Category Archives: dreams

The Teacher Sleeps

This 2019-2020 school year was my first as a retired school teacher earning extra money by substitute teaching. It ended before I was ready. I not only didn’t get a chance to earn all the money I needed, I did not get the chance to see some of the kids in five different middle schools I subbed for that I had learned to like and hoped to see again before the year ended. I did put in enough time to get rehired for next year. I even got to keep my sub badge so that I can go back if the schools ever reopen again. But I despair a bit over what I have lost. My health may not be good enough to go back to the job I love so much. In fact, I don’t really expect miracles to happen that would let me survive this pandemic. If I do go back to school next fall, it is more likely to be in order to haunt the hallways than to teach again.

The last few nights I have been sleeping longer than I have at any time since I retired in 2014. And I have had vivid dreams of being a teacher in a classroom yet again. But always in schools that are only vaguely familiar and are obviously new jobs with new kids that I haven’t seen or trained before. And yet, as it always is with teaching, they are all the same classroom, all the same schools, all the same kids, just in new packages that I haven’t seen before.

One of the things that is hardest about being a substitute rather than a regular teacher is the fact that one day, one class period, is not long enough to build a relationship with every kid. You cannot get to really know them in such a short amount of time. That’s why going back to certain schools is so exhilarating because you get a chance to cover the same classes again, see the same kids, and work on being a good teacher for them in the way I used to do it for kids that were mine for an entire school year.

And I was one of those rare teachers who actually likes kids.

Many teachers never get over the difficulty of managing a classroom and doing discipline. It is for them a never-ending battle for order and quiet. They only manage it by becoming fearsome ogres or anal-retentive control freaks. Most of those only ever consider discipline to be punishing kids enough to make them mind.

Those sorts of teachers don’t believe me when I tell them that the way to do discipline is not by quashing behaviors and limiting behaviors through punishment, but by encouraging the behaviors that you want. And by leading them into the excitement of reading a good story or learning an interesting new thing.

As a sub I went into the classrooms of punishing teachers and weak-willed teachers who let students do whatever they will. Invariably you meet boys who are convinced they are stupid and doomed to fail. They suspect their parents don’t like them. And all they want to do is stop lessons from happening by being disruptive. And invariably you meet girls who think the only hope for them is to capture the right boy (without any earthly idea what the right boy will be like). And they suspect their parents don’t like them very much. And all they want to do is fix their make-up, talk about boys with other girls, and talk boys into disrupting lessons to show their manliness.

As a substitute, I also went into the classes of teachers who knew the secret and actually loved kids. They had positive posters on the wall that could be paraphrased as, “There are wonderful things to do in this life, and I believe you can do them. You should believe it too.”

And they will say to their kids things like, “Look at this wonderful thing you have done. You are really good at this. And when you do things like this, nobody can tell me you aren’t a good and wonderful person that makes the world a better place.”

Kids need to see the evidence and hear those things from their teacher. And if the teacher is giving them that, they will even behave well for the substitute with very little work on the part of the substitute.

So, I have been dreaming about being a teacher again. It is a thing that I love to do, and I fear that, because of this pandemic, I will never be able to do it again. Even as a substitute. And if that is the case, then I hope that at least one person reads this and discovers the answer to the question, “How do you become a good teacher?” Because I believe I have it right. I know it worked for me. And I think it is true even if no one ever believes me.

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What Dreams Will Reveal

Dorin, Me, My Wife, the Princess, and Henry

I respond to dreaming in ways that make sense in my stupid head, though the responses probably seem crazy to others.

The picture above was painted in oils in the early 1990’s before I met my wife. It was in response to a Bambi dream that seemed to be about my family as a family of deer. This was not about my family from childhood. It was, at the time, about my family in the future. Somehow I got it right. Two boys and a girl. Together for 25 years next month.

This picture is called, “The Boy Who Saw the Colors”,

Some pictures are dream images that can only be interpreted metaphorically. This one is about me being creative and artistical… or autistical as the case may be. It is also about being a synesthete with pronounced synesthesia.

This dream was a dream about being a Native American during a thunderstorm. It is called “the Magic-Man’s Daughter” because the Dakota Sioux tribe held the belief that dreams about lightning reveal you as a Shaman or Magic Man. Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka is the Lakotah word for “the Great Mystery”. That was a dream that sent me to the library to look things up.

I have dreams with clowns in them that are not nightmares. Here the clown known as Mr. Disney is encouraging me to sing sad songs.

I wrote and entire novel about that whopper of a dream.

This dream had me trapped in a tomb with a Mummy who wouldn’t stay in his nice warm sarcophagus.

It is not uncommon to dream about death and mortality. More than once I have dreamed about my own death. None of them have yet proved prophetic, but you never know.

I dreamed about my eldest son 14 years before he was born.

I think dreams can be prophetic because they are not bound by our perceptions of time in the physical universe. You can look ahead in a dream to that which has not yet happened. You can also look backwards into the past beyond the boundary of your own birth. I often think some of my most vivid dreams are about peering into past lives and a very different me.

I know I sound crazy when I talk about my dreams. But they are a significant source for my artwork and creative endeavors. And dreams have a logic that doesn’t work by the rules of the world we know. Rather, it is a world of wonder.

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The Book of Dreams

Important parts of the book that I am currently promoting by offering Kindle e-books for free are based on dreams that I had years ago. The clowns who are dream denizens of Zoomboogadoo and the white city of Celephais, were first encountered in a dream I had in college. Boz is also named Mr. Dickens. The Bard is known as Mr. Shakespeare. Diz is Mr. Disney. And Poe, of course, is Mr. Poe. The literary references should be as clear to you as they were to me in 1978.

This painting was also from a dream in the 1980’s. I’m not sure exactly when. But in the dream, I was the stag and I believed in my dream that the other deer there were my family. It is also, of course, influenced by the Disney Movie Bambi. Particularly the scene of the forest fire. But, oddly, the dream predicted my future family. I met my wife in 1994. My eldest son was born in 1995. My second son was born in 1999. My daughter was born in 2002. You see their deer selves in the picture.

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The entirety of Chapter One of Hidden Kingdom is based on a story dream from 1976.

So, dreams are deeply embedded in my work, especially the imagery in my artwork.

And you don’t even have to tell me that I have weird dreams. I already know.

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The Curse of Being Creative

“Oh, I just hate you, you can draw so well!  I always wished I could draw like that.”

Yes, the perfect thing to hear when you are a twelve year old boy in the sixth grade, and you are hearing it from the girl in your class whom you most want to have a chance to see naked when you grow up.  Being smart, creative, and according to Alicia when we were twelve, “You’re so funny,” is not really as fun and wonderful as you might imagine.  There’s a downside to being highly creative.

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First of all, there’s that.  Yes, the naked part of the illustration above.  An artist, especially one who also writes and knows how to write from the heart, makes himself or herself naked all the time.  The secret parts on the inside come out constantly.  You can’t have a private, embarrassing, or secret thought without it being obviously discernible somewhere in the artworks you create.  Even the perverted ones like the one about wanting to see Alicia naked when I was twelve.  If nakedness is one of things that is on your creative little mind even though it is the one thing that you wish really wasn’t there at all, guess which of the many things on your creative little mind is going to come out first.   Artists walk around naked in front of the world all the time, no matter how many clothes they put on.

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Secondly, you don’t seem to be able to think like normal people do.  Normal people are not divergent thinkers.  They are not constantly trying to stand on their head before looking at the world, connecting bizarre things together and seeing the world in constantly shifting and highly exotic colors.  I imagine normal people probably walk around all the time with Elton John tunes playing in their head, thinking only about what they ate for lunch and then posted pictures of on Facebook.  The lights are not always on in their attic, and they certainly don’t have ghost dogs and booger-men named Douglas playing noisy games of full contact tackle Parcheesi in there during the middle of the night.  They don’t have wake-up-sweating nightmares about being attacked by ducks with gigantic white dentures.

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There are no Clowntown Kops throwing pies at them in their daydreams about rescuing naked Alicias from sinister bald villains with trained seals for evil minions.  Their minds go round and round on a single railroad track on an ordinary oval path.  Unlike my mind that is a multi-tracked switch yard where you have to approach going at least ninety miles and hour, losing a single car at every switch, nearly careening sideways off the track at least three times, and having to come together as a train on the other side, collecting all the cars again at high speed and chugging down the tracks to destinations unknown.

And it is all too easy to see the future when you are both creative and at least mildly perceptive.  I knew the Cubs were going to win the World Series.  I knew Trump would become our leader.  I still pray that I am wrong about the whole world-ending thing.

Being creative is not easy.  Sometimes it hurts more than it makes you laugh.  It leaves you naked and vulnerable.  It makes you think in abnormal ways that are studied by abnormal psychiatrists.  And it makes you see and understand things that you really wish you were still ignorant of.  But would I trade it for anything else?  Hmm… let me think about that one for a few more years.20161112_205317

 

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Bubble People

I was recently gifted with the eye-opening event of having my own personal soap bubble of beliefs, dreams, and hopes popped by an angry, dyspeptic orangutan.  Yes, he got elected to the most powerful position of leadership on the planet Earth.  And, as I was hurt in the fall from my rudely popped bubble, I began to think about the nature of the bubbles we live in and plot my evil revenge.

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You see, people all live in bubbles of perception.  There are limits to what you can see, hear, learn, accept, believe, and understand.  Those limits are the walls of the soap bubble we create for ourselves in the empty warehouse of our own mind.  I know I have just revealed that what I am talking about is completely metaphorical, but all you people out there who live in literal-minded, practically impenetrable bubbles need to be reminded that metaphorical truth is still truth.

In politics, there now seem to be two main classes of bubble that exist separately and prevent many people from seeing and understanding the perceptions of many other people.  There are conservative bubble people.  There are also liberal bubble people.

Conservative is supposed to mean that they like what they currently have and want to preserve it.  I include here not just possessions, but values, goals, religions, hopes, and dreams.  Liberal traditionally means that they are dissatisfied with what they currently have and want change.  Looking at this construct carefully reveals that anyone who is liberal should be seeking change, but once they have it, should then become satisfied and change into a conservative.  Similarly, if they are conservative, but things change into a new set of things that they don’t like, they should become liberals.  But in our political system, these labels have become set in stone.  And I should warn you, putting stone letters on a soap bubble will invariably pop it.  Conservative bubble people have added concrete mix to the walls of their bubbles to harden it, so that it won’t pop.  Liberals have done the same.  Though, I believe Republican conservative bubble people have somehow found a concrete mix that, when it hardens, makes it impenetrable by facts, science, and logic.  Not to be outdone, though, liberals have added bizarre chemicals to their mix that makes their bubbles impenetrable by feelings, emotion, and religion.  The collective effect of all this bubble-fixing is that all bubble people’s bubbles have become dark and no longer transparent.  You cannot see through them.

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It is no wonder that when liberals look at conservative bubbles they think, “These people are just selfish, money-hungry, and evil, and will do anything for a profit.  They don’t care what’s best for everybody.”

Conversely, conservatives look at liberal bubbles and think, “They are unfeeling control freaks who want to take away our freedom to do what we believe in.  They want to tell us what we can do.  They are trying to take away our rights.”

So, humorist and crack-brained nitwit that I am, I have come up with an evil plan to undo this opaque-bubble nightmare.  I intend to look inside lots of bubbles and find ways to make them more transparent again.  I also intend to invite everyone I know, and everyone who reads this, to do the same.  That should help.

But I should warn you, I am not the only one looking to manipulate bubble people.  There are a bunch of rich and cynical folks out there too who are busy playing billiard games with a majority of the fossilized opaque bubbles .  Once bubbles start popping, more people will be hurt.

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Of Nightmares and Publishing

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Okay, I don’t mean to mislead you with the title.  My nightmares last night were not caused by publishing a book.  But there is a connection.  So be patient with me and let me explain.

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Last night I kept waking up to the smell of something burning… the smell of pine wood smouldering, the acrid smell of plastic on fire, the nose-offending smell of human hair on fire…  So I get up multiple times in the night, searching the house in my underwear, sniffing about to try to detect where in the walls or under the furniture the smell is coming from.  I scared my wife at least once in the kitchen… sometime around 2:00 a.m.  And the more awake I became the less I could smell the something that was burning.  It turns out that was because it was only in a nightmare that I smelled it.  The house was burning down around me in a dream, and the dream lingered after I awoke, even though I had forgotten about the dream entirely as I woke.   It was a classic anxiety dream.

Cool School Blue

What, though, do I actually have going on that causes me this kind of nightmare?  I mean, besides Donald Trump being elected President of the United States, the impending end of life on Earth, and Bank of America suing me with hopes of wiping out my personal finances completely?

I am, foolishly, trying to publish another novel.

I promise to tell you a bit more about this novel in the near future.  But let me tell you first why publishing it is causing anxiety dreams.

Magical Miss Morgan is a novel about being a school teacher.  It is based on real experiences in my teaching life.  I used the time my teaching methods were opposed by a school board candidate.  I also used the time a principal told me that school shouldn’t teach kids to think because that didn’t turn them into good citizens.  I used real kids I once taught as characters.  I even used the time that fairies invaded my classroom.  Oh, but that last one might be slightly fictionalized.

So, even though the main character, Miss Francis Morgan, is not actually me, this novel is a distillation of my entire struggle to be a worthy teacher and accomplish something good as an educator.  My goal during my teaching career was to teach kids to think for themselves, to guide their own lifelong learning, and feel like they were valuable enough as individuals that somebody could actually care about them individually… even the hardest ones to like.  One would think there was nothing controversial at all in this goal.  But this novel tells how I fought that battle.  It is a story that I owe it to everyone I ever taught to tell.

class Miss Mcover

I have turned to Page Publishing to put this novel into print.  Not just digital, online copies, but into real print-on-pages books.  I have no talent or luck when it comes to marketing, but I am determined to make this book real even though this is a vanity press sort of publisher that makes their money by taking advantage of dewy-eyed writing fools like me.  Yes, I am buying the services of their editorial staff and design staff and there will be no money flowing my way any time soon.  This is the way publishing has been changing.  Publishers are still the farmers and writers have become the milk cows.  I just have to hope the milk won’t be sour.

So, I am having nightmares of burning the house down because I am following my dream of making a book.  But it is an important book… at least it is to me.

 

 

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Teacher Dreams

wonderful teaching 2

Last night I dreamed I was standing in front  of a classroom again.  But it wasn’t a nightmare.  I had clothes on.  It wasn’t a comfortable situation either.  It was a new teaching assignment with a new classroom and new students I had never met before.  And I had been given no time to prepare my classroom or write lesson plans… and I was late.  The students were already there.  Nervously staring at me, their new teacher, a total goofball-looking goon with a gray beard and goofy Mickey grin on his silly-stupid face.

But the crazy thing is, I could’ve done the job.  I have faced the first day of classes 31 times.  I know how to do the job and do it well… from memory.  I know first-day procedures better than any other lesson type I have ever done.  And I got good at it over time.  In fact, I reached a point in the 1990’s where I told a colleague, “You know, if I had to pay the school money to let me be a teacher, I would do it.  But please don’t tell them that.”  And I worried for real a few years later when she became a guidance counselor, because that is only a step away from administrator, and in Texas they would definitely pay you nothing if they could legally get away with it.

Teacher

But the dream wasn’t totally a regret dream or filled with sadness over having to retire.  I have been in the situation of that dream before.  I started my teaching career in a poor South Texas school district.  The junior high supply budget was basically the money from the Coke machine and whatever the principal had in his pocket (which was usually lint).  I have taught classes with more students in them than there were desks to sit in.  I have taught classes with no textbooks.  I routinely bought things to use for lessons with my own money and made things with my goofy-cartoony art skills.  I have taught a number of times directly out of my memory and imagination with no books or notes to turn to.  An experienced teacher has got skills.  So I woke up from my dream feeling good and satisfied.  It was the feeling you get from a job well done.  The kind of satisfaction you get from thinking on your feet and still managing to come up with the right answer.

I wish I was still teaching.  I could not move my achy old body through rows of desks now if my life depended on it, so I can’t go back in a classroom, but I still wish I could.  Maybe I can clone myself and convince a younger me that teaching is not really the totally terrible idea it seems as a career, especially in Texas.  But maybe now it is only the stuff of dreams… and goopy wish-fulfillment posts by a slightly insane former teacher.

Blue and Mike in color

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The Notion That Pictures Are Stories

jungle girl 2

There are things that you have in your pointy little head sometimes that can’t be said in words.  They are like the sparks of truth you find in dreams… they make no sense at all if you take them out of the theater that plays in your head and shine the light of actual day upon them.  They only have meaning inside your mind, where it is dark and safe and ideas percolate, breed, and become dangerous.  There is enough magic in dreams to solve the world’s problems.  And yet, if try to take it out into the real world to use it, it evaporates and becomes a pointless silly pile of goofiness.

Case in point, in dreams it is marvelously wonderful to be naked in the jungle.  Nothing between you and the raw nature around you.  It works in dreams.  It works when you read Rudyard Kipling’s The First Jungle Book.  But in real life, the sun will burn you, the rats will chew your bare toes, and the mosquitoes will drink all your blood.

Leap of Faith

What viewed from the outside is irrational and unfathomable, makes perfect sense from the inside looking out.  What do these words even mean?  You must be asleep to really know.  I speak of that inner knowing… that faith that resides deep down inside of all of us that we do have answers to the most terrifying questions of life.  That sense that if you make the leap of faith, you will not fall… you will fly instead.

Blue Faun22

Case in point, people are not literally blue.  But when you sleep, perchance to dream, it can seem the whole world is blue, and not just merely literally you.  Blue skin, blue heart, blue eyes…  It hurts to be alive.  But if you are hurting, you have to believe you really are alive.  The pain brings clarity, certainty… it is why you pinch yourself to wake yourself up from dreams.

I know this all sounds witless, rambling, and goofy, but that is the general point.  The truth, if the truth exists, is found in rambling, witless and goofy.

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Dreams Really Do Come True

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Last night a tornado dream, the one I posted about on January 4th, came true.  We had five earthquakes in Carrollton, Texas.  Of course, none of the epicenters were in Carrollton.  They were a few miles away in Irving, Texas.  But tornado dreams always precede some sort of disaster, usually a personal tragedy.  I realized during the final pair of shakes around 8:15 last nigh that the dream truly was about the earthquakes.  Remember, we were looking out the south windows of the farm house, my mother and I, at the funnel cloud, and the south windows are located right next to the storm cellar.  The storm cellar is safety. It has symbolized safety in my mind since the night we spent in the basement in Rowan, Iowa when the tornado ripped the shingles off the roof of our house.  We were safe that night, and we were safe last night because none of the earthquakes were worse than a 3.6 on the Richter Scale.  Earthquakes that are that mild do little or no damage.  My mother was in the tornado dream because she heard about the earthquakes on the news she was watching up in Iowa (at the same farm place where the dream was set),and she emailed me about the earthquakes to make certain my family and I were safe.   So it was another dream of future events, and it did come true… at least in my goofy little mind.

Dreams come true in more than one way.  I finished the initial edit of my contest novel, The Magical Miss Morgan.  I now believe firmly that it is the best novel I have yet written.  It is short.  At 44,500 words it is barely more than the minimum acceptable word-count for the contest.  It is simple.  The main plot is about Francis Morgan having her notions of what constitutes good teaching tested by a parent, a school board member, and an angry principal.  The first subplot is about a group of fairies who recruit Francis to help them save the fairy kingdom of Tellosia from a lack of the vital belief in fairies necessary to overcome evil.  The second subplot is about one of her favorite students undergoing an attack on her belief in herself from another student.  Main plot and two subplots are almost too few for me and my fevered, fertile comic imagination.  I can’t seem to juggle (usually) without twenty balls in the air at once.  But the simplicity of this novel is one of its main charms, and a quality I am hoping may help win the writing contest.  I know from my experiences with the novel Snow Babies that I am not far from reaching the top in a writing contest.

Leap of Faith

The dream may also have signaled an important milestone in my continuing health problems.  I ruled out the things that are most likely to kill me in my recent cardiologist quest.  I do not have heart problems after all.  I only have six incurable diseases, and am still a cancer survivor (the growth removed from the back of my head was infected, but not cancerous.  I only have diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, COPD, psoriasis, and an enlarged prostate.  Nothing is bad enough by itself to be unmanageable and deadly).  So I am probably going to be alive for a few more years and able to draw and write more.  I was forced to retire from teaching by health problems, but now that I am managing my debt with help from a lawyer and do not have the stress from a job, I actually have fewer sick days, more money to spend, and enough time to do the artistic work that I have always wanted to do.

So I close with the Disney song in my head… “A dream is a wish your heart makes… and dreams really do come true.”

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