“My Life is Good”

The ice is pipping against the window and I am warm and comfortable on my bed, my legs stretched out on top of wool blankets and my feet wrapped up in my wool socks.  I am warm.


Cotton socks roasting by an open fire…

At the same time, on the television is an American Heroes Channel documentary about the Battle of the Bulge.  So, as I recline on my bed and wonder about when the school system is going to call and shut down the schools, I am listening to the sounds of the re-enactments of the trees shattering from the Germans mortaring the American troops.

A bunch of years ago, I taught Band of Brothers after watching the miniseries on the History Channel.  In some strange way, Band of Brothers (TV show) became Pat’s and my date night.  We’d go out, buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (“Everything but the….” is my favorite), turn on the TV, and watch the Band of Brothers episode while passing the ice cream back and forth.  Date night without babysitters but still indulging in ice cream goodness while both of us watching a television show that could keep us occupied and had nothing to do with sponges, talking aardvarks, puppets, or BBC children’s shows (Boo-Bah still gives me nightmares).

I was inspired by Band of Brothers and immediately found and read the Stephen Ambrose book.  This led me to choosing to teach it to my students which actually inspired some pretty good lessons.  It was one of the few books that wasn’t completely depressing (even though it had plenty of depressing points in it).  And, I showed the students most of the shows so that they could have a mental image with what they were seeing.

So, anyhow, back to me and my warm feet thanks to wool socks….

It’s easy for me, like many people, to take what I call a hangnail situation and blow it out of proportion.  Hangnail situations are based on the fact that when I have a hangnail, I’ll worry at it until, finally, I can rip it out.  Until it is gone, the niggling pain is enough to keep me gnawing at it because it is driving me crazy and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I have a tiny piece of fingernail peeled back past the quick and just hurts.  However, it’s not detrimental; it’s really not that big of a deal.

Hangnail situations…same point.  Not that big of a deal but I can’t stop worrying about it or letting it consume my thoughts because it’s there and is demanding my attention.

How often this happens.  It’s like drama at work or, rarely, at home (Pat and I don’t usually do drama.  We get through whatever is bothering us and then move on with life).  Drama at work is usually over some stupid hangnail situation and someone’s upset at someone else because of something that may or may not have been said and everyone knows about what was or wasn’t said but no one really wants to talk about it unless it’s behind closed doors or in stuttering whispers that abruptly end when people enter the room….

Yeah…hangnail situations.

I would love to say that I avoid hangnail situations.  But I would be lying….

At the same time, when I step back and truly assess my life, I have to say, my life is good.  Because I am reclining on my bed, on top of wool blankets that are still radiating heat into my legs which is then ensuring that I am warm, and my feet, which would normally be frozen little bricks at this point, are warm because of wool camping socks.

Yeah.  My life is good.


Me and Ugly-Cat..she likes to keep me warm.

In reading about the Battle of the Bulge, I was immediately struck by the descriptions of how cold it was.  When I watched Monuments Men, I was a bit disappointed when the movie showed Bill Murray’s character walking to the showers in a pair of combat boots and a bathrobe reminiscent of Hawkeye form MASH.  Now, I am no expert on the Battle of the Bulge, but my impression is that a bathrobe and a couple of combat boots would not have been sufficient warmth even if he was trotting down to a shower that, by the way, would not have been insulated.  And I lived in southern Germany.  I know what winter was like there and it’s not that much of a stretch to think about how cold it would have been in the Ardennes.

Okay….I’m off topic (Pat’s now watching lions eating a decayed hippo corpse).

The fact is, Ambrose wrote about the intense cold of the forest, how everything seemed to freeze instantly.  I remember reading the descriptions of men, in desperation, doing just about anything to stay warm, even if for a moment.

And, right now, I am warm, in my wool socks.

My life is good.

Every now and then, I can hear the yipping and howling of a dog somewhere outside in this terrible ice storm.  I’m not fully certain where it is or I would go outside, find the poor animal, and bring it in to my house (Pat would not be happy but the kids would be thrilled).  All I can think about is how I am warm and the animal isn’t.

My life is good.

I teach Ishmael Beah’s book A Long Way Gone which is about child soldiers.  When he was 13, Beah became a child soldier for the Sierra Leone Army.  His main form of sustenance was drugs and violence.

My life is good.

Or how about Elie Wiesel’s Night and how he watched his father selected for the gas chambers.  And his father gave him a knife and a spoon which, Wiesel realized, were his inheritance.  Before the Holocaust, Wiesel lived in a house and was surrounded by property owned by his parents, property which, by birthright, would have gone to him.  But the Germans and their ruthless “final solution” stripped Wiesel of everything except a knife and a spoon.  His father did not go to the gas chambers that day…but he did eventually die in another concentration camp days after Auschwitz was liberated.  Wiesel’s final inheritance were nightmare memories and a bit of regret.

My life is good.

My students complain that I teach literature to make them depressed.  Far from it.  I teach them literature that is beautifully written which, sadly, deals with conflict and tribulations because I can not find beautiful literature that is happy.  I have found a couple of books..even taught one but found that it flopped.

What I want my students to realize, though, is that the literature I teach them is intended to awaken them to the world that surrounds them.  My students live in a zip code that is shielded by bubble wrap.  Now, I am not talking about all of my students.  Plenty of them, tragically, have experienced horrific events, tragedy, and catastrophe.

And when I look at their lives against the rosy lenses of my own, I can only say…

My life is good.

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