Posted in Life As I Know It

Summer Swirl Reflection

The lazy days of summer are really not so lazy after all, now are they? I have been calling this my “Uber Summer” because it seems like all I do is get my kid from one place to the next or take my mom here and there. And my rates are even better than Uber’s…because, as it turns out, there IS such a thing as a free ride. Many, many…many of them. Continue reading “Summer Swirl Reflection”

Posted in Life As I Know It

So Much Harder to Rise Than Fall

Striking the set in theater is the easy part—after working so hard on building it, taking it all down feels almost effortless. What took several days to construct only takes hours to demo.

That’s a pretty consistent reality across the board, isn’t it? Continue reading “So Much Harder to Rise Than Fall”

Posted in Soapbox

Let’s Not Just Remember, But Do

flag star
A star from my father’s flag.

For Americans, today is Memorial Day. A day intended to remember and appreciate the sacrifices that men and women have made so that the citizens of the United States have rights that include free speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial…and so much more.

We are indeed the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but the U.S. is not exactly a well-oiled machine, now is it? Continue reading “Let’s Not Just Remember, But Do”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

An Overdue Mother’s Day Gift  

If you are a mom, then you probably had some sort of “day” yesterday. Maybe breakfast in bed? some flowers? a nap? kids abstaining from arguing? Maybe you also needed to fit in time to celebrate your own mother and/or mother-in-law, too? Continue reading “An Overdue Mother’s Day Gift  “

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

 

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Posted in Soapbox

Putting the U in Fun

Here it is, the third week of January…and how are those resolutions coming along? If you followed my recipe for success, they are probably coming along quite nicely! Of course, if you actually want to make some changes, you may already be struggling to stay focused on your goals.

Resolutions are often of the “lose 10 pounds” or “eat healthier” variety—those things that we know we should do but often let fall by the wayside as we get caught up in the day-to-day swirl that consumes us. By the third week of January, a lot of us have let go of these goals and added another checkmark to our failure list.

While some of us don’t actually make resolutions, I believe it’s important to pause and evaluate what’s what. I don’t personally make “official” resolutions, but I do think about changes that I would like to make in the coming year and aim for them. And I know one of mine that should most likely be one of yours, as well:

Play more.

We need to purposefully make ourselves seek out fun. Not just because it’s fun to play…but because our brains literally benefit from it. You may remember my love of Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. In it, Schulte provides solid research about our need for play. Need. Not want. Play allows our brains to reenergize and function better. Without it, our brains don’t get bounce-back time…and our brains need that in order to perform more effectively.

 

Dogs know how to play...so should we
Dogs know how to play…so should we

 

Schulte also explains how this is a particular need for women—that women are historically encouraged to feel that we need to earn our play time or at least be productive while we’re at it (quilting bee, anyone?) Historically men have set aside playtime with little or no guilt, but women…well, we all too often feel guilty for having fun. (Remember this is a gender generalization—I’m sure some of you guys feel guilty playing golf or having poker night, so don’t whine at me. We are talking about historical fact here, people.)

We all need to give ourselves permission to have fun. We need to look at the world around us and not just see the work that needs doing but the fun that needs having. And we need to do it without guilt. Making free time (gasp!) for play is not a crime, though our culture of busyness often makes it feel that way.

 

skating
all seasons offer unique play opportunities

 

I don’t know about you, but I almost always have a cloud of “shoulds” over my head no matter what I’m doing—including play time. If I’m playing a game with my son, I’m remembering that email I need to follow up on. If I’m going to watch a favorite show, I should probably do it while folding laundry or ironing. And if I choose not to be productive while I’m watching, then there’s a little pang of guilt that pokes at me.

Sound familiar? Schulte describes that as “contaminated time.” We may be doing something leisurely, but responsibilities keep creeping in and contaminating the time—reducing the positive effects of play.

SO…what would it look like if you made a resolution to play more? It would show up in both little and big ways. Playing that game with your child and being fully present (no thoughts of work!) or simply going for a bike ride and breathing in the fresh air. Or maybe it’s simply letting yourself get lost in a book. And when guilt or worry creeps in, recognize it and tell it to scram. This is play time, bucko.

 

a birthday treat from a few years ago
a birthday treat from a few years ago

 

Playing in bigger ways is also important. Maybe there is something you’ve always been wanting to do but haven’t made the time for it. Make it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a pot (like, on a pottery wheel…not across the room, though if you find that fun, go for it) in order to reenact the scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze does his own kind of pot-throwing. Or perhaps you’d love to know what it feels like to drive a race car. Or ride a horse. Maybe it’s something as simple as setting aside a monthly play night with some friends that you treat as sacred—that time is non-negotiable for anything else.

However it works for you—play more. You don’t need permission. You don’t have to earn it. If people give you that elitist crap about “must be nice to have time to do X,” don’t let it make you feel like you have to justify yourself. Do it and don’t feel guilty. Do it and be fully present. Do it to help your brain grow stronger.

I know I’m sounding like a Nike commercial, but it’s true: just do it. Play.

You’re worth it.

 

All photos are my own.
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The presence of these ads does not constitute endorsement of the information, services, or products found in them.