Sunday, February 01, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Facebook has this exercise going where you write 25 things about yourself and then tag people who are to do the same. Since not everyone is on Facebook, I thought I would share mine.

  1. I believe that God intended each of us to be the person we are and it’s our job to figure out what that is. God didn’t create throw-away people. One of our difficulties in life is when we assume that the roles other people see for us are those that we see for ourselves. As Lewis Carroll says, “Be who you would seem to be.”
  2. I believe each day we should do something to make someone else smile. I didn’t do much politically to help win President Obama his position, but I did buy coffee for the first fifteen people who came into Starbucks that morning--and seeing their surprise and the smiles it brought was very rewarding.
  3. Each morning that I awaken and see one of my cats lying on a pillow looking out the window and another at the foot of the bed, I know the day is going to be okay.
  4. When I was in high school I read Ross Lockridge, Jr.’s Raintree County and I found myself swept into the 1840-1890 world of rural Indiana. It’s the only book that I don’t teach that I read three times.
  5. I’m sorry I can never read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time again. Such a power affirmation of the nobility of the human spirit.
  6. I still find myself very connected to my small town Illinois roots. In many ways I find a portion of my soul responds to the Lincoln period and the people who created McLean County. A couple of branches came to that land in the 1830s and I feel I know them quite well… often better than the people I know who live there now.
  7. My grandfather was a great storyteller. I loved all his family stories. As an adult I realize he was greatly influenced by some Twain’s writing, but I thought it all came from him. He’s one of the people I strive to be.
  8. I am a social being. There are some people who help make my day positive by just taking a few minutes to have contact.
  9. I can’t escape creativity. I have to draw and paint with Photoshop, just like I had to make miniatures or direct plays. The paper dolls that I now do are a way of connecting to the Creative Muse that lives within me. When she begins urging me to work or write, I give in because I fear someday she won’t return.
  10. I’m in awe of the Facebook interface that allows all these people I know to come in contact with each other.
  11. I used to tell my classes that I was a Romantic Existentialist. I guess I still I am. I believe that there are such things as good and justice, and I believe that our actions define who we are. If we want to be good people, we have to act like ones.
  12. The most painful period in my life was separating from my wife of 25 years. I lost all the “friends” that I had. One aunt wrote me, “I will always love you as my nephew, but I never want to see you again.” Another friend wrote, “I hope you die in the gay ghetto you moved to.” It took me several years to reconcile what I thought friends were with the people I knew.
  13. Whenever I’m a little down and not sure what direction my life should take, God sends me a former student to tell me what I have meant to his/her lives. One person described the seat they sat in and the color of the room, another discussed conversations we had years before in a museum. There aren’t many professions that one can say, “I made a difference today.” Teaching is one. If you have someone who made a difference, tell them. It might make their day—and get them to smile. [I had a friend who said, “It doesn’t jingle but it feels good.”]
  14. I’ve learned that we as much out of life as we put in. Several years ago I read a book called the Drowning Room by Michael Pye, which gets its title from the rooms on 17th century Dutch ships where convicted prisoners were confined. Water could be poured into the room and there was manual pump which the prisoner had to operate. As long as they pumped, they lived. The book’s take was that that’s what our lives are like. We pump for long as we can.
  15. When I was in my twenties I went to a fortune teller who told me I was a very old soul. And then she began naming my past lives—an ancient Egyptian, an ancient Greek, a native American warrior who died in battle, a minor Elizabethan playwright, an Italian Renaissance painter, a German banker at the turn of the century who had many children—all periods that I tend to do reading on. If part of the way we know our past souls is what we are drawn to, I’m sure I died in Pompeii and on the Titanic and rode the circuit with Lincoln.
  16. I make friends with women more easily than men. Right now, I have 5 women I have coffee with each morning and 3 whom I drink margaritas with every Wednesday. They are all fascinating and I look forward to our conversations.
  17. I love to sing. I sang in high school, but by college I thought my voice had deserted me, and so for the next 30 years I didn’t sing. My best friend had me join his choir and I discovered that my voice was still there. Now I cantor at church, sing with a church choir, sing in a local acapella group of 65. There is nothing I like more than to sing for others and watch them smile.
  18. All the people in my immediate family are dead. Sometimes it’s hard being an orphan—even in your sixties.
  19. I love the spontaneity of my freshmen. I have one class where one day I had closed the door to get class started and a student walked in as the bell rang. I looked at him and said, “Hey, kids, here’s ___!” The class immediately began loudly applauding and cheering, making the student feel special. We’ve picked that up so now it’s still a bright moment in their day.
  20. I wish I were as wise as my students tried to make me. The older I get the more I realize how little I know. I’ll always been a student who relishes information.
  21. When I was a kid, I lived two blocks away from a movie theater. Every week I went to a movie, and my mother always said that I never saw a movie I didn’t like. What she didn’t know was that I just didn’t want to tell others what I thought so they could make the experience less for me. Now I go to the movie as often as I can. I can usually tell during the credits whether I will love the movie or not. During the credits of “Milk,” I was in tears for the men who were being arrested in the gay bars. In “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woof,” hearing Elizabeth Taylor’s laugh for the first time hooked me in. “Diva” opens with a concert where the African American opera singer Wilhelmena Wiggins Fernamdez sings “La Wally” and from the moment she enters—all fluid elegance with a voice to match—I knew the film was going to be special.
  22. I’m fascinated by the 1940s and 1950s. I was too young to appreciate much that went on, but occasionally I can place myself back there. Bradbury in Dandelion Wine speaks of an old man who becomes the kids’ time machine. Maybe that’s me.
  23. I don’t like to eat things that have eyes that can look at me as I eat them. The only exception is lobster, which I adore. I have to do a disconnect when I eat them, however.
  24. The triple-bypass of a few years ago forced me to think about my mortality. I hope I have a greater appreciation of life because of it. Certainly I know as long as other people remember me I’ll have a little immortality.
  25. I love the worlds that I've gained from reading. One of the worst things I went through was for three years, as I struggled with depression, I couldn't read. Reading is indeed a gift.

1 comment:

Grace said...

2. you bought all those people coffee? that is wonderful. i'm sure it made their day. it's the little things that can make or break my day.
9. i still think it's really cool that you make paper dolls.
15. that's really interesting. to think that one soul could be older than another, that is. i don't believe in reincarnation, but it is very pleasant to think that i have lived before in a different time or place and made it out alright =]
16. i make friends with women more easily too =]
17. how could you have stopped singing for 30 years!?!? i can't stop for more than 2 hours...
20. it's kind of refreshing to realize that you don't know everything... that means there's still more to learn, more to experience