Monday, February 11, 2013

Three Weeks In

There is so much I want to share and so little time to put my words together here..... in between a variety of reading and writing assignments for college, as well as memorizing spanish words and phrases...... At times I feel like a person who has started a new exercise program......

Only the main muscle I'm using is my brain! Can't say I've had any actual headaches, but there are moments when I feel mentally exhausted, and when that happens, I take a few deep breaths and relax, step away from my desk, and regroup.... or maybe go grab a snack, walk around my neighborhood, or just sit and cuddle with Lily.

But this I know..... I am where I need to be (Temple) and I am loving the challenge..... and in just three weeks I have learned so much!

My classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I only have to make the typically 11/2 hour morning commute two days a week. On Tuesdays I have three classes, my shorter day, with a gap of a couple hours for lunch when I usually do some reading. Thursdays are a bit longer with back to back classes,  including an hour long Spanish lab (Como esta??) as well as an evening class that ends at 8pm. I leave that day at 7am and return at 9:30pm..... and yes, if you watch that show "The Walking Dead" I would fit right in with that cast of zombies by the time I arrive home.

At Temple I meet and hear the stories of lots of new people, occasionally run into my son Josiah, and carry my heavy backpack proudly, scurrying from one building to another in the cold weather. I am the only "mature" (okay, old) student in all of my classes, but feel welcomed and accepted. In two of my classes I am definitely older than my professors too, but that is okay!!! I like to think, or at least believe the saying older but wiser........

So much has touched me deeply since I have been attending Temple these past three weeks. What I'm learning, the stories that intersect with mine, I want to highlight here.

My daughter Amber likes to refer to the way I will be sharing what follows as my "Existential" way of writing. For me, today, it feels like the proper way to express in snapshots what I have been seeing.


Valentine's Day is in February, the middle of winter, the bleakest and perhaps coldest time of the year, and yet there it is, a warm red oasis represented by Cupid and his arrows and we wonder, secretly hope, anticipate what it might feel like if one of those arrows would hit us square in our hearts, to remind us that love.....LOVE...... the real thing, the only thing, really, exists..... for us.

The book is called Unequal Fortunes and it is the first college textbook I purchase at the Temple bookstore. It is small, by college book standards, but it packs a punch, as does the entire class in which our subjects are resegregation, school violence, and dropouts. Leo's story is hard to read because it forces me to see what lies beneath my own prejudices and assumptions, at the same time revealing what I've always known has the power to transform lives, what has transformed mine.... LOVE. Leo's story ends in tragedy, but two of his friends make it to college. Why? Because there were people who believed in them, pushed them, didn't give up on them. LOVE.

A little girl sits in a world of darkness. In her frustration she has tantrums, uses her physical prowess as well as the pity of those closest to her to get her own way, acting like an animal rather than a girl. She doesn't know she even is. But someone willingly attempts to enter her world, a girl who herself has experienced blindness, who understands rage, and as their worlds collide something beautiful begins to emerge for both of them, a friendship to last a lifetime, a relationship which gives voice to two great female minds and writers- Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. LOVE.

When I first began reading Eli Clare's work "Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies" I knew this was a piece of writing I would never forget. Eli is a transgendered female who also happens to have cerebral palsy, an activist, poet, and speaker with an amazing ability to share her story eloquently and boldly through words. She says "For me, this work is about shattering the belief that my body is wrong." And what has brought that shattering? LOVE.

I appreciate the poetic writing style of St. Paul, and all week, in between my assignments, there it was, the reminder, the familiar yet sometimes too easy to ignore yet immensely important verses in 1 Corinthians 13:1......

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

The arrow hits dead center and at first there is pain but love does that, breaks us open, knocks us off our feet, leaves us feeling helpless and scared and yet hungry for more. It burns and consumes and removes and recovers and redeems and awakens and liberates and transforms. 

"LOVE never fails." 

May LOVE find you, right where you are.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Unequal Fortunes: Snapshots from the South Bronx by Arthur Levine and Laura Scheiber
A list of Helen Keller's books:
A link to a free ebook edition of Helen's book, The World I live In.

I especially encourage you to read her chapters titled "The Seeing Hand" and "Before The Soul Dawn"
A link to Eli Clare's " Stolen Bodies Reclaimed Bodies"

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