Tuesday, December 21, 2004

the shock of the skidmore tragedy is wearing off. the anger at my ill-behaved adolescent students is growing. it's unreal to me that students can behave so poorly especially at the cost of their peers. their cruelty doesn't cease to amaze me. during the performance of a group of girls (their skit final) sixth hour, one boy ripped a huge fart and the whole room erupted. horrible. that's after the snickers and whispering and snap bracelet snapping that preceeded the gasious eruption. so rude.

four days till christmas. only one 3/4 day of school left.

come christmas come.

Monday, December 20, 2004

you may have heard about the murder and abduction of the pregnant woman in skidmore missouri this past weekend. a 23 year old pregnant woman was strangled and then cut open, her unborn 8 month old fetus removed from her stomach and kidnapped. at first no one knew where the baby was, if it was alive, etc. thankfully though, the baby was found in kansas, abducted by a mother of two who had been chatting with the woman she killed over the internet posing interest in adopting one of the dogs the deceased woman bred.

this story has upset me greatly. it's one horrible monstrous thing to kill a young woman, but quite another ungodly atrocity to slit open her stomach and remove her unborn child to take as your own. good god, what went wrong? how can such events take place without intervention on god's part? it is situations like these that plague my thoughts and question my theology about the immanence of god and god's participation in this created world. questions of theodicy. why didn't god intervene? why didn't the woman's mother show up just a few hours earlier? why didn't the neighbors hear the screams? why couldn't her husband have come home for lunch?

i don't know the answers, but i am stressed by the questions. World wars bother me. Holocausts (both Jewish and Japanese) haunt me. But something so wretched and so close to home take away my joy and irritate my conscious.

oh well. something to think about during these joyful holidays. joyful for some.

Monday, December 13, 2004

I thought about my students a lot this weekend. Even though the past two days were jammed packed with a Mary Kay open house, Emily's sorority party, teaching Sunday school, and going to parties, etc., I often discovered them creeping into my mind: remember us? You are our new teacher! We love you!

Do I love them? Do I actually like teaching high school?

Sure enough, as I drove twenty minutes to work this morning still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, anticipation filled my stomach and warmed my heart as I thought about teaching another day. How blessed am I! A job! And I like it!

Those feelings were gone by 7th hour however. Little monsters. How dare they tease me into thinking I enjoyed this? My back hurts, my mind is fried and I can't get my forehead to relax out of its permanant frown.

Oh well. A job's a job and I do the best I can with what I've got. From the hideous talking urchins to the quiet scholars I must do what I can to preserve what little control I have over this educational environment. I will teach poetry! I will encourage open-mindedness! I will lecture on the first dramatic production broadcast by General Electric! And I will not laugh when I'm being the disciplinarian and they crack clever jokes. And I will not let them get under my skin. And I will not become attached to even the most likable of the bunch.

I will do my job and leave come January. And hopefully the charming and challenging children will leave my mind forever.

Don't get too attached and don't get too discouraged. This too shall pass.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

I teach school. It is hard. Every day I wake up at the butt crack of dawn, oh wait, no I don't, I wake up BEFORE then to shower, dress and mentally prepare myself to be a full time teacher.

That's correct. I am a long term substitute at Savannah High School just north of St. Jo Mo. I have replaced the drama/communications/english teacher and am now officially teaching applied communications, creative writing (twice), drama (twice) and mass communications. Six classes a day. And the 25-30 students in each class are draining me.

This is not to say that I'm not grateful. I would much rather be teaching full time in podunk-ville, USA than inner city Austin, TX. My farm boys are a welcome change to the huge hall monitors, policemen, and students escorted out in handcuffs that are considered regulars where I sub in Austin.

When I first walked into the High School in Savannah, a girl held the door open for me. When i entered the office, two male students stepped aside to let me pass. I almost fell over I was so shocked. I've traded profanity for flatulence in the classroom, and locked doors for i-don't-even-have-to-put-my-purse-in-a-closet. I can't say I appreciate the loud and deadly smells of my students, but at least the candle in my classroom isn't considered a weapon.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Holidays at the Pittman household are never without excitement. Wait a minute, what am I saying? Living a Pittman lifestyle on a day to day basis is never without trauma, opps - I mean excitement. Thanksgiving was no exception. As the turkey began its journey from our stomachs into our intestines, the family settled down on the living room couches in front of the glowing fireplace to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or some other typical family topic. Silas, our ever perceptive (read A.D.D.) 10 year old son/brother/cousin (depending on your relation), asked, "What's that light in the dining room?" I, the ever perceptive (read delusional), wise eldest cousin replied, "That's just candles flickering against the dark walls." No one thought twice about the brief exchange of knowlege until Mary (cousin number 5) got up to put on her coat in an effort to get the family rolling home and into bed. "Oh," she said in her quiet, calm voice (is she blood related? i'm not convinced), "There's a fire." At this point everyone jumped up and rushed into the dining room to behold the (sure enough) now blazing fire on my mother's buffet. Now my mother, being the brilliant matriarch that she is, grabbed a two by four and began fanning the flames, banging the piece of wood onto the ball of fire (of what we're still not sure) on the buffet which sits underneith an enourmous oil on canvas painting of Jesus praying. "Oh shit," I thought in a panic, "Jesus is going to catch on fire." Finding the two by four useless and the flames larger now, my mother ran off to the kitchen and while the rest of us stood shocked, huddled and helpless. My father, stepping up to bat, pulled off his 2XL navy crewneck sweater, and threw it on top of the buffet banging his palms on the firey mass, smothering the flames. My father, the hero. The mass of flames, now a mass of charred remains was discerned to be a candle that had fallen over and shared its flame with the wicker basket it was sitting in. Wax was everywhere from the beatings the Christmas arrangement had taken from my mother and father: on the buffet, the walls, maybe even the painting. But thankfully the buffet wasn't badly scarred and my clean-freak sister Emily spent most of the next morning carefully removing the wax from the antique heirloom. Mother threw away the ruined candle and its counterparts: the basket and the other stinky decorations caught in the fire (literally). Even Jesus made it through relatively untouched, and remains in his prayful pose in the garden of Gethsemene overlooking our discombobulated, but relatively unharmed dining room. Thank God. I think.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving has come and gone, you know what that means: the Christmas List I made in July is ready to be dispersed to family and friends! Have fun shopping!

Connie and Carla
Moulin Rouge (special 2 disk set)
Reality Bites

Pedro the Lion (any of them)
Quiet Lovely
Prayer Cycle
The Cranberries "No Need to Argue"
Don Chaffer "What You Don't Know"

Sinead: Her Life and Music by Jimmy Guterman
Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equation without Formulas by Kyle Lake

Daily Planner
Black Pinstripe pants
Silver hoop earrings (large)
4x6 picture frames (not gold)
Unique rings
Ink cartridges: color and black for printer HP1350
Sheets: full, in tan or cream
Gift certificates to Hobby Lobby, Victoria's Secret or Petco!
Three days ago, I drove home to a white . . . Thanksgiving? Well, sort of. Monday night I left Austin for Waco. Stayed the night with the Eades and then Tuesday headed for the Friege's house in Wichita, Kansas. After 11 days of rain and trudging through my marshland front yard to load my suitcases in Austin Texas, it of course decided to rain all the way to Kansas. It was awful. Thankfully I missed the storm in Fort Worth that knocked over three semis and power lines. But I hit the drizzle and rain all the rest of the way. One would think that drizzle wouldn't cause many problems for an experienced driver like myself, but of course that is not the case. The drizzle was constant and after I lost my sunlight, the lights from cars travelling the opposite directions broke across my windshield as my wipers did all they could to remove the streaks of rain. The semis caused more problems as the water they spewed from their wheels washed my car to the point that i could see nothing, not even the kaleidescope of lights from the other cars through the windshield. i considered crying but figured that would add to my already growing sight problem and resigned myself to prayer and clutching the steering wheel. "Please let me be driving straight . . . please let me be driving straight." When I could see, i kept note of bridges and mile markers I passed so that should anything terrible happen, I could call 911 and give them an estimate of where I had crashed. I pictured myself flying off the cliff, desparatly clutching the babies (my cats) as we crashed. "Did you drive on any cliffs?" my Great-Aunt Ardys asked as I recounted the tale. "Well, no, but there were a few drop-offs." You get the picture.

I did arrive safely in Wichita where Carley (5) and Alex (3), my mother's two "best friends" waited to sit next to me for dinner and argued over who would sleep with me that night. The Friege's used to be our next door neighbors in St Jo, but just last month moved to Wichita, allowing me a nice breaking point to rest.

However, the next morning when I opened my eyes (which happened to be open most of the night as i struggled to sleep in a twin bed with my two fat cats and Alex who had woken up crying at 2am), I found snow on the ground. Crazy Carol was quick to call the Friege's and warn me of 7 inches of snow in Kansas City. Schools were closed. Be careful.

So I was careful. I drove at a moderate speed (75mph) and coasted safely through the rest of Kansas and even through Kansas City that had managed to clear the highways by the time I arrived. Snow everywhere, and it was beautiful: untouched by tractors, animals or humans. However, about 30 miles south of St Jo and 20 miles north of Kansas City, the snow stopped and I spent the last few minutes of my ride in the actual fall season of colorful leaves and dead grass, sights i feared i had missed moving from warm but wet south texas to snowfilled Missouri. But I hadn't. No snow in St Jo Mo, just family, food and thanksgiving.

And for all this I am so thankful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Yesterday brought another day of subbing, my first job in two weeks. I played an ESL teacher for two three-hour block classes (English as Second Language - Spanish speaking students in an English class). Many of my students were fresh from Mexico and the level of English known was varied, but limited in general. The students were fabulous though, and I had a really fun time teaching them. I spent most of the day on my feet helping the students read and write out the definitions to their vocabulary words. I "trampled" through fields banging my hands on desks and drew pictures of flowers normal and then broken in half. I "striked" [sic] and "snapped" "spurted" and "crawled;" I explained "unnoticed" (you've gotta look up "noticed" in the dictionary and then put a no or not in front of it) and then "harmless" (less means no or without). "Poison" and "poised" are right next to each other in the dictionary, so look them up together. No you're name is not "Snoop Doggy Dog," write your real nombre on your paper. Five minute break - bano, agua - do it now if you want to. I would give instructions or reprimand a student in English and he or she would respond to me in Spanish. We would both stare at each other assuming that we understand our respective foreign languages, then I would shrug my shoulders and walk on to the next student. It was fun. They laughed at my foolishness, and I laughed at how ridiculous the whole scenario seemed. I now know how my French teachers in Montpellier must have felt teaching French to 15 students all from different countries. The interesting thing though is that when I studied in France at that institute for foreigners, often the one language we had in common was not french, but english. If someone from Germany didn't understand the French vocab word, a Sweedish student would give the English equivalent to which Germany would nod his head in appreciation. Strange. And here I am teaching teenagers living in America the word for "madurez": maturity, the process of growing up. "Little girl, big girl. You grow up. Little brain, big brain. You get smarter, wiser. And there is emotional growth . . . well, um . . . anyway, little girl, big girl: maturity.

Monday, November 08, 2004

This past weekend came at just the right time in my life. On Friday, I travelled north to my former place of residency and to my former church to attend a short UBC retreat. We drove to Latham Springs, a very shabby version of Windemere in Missouri (good in its own right, but not much compared to the pretty Windemere). Friday night, Mike Evans spoke on spiritual journeying, the importance of journeying out story. He gave us questions to ponder and journal about - thought provoking and self-disclosing. I loved it. Saturday morning's session was led by Kyle and focused on reading the Bible. It was geared mostly towards the college kids (and other new-ish members) I think, introducing them to a more open way of reading the Bible and interacting with the scriptures, typical to UBC conversation, but not typical to traditional, conservative churches. Although I was nervous about knowing many people, or fitting into the various cliques that would be represented at the weekend, I tagged along and participtated in some great "fellowship" and silly girl time.

Around noon on Saturday, the retreat ended and I headed further north to another church located in Dallas where I met up with Big Phil's big brother, Darrell Shepherd to record a demo. With just his guitar and my voice, we recorded ten songs (six originals) for me to have in case I find an accompanist here in Austin. This makes it easier to say, "Can you play this?" or "What could you add to this?" when trying to find a good music match. More than that though, the recording of the songs proved very theraputic offering me a chance to spit out my sorrow in song.

Moving to Austin has been hard. I am no longer a student - really for the first time in my life. Finding a job didn't come easy post-graduation, and even now that I have one, it certainly isn't what I'd call consistant. Emotionally it's been challenging letting go of people, meeting new ones, and still trying to find my niche in the grand scheme of relationships that run our lives. I live out of boxes in a small bedroom and although my roomies are fabulous, i still have felt displaced and disoriented, not all there, if you will. Most of my life (my books, my research, my art) is boxed up in a garage in Waco. I haven't sung seriously since Summer 2003 when I was in Into The Woods, and have had no real crative output. All this to say that singing this weekend provided me a great opportunity to unload my life in song, in music, in the pushing of all my air through my vocal chords and having it produce a song so much more beautiful than what I often feel.

I returned to Austin yesterday afternoon to find a "care package" from Bethany Chance on my desk: roses from her garden, a CD, chocolate and a home-made card. This was the icing on the cake, a little bit of incarnate love added to a very spiritually renewing weekend.

So I guess I'll say thank you Mike, Kyle and UBC, thank you Darrell, thank you Bethany and thank you God for holding out hope for me. I hope in You too.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Subbing Life

An update on my life as a substitute teacher.

True to form thus far this semester, I have had several more Special Ed jobs and one job as a Spanish Teacher putting me up to a whopping total of 8.5 days of subbing this semester. One of my more interesting days of subbing came at a school that I had been specifically asked to return to work at again in Special Ed. I started off with a delightful and smart autistic teenager named Bobby. All morning I attended classes with him, quietly encouraging him to stay focused on his work and the teacher's lessons. He was very articulate and very concerned about when the pep rally was and what time the football game started. "The pep rally is Friday and the game will probably be that night," I told him. "Oh that's very interesting," he'd reply.

That afternoon I became a different TA and entered an "emotionally challenged" classroom of three students. Now, keep in mind that I have many friends with foul mouths and quite a little mouth myself, but honest to God, I've never heard such language come out of students in the presence of their teacher. I was flabberghasted and eventually retreated to the teacher's desk to contemplate. Since I was the TA in the class, I could do this. Thank God, cause if I'd had these three (that's right - THREE) teenagers on my own I'd have not made it. "I'm not doing this f---ing homework. This is bulls--t." Out loud. Directed toward the teacher. At one point, the only girl in the class hauled out and punched one of the boys in the crotch for getting too close to her. It was unreal. The next class was better behaved, and even though it was larger, the teacher had more control. This class was interesting because I had one student with no arms. There was another TA in the classroom, and I wasn't sure if she was there to help the armless girl or the girl in the wheelchair, so I just sort of sat and watched the class unfold. I was curious if the girl without arms would use her feet like I've seen in "Amazing stories" on TV. Sure enough, about halfway through the period, I looked over at her and she was running her toes . . . through her hair! "That f---ing rocks!" I thought to myself. Then she then opened the three ring binder that someone had layed on her desk and took out some paper. She picked up her pen and began to take notes on the teacher's lecture, drawing x and y graphs on her paper. Amazing. If she hadn't had such an attitude (classic, don't-want-to-learn, bad attitude teenager), she and I could have been great friends.

The spanish classes I taught were probably going to be okay I thought as I entered the classroom. No insanely vulgar language directed at me, just taking roll and giving assignments. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. First hour I had two students up and walk out of the class for no aparent reason. They never returned to class. So I wrote two referrals. In second hour, I had a "group walk-out." You see, in the whole day, I'd say all but maybe ten students weren't hispanic, i.e. didn't speak spanish as their primary language. So in second hour, after telling several students to stop flicking each other with their pencils, the bitter teenagers devised a plan . . . in Spanish. Unbeknownst to their English/French speaking teacher (me) they planned a "walk-out" and sure enough at a given word (in Spanish) ten or so students stood and marched toward the door. I was shocked and and they left the classroom, I shouted "referrals!" the most effective (?) threat to High School students. I have to admit, most of them chickened out once they reached the door, and with defiance and a giggle, returned to their seats. Two students however, were not disuaded with my referral threat and by the time I got to the hallway, they were gone. Now, don't get me wrong, third period was delightful, fourth period was volleyball, and sixth period was okay. The day overall moved from insanely stressful to pretty average. But the walk-out kind of scarred me, I can't tell a lie.

All in all, it's been sort of a depressing experience. I spend much time contemplating the education system we have in America, or at least the one I've seen in Austin, Texas. What is going wrong? Why don't students want to learn? How do we teach respect and human dignity? It depresses me to see the hands into which I and others will someday hand our great (?) nation, indeed, our world.

But maybe I'm just not teaching the right classes. Or maybe it doesn't start with classes, the masses, maybe it starts with individuals; individuals like Bobby. After all, the world is is very interesting. Maybe education starts with one who can recognize that.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dear John

Dear John,

I'm so sorry you didn't win. I watched Jon Stewart and colleagues last night, pulling for you. But when your opponant (I can't even mention his name) was up to 69 supposed electoral votes, I went to bed. Today when you stepped down from the race, I retired the book I was reading and again went to bed. I slept all afternoon in defeat. But John, please don't be sad. If I could wrap my arms around you in a big, encouraging bear hug, I would. Don't fret. Just stay active. I will try to do the same. Besides, we'll get 'em with Hilary in 08.

Ann Pittman

Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween News.

So halloween has come and gone. The previous picture of "the babies" shows my darling cats who were kept inside on halloween to prevent any foul play by twisted trick or treaters. Bethany and Gabe Chance had a party on the 30th at their house in north austin (cedar park). it was tons of fun and lots of people showed up: both Bush and Kerry (sigh*) were there, as were two fairies, two housewives, a flapper (yours truly), rapper Flava, Hugh Hefner and his playboy bunny, potassium, calcium, and others. The best part of the evening was watching Dracula and Alien without no volume, while listening to Gabe's eclectic CD's and providing dialogue ourselves. All in all it was a very safe and fun Halloween party. Halloween itself was good too. The babies were safe and I went to church that night and was responsible for communion. From the mouth of a girl wearing a black shirt and scary bat earrings came, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you." Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Subbing in Austin Days 1-5

As of tomorrow I will have completed my fifth sub job all of which (for some strange reason) will have been for Special Ed teachers or P.E. coaches (basketball and dance). Weird. Never have I ever subbed for either of these positions before but all of a sudden that's all I'm getting down here. My first day as a Special Ed English teacher went great with only one minor upset. The absent teacher was still in the building attending a conference and so would poke his head in every hour just to check on me and the students. However, when he did this in his second hour class, one of the students, angry that I wouldn't turn off the light during the movie they were watching, cried out "She's a B!" At this point he stood up and shoved his desk forward, "She's a B!, a B!" Well, needless to say, the teacher pulled the student out in the hall and the other students gasped. One girl sitting near me say, "Aww, did you hear that Miss? He called you a bitch! I wouldn't take that from him if I was you; I'd kiss his ass!" Well, I obviously didn't kick his ass, but rather took it in stride as I've certainly been called worse. The student returned to class, silent and well behaved after his teacher calmed him down and threatened to send him to the office. The teacher was very apologetic, but I assured him that if that was the worse thing that happened today, I would count it as a good day at school.

My second day was less eventful as I never had more than two students in my class at once. This type of class was designed for students who had been kicked out of their normal classes and so came to my room for a designated amount of time in which they could do their normal class work and hopefully prove themselves obedient enough to return to their regular classroom. I had a TA (teacher's assistant) for every class so very little was required of me. Nevertheless, I tried to help the students with their homework. However, when trying to help one student write a resume and after asking him to change his desired employment from strip club manager to restaurant manager, and then having him refuse to do any of the rest of the work for the resume besides write down the job he intended to apply for; and after asking a second student what his homework was, have him turn to a random page in his book, point to a paragraph and saying "that," and after calling his bluff and then having him turn to a different page one hundred or so pages away from the first one and pointing to another random paragraph and saying "that," I gave up. I went back to checking Subfinder on the web for an available job the next day.

This third teaching job in special ed was as a TA for students with severe mental and physical disabilities. I'm not exactly sure of the PC term for this, I know "handicapped" is taboo, so please forgive me if "disabilities" is taboo too, I mean no ill intent, I just lack knowledge. This was by far the most rewarding experience of the three. I played children's monopoly, worked on the alphabet and words, colored and drew, and sang with the teenagers. One boy with downs syndrome took to me, and when I left the classroom 6th period to help antoher teacher, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He had a book that played each instrument's different sound and songs, and was delighted when I sang "Take Me Out to the Ballfield" along with the trumpet. One girl, Monique, couldn't speak, but sure could color even with her two small, crinkled hands. I loved watching her fill in her haunted houses and scary spiders with the bright colored pencils. Her diligence at cutting out the finished picture with two hands that don't work as well as mine (or probably yours either) was inspiring. She loved was she was doing, and didn't mind at all that my hand's or her teacher's worked twice as fast. She was a delightful girl, positive and silly, even when her classmates would get mad or throw temper tantrums. It was a great day, and I'm happy to announce that I'll be returning there tomorrow. The woman in charge of substitutes came in at lunch to ask if I could return on Wednesday to which I obviously responded, "Of course!"

So tomorrow starts day four in Special Education, day two in "life skills," the class I enjoyed the most. As for the P.E. classes, I could certainly do without. There's no teacher/student interaction other than, "Play basketball" or "dance or I'll write you up." I will say though that when I told the basketball students of Lanier High School to play nicely, one boy responded, "Miss, we from the hood, we don't play nicely."

And there you have it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An Email Exchange

So I received a forward from my former youth minister asking my thoughts in response to it. the email contained multiple juxtipositions between bush and kerry from a "christian" perspective with regard to their politics. lots of stuff about abortion and homosexuals. i found the email disturbing for several reasons. i spent a good hour thinking over it and writing him back with my response. thought i might offer it up here too . . .

first of all, i think christians should prioritize on what the issues of importance are. secondly, i think they should consider the type of country we live in, thirdly, they need to re-evaluate what type of christians they need to be.

that said . . .

1. the issues of importance: gay marriage seemed to be big on whoever's list this is. i have my own opinion about gay marriage, but either way, it is not on my list of top five reasons to vote for a president. for that matter, neither is abortion. my reasons for this are biblical, legistical and compassion oriented. the word "homosexual" in the hebrew and greek is only actually used 6 times in the whole bible. the idea of "homosexual" is only mentioned a handful of times more than that. however, loving our neighbor, providing for widows, orphans and the poor, standing up for the oppressed, getting along with our enemies, are discussed explicitely and extensively more times than i care to sit down and count. not to mention, we don't know what the bible would have said to homosexuality that wasn't old men sexually oppressing young boys and being pornographic (as was the case at that time), but was two adults wanting to engage in a monogomous relationship. with abortion, personnally, i think its wrong (as does John Kerry - obviously since he's a catholic and catholics hate abortion, they even reject birth control, they're so fundamental with that), but i don't think that it's right to make abortions illegal in america. partial birth abortions? yes. illegal. and repulsive. but other abortions? i don't think so. what would you have done if shannon found out that either boston or will's bodies were being created minus a brain? minus a face? amy's sister in law tamara has a friend who was a new parent (with her husband) whose unborn child was diagnosed with this disease that only allowed half of his body to develop (the brain was on the non-developmental half). it would die without its brain in the womb (because the brain tells the body to breathe, blink, grow, etc.). so do you have the abortion now, or let the woman continue to have the baby(is it a baby?) grow within her only to die once the babies functions shut down? do you make her body wait nine months with a dead baby in it before she gives birth? no, obviously. not to mention that i'm not sure how ethical it is to make abortions illegal and force women (and children) into back alley abortions or coat hanger mothers. is it more ethical to close our eyes and pretend it won't happen? to lose mothers to death this way too? plus, people who push the abortion issue really get to me. if abortion is such a big deal, why aren't they adopting children? are they active in pushing options for high school pregnant girls? are they involved in a mentoring program? are they volunteering at orphanages? giving money to education of women's choices regarding adoption? becoming foster parents, etc.? if you're gonna talk the talk and make abortion the number one issue, you better be walking the walk.
so if what the bible says is important is different than this (or at least greatly leaning on other issues) then what is important? i'd say war is a big one. the treating of our enemies and the treatment of our own people who disagree with the government (our own free americans), is big. is a war just when our president has lied about numerous issues? is it just to go to war with a country that oppresses its people, hates america, but sits on a big fat pocket of oil, but not go to war with a country that oppresses more people, kills more of its own citizens, but doesn't have any oil to give america? is the killing of innocent civilians over a war that we're not even sure is legitimate right? is it right to act in the world as if we are the know it alls of everything? we had a pack in the UN to not ever drop nuclear weapons on a country that has none. bush broke that rule. is that right? what about poverty in america and abroad? is is right to give tax breaks to the rich when middle-class and poor americans are suffering? what about education? is it right to not make this a priority when black students in the ghetto don't even get a chance to learn half the things a white kid in suburbia does? that they are born into a system that is hard if not impossible to escape - a sytstem of poverty, violence and biased education? is it "christian" for a president to lie to a country? the pentagon papers exposed vietnam and lots of people have started talking, exposing the bogus nature of this war too.

2. We live in America, a country that is founded on free rights for everyone. I love this. I hate it though when people call us a christian nation. We are not a christian nation and perhaps shouldn't be. I know the conservative christians are gasping now, but hear me out. Christian nations don't allow for dialogue among people of different views, christian nations have a history of oppression (the crusades, germany in ww2, england with regard to ireland, etc.) - why would we want to live in a nation like that. God created us with free will - wouldn't he want us to live in a world that allows for that? Plus, in America, i can talk freely with my hindu and muslim and atheist friends about my faith, and they can talk to me about theirs. we can dialogue and discuss what we have in common and what makes us distinct. The Muslim faith is growing across the world and in America. If you have a school where a muslim or a hindu is elected student body president, do you want his prayer to be prayed for boston's and all the other students? If you want prayer in school then you better be ready to be more accepting of all types of people and all types of prayers (and time for dialogue to develop!!). but most people wanting prayer in schools want "christian" prayer in schools. they have an oppressive, exclusive agenda. besides that, look at our models for people who pray. i don't care if george bush says he prays every day. so did hitler!! just because someone prays doesn't mean he is allowing god to transform him. and the "fruit" i see from george w is few and far between. i have a hard time believing jesus would look at bush's fruit: war, oppression, fewer jobs, tax breaks for rich, lies, etc. and say, "good job - you got that love your neighbor thing down. oh and thanks for praying so much!" i know some would say i'm judging bush but since when does going to church make you a christian? and since when did the bible back out on knowing a follower based on their fruit?

3. Who are we? What is important to us? Are we afraid of homosexuals? Are we afraid of blacks and hispanics in our schools? Do we love the fact that republicans allow our companies to become monopolies? Do we love financial security? Do we love digging for oil, owning guns, pushing Christianity on our neighbors and hating our enemies? Are we afraid of the hard issues like poverty and oppression and find it easier to hang our hats on abortion? Are we afraid of diversity, of dialogue? Are we afriad God can't pull his own weight? Have we not taken seriously the command to love our neighbors? Is it too hard? Too vague? Too easy to hate middle-easterners?

Those are some of my thoughts based on the email you sent me. It's probably fairly clear where I stand on a lot of things. I'm not looking to start an argument and I hope you won't think i'm a non-christian and try to convert me or something dumb like that. It's just that I think that Christianity as it is exhibited by Bush and right wing conservatives is not the type of Christianity i want to embrace. When I look at the government, I don't think, "Now those are some Christians who really know what it means to follow Jesus!" It's disappointing to me that right wing extremists are saying that Democrats can't be Christians. It's offensive to me that to be a Christian is to support Bush and all he stands for. He is not my God or my salvation (or America's). Jesus is. And I'm doing my best to take my cues from Him.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A New Experience

This was one of the more exhausting and exhilarating weekends of my life. At Mosaic, nine of us have been planning our experiential labyrinth for almost three months now. All our theoretical brainstorming came down to putting paintings where our mouths were and setting up the labyrinth this weekend. After fifteen hours of labor (without a break), i finally retired to bed late saturday night. sunday, working down to the very last minute (and a few minutes after our 6pm opening), the labyrinth became open to the public having transformed eleven rooms and two hallways of a four story FBC building into a re-created, carefully planned conglomeration of art, music, aural poetry, activities, movies, collages, exhibits, slideshows, etc.
I can't believe we did it. My initial thoughts at 11:30 on Saturday night were, "I hope God appreciates this!" [throw in an expletive or two, well deserved after a six inch long (body, not tail) and four inch fat RAT almost ran up my leg - story for another time. i digress]. However by 10:30 Sunday night as I sat in the room i was womaning with scissors, tape, a marker and my phone stuffed into my pockets to prepare for emergencies, tears welled up in my eyes as overwhelmed, I stared at the images and soaked up the aura of the room. I sat in front of three TV's playing slideshows I created of "community," "austin," and "the world" pictures and quotes, and for the first time I saw them anew. Tears sprung not from the three inch scissors poking me in the ass, but from understanding for the first time that God is love and I must be love and sometimes I am love and sometimes I am not love, but the great I AM loves me anyway.
The whole experience was new for me as I've never been a part of anything like this before, but is was good, and though right now the idea of another labyrinth for Advent or Lent makes my stomach turn, I'm sure someday in the future, another will begin to sprout from the remnants of the roots of this labyrinth in my brain. The process reminded me much of the constructing of a Musical - so many scenes and emotions, and so dependent on the audience's response and participation. and surely just as rewarding and exhausting. if i'd have known what an amazing event this would have been, i'd have asked my parents to come experience it. Pitt and Crazy would have loved it. but since none of the people i personally invited showed up anyway, i guess it's better i didn't ask the "rents" to come either. oh well - i just wanted more people to experience god in this way. it was hard too to watch it all being torn down at 10 pm sunday night. approximately 2500 hours of ten to twelve workers time in two days was being stripped down, destroyed, in a matter of minutes. terribly depressing. but beautiful too. we were faithful to a dream and god was faithful enough to show up. thank you god for beauty, art, culture, goodness, forgiveness, peace and transformation. You are good and we will try to be good too. We love you. Amen.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I am officially brilliant.

or naive. one of the two.

i moved to austin august 15th with the high hopes of easily and quickly landing a job substitute teaching with the aisd. after acquiring my transcript from jewell (aisd didn't care about my master's transcript) and applying i began the waiting process.
unbeknownst to me, this process would continue until even today, october 1st. after several weeks of "processing" i finally received my "congratulations, you've been hired" letter and instructions about attending an orientation event scheduled for sept. 29th.
so i waited anxiously for wednesday the 29th. i cancelled my trip to missouri to attend it, and gave up several nights of sleep awaiting its arrival (nerdy, i know, to lose sleep over a boring orientation, but i was a month into waiting for this notice and one can't easily reason with one's fatigue or lack thereof).
orientation day arrived and it was all i imagined and more. the leader gave us all the logistics of the subbing process, acquainted us with "SubFinder" that allows us to schedule our own days off, accept jobs, etc. and finally treated us like the children we always wanted to be by forcing us to write raps and draw pictures about how to come prepared to a subbing job and how to manage unruly children in the classroom. i tried hard not to slit my wrists.
but the day had arrived and i was satisfied. starting tomorrow morning i would begin subbing and receiving an income, right? wrong. "Oh by the way," our instructor started, and i raised my head, daring her to further ruin my day, "it will take at least one week if not two to get your names into the computer and assign you a sub i.d. number." huh? another week or two? are you kidding me? i began devouring our pay day info sheet calculating when i would begin working and when that would allow me to receive my first paycheck. if i don't work until next week, i'll have missed this month's pay cycle, which means i'll be into the next one, which means they won't mail my check till november 30th which means i won't receive my first paycheck until DECEMBER!?!?
holy jesus, deliver me.
i moved to austin sans job, sans, income and sans sense. in missouri, you apply to sub, get accepted and get started. not so in austin, tx. you apply, wait, orientate, wait, sub, wait and then get paid.
consequently, i'm returned to the job search. i'm looking at librarian work or temping or something to get me through. no paycheck and thousands of dollars on my credit cards are not compatible elements in my life as you can well imagine.
and so i sit as the anxiety of bills rises and the self-esteem sinks. what an idiot i was to think this would be a smooth, quick process. oh well. you live you learn right? maybe someday i'll appreciate all this time off and freedom from the tangled web of corporate america. but not now; now i just want to pay my bills.

Friday, September 24, 2004

A Sermon

So a month ago I preached at UBC in Waco, Texas about transition. I spoke of graduating the day before, packing up my entire existence the day before that, and splitting all my belongings between my landlord’s garage, my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, and my newly rented room in a house in Austin, Texas. In one week I traded in my 23-year-and-counting student status and began a new life among the unfortunately-unemployed. The genius of this move was that I had no job, no job leads, and obviously no income, but now live in a much cooler city than Waco, Texas.

One month later though and I’m not sure I’m singing the same song. Being unemployed kind of sucks, even if I get to sleep in late and not have to answer to a manager wondering why I showed up at 11:30 when I was schedule at ten. Plus the daily calls from my mother telling me of her friend’s cousin’s first husband’s step-uncle who lived just outside of Austin 17 years ago could maybe get me a job (in God only knows in what line of work) are about to push me over the edge. My credit card bill is going to be out of the roof since I’m not making any money, but am spending the same amount, if not more, going to fun bars and coffee shops with friends. Not to mention my poor wart toe that needs surgery that I can’t afford without health insurance which I of course do not have. Plus, I’ve already moved again! Due to a poor choice in location of my first Austin residence being that it was located just outside of San Antonio and I had to drive a half an hour to get anywhere, I stuffed my belongings into cardboard boxes for a second time this month to move to a different house further north. Ridiculous. Even my cats are stressed, bless their hearts – they’re losing weight!

And that’s not all. That’s just the lighter side of transition. The side you can talk about in public, and joke about with your new neighbors. When I preached a month ago I thought the transitioning was over now that I had graduated, packed and was ready to move. Little did I know it was just beginning.

You see, when you’ve got 24 hours a day not to go into work, you have plenty of time to reflect on your life. Everyone around me runs around like chickens with their damn heads cut off: I got called into work, I have to fix my car, I have a test tomorrow, I’ve gotta call my girlfriend, I’ve got a meeting tonight, I’ve got a date, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, I’ve got jury duty. And while they’re making money, touching people’s lives, learning new things, and being functional people, they rush, rush, rush. But not me, I reflect, reflect, reflect.

And quite frankly, I don’t like what I’m discovering. While other people pray for time off for themselves, I pray for time away from me. They seek to search their being, and relax and know themselves, while I sit daily with the sourness of my soul. And I’m not sure what to do about it. This transition has provided me time with me, and it is pushing me into a serious time of discomfort and disorientation, - an emotional wilderness, if you will.

I mean, what do I do with a bored, bitter, heart that holds on to years of pain? Other people have jobs and lovers and organizations and hobbies to distract them from pain, heartbreak, confusion, and a sense of worthlessness. But I’ve got none of that. I think of jobs left, lovers lost, and the emptiness I feel starting at ground zero in one of the “coolest cities in America,” and I head back to bed hoping dreamland will be more promising than reality.

I’ve been listening carefully to people here at Mosaic talk about transition in their lives: disorientation, exile, chaos and difficult times, and I’ve woven many of their stories into my own. For most of us can easily remember, dig up from within ourselves, that time in our life when we were scared, wandering, belligerent toward God, confused, hurt, angry at the world, or tired of life in general. We’ve all written the occasional sad bastard poem, and we’ve all looked at the world and asked, “Why?” What brought us to these questions and feelings may be very different scenarios but they leave us in a very similar wilderness state of loss, confusion or anger.

Micah 4:6 says, “In that day, says the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away, and those whom I have afflicted.” This verse is fascinating to me because it describes two types of people who end up in exile or in the wilderness. The first type of person somehow winds up in a state of bewildered emotional chaos by no fault of her own. Cancer, lost jobs, abuse, divorce, death are things that happen to us that we did not ask for, life scenarios we did not seek. And yet they come, blowing us over and leaving us weak and stranded in the land of disorientation.

The other type of person in the wilderness described in this verse is the one whom God has afflicted: the one lamenting her state because of the bad choices she made and the consequences she’s receiving. I had a teacher in seminary named Dr. Ngan who would “whack” us if we said something sexist or insensitive or stupid. It was always in a joking manner, but she did talk seriously about how God “whacks” us sometimes too. In Micah God “whacked” the Israelites because of social evils. The people were oppressing the poor, and their prophets and rulers were money-hungry hypocrites. And God whacked them. However, because Micah tells us that God whacked the Israelites does not mean that we can look at someone in a wilderness state and assume that God is “whacking” or punishing them. Dr. Ngan always said it was never our place to describe when God had “whacked” someone else. In other words, she made it very clear that when bad things happen, it is not always some vengeful punishment from God. Sometimes shit just happens. Only the personally afflicted know in their own hearts when they have been “whacked” by God.

So there are those who end up in the wilderness by no fault of their own and those who are put there by God to help them sort out their priorities, but God gathers up both together to deliver them from exile. Verse 7 goes on to say, “The lame I will make a remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation.” A remnant is a base, a solid root of a new exciting entity; a strong nation is one that has power to be God’s people. God gathers those who are lame from life, and begins the rebuilding process with us! Not with the powerful or with those who have their lives in order, but with those who have experienced the exile and are now becoming new people rooted in God’s love and grace.

But what I have been discovering through my transition process and now from my bewildered walk through the wilderness of my soul is that perhaps there are some of us, a third type of person, who reject God’s grace to settle for the exilic life. I wonder if there are not some of us who are in the wilderness because of our own undoing. We stubbornly choose to remain in a state of disorientation instead of accepting God’s invitation to grace and restoration. As such, we have allowed our hearts to react to the pain we’ve experienced in the world with anger, greed, bitterness, self-pity, or hate. When we experience loss there is a necessary time of mourning that the wilderness allows and that actually leads to healing. But I have discovered that sometimes when God is ready to help me move past the pain, I have chosen to remain in it. I wonder if there are not some of us whose pain is replaced not with healing and deliverance by God, but with retaliation on our part, a triumph of our pain and pride over any healing God offers. In essence, we tell God we can handle the pain ourselves, and our hearts begin to turn as dark as the world we feel has turned against us.

Now, I’m not saying we entertain dark thoughts of mass murders, the raping and pillaging of our neighborhood or any blatant, enormous, horrible sins like that. Rather, I’m talking about the thoughts and motivations in our hearts that move from being God-centered to being us-centered, me-centered. When God offers healing, forgiveness, courage or strength, we brood instead on our anger, envy, strife, jealously and divisiveness.

Frederick Buechner writes about anger saying, “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”[1]

And this is a scary thing because in clinging to the pain that is so familiar and yet so destructive, we simultaneously resist God who waits to gather us in to his healing care. “Bitterness is all I know!” And so we reject God’s forgiveness, reject the notion of forgiving others, and we wallow in our pain. “I was robbed!” we scream, “of my childhood, of my job, of my parents, of my love!” And yes, for those of us who were sexually abused as children, we were robbed; for those of us whose spouse chose adultery over fidelity, we were robbed; for those of us who were passed up for our ideal jobs because of sexism or racism, we were robbed. I do not mean to demean any of these painful experiences. But when we move from honest pain to demanding that the world sees our injustice through our eyes, when we prefer to wallow (sometimes for years) in our pain rather than be helped into a new place by God, we will never experience the freedom of healed life.

Indeed, we deceive ourselves when we go to worship singing songs of deliverance and joy while we harbor angry thoughts about our neighbor. We deceive ourselves when we volunteer at church: set up on Sunday, offer our home for Bible study, and go to weekly community groups while envy rules in our heart. Time and time again God tells Israel, it is not sacrifices or burnt offerings that I desire, but a clean heart.[2] In other words, it’s not all about what we do, but rather, who we are.

The wilderness is not a bad place – a hard place perhaps, but not necessarily a bad place. For our time in the wilderness is a time for us to wrestle with our emotions, fears, anger, and confusion. It is a time often of honest mourning. It is a time to sort out who we are and who we want to be. It is a time when we wrestle with God, a time that brings us to our knees in pain, and a time when God brings his grace to the table to set us free. But when we choose not to accept the embrace of God and choose instead to live independent of God’s love and healing, in essence we choose the death of our hearts and the death of pure joy. We all know people in this extreme: people addicted to their pain, to their sense of injustice. The question then becomes, to what extent do we harbor the same life-sucking sins (even if to a lesser extent) in our lives?

But God aches to give us freedom from these inadequate feelings. God longs to make us whole in and of ourselves, completed by God’s love. God can take our hate and replace it with love, on our anger God can shower peace, to our envy God gives contentment and to our helplessness, self-esteem. But we must be at a place of weakness - of weariness of ourselves - to welcome grace from God. And grace will come. I can’t explain how this happens or how long it takes. For me it took honest prayer, recognition of my sin, a confession of it and prayerful pleading for a change of heart. It took reading old texts about the first wilderness walkers. I don’t mean to sound trite and offer Sunday school answers like “Pray! Read your Bible! and Jesus!” but for me, prayer that admitted my inability to heal myself was the first step to accepting God’s outstretched, healing hand. And I am not happy and forever well, but I am well on my way. We are all works in progress, unfinished paintings needing the touch of the Master Artist’s hand.

How this looks for you, I don’t know. Maybe it means giving up on you, giving up on pain that will never heal you. Perhaps it means joining a faith community that can love you for who you are. Perhaps accepting God’s healing means reading the stories of those aksi healed, and listening to the stories of the people around you who have experienced the same. Perhaps it means talking to a Don or Phil or a professional counselor. We are all at different places, but to each depth, God’s love extends. For, it is not the perfect God seeks, but the wounded: those who ache for healing. Zephaniah calls, “Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.”[3] Amen.

Ann Pittman
Sept. 19, 2004
Mosaic Church Austin, TX

[1] Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words. Harper: San Francisco, 2004, 18.
[2] Hosea 6:6, Isaiah 1:11-17
[3] Zephaniah 3:14-20

Sunday, September 19, 2004

so i graduated with my master's degree august 14, 2004. in divinity no less. god only knows why. and now i live in austin, for not quite a month, and as is the way with the disshelved ones, i've already moved twice in that one month. i have joined ranks with the unfortunately unemployed, but will survive (if my creditors don't eat me alive). i preach at my new church mosaic ( ) sunday night, teach a class on genesis tuesday evening, and then leave directly after that for columbia missouri. going to visit the acuffs (milly's hiring me to organize her life in three days - hey jesus managed to bring himself back to life in that amount of time, surely i can clean a damn house!) and also to visit pitts and joel who recently bought a house in columbia where amy is in med school. then i'm off to liberty to hang with emmers at the dz brunch on saturday and then finally on to st jo mo on sunday. fun times!
actually, its been quite a transition figuring out what i want to do with my life, now that (for the first time in 23 years) i am no longer a student. do i sing? act? pastor? preach? write? i've decided on teaching: substituting for now (if Austin ISD ever officially "processes" and hires me) and then hopefully someday in a university. i want to do PhD work in literature starting in fall of 05 so guess who has to take the GRE this semester and apply to schools. that's right, yours truly. why stop with school now? it's all i know. reality can wait as far as i'm concerned.
so that's the scoop. lots of love and peace and learning.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Monday, April 12, 2004

so this is it. i have entered the world of the blog. hang on everyone and enjoy the ride! oh wait . . . the ride is closed? typical. well, hang on to your ice cream then, cause i've got a story to tell.