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Teaching and Writing During the Pandemic as Compared to Now

I looked back at my notes from the year 2020 at the end of the month of July. What I noted about this period of time is that I had to take extra training to teach online. My old community college, a place that treated me with transparency and respect, issued an online teaching certificate course that I completed before the beginning of school. I also spent hours and hours moving content to an online platform. This meant I made a ton of new files, busied myself by scanning books and worksheets into the learning management system for my students, and saved that material in my MacBook and in the cloud. The reality is that the pandemic made me a better prepared teacher, but I received no support or pay for this extra work.

In my end of the month reflection, I wrote this:

Could we be headed for a civil war? This has been a month for the record books. It started out pretty happy with the Fourth of July celebration and my son going with me to visit our hometown. And then it kind of lurched off into an oddly sinister month with continuous political strife, protests both violent and peaceful, super hot temperatures, and drastically rising Covid cases. I guess I will have to start setting up my classes, and I don't know what to do with them. I am confused about making these modules for the community college. I'm also worried about going back to school. I've been so sick, so many times, and I have no reason to believe that I won't catch Covid just like I catch everything else. This is so scary!

One goal that I had at that time was to create a fluid and integrated presentation that I could modify daily, and I managed to do this by using my iPad as a document camera. Rather than rely on a software program, I decided to create visuals that the students could enjoy and imitate. By doing this, I was able to integrate visual literacy into the remote classroom. All of this sounds so smooth and easy, but I struggled. I spent many hours working on materials. And now I am struggling again. I am struggling because someone decided that their timeline supersedes common sense and human decency.

This July, instead of attending social events and working on my class materials, I am in a crack. I am in this crack for no good reason whatsoever. I have heard numerous excuses, but at the end of the day, none of them add up to professionalism. I am asking that my readers say a little prayer for me. I am also going to once again reiterate the obvious. Teachers do not need hoops to jump around in. Teachers need respect and money. The fact that we are in this shortage crisis is not because teachers are making great salaries and experiencing strong support. This crisis is happening because teachers are tired of chaos. I have seen the lowest performing people receive the highest rewards. I have seen administrators brush off teachers in need of help. I have heard the silliest remarks. Teachers need help, not ridicule. This month I have read communications that suggested that I didn't know the difference between rhetoric and a pet bird. Some of these communications are ridiculous and borderline abusive. I allowed these communications because the writer may not understand the concept of audience; the writer could be overwhelmed or new to the job. You never know what kind of information a person feels compelled to act upon. But this example of this terrible communication style is one of the reasons that the teaching profession is withering on the vine. And of course the fact that facts matter, not silly opinions or gossip.

In the end, I believe the month of July, during the perilous 2020 pandemic year, felt more accomplished and productive. That is sad.


Credit to unknown meme artist 🌹

Where the Picture is Dark

Since I moved, I can't find my rear with both hands. Some of my books are in Oklahoma, and some of them are here, and many of them are digital. Some of my books are at school, and my dog ate the rest. I threw a bunch of stuff away, and I sent the wrong box of clothes north, so now I have nothing warm to wear; except that doesn't really matter because it's going to be in the 90's on Monday.

I never have a moment alone.

I have Vince walking around the apartment like a zombie looking for my secondary writing book; I offered him cash if he unearthed it someplace. We have clothes in the dryer, my sheets haven't been washed in two weeks, my dog needs his hair done, Vince thinks I am the worst parent in the world, and I have a whole new set of worries related to work that I haven't even mentioned yet.

The top of my dresser is stacked with baubles, clothes, cheap jewelry, and hair junk. My closet has one box for shoes, and one box for purses, and I haven't even had time, or the will, to dig to the bottom, or kick the boxes out of the way.

But, I am happy. So now I just have to find that book, get back on the pathway, and iron the 4 foot tall pile of clothes that have been stored on the right side of my dirty bed for two weeks. Then, at last, everything will be as smooth as butter on bread. Maybe then I could go visit a lounge, take Vince to a movie, act like a parent, meditate and pray, or take a nice drive in my cutie car.

I don't have any time.

Whatever happens in the next 24 hours, I know my responsibilities will continuously haunt me. I have the October blues, and there is nothing that can be done for November disillusionment, and the false hopes of post Christmas, the melancholy of January. The piles of paper, the demands of work, and the gains and losses of life are part of me now, like never before. If I lose, then I lose with a crowd.

This afternoon I hit the couch, exhausted, and I started to dream. I could feel the rumble of my truck, and hear my steel belts clacking away on the Lake Pontchartrain Bridge. I was alone again with my thoughts, dreading the scales, the cops, deadlines, and Houston traffic. I could smell the smoke, hear the music, and see the graceful deadly swamp with the mossy trees, and glassy black water completely at peace; but I was alone, and I was lonely, and the picture was dark.

Moving Day...OMGosh!!!

Dear Friends,

Today I have to start moving in earnest. I don't know what to do, and I am completely overwhelmed! If only you could see how much junk I have accumulated in the short 6 years I have been living down here. All of my furniture is BIG. All of my furniture is super HEAVY! I live up, not down, and even though I have been going through drawers and closets throwing stuff out and giving it away, everything is still completely full. Not only that, I have a computer network. At least it looks like a network, tangled wires are everywhere, and once I unplug this mess, what then? 

I am lonely. The Direct television crowd turned my service off a whole day early...I have no background noise. That means I can only get music as long as I leave my computer wired in.

I can't get the keys for my new apartment until tomorrow!

My child is still sleeping in his bed...he is clueless. He has no idea how much work he is in for today!

But we have so much to look forward to. My new place has two balconies, a marble kitchen, and a garden tub. The swimming pool is beautiful, and the fitness center is open 24 hours a day, completely sanitized and clean. Up the road, a fabulous junior high for Vince, a school with awards, a place where all of the drama is between the kids, and not the adults.

In Katy, people are friendly, they mind their own business, and life is too busy for wild speculations and chronic gossip. I will have Target, Starbucks, fabulous restaurants, the YMCA, a skating rink, my son's karate class, and my Jazzercise.

So, I am happy, just overwhelmed :-(

I Dream in Color

Last night I dreamt you came to see me. You brought a few of your employees, and a friendly beautiful blonde woman sat at the table with me; she held up a massive gilded mirror, and in its reflection I could see a pair of lights in the nighttime sky. I knew I was safe; someone from above was watching over my shoulder.

You delegated duties, so effortless. When we were finally alone, you told me, once again, how much you loved me.

Why do you care about me so much, and where have you been? I miss you always; you weigh on my heart.

Dreaming about you has made me tired today, and so sad.

A man just came into my room. I am living in disorder, and I am aghast at the mess around me; how has it come to this?

Please, help me.

Compared to you, he is nothing…so many of them are nothing, a virtual parade of zeroes, one after the other.

The woman in the dream asked me to stand by the road and take the tolls, so I did—for a while.

You came along, and together we took our walk; and you held me close to you because you are my brother, my friend, my love, you know everything.

For you, I abandoned my own to run alongside for a day, for years, and I am still beside you.

Now the woman is having a tantrum; the toll is uncollected.

My dream was in vivid color…I love you.

Suddenly, this morning I realized, you are mine.



The Blab Sisters

She came home with a cold watermelon and sat it down on the back porch, her sisters were home. Being the prettiest of three, but divorced, Babs had quite a bit going for her. That's why when it came time to do something special she would dig down deep into her beaded coin purse to pay for family fun. It didn't make much sense, it was never appreciated, but Babs was a martyr of sorts, a whiner. She smoothed her rumpled, short, brown hair with one hand, and scratched under her arm with the other. The day was hot in Waller, Texas.

Petty theft was a problem with the Smith family. Almost all of them had been caught up in some kind of bookkeeping fraud involving the modification of a financial document. Since the latest mess had been featured in the local rag, Babs was now keeping a pretty low profile even though she wasn't the recently accused. She watched a roach run across the cabinets and thought about the problems she had caused for a neighbor down the street.

For the first time in her life Babs was beginning to regret some of her lies and gossip. Her sister Joe was about to spend some time in jail, and Babs was thinking more and more about karma, God, and the limitations of mundane verbality. She swatted a fly off of her sweaty arm and grabbed a knife from the drawer.

"Come on Joe, come on Carol, let's eat some of this watermelon out there at the table!"

Two very unattractive and not very intelligent women strolled into Babs cheaply furnished kitchen. The moment was sad, and a clock clanged noisily from the living room, while the three middle aged matrons stood apart looking at one another with worn eyes.

"Joe, why did you take the money?"

"I don't know Babs, I just had to have it to give to you. I don't even feel sorry about it, they owed me."

"Nobody owes you nothin' Joe."

The three Blab sisters sat down at the table together with their watermelon and nervously chewed its flesh and spitted seeds onto cheap ceramic plates.

The silence was heavy.

Waiving the Office Holiday Party

This year I believe I will waive the office holiday party joining ranks with the likes of Goldman Sachs. After all, I have made such an indecent amount of money, and my opportunities have been so abundant, it just isn't decent of me to flaunt all of this wealth. For once, I wasn't sold out like the proverbial step child for some petty amount of money, or ridiculous hollow favor. I was held in reserve like the finest of wine, my efforts and complete honesty appreciated by all.

My unwavering patience and fair dealing, was noticed and applauded, as well as my own requests for honesty and respect. I couldn't be luckier; the finest of people have supported my efforts.

I can see one of them now...sitting in his shorts in the middle of the night with his fat arse hanging over the side of a cheap chair playing 'farms on Facebook' like a mindless meth sniffing idiot. Of course, taking this guy's business advice can be compared to eating raw chicken: risky. But if you are in the mood to gamble, then let me suggest you question him closely about the character of your employees. Even if he has never met an individual, or been witness to some incident concerning a person's integrity or technical skill, he is still a completely reliable source of information. He is, in fact, clairvoyant. His whole family has mental telepathy!

As for me, I don't really belong to an office anymore, I am just making this all up, the way people who love to write do. But if I did have a job, and I was invited to the holiday party, I would probably pass anyway. Even though my character playing Facebook games in the middle of the night isn't real, he is a symbol for a larger problem. Hollywood has made films, authors have written award winning books, and art has depicted the agonizing pain and misery caused by controlling adults with this type of personality disorder. They hate women, Jewish people, and anyone else who is not just exactly like them.

Sparsely talented, and financially vulnerable, it's possible the office party would offer me the highest form of entertainment available this dreary holiday season. I should count myself lucky to even get invited. But, no, I will stay home with the dogs and my child, and pray for better prospects next year.

A Little Story about me and the Law

Tonight I want to tell you a little story about my experience in Oklahoma City in the mid 90's. As everyone knows, when I get tired of traveling, I like to do other types of work. The summer of 95 I had the great fortune to get a little part time job in a law office. The duties were easy and fun, and during my off hours I was able to work in my mother's little store. My employer's suite of offices was located on the main floor right on Hudson Street only a couple of blocks from the ill fated Murrah Building. He had several partners, and various hard working associates; I worked in the back as a proofreader and fax machine operator.

I always wanted to create a case file, but everyone said that kind of work had to be done by real paralegals. So I had to sit and watch the busy lawyers take their newly created cases to the nearby Court bumping and skipping on little rolling carts, while I watched the phone and sent the faxes.

I didn't mind at all. My job was the funnest on the corner—I faxed the lawsuits, and then I answered the phones.

We did a few product liability cases that summer, sued a few drunk drivers, and even settled some business disputes via mediation.

But what I liked best was standing over that fax machine and waiting for those calls.

They always had the documents prepared to go late in the afternoon. This meant I started my faxing while everyone was already home, at the nearby cocktail lounge, in with a client, or still over at the Court.

It never took very long…I would run a lawsuit through the fax timed with its filing in Court, and sometimes in concert with a process server. The Defendant would always call me. They would call me just about everything you can imagine too! I had grown men begging and crying over the phone, drunk drivers cussing and swearing, I have heard every single threat known to man, and I was told by my employer to simply say "Thank you for the business."

The most valuable lesson I learned in that long ago law office was that we can make ourselves count…not just our dollars, but also as people.

My advice is to never think you are big for your britches…You might have some flashy red shorts, and a big pickup truck, a cool job, and you might be draining off the bucks in a big way…but you can be had. If you are not humble enough, then you will be.

My fictional hero is taking shape!

She couldn't believe he was gonna stick up for me. He met with her at noon over tacos, tea, and heavy iron lamps; the room was dark and romantic. She took advantage of the opportunity, flipping her hair, lying through her smile, and tarnishing what bit of integrity she had left. He never flinched, he simply said, "I don't believe it, and I don't care."

Not many real men are left, but he's a classic. He really couldn't care less, and the noisy din of gossip and lies fell on the deafest of bored ears; I was overwhelmed with pride, thankful, and in awe. So many times before people were prepared to believe the upmost in trash, they revelled in the smut, and enjoyed the wreckage their words brought into my life.

Now I have won something worth having.

My pen means a lot to me. I was able to tell my story in pages and pages of handwritten anecdotes, and I pushed them into his lap through his open window. "Take this, please, it's my story!" He was angry and tired, put off by my brash behavior, but he flung the huge stack of words into the seat beside him, and he said, "I don't really need this, my mind is made up!"

My lip quivered, my heart broke, I knew I had lost again to that terrible thing that has followed me for a lifetime, to her jealously, her hatred.

I was wrong!

Today I am sitting in my new chair, in my new room, and I am so happy. I think I have my hero!

The Quest for a Hero: Onward Ho!

Imagine a rudderless yacht pitching and yawing into the bleakest, darkest abyss, an empire without its noble champion, the meaningless monarch wandering into the mead hall hours after the Court has already assembled, exiting stage left before all of his other players, flapping his jacket like a goose poised for flight.

In my quest for a hero, I need not look here; yet, you know who you are.

No matter where she lived, her house always smelled like wet plaster. I sat in her overstuffed Lazy Boy recliner trying to appear painfully stupid, while some of the worst advice to ever pass tonsils flowed across the room into my seemingly ignorant ears.

"You should just use some White-Out on that document, photocopy it, and take it right up there to the tax office. No one will know there is a lien holder on that property."

Amused, and somewhat stunned, by the low-life assumption that I would falsify a document of any kind was rather maddening.

"I might think about it," I told her, "But I wouldn't want anyone to imagine I was trying to steal something."

"Well, you aren't really stealing," she replied. "You are simply owed the money, and you will be saving attorney fees."

I remember when my hero first made his presence obvious; she asked me, "Why would anyone of any stature care about you?" Her newer and larger chest heaved in anger, while she glared at my mother screaming, "Well, it's real to her!"

Anyone that purveys bad advice to you is not your friend.

Someone is pretending to lead the people, when instead he is simply enriching himself. However, over on the other side of the spectrum are people who actually sacrifice for their internal beliefs. Looking beyond the obvious and into the theme of the 'goose poised for flight' is an art I have mastered. Should we cook the goose, or let him remain? I believe even the most cowardly bird can be salvaged…..almost. It all really depends on how cheap the bird is, and whether or not he keeps a tawdry Court.

But in the quest for a fictional hero, one must usually 'cook the goose.' And in the case of an anti-hero, we often find our truest subject. As for me, I wouldn't want the purest of heroes, nor do I want Terry Eagleton's painfully honest interpretation of evil to dance across my pages. Or has it already done so?

Her rooms always smelled like wet plaster…hmm?

Midland Texas Tonight: an open and prosperous town!

Lately, I have been a regular visitor to the Midland, Odessa, and San Angelo, Texas, area. Oilfield equipment trucks fill the roadways, people are busy and productive. There is lots of work here, and obvious prosperity. But the best thing about this area is the people. Everyone is friendly, hospitable, and helpful. I have yet to be treated rudely, or with suspicion.

In Midland you don't see any abandoned businesses, or vacant rundown houses. Places are open late, and the American dream is still alive.

It's just too bad that more Texas communities aren't more open and friendly. If you live in a place where ignorance and cronyism reign supreme, then you probably get the point.

 Do you live in a place where nosy women and men stare at you rudely, without shame (I was raised different)? Do you see lots of abandoned property and laid off workers? Are you constantly questioned about your personal life, and do you feel imposed upon?

If this is your life, then you are probably living in a community that strives against growth and prosperity...a place where being born there is more important than the contribution you can make to the community good.

This kind of territorialism is rather ethnocentric, however, it is usually just rooted in simple ignorance and a lack of grace.

Last night I laid over in San Angelo. I was treated with kindness and professionalism by the local people. I used several services in town, and I questioned some of the business owners and employees about their origins. One business owner was a proud atheist. I know a couple of places in Texas where you simply would not admit that fact to anyone. On the wall he had a picture of a gay male couple with a sign underneath that said, "P~~~~ off the world, one person at a time." I found that picture extremely funny since this place is a thriving business with ranchers, truckers, and travelers running through all day long. Only in an educated community could one expect such a level of tolerance and support from the population. I was impressed, because the people around San Angelo obviously know that only with love, and understanding, can a community truly thrive and prosper.

Compare this with suspicion and nosiness found in less educated and informed areas; the quality of life is lower for everyone. Places like that sort of die off...it is sad.

I am not an atheist, nor am I a gay person, but I love people from all walks of life. There is something to be learned, and something to enjoy, in every race, ethnic origin, and religious background. All of us are important; we all count to each other, and to God.


Dog Walking: the route to success?

Tonight I am almost too tired to write. But certain symbols of mundane everyday life keep passing by the eye of my mind. I know until I indulge myself sleep will elude me. So now I must banter on about something as strange as parantheses on a woman's face...one on each side, a perfect closure for a mouth much too wide.

Some say I am too fixated on dog walking. I worry about my own Scottish friend, and the cow dog up the street, a small chihuahua flouncing about the parking lot, and a tiny mixed luxury dog enduring trip after trip to Marek's Vet Clinic, hastily ratcheting up a huge bill for its owner.

I know how angry and confused the dogwalking crowd feels; often I am in that box myself; however, I don't cater to purveyors of child pornography, or old witches intent on the destruction of innocent life.

This week a Court in Houston sentenced some pervert to 200 years for child pornography. His sentence made me smile...I hope our local accused pervert (Stephen Wayne Sudduth) suffers a fate even more harsh. All of this in the shadows of our local school, imbedded in the community, a part of each person walking the dog.

As for me, the people who love me know I am simply "kicking the can." I rarely "walk the dog," unless it is understood I am pulling a load...then, indeed, I am "walking the dog."

Can all of this be the route to success? Can you bypass a college loan, or shun learning a valuable vocation, and simply walk the dog into financial security buffered by taxpayer money? I think it's possible...at least in Sealy.

Good night you fellow can kickers...I love you!