It's August....already?

Lunch at Aragosta, Stonington, ME
So here I am, on August 8, starting to plan for the new semester, which will be my last one as a full-time (well, full-time sort of, part-time/full-time) professor. Retirement, here I come! I met today with Rob Mundy, a professor of English and director of the Writing Enhanced Course program.  So I'm starting to think about syllabi, books, assignments, stuff like that.

I'm guessing that for me, in a way, summer is over. What about you?

Summertime! And the living is easy...

Or is it? Between the news from Istanbul, and the "Brexit" vote, I'm starting to feel like "I'm just visiting this planet." So I changed the title of this blog from the bland, "Connie Knapp's Blog" to "I'm just visiting this planet." Because that's how I feel.

And then there's my own stuff-planning my retirement from 30+ years of college teaching. And there's another place where I have other worldly experiences-college teaching has changed drastically over the last 30 years, but that's another story-visit me at Being An Information Systems Professor for that story.

I do love the summer, and I always have a list of projects miles long. This summer is no different. So, just for fun, here's my list:

  • Finish Sage Lewis's Udemy course on setting up a GoDaddy web site using Wordpress.
  • Finish AndrewWilliams's Udemy course on plain old Wordpress
  • Start Andrew Williams's Udemy course on installing Wordpress locally
  • Finish Seth Godin's freelancer course
  • Learn how to use Scapple, a mind-mapping tool
  • Take down the old arbor, put up the new one
  • Plant a new butterfly bush, hydrangea, and honeysuckle in the garden
Some of those things take a few minutes, some take, well forever!

Just to keep me motivated, here's a picture of the beans growing in our garden-this will remind me why I do like summer!

So, what are your plans for the summer? Not just your vacation plans, but your project plans, garden plans, whatever plans?

School, schedules and the High Holidays

I teach a least one class each day, Monday through Thursday. The calendar this year has been very strange.
First, because Labor Day was so late we started classes on Wednesday, September 2. I can only remember starting classes before Labor Day once before (and I have no memory of what year it was, only that I was still a doctoral student, so we're talking late 90's).
Second, the first Monday was a Labor Day, so Monday classes met on Friday of the first week of school. Since I teach two classes that meet twice a week on Monday and Wednesday, the first week of school I taught Wednesday, Thursday (my regularly scheduled Thursday class) and Friday.
The week of Labor Day I taught on Tuesday (my regularly scheduled Tuesday class), Wednesday and Thursday. Okay, now let's go to the week of September 14, the week after Labor Day.  Monday was Rosh Hashanah and we didn't have classes. So I taught Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday again.  And that brings us to the week that just ended-Wednesday was Yom Kippur. So I taught Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Next week will be my first "normal" week.

And because we spent an awful lot of time in synagogue (Sunday evening for erev Rosh Hashannah services, Monday morning, then this week Tuesday evening for Kol Nidrey and then nearly all day Wednesday (10 AM until 7:30 PM, although I ducked out in the middle of the day to meet the CSA truck and feed the cats) I feel somewhat "jet lagged." I'm not sure what day it is, I'm not sure what time it is, and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be.

Here's one thing I am sure of: This has been one of the most meaningful High Holidays - S'lihot, erev Rosh Hashanah, Rosh Hashanah morning, Kol Nidrey and Yom Kippur. We spent all those hours at Bet Am Shalom Synagogue and I am a better person for it.

I wish everyone a happy fall!

Work and Meaning

Happy Labor Day weekend! We started school last week and that makes this Labor Day very different from other Labor Day weekends. This is "just" another three day weekend.

Or is it? Last week Barry Schwartz wrote a piece in The New York Times, Rethinking Work. In this piece he says, "In the face of longstanding evidence that routinization and an overemphasis on pay lead to worse performance in the workplace, why have we continued to tolerate and even embrace that approach to work?" One might go further and say that not only have we tolerated and embraced that approach to work, but the true horror is that we are now bringing that approach to education.

I am appalled at the lack of "soul" in most workplaces. I am luckier than most, I know, because I have quite a bit of control over my work. I bring my "whole self" to work, and that includes my compassion, caring and "soul." I am also at the end of my career, not the beginning.

I have been listening to Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning.  At the age of 39, in 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz. He spent three years in various camps, ending up at T├╝rkheim, a "rest camp" where he served as a doctor, and from which he was liberated.

I cannot do the book justice in a few sentences but the basic idea is that we all need to make meaning of our lives. Frankl found meaning in his suffering; if the suffering had no meaning it would have broken him. Now, he was a psychiatrist, so perhaps that helped, but in the end, he suffered just the same as everyone there.

The Buddha reminds us that all life is suffering; we grow old, we get sick, we die, we lose those we love. Jesus suffered, for us and for the world. The idea that we make meaning out of our suffering gives me a sense of comfort.

What does this have to do with work? So many of us find work to be a burden, a cause of suffering. Would I work if I "didn't have to?" Yes, I would do something, something to use the gifts that I have been given. I feel sorry for those who, as Schwartz describes them, are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" from their jobs, a category that a recent Gallup poll shows that 90% of workers fall into.

Krista Tippet interviewed Mike Rose at On Being this week-you can find the interview here.  Rose is a research professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. He talked about watching his mother, a waitress for 35 years, at work. He subsequently interviewed her and she talked about how demanding, both physically and intellectually, her work was-scanning the restaurant to see who needs something, checking on orders in the kitchen, prioritizing her work. How many of us would see "only" a waitress? How many of us miss the fact that every job requires us to be present, body and soul?

So enjoy this Labor Day, and may you find meaning in your work.

The Last Days of 2014

How how did this happen?  How could it really be December 29, 2014?  All the things that I was going to do in 2014, and now it's over.

I'm ending it well, though.  Over at A Mindful New Year with Susan Piver and Lodro Rinzler.  I've had some terrific sessions already, and this is only day three of six days.

And I'm ending it quietly-I've caught whatever it is that's going around, so I'm kind of down for the count.  Sleeping, reading and in general taking it easy.  Enjoying homemade turkey soup (best use of the Christmas turkey carcass) and lots of ginger-peppermint tea.

Rowe Center Fall Workshop
I have two wonderful classes to look forward to.  In January I'll be taking a class with the amazing Jane LaFazio - Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style.  I had the great pleasure of taking a weekend workshop with her at the Rowe Center-here's what I was able to draw after only a day of class:

I can't wait to see what I can do after six weeks!

And when Jane says that she can teach anyone to draw, she means it.  She was able to teach me, and until this workshop I would have said that I had absolutely no talent at all.  Now I know that talent is only part of it-I can really learn how to draw.
Bluegrass band, 12/11/14


And the other class is six months of on-line fiddle lessons with Lora of Red Desert Fiddle.  I've already downloaded the first lesson and by George, I'll be great when I finish.  I've got the playing the violin part down, all I need is the fiddlin' part-bowing, improvising, stuff like that.

So those are my plans for 2015.  What are yours?

Midnight Run

So ten of us from the First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown went on the Midnight Run on Friday, September 19th. Three men, three teenage girls, four women. Eight in the the Midnight Run van, two in my little Impreza.  My car had the food, the van had the coffee, clothing, blankets and toiletries. We got into New York City to our first stop around 10 PM and hit our last stop around 1 AM. By then we had distributed around 100 lunch bags of food, 30 toiletry kits and a van full of underwear, socks, jackets, pants, shirts and blankets. My car was nearly empty by the fourth stop; we ran out of toiletries at the third stop.
Back to church to clean out the coffee urn, empty the van of hangers and containers, and get everyone back to their cars.
I got home around 2:30 AM, exhausted and slightly "wired" from the drive and the experience. Truly, there but for the grace of God, my friends...there are many heartbreaking stories on the streets, and we heard some of them last night.
I am truly blessed to be part of a faith community that takes Jesus's words to heart: "Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' " (Matthew 25:44-45).