On Billy Collins, Thanksgiving, and Perspective

It’s beginning to overwhelm me–that time of the year when life becomes messier. Busier.  Events begin to pile up-events, dress rehearsals, parties, life.  And it’s the time of the year when we stop and pause to think about what we are grateful for because sometime during the year among all this messiness and busyness, we’ve forgotten.  Friends begin to stream November Thankfulness lists that are now lost between posts of hatred and political upset.  Right now, more negative than good seems to surround this month–this time of thankfulness.

Yesterday, sitting in a stuffy car, I caught a glimpse on YouTube of A Prairie Home Companion.  I stopped because one of my favorite poets read three of his poems on the program.  Nothing beats a good poet reading his own works.  You can view the reading here.


Thanksgiving by Billy Collins

The thing about the huge platter
of sliced celery, broccoli florets,
and baby tomatoes you had  arranged
to look like a turkey with its tail fanned out
was that all our guests were so intimidated
by the perfection of the design
no one dared disturb the symmetry
by removing so much as the nub of a carrot.

And the other thing about all that
was that it took only a few minutes
for the outline of the turkey to disappear
once the guests were encouraged to dig in,
so that no one else would have guessed
that this platter of scattered vegetables ever bore
the slightest resemblance to a turkey
or any other two- or four-legged animal.

It reminded me of the sand mandalas
so carefully designed by Tibetan monks
and then just as carefully destroyed
by lines scored across the diameter of the circle,
the variously colored sand then swept
into a pile and carried in a vessel
to the  nearest moving water and poured in–
a reminder of the impermanence of art and life.

Only, in the case of the vegetable turkey
such a reminder was never intended.
Or if it was, I was too busy slicing up
even more vivid lessons in impermanence
to notice. I mean the real turkey minus its head
and colorful feathers, and the ham
minus the pig minus its corkscrew tail
and minus the snout once happily slathered in mud.

I like Billy Collins a lot.  I love his subtle humor and his observations.  His innocuous message disguised in the everyday.

This week I’ve gotten caught up in the arrangement of my turkey.  I’ve been painstakingly creating a menu and Thanksgiving experience for my family that will soon become over run with concerns like “Will the mashed potatoes get cold while the turkey rests?”  We often make bigger deals of the table settings and menu than the actual experience of Thanksgiving. Our perfectly impermanent turkey laid out in front of us for our own demolishment.

This Thanksgiving, don’t think too deeply.  Enjoy.

Collins, Billy. “Thanksgiving.” The Rain in Portugal. New York: Random House, 2016. E-

I can’t recommend this book enough.  It simultaneously  makes me smile, laugh, and cry.



Little Brother

Good morning, Little Brother,

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since I’ve seen you.  I still remember the last time we were together, hanging out on the porch with Dad.  It was late fall, and he was sweeping the leaves from the tile on the porch.  I had just told you that you were going to have a niece.

I still remember when I heard. Jedidiah’s reaching for the cell phone in the car roused me from my half sleep.  He looked so alarmed but gave no clue as to why.  I knew something was wrong–the way he urgently asked Bobby questions and slowly pulled the car over.  My first thought was something had happened to Dad.  You weren’t even on my radar.  You were a cat with nine lives.  You were always convinced you were invincible.  I guess somehow you had convinced me too.

It’s hard to lose a sibling–your only sibling.  Who knows you like that?  Who else knows and understands those childhood secrets and dreams?  The mischievous plans forged through walkie talkies and late nights?  The sneaking down the hall to see what grownup shows the parents watched? From the moment one of you is born, a relationship like no other is forged–especially if it’s just the two of you.  I felt like David losing Jonathan.  I still feel like that sometimes–whenever I hear “Somewhere Out There” or “Ice, Ice, Baby.”  You’re the only one who  could know or understand because you lived my childhood with me.

You never had the chance to meet your niece and nephew.  You would be so proud of Madeleine.  Her brilliance would blow you away, and you would tell her just how much she is like me.  And Max?  He reminds me every day of you.  You would have been the first person he would have called when he scored his first soccer goal this year.  I look at him, and I see you.  It helps.

So today, ten years later, I want you to know I miss you.  I miss you every day.  In honor, maybe I’ll give our old friend Coconut a call.  She probably misses you too.

**Please take a moment to remember those whose lives have been changed by suicide today.**


A New Way of Teaching-SAMR and Wrapping My Head around Blended Learning

Note:  I began this draft a week ago.  Now I’m spending days with Apple learning how to implement my iPad in lessons.

This morning I convinced myself I needed to wake up.  It took a lot of coaxing and convincing.  After all, this is my last week for being lazy.  This week alone I’ve watched two seasons of New Girl and several episodes of Inspector Morse.  Please stop looking at my like you’re disappointed.  I have not binge watched anything at all this summer…with the exception of Stranger Things with my husband. I feel no guilt about this.

Most of my former colleagues have gone back to school this week.  Right now, they’re sitting in a hot library or a too-cold cafeteria learning about the new policies for next year.  It’s strange not being there, but while they are gearing up for starting school in August, I’m wrapping my head around an entirely new way of teaching for a brand new job in a brand new grade level.  Whoa!

For the past four years, I have taught in a classical school.  I’ve used traditional models of educating students, focusing mostly on discussion and the Socratic method.  It’s a model that fit my teaching style very well, but I’ve decided to try something new this year.  This year I will be teaching in a performing arts  in a 1:1 iPad environment.  It’s exciting because I know the possibilities are endless, but at the same time, it’s also incredibly daunting.

I consider myself moderately versed in technology.  I keep this blog, I began a YouTube channel for my AP students last year, I use social media, and I even required students to utilize technology in my classes.  It wasn’t easy, because in a classical school, we were committed to not over-utilizing technology.  We had some Chromebooks and some laptops, but if you wanted to use them in your classroom, it was an all out war to reserve them.  I hate war.  I hate confrontation, so in my classroom, I mostly avoided it.

Now here I am in an environment where my students will ALWAYS have a device.  Where I do begin?

In education, implementation of technology follows a the SAMR Model-Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.  Substitution is fairly easy.  The task assigned to students doesn’t change.  Students could type a journal entry in a word processor instead of handwrite it the old fashioned way.  You’ve just substituted a program for paper.  Easy peasy!   Now when students begin using spell check and other tools, you’ve now entered the realm of augmentation.  Augmentation occurs when the task doesn’t change but because of technology you’ve improved it.  I feel very comfortable in these two stages. It’s the other two that I’m going to have learn a whole new way of educating my students.

The final two stages are modification and redefinition.  Modification means that a task can be significantly redesigned.  Because of technology, the task you’ve assigned students changes. For this stage, students can download a book, annotate and mark it up through an app like notability.  Taken a step farther, you can redefine the task.  Redefinition means that you create a new task that was previously inconceivable without technology.  Students can use the information they’ve learned through their research and notes to create collaborative mind maps using an app or web-based site like Mindomo.

So how does a classical teacher maintain her classical ideals utilizing technology?  Lucky for me my school encourages blended learning.  Blended learning allows a classroom to utilize technology for content delivery that it curated, supported, and delivered by a traditional classroom teacher–me. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.

DIY: Snape-Inspired Throw Pillow


0805(1)Severus Snape is my favorite literary character of all time (followed only by Miss Havisham). His tale is the best part of the entire series.  No matter how much I wanted to side with Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s hatred for the greasy-haired teacher,  I never could.  Not even in Book One.   There was something more to this dark, mysterious potions professor. I just knew it.

In honor of Madeleine finishing the seventh book and the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I’ve created a Snape-inspired throw pillow using my Cricut Explore Air, a home iron, and my sewing machine. Continue reading

One Label is Enough–You’re a Mom.

Jedidiah's iPhone 248

I’m still not sure how to answer this question . . . “I’m a chef, counselor, educator, coach, stylist, accountant, and personal shopper, what do you do?” Or I could give the shorter, more to-the-point answer: “I’m a stay-at-home-mom.”

Statements like this bother me.  The statement is an excerpt from a blog about choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. This woman may perform some of those functions, but she is not a stylist in the same sense as someone who is licensed to practice cosmetology.  She does not have a CPA; therefore, she is not an accountant.  She didn’t go to culinary school—not a chef.  She doesn’t have a license to practice counseling…get my point?   She is a mother who performs some of those functions, like all mothers do, whether we choose to work or not.

Somehow, this writer believes that stay-at-home moms have gotten a bad rap.  Then there’s me on the other side feeling that because I’ve chosen to go to work everyday that I’ve gotten the bad mom rap.  ENOUGH!

It doesn’t matter.  One of the joys of being a woman and being a mom is that you get to make a choice.  Own it.  Stop complaining about how you feel shame about your choice.  Stop undermining yourself by thinking you need to make what you do somehow sound bigger or more special than what it may seem to you or your perspective of how the world views you. Stop reasoning with yourself or others about why you made that choice.  You are a mother.  And as one nyself, I  say that’s special enough.



Music Monday: July Playlist

I can’t believe it’s already July.  The kids and I have been very busy.  We’ve committed to 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day.  Sometimes this is swimming or tennis or a group fitness class at the rec center.  We’ve also cleaned, cleaned, cleaned in preparation for some major life changes this fall.  With all the busy, we need something to keep us going.  Here’s our July playlist: Continue reading

My Favorite Singer

I come from a very musical family.  I grew up singing in church. My family would often arrive at church early in the afternoon on Sunday evenings to practice.  My grandmother, uncle, and parents would work on gospel quartet tunes.  For me, “Daddy Sang Bass, Mama Sang Tenor” was a reality. I myself began soloing in church at eight years old and participated in competitions every spring.  I spent most of my adulthood studying music or performing, and I knew when I had children I wanted them to sing too. I fantasized about us all playing an instrument and forming a family band, not too unlike The Partridge Family–only better.  I knew when I had a son, I wanted him to sound like Thomas Hampson, growing up to sing all these amazing baritone opera roles.  He’ll have the most beautiful voice, and all the ladies will swoon, I thought. Continue reading

10 Things I Love about Being a Geek Girl Married to a Geek Boy

geek girl and boy(He’s going to punish me for that boy comment, but “Geek Girl” sounded better than “Geek Woman.”  I’m all for parallelism.)

Looks like this is a week for lists!  Yay!  I LOVE lists!

Denver Comic Con is this week.  It begins tomorrow, and I’m very excited.  I’ve already booked my photo op with John Barrowman.  Can’t wait for that one!  I also have my eyes on an LOTR ocarina.  Since The Hobbit is on my book list for middle school next year, I just really feel like I need this to bring the experience to life for my students.  Right?!? Continue reading

10 Things I Would Rather Do Than Write my Letter of Intent

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am applying to a grad program. My application includes a letter of intent. Already I have loads of activities to help me avoid this task. For example today I have perused Facebook, Twitter and Instagram;  texted friends; written a blog post; made new chore charts for the kids; and swept the kitchen 5 times (still looks like it could use another go over).  Hold on.

Okay. That’s better.

Anyway, here’s my list of 10 things I’d rather do than write this essay: Continue reading