Posted in Life As I Know It

Gravity Revealed

(Please be patient while I fangirl for a bit…I do eventually get to a point.)

I love Sara Bareilles. I love her music, her voice, her songwriting, her spirit, her realness, her humor, her potty mouth. There’s just so much to love. You can ask my husband…I’ve got all of her CDs, and most of them are loaded in my old van’s CD player—a place he understands is their rightful home. Continue reading “Gravity Revealed”

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Posted in Life As I Know It

Only Light Can Do That

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 Strength To Love, 1963

 

The recent deadly attacks in Paris by terrorists against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have much of the world on edge. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I can’t help but wonder what the Rev. Dr. King would have to say about it all. Though we have made strides in fulfilling his “dream,” we have a very long way to go.

When I think of Dr. King, I think of his faith, hope, perseverance, love, wisdom, compassion, grace, and peace–and his work for justice and freedom for all.

I don’t believe we can move forward by staying silent, and as a former English teacher, you can bet your sweet bippy that I am not a fan of book banning. Censorship does not make “bad” go away–it just makes it find other ways to come out. And who exactly has the final word on what “bad” is anyway? To this day, books like To Kill a Mockingbird are banned from many schools.

I absolutely loved teaching Mockingbird in major part because of the fact that it offered opportunities for students to discuss some very important issues–discussions that often led to understanding the world and each other a little better. That’s what brings the light.

So on this day, I want to share a post I wrote around a year ago. (It was back when I posted on “Frabjous Friday,” which I no longer do because of time constraints.) Though my story doesn’t directly deal with civil rights, I believe Dr. King would appreciate it because those students felt what it was like to have a voice. And as he said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Thank you, Dr. King.

 

TKAM

 

 

The Day Harper Lee Wrote Back

 

Originally posted January 3, 2014.

 

The idea behind my Frabjous Friday posts is to share something joyful–or at least something that will make you smile. Today’s post was a very joyful moment in my life, and I’d like to share it with you. It happened 17 years ago almost to the day. It’s a little longer than my typical Friday post, but I hope you’ll find it worth your time.

Back when I taught high school English, my freshman class read To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our core novels. I loved that book as a student, and I treasured it as a teacher. So many layers to explore and think about all delivered in a wonderfully descriptive and even suspenseful way. There was no greater joy for me as a teacher than to see a student come alive within the pages of a book, and Ms. Lee’s one and only published novel kindled that time and again.

One of the activities that we did after reading it was to send notes to Harper Lee. The first time I did this and told the kids we were really going to send the letters, they were stunned. Really? In junior high they did the activity frequently, and it was just for “pretend,” as they called it. I told them why wouldn’t we send them when she is still around to receive them? This made them take their own words a little more seriously. A real author–one whose work many had grown to care for–would be reading it, after all!

I showed them all how I put their letters into a big manila envelope and addressed it to “Harper Lee, Monroeville, Alabama” with the proper zip code. Since Harper Lee was a recluse, this was the best I could do. I figured the town knew her whereabouts.

The first year’s letter writing experience had been positive enough that I did it again the next year, with much the same response from the students. As a teacher, it was satisfying to know that the kids realized their words were being delivered. It mattered.

I just didn’t know it mattered to Ms. Lee, too.

One day, a few weeks after the second batch of letters had been sent, I went to my teacher’s mailbox. Inside was an envelope the size of a thank you card, and I could see that the return address had “Monroeville, AL” written on it. My hands started to tremble. Was it possible that one of the nation’s great authors had written back to us?

Why, yes. Yes she did.

 

Harper

 

I couldn’t believe it. How kind she was to let my students (and me!) know that she had read every letter with “great care and enjoyment.” My students were giddy with excitement–and it’s not often you see 14-year-olds giddy about anything. It was a tremendous validation for them–and for me as an educator. Words matter. Thought matters. Kindness matters.

I hope my former students think back on that experience with joy. I know I do. Ms. Lee’s letter still graces my office and makes me smile every time I see it.

17 years ago Harper Lee wished me and my students a Happy New Year. How cool is that?

Happy New Year to all of you, too!

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~Atticus Finch

 

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Life As I Know It

Lessons from a Failed Tube Top Experiment – My Messy Beautiful

messy-beautiful-450b

 

If you have found your way here through Momastery’s Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project, WELCOME! I hope you enjoy this warrior’s messy, beautiful story today!

 

KEEP CALM TUBE TOPS

 

I’m not a tube top woman. Trust me. Few things in life—scratch that—one thing in life would ever get me to wear one. And let’s just say that experience offered quite the surprise insight.

As a half-Italian kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t give much thought to whether or not I had a tan. When it was summer I was outside, and therefore, tan. Period. (Sunscreen wasn’t even around, so don’t give me a hard time.) It wasn’t until the summer of my wedding that I ever thought twice about tanning or tan lines.

My wedding was in late July, but early that summer I spent a long afternoon in the sun in my typical careless manner…wearing a tank top. I came home to distinct tan lines across my shoulders, and then it dawned on me: my wedding gown was strapless. Uh-oh.

What to do? Suddenly this girl who never paid attention to sun exposure was in overdrive to get the white from underneath the straps caught up to the new darker tone. This is not so easy to do. I took every moment I could to lay out (ack!) and try to have the color even out.

Never one to like just lying in the sun and baking, I decided to take drastic measures. I bought a tube top (aka bandeau) that I could wear and “be active” in—but only hidden in the backyard. These things are not what I would term “secure” attire. I found myself frequently hiking the slippery devil back into place and gingerly getting my work done.

As the handyman for my mom’s house since my dad died, I had a pretty wide range of abilities in getting tasks done, and one afternoon I needed to put new flashing on the roof of the shed. Not a problem, just climb up there and get to it. Let me tell, you, though—if you’ve never been up on an asphalt shingled roof, it’s not only hot, but the shingles have a rough, almost Velcro-like texture to them. So…there I was, splayed up on the roof, putting on some new flashing in my “tan-catch-up” wardrobe…

All was fine until the screwdriver decided to roll away from me and head toward the edge of the roof. I sprung up to grab for it, and…can you picture it?

As I shot up, my top didn’t. Gripped by the asphalt shingles, it stayed in place long enough for my left breast—let’s be real here—my left boob to pop out and peer over into the neighbor’s yard and all God’s creation.

Oh, the thoughts that passed through my mind in that brief moment. Thankfully, the neighbors were not in that part of the yard to see Lefty’s wide-eyed hello, but I was mortified.

And here comes the life lesson…are you ready? When your boob pops out, you just need to tuck it back in and get on with your business.

In that moment of mortification, I realized that that was all I could do. That and have a good laugh. I must have been one ridiculous site—the Tube Top Roofer.

But I didn’t give up and climb down—I finished the job, tube top and all (though I made sure there would be no more rolling tools to chase).

After that, I assessed how crazy I was in my attempts to solve my tan line problem and lightened up (pun so intended). By then the distinctness of the lines had lessened and it wasn’t quite as noticeable, but I was also done caring so much about it. The Tube Top Roofer retired.

My wedding day came, and even though the faded tan lines were there, I don’t think too many people noticed. At least no one came up to me and said, “You look beautiful—too bad about the tan lines, though.”

 

tan lines with text
Ah, the late 90s…

 

Sometimes it takes a boob popping out to put things in perspective. And sometimes it takes tucking a boob back in to remind me that I am one resilient woman, and it would take so much more to get me off of that metaphorical roof.

My life is a continual reminder that my plan does not equal reality—that my schedule is not THE schedule…and that real strength comes from adapting and making the best of what is indeed reality, rather than lamenting how things didn’t go “my” way.

Errant tan lines happen. Boobs pop out. But weddings happen, and even honeymoons do, too.

 

 

And then it is back to making a life and rolling with the changes—and tucking boobs back in and getting on with the business of living.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

PS—I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, you may also like where I write about my Beautifully Broken self. It was inspired by Glennon Doyle Melton’s series on Sacred Scared.

Posted in Bits & Pieces, Frabjous Friday

The Day Harper Lee Wrote Back

Harper Lee 2
Harper Lee in 2007

The idea behind my Frabjous Friday posts is to share something joyful–or at least something that will make you smile. Today’s post was a very joyful moment in my life, and I’d like to share it with you. It happened 17 years ago almost to the day. It’s a little longer than my typical Friday post, but I hope you’ll find it worth your time.

Back when I taught high school English, my freshman class read To Kill a Mockingbird as one of our core novels. I loved that book as a student, and I treasured it as a teacher. So many layers to explore and think about all delivered in a wonderfully descriptive and even suspenseful way. There was no greater joy for me as a teacher than to see a student come alive within the pages of a book, and Ms. Lee’s one and only published novel kindled that time and again.

One of the activities that we did after reading it was to send notes to Harper Lee. The first time I did this and told the kids we were really going to send the letters, they were stunned. Really? In junior high they did the activity frequently, and it was just for “pretend,” as they called it. I told them why wouldn’t we send them when she is still around to receive them? This made them take their own words a little more seriously. A real author–one whose work many had grown to care for–would be reading it, after all!

I showed them all how I put their letters into a big manila envelope and addressed it to “Harper Lee, Monroeville, Alabama” with the proper zip code. Since Harper Lee was a recluse, this was the best I could do. I figured the town knew her whereabouts.

The first year’s letter writing experience had been positive enough that I did it again the next year, with much the same response from the students. As a teacher, it was satisfying to know that the kids realized their words were being delivered. It mattered.

I just didn’t know it mattered to Ms. Lee, too.

One day, a few weeks after the second batch of letters had been sent, I went to my teacher’s mailbox. Inside was an envelope the size of a thank you card, and I could see that the return address had “Monroeville, AL” written on it. My hands started to tremble. Was it possible that one of the nation’s great authors had written back to us?

Why, yes. Yes she did.

Harper

I couldn’t believe it. How kind she was to let my students (and me!) know that she had read every letter with “great care and enjoyment.” My students were giddy with excitement–and it’s not often you see 14-year-olds giddy about anything. It was a tremendous validation for them–and for me as an educator. Words matter. Thought matters. Kindness matters.

I hope my former students think back on that experience with joy. I know I do. Ms. Lee’s letter still graces my office and makes me smile every time I see it.

17 years ago Harper Lee wished me and my students a Happy New Year. How cool is that?

Happy New Year to all of you, too!

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~Atticus Finch

Posted in Life As I Know It

Sometimes You Just Gotta Fake the Flute

Did you know I played the flute? Well, I don’t. Yet for one magical year, I was a flutist for our high school marching band, and I never played an incorrect note. How can this be you ask? Read on.

We meant business
We meant business

My high school’s band was (and is) pretty badass—always at least state finalists and occasionally state champions. Being in the band was cool, and I had many friends who were members, including some of my best friends. It was an amazingly talented group of kids, but I wasn’t one of them.

With the band season of my senior year a couple weeks from starting, my friends were throwing a band party and invited me to come as “an honorary member.” It was at that very moment that it dawned on me: I didn’t want to be an honorary member—I wanted to be the real thing.

The next day I walked into the somewhat unapproachable band director’s office and boldly told him that I wanted to join the band. I really don’t know what I was expecting, since I didn’t play an instrument. To this day, I wonder what ran through his head. Two weeks away from his first competition of the year, and a senior waltzes in and announces she wants in.

He sized me up a bit and replied, “We have two openings. The first one is bass drum.” I love drums! I can bang a drum! Let me be a drummer! But once he told me how much they weighed and the physical toll it took, I knew my already bad back had knocked that option out of the running. No bass drum.

“Our second opening is in the flute line,” he offered. I was crestfallen. “Oh. Sorry. I don’t play the flute.” I started my turn to leave when he said, “Well…you wouldn’t play it…you would merely fill the interval…” he emphasized, as though he was speaking to an idiot. I guess I qualified.

He went on to explain that the program had been written and rehearsed when suddenly a flute player had to move away…leaving a hole in the presentation. I would simply learn the steps and pretend to play, filling the hole she left.

band 2Shoot, I could fill a hole, I told him. And over the next two weeks, I learned the steps and had a ridiculous amount of fun doing so. By the time we had our first competition, I was ready to march.

I didn’t miss a step. Here I was…amidst this wonderfully talented group of musicians on a huge field, being cheered on…it was an awesome experience. I could do this!

And I did. For the whole season, I filled that interval—I stepped where I was supposed to, danced, boogied, and jammed when I should, and never played a wrong note—because I played none at all. Judges would walk right past me and never know because the great music surrounding me filled any void my little ol’ flute might have left.

I traveled to all of the competitions—including playing on Soldier Field. We performed in the rain, the cold, the wind—nothing stopped us. I always admired the real musicians whose frozen fingers actually had to move with precision, while mine only needed to look the part. They were a great bunch of kids—so talented.

Once when we performed for a pep rally in our own gym, I had non-band friends come up to me afterward and say, “Hey—I never knew you played the flute! You were great!” to which I replied, “Well, I’m not playing—I’m just faking it to fill the interval…” and they would pat me on the back and tell me what a great kidder I was. They wouldn’t believe such nonsense as faking the flute. Who does that?

I did. And it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. All because in one moment’s realization I decided I wanted to be a part of something. Something I had no business being a part of, yet because I stepped out of my comfort zone, I found that there was indeed a place for me.flute

A wacky, crazy place—but a place for me—a one-of-a-kind place for me.

Sometimes you just have to take the chance in life that results in your version of “faking the flute.” If I would have bothered to think through my impulse to truly be in the band—if I would have considered things like the fact that I didn’t play an instrument…that the season was about to start…that I had never expressed an interest to the band director before—I would have missed out.

I wonder now, with all of life’s responsibilities weighing in on every choice I make, how many times does a chance to “fake the flute” pass me by? Sometimes logic is the enemy of adventure. I need to keep a lookout for the next hole that just might need my filling.

And you, too, friends: please be open to the crazy opportunities that come your way. You just may go on a journey you never knew existed—and make memories for which one day you will be very grateful.

Posted in Frabjous Friday

True Team Spirit

If you haven’t yet seen this video, I strongly encourage you watch it. If you already have—because it has indeed gone viral—I strongly encourage you watch it again. It’s 3:22 of awesome—of some of the best stuff we want to see in each other.

For my second Frabjous Friday post, I am delighted to share this middle school football story. But it’s so much more than that.

What I love about it is that these boys who chose to go out of their way to show a special kid some love did so in a genuine, non-condescending way. They get it. They know it’s not about them doing this gallant gesture, but that it’s about the joy that comes from thinking outside yourself. 3:02 puts this into a beautiful nutshell.

Frabjous Friday is about sharing something joy-inducing. These boys accomplish that in amazing touchdown style.