Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Critical Condition

Buried in the back of my closet is my old Baby Book. Tucked in its pages are a lock of hair, immunization records and my first grade report card. Under the comment section, my first grade teacher penned these words, “Does not take criticism well.” Nearly twenty years of schooling, numerous report cards and working with several magazine editors has not changed that immortal statement. Faced with criticism, I still get a pit in my stomach, I wake up at 4:00 a.m. to stew and I declare to the universe that I will spend the remainder of my days working in my garden-far away from critical eyes. However, buried in my graduate school experience has been an important lesson. Criticism can also be the greatest gift one can receive. It has caused me to stretch. It has opened my mind to sail in previously uncharted waters and it has taught me to plant my feet firmly and take a stand.

I recently received a paper with an extremely low score. Next to each paragraph the teacher had written, “Beautiful writing, you did not answer the question.” The stomach acid began to pump and my defenses went into motion. I wanted to write back, “Well you did not ask a very good question did you!” Moving quickly through the course, I soon had another opportunity to answer a new set of questions. This second time, I took no chances. I read the questions. I understood the questions. I searched for answers. I formulated answers. I sought with all diligence to present my answers in a clear and concise manner. I stretched myself…and I learned something new.

While studying Shakespeare, I went into unknown waters. How one gets to graduate school with no experience with the Bard says something about my public education and narrow college experience. But it happened. I learned to “start at the very beginning” and thanked God for Cliff Notes and BBC broadcasts. In sophomoric fashion, I muddled through several of Shakespeare’s great plays. I addressed what I thought were profound thoughts on patriotism while studying Henry V, only to receive a stinging rebuke from the professor. He said, “I had not addressed the negative side of patriotism and the religious zeal to which it can be taken in the extreme. Really?? I said myself-I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no idea until the next semester when I took the class “The Age of Revolutions.” Over and over, in revolutionary figures, I encountered Henry V and his speech to the troops before the Battle of Argincourt. Over and over I wanted the opportunity to “rewrite” my Henry V paper.

In an exchange of emails with a fellow student in my Middle Eastern History class, it was once again confirmed, “doesn’t handle criticism well.” I would have “defriended” him had we been using FaceBook instead of ISpartan. Late into the night, I was unsettled by his pressing questions as we discussed Islamic fundamentalism, Palestinian/Israeli relationships and the King James Version of the Bible. Who was this stranger in cyberspace that dared to question what I knew as “the truth?” (And why did I search him out three years later to thank him?) Speaking of “”defriending,” what about my fellow students in Global Economics? They hurt my feelings with their Keynesian philosophies. Criticism of Hayek was criticism of me. It still is, but at least now I know how the other side views the world and I know how to defend myself.

Finally, the process of writing my final reflective essay has almost cured me of my “critical condition.” First I sent my final draft to a professor friend, his reply, “Beautiful,” fed my ego but was not very helpful. It took an advisor, who truly cared, to say, “lacks intellectual empathy.” Ouch! After many middle of the night ponderings, a lot of emails, and several rewrites to finish the process, I found myself saying what I really wanted to say. She forced me to clarify thoughts that I needed to express. She caused me to dig deep inside and ask myself, do I value courage above empathy, criticism over kindness, progress over tradition, freedom over security and writing over gardening? Thank you Deborah, I will always be grateful for your critiques and your encouragement!

I will soon receive a transcript from UNCG. I think I will write a comment on the bottom. “Still doesn’t take criticism well—but oh, how I appreciate it!”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Heart Google!

Dear Google:

Oh, how I love you. I love you for taking me places I could have never found on my own. I love you for not judging me. I love you for providing me with everything I need. I love you for never letting me down. I love you for always being there. I love you for your images, your maps, your words of wisdom. I love you for making me a blogger. I love you for helping me to find myself. But most of all, I love you for your courage. I, too, will always strive to “Do No Evil.” Please stand strong…and I promise to never Bing you.


Monday, March 15, 2010

If Your're Happy and You Know It Post a Blog!

So, it has been a particularly grumpy week or two--just ask my family! Too much going on and not enough time, energy, patience, or parents. Oh well, it happens. However, when I woke up Saturday morning and read Jessica's Happy Blog, I thought to myself, maybe I, too, can be happy today. It turned out to be a really nice day. So, instead of a post of all life's irritations (I'll save that for FaceBook), Here is why it was a good weekend!

Got up with the sun...
Finished my rough draft...
Cleaned the house...
Knew where one dog was...
Fixed dinner (before it was dinnertime)...
Made my bed....
Read a great book....
Knew where the other dog was!

Then I spent 24 hours alone with my husband, watched a movie with my kids, took a long hot shower in the steam room (no picture) and went outside and looked at the stars!

Monday, March 1, 2010


I always like it when I find a new, big word to use! This is one that I have encountered several different times in my reading this week. In a nutshell, it has to do with inner balance. It is the first thing to go when you get old. It is why people fall down, break their hips and die. Ahh, but I digress. I am not old, yet. In fact, thanks to my Prime Movers dance class, I am just getting younger each week. So there we were dancing around, while Aaron (my main dance man) was telling us how beautiful we look and I picture myself looking like this:

While I am sure he is seeing this:

But anyway, he tells us to balance.... then he tells us to unbalance. Then in his calming, reassuring voice he reminds us that dance is about balancing and unbalancing. I feel a little peace sweep over me, because right now my life is totally out of balance. But, that is o.k.--it is all about the joy of the dance and eventually I will find my balance again. (Just not in March!)