Teach……and…….Light

Teach and Light. I’m choosing to write about both of these Discover Prompts together because in the mind of this college professor, the two are inextricably linked. Since I’m an introvert, I didn’t really choose teaching as a career. It chose me. I ended up, almost by accident, in a PhD program after completing my Masters degree in Business Administration. I intended to go into industry to use my MBA. Friends of mine were pursuing their PhD’s and….shall we say….they talked me into it. I thought I would use it to do research, perhaps for the government or a private think tank. This is the beginning of the story.

When entering the doctoral program, there were teaching and research assistantships available to my class of students. I applied for both, but there weren’t many research assistantships available. I was awarded a teaching assistantship. I had never wanted to teach! Since I was at a major university, I was being thrown into the deep end.

School started that fall. The coursework for a PhD student was very challenging. On top of that, I was assigned two undergraduate finance classes to teach. 60 students in each. I don’t remember ever being so nervous. I got through those first weeks of classes. Gradually, I began to enjoy it. My doctoral coursework consumed me at the same time. I loved what I was doing. Teaching, learning, making the best friends of my life. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, yet my life had never before, and has never since, been so rewarding.

As I relaxed in front of the classroom and started really focusing on my students, something occurred to me. When I would do a good job explaining a concept to them, I would see their eyes light up as they “got it.” That became my goal as a professor. To get my student’s eyes to light up.

As I moved through a 27-year university teaching career, some days were good and some bad. But even on the worst day, what keep me going was that light in my students’ eyes. Now retired from teaching, that’s what I miss. I believe that light is what new teachers and professors should strive for.

Day 7 – Below

I don’t really want to talk about “going below.” Allow me to tell you why. At this point in my life and in the history of the United States of America, when I think about “going below,” I think about the current U.S. government. Currently, on April 8, 2020, the citizens of the U.S. are virtual prisoners in their homes. Yes, I know that the COVID19 virus has done the same thing to most other countries of the world as well. Allow me to explain.

We have an incompetent idiot as the President of the United States. I can say that because we also have a Constitution with a First Amendment that guarantees us freedom of speech. At least, last time I looked, we still had a constitution. If Donald Trump had his way, we would not.

When this man was narrowly elected three and one-half years ago, I said then that he would destroy us and he almost has. He has shamed the Office of President over and over again. He has sucked up to the dictators of the world and shunned our allies. He has destroyed the environmental protections that have been so important in the U.S. because his predecessor put them into place and he is trying to undo everything President Obama did. He has done so much more that is beyond the scope of this post. He must be defeated in November 2020.

For the purposes of this post, he has massively mishandled the COVID19 disaster. Did other viruses make prisoners of us in our homes? Ebola? SARS? MERS? I could go on. No, they did not because we had a competent government then. Donald Trump is far more interested in lining his pockets and doing anything it takes to win re-election than doing what is best for the U.S. He ignored COVID19 back in 2019 when it was first discovered. He kept letting possibly infected individuals into the country. He kept right on trying to win the favor of the President of China through negotiating trade deals…..or trying to. China is a communist country and they will never, and I repeat NEVER, have the welfare of the United States in mind. One only has to look at history to know that. If you don’t consider history, you are doomed to repeat it.

We have lost over 10,000 people and will lose many more. We currently lead the world in people carrying this infection. We have to practice “social distancing” in order to protect ourselves and others. China is the country where you have to wear a mask to walk down the street, not the U.S. Or not until now. Now we do. Like Communist China and because of Donald Trump and his incompetence. We have lost one-fourth, at least, of our economy which is sending his into a deep recession and possibly a depression. Trump just keeps spending money inflating a massive deficit. Inflation will come next. Unemployment may reach 32%, unheard of since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

If this man is re-elected, we are doomed. Voting for him would truly be “going below.”

Day 9 – Pairs

For many years, they were friends. In some ways, they seemed an unlikely pair. She was married. He was single. There was nothing romantic about their relationship, although no one ever believed that. They met in graduate school and found friendship through studying together. They stayed together through two degree programs and helped each other every step of the way.

Others viewed their friendship with curiosity. He was abrasive, arrogant, and difficult to be around. She was friendlier with a touch of arrogance. People liked her more than they did him. She had a wide circle of friends and he did not. When she tried to include him in her circle, most of her friends found him difficult and unlikeable. She never understood this because she liked him, understood him. She had the ability to be with normal people despite her intelligence. His intelligence shined and intimidated others.

What she enjoyed most about him was their conversations about every topic under the sun. Long, philosophical conversations. He had strengths in some areas and she in other areas. They complimented each other and learned from each other. He filled an intellectual hole in her life. Somehow, these long conversations never included politics. Not in the early and middle years of their friendship. As she looks back, she wonders how they avoided it. She decides they were too busy learning their respective fields to be concerned with political matters. That was then.

Gradually, their friendship extended beyond the academic and philosophical and they met each other’s families. They helped each other with personal matters. Their entire lives became intertwined. There was still no romantic relationship. Not even when she divorced. They truly just had a good friendship.

By now, 25 or 30 years had passed. They had grown old as good friends, this unlikely pair. The world was changing around them and the U.S. had become politically polarized. Politics began to creep into their conversations. Until now, they’d had only a basic awareness of each other’s political leanings. Just enough to know that they leaned in different directions, but that had never mattered. Until now.

Suddenly, everything in the U.S. was defined by whether it was right or left, red or blue, conservative or liberal. There was no middle ground anymore. Their conversations were increasingly couched in politics. Their political positions couldn’t have been more different. Over the space of several years, she found it difficult to talk to him knowing his political position. It was like he was suddenly from another world. A world she wasn’t familiar with. A world of hatred and exclusion. He found it difficult to talk to her since he did not enjoy knowing anyone who had the political beliefs she had.

Their communication became less often and more tense. One evening, he blasted her with political rhetoric that made her feel like he kept in touch with her out of obligation only. That he didn’t really enjoy it since she believed so differently than he did. She felt like his political leanings were monstrous. She couldn’t hear them anymore.

She didn’t have it in her to be mean to him. Life had become too stressful in the politically charged atmosphere of the U.S. society. She had to get away from his rhetoric.

Through tears, she made a decision. She quit answering the phone. She finally had to save herself.

 

Day 5 – Dish

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I consider myself lucky to have grown up on the fringes on Appalachia. In fact, my mother came from deep in Appalachia and I visited my grandparents often as a child and a teenager there. She cooked the food common to the region with possibly a nod to health along the way. When my dad’s relatives from Michigan came to visit, they loved my mother’s cooking and begged her to fix the dishes she grew up with.

When the Michigan relatives came in the summer time, they would ask, especially, for one dish – fried green tomatoes. It’s not a fancy dish nor is it a difficult dish. Even though I’ve modernized my cooking, I still fix fried green tomatoes in the summer as a special treat for us. Let me share the recipe with you:

Ingredients:

A few green tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, white corn meal, one egg, a pinch of Splenda

Mix up some corn meal with a beaten egg and a pinch of Splenda. Spread a piece of waxed paper on the counter top. Slice up as many green tomatoes as you want to fry into thick slices. Use an iron skillet if you have one. Heat some olive oil in the skillet. Heat it on low-medium as olive oil has a low smoke point.

Carefully roll each slice of tomato in the corn meal mixture and place in the skillet. You will have several batches. Fry each batch separately until the slices of tomato are a light brown. Remove to plates covered in paper towels for drainage.

Voila! You have fried green tomatoes, a favorite dish in the South and Appalachia! Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Day 4 – Street

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I never thought I’d miss the noise. The sounds of the big trucks on the interstate at night. The quieter sounds of the cars navigating around them. Even the traffic on my own street which is very light but even lighter now. Lighter since this plague. The pandemic. The outbreak. Whatever you want to call it, the word sounds ugly.

After all, I came here 22 years ago mainly for the quiet. My mother was dying and wanted to come home. My own life had undergone a huge change and I needed to heal. I built my cabin in the woods for the quiet. To be close to nature. Mine was the only house on a gravel road. Not so anymore. Since the plague it might as well be. No one is out. The only person I see outside my window is the little boy next door riding his pint-sized motorcycle up and down the street. Only occasionally.

It feels like the world has gone back to a simpler time, an earlier time. I’ve always thought that would feel good, but it doesn’t. Maybe because it has happened unnaturally. Because of this plague. Because of a virus that shouldn’t be here.

No wonder the grocery shelves are empty. Everyone thinks it is because people are frightened and hoarding. If you could hear the shattering quietness of the interstate highway, you would know that isn’t the only reason. Our food supply simply isn’t moving. Nothing is moving, but the food supply is especially scary.

Deer are appearing again in my yard. They had almost vanished, but they’re back. We’ve taken over their home and they will naturally return because they hear and feel the stillness. When I first came here, there were so many song birds. Sadly, they won’t be back. We’ve killed them with the pesticide use on the corn they love to eat.

Did this virus really come from a wet market in China? Perhaps the beginnings of it did come from bats. Hasn’t it been an effective tool to make the people of the U.S. totally impotent? A wise young college student commented that the next World War would be fought with something out of a can. Interesting, ah?

Day 1: Joke

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Living in the U.S., I’ve been trying to find some of the positives in this
COVID-19 outbreak. The peak of the outbreak has apparently been reached in China and some of the European countries, but the next three weeks will bring the peak to us in the U.S. This pandemic is a no-joke event. Scary to the point of terrifying. My friends and I have decided that the only way we can emotionally and mentally survive these weeks is to seek out something positive and that hasn’t been easy.

As time has passed, and the last five weeks or so has seemed like an eternity, positives have emerged. They are overwhelmed by the negatives as we see the death toll from this horrible virus hit such heights in New York City and gradually start seeping into our more rural areas. So many people are unemployed. The best guess is that the U.S. unemployment rate is going to hit 32% and help throw us into a deep recession or worse. Perhaps two-thirds of the country is under a “stay-at-home” directive from the Governor’s of our states in order to try to stem the spread of the virus.

Americans are not accustomed to having to stay at home. My friends and I have noticed something positive happening due to this directive. People are rediscovering their passions. Two-career parents are getting to spend time with their children and they are realizing what they are missing. I have a young friend who has a Master’s degree in a literary field, but she has been forced to work outside her field to pay the bills. She has started writing again and has rediscovered her passion for it. She’s thinking of turning her writings into a book. Couples are rediscovering their passion for each other.

Even I have had some much needed down time and it has allowed me to get my creative writing juices flowing again. I have a job writing in my field of finance, but I’m making time for creative writing. I’m working on a personal essay and taking time for my book. I’m starting to put together some ideas for a second, non-fiction book. All of this allows me to think about something other than this terrible pandemic that is ravaging our world.

On this April Fool’s Day, there isn’t much to joke about, is there? I think we, as a world, are together on that.