Archive for February, 2008

Wow…I’m in WoW

So, my previous post is about how swamped I am with schoolwork, and it’s true.  I really am swamped.  I’m taking two classes, writing conference proposals, designing a pilot study for research, playing World of Warcraft, planning a conference, writing a grant proposal, and….

Did I mention I’m playing World of Warcraft? Yeah, well, no one is more surprised than I am…

Believe it or not, it’s one of my assignments for my eLearning Environments class.  Instead of a textbook, we were instructed to buy a copy of WoW.  In addition to our course readings and traditional assignments, we are to play WoW until we reach level 20 and keep a journal on our thoughts about virtual environments as learning platforms. 

Now, what you have to understand is that I have spent years, years, railing against online games and the power they have to suck the life and drive out of otherwise normal people.  In so many ways, healthy, normal human ambition and desire for accomplishment gets channeled into these games and, rather than finishing degrees or curing cancer or even walking the dog, people will spend countless hours leveling and farming a character.   And when I say that I have railed against them, you can be assured that I don’t mean a little hesitant disapproval.  If you need proof, you can ask my dear sweet Tony…..a consummate gamer from way-back-in-the-day (as my students like to say).

When Tony heard about my assignment, he laughed out loud. Yes, right in my face!  And then he ran to log into his game, and proceeded to tell all his buddies over the Ventrilo server that his wife was now required to play WoW.  

But here’s the kicker:  The larger part of my brain is screaming in frustration: “We don’t have time to play a game! Can’t we just read an article about game playing?  There’s too much to do!  Online games are just a brain-sink….”

But in the back of my brain, there’s the tiniest little voice that says, “Hey, if I finish this literature review, maybe I’ll have time to do a quest or two and bring my level up before bed…

Big Voice:  “No, I don’t have time to cook dinner tonight! Can’t you see I’m up to my eyeballs in journal articles to get through?”

little voice:  “Okay, I’ve read so many journal articles they don’t make sense anymore.  Guess I should play some WoW…”

Big Voice: “Tony, you’ll never understand how hard I’m working! Please don’t ask me to do one more thing!”

little voice:  “Tony, would you come on this quest with me? I’m just a squishy little mage, and I sure could use a big strong paladin to be my tank on the Mulock Bounty Hunting quest…pleeeeze Sweetie?

Hello, my name is LarcMertel, and I’m a Murloc hunter…..


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I’ve been away.  Well, not really away…more like locked away.  Emilie said to me once that I need to stop living so much in my head, and while I agree in principle, it does make it rather difficult to be a successful graduate student.  It seems that all I do is live in my head these days! 

And really, I’ve got to do something about the interior decorating in here!  I mean, who wants to see this or this or even this all the darned time?  It’s so drab, so technical…

Thanks to all my blogging friends out there who write about their joys, and their trials, who share their thoughts about things that I won’t find on the next quiz.  You’ll never know what it means to me to take a few minutes out of my day and see what’s happening on the ranch, at your house, in YOUR heads. 

‘Cause frankly, your heads are all a lot more interesting than mine is this week.  ;- )

 Abby and the cats send their love.  Well, Abby sends her love, and the cats send their tolerance.  It’s how cats are….

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Jesus spoke Spanish

Dr MonteroToday, we buried one of my dearest mentors, Dr Jose Montero.   His friends called him Pepe.  I called him Papi.  You can read his official obituary at the link above, and more about his work with Trekking for Kids, but I wanted to write today about what his life meant to me, and how blessed I am to have known him.

Pepe Montero was one of my first Spanish teachers when I returned to college.  In fact he was exactly my second Spanish professor, in Advanced Conversation and Composition.  You could tell from the moment you met him that he was different.  See that smile in the picture?  He always wore it.  Always.  When I was driving into work this morning I tried to remember a time when he scowled or looked unhappy in any way, and even after taking multiple classes from him and working with him for ten years, I couldn’t think of a single time.  [The closest time, I’ll get to in a minute.]  You knew he was different, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on why.  You just knew that when you were with him, even when you were struggling to discuss a difficult concept with limited vocabulary, that it would be okay, that he was still proud of you.  You wanted to be with him, because he made you feel accepted.  When I returned to school after several years of hard times, I had many doubts and fears, but when I was in his class, I was sure that I was supposed to be there.

Later, as we grew closer, I started to understand where that smile came from.  It came from losing his mother when he was too young to remember her. It came from seeing his father executed in the street during the Spanish Civil War.  It came from wandering as a child through war-ravaged Spain.  It came from surviving all those things, but most importantly, it came from his faith in Jesus Christ and his conviction that he had survived for a purpose, that his mission on earth was to care for others and glorify God at all times. 

As a young man he had been a Franciscan priest.  As an old man he was married, the father of children, and a professor, but in everything he did he still approached it with the devotion of a Franciscan priest.  I came to understand that one may leave the priesthood, but remain in vocation.  He served as a lay priest until his death, and in his love for Christ he served not only his home parish, but many who had never even set foot in a Catholic church, and some who had not even heard the name of Christ.  During rough times in my life, he was not only my teacher, but also my confessor and catechist, even though I am not a Catholic communicant.  There was a time when I considered Catholocism as a path and his example of love and worship were an inspiration to me, but when I wrestled with the choice between my attraction to the Catholic church and the potential reaction of my family, his answer to me was simple: I would like for you to be Catholic, but don’t make this more complicated than it has to be.  You only have two commands:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and then Love your neighbor like yourself.  That’s everything.  Of course, he never failed to tell me when a new RCIA class was starting, but then he always accepted my faith and my Christianity and never pressured me.  He just loved me and accepted me as a member of the family of Christ.

In 1996 I participated in his study abroad trip to Spain.  I will never forget standing in front of the wall-sized painting of The Burial of the Count of Orgaz  and listening to him expound on the composition of sorrowful man below, and the Holy Family above, reaching down towards earth to welcome the Count to Heaven.  At his funeral today, that’s all I could see again, the mourning congregation below, but the joyful welcome of his soul to its rest.  He made the painting come alive for me in Toledo, but he brought the subject to life for me this afternoon in Atlanta.

I remember also, standing on the walls of the Alcazar of Segovia, perhaps one of the most famous castles in Europe.  I love medieval history, but somehow standing in this storybook castle was not moving me.  As I stood on the wall and looked out through the crenellations across the fields that surrounded the walled city, a very small, round, almost nondescript Romaneque building caught my attention.  Down the hill, to the left, was a larger compound within a wall.  Papi walked up beside me, the wind dislodging his wavy silver hair.  I asked him what those two buildings were, and he smiled.  Hija, he called me, and told me the round one was a Templar church, and the compound was the Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites, founded by San Juan de la Cruz, and his resting place.  By the twinkle in his eye, I could tell that he knew he had me.  My two great medieval passions, literature of chivalry and the writings of the Golden Age mystics, San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa de Avila, would hold me in thrall for years to come.  I still fall back on the philosophy and faith of the mystics.  I slipped away from the group in Madrid two weeks later to make my own solo pilgrimage back to those sites, spending the night with the Carmelites, and spending the next ten years in a deeper study of their literature.   The Interior Castle would always hold more fascination for me than any fortress of stone.

But I also remember Papi playing his guitar on the tour bus and teaching us Spanish folk songs.  He sang louder after sangria.  For that matter, we all did. 

I remember the one time I caught him without a smile on his face: I had managed to get food poisoning in Madrid, and could not stop being sick.  I stumbled down to his room in the dorms and knocked on the door, waking him from what appeared to be a very sound sleep.  His hair was sticking almost straight up, and his face had those tell-tale pillow creases.  He was wearing striped pajamas.  I was so sick, that I couldn’t bring myself to speak Spanish in order to explain what was happening.  He was so sleepy and disoriented that he couldn’t speak English and tell me what to do.  So he walked over to his bedside table, and handed me a big bottle of PeptoBismol.  To this day, the pink stuff makes me think of that night.  To this day, I never eat paella.  But I lived to tell the tale, and within a couple of days I was off and running amok in Madrid again.

I called him Papi; he called me Mi Hija Mayor, and sometimes he called me his Gordita.  Please don’t call me that.  For him, it was a term of endearment, and I don’t think I’d take it so well from anyone else.

What I know about ministering to the souls of college students, of mentoring their lives and not just their studies, I learned from him.  

So, I wanted this post to be about what his life has meant to me, but the difficulty is that I don’t know yet what his life will have meant to me until I can look back. 

And now, as I teach Spanish to the missions team at my church, preparing them to share the love and acceptance of Christ to our brothers and sisters in Mexico and Central America, I know that the time Papi spent teaching me to master the art of Spanish conversation will continue to bear fruit in generations to come in some small part through my efforts.  He is still having a profound affect on my life.  He will continue to have an affect on the lifes of others.

Today at his funeral, his second son spoke about how the work of his father’s hands had been passed onto the next generation, and Dr Montero’s youngest son sang to his father: I am your blood, let me run for you now that you are old and have slowed

Papi, I was blessed to know you as a father to my heart. I was your student, guide me now as I continue your work in the live of a new generation of students now that you have been called home. 

For a brief time in my life, the face and heart of Jesus were reflected in Jose Montero.  I hope that through my life I can reflect the work of my Papi, and in doing so, honor all my fathers: the father who raised me, Papi who tutored me, and my Father in Heaven, who blessed me with strong Christian men to be my teachers, my guardians, and my mentors.

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How doth I love Emilie?

I am so blessed to know Emilie!  She brings everything warm, maternal, and domestic into my life and is always willing to share her unique perspective on the world.

In case you’ve never seen Emilie’s unique perspective, here’s a brilliant glimpse of how she takes the most mundane things in life and gives them life and humor.

 Thanks, Emilie, for always being YOU.

[BTW, Evil Trish was successfully vanquished and locked away in the drawer in my kitchen where I store the bread ties, the Betty Crocker points coupons, and the kitty litter coupons.  Hopefully we won’t see her again for awhile!]

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Hi.  I’m Trish’s secret identity, Evil Trish.  Trish couldn’t be here today to blog, since her WonderWoman cape has been slammed in the door once too many times.  In frustration, she’s threatening to hang herself with her Golden Lariat of Truth. 

Ah, it was such a clever plan of mine! I so carefully contrived everything in her day in order to let me usurp her place and rule with Evilness where once goodness had resided.  Doesn’t that “love your neighbor” thing get old after awhile?  She’s so sweet, and oh so very like a marshmallow sometimes!  But I can use that very mushiness of hers against her!

First, I observed how kind she was to loan a student a 2gb usb drive. And then he lost it!  Priceless!  First, she trusts in the goodness of all mankind, next thing you know she’s trying to recreate her conversational Spanish class for church.

Next, I convinced most of the students in the language lab that it would be okay to print anything they wanted, articles for all their economics classes, math textbooks in pdf form, etc.  Nevermind that there’s a posted policy against that sort of thing!  Nothing interrupts Trish’s day and makes her blood pressure rise faster than having to remind students with an overweaning sense of entitlement that the rules apply to them.  She hates have to switch from the role of Kind Mentor to Stern Enforcer.  What a softie!

Finally, I made her watch a videotaped lecture on open sourced course materials and the “cultural imperialism” of the academy.  Her eyebrows literally caught fire!  Few things get under her skin more than being told that she shouldn’t expect compensation for her intellectual efforts.  She thinks that’s a lovely view of the world, but can’t seem to get her creditors to agree to it, either. 

I’ve made such remarkable progress in getting her all tied up in knots today!  What can I do next?  Ask her for an instant media conversion favor….I tried that earlier, and she ducked that professor.  Curses! Foiled again!

So, if you have any ideas on how I can keep Trish frustrated, angry and intolerant today, just let me know, because in a few hours she’s going to get off work and go order seeds with her Grandfather.  When that happens, with the almost certain optimism and excitement of spring planting in the near future, I’m afraid I’ll be locked away again and sweet, kind, loving Trish will be back to blog.  Oh! The horror of it! 

loldogs, cute puppy pictures, crankiness, I Has a Hotdog
see more cute puppies and funny loldog pictures

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As I stated in an earlier post, I was really looking forward to hearing from my doctor regarding some recent tests.  So I didn’t mind at all that he called just as I stepped out of the shower this morning, still as damp as a drowned rat.

At first, I was a little bashful about standing around, completely nekkid while talking to him, but then I recalled that this was my gynaecologist, for pete’s sake.  I mean, he’s not only seen me nekkid about a hundred times (without having bought me dinner and flowers once!), but he’s even cut me open a few times and rearranged my internal organs!  I got over my nervousness about my nakedness, and just tried as best I could to keep from leaving a puddle on the floor…

Oh, were you actually more interested in the outcome of the conversation, rather than the circumstances?  Silly me…

Of course, the cancer test came back without indicating any malignancy, so even though I wasn’t worrying, I can now quit worrying.  ;- )

The Marvelous Dr H and I had a long talk about options, current situations, etc, and it was while I was talking to him that I realized why I adore this man so much.  Well, as much as any woman can adore a man whom she usually only sees in person with her feet in stirrups….

As we talked, Dr H stumbled over all the usual questions.  He stammers when he asks me very personal questions about my relationship with Tony and all that entails.  Rather than asking me bluntly, using medical terminology, he rather dances around the issue and attempts to elicit the information from me via finesse, rather than direct questioning.  He uses words like relations, rather than the more mechanical term intercourse. [In keeping this a family-friendly blog, let me just explain to any children who might be reading this that Intercourse is a small town in Alabama, near Selma….] 

Tony remarked that it seems a bit odd that someone in his position should show that kind of discomfiture with that line of questioning.  It seemed to him that it might be the slightest bit unprofessional, that he should be more forward and inure to it.

That’s it! That’s why I trust the Marvelous Dr H so much.  He’s not inure to it.  His manner always conveys to me that he doesn’t see me as a medical problem, but as a real woman with a medical problem.  He remembers that, by asking me those medically very important questions, he’s actually asking for the most private information a woman protects in her heart, the nature of her private, intimate relationship with her husband, the hopes and dreams for a family, her secret and often socially-silenced pains. 

To Dr H I know I will never be a detached body, a collection of sometimes flawed tissues, or a sheet of test results.  I am a person, a private woman, and a vulnerable soul who looks to him for answers and solutions to intensely difficult personal questions.  In allowing him to question me in this way, I have given him my trust and access to the most private parts of my life. 

The fact that he stammers a bit only goes to show me that he is sensitive to this fact, and that he respects my personhood, sees me as more than an intriguing collection of tumors and other pathologies. 

If that’s not everyone’s idea of professionalism, that’s alright by me, because I think it speaks to his humanity.  And as such, he allows me to see him as a human, as well, and not a cold, impersonal, mechanical doctor.

Now, I don’t know know what faith or beliefs Dr H holds personally. That’s never come up in our conversations, but I do know that the Great Physician has never been cold, calculating, clinical, and impersonal in His dealings with me.

And I like to think that, as evidenced by his sensitive treatment of me, that regardless of where Dr H went to medical school, he probably did his internship under the Great Physician himself.

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