What is love?

What have you learned in your life about love?

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How do I define love? I’m not sure. How do I use the word love? Here are some ways I have used “love” throughout my life:

  • I love my mother.
  • I love my father.
  • I love my wife.
  • I love my children.
  • I love my friends
  • I love my dog.
  • I love pizza.
  • I love reading.
  • I love writing.

The word “love” changes meaning in every sentence I wrote above. If it didn’t, I would be in dire need of counseling. And I probably would have been convicted of several crimes by now. As you can see, “love” changes from context to context. “Love” is a many splintered thing.


What is your spirit animal?

My rescue dog Earl

I truly believe that my spirit animal is a dog. I mean, if there is such a thing as a spirit animal. I get along well with most dogs. Just as dogs can sense fear in a person, I can sense if a dog is a threat to me. Of course, I’ve been wrong before. Like the time I saw my neighbor’s two Scottish Terriers: one black, one white. I’m sure you be able to guess which one was named Salt and which one, Pepper.

Anyway, as I run toward them, I see them wagging their tails and jumping toward me as I approach them. I think, “What friendly dogs!” And I know they are friendly, and we will get along fine after I pet them. I know this because I am convinced because my spirit animal is a dog. Their owner is holding them back so I can’t get near them, but I am persistent. I get close enough to reach out to Pepper. Suddenly, Pepper starts growling and before I can pull my hand back, he takes one quick, vicious bite at my hand. I’m not sure what hurt more: the open wound on my hand or my pride.

Regardless, I still believe my spirit animal is a dog.


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I’m glad Halloween is over. My wife went to work and said I was in charge of the trick-or-treaters. She left me a box of granola bars for the trick or treaters. I was supposed to hand out granola bars. So the children would have a healthy diet and good teeth. When the first few kids come ring the doorbell, I give them each a granola bar. Oh! The look of disappointment on their faces! They told the other kids, “Don’t go to that house! They’re giving out granola bars!” So, I didn’t get any more trick or treaters. And just to make sure no one else rang my doorbell, I put the box of granola bars on the porch with a sign that said, “Take One!” The doorbell didn’t ring again. In fact, the first kids came back and returned the granola bars!


Stage fright

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I have always been afraid of speaking in public. I avoid speaking whenever possible. However, I ended up becoming a teacher. And now I am a Spanish teacher and a standup comedian.

I was always afraid to speak as a young boy because my first language was Spanish, and I didn’t speak English until I started school. I struggled with both languages through my entire grade school years.

There’s an old joke that goes like this: “What were the worst two years of your life?” “The fourth grade.”

Now, I am still struggling to overcome my stage fright. But now, I am a standup comedian. Each time I perform, I feel a little more comfortable, and a little less nervous. The more I perform, the more confident I feel in myself. All performers admit that they suffer from stage fright, but they have controlled it so well, that is hardly noticeable. I hope to reach that level someday!


Earl, the rescue dog

Earl, the rescue dog

I apologize for the dog hair. We have a new dog. It’s a rescue. Now my wife refers to me as one of her two rescues. On the plus side, I now have a best friend, Earl, our rescue dog. Earl is a mutt. They scolded me at the animal shelter for calling him a “mutt.” I’m sorry if I offended anyone, Earl is a mixed breed.

After our previous dog Pluto passed away at eighteen years old, I kept hearing, “Dad, can we get another dog? Dad, I promise to take care of him! Dad, I promise to walk him! Dad, I promise to feed him!” And that was just my wife! Guess what! I now get a lot of exercise walking Earl every morning. And every afternoon. And every night.

There are many benefits to having a dog. In addition to exercising every time I walk Earl, I also get to meet new friends. Since we adopted Earl, I’ve met Louie, Stella, Georgie, and Rocco. Those are just the dogs. I hate to say it, but I can’t name any of my neighbors. When you have a dog, you get to walk around with a bag of dog poop. And no one questions your motives.

After a year of mourning Pluto, my wife and I agreed to adopt a dog from a rescue shelter. We both agreed. No chihuahuas! No pit bulls! We came home with Earl, a great rescue dog! Earl was the name he came with. I liked it because I previously had dogs named Duke, Queenie, and Princess. So, Earl fit right in with the previous lineage of royalty.

Earl doesn’t bark or bite. Perfect! Right? My wife decided to have his DNA done. It turns out that that Earl is half-chihuahua, half-pit bull. Ay, chihuahua! He looks like a chihuahua on steroids. I’m going to have him audition for a Marvel Universe movie. Maybe he can team up with the raccoon. Ay, Chihuahua! The Rescue Dog! All he needs is the cape.

My wife signed us up for obedience classes. But I’m sure the obedience classes were more for me than for Earl. But the classes were very useful. We learned a lot of one-word commands like, “Sit!” “Stay!” “Paw!” We made a good team! Well, after six weeks of obedience classes, even my wife will admit that I am now a very good boy!

When the lockdown was over, we suffered from separation anxiety. Well, mostly me. I missed my little Earl. Oh, yeah, and my wife, too. With Earl, at least someone is happy to see me when I come home now.

When I went back to the classroom, without thinking, I started using dog commands on my students. As the students walked into the classroom, I would say, “Sit!” If they tried to leave class early, I would tell them, “Stay!” When I returned homework, I said, “Paw!” The students didn’t like that.

Yesterday, my wife called me from work to tell me to turn on the air conditioning because it was really hot. I told her I was fine. She said, “No! Not for you! Turn the air on for Earl!”



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Some things are unexplainable.

For instance, have you ever been sitting in the cafeteria, or the computer lab, and you have a feeling that someone is looking at you? Well, you can actually feel that someone looking at you. You look up and that person is actually looking at you! There’s an awkward pause and usually the other person immediately looks away. However, you feel them looking at you again, and when you look up at them, that person quickly looks away feigning innocence.

My question is: How is it possible to feel someone’s gaze on your person? We’ve all experienced it. How do you prove this phenomenon scientifically? None of our usual five senses detect our being looked at. We just know someone is looking at us. When we get this feeling of being watched, rarely are we mistaken.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I, too, have been guilty of staring at strangers in public places. I find some people attractive and/or interesting, and I find myself observing (probably more like staring at) them. Of course, they can feel my gaze, and immediately look up in my direction! Busted! What can I say? I feel guilty of voyeurism. Especially if I continue observing that person after acknowledging my guilty pleasure.

I don’t really believe in ESP or other extrasensory abilities, but I am amazed that we have the ability to sense other people looking at us.


Teaching online

I remember when I used a blackboard!

Well, I survived the first week of the semester. I was looking forward to teaching face-to-face in the classroom again, like I did last semester, but UIC decided that we should have classes online for the first two weeks. I miss talking to my students in person. On the plus side, I don’t have to commute 45-90 minutes each way. I took advantage of the situation on the first day of class by teaching in my pajamas. Not the loud Christmas pajamas I saw entire families wearing at the airport on my flight to San Diego. I don’t think anyone realized they were pajamas. At least, I hope not!

It’s great teaching online. I wake up; I take a shower; I eat breakfast; and I fire up my computer. University students adapted easily to online classes, but would rather be in class. They miss the campus activities. And so do I!