Luxurious: Being Able to Take Everything for Granted

I’m a firstie on the daily prompts.  I generally have a lot of ideas of things I want to write about.  I take for granted I can get to writing one of these, whenever.  I have a computer and electricity and fingers.  And all that.

Yesterday I was watching a news channel and saw a segment about a ship that does humanitarian medical work all around the world.  They’d stopped in the Congo.  Or is it just Congo.  It’s “Republic of the Congo.”  Hmmm.  I just take it for granted that I can go Googlin’ while the people in Congo wait in line to see a doctor for seven hours.  The report said some of the adults had never seen a doctor.  Ever.  I remember how sick some of them looked.  I think of getting in to see my doctor – often the same day.  I had a heart attack a few years ago.  I got flown on a helicopter to another set of doctors.  I was always grateful.  But I know I took that level of care, for granted.

I recently went to Europe for a couple of weeks.  It was hot.  I remember eating inside a restaurant at night and sweating.  I take air-conditioning inside restaurants for granted.  I remember sweating while I was peeing.  I take air-conditioning inside toilet stalls for granted.  I was riding inside a subway car and sweating.  I take the air-conditioning inside subway cars for granted.  Some people I know tell me they don’t have AC. I gasp. I take being a wuss for granted.

I take it for granted that stuff just works.  The TV comes on.  The ice maker makes. The microwave nukes.  I have eyeglasses.  When those things don’t work anymore, I get new ones. The places I shop have food and stuff on the shelves.  If they are out one day, they will get more.  And then I can go back and get more.

My friends are there when I need them.  And even when I just want to hang out.

My students come to class.  And they do what I ask them to.

My son will get off the bus.  My oldest daughter will go to the gym and my other daughter will come for dinner when we’re having red meat.  These things just happen.  And my stepson will come over on Notre Dame game night.

My husband brings me coffee in bed every morning he is home.  He cooks on those days.  And he vacuums and does the shopping.  I take it for granted I can just do job stuff those days.

It’s good to have moments to think about things taken for granted.  What is the saying – “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

I am grateful I can take things for granted.

The syllabus that killed my self-esteem.

Unknown

photo by Alamy I found at the Guardian site
(I am citing my pilfering)

“Comparison is the thief of joy” (Theodore Roosevelt; by way of Gregg Rogers)

which reminds me of….

Thou shalt not covet” (God; by way of years of Catholicness)

I was working on my first syllabus. I’d heard it would not be fun. It was for a freshman rhetoric and composition course at the university where I’m in my second year of teaching. The kitchen table was full of crap. I had piles of stuff. Most of it was made of paper and had words on it: a pile of new textbooks, a folder, a spiral notebook, the battered syllabi from my first year, a pen, my laptop, and a half-cup of cold coffee. Sitting closest to me was the text book I planned to use this semester. God. I sat there hoping I’d picked the right one. If I didn’t, the world would probably stop spinning and sweet, innocent freshmen would be damaged so badly they’d never drink again.

The syllabus I used last semester was designed by my department. So it wouldn’t work now that I’d gone feral and picked my own book. I also have a new teaching schedule; last time it was MWF classes but now it’s T-Th.  So I sat at the ready with my spiral notebook and my spiraling thoughts.  And a pen. The spiral notebook wasn’t even mine, really.  It was a middle school leftover from one of my daughters.  The cover had monkeys with wings and halos.  Angel monkeys.

I was at the table with my monkeys and notes from the first few days of classes from last semester. I also had the new text book. I started to scribble into the notebook in an attempt to get the first week onto the books. After I’d been at it for a couple hours I felt like I was making progress. Well. Kinda.

I was having the brain melt down I had in grad school all the time; I was doing four things at once. This time I was thinking about which papers students should write.  I was thumbing through the text.  I was finding readings online.  And I was having thoughts.  Lots of thoughts. This thinking lead to reading the book. I started with the regular chapters. Then I moved to the essays in the back of the book. Then I was onto more essays that had nothing to do with anything I’ll be teaching:  Did you know guys with no hair on their chests are called “smoothies?” There’s loads of bangin’ stuff in this book!

During this brain melt down I was unloading the dishwasher and feeding the dog. Crapfest – my rescue goldfish needed a water change. Had I eaten? Where was my son? Oh, there he was. I’d fed him while I was cleaning a spaghetti sauce explosion out of the microwave.

That was the first day.  This continued for a few weeks.

During this syllabus debacle, I had some ideas about what tidbits I’d add to my own syllabus; things from last semester. Things like: don’t bring a computer to class and don’t text.  Basic stuff.  But I needed some help.  A mentor.  Mentors.  Professors and lecturers who have gone before me. The Grand Syllabists.  That secret group with the special handshake and the peculiar nod.  I’ve heard some of the men even have funny mustaches.  So do some of the women.

look-at-the-neighbors-babysitter

Love this drawing! (Found it at nooutcasts.or)

So I went to the departmental website looking for syllabi samples.  And there they were.  Free samples.  Just like toaster strudel in a dixie cup at Wal-Mart.  A flavor for any schedule you may be teaching.  I downloaded a few freebies.  The Grand Syllabists would save the day.

I clicked one open and it started out great.  I enjoyed reading the opening paragraphs.  Damn!  I should take this class. This sounded like a great teacher.  I kept on with my gander and got to the schedule of classes.  This was very important.  How did this teacher parse out classes per topic?  What types of papers were assigned?  Did they have nap time built in?

My gander was gandering along just fine through the first week.  It looked pretty standard. But –  there it was – in the second week of class. Foucault. FOUCAULT?  What?  What! Are you kidding me? Is this freshman English?  I used to hear his name bandied about in grad school.  It wasn’t my area so I ignored it.  But now, years later, he popped up again.  Jesus.  Mary.  And Joseph.  Seriously?  Fou- Who?  How could I use one of his writings if I had no idea who he was?

What it really meant is that I’m an idiot and I should not be teaching.  Obviously.  I know his name.  Foucault. I can pronounce it as I took French for four years.  But that’s it.  I’m 49 years old and I wouldn’t know Foucault from F-Troop. I had to go to Wikipedia to get some basic information.  It didn’t really help.  Why didn’t I ever take a philosophy class? Damn the Grand Syllabists!

After a few hours of feeling like a complete loser I made myself step away from the table.  I tried to think of the two quotes at the top of this blog.  And I remembered something I’d heard from a peer at a recent departmental meeting.  He said he teaches to his strengths.  So, I focused on last year, which was good.  Nobody died.  I tried to think about all the good papers I read last year.  Obviously I taught my students something.  Either that or they were Grand Rhetors when they arrived.  Maybe it was a bit of both.

I finally got my syllabus done about two days before classes began.  And I’m happy with it.  I did find another sample that helped.  I’d say it was more my style.  I even stole an idea for a reading.  It’s about the use of the word “retard.”  I like doing provocative things in class.  We analyze TV commercials and song lyrics. I also sing.  Their ears are dying.

*  I fully support the use of Foucault.  More power to you.  Can you come give me a tutorial?