Monday, August 15, 2011


Before I get to work on patching the ceiling in my study, I need to suspend my disbelief long enough to post what I found out this past Saturday:  I did pass my English Language Arts ABCTE exam, after all.  Not only did I pass it, but my incomplete essay on the set 20th century poem got me a mark of "5," while the finished one I produced for the Teaching Knowledge exam only came up with a "4."*  There's no accounting.

I'm still in a state of amazement.  I keep going back and staring at the online certificate, my only proof so far that this is so.  Yes, the 5 is still there.  It hasn't gone away.  Too blinking strange!

So, praise God! I don't have to pay to take the test over, and I don't have to practice-practice-practice so maybe I can complete the essay the second time around.  I'm still working on reading the books and poems on the recommended list, the ones I haven't met up with before.  But I can be more leisurely about it.

The irony, though, is that two parishes, and maybe three, are talking like they're seriously interested in hiring me as their interim pastor.  Wouldn't it be funny if I qualified to teach just when something breaks for me in the ministry department?
*Oh, yes.  I guess I never posted that I passed the pedagogy exam.  Found out about that a couple of weeks ago.  Mea culpa!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Down But Not Out

I guess.

Quick bulletin:  Passed my ELA multiple choice exam with a scaled score of 377, which puts me in the "distinguished" range.

But I didn't finish my essay, which puts me in the flunking range.

So sometime in the next six months I gotta do it all over.  Maybe by then I will have read all the stuff on the lit list and I'll already have a clue what to say about the prompt.  The one I got I think I may've read before, but not so recently I already had any organizational ideas about it.

Other things were involved in me ploughing this, but no time to rant or moan about them now.  Still have a sermon to write.

Round Two: Already on the Ropes?

This afternoon at 2:00 I take the second part of my English teacher certification exams, over English Language Arts.  In an hour and a half I saddle up and head down to the testing center.  I'd planned to spend a few hours this morning doing some last-minute skimming in Wikipedia and SparkNotes for basic information on all the novels, poems, speeches, etc., I should have read in the past eighteen months but didn't.

But for the most part, I'm not.  I can't.  I'm just too lightheaded and tired.

It's what I get for not turning off the bedside light until 4:00 AM.  Especially after a week or two when I pretty consistently turned in by 11:30 at the latest.  So I couldn't sleep past 9:00 this morning, even if I wanted to.

Five hours.  Not at heck of a lot of sleep before a big hairy test, especially one where I'll have to write a sudden-death essay on some work of literature that I've likely never seen before and know nothing about.

I'm not sleepy.  Just dizzy and quilt-stuffing-headed.  I've eaten a protein-rich breakfast in the past hour, so I doubt it's hunger.  Insufficient sleep, it has to be.

I could have gotten to bed earlier.  I finished the curriculum material and all its quizzes around 10:30 last night.  But I figured I'd better go ahead and take one of the practice tests.  125 questions; they give you three hours to complete it.  Goody for me, I did it in less than an hour and got 90% of them right.  No, actually, nothing to brag about, considering I took the same test several months ago and most of the questions were absurdly easy.  (I doubt the real exam will be the same.)  Turning in at midnight wouldn't've served me too poorly, but no.  I simply had to search online to find out about some of the questions I missed.  And commence my quick-and-dirty knowledge fill-up, starting with the reading list dramatic works I've never read. 

Great.  That took me till a little after 2:00.  I fed the dog, took him out to do his business, shut everything off and went upstairs, took a bath, and got into my nightclothes.  And then I started thinking about a couple of things I still wasn't sure about.  Like, how do you recognize an unreliable narrator?  And what's the difference between irony and paradox?

Back downstairs, restart the laptop, read up on these matters till nearly 4:00.  Learned some interesting things.  Great food for thought.  But this morning, as has been said so cogently in another context, "Teechur, my brayne iz full!"

So instead of cramming, I'm indulging in a nice whinge.  Instead of reviewing my notes (Oh, gosh, what are all the different organizational modes for expository writing?), I'm writing in my blog.  I'm not to the happy point where I can say I don't care if I pass or not.  I just don't have the time or brainpower this morning to deal with anything more.

Yeah, there's a chance I may pass the multiple choice if I read the questions carefully and keep my response to what they actually say and not what I hurriedly perceive them to. And make sure to question my own assumptions about things.

The essay?  Passing that will depend greatly on what the gobbet is (hee-hee, Brit-speak).  And if it strikes any sparks.  Maybe, if I can get my old BSing motor revved up . . . . If the online literary criticism I've been reading is any guide, all I have to do is say the work refers to the inherent corruption of capitalism and the futility of the American Dream, and I'm home free.

Cotton-batting-stuffed head and all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wrestling for a Fall(acy)

Presently, I'm struggling to distinguish the various kinds of logical fallacies.  More specifically, I need to determine the proper definition of the anecdotal fallacy. 

This arises out of last night's practice quiz question treating of Socrates' Apology.  It's the place where he's maintaining that in condemning him to death, the assembly really isn't doing him any harm, since death is either a dreamless sleep, or else a chance to meet and converse with the good and the great from the past.  To buttress his assertion that sleep without dreams is a good and pleasant thing, he appeals to common experience.  He asserts that everyone, from kings to slaves, including "you," the citizens sitting in judgement over him, knows by experience that this is true.  Can't exactly recall how the question was phrased, but I chose the answer saying that he is appealing to empirical (or experiential) evidence which could perhaps be confirmed by formal study.  (Or disproven, which is the nature of experiment).  The official answer was that Socrates was appealing to anecdotal evidence, and his argument was therefore faulty.

Huh?  I thought anecdotes were specific, descriptive, individual, and (usually) unconfirmed incidences of an event or condition.  As in, "This certain thing happened to me; it must be true for everybody."  If I appeal to the experience of the mass of humanity, and that in an experiential way, how is that "anecdotal"?

I've looked up the definition of the anecdotal fallacy online, and every place I've looked seems to agree that it does imply something specific.  Here's a good definition from The Fallacy Files:  "The Anecdotal Fallacy occurs when a recent memory, an unusual event, or a striking anecdote leads one to overestimate the probability of events of that type occurring―especially if one has access to better evidence of the frequency of such events."  This was not what Socrates was doing, so I still aver that the practice quiz maker erred.   

That said, I probably was wrong, too.  Upon closer thought I'd suggest that Socrates was making a bandwagon appeal.  As in, "Everybody thinks this is true, so it really must be! (And maybe there's something wrong with you if you don't!)"  The proposition that "everybody" thinks a dreamless sleep is best is not in the same empirical category as the assertion, say, that people feel better after a good meal.

Another thought, on process.  On these practice tests, I'm frequently experiencing brain-paralysis when they ask a question like, "What logical fallacy is the writer guilty of in this excerpt?" or "What organizational method is the writer using?"  Then follow the names of four examples of the relevant category and I'm left babbling, "Oh gosh, oh gosh, I can't think, I can't remember, I'll just have to guess!!!!"

But I know these categories!  I can recognize when people are using them!  How much better for me to ignore the nouns for the nonce and focus instead on the verbs!  To look at the actual text and ask, "How is the author arguing badly or deceptively?  Oh, yes, look, he's inserted a distractor to get us off the main issue!  The red herring fallacy, hooray!"

(And in that case (grumble, grumble), "red herring" had jolly well better be one of the multiple choice options.)

Thinking Out Loud

Some thoughts while I'm studying for the English Language Arts portion of my teacher certification exam on Saturday:

First, I need to clarify some concepts, and blogging might be a good way to do it.

Second, I'm worried, because in addition to things I actually don't know in the material, I've come across some really screaming errors, including outright, verifiable errors of fact or premise* as well as contradictions to what the lessons had presented before.  Then (more germane to this essay) there are what I would strongly argue to be errors in interpretation.  The unknown curriculum author will draw a conclusion, or a review question will be posed, and the "correct" answer drives me to say-- no, often to scream-- "That's not what it's saying at all!!  Are you out of your mind!?"  So what am I supposed to do on the test?  Shall I, all sheeplike, reflect the misinterpretations presented in the practice material?  Or shall I answer as I truly think best, trusting that it's better to be hung for a wolf as for a sheep, and the makers of the real exam aren't the same folks who came up with the practice material anyway?

But, I reflect, maybe some of the disagreement is arising because I don't yet understand the principles that underlie some of these questions or their answers.  I'm willing to admit that might be the case.  So, rather than taking notes in my illegible handwriting and being unable to locate the right spot afterwards, I thought I'd do my musing here.  That way I can get my thought processes clear in my own mind, and know where to find my "notes" hereafter.
*One of the first I tripped over was on a review question dealing with Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."  It asked why he used negatives in a certain place-- e.g., "It is no security . . . this is no evidence . . . that the next step will not be into another world."  All four of the multiple choice options were weak, but I picked the one that said something like, "He wants his audience to be afraid."  But nooooo!  The favored answer was that he did it to make people pay closer attention, the answer explanation being that Rev. Edwards used deliberately convoluted language to force "the reader" to "go back" to untangle his line of thought!  Hellsbells, you idiot, this is a sermon we're dealing with.  It was preached!!!  Many times!!!  Orally!  No preacher wants his hearers to get all involved in what he just said such that they don't catch what he's saying now!  Obviously, the quiz maker hasn't the least clue about it.  The correct answer should have been that Edwards, by asserting the negative, is implicitly bringing up the correlative erroneous affirmative, which he wishes to undermine and destroy.  He did it, I do it, all good preachers do it.  You have to disabuse folks of their erroneous assumptions!   Break down those strongholds and bring in the truth instead!
Thank you.  Let us pray.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ich Haue Ywimpen

I've called the testing agency just now and postponed my English Language Arts exam a full twenty-four hours, to Saturday instead of Friday afternoon.  If there'd been a slot available next week, I would have taken that instead.

Studying for the ELA is not going quickly.  I'm working on it, but I keep getting off on interesting tangents.  Like looking up and comparing different critical takes on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsy and digging into the intertwinings of The Great Vowel Shift.

I need to keep moving and at least do a run or two through the basic ABCTE online material.  Several weeks ago I took and passed one of the practice tests, but I daren't trust to my English language background knowledge and brazen BS to get me through the real thing.  But another day's worth of study may make it possible.

Of course, the change will play merry hell with my sermon writing for Sunday morning.  I'm sure I won't get home till 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening at the earliest.  And I'm pretty certain I've never preached on the Matthew pericope I'm committed to this Lord's Day.  So no pulling anything out of the drawer and touching it up.  And given the distance to the church and the time of their service, I have to leave the house at 8:15 AM at the latest.  So no staying up till two or three o'clock working on it.

Which means I have to keep my sermon really, really simple, right?

And that I"d need to stop blogging and get back to studying, right away.  Right.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ai Haz uh Confused

I passed my PTK multiple choice portion today.  Nowhere near acing it, but good enough, considering how much I (didn't) study.  Now I'm beginning the four to six week wait for the score on my memo/essay.

I probably did myself no good this evening haunting the ABCTE Writing Component forum, because everything I read there confuses and discourages me dreadfully.  So many people there, who like me have been writing, supposedly effectively, most of their lives, lamenting about flunking the essay over and over.  So many writing professionals, who somehow fell short of the mysterious, esoteric standard that divides a pass from a fail.

So what hope do I have?  And if I fail (maybe because I didn't spend enough time proofreading), could my fault be a paranoid fixation on content?

Content.  The one point that none of the rubrics and none of the forum comments seem to address.

Content.  An essay or memo can't be written without it.  But as embryo teachers, we PTK examinees are really winging it on theory when it comes to actual classroom practice.  A typical prompt for this exam asks the candidate to write a memo suggesting a solution to some hypothetical school problem (I can't say more than that-- confidentiality issues).  Well, suppose my grammar, spelling, vocabulary, etc., are all fine, but my ideas are way out in left field?  What if I'm in error about a matter of fact?  And what if I in my inexperience omit some "obvious" supporting detail?

I suppose I'm worried about this because I was taking pains to avoid it.  And therefore ran out of time on my final proofread.   I felt compelled to cover the subject realistically and thoroughly, and at the end I thought of a detail of this sort and went back to insert it, totally convinced the graders would think I was an inadequate fool if I left it out.  But maybe I'm wrong.  I wonder what those who pass the essay would say about this.  Can you write piffle with good mechanics and still sail through?

Something else.  The experienced souls on the forums keep saying one should avoid being "eloquent" in one's PTK essay.  Why is that a bad word, anyway? It means fluent and persuasive! What's the difference between the dreaded "eloquence" and having a strong, diverse, communicative vocabulary, as called for by the rubric?

I read on the forum that to pass, one should write like a fifth grader.  I'm sorry, but I've substitute-taught fifth graders, and I doubt the scorers want us to write as incoherently and clumsily as that.  Frankly, I can't write like that.  Maybe the advice should be, "Write as if your correspondent were a fifth grader."  Fine.  But what principal (a typical addressee) would put up with being talked down to in that fashion?  And how does fifth-graderism result in writing that is "fully develop[ed, with] elaborate[d] ideas," where "[t]he writer . . .  uses great variety and complexity in sentence structure"?  The very rubric seems to militate against anything so simplistic.

Or is the rubric so much piffle and they really score these essays by using them as targets at the corner pub darts tournament?

I hope that in a few weeks I'll be embarrassed because I've passed and find out I've been ranting for nothing.  But given what I read on the forums, I doubt it.  I doubt it very much indeed.

Sink or Swim

In approximately a half hour I'm getting in my car and driving nearly 25 miles to a testing center, where I will take the Professional Teaching Knowledge examination for the ABCTE English Language Arts teaching certificate.

I signed up for this online program a year and a half ago, in late January of 2010.  I've already been granted one six-month extension, which ends July 31st.  If I do not take both my exams before the end of this month, I forfeit my tuition.  If I do take them, and fail, I can apply for another six months for a retake.

So I'm venturing my PTK today, ready or not.

So why am I not ready?  Several reasons, some more reasonable than others.  In the first place, the ABCTE website is not the clearest to navigate and it wasn't easy to find out where the material even was to be found.  In the second place, I was diagnosed with possible ovarian cancer the month after I signed up.  Going through surgery and chemo isn't conducive to study and retention.  In the third place, I can be a terrible grasshopper.  Sing and hop from task to task and do what seems most attractive and best at the time, oh, yeah, and never mind delving into hard and esoteric new subjects.

And my biggest reason of all for putting off really, really studying until the past three or four weeks?

I've been a substitute teacher for the past two years.  And as much as I love and enjoy the kids (even the mischievous, difficult ones), as much as I enjoy sharing and enciting knowledge, understanding (and all the rest of the Bloom's Taxonomy levels of learning), I hate, hate, hate educational politics.  I hate the prospect of having to join a union that does not reflect my political views.  I hate the squabbles that go on in the media and sometimes literally on state capital grounds over the perceptions of teachers and their rights.  And most of all, I hate the squirmy, slimy, cuttle-fish-ink-squirting politics that goes on in individual schools, where policies both official and unspoken make it difficult to maintain good discipline, let alone to guide the students to high levels of understanding.

But I paid the money.  It's a big chunk of change and I mustn't waste it.  And like it or not, becoming a public school teacher may be my only hope at this stage of my life of getting a steady job and getting my debts paids off.

So I'm going.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Gifts of God Alone Remain

I say it to my shame:  I still have no medical insurance. Thus I had to reapply recently for financial assistance from the hospital system that did my cancer surgery and chemotherapy.  Today I received a letter from their financial assistance department.  The second paragraph read:

This letter is to inform you that your recent request for financial assistance has been approved for a 100% discount.  This approval applies to your accounts with outstanding balances before 06/02/2011.  The total amount adjusted is $x,xxx.xx.  Please note that this financial assistance approval applies to all N--- Hospitals, N--- Cancer Centers, and/or N--- Physician Services for services which qualify under our policy guidelines.

I read this and I was deeply humbled.  I nearly cried.  100% of my outstanding balances forgiven?  Oh, what a difference that will make, especially with the school year ending and my teaching income coming to an end for three months or more!  It was almost too good to be believed.

Well, maybe it was too good to be believed.  I know good and well my total outstanding balance is more than the amount given.  I went upstairs to my computer and checked for sure.  Yep.  The amount I'm still making payments on is actually 40% higher than the amount given.  Oh.

The last character I want to emulate is the welfare queen who thinks she's entitled to other people's money.  So if there was some reason why "100% of the outstanding balances before 06/02/2011" doesn't mean "100% of the outstanding balances before 06/02/2011," I wanted to know how that would affect any payments I still needed to make.

So I called the "any questions" number.  I was transferred to a nameless someone in the Financial Assistance Department and asked my question, reading out the relevant paragraph in the letter.

At first she said the letter had given only a partial amount "because the rest of it hasn't been billed yet."  But I told her out that pretty much all my outstanding balance is from the surgeries and hospitalizations I'd had in March and April of 2010 (my chemo, barring last week's followup, is paid up and current), so it certainly has all been billed.  She insisted, however, that my balances on "those two accounts" is 0.  Funny, I have three accounts with balances yet to pay  . . .

Nevertheless, I said how grateful I was, considering my circumstances, and what should I do with the statements I've already received for payments on account to be made in June?  I wasn't about to be presumptuous and say, "Oh, good, I guess that means I don't have to make any more payments, right?"  There was still that discrepancy between my figures and theirs.

It was about now that she said, "I need to check something."  I visualized her digging around in some pile of papers, but of course it wouldn't be that, it'd be on her computer.  She gets back to me and says, "I think there's been some confusion.  You already had a 80% discount on the bills you incurred last year.  We can't give you any more discount on that.  This $x,xxx.xx applies only to services since January of 2011."

Oh.  But wait a minute, ma'am.  I've had nowhere near $x,xxx.xx of services since the beginning of the year, and most of that is already paid for.   (Not to mention that my previous 80% discount had extended to mid-March).  But she went on about the forgiveness applying solely to my "Physician Services" bill, including, she said, to an amount "in May" that could only be my last week's post-chemo check up.  That's what was being taken care of.  Yes, nice, but that's not Physician Services, that's Oncology-Hematology.  She wouldn't or couldn't clarify, so I, taking to heart the maxim about not checking the gift horse's mouth, didn't press the matter.  True, I felt rather as if I'd been promised a fine Morgan plow horse and ended up instead with a miniature Shetland pony.  But it's not like I had earned either, right?

So, as I summed up to her, I'll go ahead and pay the statements I have in hand as arranged, and wait for the July bills to see if or where any adjustments have been made.  It really was too good to be true, so it's not like I'm suffering from any big letdown . . . though I have to wonder what the point of the letter was . . . it really looks like I'm in exactly the same situation I was in before . . . and what's going to happen with my future chemo followup bills, which will certainly be incurred after last Thursday?

Guess I'll have to wait and see in the weeks to come.  What's apparent now is what I implied in the title to this post-- Gifts given by man fade, wear out, are consumed, or even are taken away.  Only the eternal gifts of God in Jesus Christ remain.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Living in the Past

Is there as such thing as a chrononaut, and if there is, can such a person get the bends?

The past few weeks, I've been living and breathing genealogy, and it's hard coming up for air.

I've done more or less with it off and on in the past.  But given that most of my research perforce had to be over the Internet, it seemed I had hit brick walls on pretty much all my lines.  More would have to wait until I had the money to travel to some archival library or at least could afford to subscribe to

Then this past February, I started watching this season's run of Who Do You Think You Are?  And I thought to myself, Well, maybe there's something new on the Internet that was posted since I looked last.

There was.  On the site, there was a report on the burial site of my three-times great grandfather.  And one for his wife, my ggggrandma, whose name I hadn't known before.  And a list of some of their children.  It overlapped the family's enumeration on the 1850 census, which I'd accessed via microfiche and printed out on a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2005, so I knew it was the right guy.  I e-mailed the man who'd posted the Find a Grave memorial to tell him about the missing older brothers and sisters (including my 2x great grandpa).  He immediately replied back, and joy, joy, he turned out to be a fourth cousin, he supplied me with further info about our mutual forebears going back to colonial days (including our family's reputed relationship to Daniel Boone-- it's true, he'd be first cousin to both of us, several times removed), sent me a facsimile copy of an important document or two, and generally broke the logjam for that branch of the family at least.

I'd been messing around with since 2009 when my niece Micki* started entering the family info onto it, and after I talked with cousin George*, I logged back on and filled in the members he'd supplied me with.

Only trouble is, since I'd last looked at it, my tree had been overrun by unknown putative distant cousins (or whatever) who've added to my tree without my permission, merging theirs with it so it had tons of duplicates, sticking in folks with only initials for first names, and most annoying of all, modifying the profiles of close deceased family members that only my mom and my siblings have any direct relationship to.  Carp.  I'd thought it was bad enough when my niece put women in under their latest married instead of their maiden names.  The state of my tree was scary, and without getting "permission" from a lot of unknowns, there was little or nothing I could do about it.

Worse, I read online that is infamous for violations of privacy, that their goal is to make one worldwide family tree, and who cares if it's accurate or not.  Me, I don't care about everyone in the world.  The family tree I'm interested is mine.

So I blew the money for the Legacy software, the Deluxe paid version, because it has what's supposed to be a handy way to enter sources.  I've already had one extensive Family Tree Maker tree go into the cyber bit bucket thanks (no thanks) to faulty backup software and to my reluctance to post it online with no sources attached.

In time, my new genealogy software arrived.  But it wasn't the most user-friendly program I've come across, so I let it, and my family research, alone for a month or two.

But then, towards the end of April, I got a positively juicy idea.  Now that I've got more information, wouldn't my mother like an updated version of her chart for Mother's Day?  Oh yes, oh yes.  I figured out how to use Legacy 7.5, I got out my paper files, and off I went.

And off I've gone, and gone, and gone.  For all of a sudden, a lot of the brick walls are tumbling down.  Where it came to one particular line on my mother's mother's side, I hit the, um, mother lode.  Pay dirt.  Grandparent after grandparent after grandparent, good, credible, documented progenitors, going back literally to the Dark Ages.  So of course, since I've got the information, I have to add it in.

There's a line in Shakespeare's Macbeth that goes, "What! will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?"  And that's how it feels, only in this case it isn't a family line into the future, it's the one into the past.  Thanks to this one ancestress sometime in the 1500s, I find I'm directly descended from most of the Irish, Scottish, Pictish, Welsh, and even a couple of the Saxon kings who stomped around waging war and exercising their petty tribal authority the length and breadth of Great Britain after the Romans pulled out.  I'm not descended from Macbeth himself, thank goodness, but apparently Duncan, the king he killed (in battle, not in his bed, it turns out) is some sort of multiply-great uncle . . .

What I think about all that, with theological reflections, needs to go in another post.  The point is that I've somehow grown obsessive about this.  Addicted, more like it.  Here it is, what? four weeks after Mother's Day, and I feel I can't send the chart to my mom until it's finished.  I stay up all hours working on this, I'm neglecting my house renovations and my English teacher certification studies, I dream at night of filling in the blanks on the Legacy family pages, and fathers of mothers and mothers of fathers call to me, saying, "Add me in!  I'm here, add me in, too!".  It's actually a relief when I settle that some ancestor reputed to be descended from British nobility really is not (Matthew Howard, I'm talking about you), because British nobility and gentry were so damned conscientious about documenting their pedigrees, and if I really am related, I have to put them in.  That's how enslaved to this process I've become.

And oh, the mess it makes when they start marrying their cousins, especially cousins once and twice removed!  Even today's advanced charting software can cope with that only by duplicating the trees.  As it is, my mom's chart is almost four feet high-- goodbye to the idea of printing it out at home and taping it all together.  But how can I leave all that out?  I mean, won't she get a kick out of knowing that she's the 49th-great granddaughter of Old King Cole?

I've gone back in time, I'm scarcely living in the present at all, and don't be surprised if you hear I've painted my body blue.
All this said, see this post here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Irony Rich

About an hour ago, my telephone rang.  By the caller ID, I knew it was the board secretary from the school I sub at the most.  And I let it ring three, four, five times, before I put out my hand to pick it up and answer it.  And when I did, I saw that my hand was shaking.

I do not want to substitute teach at that school.  Sometimes, I wonder if I want to substitute or teach anywhere at all.  But let's stick to that school.  It's gotten so there's only four of us who'll come and sub there.  Everyone else has told them not to call any more.  But do we get any respect from the administration?  No.  The principal thinks it's perfectly all right for the board secretary to call us in for one class, then switch us to another.  We're the ones who get yelled at when the regular teachers leave inaccurate or conflicting schedules or lesson plans.  The principal persists in spelling my name wrong on the office assignment board, even though the school secretary has tried to correct her on it.  Their  attempts at discipline are useless.  You can't send a disruptive child out of the class unless she or he is physically violent.  The detentions we give seem to have no effect.  The kids are trained to the utmost pitch to recognize when they're being 'bullied,' but never seem to notice when they're bullying somebody else. 

The kids, especially the younger ones, can be well-meaning and sweet.  They're at a disadvantage, really, when it comes to focussing and working quietly.  The school's a partial open-plan, and even if your class is fairly silent, you still get noise from all sides.  And other teachers' students walking through the back of your classroom, to get to theirs.  Stressful and distracting for everyone involved.  And the stress is mounting up for me.

Between my regular expenses and the credit card bills and the medical copays, I am appallingly broke.  Even if I were to work seven days a week, subbing and front-desking and preaching, I still couldn't cover all my expenses.  But still I felt a wonderful peace this morning when 6:45, 7:00, 7:15 went by with no call to come in and teach, especially from that one school.  Am I lazy-- or do I show signs of truly being sane?

But the irony.  Yes.  That comes with what was told me nearly three years ago by my executive presbyter, when he said my Committee on Ministry unilaterally decided to bar me from looking for a new solo pastorate, because I was "too traumatized" by what went on in my last full time call.  And that they'd be more likely to recommend me for the kind of ministry posts they will allow me if I'd get some secular work, even if it was just clerking in a department store.  Hey! I'd like to say to him now, I'm doing that.  I've been sub teaching for almost two years now, and don't get any help out of you or COM at all.  And now, if my trembling hands are anything to go by, I am traumatized.  So what has been the point of keeping me from fulfilling my call?

But never mind that.  Yeah, I told the board secretary I'd come in tomorrow.  It's not like I can afford not to.  And I have to go in two more times this week as well.  But this can't go on.  I have to think of something else, because it can't go on.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill!"

Haven't fallen off the edge of the world.  But things have changed in my work life, and it's not just that I have less time to blog, but also that I'm feeling less impetus to blog.

I'm getting more substitute teaching engagements since the start of the new year.  That's largely because I've been taken off the naughty list of one school I'd formerly subbed for a great deal.  I was put on their naughty list last October when the principal thought I'd said too much about why the teacher I was subbing for was out having surgery.  (No, dear readers, I didn't sign any HIPAA pledges when I took that job, and the way the other teachers were talking about her op, I didn't think it was a secret).  Principal was sure I'd offended the regular teacher, so I was out until further notice.  Further notice came the day after the January teachers' meeting, when the teacher in question asked why she hadn't seen me around for so long.  She hadn't been offended at all!  So I'm back on that school's list, and they're calling me two, three, four times a week.  That on top of the other schools that call me, too.

Then, three or so weeks ago, my friend Frieda* called and said, "I've just gotten a job working the front desk at Dick & Harry's Tax Service*.  They still need people.  Didn't you work for them before?  You should call and see if you can get on, too."

I did call, I was rehired, and currently I'm working every evening, five weeknights a week.  This week I'm on from 4:00 to 9:00.  Really fun (not) coordinating that with the subbing work, where I often don't get off till 3:30, but we manage.

So "it's work all day for the sugar in your tay," and that's about what my earnings will buy me, the pay in both of these jobs being so low.  But I have to take what I can get.

Today I did not get called in to teach.  I caught up on my sleep, and now I have to a) do housecleaning, to get rid of the sanding dust so I can refinish my stairs, and/or b) do architectural continuing ed (blast! my calendar is backed up with that!), and/or c) do my on-line study for my English teacher's certificate, and/or d) finish what I need to do with my email addresses so I can finish dumping my old DSL Internet provider, now that I've been nearly a month with the local cable people.

And am I excited about doing any of these things?  No.  My mind is obsessed with when payday will be and will it bring me enough to cover my looming bills, and damn! I'm supposed to be so educated but here I am working twelve, thirteen hours a day for peanuts, which probably won't cover my looming bills, and sometimes I just want to cry.

There is light and blessing in all this.  Like the teaching gig I had last Friday where the regular teacher wasn't leaving until lunch time and I had all morning to sit-- yes, get off my feet and sit!-- in the teachers' lounge boning up on advanced Algebra so I wouldn't look like an idiot when it came time that afternoon to teach it.  And the local Red Wing Shoe store a couple weeks ago had some nice, comfortable, lace-up black shoes on sale for $10.00 a pair, and aren't those a godsend, especially in this weather!  And yesterday the student teacher did most of the work, so the fact that I had to report to Dick & Harry's without any dinner didn't make as big a difference in my front desk performance.  Imagine if my full energies had gone to teaching and disciplining and organizing first graders all day!

Well, three hours now till I have to change my clothes and get to the tax office.  God grant I use them wisely.  But you don't blame me, do you, when I come home at 9:30 and just want to watch reruns of I Spy or Magnum, P.I. on

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Words for the Day

Last year about this time, I wrote a blogpost about my Scripture reading regimen. As I noted then, it's not a Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year plan. So any particular pericope can fall on any given day.

Well, this morning's readings were strikingly appropriate for New Year's Day . . . unless you insist that "appropriate" mean "full of cheer."

First there was Psalm 90, the one I call the "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" psalm.  This "Prayer of Moses, the Man of God," speaks eloquently of the passage of time and the transience of this life, compared with the solid eternity of Almighty God:

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.*

Yes, Lord, we do pray for days of gladness in 2011.  And that you will give us work to do and establish it.  But most of all, that you will bring us to see that you are our dwelling place, our satisfaction, and our wisdom.  But do you have to remind us of our weakness and our sin?  You mean we're not capable of doing everything right in this new year, if we try really hard?

Then, today, it was time to begin Ecclesiastes.  Not my favorite book.  And in the first chapter, Solomon says:

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What does man gain from all his labor

at which he toils under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.

What?  Is it indeed inevitable that "auld acquaintance [should] be forgot/ And never brought to mind"?  Is the work of our hands ultimately futile?  Does the inevitable round of the years mean we're wasting our time to try to do anything new, because it's all been done before and it's all equally meaningless in this life under the sun?

But do I have to life my life "under the sun"?  What if I make a concentrated effort to dedicate myself in 2011 to live "under God" instead?  Can I do that?

Maybe Romans 5:12-21 has an answer:

5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yes, truly, death, decay, and futility did enter the world through Adam.  As his descendants we're all locked onto and broken by the wheel of Time.  But Solomon, O king, there is something New under the sun.  And that is the irruption of Jesus Christ the Son of God into this meaningless world.  Jesus has brought grace, brought life, brought righteousness, brought meaning.  The iniquities Moses speaks of in Psalm 90 are forgiven and wiped away in Christ.

O Lord my God, in this year and all years may we reign with you in life through your abundant gift of righteousness and grace, come to us through your Son, Jesus Christ.  In him and to his glory, establish the work of our hands, O God, establish the work of our hands!

*All passages from The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1984