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

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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

Origin Story

I’m applying to graduate school this week.  I earned my Master in Secondary Education back in 2o12.  I thought that would be it for me, but it seems like opportunity has begun knocking upon my door again.  I’ve decided to answer it–this time in the form of a Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.).

Part of an application to graduate school includes a letter of intent.  In this 2-3 page essay, I am supposed to give my life story.  Where did I come from?  What were my goals?  What do I hope to achieve?  Ayi, ayi, ayi!  I feel like the dumbest person on the Earth as I sit down to try to hash this out every day.

What is my origin story?  How did I become an educator?  I wasn’t bitten by a bug…or a spider (literally, anyway).  I did not endure a large parental tragedy that left my seeking revenge on the criminals of the city.  I also did not survive some sort of nuclear science experiment, but I do have an origin story.  We all do.  Here’s mine.

I grew up in small town Texas.  Compared to some of the other surrounding areas, I was in the big city, but truthfully, it was small town.  Every one knew every one.  My state of knowing others was compounded by the fact that my mother grew up there and my grandparents had lived in the community for many years.  We could not go to a restaurant or movie without seeing someone my parents or my grandparents knew.  We would run into people from church, from sports, from work, from school. It was neverending.  Sounds quaint, right?  Not to me.  Part of the problem with everyone knowing everyone is that everyone knows everyone…or at least thinks they do.

I went to several elementary schools when I was growing up.  We would move to a new neighborhood, and I would move to a new school.  Where most people would view this a fresh start, it wasn’t.  I always ended up at a school that either knew me or knew my parents.  For my brother this wasn’t so bad.  He was popular and likeable, but I was THAT girl.  I was sickly, overweight, and uncoordinated.  I suffered from severe allergies, asthma, and my undiagnosed heriditary angioedema (HAE).  I would miss a lot of school which put me on a lot of “teacher” lists.

“She’s smart.  She’s just lazy.”

“I don’t think your daughter should be in honors reading.  Yes, I understand she reads grade levels ahead, but she just misses too much class. Yes, I understand her TAAS scores are high and she’s in our GT program.”

“I’m not sure she should go to college.  I’m not sure she would make it.  Perhaps she should stay close to home.  Maybe try to get a job.”

Little did these teachers know just how sick I was.  Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.  I endured tests and unnecessary surgeries in an attempt to figure out what was going on. (Because of my rare condition, I wouldn’t find out what it was until my thirties).

The way teachers reacted to me in class didn’t help my social life. Given the fact that doctors would prescribe steroids to control my asthma or unexplained abdominal pain (that turned out to be HAE), I was puffy and larger than most students my age.  I was called “fatso” and “ugly.”  One of my most horrific memories was when I received my period early (5th grade), which meant I had to carry feminine products with me to school in my purse.  One day, this blonde popular student began ridiculing me in the cafeteria.  She stole my purse, looked inside to see if I had anything worth taking,  and pulled out my small supply of pads and tampons.  I was horrified.  She then ran around the cafeteria calling me out and teasing me for no longer being a girl.  Suddenly something that was supposed to be celebrated became my scarlet letter.  I never quite recovered.  I was in a small town and stuck with these people through high school.  I was always THAT girl.

I suppose my origin moment, my spider bite, came when I was a junior in high school.  I actually heard my high school counselor call me a loser in front of another student.  I was mortified.  If I had been more confident and wiser to what was expected of adults in that position, I would have reacted differently.  However, all I knew was shame, and after years of being called a “loser” by my classmates and apparently adults.  I actually finally believed it.  It led me to make decisions that I am not proud of but led me to understand the desperation of   teenagers later on.

Loser or not, I went to college anyway.

And I flourished.

I was challenged.  No one knew me, so it was a fresh start. A Brand Spanking New Beginning.  I became president of clubs.  I was an officer in other clubs.  I made very good grades…better than I ever made in high school (and I didn’t make bad grades in high school).  I cared about what I was doing.  I was still sickly, but the flexible schedule helped tremendously.  I had a group of incredible friends and extremely encouraging professors.  Encouraging.  Wow!  What a difference that made!

When I graduated, I went on to a successful career in sales.  (I know, the social outcast becomes marketer–crazy, right?)

After Madeleine was born, I decided that I would go back to school to become a teacher.  I had work to do and wrongs to make right. I vowed that if I was ever in a classroom that my one daily goal would be that EVERY student felt safe in my classroom.  EVERY student would feel valued, and EVERY student would feel encouraged.  No student would ever feel like a loser.  If they learned some skills along the way—great!  But if they felt valued, safe, and like they could do anything, then THAT would make the real difference, and it would allow them to learn more than they thought possible.

And that was it.  A high school counselor referred to me as a loser. I vowed that no student in my classroom would EVER feel that way from me.

I won’t write most of this in my letter of intent (or at least I’ll work to put it down more eloquently than I did here), but it’s true.  I became the teacher I am because someone did not value me.  It gave me the will, strength, and determination to value others.

 

Baby Gifts

PS Pic1I love babies.  I’ve had two of my own.  Jedidiah and I have wisely decided that we will not be pursuing more; however, I’m grateful that my friends are having them because I LOVE making things for babies.  Last summer, my mother and I completed this bedding/nursery project for my niece Arya.  This year, my dear friend, Kirsten will be welcoming a baby girl to the world, and I have spent the first part of my summer putting together small treats for her and the baby.  (She’s now seen them, so I don’t have to keep them secret since she’s a reader). I’ll admit I have not been the best at taking pictures to document most of my projects, but it is on my list for improvement so stay tuned!

There’s hardly anything more precious than baby clothes.  I wanted to make the baby something original.    Another benefit of making baby clothes is you can use remnants!  I could get beautiful, organic cotton fabric from around the world by purchasing remnants. While I love Joann’s for the coupons and beautiful discount fabric,  I wanted something special not predictable. I visited my local fabric store.  I carefully selected a blue and off-white flower patterned cotton from Japan and a mint greet and grey polka dots (some of the polka dots resemble tiny skulls–it’s pretty rad).  I also picked up this pattern at the shop.  It’s simple, but there are so many possibilities with the pieces.

Here are the results:

I think they turned out lovely!  When I was finished I made fabric blocks using my left over scraps. (Sorry, no pictures.)

I also had the chance of using my Cricut that my family got me for Mother’s Day this year.  I personalized some onesies, a wine glass (for mom) and some pacifiers.  It was simple to do.  Once again, I didn’t manage to get pictures taken of all of it, but here’s one of the onesies.  It actually matches the wine glass I made for mom.  The onesie has sentiments for mom when she’s a little frazzled, and the wine glass has sentiments for baby when mom has had enough (“whine about it”).  Here’s a picture I snapped of the onesie:

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I used Cricut HTV (heat transfer vinyl) and layered the pictures to get the two-color product.

I arranged the gifts in a basket and wrapped with cellophane.  (Sorry.  I promise I’ll get better about the pictures!)

I Don’t Want to Go

I love Doctor Who, and anyone who knows me knows that the Tenth Doctor is far superior in all ways than any of the others, or at least that is my belief.  Many who also know me might also assert that the Tenth Doctor is my favorite because I love David Tennant (they wouldn’t be wrong), but for me, the Tenth Doctor’s story line has resonated emotionally with me many times.  In fact, my literary analysis side has gone so far as to call the Tenth Doctor a Christ-figure. (Don’t worry, I’ll save that for another post).

In the Tenth Doctor’s final episode “The End of Time”, he sacrifices himself so that Wilfred (Donna Noble’s granddad) would survive, and instead, he, the Tenth Doctor would undergo radiation  poisoning leading to what everyone believed would be the Doctor’s final regeneration.   As the radiation  poisoning flows though the Doctor’s veins and in and out of this two hearts, the Time Lord visits many of his friends and companions.  He saves Martha and Mickey from an alien sniper.  He exchanges a knowing look with Sarah Jane.  He seeks to find out from Joan Redfern’s granddaughter if she turned out happy.  He attends Donna Noble’s wedding and leaves Wilfred with a very significant present. Finally, he visits Jackie and Rose where he declares to Rose that she will have a very good year.  Then he heads off to the TARDIS and says these emotional words before regenerating, “I don’t want to go.”  See the scene from “The End of Time: Part 2”.

These are the same motions and emotions that I have gone through over the past few weeks. I said goodbye to a group of seniors who in many ways were my companions. They sojourned with me through time to many places– ancient Greece; Verona, Italy; Mantua; Hell; Mississippi; Wessex, England–signing on to some of my crazy plans. I’ve said goodbyes to colleagues, all different, all brilliant, who taught me more than I could imagine. Today I said goodbye to a school where I believed I would stay until retirement. And now, I feel it. “I don’t want to go.”  It’s my favorite line of the Doctor’s, and for me this year, it rings poignantly true. But like the Tenth Doctor and the Doctors before him, I know the can exist too long. I know it’s time to move on…to regenerate…to become something new.

Music Monday: End of the (School) Year Playlist

The school year is winding to a close. AP exams are over.  I’ve packed up my classroom. I’m ready for a break, but my May playlist keeps me going.  Here’s what I’ve been listening to this month:

album-artPete Yorn, “Lost Weekend”

I’ve just recently begun to like Pete Yorn.  For about 2 weeks, I would skip this song on Sirius/XM’s The Spectrum.  That is I skipped it before I really listened to it. I couldn’t agree more:  I need a vacation!

 

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Strumbellas, “Spirits”

This has been my family’s favorite song since April.  It’s a real earworm, getting stuck in your head for hours on end.  We’ve changed they lyrics to suit whatever is going on in our house at the time.  My personal favorite: “I’ve got ants in my pants, and I want to go.”

 

 

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Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, “Need Never Get Old”

I love Nathaniel Rateliff.  His stuff makes me happy even when the lyrics are depressing.  Like “SOB” or “Look It Here,” this song is upbeat enough to get you moving.  It’s good music by which to clean your house or your classroom.

 

 

MyAim_isTrueElvis Costello, “Welcome to the Working Week”

Since I began making the move to leave my school, this has been my working anthem every Monday morning.  I walk into my classroom, plug my phone into the speakers, and play this song.  It’s my weekly ritual.

 

Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

This song is absolutely how I got through graduation last week.  When I was stressed, it calmed me down.  When I was angry, it made me happy.  When I was sobbing into my Kleenex as I watched the most fabulous group of students say goodbye to high school, it got me excited for their future.  Now my kids play the music video all day long.

What’s getting you through the end of the school year?

Black-eyed Pea Picking

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I recently finished teaching Seamus Heaney’s poem “Blackberry Picking” to my AP English class.  It’s one of my favorite poems. It touches so strongly on some of my own childhood memories.   When I was five years old, we moved to Azle, Texas.  Azle was very different from the flat, empty north Texas environment where I had spent the beginning of my life.  Even though a child, I could still appreciate the aesthetic difference. It was greener.  It spread out with bushes and trees and life.   We lived in a small housing development of the just-budding suburb of Forth Worth.  In our small backyard, we had trees to climb, places to hide, and a natural sandbox to dig.  The dirt would turn red, and my brother and I dreamed up scenarios of digging to Hell to kill the devil and rid the world of evil for once and for all.  We spent a lot of time in the backyard, but occasionally my mother would take us to the woods behind our privacy fence.  It was on those trails where my brother learned to ride a bike, and we would pick wild blackberries.

This is my favorite memory of that time.  A blackberry cobbler is a sweet reminder of that innocence gone by.  If I could travel in time, I would certainly go back there. But memories are all that remain, not the physical pleasure of eating blackberries.  It can only be recalled not recaptured.

Picking fruits and vegetables seem a common theme in my most precious memories.  Maybe it’s because my family spent so much time in the kitchen when I was growing up.  We picked together, canned together, cooked together, ate together.  This is what I remember and hold on to.

Shelling black-eyed peas is one of the last quality moments where I got to be with my dad–before he got sick, before the cancer ate him away.   We had visited the farmer’s market just outside of town where we purchased two bushels of black-eyed peas.  We sat on the back porch.  All his grandchildren were with him, seated at his feet in a circle with their own portions of peas and small bowls.  We shelled peas, listened to classic country, and filled our own “milk cans, pea tins, and jam pots.”  He recounted for me much of my family history, what he had uncovered in his years of genealogical research.  For what I remember, despite the acute summer heat, it was perfect.

The next day we pulled out the pressure cooker and canned them.  I brought cases of jars back to Colorado to eat during the school year when snow would cover the ground and I would want a meal that tasted like home.  Even before we know how sick he was, I would ration out these jars.  They were special.  I  had to make them last until next year when we would gather on my parent’s porch and work on another bushel or two.

I had one jar left when he passed. “Each year I [hope] they’d keep, knew that they would not.”

Blackberry-Picking

BY SEAMUS HEANEY

for Philip Hobsbaum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.