were in a grocery store I don't often frequent, but Reagan was at cheer camp & we had some time to waste before retrieving her, so off to the grocery store we went. Just as I was about to slam my car door & buckle up to go get Reagan, I heard my name. Mrs. Zeigler! I looked up & saw a young man named David grinning at me. 

I hadn't seen David in, oh, maybe three or four years. I taught David remedial English during my time as an adjunct. I vividly remember the first day I met David; it was the first day of classes & he was seated in the back row in my English 099 class. I called roll using the roster I'd printed that morning & then, as always, asked if anyone was present whose name I had not called. David raised his hand. I dismissed the others & began the work of figuring out why David had shown up for a class in which he was not registered.

David showed me his schedule, which indeed showed him as registered to take my English 099 class. I  asked him when he'd printed the schedule, & he replied it had been at least a week prior. Ah. I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what had happened. I had a decision to make. I desperately wanted to leave campus. I likely needed to get a few groceries & then race home to the baby, who was no doubt with one of her grandmothers, perhaps even waiting to nurse. It would have been reasonable of me to explain to David that his schedule had likely been purged for some reason (likely nonpayment) & that he needed to go downstairs to student services, verify the schedule purge, & then begin the laborious process of reenrolling himself in whatever classes still had open seats. That would have been a perfectly helpful thing for me to do.

David has large, sweet eyes & a bright, kind smile, & he was so appreciative of the help I'd already given him that I couldn't leave him; I couldn't throw him to the wolves in the registrar's office (no offense to those who work in registrar's offices . . . wolfish behavior is par for the course on the first day of the semester). I suspected David would be told his schedule had indeed been dropped, he'd flail in his efforts to reenroll in classes, & he would walk away from the community college that day enrolled in zero classes, perhaps never to return. 

I walked downstairs with David, confirmed the dropped schedule, & sat down at a computer with him & we worked out a new schedule. The only glitch was that every section of the remedial English he needed was full, so I signed an overload slip allowing him to register for my class, knowing full well a handful of students would drop over the course of the semester. 

David made a B in remedial English. I am not certain, but I think he may've had perfect attendance that semester. A few weeks ago, outside the grocery store where he now works, he hugged my neck & thanked me again. He has a steady job & is currently a student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. David could not have known the state I was in when he saw me that day, but it was a dreary one. I was, as always, exhausted. I wanted to go home & either rest or tackle the mountain of school work that constantly confronts me, but Reagan was at cheer camp, & so I was roaming around the grocery store with Henry having a panic attack about all the things that weren't being accomplished.

I am certain I was worried about my to-do list the day I took half an hour to help David; I am certain I was, as I always am, determined to make efficient use of my time. I have no idea what didn't get done that day, but the half hour I coveted but gave to David might've made a significant difference in his life. David was adrift at that time; you could tell from a momentary encounter with him. I like to think David has some roots now. As much as I love Hemingway, & as important as I think proper semicolon use is, a student nailing semicolon placement will never, ever be as satisfying as the hug David gave me a month or so ago. 

I'm trying to keep David at the forefront of my frazzled thoughts right now. I gave David time when he needed someone to take the time to help him; I gave him time when I suspect absolutely no one else in his life was willing to do so. I admit I didn't give him my time without reservation; I gave it begrudgingly. When my kids are older, all my kids, the two I birthed & the ones in whom I'm trying to instill a love of literature & semicolons, I hope for more hugs like David's, but I know they'll only come if I give what I so often do not want to let go of, my time.  

Love, hugs, & whatnot to all of you. Take the time to cheer for the Tigers Saturday. An LSU victory, coupled with the extra hour of sleep we'll get Saturday night, might help mentally prepare me for what is certainly going to be a memorable election day. 


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