Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The August 20 Question Meme

I haven't done Sunday Stealing for ages, mostly because I'm in a funk.  I'm working on getting out of said funk.  Hence, I'll commence with Sunday Stealing now :-)

1. What's for breakfast?
I haven't been able to eat breakfast since I was pregnant with Addie and threw up every morning for eight and a half months.  You would think that after almost seventeen years, I'd be over it, but ...

2. Do you read a newspaper daily? 
I read my news online, from a variety of sources.  I try to get a well-balanced view of things ;-)

3. What do you do when you can't sleep?
Bitch and moan about it on Facebook (in case you can't tell, this happens a lot ;-))

4. Say a word that sums up your mood. 

5. Do you remember your dreams?
Yes, almost always.  It probably goes along with the insomnia thing ... I have seriously messed up sleep habits.

6. Name something from your dream last night.
I had a really bad dream last night, actually, about my sister getting badly hurt.  It was horrible :-(

7. Name a food that describes you. 
Because I am evidently sweet and versatile, apple pie ;-)

8. Today you are wearing:
Very stylish black pants from Wal-Mart (that are covered in golden retriever fur) and a red shirt.  I am a style maven on Sundays ;-)

9. What's in your pockets?
Nothing at all.

10. Did you sing in the shower today?I haven't taken a shower yet today.  We've been getting some wind and flickering lights as a result of the lovely Irene, so I figured I'd wait and take one later this afternoon.

11. What's the last song you heard? 
"Freak the Freak Out" by Victoria Justice.  I was watching Victorious with Belle.  Please don't judge :-)

12. Looking forward to the holidays? Trying to ...

13. Where do you want to be this instant?The beach ... I went to the beach house a little bit ago to get the electric mixer (forgot it there last night when we were in a mad rush of taking down screens and moving in the porch furniture), and having mashed potatoes with chicken for dinner tonight was worth braving the elements ;-)

Here's the view from the beach house porch:

14. What's for lunch? My sister was visiting last week, so our pantry became a bit more organic than it usually is.  She bought this kettle corn dusted with cocoa powder ... I ate a bowl of that for lunch.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm :-)

15. What's something you would like to do soon? 
I am so not going there!

16. Reading anything now? What is it? 
I am always reading something :-)  As always, I have three or four books going at once, but the one most recently read is The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.  I've found myself addicted to her books ... they're somewhere between Jodi Picoult and Danielle Steele, which would normally make them far too "chick-litty" for me, but, hey, it's summer ;-)

17. What's for dinner? 
Chicken with mashed potatoes and some sort of green vegetable that comes out of a bag in the freezer.  That's assuming the power doesn't go out, of course, at which point we'd be up the proverbial creek since much of our food is still at the beach house ...

18. A favorite part of the day is: 
Reading Belle a story and putting her to bed :-) (not because I like to "get rid of her", but because it's a nice peaceful  time)

19. Are you happy? 
Shut up.

20. Guess how many people will do Sunday Stealing this weekend?

"Come On, Irene": This Was Supposed to Be Funny ;-p

For some reason, the song "Come On, Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners kept coming up on my iPod yesterday.  Like, it was almost ridiculous, sort of like how Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" seems to pop on during the first day of school each year (and periodically throughout the school year).

And naturally, given the current hoopla around formerly-hurricane-now-tropical-storm Irene, my brain kept hearing "Come On, Eileen" as "Come On, Irene".

When I went to bed last night, shortly after watching the simultaneously hysterically funny and really depressing clip of the people gallivanting (and streaking) about during Weather Channel coverage in Virginia, I contemplated how the norms of society have changed.

It took watching people run amok in a hurricane to see it, but the media making every little thing into a big deal and people thinking they can live forever and storm chasers and reality TV and ... 

Wait, this was supposed to be a funny post.

As I was falling asleep last night, I made up in my head a Weird Al-esque version of "Come On, Eileen" entitled, of course, "Come On, Irene".  

It was wicked funny last night (there's my New Hampshah dialect coming out ;-)), but I can only remember bits and pieces of it now (I hate it when that happens).

So use these lyrics to go along with the video below.  It kind of works.  A little ;-)

"Come On, Irene" (inspired by Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Come On, Eileen")
Poor old USA
Feeling beat upon the whole east coast, her shores battered by wind and waves.
One weatherman cried at crazy streakers, and who'd blame him?
Now you've shrunk, much shrunk, now I must say leave already.
Go Toora Loora Toora Loo-Rye-Aye
and we can pick up broken branches …

Come on, Irene,
I swear (well he means) you have not brought out the best in us,
With you on TV, you’re celebrity, and people are dumb,
Ah, come on Irene.

I’m no shrinking violet, I love adventure
Much as anybody, but you’ve got to respect nature.
And the TV tells us, we’re invincible, we are far too young and clever.
Remember Toora Loora Toora Loo-Rye-Aye
Irene, why do people think they’ll live forever?

Come on, Irene, I swear, this is strange,
How your advance is  
Showing lots of things …
My yard is a mess, Irene (what a mess!)
The lights, they flickered, Irene, please …
Just go, come on, Irene!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Sweet and Versatile ... and Full of Random Facts ;-)

I love receiving blog awards.  I really do.

I'm not always great about passing them along, mostly because it's so hard to choose from so many deserving blogs, but this one has the added bonus of allowing me to explore random facts about myself (which is something I enjoy doing, for some reason or another), plus Richard at Writing and Living by Richard P. Hughes is such a cool person that I just can't not go for it.  (Yes, I know that last sentence is an English teacher's nightmare ... heeheehee).

Plus, the timing is right on this once since tomorrow is my first day back at work and I never sleep the night before school starts up again, so this is as good a time as any to occupy my time (and better than reading this horrible chick lit book I'm in the midst of, which is horribly lame and predictable but I still want to know what happens, or watching NCIS reruns).

Also, there's the added privilege of this being a "two for one" blog award event ...

According to Richard, I'm deserving of these two titles:
And he also, in his wonderful post awarding these two very complimentary honors, referred to me as a survivor ... which is something I really needed to hear.

So, the deal is that I share seven random facts about myself then pass this dual award on to five deserving bloggers.

Seven Random Facts About Me
1.  I get skeeved out by really weird things.
Like everyone, I have some odd fears (snakes, thunderstorms, airplanes, feet), but every once in awhile I'll get completely freaked out for odd random reasons.

A few weeks ago, my dog Sonja's invisible fence collar stopped working, so I had to walk her on a leash.  I happened to be in the middle of reading 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, which is about vampires.  I've read the book probably twenty times and it's never once scared me, but while I was out there in the dark by myself, I got totally freaked.

Then tonight, when I got home, I was walking up the brick path to my house and a toad hopped out in front of me.  Now, I'm not scared of toads at all, but the suddenness (and the fact that I almost stepped on the poor thing), completely threw me for a loop.

2. I am an excellent teacher and 100% comfortable talking to classes of 25-30 kids, but I stutter and sound like a rambling idiot when I try to speak in front of adults.
I hear this is a fairly common problem, actually, but it still bothers me.

Most interesting, though?  How my students react after an adult has come into my classroom.

"Why were you stuttering?  Are you afraid of him?  No offense, but you sounded like a moron.  You turned magenta when you said the word 'balls', and we weren't even going to laugh until you started to."

It does lead to some good discussions on how teachers are human, too, that we have weaknesses and fears and stressors and so on.

3. I have become something of a Tweetaholic.
I started using Twitter in earnest as a writing tool, actually.

If you read my blog with any regularity (and if you're at this point in my "list" of seven random facts), you'll note that I have a tendency to go on.  And on.  And on.

I have never been a concise writer, despite the many accolades I've received, and I realized this summer while rereading my finished novel that this little issue of mine might be part of why I'm still unpublished.

So Twitter, which holds me back with a character count limit, has forced me to just spit it out.  Simply.  It's been invaluable, all joking aside.

And that simple, tell-it-like-it-is mentality has allowed me to share and explore my pathetic short story repertoire and recognize this as an area in need of work.

4. I can't cook.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this on here, but I cannot cook.  I've completely ruined macaroni and cheese out of the box, set oatmeal on fire in the microwave, and destroyed a pan boiling water ... and those are the ones I'll admit to publicly.

I have many other skills (I can do a split, tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue, write about any topic, and so on), but it's very interesting to me that a skill that pretty much any fifth or sixth grader can do is beyond me.

5. Motherhood is my greatest adventure.
My kids crack me up.  In fact, sometimes I wonder how I ever laughed before my daughters were born.

I am incredibly proud of both Addie and Belle, and I would not change either one of them for anything.  They are beautiful, brilliant girls with their own thoughts and ideas; they are polite and respectful (well, at least in public); and, just to emphasize the point, they are freaking hilarious.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you know ...

I also have to note that becoming an aunt to my two nephews is also an unspeakable, enjoyable treat.

6. Sometimes I find it hard to solve a problem, then a very obvious answer will appear as if from a bolt of lightning.
*  I couldn't figure out how to charge my old iPod Nano (which, although it's been replaced by an iPod Touch, still contains 3,000 of my favorite songs that I can't access on an account which I paid for ... it's kind of a long story).  I'd been using a speaker dock as a charger, but I accidentally dropped it, and it's for some reason stopped charging.

It finally occurred to me that I could just plug it into my computer.  Success!

*  The mouse on my work computer sucks balls (actually, it still has a ball, which is the majority of the problem).  I sat there for an hour fighting with the stupid thing, then it occurred to me to put in a new mouse ball.

*  I can't think of any more examples off the top of my head, but I guess the gist is that I have a tendency to miss the obvious, then feel pretty cool because I figured it out ... before realizing that it wasn't exactly a difficult problem to solve.

7. I am so lonely sometimes.
Following the irreparable marriage dissolving into divorce, I enjoyed being single for a long time.  I really did.  I hadn't had random hook-ups like that since college, and it was pretty good for my ego.

After a really traumatic incident last spring which I will probably never write about on this blog since I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I have told and that it's something that hit me harder and more viscerally than rape, divorce, or anything else, I realized that the problem was bigger than I'd thought.

I am a kind person that loves to help other people.

I'm told that I'm smart and funny and have a great personality and so on.  I don't like myself enough to come up with a list of my own adjectives, but those are the ones I hear a lot.

I have the capacity to be pretty.  When I'm in gym-going mode and lay off the Barq's Root Beer and Milky Ways (and Big Macs, who the heck am I trying to kid?), I can look pretty good for my age.

(well, at least not totally disgusting ... lol)

I have a good, solid job and many enjoyable hobbies.

I am hygienic.

And yet men either want one thing from me, or they want to be friends.  I can't seem to find a situation where those two expectations are not mutually exclusive, and it's very frustrating, very daunting.    

It makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with me, why the occasional Friday night hook-ups (or Monday night hook-ups, as the most recent case may have been) are the only way to salve my damaged ego.

And yet I would give a great deal to be able to have "a real boyfriend", which sounds pretty ludicrous when you're 34 years old.

But it's true.  I get so depressed watching couples everywhere, hearing love songs, observing body language in a restaurant.

I know that patience is a virtue, but I'm not good with patience.  If anyone knows any nice single men in the New Hampshire/Massachusetts/Maine area, give them my e-mail ;-)

Okay, pity party over ... time to share the love I feel for five sweet, versatile bloggers that I enjoy ... and bear in mind that "sweet" and "versatile" can be taken a number of ways ;-)

1.  Half Past Kissin' Time

2.  Anything But Theist

3.  Just Another Blog

4.  Peaceful Reader

5.  The Frisky Virgin (who, I should note, also gave me an award ... and I'm working on that post :-))

I hope you check out these five amazing places in the blogosphere.  You will not regret it :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Communist Plot? Crazy How Thought-Provoking Jokes Can Be ...

This has been the summer of educational conferences, which of course I knew when signing on the proverbial dotted line ... and I can honestly say that I will be a better teacher next year because of all the professional development work I've done this summer.

A lot of times, particularly in my early years of teaching, I found professional development stuff to be pretty much a good opportunity to zone out, to count dots on ceiling tiles, to plan units and lessons completely unrelated to the topic at hand, and so on.

But the absolute highlight of my summer professional development work happened this week when I ended up partnered with my colleague and friend Bob, who is kind of like my big brother at work.

I wore a red and white striped shirt to a schoolwide assembly last year, and he had the whole school calling me Waldo.  I scratch my nose with my middle finger when he walks into a room.  He's a trip.

I also taught his daughter 9th Grade English and am on a committee with his wife, so I do know a more serious side of Bob, but that was not what was memorable this week.

So we're told by the training facilitator to choose a controversial subject that we can argue one side of and then get together with a partner.

Yeah, I ended up with Bob.

Anyway, the directions were for one person to present their case while their partner listened and, after a set amount of time, the listener had to ask "probing, open-ended questions" that did not give away his or her personal feelings or opinions on the subject.

I talked about a New Hampshire Senate Bill currently under discussion which would expand the use of excessive force.  I'd just read an article about it, and I found myself really interested.  Surprisingly, Bob asked some good questions and made me think quickly on my feet (he later told me he agreed with me that, particularly when you consider the chaos that the word "bullying" has led to in schools, this is a can of worms it would be best to avoid), and that was good.

And then it was Bob's turn.

He argued that line dancing should be outlawed in America because it is a communist plot intended to take over the world.

Yeah, it took me a few minutes to stop laughing, but when I really listened to what he was saying, it was amazing how well he could fit it into the paradigm of communism.  I can't remember his exact arguments because I was trying really hard not to roll around on the floor in helpless guffaws, but it was priceless.

And that is what I love about the possibilities of contemplation coming up in so many different places.

Clearly, Bob was joking, and when he stated his position with a completely straight face, I was laughing so hard I was crying.

However, the scary thing was that he was able to make a very valid, logical, well-thought out argument in support of his (albeit absurd) thesis.

So while it made for a good laugh, it reminded me that you can learn a lot from the absurd, the ridiculous, and, perhaps most importantly, people you disagree with.

It's all about the thinking.  It always is :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Part of the Problem ... or Part of the Solution?

Everyone has crap in their lives.  It's a fact.

And when it all seems to add up--as it always seems to do--it's really easy to wallow in it, to get bogged down by it, to bring yourselves to the same low level as people you have absolutely no respect for.

It's funny, when I start to feel totally overwhelmed by the garbage that seems to me like unspeakably heavy lead weights attached to my legs while I'm swimming in the ocean, it always occurs to me to remember that I have the power to make a choice.

Do I want to be part of the problem?  Is it my desire to keep on trying to swim, held back and stuck in one place by those blocks of lead that are tied to me?  Is there any point, really?

It's much easier to be part of the solution, to figure out a way to cut the ropes that have tied the weights to me in the first place, to recognize that the blocks of lead will still be there, will always be trying to wrap their way around me again ... but that I do not have to let it happen.

And so tonight, I'm taking a deep breath.

I cannot change, understand on any sort of rational level, or try to help (a mindset that always ends up backfiring in my face), no matter how hard I try, someone who is so mentally ill that the only person that matters to himself is ... well, himself.

I cannot change people in positions of power that are completely blind to reality.  All I can do is the best I can and hope that these people either open their minds a little bit or are replaced by more qualified and competent individuals.

I have no power over the life dramas that add up--things like dogs barfing between the cracks of the hardwood floor, head lice, dead car batteries, abscessed teeth, mail that gets lost, cell phone cases that break, not being able to access work e-mail from home, writer's block, losing a book I'm really into when I have two chapters left, friends that disappear unexplained from your life, and so on and so forth.

And so sometimes, you just have to stop, do a quick self-reflection, and ask, "Am I part of the problem?"

Usually, no matter how much you want to think otherwise, the answer is yes, either because of clumsiness or insensitivity or irresponsibility or impulsivity or whatever.

So then I have to put on my big girl panties and strive to instead be part of the solution.

This isn't always possible.  In fact, sometimes you are going to get metaphorically screwed, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

The three big things that are wearing me down, I do not believe that I am part of the problem, no matter how many different angles I am looking at them.

I honestly don't see how I can be part of any solution, which makes me sad and full of regret, but there is nothing I can do.  I mean, when you can say with a 100% clear conscience that you have tried everything in your power, you have to just do the best you can and have hope that things will change for the better.

They always do eventually.

But I refuse to swim around with those lead weights tied around me anymore.  I have to harden my heart, which is so anti-me it's not even funny, but it's the only way I can be free.

It's the only way I can possibly be part of the solution instead of possibly perpetuating the problems.

I believe in a higher power, and I believe in karma.  I live my life doing the best I can for other people, and I am able to look in a mirror with a clear conscience.  I have no ulterior motives for any of my actions that are intended to hurt other people, and I know in my heart that I am a good person.

Somehow I know that the people at the root of my current conundrums can't say that about themselves.

And with that realization, I think I'll be able to sleep tonight :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Fragments: What's Been Shaking This Week :-)

It's a great relief to me that it's a Friday ... and that I can use Friday Fragments (thanks, Mrs. 4444) to do the catch-up thing since I've once again been neglecting my blog.  

Ahem ...
My brother Adam, his girlfriend Colleen, and my precious nephew Pete came down to the beach on Sunday for a visit.  Lots of fun :-)
Particularly entertaining was the Subway incident.

We decided to get subs from Subway for lunch, and Addie pulled up the menu online so we could call in our order.  They had pulled pork on the menu, but when I ordered a pulled pork sub, the Subway lady (who didn't really speak English very well), told me that they didn't have pulled pork subs.

So Adam and I get to Subway (we took Addie's car, heeheehee), and he starts cracking up like nobody's business when we were greeted by this sign.
My mother has spent endless summer hours reading on the porch of the beach house for many years.  I have spent endless summer hours reading on the porch of the beach house for many years.  And now?
Enjoying lazy days at the beach (now that the dogs are back at the house)...and a random cat that hangs out there.  Yes, I'm serious :-)
Belle put on a hula hoop show.  She made tickets and everything ... my future superstar is pretty darn funny :-)

And I think this video truly captures the unique essence of Belle's personality ...
Belle had a very bad day on Monday.  She had a rough visit with her father (he fell asleep--I'm reserving judgment by not putting "passed out"--for over half an hour of a two hour visit at a movie theater and snored so loudly that everyone around us was staring and saying, "Shhh!" ... poor Belle was mortified), there was no mayonnaise for her desired tuna fish sandwich at lunchtime, and her fish died.

I told her we all have days like that sometimes...
Another week, another root canal (actually, it's the same root canal ... they just do it in three parts, so I had the second part done this week).
I went to make a phone call from the beach house, and it hit me like a ton of bricks how much the world has moved on.  I had my Droid (which can do everything but breathe for me) in one hand, but it wouldn't work because cell reception's dreadful at the beach, so I got the pleasure of using this baby when I had to call my mother ...
I went to another conference on Wednesday and Thursday, this one on PBIS (in a nutshell, focusing on rewarding positive student behaviors with the hope that it will motivate more kids to behave ... it sounds stupid on the surface, but it really and truly works really well).

It's been the summer of enjoyable and useful conferences :-)
I finally got the competencies written for my classes.  I've spent a lot of time with the state standards for English this week getting curriculum mapped out, and I'm exhausted but enthused.  One more week and then it's back to school! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I'm More Like My Dogs Than I Realized ...

When I talk about my dogs, two words seem to come up the most: sweet and annoying.  My dogs are annoying (my golden retriever in particular), but I love them dearly and wouldn't change anything about them.

Which is probably a good thing since I had an epiphany a few minutes ago that made me realize that my dogs and I have a great deal in common (and, yeah, "sweet" and "annoying" probably do fit in there).

We're staying at the beach house right now, which probably requires some explanation.

My grandfather was a passionate golfer, and the story goes that he bought the beach house for my grandmother, whose passion was the beach, so that he could play golf without feeling guilty.  Or something like that.

The generosity of my grandfather allowed us to grow up on the beach, spending summer days in the ocean and afternoons and evenings playing cards on the screened-in porch.  Good times ...

Since my grandfather passed away, my mother and uncles have divided the summer up into thirds and each one "gets" the beach house during their time.  Anyway, my mother got the last third this year, so here we are.

When the girls and I went to live at my mother's house following the start of the divorce saga, we brought our black lab, Sonja, to live with my mother and the previously mentioned Mollie.   The dogs are really tight, believe it or not, and spread sweetness wherever they go.

And annoyance.

They do not do well at the beach house.  They bark.  They whine.  They jump at shadows, including every time a wave crashes.  They are, quite simply, not very happy.  And because we have an electric fence at home, they're used to running free, so having a much smaller living space--and a tiny dog pen with which to do their business--is tough for them.

Historically, I've spent the night at the other house (it's less than ten minutes away) with the dogs while my mother stays at the beach house with Addie and Belle.

Just before we moved down here, Sonja's electric fence collar broke (fortunately she went into the neighbor's backyard instead of the road), so I had to walk her on a leash so she could do her thing.  My mother sent her collar off to get fixed, but this just happened to coincide with me being gone for three days to an education conference.

My mother, a much braver woman than I, decided to have the dogs stay at the beach house while I was gone, and I guess they weren't terrible.

She's gone up north for the weekend for the 50th wedding anniversary of her friends, so after I got Sonja's repaired collar back in the mail yesterday, I was planning on bringing the dogs back to the house posthaste.

Except that the girls (my daughters, not my dogs) really wanted to stay down here, and I'm not comfortable leaving them alone.

So I caved, and I think I've apologized to over fifty people since the dogs woke up ready to face the day at six this morning.

Simply put, they don't like change.  They're used to having acres to run around in when a door is opened.  Our house is on a busy road in terms of cars, but very quiet in terms of people.    They're not used to hordes of people walking by right in front of them at all times.

When I went to make coffee this morning, I found the coffee maker beyond my skill.  It's different than the one at home, and I ended up making the worst coffee ever.

Then I went to put Splenda in my pathetic coffee, and we didn't have any, so I had to use sugar.

Last night, I had the urge to watch NCIS, but Addie had already claimed the television to watch some show called Say Yes to the Dress.  At home, we have multiple televisions; here, there's only one.

I don't want it to sound like I'm complaining, because I adore being down here more than I can express with words.

No, the point I'm trying to make is that it hit me like a ton of bricks that the very thing annoying me about my dogs (their reluctance to change) is also true of me.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but I can't seem to make it any clearer through writing ... you see, I haven't had any coffee this morning ;-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Fish Tale and Contemplating Extrinsic Rewards From Out-of-Home Sources

There was a carnival at Belle's camp today.  We're talking bouncy house, dunking booth, tickets for prizes, the whole nine yards.

My daughter won a fish.

Yes, she did.

And I mean, really, who could say no to this kid?
But seriously (sorry, this picture kills me, and I couldn't find a better context with which to put it :-)), when I arrived at camp, this smiling little girl bouncing with excitement enthuses, "Mommy, Mommy, guess what?  I won a fish!"

I'm not usually a sucker for this sort of thing, but Belle's been having a lot of sadness with her father lately, and seeing her so exuberantly happy about something made it very hard to put the kibosh on it.

So the counselor scooped this poor little minnow into a plastic baggie, tied it up, and we were headed for home.

I think my Facebook page best explains what happened next.

So BELLE won a fish at camp today...she named it Elizabeth and is thrilled beyond words. Anyone know the life span of a minnow?

5 hours ago via Facebook Mobile · Privacy: ·  · 

  • Random Friend 1 and Random Friend 2 like this.

    • Somewhere between 20 minutes and 5 years! Do you have an aquarium tank?
      5 hours ago ·  ·  2 people

    • Katie May Loud Damn! I'm off to get a tank/food right now :-)
      5 hours ago · 

    •  It all depends on if it gets fed or not. :)
      5 hours ago · 
    • Have fun!
      5 hours ago · 

    • The practice of rewarding young children with fish should be banned.
      4 hours ago ·  ·  2 people

    • They don't tend to look very unique--figure out the closest pet store that carries them and keep in mind that she probably won't notice if you replace a floater... Also, totally agree with ABOVE RANDOM FRIEND, pets should never be prizes or presents without pre-discussion with parental units.
      4 hours ago ·  ·  2 people

    • Imagine if people gave other forms of responsibly as prizes? "Congratulations, you've won the office draw and are now PREGNANT!!!". I would never play any sort of game AGAIN.
      4 hours ago ·  ·  3 people

    • Haha! Lol! Sorry! :) I kno we r suckers 4 our kiddos!! Lol!! Oops... Did I say that?!

This conversation spread transpired before I'd gotten home with the requisite bowl, water conditioner, and fish food (and I should probably note that I had no idea it was that easy to copy and paste Facebook stuff here ... obviously I removed names and such), and it got me thinking a lot.

The thing is, was I planning on buying Belle a fish?  Uh ... no.  Two big, friendly (and much loved) dogs more than fulfill the pet thing.

Was it a serious financial/lifestyle hardship for me to go buy fish miscellany for a creature that's probably only going to live a matter of days?  No.

But my very wise Facebook friends got me thinking about the concept of giving out fish as external rewards to kids, and I realized that it's really kind of a crappy idea.

For one, imagine that a kid was thrilled to win a fish only to be devastated when his or her parents say no.  Although a freaking minnow is about as low-maintenance a pet as probably exists, I'm sure that it would be an inconvenience to some people.

Also, think about the poor fish.  Now, I ran straight to the pet store as fast as I could, but the little minnow was chillaxing in a plastic bag for at least forty minutes.  And, not to sound cynical, but what if a little kid less mesmerized with love than my Belle decided it would be fun to torture a fish or something.

Cans of worms, I'm telling you ...

And, perhaps most importantly, the death talk is inevitable when you're dealing with a minnow.  I actually had an abbreviated version of said talk with Belle on the playground of her camp, reminding her that the fish might well not even live a day.

Her response, which totally melted my heart?

"Well, we'd better make sure it's the best day of her life, then, right, Mommy?"

So here is the newest member of our family, Elizabeth the fish.
What are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Do Social Networking Sites Have a Place in Education?

During the past three days, I've been away at an education conference.  As usual, it was equal parts invaluable and exhausting (our school team met way into the wee hours each night after a full day of workshops).

The gist, in case you're interested, is the significance of inquiry-based instruction (letting students guide the direction of their education through individual choice), authentic assessments (providing students with real-life chances to show their work, such as writing a complaint letter to an actual company instead of just having them write a generic letter to go into a classroom portfolio), and personalizing learning.

Yeah, really thought-provoking stuff.

One of the neatest parts, however, was that each school brought students with them to take part in the conference, and the kids went to workshops of their own as well as lending their voices to the conversation as a whole.

The final day began with a presentation of some technology-based work students had done in a workshop, and it brought up a topic of debate that I found utterly fascinating.

In 2011, most teenagers live a great deal of their lives online through social networking sites, Facebook in particular.  How amazing would it be for educators to tap into the potential offered there, to engage students in the technological language which is really their native tongue?

I'm a pretty technologically-savvy teacher, and the idea of Tweeting assignments en masse or offering discussions through Facebook is incredibly exciting.

But it's a double-edged sword, so to speak.  As one of the students attending the conference noted with regard to the issue, "With great power comes great responsibility."

And that can be scary.

Most school districts have policies in place that prohibit teachers from interacting with their students online.

Obviously, I understand the reasoning behind this.

At least once a month, I have to say to students, "Please stop talking about that [insert party, couple, thong you're wearing, pornography you bought, et cetera here]."  There are a lot of things that I, as a teacher, just don't want to know.

With Facebook, there would be no getting around it, and there are a lot of times that you have a responsibility to report things.  It would open a downright gargantuan can of worms.

I have a Facebook, but it is pretty well blocked.  The reason for that is that I'm human, and I've been known to put up posts such as "Oh captain, my captain" or "The doctor is in" when I'm out drinking with friends (speaking of double-edged swords, how about smartphones, which make it so easy to access Facebook when maybe you shouldn't be) that I would never want my students to see. There are also private pictures (such as this "phallic art" that my friend Andy and I once did with drink garnishes ... um, yeah, you really had to be there).

A possible solution, for me at least, is that I could potentially create a Facebook account as KLo, the teacher, not KLo the person.  I would, of course, keep it squeaky clean and completely focused on high school English curriculum.  I could even, I suppose, make a Facebook group intended solely for English class.

The remaining problem, however, is twofold.

1.  If I had access to my students' Facebooks and they posted something that should be reported, I'd have an obligation to do that if I was aware of it ... and the ACLU might well have a field day.

2.  I'm not a creeper and wouldn't go looking at my students' pictures and such, but there are unquestionably teachers that would.  There are predators all over the place, and the field of education is not immune from them.  Schools are, to a great degree, controlled environments where having inappropriate relationships take a large measure of skill and evil intent.  With Facebook, there would be no safety net for students (or for teachers, either, considering that accusations could be made in either direction).

Yeah, like that kid said, "With great power comes great responsibility."

There are sites out there for educators that simulate Facebook (Ning comes to mind), but as that same wise student pointed out, why would a kid bother to go on yet another site when he or she is already on Facebook?

It's a conundrum, all right, and not one with an easy answer.

It's a moot point for me personally since I wouldn't be morally comfortable exploring the far reaches of cyberspace with my students even in my school didn't have explicit policies on the subject.

It's a conversation that is going to have to happen sooner or later, though ...

The students were collectively convincing on that subject.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Travel Moments: The Epiphanies of Getting Around

This is a very special guest post, as it was written and submitted (for the sole purpose of inclusion on this blog, which I take as a tremendous honor) by my sister, Mary.  That's not her real name.  She doesn't have a blog that I can link you to.  She is a very private person.  I found her piece to be a great read (and I'm not saying that because we're related), and I know that you will, too.  

Mary, you told me not to run it if it "sucked".  On the contrary, it's excellent.  I might be the "writer" in the family (even though, according to Mom, Adam writes a hundred times better than I do????), but it clearly didn't come out of a vacuum.  Love you :-) 
Myself, Adam, and Mary at a photo shoot.  We eventually got kicked out for misbehaving ... you can probably tell from this pic (taken just after the photographer reamed us out) who the ringleader was ;-)  Mary was (as you can also tell from this pic) "the good one" :-)

                                                        Travel Moments

I am a traveler. I wasn’t always; in fact, I spent many years snugly tied to home. My father was afraid of flying, and the only vacations we took involved being piled in the station wagon and driving down the East Coast to Orlando. The message was subtle but clear: stay on the ground and stick to what you know.

Somewhere along the path to self that most of us wander down during the first two years of college, I decided to go to Orlando again. Only this time I went in an airplane, with six friends and no relatives. It was during this trip that I had my first of many Travel Moments.

A Travel Moment, as I call them, is a mini (or maxi, in some cases) epiphany that you wouldn’t have had if you were in your regular setting. There is something spiritually stressful yet enormously formative about traveling.

You tax your body with sometimes extensive continuous wakefulness, circadian disruptions, what we shall politely call intestinal disruptions, and the stress of uncertainty. You take yourself out of your element, to a place you have never been. You do not know where the drug store is, or where to get a bagel. Sometimes you do not speak the language. Sometimes your bags do not make it along with you, and have to wash the clothes on your back in the sink so as not to go nudist the next day. In other words, there is an extreme amount of, you know, just going with it. All of this stress is paradoxically somewhat relaxing, freeing even, and it opens you up for epiphanies. In other words, the quirks of travel enable the Travel Moment.

My first Travel Moment (Orlando, age 20) happened right away. I stepped off of my first airplane that I remember riding on, and boarded a train to the terminal. I stood with my friends, looked out the window, and saw…palm trees. I had been in Boston, trudging through dirty, crusty February snow, just 3 hours before. And yet there I was, among the freaking palm trees. Whoa. For a girl who hadn’t traveled anywhere in more than 10 years, this was profound. It was enlightening. The world is not such a big place after all, and all things that I saw as exotic and unattainable were right there for me. All I needed to do was grab them.

In preparing to write this piece, I listed all of the places I have been and their associated Travel Moments. As I bounce around a fair amount for work, there are far too many to list, but I’d love to share some of my strongest:

1.) Location: Ireland. Travel Moment epiphany: “I’m fixed now, and all I had to do was cross the ocean.” I was 22, and having terrible trouble with anxiety attacks. It was getting to the point where I had trouble leaving the apartment, when my boyfriend (now husband)’s parents surprised us with a trip to Ireland as a graduation gift. It was horrifying. I did it, though. I got on the plane, traveled to England, crossed into Ireland, and toured the whole country with 30 people we didn’t know. Once we got home, leaving home to go to a restaurant was laughably minor. A few months later we decided to move out of state, and haven’t been back. You can’t go home again, and that’s okay.

2.) Location: Amelia Island, FL. Travel Moment epiphany: “This is wonderful, and my father probably will never get to have this.” This one was a weekend away. I was 28 and living in Florida (remember those palms?), and my husband surprised me with a trip at this bed and breakfast. We had no children. We slept late, lounged on the beach, and went to fancy restaurants. My Travel Moment came as I watched the waves, with my feet in the sand. I thought that this might be what retirement is like, and then I thought about my father, with whom I have a very strained relationship. It occurred to me that he will likely never get to relax and lounge like that, and that is a sad thing. For whatever hurt there was on my end, I got to have things in life that he didn’t.

3.) Location: Tianjin, China. Travel Moment epiphany: “We’re doing the exact same thing!” I was 28 here too, and I was in a crowded sweet shop. There were open bins of candies and cookies, and everyone was reaching for them. Everyone in the shop was from Tianjin, and I am from New Hampshire. We all took a bag and pointed at the things we wanted. No one talked to the girls working in the shop. This was the one time in China that I could have been “local”. It was wild.

4.) Location: Nairobi, Kenya. Travel Moment epiphany: “What a crazy set of circumstances that led to me eating lunch with these people.” I was working here for a week, and I was 31. The institute had a “cafeteria”, which I put in quotes because it was a sunny outdoor courtyard overflowing with flowers and birds. I was eating lunch with 6 colleagues, chatting about trivial nonsense. My colleagues were from Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, China, and…Massachusetts. I wondered if, as children, we would have imagined sitting at a table in Africa chatting with one another.

5.) Location: Maine. Travel Moment epiphany: “One different choice would have led to us having a completely different life.” This one happened about 4 days ago. We were staying at my husband’s family cabin for the first time in 5 years. A lot has changed. We moved from Connecticut to Florida to Maryland, and now have a little boy. When we arrived, I suddenly remembered that I had once loved log homes, and that we had talked about building one someday. As I was giving my boy a bath in the sink, I realized that had we not moved away, perhaps I would do this every night: give my boy a bath in the sink in a log cabin at the end of a day where we went to the town parade. The thing is, I think it would have been just as happy a life.

Those are my stand-outs. What are your strongest Travel Moments?

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...