Real Live Prof

In sociology, our “Big 3” theories are Conflict Theory, Functionalism, and Symbolic InteractiBig 3onism. We use each of these as frameworks to analyze “everything.” Sociologists think they have helpful insight about all things, including society, institutions, and global inequality, all the way down to small groups, families, and our interactions with vending machines. Symbolic Interaction itself has a sub-theory called Labeling.

Labeling theory suggests that we receive labels from significant people, including peers, in our lives as we are growing up. They are like giant bumper stickers slapped on our foreheads. Every time we look in the mirror or think about ourselves, or snap a “selfie”, we see the label. I always ask my students to imagine the biggest kid in 2nd grade sitting down at lunch across from the smallest kid in 2nd grade. The small kid’s mom is concerned her boy will not grow up fast enough, and so she packs extra Twinkies in his lunchbox. The biggest kid’s mom is concerned her boy is already too big, so she packs him carrots and celery instead of dessert.

One day, the big kid looks at the little kid and his Twinkies, and says, “I love Twinkies”.

The little kid hears this and fearfully shoves them across the table and tells the big kid, “Here, take mine!”

The big kid takes them and enjoys them. Both kids just got labeled: Bully and Wimp. The big kid soon learns his size and burgeoning reputation can help him get all the Twinkies he could want while the little kid soon understands that he must supply whatever the big kid wants.

Another thing about labels that I always try to include in my lectures is that negative labels stick best. I often ask my students to try and recall some negative label that their parents or teachers gave them. It is amazing how the pain and shame of a careless or mean word uttered by an authoritative person can easily flood back in on us as we so easily remember those words from years and even decades ago. I can tell my daughters every morning how beautiful, sweet and smart they are and it will barely stick. I can say one time in a lifetime that they are ugly, sour or stupid and they will remember those words forever.

The power of a label comes from believing uncritically that the labeler knew what they were talking about. As soon as we do the labeled behavior, we hear the labeler say, “See? I told you that you were_________.” Eventually, we live “down” to their labels and agree with them.

So, imagine my surprise as I went to Senior Chapel last week and was greeted by a person passing out colored markers. He had written negative labels on his arms. As the program began, I was amazed to hear person after person talk about their labels that had been stuck on them: porn addict, drug abuser, judgmental, masturbator, etc. As they talked about their labels, a common thread began to emerge. They said that only as they confronted the labels and their own sin and asked God for healing, forgiveness and recovery, did the labels begin to come off. This is the key point I always make with my Loser Selfieclasses: the only way labels ever come off is with the grace of God. It is the very rare person who takes the negative label as a challenge and says to their critic, “You think I am loser? I will show you and become a winner!” 

As we were entering chapel, we were offered pens as a way to remind us to get real, honest and even transparent with each other about our labels. I happened to be sitting by two students during the Senior Chapel and when they heard we should write labels on ourselves, they got excited. They offered to write labels on me…ouch!

Thankful

When you ask a professor to reflect on and blog about her experiences in the classroom, expect there to be a bunch of grousing about students’Bashaw laziness and lack of commitment, and some lamenting about the moral decline of civilization, as seen in the youth of America.

And maybe I have done a fair amount of complaining as I have pondered the intersection of faith, teaching, students, and society this semester.

However, as I reflect on my job as an educator-counselor-learner-mentor-pastor-motivational speaker, there is much more for which I am thankful.

  • I am thankful that God has allowed me to work in a career that demands constant learning, that challenges me to get better and know more every day;
  • I am thankful for the privilege and challenge of teaching the Bible, in its messiness and glory, and for the opportunity to communicate my love for Scripture with my students.
  • I am thankful for daily deadlines (and I also curse this!), that I must keep on top of things and strive for excellence not just for my own improvement but for the education of others.
  • I am thankful for the constant interaction with young people, which forces me to learn how to tweet, compels me to learn new colloquialisms (that’s ill!), and keeps me in touch with the challenges and contributions of this up-and-coming generation.
  • I am thankful for flexibility of my classroom, that my teaching need not fit into a rubric or someone else’s expectation. I can lecture or use pod casts or facilitate discussion or show youtube clips or encourage journaling or sing songs or have confession time, depending on what best communicates a particular subject to my students at a particular time.
  • I am thankful for the teamwork involved in a university setting, that professors and administrators and maintenance crew and IT and cafeteria workers and student workers and resident directors all work together for one noble goal–to provide the best education for our students.
  • And I am thankful for my students: students who are trusting enough to listen and learn, who are brave enough to show vulnerability in the classroom, who are caring enough to support their peers in their needs, who are committed enough to be leaders even in their young age, who are strong enough to overcome all the challenges they face in their personal and private lives in order to remain committed to education and to their faith in the midst of a distracting, discouraging, sometimes dream-crushing world.

For all these things, and all these people, I am truly thankful.

jgb

Grumbling or Gratitude

In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says this: “If authentic, saving belief is the act of trusting, then to choose stress is an act of disbelief . . . atheism.”

For someone who was born stressed, this statement struck me profoundly.  Worrying, for me, comes so easily—trust comes so hard.  But if I believe that God is good and in control and that He is present in the details of my life, then this should drive me not just to trust but to gratitude.  And gratitude is the ultimate expression of trust.  “Thanks is what builds trust,” Voskamp explains.  “Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. . . . I can walk the planks—from known to unknown—and know: He holds.  I [can] walk unafraid.”

I love Voskamp’s words and I can intellectualize them.  But fear and doubt and ingratitude still crouch in the corners of my heart.

When my wife and I married 15 years ago, I inherited a cat.  Christopher (an orange tabby) and Sharon had been together for 12 years. She picked him out of a litter of kittens when he was still so small that he fit in the palm of her hand.

That cat was fiercely loyal to Sharon, and, over time, Chris and I grew close as well.  But one thing Chris and I rarely agreed on was meal time.  When it came to food, Chris had high expectations.  He preferred his food fresh from the can.  And if the food happened to come out of the refrigerator, then he liked it warmed in the microwave for exactly seven seconds.  Chris also like his food “fluffed.”  I’d mix it in his food bowl just so with his special spoon and then top it off with his favorite crunchy dry food. These were the rules and I tried hard to obey them.

But most of the time, my meals fell way short of his expectations.  I’d warm his food and fluff it and garnish it—and, still, I failed to meet his five-star dining expectations.   He’d look at the bowl and then look at me as if to say—“Really—this is all you got?”  Exasperated, I’d look at Sharon and she would look at Chris.  And then Sharon would say in a stern voice—“Christopher!  That’s perfectly good food.  Eat it!”  And the funny thing is—Chris would!

He’d lower his little orange head and eat, his I.D. tag clanging against the food bowl.  But that didn’t mean he was happy about it.  And to make sure we knew this, with each bite of food he took, he’d growl—a low constant rumbling coming from his throat. He’d eat, but he wasn’t grateful.

Still makes me laugh.

But, here’s the thing—my ingratitude isn’t quite so funny.  And my grumbling can cast a dark shadow across my life.

In a chilling passage in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, Lewis explores the character of an unhappy woman possessed by a critical spirit.  And the speaker in this chapter is distressed that such a woman might not enter heaven simply because she is a grumbler.  He voices his concern to another character.

“I am troubled, Sir,” said I, “because that unhappy creature doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of soul that ought to be even in danger of damnation. She isn’t wicked: she’s only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling . . . .”

“That is what she once was. That is maybe what she still is. If so, she certainly will be cured. But the whole question is whether she is now a grumbler.”

“I should have thought there was no doubt about that!”

“Aye, but ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman—even the least trace of one—still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.”

What we need to be careful of, this second character explains, is becoming a grumble, “going on forever like a machine.”

Sobering words.

Am I a grumble?  Am I an atheist?  Have I chosen ingratitude?  Have I chosen not to trust?

Jesus says—“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).

And Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18—“Rejoice always. Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Rejoice.  Pray.  Give thanks.  Always.  Continually.  In all circumstances.

Some of the most convicting words I have ever read.  And appropriate for this Thanksgiving season.

Clearly, I have a choice to make. I am not a victim.  I am not powerless.  And even though I was born stressed, I don’t have to live stressed.  I hope that there is still “one wee spark” in my heart “under all those ashes” that can still be blown into a fire of faith and trust.  I hope that this Thanksgiving season I choose gratitude over grumbling.

May we all choose well.

skc

Collegiality

// Collegiality:

the cooperative relationship of colleagues

One of the best lessons I have learned through this reflection process is to learn from others. Other professors in my department and outside of my department have extended wisdom, and support at times when I needed it.

I used to think that I encountered “unique” issues and situations. I have learned through this reflection experience that we can learn a lot from talking to each other.

It is not weakness to seek others for advice… it is wise to seek those who have the experience and knowledge.

This past week I was approached by a student about a moral/ethical question. I gave her advice, but I could see that it was difficult for her to take the advice because of her current life experiences (don’t worry it wasn’t anything bad or life threatening… it was minor and won’t really make a difference one way or another).  But, the best thing about this encounter is that I saw myself in her. I saw that sometimes I ask advice from more experienced faculty, and sometimes I have a hard time understanding that advice.

I grew a lot from this encounter. It showed me that I can learn a lot from others if I just take the time to understand that my colleagues have that advice to offer. I understand that I am in my own growth process as a professor and that it may be at a different place than other people. AND that’s okay…

I can see myself maturing as a person and as a professional. I don’t do things the same way I did my first year of teaching. In five years, I probably won’t teach the same way I am teaching now. There is nothing wrong with what I am doing now but I hope to learn and to grow.

I am grateful that I am surrounded by co-workers that work together. I hope to continue to grow from using a collaborative approach to evaluate my actions a professor. I plan to be that peer or mentor support to future faculty.

We are stronger when we work together and when we learn from each other.

lm

 

I just don’t know.

Nov. 18, 2013

IDK…

I don’t know what to write about today because my mind is all aflutter. My father is coming to visit.  This is our first Thanksgiving without Mom.  I’m lecturing over evolution in freshman biology class, which is always dangerous.  God forbid they should actually use their brains and think critically about a difficult concept. “God said it; I believe it that settles it!”  Sigh.  I tried to explain how God would tell Moses about creation in a way Moses could understand.  I’m sure there will be some upset parent calling.  Benjamin Franklin said “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”  Think, people, think! 

I’m supposed to reflect on my reflections about reflective teaching.  As a scientist this is very confusing and touchy-feely.  So what do I think about reflective teaching?  Did you know that there is a peer-reviewed journal called Reflective Practice?  Yeah, professionals in the humanities have been reflecting on reflective teaching for many years.  As scientists we critique our experiments and observations continuously.  Most do not think too much on teaching because “the information is in the book, so just learn it!”  My professors stood in one spot and basically read their notes.  Some were very innovated and used Kodak slides or overheads.  Lab was where we did our experiments and those were demonstrations.  Times have changed!  Now I’m supposed to entertain the students and keep their attention.  We are to engage the students.  Learning is a two way street.  I profess the information and the student learns the information.  After all, I am the Professor and the student is the Learner.  My professors had much better prepared students than I have.  My students are smart enough; they simply don’t have the skills necessary to be successful on the collegiate level and thus, my interest in critical thinking.  As I profess biology I need to be incorporating critical thinking skills.  I need to teach my students HOW to think and study while trying to teach them the information. I have to teach them HOW to reason, HOW to think logically and HOW to incorporate those intellectual traits into their learning.

So, I utilized our common Christian foundation as a way to demonstrate that Jesus was a critical thinker and, thus, we should be critical thinkers.  Learning is a life-long endeavor.  Being Christ-like is a life-long endeavor.  The skills we use to become life-long learners are the same skills we need to be life-long imitators of Jesus our Lord. 

How’s this working?  I don’t know.  I need to collect more data.  I am a scientist, after all.

—jcc

Real Live Prof

Every now and then I have to know how far out of touch I have become with the younger generations. Last week, as my mostly freshmen class in Intro to Soc finished a section over deviance, I had them watch a PBS Frontline documentary, entitled, “The Pot Republic” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-pot-republic/ ). The film is about the current debate over the legalization of marijuana in California for medicinal use. Many growers throughout the state legally grow marijuana for the ever expanding medical market. Apparently, a person visits with their doctor, who then writes them a prescription, which legally allows them to buy marijuana.

After viewing the film, I asked the class to respond to a threaded discussion question in our online grading system. The question was, “This film highlights the current debate about the legalization of marijuana in California. Do you think it should be legalized nationally? Or, should we only think in terms of legalizing “medical” marijuana? Or, conversely, treat it the same as alcohol (legalize it, tax it, and regulate it)? Finally, do you think someone who recreationally uses marijuana would make a great disciple and follower of Christ? (In other words, WWJD?)”

The answers were informative…when the students (42) were asked, “Do you think it should be legalized nationally?”, almost half (20) chose not to respond directly to the question. Of those who did respond, 7 were “neutral”, 6 were “yes”, and only 11 were “no, marijuana should not be legalized”. When the question was asked if it should be treated as alcohol, (“legalize it, tax it, and regulate it”), half of the 42 agreed with this approach.

Finally, when students were asked if recreational users would make, “a great disciple and follower of Christ”, the answers were informative, at least to my expanding generation gap. Roughly, 1/3 were neutral, 1/3 were “yes, they would make a good disciple”, and 1/3 were, “no, they would not make a good disciple.”

At this point you are probably expecting me to rail against the youth of America and how they are on a slippery slope of moral decay. This might end up being a diatribe, but against another subject. What I saw in their collective answers was a logical progression of their public school educations: multiculturalism. In part, multiculturalism asks us to not “pass judgment” on other cultures, and that we should show respect for all cultures as your culture’s equal. I think the net effect is seen in this casual “survey”. We seldom give an answer that is not qualified with, “in my personal opinion” clause. It is considered even more polite and correct to not give any opinion (after all, they are all equally valid). When I was young, issues were “polarizing”, meaning they split people into two camps. Now I think issues are “tri-polarizing”, meaning they split people into three camps…for, against, and “I would rather not say…”  This third camp was borne out when students justify their answers with the notion that using marijuana should be a personal decision that somehow would not affect others. Or, they would add that it is just their (current) personal opinion, which is subject to change.

I am sure some of the answers could be attributed to posturing (the whole class can read their responses). Some of the answers could be attributed to trying to please the grader with an answer they think he would like. Even so, the camp that bothers me the most are those who claim indifference. Surely they have an opinion. Their culture, however, forbids them to express an opinion that might be construed as negative, offensive, or even, impolite.

How would I have responded to the threaded discussion? I would rather not say…

MM

And the walls came tumbling down…

Something extraordinary happened yesterday in my Biblical Interpretation class. Yes, this is the same class I went all she-hulk on last month (see self worth image psalmWhen Empathy Backfires…).

We had recently returned from a chapel service focused on transparency and confession. Several of my Religion students had given short testimonies during the service and had laid bare their souls, recounting their sordid stories and sins, their insecurities and their struggles. They then challenged the chapel attenders to do the same thing, writing their sins and insecurities on themselves with markers as a physical act of confession and honesty.

It was inspiring and thought-provoking and I wanted to make sure that the moment for openness and learning did not pass us by.

self worth image orange guySo instead of lecturing on the grammatical-structural relationships in biblical prose, I asked the students in my class to share the words they had written on their arms. And I went first.

After I explained my struggle with the sinful attitude of selfishness, I confessed that my biggest recurring insecurity is that I feel “other” as a woman called to and gifted for pastoral ministry in a culture that only affirms the pastoral position for men, a fact that continues to ignite resentment and bitterness in my heart toward the church.

And then they shared. In front of their peers, they talked about their feelings of inadequacy, they revealed dark parts of their pasts, and they confessed sins and weaknesses that usually remain  hidden in the locked parts of our souls. They praised God for the healing and deliverance they had experienced in some areas while also recognizing the work that still had to be done. They were raw and real and honest and vulnerable and so incredibly brave that it took my breath away.

It made me think of Jericho.

In Joshua 6, we read the story of the fledgling Israelites who, after having crossed into the land God had promised Abraham generations before, came upon the strong-walled city of Jericho, the first major barrier between them and God’s promise. God gave Joshua and the people detailed instructions that included marching around the walls, blowing trumpets, and shouting in success over the Lord’s promised victory.

We tend to emphasize the great faith that Joshua and the priests and soldiers showed and we celebrate their obedience to God in the face of impossible odds. But we sometimes forget that in order to obey, these Israelites had to be shockingly brave and illogically vulnerable.self worth image

For seven days they marched outside the heavily fortified city, aware that at any moment arrows could fly over the walls to pierce through their bodies and tear away their hopes of entering the promised land. Yet they continued to put themselves in that vulnerable position, with no rocks or walls to hide behind, in order to breach the walls that God told them they would destroy.

Yesterday, my students were as brave and as vulnerable as those Israelites outside Jericho. They put their hearts in the line of fire, exposing parts of themselves to potential arrows of judgment and ridicule and rejection. They did this because they knew they could only experience victory over their sins and their insecurities if they exposed them.

And in the wake of their vulnerability and brave shouts of confession, the walls came tumbling down.

The walls of pain, protection, and pride that guarded their hearts from the world. The walls of denial, competition, and fear that prevent true community among peers. The walls of decorum, distance, and doubt that serve to separate teacher from student. These all started to fall and I realized that I had much to learn from these millenials, these students who both exasperate and inspire me.

Yesterday, my students taught me that true community cannot exist without healing, that healing cannot begin without trust, and that trust can only be earned through vulnerability. They taught me that the toughest battles are not fought with weapons and strategy but with trust and transparency. They taught me that as a community of faith we have many more walls to tear down before we enter the promised land, that kingdom that God has promised us of love and healing, of unity and rest.

jgb

The Fear Factor

I went to an academic conference over the summer.  Several of the speakers zeroed in on an area of research that is finally getting some traction.  The question they addressed concerned student success in college.  One survey, taken at the Community College of Baltimore, discovered two primary reasons students drop out of school—They are overwhelmed by life problems.  Or they are overwhelmed by affective issues, mostly centered around “fear, anxiety, and a suspicion that they are just not college material.”

In other words, ability is usually not the problem.  Life is. The fear factor is.

So, how do we help these students?  The suggestions given are common-sense ones—“Create a safe atmosphere” in the classroom.  Find a balance between “flexibility” and “tough love”—between “compassion” and “firmness” (a lot harder than it might sound).  Implement “confidence-building experiences” early on in the semester.

And be aware of mindsets—because students will have “fixed mindsets” or “growth mindsets.”

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that a fixed mindset is “the belief that intelligence is fixed [which] dampens students’ motivation to learn, makes them afraid of effort, and makes them want to quit after a setback.”

So when classes get hard, students give up.  Because when they struggle, Dweck says, they “feel dumb.”

Do I have students who have this mindset?  Of course.  But my confession is this: Sometimes I have the same mindset.

I fear failure.  And in my profession, where performance is evaluated and measured each semester, I often feel like I’m not measuring up.  And when I struggle, I feel dumb.  This doesn’t motivate me to be better.  It discourages me and makes me want to give up.

I guess the question is this: How do we establish growth mindsets?  How do we establish the belief that just because something is challenging and causes us to struggle, this is not a reflection of our intelligence or ability?

I’m pretty sure that most of the speakers at the conference did not embrace a Christian world view.  If there is such a thing as grace, I learned, it is merely a human grace we extend to each other.  And as teachers, we know the expectations of gracious teaching.  Help students to realize their potential and to be true to themselves.   Encourage.  Uplift.  Reinforce.  Reaffirm.  We do this because we care about them.  But we do this too because we care about retention, and we must always be looking for ways to keep students from dropping out.

But is this all there is to teaching?  Just getting students to finish college and get jobs so we not only identify them as successful but ourselves, as well?

I worry a lot about leaving God out of this equation.

Do I care for my students? Yes.  Do I want them to graduate?  Yes.  Do I want them to get good jobs?  Yes.  But. . . .

If this is all we are about as educators, we only address part of the need.  Because each one of us has a soul.  And souls don’t have expiration dates, like milk.  We will all live forever.

I take education seriously.  But I take eternity much more seriously.

I admit to my students that college is a big thing.  But it is not the whole thing.  God has opened this door of opportunity for you, I tell them, so seize it.  Work hard and be successful, not to bring honor to yourself, but to bring glory to God.

And when they get scared.  When they start to struggle.  When the challenges seem insurmountable.  I remind them that they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength.  Trust Him, I say.  Lean on Him.  Because He is real and He is relevant.

I work hard in the classroom.  I take the material seriously.  But I am also serious about modeling a life that glorifies God, the author of grace.  If they don’t see that life in me, I have failed.  Measure me all you want.  Evaluate me all you want.  But I have a greater judge.  And when I stand before Him, I hope I hear these words—“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I want that for me. I want that for you.  I want that for my students.  Because that is true success.  

SC

Discipleship in Christian Education

makingdisciples

Disciple:

a:  one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another
b:  one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
c:  a convinced adherent of a school or individual


Student’s see professors through a very narrow perspective;  life experiences thus far. They can only compare you to their previous experiences, and they are at the mercy of their current situation. Their perspective influences how they interact with you ,and how they expect you to interact with them.

For instance, at the beginning of the semester I always have a few students that cannot understand why I won’t take late work. They fuss and complain, not getting them any closer to me accepting their late work. By the end of the semester, I don’t have any students kicking and screaming about late work because this is the new ‘norm’ in their perspective.

I think it is important for me to understand and consider why students behave the way they do. They behave this way because, at some point, this behavior got them what they wanted and it was reinforced.  This brings me to my next reflection….

Recently, I had a student that sent me a text to landline message. This type of message occurs when the student decides to send a text message to my office phone rather than calling my office phone.

I was checking my voicemail one day this week and this is what it said in a robot computer voice…

“Hey Dr. McRee. This is (student’s name). I am sorry I missed class. I slept straight through my alarm. I was wondering what all I missed today.”

At first glance, this looks like the student is really trying to get the information from class. However….. After I emailed her back telling her to come to my office to go over what she missed, she did not come to my office. I plan to explain to her in detail that I appreciate her reaching out, but that her efforts were minimal. Technology cannot replace your personal work ethic and follow through.

Am I a bad professor for telling her this? Has no one ever told her this? A number of questions run through my head. I ask fellow professors and they agree that she could improve her professional interaction.

Which brings up another question… How do we as professors help shape our students in ways that are not grade related?

I was at an ETBU leadership workshop ( Breakfast with Fred ) earlier this semester and this was one of the proposed questions. So, I asked my students if they think that I help them develop in the ways listed below. These 10 items were published in a journal article as the “Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace”

  1. Integrity
  2. Communication
  3. Courtesy
  4. Responsibility
  5. Interpersonal skills
  6. Positive attitude
  7. Professionalism
  8. Flexibility
  9. Teamwork skills
  10. Work ethic

I personally could only pick out three that I could actually attach a grade to the “soft skill”. BUT, to my surprise… My students justified how I was able to teach them all the 10 skills without always assigning a grade to each of them. We had an honest conversation and it was interesting to see their perspective. I was shocked and told them I was very flattered… I told them that many times I don’t feel like I am able to breakthrough with some of these skills because of the dynamics of grading in higher education. I ensured them that these skills are needed in the real world, but that sometimes I am unsure of how successful I am at implementing them in the classroom.

So, as I reflect back on the TEXT to LANDLINE situation, I can see clearly that this is an opportunity to disciple this student. Interactions such as these do not always lead to a quantified grade, but they do shape the future leaders & graduates of ETBU.

My goals moving forward are to change the perspective of my students early on. To consider where they are, understand why they are the way that they are, and provide support for them to get to the behavior they need. To take situations on a student-by-student basis, and see what they need from me to mature. It is important to disciple our students… even if it means giving them feedback in ways not related to their grades.

LM

Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive Perceptions of the Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465. doi:10.1177/1080569912460400

Brinkley

026

Brinkley, Nov. 11, 2013

The past 13 months have been very difficult for me.  For the first time in 32 years I am without a cat. Let me give it to you in a chronological list: Oct 2012 Jericho kitty died, Nov 2012 Dusty the horse died and Mom became very ill, Dec 2012 Mom died, Jan 2013 Val Siniak died, Feb 2013 Daisy dog died, Mar I cleaned out some of mom’s stuff, April Mom’s birthday, May 2013 Ecuador trip where I nearly died from a intestinal virus, June I cleaned out ALL of Mom’s things, July was quiet and I got a puppy, August school started, September cancer diagnosis and a BIG problem with a dear friend, Oct 2013 cancer surgery and Sam kitty died, Nov 2013…so far no one has died and I am cancer free.

I’m stressed.

Brinkley isn’t helping.

I adopted Brinkley from the Harrison County Human Society.  So far he has cost me about $600 in vet services plus the damage he has done to my home and yard.  Brinkley turned 7 months old Nov 9th.  He is a good old mutt who is a cutie pie.  He can play fetch and has FINALLY figured out how to go potty OUTSIDE.  He has been a big stressor in my life.  I have seriously considered getting him a new home.  He is a considerable handful!  We have been together 3 1/2 months and he has spent that time trying to learn to be a good dog.  It is very difficult to be a good dog when there are so many things to chew and eat.  He keeps barking at me telling me to “Look! LOOK!”  In fact he talks to me a lot.  I have lost my temper with him several times.  I have placed him in doggie timeout and forced him to sleep in the front bathroom.  Every morning I pick-up and throw away his puppy pad while he tries to “help” me carry it to the trash can.  Two weeks ago he started having dry pads.  After a week of dry pads I bought him a new bed and put it in my bedroom.  Every night I place him on his bed and turn out the lights.  Five minutes later he is in bed with me.  We’ve gone through the whole “this is your bed” training program.  I quit trying when one night he carefully crawled onto my bed, snuggled up to me and gently sighed.  Such contentment was expressed in that one sigh.  Everything was right in Brinkley’s world at that moment.

My whole being relaxed at that same moment.

Brinkley is still a handful.  He pulled up the vinyl flooring in the laundry room.  He chewed holes in the rubber garden hose.  He whines while I shower and complains about not getting all the treats at one time.  He loves to watch the toilet flush and the dryer go ‘round.  He has dug up every fall plant I put out in the back yard.  He talks while I’m trying to watch my shows and sits on me when I’m trying to read.  He is goofy.  He makes me smile.

He gives great hugs.

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jcc