Monday, July 31, 2006

Für Die Lehrer, Die Ich Alles Schulde

Recently I sat down to write a terribly difficult letter that did not bring the outcome I had hoped for. Perhaps my reaction to this has been best reflected in the earlier quotation from President Benjamin Harrison and my earlier preoccupation with Graham Greene’s statement regarding the mercy of God. This summer has been a test of my personal strength and conviction in many ways, a test I am thankful for in that it has reminded me of how I arrived where I am.

A former high school teacher of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis in a way has forced me to recognize something that has been looming over my head since the late hours of May 23rd. I am where I am today because of teachers who have supported me, guided me, and encouraged me.

Why May 23rd? May 23rd Bert Marley lost the primary election for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Prior to the primary I came out in strong support of Bert as his former student and as a fellow Democrat. What I did not say publicly, but know, as does Bert, is that he is the reason I did not drop out of high school. For reasons that seem absurd now, boredom included, I was dead-set on dropping out of high school. Had I not been placed in Bert’s classroom time after time, I wonder where I would be today. The day he introduced me from the gallery of the Senate chamber in Boise was a day I will never forget. He introduced me as a former student and only one other time had I been as proud to be his former student—the November day I stood on the lawn of the capitol building when he announced his candidacy for State Superintendent.

The teacher who was recently diagnosed with cancer came just after Bert in my life. I left Bert's classroom, still a student and quite happy to be a student, and found a U.S. History teacher that would change my life forever. The lessons she taught me in the classroom were hardly comparable to the lessons she taught me outside of the classroom. She was my support in a horrible health crisis and she was my salvation when the bottom of my world fell out. I owe this woman so much that I cannot possibly give her, but I have realized recently that the greatest gift I can give her is my own success because she has so steadily been a part of shaping it.

When I ended up at ISU, I was discouraged, disinterested, and felt in so many ways defeated. Not right away, but eventually, I would find a class and a professor that would save me intellectually and emotionally—remarkably, an English class. This summer that former English professor of mine takes new steps in her career and I am so happy for her, but part of me wishes daily she were still at ISU. Her influence on me is immeasurable and her absence is evident.

Throughout my life I have always found school and learning to be an escape. Throwing myself into whatever the task may be can distract me from whatever personal obstacles I may be attempting to overcome. Never has this been truer than this summer. I registered for summer classes in effort to deter boredom, not knowing what this summer would turn in to. Through my work on the state historical journal I have had a much needed and appreciated distraction. Also, I have had the opportunity to work with someone who has had tremendous patience with me, has encouraged me continuously, and who has reminded me that even on the toughest days when what we want seems so far out of reach, there is solace in history—something I had forgotten. The only logical reason I can find that explains why this summer has not defeated me is this internship and this professor.

These teachers never had to sit me down and tell me that I have potential. Bert Marley never asked me to stay in school; he challenged me in the classroom. It has never been a simple sentence or gesture from any of these teachers, but a certain amount of patience, encouragement, and support that has enabled me to continue my education. They in a sense were saying to me what Adlai Stevenson once said at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: “The future stretches ahead, untrodden and uncharted—but ours to take and to master. That future is mostly yours; the roads yours to choose.”

To these four teachers I owe everything. Last week I picked beans in my former high school history teacher’s garden, a small payment for all she has done for me. Before the primary election I did everything I could for Bert’s campaign, it was no where near enough, but the best I could do. I will continue to give back in every way I can to the teachers, professors, mentors, and friends who have lead me here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

TDIH: Well....A Random Thought Anyway

On this day in 1898, Will Kellogg invented Corn Flakes. Now that probably isn't nearly as important to anyone else, but since have begun every day of my life for years with a nice bowl of Corn Flakes I thought it was at least worthy of noticing today.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Summer From Hell

I swear this summer has been a continual uphill battle with no end in sight. Though I have been entertained and greatly appreciate of the tasks I have been given with my internship, I have not been nearly as appreciative of the setbacks that seem to come at every turn.

Case in point: This week I lost all of the files on my flash drive. That is somewhere in the neighborhood of 128mb of documents, spread sheets, and pictures. I was able to retrieve around half of what I lost, but what was retrievable amounted to papers I had written for various classes that will never be important. My old philosophy papers came back, as did numerous MSN Messenger conversations I had saved, but the important stuff (like every bit of work I had done on the congressional collection of Richard Stallings) is gone. Both of my flash drives are at Galaxy computers as we speak and hopefully they are having better luck than I. The only positive of the situation is that some of what I was able to retrieve was a folder of papers I had saved from my English 102 class that I loved so much.

On a more personal level there seem to be many setbacks as I have struggled endlessly with family matters and health issues. I had an eye infection which seems to be clearing up, but only after steroid drops. I swear, if it is not one thing it is always another.

This summer I have not had the chance to read nearly as much as I would have liked to. Beside the required readings for my early summer class, I haven't picked up many other books along the long road to fall semester. I did get a chance to read My Life by Bill Clinton which I enjoyed immensely and recently I read Prayers of Our Presidents by Jerry MacGregor & Marie Prys. For an independent study course I have been reading Fortunate Son, Snow Falling on Cedars, and Coming of Age in Mississippi. I tried once again to read Tolstoy's War and Peace and failed once again to make it past the 100-page mark. I think I have attempted to read that book a total of 20-something times. I probably read a James Patterson novel or two and am still taking a stab at The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Nothing spectacular.

In all my reading, perhaps the most profound statements I ran across came from two very unlikely sources--Bill Clinton and Benjamin Harrison. Lately I wouldn't consider myself a very religious person, but I found so much strength and truth in a statement from former President Harrison to one of his sons:
"Prayer steadies one when he is walking in slippery places--even if things asked for are not given."

That one quote seems to encompass a great deal of the summer for me. Maybe I was praying for the wrong things, maybe I wasn't. Whatever the case may be I whole-heartedly accept President Harrison's statement and wish I could only express in this medium how profound it was when I read it for the first time.

There have been two summers in my life that I have found to be completely draining. The summer I ventured to Kent State and this one. But just like with the Ohio summer, I have found throughout this summer strength in the most unlikely of places. So I suppose it isn't the summer from hell, just another one of those things down the road I can count as incredible life experience.

Monday, July 24, 2006

This Makes Me Sick...

...check it out.

Thanks for sharing this with me, Nick. I suppose we can't all be as appreciative of a certain population of people who bring nothing but greatness to our lives.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

4,742 Miles

This morning I checked the odometer on my car and realized this summer has taken an enormous toll on not only me, but my car.

The blog reflects very little of what amounts to one of the longest summers of my life. Aside from a few random pictures of places I've been, places that have been on my mind, and the ongoing rearrangement of my apartment, it appears as if I have fallen off the face of the planet.

I assure you, I have not, but a large part of me is beginning to wonder something Springsteen best expressed in one of his songs: "You've gone a million miles, how far'd you get?" I suppose every mile is a lesson, an experience, a marker that will one day be a memory.

Here you will find no excuse for my non-political melancholy. Hang in there with me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's Friday, I'm In Love

I love the idea of a vacation. The principle of the thing is great, but in practice (for me at least) it just isn't something I do well. Why? Four reasons: 1) I am a nerd, 2) there is driving involved, 3) I don't sleep any better away from home then at home, and 4) something unexpected always happens.

For more about the driving aspect, you all can visit Students for Grant to learn about how many times I've been lost over the period of say 24 hours. There is not much to the story about the sleeping, I'm an insomniac. The unexpected is always something that blows me away and this time it involves my mom who was in a fairly serious four-wheeler accident yesterday while on vacation in Island Park. The entire family rushed to the Rexburg hospital to be with her, but once she was stable I decided it would be best for me to stay put. She is doing better though has several broken bones. She was very lucky. As for the nerdy part--it's a long story...

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on an Idaho Humanities Council institute for teachers at Albertson College of Idaho. The institute this year dealt with President Lincoln, his legacy, and constitutional questions surrounding his administration. Two of my professors from Idaho State lead the morning session and then in the afternoon (after a lovely lunch spent with teachers from Burley High School), former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy spoke about Lincoln and his connection to Idaho, the territory. Of course, Leroy is a prominent Republican in Idaho, yet today his hour long presentation gave me an insight into Idaho politics that I'd not had before. Tonight I know what another Idaho politician meant when saying that if Leroy was speaking, people were definitely listening.

For anyone interested in Idaho history and politics, his presentation was wonderful. Afterward I was introduced to him and spoke to him at length about the Stallings' collection and his (both Leroy and Stallings) former position as waste negotiator.

'Tis the reason the title is what it is. I love Idaho history and politics.

On top of this, the latest edition of the state historical journal Idaho Yesterdays is here. I can't say anything about the issue that will truly do it justice because it is simply amazing. All I can do is say that the journal is a truly magnificent undertaking by ISHS, ISU, and BSU; please pick up a copy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Middle of the Week Mélange

Having failed to mention that I was going out of town, I post tonight from Boise, Idaho. Yes, I took a vacation. Sort of...

I sit here with my computer at hand, a stack of books on the bed, and numerous tasks to complete before I return to Pocatello. But, the point is I am not in Pocatello. And let me just say I am very happy about that. Everyone needs to get out of town now and again. Given the summer I've had I am truly surprised this is my first trip away for just my own sake.

Tonight I got caught up on Uncle Orson Review's Everything. Boy, Orson Scott Card knows what he is talking about. In one of his latest reviews he mentioned both the movie Click with Adam Sandler and the charming Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reeves team-up The Lake House. Having seen both I was impressed with his analysis of the films and agreed with him completely. Some would say that the latter flick was unrealistic, but I found it enchanting. Sometimes I just want to go to a movie where I can sit back and know that none of what is happening on screen could happen in real life (for example flicks like Syriana are far too realistic for me) and none of what is happening on screen is going to bother me for days afterward (i.e. Million Dollar Baby). Check out Orson's reviews...the link is on the sidebar, of course.

For those of you who missed the All Star Game, the American League won yet again--ugh! National League fans are fed up with the decade long trend, but what can ya do? The only thing keeping me from utter disappointment right now with the Braves not performing as well as usual is the fact that underdog teams are doing fairly well--for example the Mets and the Tigers. If the Mets weren't in the same division as the Braves they could very well be my favorite. Or anyone could be for that matter. That division only has one team I cannot stand, the Florida Marlins. Otherwise who wouldn't just love for the Braves, Nationals, Phillies or Mets to win?

In Boise today I had two pretty interesting adventures--first has more to do with the trip up than actual Boise, but regardless, I listened to My Life by President Clinton. Well, listened to 3/4 of it. It is amazing and this is coming from someone kind of on the fence about President Clinton as a person and not entirely excited about his book as evidenced by how long it has taken me to get around to reading the thing. However resistant I had been, it is truly a wonderful book. After 5 minutes I was hooked and had heard what I needed to hear. The second thing regarding the trip (and only slightly more nerdy than the first) was my afternoon trip to the State Historical Society. The library is truly amazing! Who wouldn't want to be surrounded by Idaho History materials from wall to wall? Okay, not too many people, but I was in paradise!

The whole reason I find myself in Boise this evening is because tomorrow I will be attending some of the activities at Albertson College of Idaho put on by the Idaho Humanities Council for high school teachers. The summer conference is on the Lincoln administration and clearly my love for Lincoln is up there with my love for Kennedy. So here I am and quite happy about it even though there probably won't be any other students there!

So far I am enjoying my time away even in the midst of my computer and other school related responsibilities. I'm watching the Oakland/Boston game on ESPN (muted) as I listen to my new Joe Cocker CD. What more could a girl want?

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Welcome, Dr. Arthur Vailas!

Today I had the unique opportunity of spending a day on the Idaho State University campus. What's do unique about spending a day at my home away from home? Today the university as well as Pocatello community welcomed Idaho State University's new president, Dr. Arthur Vailas.

Refreshing. I think that is the best word I can use to describe President Vailas. And if refreshing describes Dr. Vailas, in one word let me describe to you the state of the student population--enthusiastic.

This afternoon, as a student leader representing the ASISU Senate, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Vailas at for lunch to hear his plan for interaction with the student leadership. The ASISU executive cabinet, made up of 8 students, left that conference room so excited for the future of Idaho State University. Each of us had a smile on our faces and we were pleasantly surprised and more than pleased with our new president's first day on the job.

What stands out to me as the single most important sentence of the new president's general assembly address this morning is this: "You always want to build upon your strengths because they will yield success and success will beget success."

Clearly this is a new chapter in Idaho education and as a student, I could not be more excited. To read President Vailas' general assembly speech please visit this link.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Here's to the State of Popular Music Dissent

Last night I was watching Storytellers on VH1 and caught one of my all-time favorite bands, Pearl Jam. Near the end of the hour long program, Eddie Vedder (who is getting less creepy as he ages) sang a remake of Phil Ochs' "Here's to the State of Mississippi." This latest version, which adds to a growing list of remakes including Ochs' own "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon," was written during the 2004 presidential election when Tim Robbins toured with Pearl Jam.

I've yet to find the lyrics to the new version that refers to Justice John Roberts and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but here are the lyrics to the previous version:

Here's to the State of Mississippi
Live (10/24/04)
Author/Artist: Eddie Vedder

Here's to the judges of William Rehnquist
and Justice is stranger when the partisans report
When the court elects a president the trial is always short

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
William Rehnquist find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the government of Dick Cheney
With criminals as advisors to the crown
And they hope that no one sees the sites and that no one hears the sounds
'Cause the speeches of a president are remains of a clown

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
Dick Cheney find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the laws of John Ashcroft
Congress will pass as act in the panic of the day
and the Constitution's drowning in an ocean of decay
And freedom of speech is dangerous I've even heard them say

Here's to the land you tore the heart of
John Ashcroft find yourself another country
To be part of

And here's to the businessman of George W.
who'll want to change the focus from your good and our wrong
and their profits like blood money spilling on the White House lawn
to keep their hold on power they're using terror as a con
while the bombs they fall on children...don't care which side they're on

Here's to the land you tore out the heart of
George W. find yourself another country
To be part of

Eddie Vedder is joining a growing list of musicians publicly unhappy with the current administration and the war. He, unlike Neil Young, doesn't just take stabs at President Bush however:

Let's Impeach the President
Album: Living with War
Author/Artist: Neil Young

Let's impeach the President for lying
And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

Who's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
They bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let's impeach the President for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the president for hijacking
Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank God he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lots of people looking at big trouble
But of course our president is clean.

The most criticism Neil Young has received for his latest album is that he is Canadian...what could he possibly know about American politics? And then there is of course the fact that he supported Richard Nixon. But, really in those days could Neil Young have even come out of his stoned haze long enough to identify the President of the United States?

Of course the group to take the most heat for their openly critical statements on President Bush were/are The Dixie Chicks. Once quoted as saying they were ashamed President Bush is from Texas, the Dixie Chicks took a great deal of heat for that comment. They lost fans, they lost support. Many radio stations refused to play their music and many country musicians were quite outspoken on how inappropriate the comments of the Chicks were (i.e. Toby Keith). Recently with their latest album, the Dixie Chicks have changed their sound, their image, but have not changed their minds on how they feel about our President from Texas:

Not Ready to Make Nice
Album: Taking the Long Way
Author/Artist: The Dixie Chicks

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting

I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price
And I'll keep paying

I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
'Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can't you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'
It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Sayin' that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I'm not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I'm still waiting

You have to ask yourself if this had been a male group or a male artist would it have been such a controversy? How is it any different for a female group to question something or speak out against something while a male artist supports that very thing and speaks out about it? Recently, John Cougar Mellencamp has come to the defense of the Dixie Chicks even as their music isn't being played by major radio stations, including a station in Salt Lake.

Just looking at the quantity of songs recently released dealing with Iraq, President Bush, and various other highly politically charged issues (such as songs dealing with abortion, gay rights, or even past issues like Big & Rich's recent single "8th of November"), how can we honestly say there are no comparisons to be made between the state of our country now and the state of our country during the last days of Vietnam and the final days of the Nixon administration?

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Smorgasbord Saturday

Five posts. In the entire month of June I posted a total of five times. That has to be a record of sorts...a very sad record. Here we have July and I hope, in more ways than the simple number of times I post, it is nothing like the month of June. Had July began the day following June 7th, I would have been fine with that.

Yesterday I was driving home to Pocatello and I couldn't stop thinking of something Graham Green once wrote: "You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God." That one sentence seems to signify every feeling I am having right now. Let's just say that June was not a cake walk. For everyone's sake I hope to now focus on school, politics, and the summer baseball schedule.

Speaking of politics--this coming week with the Fourth of July offers several volunteer opportunities to get out and help local candidates. Parades, parades, and more parades. I know that our local candidates (at least those in District 29 and the county candidates) will be making appearances in Pocatello, Inkom, Arimo, and even Lava. Please make the effort if you're in town to help out these worthy candidates.

Lately trips down I-86 have been regular occurrences. Not by choice, but out of necessity I have driven that stretch of interstate more than my fair share of times in the last month. Just this last week I made a stop in American Falls. I have come to the conclusion that my lifelong confusion with the stretch of presidents of the United States from Jackson to Lincoln is the fault of the city of American Falls. Take for example Fort Hall Avenue: If you are driving up Fort Hall, you will pass Harrison (we can assume this street is named for William Henry Harrison, but given what you will encounter as you continue up Fort Hall, it may be Benjamin) and then you hit the intersection of Fort Hall and Idaho. I'm assuming that Idaho Street is similar to Main Street in Pocatello--sort of haphazardly thrown into a continuous stretch of presidential streets. Following Idaho you find Roosevelt. TR? It could be FDR depending on when these streets were named, but let's just say it is named for Teddy. Next street up is Tyler. Yes, Tyler. John Tyler the 10th President of the United States of America. Now, nine times out of ten I can remember that Van Buren comes after Andrew Jackson, but never can I remember if Tyler or Taylor comes before Polk. They're both members of the Whig party, right? And they had relatively short terms in office, though Tyler longer and served without a vice president. Tyler next to Roosevelt? And there is no McKinley in sight. I suppose I could ask the mayor of American Falls, Amy Winn, to explain this all to me. I also suppose the screwiness of the street naming may have something to do with the town being moved to allow for the building of American Falls Dam. Or I could just continue to blame American Falls for the confusion that plagues me regarding the order of the presidents following Andrew Jackson.

Clearly I have nothing incredibly important to say, but mark this date on your calendar as my return to the blog world.