Waiting and Dreaming

Do you remember when you were little & you couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving passed to see all the stores embellished for Christmas? Waiting impatiently by the mailbox, you’d close your eyes tight, thinking the tighter you closed them, the quicker your wish for the arrival of the Sears WISH book would come true. And day after day, you’d beckon your parents for that chance to sit upon Santa Claus’s lap, have the annual picture snapped, so he was sure to bring just the right gifts. Time melted slowly, one day dripping into the next– seemingly taking forever, as you’d count down on the Nativity calendar. Then, it arrived: Christmas Eve, the commotion of family and cornucopia of food made the night go by quickly enough, and while you were too excited to sleep, you knew that if you didn’t Santa might never come. So you’d nod off quickly only to wake up, time and time again to the dark night, listening for the sleigh bells, or the footsteps of reindeer or a whoosh down the chimney, one eye open, just in case Santa was, indeed, watching, then cajoling yourself back to sleep. And suddenly, morning crept up and you and your siblings were allowed to bound down the stairs to the sight of the Christmas tree all aglow with piles upon piles of gifts underneath. Once the opening began, the day swallowed you up with excitement and passed in a blink. It all seemed like a dream.

I would consider this same kind of waiting akin to anticipating my wedding day. Two years: plenty of time to plan precisely and, simultaneously, eons away. When the planning was hectic, time flew with appointments for hall tours (big enough to fit EVERYONE or small and quaint?), invitations (the wording choice difficulties with three sets of parents), bridesmaids’ colors and dress styles (to make all the girls look good), my own dress (off the shoulder, Queen Ann’s neck, or strapless?), matchbook covers and napkins (the first official concrete evidence of our union). But when the planning was at a lull, time dragged in warped speed. Until THE day, when the only thing I made a point to savor was our vows; I consciously made a point to live in those moments. The rest, I became caught up in; it all seemed like one big blur, overwhelming and over stimulating, all at once, but a smile planted, subconsciously on my face the whole day. On the return flight home from our 10 day trip to Hawaii, I turned to my husband (my HUSBAND!), and said, “Doesn’t it all seem like a dream.”

Waiting for the birth of my three children was nerve-wracking, especially for the first. I didn’t know if I’d know when I was in labor, or if I’d distinguish my water breaking from having to pee really bad (because it seemed the last trimester all I did was pee– A LOT!). Once in the hospital, the moments between the centimeters dilating were literally, at first, hours, and I’d watch the bleeps on the monitor beside my bed move up and down in uneven rhythms. Waiting. Once each of them we’re born, it reaffirmed for me that I was, indeed, living the dream.

Now, with two in college– one in Vermont and one on externship on Cape Cod, I wait for those moments to all be together again, the only time I really feel complete and whole. After two long months having not seen my eldest, he surprised me two weeks ago when I came home to him in my kitchen. Taken off guard, I dropped what I was holding and ran to embrace him, tears streaming, uncontrollably down my cheeks. I cherished each moment that he was here (even if it were for only two short days), dropping my plans, just enjoying him & living in the moment. And it seemed like the longest two weeks before we’d be fetching our middle son for the weekend (it had been a month of waiting, longing to hug him). Never in his life had I been away from him for more than 5 days at a time; a month seemed like an eternity. But the moment he hugged me, it elapsed time and rebonded the dream, interrupted.

Ironically, Thanksgiving is the next day I will be waiting for, the next time my whole family will be together. I will not want to wish it away. Instead, I’ll want to live it in slow motion. The laughter that comes, easy and unmeasured; the wrestling between siblings, and down on the floor with the dogs; the half-full glasses left on the coffee table with watermarks beneath them; the pillows piled haphazardly on the floor; the shoes in the middle of every walk way; the sweatshirts heaped in a pile on the kitchen table; the sounds of television and Ipod and videogames; the consciousness of bodies filling up the space; the endless, random chatter; the call of immediacy to “look at this, Mom”; the garage door being left open to let in the cold; the lights on in the bathroom; the laundry strewn on the hallway floor beside the basket; the peace I feel when they are all sleeping soundly in their beds, dreaming sweet dreams.

F. Scott Fitzgerald got it right when inventing Benjamin Button (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“) the character who lived life backwards. It’s only after years of experience and the acquisition of wisdom that truly enables one to appreciate all the people and events worth waiting for and the foresight not to allow them to pass without living them fully.

Honey Boo Boo, Move Over!!

Dysfunctionality and all of it’s implications is a state of being I choose to embrace.

 

 

I love my father’s side of the family; I always have. From the time I was little, they were the fun side: the partiers, the drinkers, the laughers. When spending time with the Normans, the Bruchs and the Madsens, I have been able to lose myself from reality for even just a little bit of time. There’s never been a shift in their devotion to one another; never a family squabble that needs working itself out– just a common level of respect and appreciation for the quirkiest bunch of people I’ve even had the pleasure of surrounding myself with.

So it comes as no surprise that when my parents divorced in 1983 that my mother didn’t want to give that up in the settlement too.

Fast forward to 2012. It’s the second, in just the past year. of anniversary parties: milestones.

Last year, it was for my dad’s sister and her husband, married 50 years. It was an upscale, no holds-barred celebration at an Inn in New Hampshire, where years ago my cousin was married (yet, another one of those memorable family celebrations). It felt good catching up with relatives who span the United States. My husband and I were coming off a difficult time in our marriage, and to see the video of photographs of my aunt and uncle over those 50 years prompted me to hold my husbands hand tight and wish away all of the obstacles we’d recently faced and say a silent prayer to be sitting beside one another in 27 more years.

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of my dad’s cousins whom have been like an aunt and uncle to me throughout my life. When I was a teenager and having a tough time getting along with my mom, it was Jan who would talk to me and set me straight. My siblings and I grew up babysitting for John and Jan’s daughters while our parents got together every single Friday night. Sometimes they’d go out, but most times we’d get pizza and the grown-ups would play card games and board games. I suppose it’s the routines of these formative years that has made my fondness of family so strong.

One of the quirkiest traits of this family is their habit of giving tacky gifts. I’m not sure exactly where it started; I’m thinking at my father’s 30th birthday party (when my parents were still a couple). As I recall, my dad was given a drunk photograph of himself & John framed in a toilet seat. The tacky gifts persisted from there. It was expected that the gifts would be saved, modified in some outrageous way and passed on. In fact, at my wedding shower, I was inducted into the tackiness when I was given a ceramic witch with light up marble eyes by Jan and my Aunt Kathy; only, they were a bit ruffled because I actually liked the gift and use it at Halloween as a decoration each year. In fact, each time I’ve received a tacky gift, I find a way to use it– my own contribution to the tackiness of our family.

Last night there were tacky gifts abounding: leis and silly Hawaiian glasses (because John and Jan and my dad and his wife are celebrating their anniversary with a cruise to Hawaii in two days) also boner squash leis. As good sports, they sit at the center of their guests, opening the gifts and wearing each one they are given. Meanwhile, playing in the background is a video of their lives, a chronicle of not only the two of them but all of the people in their lives who have loved them (me and my family included).

As I’m learning, my father is growing very sentimental with age (I’ve even seen him tear up on  a few occasions, something I never witnessed as a child). In the midst of the celebration last night, my father and mother bound across the room to me and my siblings. My father declares, “In three years is the anniversary of our marriage,” something we’d totally brought up earlier– siblings considering the what ifs. “We want a 50th celebration,” he continues. “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t make it 50 years, it’s just celebrating the fact that 50 years ago we were married.” We all laughed, shaking our heads. They skirted off to their respective spouses, and my wheels began to turn.

My parents didn’t always get along so well post divorce. They were both angry and bitter, my father because my mother sought the divorce, and my mother because when she changed her mind my dad was too hurt to give it another try. They had been together since they were fourteen, and I was the reason they married so young. What I loved and admired most about my parents, growing up, is that they were best friends; it was a trait of their marriage that I sought in my own. I think that was the most difficult part of their divorce, though; no one saw it coming, I guess, except my mom who thought it was what she wanted. They had rarely even argued in our presence. So when it became finally clear that there was no chance of them getting back together, we (my siblings and I) went through a monkey-in-the-middle stage. It took my parents about seven years to heal and become part of each others’ lives again– albeit in a different form. Both of them, by that time, had moved on and married other people. I think my wedding, and then the birth of my children, were a catalyst for them finding their way back to one another as friends.

Eventually, we’d have family functions with them together, and, even, go on vacation together. I refused to choose one over the other, so I let them work it out. Going to Disneyworld with my family is something they both wanted to do, and, so, they found their way. What makes it possible is that their spouses fully supported their decisions. And, because my mom still was very close to members of my dad’s extended family, she’d be included in family functions too.

One thing they’d do, without commonality of my family, is attend Cousin’s Weekend, an annual get-together at my aunt & uncle’s home. It made my mom happy to be included again after a brief hiatus from the belonging to the group. Once, they even went on a cruise all together.

My friends and my husband too, are a bit weirded- out that my parents (and their respective spouses) are one big happy family, but I like it. It makes family get-togethers unstressful. And it comforts me the way my parents still look out for and worry about one another; I think it’s really a testament to the kind of relationship they had.

My father knows that if he tells me something, I’m the one to get it done. That’s what makes me think he’s sincere in his idea. So swirling thoughts went through my mind… wouldn’t it be fun or funny, it goes along perfectly with the tackiness of our parties. A reality show! Honey Boo Boo, move aside. If that redneck family can find an audience, surely we can too.

All night we joked, extended family climbing on board. Every aside became an episode. For example, I told Jan she had more pictures in her video of her father than I even owned. My mom piped in, “No, I have all of the photographs of your father. I’ll give them to you.” I replied, “NO. WAIT! That’s another episode. You keep those photos right where they are.”

So, this is how I’m imaging it. The year in the planning of a crazy f’d up family’s, nearly 30 years- divorced couple who are celebrating what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.

I’d say, that’s quite a pitch! Book it, Mark Burnett!

 

 

 

 

Degrees of Friendship

I hate it when people refer to friendship as hyperbole. “________ is my BEST friend”: a statement that is overused to give the impression of an abundance friends. Can one have many best friends? Instead, friendship is an honor not to be trivialized by tossing around grandiose monikers.

After receiving an email today from a friend I haven’t spoken to in over a year, it started me thinking about friendships and the kinds of friends I’ve had in my life. Most of them can be classified accordingly:

 

best friends, for me, are very few and far between; I can probably count on one hand the best friends I’ve had or HAVE in my life; most of these people have withstood the test of time and the tests of friendship; they know me, all of me, and love me anyway, and I feel the same towards them

close friends are those that I share a strong bond with; people with whom I allow into many aspects of my life; I would say they really know me, too, but not as completely, perhaps

transient friends are those who have made it into the friend zone (most often the close friend zone), but somehow, for one reason or another, the friendship was lost

situational friends are classified in several categories: work friends, neighbors, hockey friends, high school friends, college friends, online friends… those I’m only friends with in particular situations (not to say these don’t transcend over into any of the previous categories)

acquaintances are the people I meet that I’m friendly with; there is often some commonality that bonds us

In thinking about the content of the email, I’m left stymied as to how to respond or IF I should respond. From a friend, who started out as a neighbor and became a close friend, this note seemed to have come out of the blue. I regarded her as the transient kind because, slowly and over a period of time, we lost our connection. It was never something I could put my finger on. Nothing ever HAPPENED, to my knowledge, to sever the friendship or at least diminish it. I’d tried on a few occasions to query her, ask if there was something I’d done or not done that caused us to become estranged. She’d  caulk it up to life just simply getting in the way, and I’d let it go. But to no avail because nothing would change.

Last year, a For Sale sign went up on her front lawn. She’d never told me she was planning on moving. I was so hurt to come home & see that sign, with not a word, and no word to follow. Our children had been friends, growing up together; I’d considered her part of my chosen/extended family, often inviting her family to our family parties. She’d even called me from the hospital when she was in labor with her daughter.

On her moving day, I’d decided to buy her a “Best wishes on your new home” card, in which I wrote how I’d missed her and how our neighborhood would not be the same without her. When I handed her the card, she hugged me and started to cry. She’d said that a lot had gone on that she couldn’t talk about, now, but once she got settled, she’d call and tell me all about it. That was over a year ago. I’ve not heard from or seen her since. She’s even been in our neighborhood to drop her daughter off for a play date at another neighbors, and not once has she stopped by.

I felt hurt and confused turned to anger and resentment. I’d written her off, realizing friendship is a two-way street. There is only so many times one can try. I felt like it was time to let go.

So, today, I get this half apology/half confession of the terrible- time- she- is- going- through email that I must have read five times. I look at it, and I’m just not sure what to do with it.

In it, she says she hopes we can get together. Part of me wants to call her and ask her what the hell is up. Part of me wants to give her a hug. And part of me wants to not respond, as not to set myself up for that kind of hurt again. I’d gotten to a place where I’d put our friendship in the past, and left it there.

Friendship is so complicated, and my idealistic self thinks it should not be.

Now, I’ve been tagged…

Fellow blogger Daphne Propst tagged me for a Liebster Award. Not sure what that is or means, but the premise of it looks fun, so I”m glad to ablige.

Official Rules:

1. Each person tagged must post 11 things about themselves.

2. They must also answer the 11 questions the ‘tagger’ has set for them.

3. They must create 11 more questions to ask bloggers they have decided to tag.

4. They must then choose 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and tag them in their post.

5. These lucky bloggers must then be told.

6. There are no tag backs.

Got it??  Okay, here goes …..

 

11 things about me:

1) I love to do things like this… try to come up little quirkisms of my own

2) I once had a cat who needed a sex change to survive, so my Oliver became an Olivia

3) I hate peas. It’s the only vegetable I will never it. In fact, my husband loves pea soup & I won’t even allow it in my house.

4) I am psychic, and sometimes it scares me. I’ve had several dreams that have actually happened.

5) The thing that scares me the absolute most is being alone in the end. I’m such a people person.

6) I love the book Pollyanna. I do. It’s just a feel good book!

7) I have always wanted to take 2 beta fish, put them in a bowl and see if they do, in fact, fight to the death. Is there something wrong with me?!

8) If I could have one more day with any person who has passed, it would surely be my grandmother, Angelique. I miss her every day.

9) I would love to be on Big Brother… now, that’s a game show I could do!

10) I want to travel to as many destinations in the world as I can.

11) It’s really bothering me that I have to write 11 facts/questions instead of 10. I seem to seek balance in everything.

 

 

Okay, here are the question I have to answer from Daphne Propst…

What do you think is your best physical trait?

My fingernails. I have perfect fingernails. People always think I have a French manicure, but

                  I never do.

What’s your favorite TV show?  The one you’ll watch over and over and over and over and  over………

I can’t choose one b/c these two are equal: Seinfeld & Friends

What’s the one piece of electronic equipment you can’t live without?

hmm… I’ve answered this differently 3 times now, which leads me to believe I am addicted to my electronic stuff. I’m going with IPAD!

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I suddenly can’t think of one. I’m going to say that I have to shave my legs & armpits.     

What is your favorite piece of art?

The Lady of Shallot, by Waterhouse

Name a skill that most people don’t know you have.

   I can shoot a gun & I have good aim

  1. How far do you travel to work each day?

5 minutes. It’s bliss!

If you could buy one thing in the world (money is not an issue, but you can only get ONE thing),    what would it be?

A house on the beach on Cape Cod

If you could have named yourself, what would your name be?

Paige (without question)

What’s your favorite board game?

hmm… any version of Trivial Pursuit

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Italy. I’ve been to many places in the world, but never Italy. I will get there.

 

And these are the questions I have for the bloggers  I nominate:

1.               What did you eat for breakfast?

2.               What is one character in a movie you could identify with?

3.               If you had to title the second chapter of your life, what would the title be?

4.               What is your least favorite color?

5.               What is your shoe size?

6.               If you could have any job you desire, what would it be?

7.               What is your middle name?

8.               If you could speak to any person who has passed who would it be?

9.               If you came back in another life, what is one thing you would do that you don’t ever foresee

yourself doing in this one?

10.             Would you rather win a million dollars or give a million dollars to a charity of your choosing?

11.             What is your favorite children’s book?

 

And here are the nominees…….

http://tamarahickman.wordpress.com/

http://normancooper.wordpress.com/

http://screenwriteronlocation.wordpress.com/

http://parkinglotprophets.wordpress.com/

http://sandscriber.wordpress.com/

http://21stcenturycrazyteacher.wordpress.com/

http://anitaking.wordpress.com/

http://withasideofserendipity.wordpress.com/

http://iconicallyrare.com/

http://kimberlypackard.wordpress.com/

http://thesoliloquysuites.wordpress.com/

 

Thanks, Daphne! This was fun 🙂

 

FIRE! miss…

This seems to be the season of misdirected emotion. Lately, I’ve been noticing it all around me. I see my friend turning bitter towards people she doesn’t even know– spouting off to a faceless entity to fill an empty void. I see another friend being the target of anger that has nothing to do with her. I see my daughter channeling frustration and confusion where it doesn’t belong.

FRYING PAN, please! This is one of those AH HA moments for me– where, essentially, I guess I needed someone to hit me over the head with a frying pan to make me take notice.

So what does this kind of repetition do? It causes me to look within and ask– why am I surrounded by this? Or the better question is why do I suddenly have a heightened sense of awareness of it?

The answer, I’ve found time and time again, is that it’s calling attention to a lesson I need to learn about myself. Somewhere in my life I’ve been misdirecting an emotion, or several. I recognize it. I do.

We’ve all heard it said that what we recognize in others which we don’t like or are intolerant of,  instead, is a flaw within ourselves that we’re seeing: like a mirror, only we don’t recognize it until we see it outside of ourselves. Avoidance/misdirection is a defense mechanism. And, all too often, we go on judging instead of looking within and altering the flaw; after all, change is hard, and self-knowledge even harder.  But, when we become brave enough to really look in the mirror, it can be freeing–like a call to Jesus.

I seem to be getting a lot of those, lately.

The ETHICS Game

Year after year, I am asked to write letters of recommendation for students’ college applications. While it’s a tedious task, and one that I do not get paid for and write on my own time, it’s one I take seriously. I’m not one of those who write generic letters of recommendation, merely changing the he to a she or vice versa. For those students whom I agree to write their letters, it’s because I do stand behind the words I write– a representation of their character as a person and a student– and I sign my name.

I am reminded of John Proctor’s speech in The Crucible about signing his name…

Where ethics comes into play w/ letters of recommendations I have only experienced on a few occasions, but none more questionable than this experience:

About 5 years ago STUDENT asked me to write his letter of recommendation. Now I’d had this student in three courses; I thought I knew him pretty well. He was on the shy side, but also diligent in his schoolwork. He worked well with others and had above average intelligence, and a dry sense of humor when one was able to tap into it. So, “Yes, STUDENT, I’d be happy to write your letter.”

Simultaneous to him being in my class, he took another English elective second semester– a speech class. The speech teacher knew he was in my full-year. Early Spring, she approached me in the faculty room and queried about the kind of student he was. I had nothing but good things to say, aside from his shyness, I thought he’d do well in her course; moreover, I thought it would be good for him.

She shared with me that STUDENT had given his first speech earlier that day. The topic of his speech was How To Lie on your College Application and Get Into College. She went onto to relay an anecdote he’d shared about embellishing a lie to the Dean of Admissions in a college interview he’d had, and he’d been ACCEPTED.

I dismissed the story as a farce. I’d initially assumed that STUDENT was trying to get a laugh out of his classmates and ingratiate himself to them. I’d chalked it up to his dry sense of humor perhaps going too far. I asked permission to discuss the speech with him.

Next period, after class, I called him up to my desk to talk to me. He sat down, full of all of the politeness & respect he’d always shown. After sharing my conversation with him, I asked if he cared to explain. He simply said, “Yes, I made that speech.” I thought I’d misheard him, so I probed, “and was it truthful?” “Yes,” he responded with conviction.

After being stymied for a second, I composed my thoughts. “You do realize,” I said, “this is problematic, as I attested to character in your letters of recommendation.”

He very cockily replied, “I hadn’t given it a thought, but I got accepted, so no worries.”

No worries?? I was thinking. Are you kidding me?? The nonchalance with which he’d just admitted cheating and, more so, mocking it in grandiose style for all of his class to hear was unbelievable to me. A million thoughts ran through my head: what should I do with this information? call home? discuss it w/ his parents? the school he’d just been accepted to? I decided to close the conversation with him by informing him that the topic wasn’t closed.

I’d decided to bring this discovery to the guidance department. I wanted to know just what was on his college resume: what was real and what wasn’t. His counselor agreed we should look further before taking action.

The way she handled it was by calling him to her office to ask him to delineate the truths from the untruths. She said if he could substantiate enough of it with proof, we should leave it alone. I’m not sure I was wholly convinced as she was to “just” leave it alone, but I conceded to her taking the lead.

The conclusion she had drawn was that *most* of what he had written could be corroborated. There was one all out lie that he’d made about starting up a club that hadn’t been in existence before, which he actually, according to the starter- of- the- club, tried to bully his friend into lying on his behalf (which the starter confided in me because he felt it was unETHICAL to lie– at least some students have scruples!!)

We’d had a meeting in which he presented a humble version of himself, back peddling, saying he’d embellished the extent to which he “lied” ( a word he never used ). Instead, he said he’d written that he was part of a club that he’d only attended one meeting for, and part of another he’d only signed up for… yadda, yadda, yadda; his lies started becoming a blur. The guidance counselor was of the mind that we shouldn’t pursue the issue any farther (which I’d taken as taking the path of least resistance). In her words, she stated, “I’m not going to tell you what to do as far as the letter of recommendation goes, but I would leave it alone if I were you.”

I grappled with her response for two reasons. Number one: I’d signed my name to my testament of his character. And not only did I sign that letter, but I’m often asked to write recommendations to that very school. I didn’t want my name to mean nothing if he decided to go cheat his way through college. It wouldn’t be fair for future students to have my letter disregarded on their behalf because STUDENT turned out to be infamous in one way or another. Number two: I wanted him to learn a lesson. I didn’t want him going through life thinking embellishing truths or telling them slant was okay in every situation.

What complicated the entire matter was the fact that his mother was a Dean of (a discipline) at the very college he’d been accepted to! Not smart, STUDENT, not smart!

I felt this incredible pressure to do the right thing, but I wasn’t sure what that was. I lost sleep. I stressed over it. It was quite a predicament: complicated, now, on multiple levels. After much deliberation and consulting with the speech teacher and guidance counselor, I’d decided to call a meeting with STUDENT and his mom. I wanted it all out there and was willing to allow her to do with the information as she saw fit. She cried and was apologetic, STUDENT sat there, quiet and humbled, as the speech teacher and I tried to bestow the importance of honesty upon him. I felt it was a compromise. I thought it was the end of the situation.

About two weeks later, I was at home reading/correcting a stack of essays written about King Lear. I come across STUDENT’s essay. I read it. I read it again. Something isn’t right. The language is OFF, and the topic isn’t anything we’d even broached upon in class. I decide to Google a sentence, hoping to find nothing. Instead, I find the WHOLE essay, online. He’d copied the entire thing, printed his name at the top of the paper and handed it in as his own work– not even a citation. I was angry– livid perhaps. I felt taken advantage of, and, more so, I’d regretted my earlier decision of a compromise.

The next day at school, I had him pulled from his first period class by one of the security guards and escorted to my room, empty, conveniently due to a prep period. On the desk in front of me. I had his essay, on which I’d begun to highlight the similarities to the original document, but stopped because they were too abundant. I had beside it a printed-out version of the original. I was nervous, but kept my cool. He sat down. I said, “Do you want to tell me about this essay?”

He replied, “What?” playing dumb.

I probed further, “Do you want to tell me why you plagiarized this essay?”

He said, “I didn’t.”

I proceeded to show him the documents, side by side. He bowed his head in shame. He’d been caught. I asked, “How bad do you not want to go to the college where your mom works?” I’d thought I figured it all out. “You know I’m rescinding your letter of recommendation, don’t you?” He nodded. “What happens from there is out of my hands. And I have to give you a zero for this paper which means you will flunk the marking period, but not the course.” He sat there in silence, not making eye contact. I continued, “STUDENT, I don’t think you’re a bad kid, but you are making bad choice after bad choice. Bad choices is not what defines us as people, but what we do in reaction to them does. I hope this is a good lesson for you. It truly is a life lesson, and one I hope you will never forget.” He looked me straight in the eye, and then never made eye contact with me again.

I wrote to the Dean of Admissions, a truthful letter but not one that included all of the details. For it was not my hope to derail his future, but I needed to do what was right for myself, and I hoped that it was what was right for him too. The Dean responded immediately by asking for a phone call from me. He explained over the phone what a predicament he was in since STUDENT’s mom was a respected member of the faculty. He asked for the details, and then he asked for my advice– something I found extremely genuine and fair. My advice was academic probation vs. revoking his acceptance. I confided to him what I’d ended my meeting with STUDENT saying. He heeded my advice, but took it one step further by calling the student into his office for a meeting (something that I hope scared the crap out of him, enough for the lesson to hit home).

Sometime in August, I received a manila envelope addressed to me. Inside was an authentically written King Lear paper by STUDENT and a personal note in his handwriting. He said he didn’t want to leave what had transpired between us at the end of the school year as my last memory of him. He said that he’d rewritten the paper, not for credit, but just because he wanted me to know he could do it. He said he was sorry he didn’t have the chance to thank me in person for being his most memorable teacher. He said he respected me and learned a lot from me.

That whole turn of events was among the most difficult of events I’ve ever faced in my professional career. Doing what is right is not always clear and is seldom easy. I don’t know if STUDENT took it upon himself to make that last gesture or if his mom put him up to it; I hope it was his choice.

Every once in a while, we find ourselves at a crossroads– one that takes us by surprise, something we didn’t ask for or even bring on ourselves, but one we need to face. And at the end of the day, after sifting through what’s right and wrong, we have to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “I made the right choice, today.”

“Ethics is not definable, is not implementable, because it is not conscious; it involves not only our thinking, but also our feeling.” Valdemar W. Setzer

You’ve been tagged!!

I stumbled upon a game of Blog Tag when reading one of the blogs I follow: mypenandme. The way the game works is I have to reveal 10 things about myself and then tag 10 other bloggers I would like to know more about.  This is a cool idea to help bloggers learn more about each other and I am flattered to be included.  So here are my realities:

 

1)       I write for the joy of writing… my blog, journals for every purpose, poetry,

short stories, novels, and I would love to write a screenplay. I’ve considered

myself a writer since I was 8 years old.

2)       I’m a dreamer, an idealist, I am glass half-full; I believe the goal SHOULD be

to create a life for yourself that is fairytale- like. (My husband always tells me,

“Life is not a fairy tale, Donna”) Why not? Happily ever after is not a bad

thing to aspire to.

3)       I have written 3 novels… two I consider publishable, though I have not had

luck in getting them published, and lots & lots of poetry, which, some I have

published. Currently looking for an agent for my work. If you find any who

are looking for me… feel free to share my info!

4)       I am also a teacher; I didn’t always aspire to be a teacher. In fact, it was

my college advisor, Richard Russo (yes, the author!) who, when I told him

all I really wanted to be was a writer, said, “Donna, you need a job!” He

suggested teaching, and I have never looked back. Thank you, Richard

Russo, you helped me reach for a calling I might never have heard w/o

you & I believe I will be teaching until I stop working altogether. It is

such a rewarding job. I get to do what I love and get paid for it.

5)       My favorite books are those I can get lost in. I mean literally lost in, as in

I wish I were in the stories or I imagine that I actually am!

6)       I’m a film buff; I like non-linear, psychological films that resonate for days

after the film has ended, but I’ll watch almost anything (though Sci-Fi and

Westerns are my least fave!)

7)       I think all artists have a darkness about them where their creativity comes from.

I am no exception.

8)       I truly wish for world peace and pray I’m not here to see the world end.

9)       I believe in past lives. I know I lived in England and on Cape Cod. I feel it

each time I’m there. And there are people I know with whom I have shared

a past life. This isn’t even a hunch; I know it in my soul.

10)     The beach is the one place I feel totally at peace. I envision myself living on

a beach, writing as my primary career, and teaching at a university as my

second career. THERE! I’ve said it. I’ve put it out there for all the world to

see!

 

… just creating my reality one belief at a time!

 

And here are the bloggers I follow whom I’d like to learn more about. I hope you’ll accept my invitation to play!

 

http://jeandayfriday.wordpress.com/

http://teachergirlblogs.com/

http://reelclub.wordpress.com/

http://withasideofserendipity.wordpress.com/

http://daphnepropst.wordpress.com/

http://parkinglotprophets.wordpress.com/

http://screenwriteronlocation.wordpress.com/

http://writeratthesea.wordpress.com/

http://sandscriber.wordpress.com/

http://cmslearning1.wordpress.com/

 

It’s Such a Perfect Day

I think in music lyrics. When doing a stream of consciousness exercise once, the professor asked, “What kind of thoughts ruminate in your mind when you’re idle?”

I hear a line from a song, sometimes from the last song I heard, but most often words that mirror what I’m feeling or thinking.

Music fills my soul. It sounds so cliché, but it does!

I identify with lyrics. I think about them, and sometimes they help me work things out in my head.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Cold Play concert on their Mylo Xyloto tour, and I call it an opportunity because it truly was– a magical spectacle! It was the most visually, aesthetically pleasing event I’d ever seen. Lasers, confetti, light-up bracelets, balloons; it was an orgy of color and graffiti!

Music moves my body to sway or jump or gyrate in ways that it doesn’t normally. I’m not a dancer, but when I hear notes in concert, I am moved to be on my feet and respond.

Stepping outside, today, seeing the sunshine, feeling the crispness in the air, watching the trees sway in the breeze, immediately, “Strawberry Swing” came into my head & I needed to play it. I needed to hear the music and the words.

I take every opportunity I can to see a band in concert whose music moves me this way. I’ve never been a groupie by any standards, but seeing live shows is one of my favorite things to do. And I’ve realized, I need to be up close to have the most amazing experience. The energy from the band seeps into the crowd. Once, Stephen Jenkin’s, from Third Eye Blind, ended his show by calling it a mystical experience, all of us being in the same room, sharing these moments. He’d said we were meant to be here at this moment in time, together. That stuck with me. Kismet working again!

The concerts I’ve attended:

Train ( 5 times )

Third Eye Blind ( 3times)

Bruce Springsteen & the East Street Band ( 3 times )

Elton John ( 3 times )

Shawn Colvin ( 3 times )

Rod Stewart (twice)

Madonna (twice)

Genesis (twice)

Cher (twice)

Cold Play

Maroon 5

Billy Joel

John Mayer

Phil Collins

Vertical Horizon

Carly Simon

Diana Ross

Chicago

Police

Cars

… an aside about MYLO XYLOTO

Meaning of Mylo Xyloto

During an interview with The Sun (UK newspaper) on 12th September 2011, Chris Martin discussed the meaning of the album title, Mylo Xyloto. Quoting The Sun: It is pronounced My-low Zy-letoe… and even the lads admit the title doesn’t mean anything. Chris says: “At the moment it seems a bit ridiculous and I accept that. “Something about it feels quite fresh. The title doesn’t have any other meaning. I think we’re a band with a lot of history now so it’s nice to come up with something that doesn’t have any history at all. We’ve had that title for about two years on a board and any other potential titles had to be written next to it. Other ones made more sense but we just liked this one, that’s all we can defend it with.”

Guitarist Jonny jokes that the process of finding a title was “like naming a child”. And Chris — dad to daughter Apple, seven, and son Moses, five — admits he has received a fair bit of banter about his name choices. He says: “I’ve had trouble with that too. I don’t regret that either. It’s just a feeling of a fresh start.”[5]


Before that interview not much was revealed at the time about the exact meaning of Mylo Xyloto, although there were developments from Coldplay’s TV appearance in Paris (on 9th September 2011) which will be televised in October 2011. According to Coldplayers, the band discussed the meaning of Mylo Xyloto, Coldplayer Lu’kaa saying: “Yesterday in an interview in the french TV show Chris explained that Mylo Xyloto was just an imaginary language, with two words: Mylo and Xyloto. It’s about creating a now word, from nothing, kind of like Google. How I know it? Well I was there!”

For those of you (most) still trying to figure out the possibly meaning behind this title following The Oracle’s confirmation that the title was not randomly made up without meaning, it’s a little unclear — though Latin derivations of “Mylo” tend to suggest that it is about something falling apart. (Meanwhile, “Xyloto” has been used to refer to a family of insects.) Could this be some sort of statement meant to suggest people coming together in the midst of what are difficult times for the world? Until Coldplay speak out about it themselves, we will probably not know for sure. Perhaps there is a tie with the colorful art, which seems to indicate there’s beauty in destruction which seems a fitting theme for the darker times we live in.[6]

Even The Oracle remained tight lipped on the answer, recently saying: “This could win the prize for the most asked question in the shortest space of time! All I will say is that if the band are asked it as many times as I have been asked, an answer will appear soon enough! I’d rather not be the revealer on this occasion. I will dispel a couple of suggestions I received though. It’s not been randomly made up with no meaning at all nor is it a foreign language. Everyone has been so patient so far with all the teasing that has been going on during the past 3 months so I’m sure we can hang on a little longer…” (August 15th).[7]

Ok I know this might sound a bit far out, but here are my thoughts. I think Mylo Xyloto might be an alien, for various reasons: 1- Aliens, U.F.O., stand to play a big part in the story of MX. I think they are going to be the good guys (light blinking to to tell me it´s alright) and will maybe help the two main protagonists in the end (hopeful transmissions). They might possibly end up flying away with the aliens in the end (up with the birds); 2- It would also tie in with Moving To Mars. Maybe it was not a metaphor at all. Maybe it is about the protagonists moving away from planet earth, after everything has gone up in flames; 3- It would explain the weird name Xyloto, which would be a good extraterrestrial name… I definitely hope there is nothing about alien abductions (scary!) hehe I still think the aliens are friendly and good. I interpret that sentence as just simply meaning that a sign came from outer space to let our heroes know that help is on its way and everything is gonna be alright. [thanks valypan][8]

This from MTV[9]: “Not only does it sound like a clothing-optional beach in the Greek Isles (or a nasty viral disease,) but, because it is largely inscrutable, it also inspires the inner etymologist within me. What, exactly, is the language of origin (Latin?) Googling it just brings up lots of Coldplay Web sites. How, precisely, is it pronounced? (Oh, just scanning the press release now, and apparently it’s “my-lo zy-letoe.”) And, since we’re on the subject, just how many anagrams can you pull from its 10 letters? Of course, it bears mention that whenever you’re talking about pronunciation and anagrams, you know you’re in the presence of true titular greatness. So, after spending some serious time with a pen and a piece of paper, here’s every possible anagrammatic combination I can think of. The word “Ox” comes up a lot. For whatever reason, I’d like to think that makes Chris Martin happy.”

http://www.wikicoldplay.com/Mylo_Xyloto

APP hAPPy

While at times I am overwhelmed by technology, I also embrace the possibilities it opens up to students and me. I decided to become i-connected when the iPad 2 was released (I was already using my iPod and iPhone). I set my alarm to the wee hours of the morning to be among the first to place my order, and good thing I did, too, because, while it only took me 10 days to receive my package, others waited for weeks longer.
Three of us, at work, ordered in the wee hours of the morning and received our iPads on the very same day! Eagerly, we arrived at work & compared notes. Exchanging procedures and capabilities, not to mention the APPS (all the APPS; it was like Christmas each time I visited the iTunes store) had become a daily routine. We were each others’ support and pioneers at our school.
So, I thought, why not open up my finds to a greater audience, and all I ask in return is that you make some suggestions of your finds to me, too! I’ve listed all of the TEACHER-friendly APPS I use at and for school, some on a daily basis. Keep in mind that I teach high school English, so my APP Table of Contents may vary from yours if you are teaching a different grade level or discipline.
I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have about any of the APPS I have listed below.


    Just a few of my faves:
Among my favorites, by far, is the Planbook APP by Hellmansoft. It has afforded me to have a paperless planbook that I no longer need to erase when I haven’t accomplished all I’ve wanted to or when we have a snow day and I have to push everything I’ve written in pencil forward. Paper-thin paper, be gone! Not to mention the developer is extremely supportive and takes suggestions for future updates.
In addition to the Planbook, Essay Grader is also a very useful APP where you could customize your comments to avoid having to write the same things over and over again, and then you email the comments to the students; you can even upload your student lists and save them.
ibook Writer is something I’ve explored a bit with but not fully. It’s an app where basically you can write a book for each unit and ultimately a course, importing documents, pictures and media. It reminds me of Wikis.
Dropbox is similar to the iCloud, in that you can upload documents from your iPad to your desktop or laptop and vice versa. It makes moving documents a dream.
For research and establishing connections between topics, Wikinodes is fantastic. It’s kind of like six degrees of separation. I use it at the beginning of a unit to establish some background information of the time period and author we are studying. The way one subject connects to another is particularly effective for visual learners. A scavenger hunt assignment is fun to create with this APP.
For the British literature passion I get to indulge while teaching a course of the same name, Shakespeare is an essential APP, providing biographical info, full texts of his plays, his sonnets, instruction on iambic pentameter and links to performances and Shakespeare resources.
London is an APP that provides the evolution of the city including maps over various time period, events, people, etc. that shaped London. It even has some media clips of short documentaries and interviews.
Both British Library apps are also helpful when wanting to demonstrate primary source material from various time periods. They have such materials as the original texts of Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales which are housed at the British Library.
For film buffs, the IMDB APP is essential. It includes everything you’ve ever wanted to know about films, directors, actors/actresses, genres and film history. It’s a must have APP not only for film teachers, like myself, but also for film buffs.
Paramount 100 is effective when presenting the history of film or to acquaint students with the makings of a production studio.
Editions is also one of my visit-everyday APPS. It allows you to select topics of interest and pulls articles based on such topic from daily sources to create a magazine. I highly recommend this one to get all of your info from one source!
For short presentations on a variety of topics, TED talks are both interesting and thought provoking.
iTunes U hosts a vast array of collegiate sources (both text and audio) that I’ve found useful for my literature classes.

Utility APPS:
Planbook
Dropbox
CloudOn
readability
ShowMe
Socrative
Google
CloudWord
eClicker
Adobe Reader
neu.Annotate
Essay Grader
ibookWriter

Reference APPS:
Discovery Edu
POADAT: Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus
Lit analysis
eTextbooks
WikikNodes
Wikihood
Bible

British Literature APPS:
Treasure: British Library
London
Celebr…Dickens
Dickens
British Library
London: City Walks
Shakespeare

Film APPS:
IMDB
Film…Board
Oscars
Movies 2
Paramount 100

News APPS:
Editions
The Chronicle
CNN

Media APPS:
TED

Literary APPS:
iBooks
iTunes U

Travel APPS:
EF Tours

I plan on updating this list and reblogging as I find more useful APPS. I’m looking forward to seeing your suggestions. hAPPy APPing!!