When you wonder about the value of your work…

Last month, Steve and I visited the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Picture of Andrew Wyeth print
Andrew Wyeth’s: Lobsterman

to see a closely guarded exhibition of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings.

In the museum gallery, as we admired one of Wyeth’s large, detailed paintings, Steve motioned me closer to the painting and, with his index finger, pointed to a wooden table in the picture. He wanted me to notice that the painted wood’s grainy, uneven surface looked so vivid it seemed that if you ran your hand across it, you’d risk a splinter.

As I leaned toward Steve’s finger and the painted tabletop, a talking human head bobbed between our heads, “Don’t get so close to the painting, Sir,” a museum guard quietly commanded. Continue reading “When you wonder about the value of your work…”

How to find a purpose that delights you…

According to a recent Washington Post article, the American workforce faces a crisis of meaning. Millions of people report lack of fulfillment in their chosen jobs. They long for vocations that provide meaning and purpose but don’t know how to find them.

Steve and I don’t need any more stuff, but one recent Saturday, we stopped at a yard sale—just to look. We browsed through displays of other people’s castoffs—vintage purses, antique furniture, kitchen gadgets, books and tools.

Steve browses faster than I do. He got a few displays ahead of me.

After a few minutes, I looked for him and noticed he was doing more than browsing. As I watched, he handed some bills across a table to a vendor. And didn’t get any change. He seemed to be spending more than his fair share of the cash he’d pulled from our joint account on our way to the sale. Continue reading “How to find a purpose that delights you…”

When you feel like you don’t belong…

Dressed to face the cold a few years ago

I was 12-years-old when I first felt a pang of not belonging. I stood on the sidewalk at the corner of Drewry and Valleyview with my back to the wind. My chin dipped deep into a woolen scarf which was tied around my neck. My crossed arms held school books tight against my chest–another layer to keep out the biting cold—and my mittened hands were pressed under my arms in search of warmth.

I waited for the school bus with my friend—for this post, I’ll call her Sally. At the bus stop that morning, I considered Sally my very best friend; even though she was a grade, maybe two, ahead of me in school. We shared seats on the bus. We played marbles in the snow. Every Monday evening, I went to her house to watch “The Partridge Family”.  We spent hours in our fort in the woods paging through a wallpaper sample book discussing which wallpaper pattern we’d like to paste on our fort walls. We both had crushes on the teen idol of the year, Donny Osmond.

That morning on the corner, I chattered away proposing activities to do after school once we finished homework. Maybe we could put on a play and invite neighborhood friends to come watch it.

I was thinking about what the play would be about, who would act in it, and whether we’d serve refreshments when Sally said, “I’m not going to be your friend anymore. You do baby things.”

For a moment, the cold air seemed less gripping than the cold that took hold of my heart. Continue reading “When you feel like you don’t belong…”

Thoughts on changing our university’s culture of excessive drinking…

When we were young teens and my sister broke the family rules, I told her, “If mom and dad ask, I’m not going to lie for you.”

I was a rule-follower and when she broke the rules, I worried.

I wanted her to believe there was a limit to the degree I was willing to compromise my sense of responsibility, but I didn’t want her to get caught and have to face the consequences, so I didn’t tell on her.

And maybe I worried that I’d be in trouble, too. As the older sister, I had been left in charge. She broke the rules on my watch. Continue reading “Thoughts on changing our university’s culture of excessive drinking…”

Teaching…it’s like selling air

Read this if you know a teacher who has earned your gratitude:

“I sell air,” silver dollara man once told me.

Since the time, as an infant, I inhaled to let loose my first wail, I’ve used air. Daily. And never paid a penny. So I was curious as to how he could sell a resource that’s available to everyone for free, and I asked, “Successfully?”

He launched into a detailed account of the process that air is forced through, so it becomes a product that sells for a lucrative amount.

When he began to describe manipulation of the N2s and the O2s and the CO2s , he lost me.

My thoughts strayed to the ways my task, as a teacher, is like his. Continue reading “Teaching…it’s like selling air”

Believe it? Or not?

Last week, the first week of spring semester classes, I faced one of those moments when the class dynamic tenses to shift and the direction of that shift–for better, for worse–is up to me, the instructor. I stand, on the spot, in front of the class, and the students wait to see what I’ll do.

The time to act is immediate. The action that will make way for a positive dynamic is not quite clear. So I crawl behind the podium, wrap myself in a fleece blanket, pull out a steaming cup of coffee and the novel I happen to be half-way through and wait for the students to file out. I stay there, protected, until my friends come invite me to do something fun.

Continue reading “Believe it? Or not?”