POST- 30 Days of Thankful: Reflection

PTF today I am

On the heals of a school year ending badly, despite it mostly being a great year, and an even worse beginning to summer, I was searching for levity to move forward– in dire need of levity to move forward, a coping mechanism of sorts when I came upon Wayne Dyer’s quote which states that if we write one thing down we are thankful for each day, our lives will improve.

I took his suggestion in an earlier blog– writing down what I’m thankful for each day.

I have learned several things during this month of focusing on thankful. Some days are like hidden treasures of an overabundance of thankful. Conversely, even on a completely crappy day where nothing seems to go right, there is always something to be thankful for. On my mission to pluck out happy/lesson-worthy pearls from my day forced me to look for good in everyday. Sometimes, what is good in my life didn’t come as a surprise at all, but on these days, I cultivated a heightened sense of appreciation of them. On other days, what I found to be grateful for snuck up on me. Like an “Oh, there’s this!” As if I’d not considered it before. What I’m trying to say– and feeling like I’m saying it so poorly, is that when you look for the good in every single day, in seemingly insignificant moments, it does color everything you see. And it arms you with the ability to put difficult situations, challenges, obstacles, negativity in its place and say, “Okay, this is there, but I am here.” In simply being present, the position where you look outside yourself, you suddenly provide yourself with this gift of clarity.

I would say, the beginning of this summer (with one child, altering decisions impulsively, and moving across country for God knows how long, and the other child dealing with so many consequences that his inner demons have caused him — all of which making me to feel utterly helpless as a mom) is one of the toughest I’ve ever experienced, but in allowing myself to see what I can be thankful for makes me realize that all of that other stuff is transient– we’ll get through it. It will pass. And what we’ll be left with is the really important stuff, that each and everyday, I’ve set aside at least a moment to recognize as the positive.

PTF Thankful

In reflecting upon my 30 days of Thankful, this is a list of what I’m grateful for:

FAMILY— the whole lot of them: Anthony, Ryan, Tyler, Alexa, my mom & sisters & brothers and dads, my nieces and nephews, my grandmother (who is with me every day)

PEACE— that the ocean, our boat, our dog, reading books, spa days, my flower garden at home all bring me– calm

SPONTANEITY— welcome the unexpected turns of events like having more time with something or someone– embrace it

CATHARSIS— that is recognized from one life experience to the next. Only when we have the perspective to reflect upon it can we truly appreciate it

TIME & LIFE— Nothing is ever guaranteed. We must live it and love it, NOW.

PASSION— we all need a muse, something that propels us forward. For some, it’s art or sports, for others it’s knowledge or nature– no matter the muse, allow the passion to flourish– to breath life in you every day

COMMUNICATION— that essential component in every relationship. Without it, we are each an island, and no one wants to be alone.

HOPE & FAITH— I write these together, because I believe they are one. The more difficult my experiences, the deeper my faith becomes and the more hope I’m given that everything will work out okay

PERSEVERANCE— which I think relates to the previous two. We must forge ahead and never give up.

ME TIME— carving out time to nurture myself is important. As a mom and a wife, with a career, that is one difficult task, as our nature is always to give. But, I’ve learned that if I don’t take some time to care for myself, I will not be able to care for others in the way that I want to

INDULGENCE— it isn’t bad to pamper yourself, on occasion, so long as you never lose sight of what’s most important

PTF gratitude


LEOisms: Astrology and other birthday musings…

live your life forget your age

The funny thing about birthdays is that when you’re little they can’t come quickly enough, and when you’re older you eventually come to deny (or forget) their existence.

I think I’d like to go back to 35. I had a fair amount of wisdom, then, my children were still young, and it was a time when I didn’t feel the least bit jaded or cynical. My mom has always said, before I even heard of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Fitzgerald, F. Scott. 1922) that we should live our years backward, so we could truly appreciate them. The older I become, the more that statement rings true.

While I yearn for invincible, idealistic me, I truly appreciate the lessons I’ve learned along the way as well as the knowledge I’ve acquired from them.


I was born on a Tuesday around 3:00 a.m. on July 27th, 1965.

What happened that day:

astrology chart generic



I do believe astrology can tell a lot about who we are– not the everyday horoscope (most of those are so general, they can apply to anyone), but I believe in the stars. I believe that at the moment I was born, the cosmic universe influenced who I’d become. Moreover, my astrology chart (in depth analysis of where the stars & planets are aligned when one is born and how it affects one’s personality) is surprisingly accurate.

astrology chart

My Sun sign is Leo

It’s true I need a lot of attention, but unlike the characteristic Leo I shun to be the center of it. I don’t like being put on the spot nor am I comfortable in the limelight. That said, I am a teacher which puts me at the center of attention in my classroom, but I often try to deflect that to my students. Instead, I ascribe to the teacher as coach model.

Extremely spirited, my spiritual side is something I’m always guided by. Moreover, I am completely persistent and dedicatedloyal to people and ideas, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes my persistence and passion can be misconstrued, I think, for being pushy and blunt which I never mean to be. I’m just extremely committed to my convictions, albeit sometimes to the extreme of stubbornness.

My Rising sign is Gemini

I am restless needing to be busy at all times which lends me to be a bit of a juggler, having many projects going at all times– always a goal ahead of me. I love new experiences, something to look forward to. I do not live in the past, instead, I’m usually looking ahead, sometimes appreciating the now, but not nearly enough.

Communication is at the center of all I do and am. I’m a reader and a writer, and a talker, certainly, a chief role in my career, but I love to talk to people all sorts of people– only I’m not to good at small talk. Being a deep thinker, I enjoy deep and meaningful conversation.

My Moon sign is Cancer

True, I am strong emotionally but I wouldn’t say I’m extremely secure emotionally. I constantly dissect, everything, and am full of self-doubt. There is a constant struggle between what’s true in my heart and what I know in my head, for this is the greatest challenge of this life for me. Conversely, I am very confident, though it was long earned, in my mothering abilities which first debuted at an extremely young age. My propensity for nurturing has always been a very strong one and I’ve always been extremely intuitive by nature, more so relying on instinct than reason. I think I love so strongly because of my innate need to be loved equally.

Here is how I see myself:

leo characteristics


You can complete a free astrology chart too by using this link:


Reading Literature/ Reading Film

movie image

Dave Farmer, in his blog Wordsmith & Member of Imagineland, posed an interesting question in his post “Should movies be faithful to the book?”

Here is my response to his question :

Hamlet Response

but after replying, I realized there is so much more to say on the topic…

Reading Literature/Reading Film

This course, which I co-wrote with a colleague, was the brain-child of a course we had both taken separately called Shakespeare Alive! Each summer, the professor, Mike Shea, focuses his entire course on an in-depth analysis of one of Shakespeare’s plays. I took the Romeo and Juliet course; my colleague studied MacBeth. A portion of these courses takes a look at differing editions of the actual text and how editors (in making decisions about interpretation, stage direction, diction, etc…) actually can alter the reading of the text. Another portion of the class looked at how differing adaptations created various interpretations of the text.

We took our experiences as students in Shakespeare Alive and developed it into our own half-year, English elective course offered to junior and senior high school students.

Making/Viewing a Film

In our research of movie making, we looked at various approaches to viewing film, the components of which ultimately go into the making of film.

Literary Approach– concerns devices of literature including setting, character, plot, theme, motif…

Theatrical Approach– also termed Mise-en-scène is literally everything that goes into a scene including acting, costume, make-up, props, set, lighting.

Cinematic Approach– techniques the film maker uses to convey the goals of the film such as camera angle, shot type, lighting, sound, editing.

All of these devices are inherent in the goals of directors during the making of a film; his/her use of them ultimately determine how we SEE (both visually and perceptively) a film.

In considering how these devices are used when viewing a film is how we determine it to be a good film or not.

Reading Text

The primary pleasure of reading is in our ability to use our imaginations. The construction of style and plot (through the devices of diction, syntax, use of motif, theme, imagery, symbolism) colluding with our personal repertoires of experience (personal, educational, environmental) is how we conceive of a story. Whether it’s good or bad, by our standards. Whether or not we can connect to it. Whether or not it will be memorable.

We are active in what we take away from a novel.

When Literature meets Film

Directors/producers often decide to adapt literature onto film because it already has a fan base to draw from to garner talk about the film before it’s even released– free publicity, if you will. Some directors choose to make a very tight adaptation of a story which means the film attempts to remain as faithful as possible to the intent of the novel, short story, play… it’s drawn from. Conversely, some make a very loose adaptation– maintaining some characteristics of the story while deviating in an obvious way from others.

Using the approaches mentioned above are the vehicles through which these adaptations are achieved. Some are fixed (low key lighting literally demonstrates an ominous environment). Some are completely interpretive (different actors use varying techniques to draw upon the portrayal of an ominous character).

Depending upon how we interface with the various components of a film and how we perceived a piece of literature prior to viewing the adaptation will be the determining factors we base our judgment of the film as successful or unsuccessful.

Should movies be faithful to the literature from which they are adapted?

Yes and no, depending upon your preferences, interpretations and expectations.

They are inherently different discourses. They are not, by nature the same. We draw upon different proclivities in approaching each.

The Hamlet Project

One of the anchor texts for my course is Hamlet, arguably one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays and a cornerstone of all literature.

When reading the text, various arguments emerge:

Hamlet Qs

There are not black or white answers to these questions. It depends on what you key into as a reader. It depends, based on your own repertoires, how you conceive of these various themes and how they interface with your reading of Hamlet.

Next, take into account that we create our own interpretations of Hamlet, just as the director needs to make a choice of how Hamlet will be portrayed on film, and the actors involved in the performance make choices in their portrayals of the characters. This layer upon layer of creation is what makes this question (Should movies be faithful to the book?) become so rhetorical.

An analysis of many Hamlets

My first attempt to introduce students to an adapation of Hamlet is in showing them the Michael Almereyda version (2000) starring Ethan Hawke set in modern day, New York city. Instead of ruling the country Denmark, Hamlet’s (Hawke) dead father (Sam Shepard) is the former CEO of the company Denmark, now run by his uncle, Claudius (Kyle MacLachlan).  Because it is set in modern-day but retains the language of Shakespeare in addition to about one-third of the play being lopped off, students recognize this as a very loose adaptation. It is off-putting to them. But, the reason I show it first is so they don’t adopt the images of a closer adaptation to what Hamlet “should” look like.

This version portrays a Hamlet who is not only trapped in his melancholia but, more so, misled by the ghost of his father, as the director uses video motif to show how Hamlets emotions get the better of him in his plight to avenge the King.

The next Hamlet I normally show is the Franco Zeffirelli version (1990) which is a closer portrayal of what most imagine Hamlet to be, set in a dark castle in Demark. The roles of these characters maintain the integrity of the text, though some of this text has been omitted as well.

Hamlet (Mel Gibson) seems to suffer more from the Oedipus complex in the version, especially in the scene after killing Polinius (Ian Holm) when grappling with his actions to his mother, the Queen (Glenn Close) in her bedroom.

From there, I move to the Kenneth Branagh version (1996) who also plays the role of Hamlet, which is set in Denmark during the Victorian era, which I believe is an attempt on the director’s part to demonstrate the timelessness of the story. This is the tightest adaptation I have seen; the run time is approximately 4 hours as compared to the approximately 2-hour run times of the aforementioned adaptations.

Branagh definitely portrays a Hamlet is who more in control of his emotions, particularly in the “To Be or Not To Be” scene where he stands erect looking at himself in the mirror, holding a knife. The Mise-en-scène and high key lighting contribute to our perception of him as a man plagued by the loss of power.

The Campbell Scott and Eric Simonson version of Hamlet (2000) is set more during the romantic period, based on the setting and costumes, which contributes to this Hamlet’s (Campbell Scott) portrayal of a sentimental dreamer conflicted physically and emotionally, particularly in the “To Be or Not to Be” scene, as he draws blood after nicking his wrist with a blade. The Mise-en-scène in this adaptation is vastly different than the Branagh’s, as it is filled with the color red, symbolizing blood, and is the only adaptation in which Hamlet literally takes action upon himself.

hamlet scott

While these are only some of the adaptations we view in Reading Literature/Reading Film, you can begin to see how vastly different even adaptations of the same play are depending upon the goals of the director and how we, as viewers, see them.

Likewise, while I have provided my view the interpretations of the various Hamlets, they are in no way fixed interpretations that every viewer sees in the same way.

Our goal as readers and film viewers is ultimately to become engaged, transported to a different place and time for a while, and to be entertained. Literature and film are discourses that make us think, and if they’re good, perhaps, they change the way we see things. Filmmakers are no more tied to make a faithful adaptation of film as an author is to write a good book. They put the way the see it (the story– no matter where from it is derived) out there for us to be the judge.

Other Adaptations to Consider

If you are looking for adaptations to compare/contrast to their literature counterparts, here is a list of those I use in class in addition to some my students have used for projects:

Into the Wild

The Color Purple

Forest Gump

The Hunger Games

Harry Potter

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

White Oleander

Stand By Me

The Other Boleyn Girl

Memoirs of a Geisha

Heart of Darkness

A Clockwork Orange

The Godfather


The Shining

One Day

Perks of a Wallflower

The Help

The Secret Life of Bees

The Great Gatsby

Shawshank Redemption

A Chorus Line

Mrs. Dalloway

Little Altars Everywhere/Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood

War of the Worlds

The Hours

The Reader

Girl Interrupted

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Revolutionary Road

Of Mice and Men

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Tom Sawyer


The Scarlet Letter

*almost anything Charles Dickens

*almost anything William Shakespeare

The Only Way

I held you close, my baby boy,
my shining starlight,
nursed you
nurtured you,
until you could walk
Only your walk became a run
–boundless energy.
I lived through your vivacity:
Batman flying over Gotham
Power Ranger fighting the good fight
and my knight in shining armor,
you promised to protect me
until you couldn’t
Because you were standing on your own
–a separate, far away land
where you hoped to find yourself.
It was my hope too,
so I let go,
allowing you to fly and fight,
praying you’d protect yourself
until you didn’t
Watching you fall,
when I couldn’t catch you,
is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
My nature is to protect you,
but this is your life.
You need to learn how to stand
and fly, using your own wings.
You need to find your own star,
even when it’s so far out of reach,
to learn what’s worth fighting for.
Sometimes walking,
taking baby steps, 
is a better course than running,
certainly better than flying.
Sometimes feeling unprotected
and alone
is the only way, that through the dark,
you can find the stars.



Updated: Past the half-way point! And still thankful 🙂

Mirror MUSES


By writing down one thing we are thankful for each day, we can improve our lives… (Dr. Wayne Dyer)


Thankful 4Think-positive

Instead of dwelling on what is challenging me, I’m approaching the next month with unabandoned optimism.

thank ful Helen Keller

(Helen Keller)

30 days: at LEAST 30 reasons to be THANKFUL


Follow along. I’ll add to this post each day. Let’s see how focusing on the positivity in our lives enriches our lives.

Day 30: 7/22
Today I am thankful for my faith. These last two months have been one blow after another and my faith that all of these obstacles are leading to something meaningful has been keeping me going.
Sometimes… All you can do is BELIEVE and I do.

TF believe

Day 29: 7/21
Today, I’m thankful for the time I spent with my sisters. We don’t get this opportunity to have some talk time as much as I’d like. And my sister…

View original post 4,107 more words

THE Talk: Educating your children, then letting them go

the talk

Giving your kids THE Talk is usually not easy, and I’ve come to realize I’ve given them several TALKs from the time they could understand until, now, as young adults. These are moments of imparting necessary pearls of wisdom upon them with the hope that they are listening, even if they only just latch onto the important parts. And the experienced parent knows, too often these talks are like those lectures you got in school that after a while sounded like the warbled teacher-talk in Charlie Brown.

None-the-less talking to children from experience is essential. Communication is everything.

One of the earliest talks was when I had to tell my toddler that biting is unacceptable. Not long after came the It’s time to stop sucking your thumb talk. Only to be followed by the Look both ways before you cross the street, then look again talk.  As young children, these talks were a matter of imparting lessons, not of the uncomfortable nature.

It didn’t get uncomfortable until puberty when it came time to talk about body changes. I remember buying the book My Body Myself for my firstborn, Ryan. It’s an educational/journal/workbook of sorts with, perhaps, too many pictures. I told Ryan he might like to flip through this book to give him some information about the ways in which he should expect his body to change. A reassurance for him that he isn’t morphing into some kind of monster. After a day or so, I knew he flipped through the book because he said to me, “Mom, did you read that book before you gave it to me? Because I’m not sure it’s really appropriate for me.”

The next conversation became even more uncomfortable, as my husband called NO DIBS regarding the sex talk with Ryan. At his school, a pediatrician came in, girls separated from boys, to explain the changes in body and discuss the birds and the bees. I saw this as a teachable moment. So, when he came home, I asked him about the talk, and it became clear that he wasn’t giving up any details. I said, “Now, Ryan, I’d like to tell you about sex which you may or may not know about already, but I’d like it to come from my mouth so I can be sure you have the right information.” His face blushed and he shrugged it off, saying, “You really don’t have to mom. Do you?” He was not getting out of listening even if he chose not to respond.

As he approached middle school, the talks became more important and touched on things like being a leader, listening to your inside voice, not succumbing to peer pressure regarding alcohol, nicotine and drugs.

In high school, the first AHA! moment snuck up on me when Ryan, as a freshman hockey player, got into the car of a senior for a ride home. I thought, OH RITE, time for this conversation. I was taken off guard that he would do so without permission. And this began a long line of decision making without permission. Welcome to those horrible teen years every parent already in-the-know warns you about. I thought I was ready… armed with my talks and positive reinforcement, feeling like I knew my child and his friends well enough to assume the kinds of risky behaviors they’d take part in. Afterall, I had been there. I thought I was a parent in-the-know. Turns out, I wasn’t until after I’d lived through it at least once. Then I thought I KNEW. But, I didn’t. The second is never exactly like the first. In fact, I’m still learning, but I haven’t stopped talking. I’ve even lowered myself to sneaking and prying and spying. Now, I know, there is nothing I will stop short of for the safety of my child.

The next TALK came the summer of my son’s junior year in high school. For this talk, I left a box of condoms, stealth-like, on his bed with a note that read, “This is not permission, it’s precaution, but I hope you will wait until you’re in love.” He was completely mortified, but his friends thought it was a cool way to deliver the message. I suspect my son did too, deep down, though he would never admit it.

As the TALKs continued, they became scarier and scarier because the next talk came upon him leaving my comfy, cozy and SAFE nest– when he went off to college. We talked about safety, independence, responsibility, time management, money management, considering consequences before acting/reacting… we talked about how what he did for the next four years would certainly be a foundation for his LIFE. His life. It was becoming abundantly clear that his life– apart from me and all our talks– was drawing near.

As a college graduate on the cusp of moving to the other side of the country for a very good job offer he’s accepted, we once again had THE Talk. This time is was about money and budgeting, legal documents, and credit ratings, banking and paying bills. This was one serious talk, but the difference this time is that he had become a man. I know this because he was fully engaged, taking it all in like a sponge.

I suspect this will not be the last of the TALKs I have with my firstborn, though they will most likely become farther apart from the last.

talk wordle

Inspiration: “Everything is a self-portrait. A diary.”

CP quote

I’m exhausted. Mentally exhausted. From reading this book: Diary, Chuck Palahniuk. It’s about a woman who you think is crazy, writing a diary about her crazy life, and her crazy mother-in-law, and crazy husband, laying like a vegetable in a coma from an attempted suicide. I had to reread the last two chapters to get to where I THINK I understand the ending. Think. I’m still not sure. I’m DYING to speak to someone who has read this book. I need to talk about it. It’s one of those books that you read and are awed by, but then you put it down and say “WHAT?!”

CP photo

So, I teach a creative writing class (as many of my audience knows. I’m sorry if I’m repetitive here). In it, I’d long ago come across a website that determines your writing style. You cut an paste some of your writing into the blank space, and it matches your style up with a notable author.


 I Write Like…

I copy and pasted this (part of one of my novels) in the blank space:

CP text

And… my result: Chuck Palahniuk.

Whom I had never read, but over and over students selected Fight Club for independent reading. I found there are students who are completely devoted fans of Palahniuk’s writing and those who are not. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. I’d seen the film Fight Club and loved it!

And, now, I know why. A student recommended this book. He said I’d like it. I do. But I don’t see the connection in our writing styles per se except that we both write in first person and stream of consciousness.

So, they say IMITATION IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF FLATTERY (a phrase coined by Charles Caleb Colton, 19th century English cleric and writer). I became so curious about how my writing style is like Palahniuk’s that I began conceiving of a story in the voice of a narrator like the narrator in Diary. As the story came to me… the words rushed into my head in a narrator’s voice, and I wrote them down. Now, in taking a step back, I’m not sure I can sustain a voice like this (so incredibly fluid, choppy, non-linear, digressive, pointed…) for an entire novel.

I do this. I conceive of  a skeletal version of a story and begin by writing in the voice of the narrator before fleshing out the details. That’s where I am right now. That’s how Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Diary inspired me.

So, here I go.