Tag Archives: 2017

When I get tired, depressed, my mind narrows

Dog’s been quiet but now barks at FedEx truck headed to [neighbor’s], so it seems. Sam seems to bark at FedEx and, after most single barks, he looks back toward me as I sit inside here.

I think what happens when I get tired, depressed (as maybe I was during that grumpy post last Sunday), is that my mind narrows. As I get tired and depressed, my mind gets more judgmental, more critical, less accepting, and that that’s why I shouldn’t try to edit when I’m tired. When I’m feeling better, I’m more accepting of many kinds of writing as interesting, and I’m less worried about impressing others.

Ah, ok, moving on. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s a Saturday morning in February. I’ve slept well — longer hours, especially — since last weekend. No Saturday Night Live tonight, so I’ll sleep well tonight, too. And it’s been sunnier this week, so that too helps my mood.

[From journal of Sat., 18 Feb. 2017, Journal 246, pages 243-44]

Covering up clocks and leaving TV and phone alone

M knows me so well. She came in after I had tonight’s burritos eaten. Stuff (fixin’s) still were out but I’d eaten all black beans. M wanted refried anyway. 1st time for that dinner in a few weeks. And M came home and saw both clocks covered by [self-adhesive notepapers] and she guessed I was doing some time experiment.

It’s odd that time passes, seems to pass, quickly when I’m not paying attention to it (when I’m in engaged mind) (and the evening routine I had was OK — as a routine, it was familiar, calming, but not all that satisfying). …

When someone (or I) says it’s hard to believe the fall semester’s done already, or “I can’t believe I’m 85 — what happened to the time?” (“Helen Wheels,” at Thanksgiving dinner), that’s only because you’re forgetting every moment. (It seemed a little mean to tell Mich. and Dan at Xmas that I didn’t like Helen, but, well, when old people are assholes, this is why young people stay away.)

Anyway, yes, so, it’s as if there’s this whole world, whole different mindset, different way of thinking of and living in the world, that is so close, so easy to switch to, but I seldom do — I tend to turn the TV on rather than sit in silence, or sit and stitch a book without distraction, paying no (OK, less) attention to clock last night. It’s like I was the dog — just, you know, not comparing now to then (an hour ago, 10 years ago — that, too, is abstract, is an abstraction).

6:40 now. I should go and leave time to drive — no call to cancel school came.

It’s something — being mindful is something I’ve tried doing before. What I did last night felt like a backdoor way to get to the same place (without the formality of mental burden of MEDITATION, that being scary thing (as Jen Kirkman said in her comedy special we watched last weekend)). And I didn’t suspect that it’d be as easy as covering up clocks and leaving TV and phone alone.

And somehow this all connects with my journals as particular, as not-news, but something besides that (not quite sure what), something more timeless possibly? And my journals — even today’s, once it’s written, isn’t all that different — doesn’t look different (except for dates recorded with the words) from journals written years ago!

Time, and temperature, too — knowing the number makes me colder. Prioritize subjective experience over facts/objective!

In mornings, though, before school, I am on the clock.

[From journal of Tues., 10 Jan. 2017, Journal 244, pages 150-3]

The Life of Brian, “Think for yourselves!” “Think for ourselves!” problem

Met Henry dog, Great Dane, up close last night. I felt out-of-scale small. He has short hair like a hound dog, looks like a hound , but two sizes too big. He’s six years old, or six and a half, Mrs. B__ said, and he’s 200 lbs. I thought of Sedaris on Great Danes—”bubbling seepage,” “there are cheeses that last longer.”

Back at noon-something after writing—no, reading—online an New York Times article about some teachers promoting certain educational technology. I’m sure, as article points out, there are ethical problems and questionable pedagogy, etc., but I guess I’d see these teachers as too ambitious for teaching. Teaching’s selfless, but these “teacher influencers” want to go to conferences and get famous and so they work hard, blah, blah.

I don’t care to keep criticizing. It’s—and I thought earlier today about mediation —acting as a go-between—ideas mediate between our minds and the physical world.

I feel I have more to say. Let’s see what comes. Another couple pages of writing before a nap.

I could start a program to educate people that they didn’t need to be educated—the Life of Brian, “Think for yourselves!” “Think for ourselves!” problem. Maybe—probably—it’s stupid to think my idea is better than what happens now. I mean, some people seem influenced by flawed societal values (beauty, fame, wealth as goals, etc.). One thing I might oppose would be, say, spending attention on sports. On other hand, sports-watching is something people can do together, and no doubt, togetherness is important, too.

See, so (I hear whirring-pulses of washing machine. I did a load of underwear and work pants last night—shirts and pants now), so, yeah, I come back to this as a reason to publish: I think of those whose published ideas influenced me since my—well, since I started to read, really. Just to name a few: Carse, Kerouac, Thoreau, Annie Dillard, R. Hugo’s essays, Kay Ryan’s poems, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the Bible, Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson, (Simone Weil (that essay I read in college rhet class) and others—my point is that these ideas did shape mine own. So many ideas from these (and informal mentions, too, in news or mag articles, say) influenced me.

That I do have cool ideas—and maybe these are worth sharing—worth simplifying and sharing. I write so much more than anyone needs to read, including myself.

[From journal of Sat., 2 Sept. 2017, Journal 259, page 35-6]

I could draw boundaries around some things

6:54 a.m. So, yes, there were things that happened yesterday, and even by writing, defining, thinking of them as things, as discretely describable entities, I’m pulling them out of context, at least. (I’m reminded of times an adult would tell a story briefly, maybe in one line, as in “that reminds me of the time __X__ (person) did __Y__ (thing)” and I’d want to know more of the context, the set-up.)

Anyway, yeah, so things always happen in a context, a sequence, though sometimes things seem a non sequitur, seem not to follow. Now I’m just overgeneralizing—blah. Blerg. So, I could draw boundaries around some things: walking the dog last night.

Back at 7:45 after adding Elmer’s craft glue to that front reinforcing strip (see pages 2-3) and then I let the book, this book, lie under weight and I annotated pocket pages. And so now I’m back and I have several things to write about. Watching 5 episodes of season one of The Detour last night (on demand)—Jason Jones and Natalie Zea. It’s a pretty funny show.

[From journal of Sun., 29 Jan. 2017, Journal 245, page 164-5]

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage under the street and got up the stairs at about 3:30 at 30 N. Michigan. The Writers’ Museum (nope, no possessive) is at 180 N. Michigan, 2nd floor. We paid $12 each to get in. It was OK. The best parts were the typewriters. M had conversation with a law student over the typewriters while I communed with Kerouac’s scroll: I noticed places where it seemed he adjusted the scroll so it didn’t go off the—so typing didn’t go off the paper. And edges were ragged in spots and there were handwritten corrections and also—

what—I’m not sure I have any deep thing to say. I’m feeling a little tired now as I write. I could go nap. Cat’s on back of dark-blue couch. He was lying on my hi-viz vest (“Ogle County tuxedo”) and I put the blue blanket under him, and he settled in, and later I folded blanket over him, leaving his head and a strip of his back visible.

And the scroll—I guess I don’t have any deep thoughts there. Maybe just that I was seeing the creation of these stories, this story that became mythic. I was seeing the foundational layer between his experiences and published book.

Back with a third round of tea. I’m not quite sure what it means to say a “foundational layer,” except maybe that this was the first putting-down of Kerouac’s thoughts into words.

The old advice about writing—show, don’t tell—but my journaling voice shows by telling—and Kerouac, too—his narration is a big part of the fun, the joy, of On The Road.  I recall now seeing “OTR”—over the road—on trucking mags at Petro and wishing these things were more hip to Kerouac. Of course, what do trade publications care of personal narrative? I’m trying to imagine my mind then—a mind that would want that kind of, of what, society-wide awareness of Kerouac? Or just some cultural writing? I’m not sure—things that get popular tend to get dumbed down. Not all people get them as I do in my way. But now that I’ve been a teacher, I’ve seen how I can’t expect others to be what I want—others have very little interest in doing what I want them to do.

M said she’s proud of me to being open. After Writers Museum (the typewriters and the typed pages hung on wall clips, and a [fill-in-blanks game] computer screen and a Magpo screen), we ate at Noodles & Co. (is name correct?) next door, walked south. We were met by a lot of people crossing Michigan—I thought how rural types need to see this city-humanity richness.

We walked over east but not alla way to lake, over the twisty bridge over Columbus, and back and sat at the Grant Park MusicFest orchestra concert. [end of page 45]

Journal 257, page 46

Journal 257, page 47

[page 46] This page is one article—it (and the earlier one about restaurants) reminds me of how a city has so many cool places—and I underlined pieces here as an erasure-type poem—read just the underlined parts—there’s the poem (quasi-poem, anyway)—

[Underlined phrases conjoined:

Take grown-ups only. Try to cool yourself down.

Nothing says “1950s” like Honor the Midwest.

Keep it Heavy.

Is there such a thing as Joy credit?

Nostalgia makes for a visit. Take your notch, recently opened.

You can also add.

No dairy necessary for a regular, and boy, do they. Trust us on this one. Dabble with pecan. You can keep creative.

If your’e OK sharing your experience with a flood fudge, staple flavors like Raspberry. You haven’t lived.

Did we mention there’s a top?

Nobody puts a corner. This local killer count out Options.

What pairs better with a window: hole-less?]

[Page 45’s text continues onto page 48]

I’m just gonna leave those previous two pages with minimal additions by me, word-wise.

So we left after two songs—a Rimsky-Korsakov [Overture: The Tsar’s Bride] and [another song, unnamed]. Left garage about 7:30 or 7:40. Minimal traffic. Got to Woodman’s at Algonquin at 8:30.

[From journals of Sat., 12 August 2017, Journal 257, page 42-8]

I’ll try using the paper-bag journal next

Maybe I’ll try using the paper-bag journal next, you know? I’ve made a few kraft-paper books before but haven’t used them. I guess I’m afraid it’ll be hard to write. I’ll need thicker markers on the dark paper—though it won’t likely be any coarser than that narrow book of watercolor paper I used last year for journal. And maybe kraft paper is acidic and won’t last more than a few years. Eh, so what? Why not give it a shot?

Just now dog’s outside and in the sun in R___’s yard between our houses, and E__ had his drone flying and kids at B____s’ were out and it’s sunny and nice out, really.

Ok, reading online, Wikipedia—”kraft” means strength. A German process. Lower lignin and less acid (mostly NaOH, sodium sulfide) but there are chems used for anti-tearing properties, possibly including urea formaldehyde and/or melamine formaldehyde. So, shoot, I don’t know if it’s OK to use and keep or not —but probably it’s no big deal.

Just got the sound-ding of an email—from D__! Maybe I’ll wait and read it later, keep it as a treat for later.

[From journal of Sun., 19 Februaree 2017, Journal 246, page 249-50]

Not written for that reason—or for any reason, really

1:32 p.m. Back after a nap and yet more time reading online.

I guess what I needed to say was to finish my point—which I didn’t finish yesterday—about wholeness.

It’s overcast, but last time I was outside a couple hours ago, it was hot and humid. I could use to check my garden for Japanese beetles—a type of scarab beetle, I read at Wikipedia this morning. I’m not sure why I’ve had these writing sessions today and then have been distracted away. Maybe I am done with writing, but let’s see.

(Da__ and new kid are bouncing a ball (softball sized?) at each other while L__ looks on and Du__ totes a blue-and-orange gun toy about half his own height. The C__ car is back and E__’s out in a mint-green dress, with her brunette hair that looks like a chocolate chip in the mint ice cream.)

Wholeness—OK, you know, maybe there’s not a lot to add about wholeness.

It’s a still day. I could go outside and glue (a gopher—a rodent, probably a gopher—scampered west past the deck doors just now) my “Damn We’re Good” t-shirt to cardboard. I could stiffen the corrugated cardboard with chip/press/cardboard, but nah, do it for cheap—recycled materials, you know?

I thought this morning that I should add wholeness to my Book 2017 intro—and my intro, of course, would be an example of a text written to convey a message to an audience, while the rest of that book (made of journals) would not have been written for that reason—or for any reason, really.

[From journal of Weds., 19 July 2017, Journal 256, page 65-6]

Oh, I wrote “paper” on my arm

Oh, I wrote “paper” on my arm—I think that was about how really all I was getting from the Recorder’s office (and from every other source) was that it’s really not the paper I need but the info from it (which info can be digitized, of course). The old documents—some of the thick papers (the linen finish of the 1872 map—and why so many blank pages?) are neat, but I don’t know.  Maybe there was a better point last night when I write “paper” on my arm—or maybe it was half-baked even then.

Ah, well. So, it’s Thanksgiving. I’m alive. M’s door-opening sound I just heard, then floor creaks, then carpet-scuffles, then M’s sigh. I’ve been writing her sounds, and not looking at her but peripherally—she came and kissed my neck.

[From journal of Thurs., 23 Nov. 2017, Journal 263, page 105-6]

This weekend I followed my feelings

This weekend I followed my feelings, which said, “no, I don’t want to do anything more.” I didn’t stitch that third block of grocery-bag signatures, I didn’t glue that Xmas ad-flyer onto the second stitched-but-uncovered set of signatures, and I didn’t photograph filled journals, though I considered doing that, too.

So, yeah—it’s a quiet weekend. And that’s OK. At least I got a little more sleep than usual. Here’s hoping we don’t have to drive into city for Thanksgiving on Thursday—though I remember Aunt D__’s voice from recent years telling me to drive in (her point being that M lives here with me alla time—we can do her family thing on holidays).

So, yeah—6:32 [a.m.]– I gotta go poop the dog and shower. Skip the shave. Get to school on time for faculty meeting.

There were blue outside lights at A___’s this morning—in support of that Rockford cop killed a couple weeks ago. But damn, they don’t give off much light. But as Rockford firesfighter, he [A__] wanted to show his support for police. I haven’t seen blue lights at the L__ house, where Rockford cop lives, in our ‘hood.

And so, here I am, a little tired but ready to face my day. Today won’t be too tough, I don’t think. I can type up notes 1st hour so kids can use these. I feel OK. I’m ready to go work. I’m not dreading it or anything.

I wasn’t entirely unproductive. I did three loads laundry. I cut an onion for M as she made chili in p.m. I ate leftover pizza for late lunch and Reese’s Chips Ahoy in p.m. No chili for me.

[From journal of Mon., 20 Nov. 2017, Journal 263, page 69-71]

And I all day felt like I had something else to say

And I all day felt like I had something else to say about the meeting—I did have one idea soon after (I couldn’t write—I’ve been told not to write during meetings, indirectly by __, more directly by __) that I can’t defend the undefined in words and arguments—since arguments depend on definitions, trying to mount a defense of my classes by saying what’s defined (in curriculum and rubrics) can never matter all that much—I didn’t do that yesterday.

( __ doesn’t seem to like standards-based grading. … But even he probably wouldn’t defend my idea that my sensibility, my mind, my interactions with students matter more than any curriculum plans.)

So, yeah, I felt I had nothing all that useful to add. S.B.G. doesn’t seem all that great—it doesn’t seem worth all the effort. I see __’s point that having specific standards gives a teacher specific things to tell kids to work on—a narrower diagnosis. He even said … that his model is a coaching model. But we coach kids (others) to improve at specific skills, skills that are pre-defined, like shooting a basket, whereas in my open-definition class, kids could do better work than I could imagine—or at least my assignments wouldn’t be too narrow. See, and even as I write that, I’m thinking of kids who did half-assed jobs on their assignments—that’s not admirable.

But as M expressed within recent months—if a lit class is gonna be about anything, it should be ideas, not skills. As I let the dog in a few mins ago, I thought how the Odyssey isn’t really all that psychologically complex—my sophs can mostly get it, understand Ody’s motives. I read something recently, a brief interview with Alain de Botton (I think), where he said a big problem now is that people think what’s popular is not related to what’s true. Alain said we ought to be able to use popular modes to teach/lead others to truth. I’m not sure I agree with that, for several reasons (I’m not sure there is truth, for one—though of course that isn’t to justify Trump telling lies).

Anyway, I still haven’t said much about the meeting. I will say that it felt odd, a little odd, to sit there and not say anything. … But save your comments—when you used to make those comments, you were probably leading the group off track. You weren’t being helpful.

[From journal of Tues., 2 May 2017, Journal 250, page 110-11]