Monday, December 5, 2016


- Emma Thompson,
The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: 
Bringing Jane Austen's Novel to Film 

Good morning. I'll begin by bringing you up to speed. It's December.

I am happy to report that no one has vomited since last I blogged. I have selected my new Frye purse, & Trey's agreed to foot the bill for it, which I suspect has something to do with (1) the piano he recently bought, (2) our son vomiting on me & my former Frye purse, & (3) my successful efforts to handle Reagan's last round of vomiting at home, which saved us a little bit of cash. I'm checking the mail daily for a Thank-you note from Blue Cross as a second hospital visit in as many months would've cost them more than a new Frye purse. I mean, I know they have our address. 

Yeah, yeah I know. I haven't even mentioned the piano, have I? That's a fun story maybe I'll get around to sooner or later. Stay tuned (do you . . . do you see what I did there?).

I can report that about half of our ornaments are hanging on the Christmas tree. I have grand plans to hang the remaining ornaments one night after the kids are asleep. Other things I'm going to do after the kids are asleep include read Emma, grade persuasive essays, shop online for Christmas presents, clean the toilets, organize the pantry, & drink in a dark closet

While the tree remains incomplete & the dog has yet to visit the vet (a second time that is, as you likely recall how the first attempt to get the dog her shots ended), I did get a lot done on Saturday. I accomplished on Saturday what I'd planned to accomplish Saturday before last when instead I was force-feeding Reagan carbohydrates & having her pee on a stick in hopes of avoiding a trip to the hospital. Can we talk for just a minute about how frustrating it is for a stomach virus to dominate my life every time I am on a break from school? Can we talk about how loudly that makes me want to scream? To give you an idea, while I am supposed to be pacing myself & staying on task in order to have the rather lengthy Emma read by the time the book club meets later this month, one night last week I downloaded Gillian Flynn's Dark Places

On the docket this week: Tomorrow Trey takes a major step in his race to beat me to forty; he hits the big 3-8 tomorrow. As of late Friday night I have sixty-ish persuasive essays awaiting my comments, & on a related note, I've made some last minute changes to this morning's agenda.

Things aren't completely awful in the classroom, however. I've been splitting time between The Awakening & Hamlet. I've actually been so immersed in Hamlet (& life & Christmas / birthday preparation) that I didn't watch one minute of college football Saturday. I didn't even realize the playoff / bowl games were to be announced yesterday, I have no idea what in the world happened in the Big Ten, & I don't even care enough to find out. 

For a handful of reasons I'll attempt to explain, I've been thinking a bit about fire lately. I had a conversation with a student last week about Emma Thompson. We're watching Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet & it's just phenomenal, of course. While Emma Thompson isn't in Hamlet, it's hard to watch one fabulous British actor (let alone the dozen or so who're in Hamlet) without thinking of Emma Thompson. I was regaling students with stories of the days of yore when Branagh & Emma Thompson were married, & then we segued into her award-wining adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Did you know Emma Thompson is the only person to win an Oscar for both writing & acting? Well now you do. 

Anyway, in the midst of thinking about & discussing Emma Thompson & her incredible body of work (which includes the most excellent quote above), my mind was busily assimilating images of raging, devastating wildfires in Tennessee, of Edna Pontellier & the ceaseless, alluring waves of the sea, of a drowned Ophelia, of droplets of blood on Reagan's little fingers, & of the drip, drip, drip of insulin Reagan's pump steadily gives her. I was remembering returning home after my first semester of college to find my dad hospitalized with a blood clot in his leg. 

I think about insulin a lot & only recently added threads of fire, water, etc. to this most curious thought train of mine. I think about insulin in a practical sense. How many units are in her pump? How many vials are in the fridge? I also think about it on a grander scale, a scarier scale, in that it, like fire, like water, like blood, is potentailly life-saving - literally minute by minute, drop by drop - but too much of it could end her life. 

My dad's teaching the adult Bible class at our church on Sunday mornings right now. Yesterday morning was his first class & he'll be teaching for the next three months, with a few exceptions because he's a fancy lawyer & sometimes has to travel & do lawyer stuff. Anyway, he's covering some of the early chapters in Revelation. Yep. That's what I said. Before delving into John's report on the seven churches in Asia, he's setting the historical scene, beginning with an explanation of the extent to which Greek & then Roman civilizations revered the plethora of gods they invented & then obsessively worshipped, one of which was Prometheus. 

Long story long, I smiled when he mentioned Prometheus yesterday. In my younger days when I taught Public Speaking I always introduced the unit on informative speaking with the story of Prometheus teaching humans how to make fire, in essence delivering an informative speech that changed the course of human history (I mean assuming the story were true . . . you get the point). We'd have a class discussion about why the other gods were angry with Prometheus for sharing this knowledge, & what the ability to make fire meant to humans, what it made possible (which anyone who's watched a season of CBS's Survivor well knows). The other gods were angry with Prometheus because he shared knowledge that, if used correctly, potentially gave humans considerable power, but also knowledge that could destroy them. 

You don't want an irresponsible person dosing insulin. You don't want an irresponsible person in charge of your water supply. You don't want an irresponsible person watching the kids at the lake. You don't want an irresponsible person in charge of your fire (one of the many lessons Lord of the Flies teaches). I feel I have many responsibilities; I rarely feel I have any power, but I suppose I do. I have immense power over my children's lives, & that extends way beyond the responsibility of dosing insulin, though that's a responsibility that is never far from my mind to be sure. I have power over my students. I hesitate to say that because I picture myself as a villain cackling in her dark lair as I type it, but it is true. 

Over the last few days a series of events & decisions I am honestly still in the process of making have opened my eyes to the power I have & must carefully wield where students are concerned. When you're usually exhausted & often your day involves other people's urine in some capacity, you don't feel powerful, certainly don't think of yourself as powerful, but amid the exhaustion & between rounds of toilet-issues I'm interacting with teenagers who occasionally pay attention to what I do & say. Teens are deceptively adult-like at times, but they're not yet adults. They're impressionable & to play a role in their lives at this most precarious period for them is something that feels weighty to me at the moment, as it should. 

A teacher is not unlike fire in that she can save you or destroy you. A mother is not unlike fire in that she can save you or destroy you; she can warm you, sustain you, or reduce you to a piteous heap of ashes. Keep in mind I've been reading & watching Hamlet & perhaps his chronic overthinking is affecting me. I am having an Atlas sort of morning, the weight of the world bowing my head as I navigate decisions that need to be made in the classroom, make decisions about a birthday party for a little girl who's about to turn six (To entertain thirty kids or not to entertain thirty kids, that is the question), & attempt to mentally organize the details of closing out this semester while making this season merry & bright while still blood-sugar friendly for my young children.  

To love is to burn - to be on fire. I don't disagree with Ms. Thompson, nor do I think the sentiment is limited to romantic love such as Juliet felt for Romeo, Guinevere for Lancelot, or Eloise for Abelard. To love is to wield incredible power in the lives of those for whom your torch burns; you can blaze a path or leave utter destruction in your wake. Choices have consequences, & when you're making choices that affect young people, be they your own flesh or not, my goodness they need to be made prayerfully.

I now realize how utterly perfect it is that I did in fact download Dark Places last week.

Regardless of what I haven't read or accomplished in a week's time, I'll see you next week for more broody overthinking. 


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