Friday, December 30, 2011

Wishing All of You...


For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
TS Eliot

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Lament

It's the funeral march to the end of the year,
just a number, just a month, with joy to the world

and a slithering trail of regrets gaining on me
like a holiday rattlesnake about to strike, sending poison

to the veiny, icy backs of my hands. Visions relentlessly
knock at the frosted windowpane of my mind

not of fairies and plums, but that first wet snowflake
on the windshield, that sudden chord of a song,

a broken ornament, children who are no longer children,
what the year was not, and someone who is not here.

Silent snow falls on my winter sorrows, until I look up
from my lament and see God in your eyes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

There is Faint Music


There is faint music in the night
and pale wings fanned by silver flight.
A frosty hill with tender glow
of countless stars that shine on snow.

A shelter from the winter storm,
a straw-lined manger safe and warm,
and Mary singing lullabies
to hush her baby's sleepy sighs.

Her eyes are fixed upon his face,
unheeded here is time and space.
Her heart is filled with blinding joy
for God's own son, her baby boy.

Nancy Buckley

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy Holidays v. Merry Christmas - COEXIST


Coexist with all holidays.
As a Christian I do not understand why some people of my faith insist that everyone wish them a Merry Christmas. I really don't get it. As a Christian, or just as a sensitive human being, surely we realize that everyone in the world doesn't celebrate Christmas - whether we want them to or not. The Bible is full of directives to love everyone, and in loving others we respect them. It matters not whether we agree with them.

Romans 14 says "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

It also says " The man who eats everything must not look down on the man who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn. Who are you to judge someone else's servant?"

To me that says it all. We are to respect other people's choices and not judge. "Christians" who insist that everyone acknowledge only their chosen holiday are being disrespectful, insensitive and offensive themselves. It is not, in fact, everyone's holiday! Live in the real world.

If someone says Happy Holidays to you - is your faith so small that it somehow would change your beliefs or your celebration of them? Of course not. So why force your beliefs on others. God gave all of his creations free will - and that goes for everyone, not just Christians.

I follow a group called "Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented" on Facebook and that is how I feel almost everyday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stalking

The blue heron has been at the edge
of the pond all morning, stalking fish
with surreal patience, with the stillness

of a lawn ornament or my unmoving
body lying next to yours at night.
He makes no sound, just like us.

The fish does not know that the heron
is there, even though surely it could look up
and see what is so close.

The heron crouches low, just as I am
sometimes, as we are,
half of what could be.

Then the great bird sees what it wants,
its mouth plunges into the water and pulls
out the prize that will sustain its life.

The fish does not fight the inevitable.
The heron stands proudly upright to savor
the moment before swallowing the fish whole.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Penfield House

I spent the evening in a house that took me back to memories of high school, but also one that I did not appreciate when I visited it as part of my art class all those years ago. It is the Penfield House in Willoughby, Ohio. Louis Penfield was my high school art teacher. He was 6'8" tall and commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home that suited his size. (I'm thinking he had more money than just for his schoolteacher job.) The home, overlooking the Chagrin River, is one of 9 Usonian homes that Wright designed. They are small, minimalist and very peacefully settle into the landscape around them.

Last March I had seen Falling Water (PA) for the first time and I loved it. I don't think these houses would please everyone, but I like clean lines and a minimal amount of "stuff" so they are very appealing to me. I was impressed with myself that the house and lot was just as I remembered - because, believe me, it was a long time ago!

The house was built in 1955 and we were invited to an evening of 50's style clothing and cocktails. I was thrilled to wander the house at will. It is very open, ceiling to floor windows, a carport ( a term coined by Wright), and a "floating stairway." The bedrooms are small, and to suit Mr. Penfield everything was taller - even the door handles were located at about my shoulder height.

Mr. Penfield apparently commisioned Mr. Wright to design a second house because he thought the highways being built in the late 50's and early 60's were going to intrude on his peace and quiet. The day the Penfields received the drawing for the new house, Mr. Wright passed away. The drawing hangs in the hallway of the Penfield House. The second house was never built and some are continually trying to raise money to still have it built someday, being Wright's last residential design.

I have been very inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright homes, however, they are not homes built to last forever. Falling Water had to be partially rebuilt in the 1990's and the Penfield House was renovated in the 1980's at $100,000 cost to his son. So, even though they are unique, they were not necessarily well designed - something I am sure Mr. Wright would have never admitted to in his time.






Thursday, November 24, 2011

Table Grace

by Gary Johnson

Here we sit as evening falls
Like old horses in their stalls.
Thank you Father, that you bless
Us with food and an address.
And the comfort of your hand
In this great and blessed land.
Look around at each dear face,
Keep each one in your good grace.
We think of those who went before,
And wish we could have loved them more.
Grant to us a cheerful heart,
Knowing we must soon depart
to that far land to be with them.
And now let's eat. Praise God. Amen

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stella



She knows the sound of hair spray means I will be coming out of the bathroom.
She knows the shoes that mean we're going for a walk.
She know words - lots of them, because yes, I talk to her constantly.
She anticipates every room that we are going into.
She knows the sound of my spoon clinking in the cereal bowl means breakfast is over.
She hears the crinkle of a bag of shredded cheese from rooms away and knows she'll get a little pile of it on the floor.
She knows my fingers snapping in the night mean - stop that horrible licking.
She is a relentless hunter, catching only one squirrel in 8 noble years of trying (and then dropping it in confusion)
She hears one single sniffle and she is immediately at my side pleading to be a comfort. Her eyes locked on mine - fearful but steadfast.
She knows without a doubt when I need her, when I need a snuggle, when I am lonely. And she is always right. She's a gift from God. Like all dogs, giving unconditional love, forgiving, affectionate and true.
She's just a mutt that nobody wanted - but I'm glad we found each other.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are We Truly a Christian Nation?

These are excerpts from an article called "My Take: Reactions to Cain, Paterno Point to a Not-so-Christian Nation,"
by Stephen Prothero, who is a regular CNN Belief blog contributor.

In the never-ending debate over whether the United States is a Christian nation, recent events support the nay-sayers. I am referring to the troubles of Herman Cain and Joe Paterno.

How we respond to ethical conundrums often boils down to empathy. In the abortion debate, do you identify with the woman who wants an abortion, or with the fetus?

One purpose of the world's great religions is to widen our circle of empathy beyond ourselves and our families to others in the community, and in the wider world. Christianity, for example, has long taught that we should empathize with " the least of these", and particularly the poor and oppressed. (Luke 4:18)

When we look at the Herman Cain campaign, do our hearts go out to the wealthy businessman and White House contender, or do they go out to the women who are accusing him or sexual improprieties?

When we gaze at Penn State, do our hearts go out to the boys, some as young as 10, who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a former coach under Paterno? Or do we empathize with Paterno?

When I turn on the television and see "family values" conservatives jumping to Cain's defense within hours of the first charges surfacing, or Penn State students rioting over the decision of their university's Board of Trustees to fire Paterno, I have to ask myself, "What has happened to our supposedly Christian nation?"

I know that in the United States defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. But I am not talking about the law here. I am talking about where our hearts incline, and whether they incline in a Christian direction.

I do not know if Jesus is a Penn State fan. He may well be, But if he were here today, would he be laying flowers at the front door of Paterno's house (as many students have done), or would he be seeking out the boys whose lives have allegedly been so irreparably damaged?

Would he be standing alongside Cain's lawyer as he issues not-so-veiled threats against accusers who have not yet gone public with their stories, or would he be standing by their side?

In your heart of hearts I think you know the answer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reluctance

by Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the wood
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less that a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Voting

Voting is an act of optimism. It doesn't mean that you agree with everything the person does thereafter. Vote your conscience - not a party. Diane Ferri
Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct. Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Aurora Borealis in Ohio

I saw the aurora borealis last night! In Ohio! It is also known as the Northern Lights and I didn't know it was possible to see it here. My hubby and I were out in the hot tub around 9:30 PM. I saw a vertical streak of red in the sky and it grew a deeper red. Then we noticed another horizontal patch of bright red in the northern sky. It was beautiful but we were a little freaked out because we didn't know what it was. It only lasted 10 minutes or so and I feel like it was a once in a lifetime chance to see something unique and indescribable. This photo is not mine, but it is the closest thing I could find on the Internet that compared with what we saw last night. My husband also saw two shooting stars last night!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Do Love my iPod

Today is the 10th birthday of the iPod. Of all the recent technological inventions I believe it is my favorite. What's better than taking all your favorite music wherever you go? I leave it on shuffle and constantly hear songs and artists that I wouldn't probably search out - but I love them because they are from my music collection! Apple unveiled it on this date in 2001. It was created under the code name "Dulcimer" and was presented a few months after Apple released iTunes, it's program to convert audio D's into digital files. The original iPod had a 5 gigabyte hard drive and Apple founder Steve Jobs declared it would put "1000 songs in your pocket" and it does! The name was inspired by a scene from "2001"A Space Odyssey" which included the line, "Open the pod bay door, Hal!"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Around the Emerald Necklace of Cleveland

The first photo is Squire's Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation. The next two are at Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the last is nearby on the towpath trail which will soon extend from Akron to Cleveland. Amazing beauty that we all take for granted too often.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Do You Really Believe?


If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition - and then admit that we just don't want to do it.

Stephen Colbert

Monday, October 10, 2011

Testing Children

Once again, I am feeling frustrated in the age of "blaming teachers" for everything from students underachieving(regardless of the circumstances)to making too much money that has ruined the state budget.

I would like to share some excerpts from an article by Diane Ravitch, a former US assistant secretary of education, a historian of education and a professor at New York University. the article addresses the failure of No Child Left Behind, the ten years of testing students grades 3-12.

Maybe standardized tests are not good predictors of future economic success or decline. Perhaps our country has succeeded not because of test scores but because we encouraged something more important than test scores - the freedom to create, innovate and imagine.

Instead of sending the vast amounts of money that schools needed to make a dent in this goal, Congress simply sent testing mandates that required that every child in every school reach proficiency by 2014 - or the schools would be subject to sanctions. If a school failed to make progress over five years, it might be closed, privatized ,handed over to the state authorities or turned into a charter school.

The fundamental belief that carrots and sticks will improve education is a leap of faith, an ideology to which its adherents cling despite evidence to the contrary.. . experts who concluded that incentives based on tests hadn't worked.

. . . testing every child every year and grading teachers by their student's scores - is not found in any of the world's top performing nations.

Piece by piece our entire public education system is being redesigned in the service of increasing test scores on standardized tests at the expense of creativity, innovation and imagination that helped this country succeed.. . competition produces winners and losers, not equality of educational opportunity

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When despair for the world grows in me . . .

I've realized lately that the divisive state of our country, the injustices I read about and see on the news daily are beginning to stretch my soul and spirit.

From a young age I had a sense of indignation at injustices and it was then that I began writing about them. Then, as an adult, I became completely consumed with raising children, various relationships, and discovering myself and how I would spend my time in life. My 30's and 40's were turbulent, and life is a little calmer now.

My mind is uncongested of so many yearnings now. I attribute this to my new-found frustrations with politicians, education, infighting and generally NOT coexisting!

There is a running dialogue in my head on various topics and I don't like it! There may be times when righteous anger makes a real difference, but in reality we have very little say and very little impact on the larger world. We can, of course, make smaller positive changes in our own corner of the world and sometimes this is all we can do.

In a moment of serendipity I came across this poem today. The first and last lines captivated me. I don't want to live in a state of anger or even frustration so tonight instead of watching the news I will come into the peace of wild things.

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coexisting With . . . Crows.

I just read an amazing book called "Crow Planet" by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Your first reaction is probably - crows? Yuk! Those disgusting birds picking at bloody roadkill?

Well, of course they are just finding their daily bread like the rest of us. Personally I am always enchanted with birds. They are my favorite of God's creatures (along with dogs) and I think they are all beautiful (even the Canadian geese that traverse and befoul our yards and neighborhoods). Haupt convinces us of the intelligence and ingenuity of the ever-present crows. She tells of how they have learned to drop a nut from a tree onto a road and wait for a car to run it over and crack it before swooping down to retrieve it. She tells of how playful the crows are, taking a stick into the air, dropping it and then catching it on the way down.

What this book really did for me is remind me to slow down and observe what is around me. I love seeing the wildlife around me, but do I really observe what they are doing?

I want to co-create a nation of watchers, of naturalists-in-progress, none of us perfect, all sharing in the effort of watching, knowing, understanding, protecting, and living well alongside the wild life with whom we share our cities, our neighborhoods, our households, our yards, our ecosystems, our earth. All of us in cafes, pulling out our laptops and beside them our binoculars, just in case we want to see how that crow outside the window is doing with his bit of garbage, how his feet work to hold down the paper bag while his nimble bill extracts the french fries. Just in case we want to see, above the crows, the swooping swallows that only days ago arrived all the way from Mexico, violet feathers shimmering. From the swallows we can turn to the person at the table across the way and say, "Did you ever see a more beautiful color of blue?"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coexisting in Scripture


My favorite book of the bible has always been Romans because I think it gives reasonable and common sense guidelines on how to live in this world. You must adapt some things to the century we're living in, of course. When the following scripture was read in church a couple weeks ago it struck me as very timely. With a presidential election coming at us all too quickly I notice how many candidates use their Christianity as a part of their platform - then turn around and slander, belittle and berate their opponents. In some ways my indignant posts are judging them I suppose, but I have not chosen to put myself on the world stage proclaiming my sanctity either. I can't seem to hear anyone who only has insulting comments to make on others. I wish there would be a debate when candidates were only allowed to speak for themselves and not the other people standing there.

Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgement on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:1-4

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Romans 14:13

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:19

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Honor of Lou Suarez

I am posting a beautiful poem by Lou Suarez, my poetry mentor and friend.

At Last


by Lou Suarez

We rise to work, then rest to rise
again, the cancer in your breast
familiar now as this scarred
nightstand beside our bed,
still stunning as the mountain
trails we hiked just last autumn.

Remember how, at one vantage,
dangling your feet over the edge,
you fractured shale stones and
flung the debris into a gust of wind
overhead. Our ears felt numb,
so silent was the violet dusk,

so tender our soft tissue then.
Today under the eaves a wren
sang. We listened, dissolving like
some new alloy, pliant and light,
heat and stress tolerant, tempered
by the cool song just before winter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Sacred Turning

In our dream of an unencumbered world
we lose the perfection and
what was never ours to keep.

The miles and years, pieces of purity,
when everything was summer-colored,
in the recalcitrant beauty of innocence.

The days we missed, the unopened book,
the gold dust lying in our open hands,
wishing for a static moment

to evolve out of the purple darkness
to the peach-pink of dawn,
an opus yet to be born.

We wait for our days of decision
to reverse, bringing light to our shadows
and the trembling truth behind eyes, ribs.

Neglecting out gifts and all we will never do,
we learn what not to hope for
as the urgency dies in the scarcity of time.

Life is a Judas kiss, a lamentable state,
and yet, in a sacred turning we may find
God was speaking to us all of the time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11th


it snowed paper
it rained blood and tears
it ushered in a united pain
then we heard screaming
and our songs
and an altered skyline
we saw flags
we inhaled dust and fear
we touched a future
veiled in smoke and war
we loved our freedom and comfort
we saw it collapse before
our eyes

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day and Unions

History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation, but enlarged it by raising the living standards of millions. Labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted a whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor unions forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.
Martin Luther King Jr.

With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for developing the character of man than any other association of men.

Clarence Darrow

Our labor unions are not narrow self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor.
John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quotes for the Last Day of August

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much of life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau
1817-1862

Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
T.S. Eliot
1888-1965

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

William James
1842-1910

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yoga

Well, today is my last day of summer. It has been wonderful and I will be returning to teaching on Monday. Every summer I fill with writing, seeing friends and family and doing household projects. This summer I added yoga. I have done yoga poses and positions, or asanas, for over 30 years. But this summer I learned the "practice" of yoga by attending classes 2-3 times a week. Each class is an hour and 15 minutes (and some of them kicked my butt!) Through the classes and all the wonderful teachers I learned the real meaning of yoga practice - but I am still a beginner. I see the value of classes because there are too many distractions at home.

Yoga is the state of union between two opposites - body and mind. Between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. It is a process of uniting the opposing forces in the body and mind in order to achieve supreme awareness and enlightenment.

As you go through the various asanas you are guided by the instructor in your thoughts as well as what your body is feeling. You become aware of every unique part of your body and each muscle's job. You find your mind clearing of all the worldly crap that may be taking up space there. At the end of the class there is always a time of mouna - or the practice of silence, when you can fully experience the relaxing effects of the past hour. You leave feeling strong and whole and united in mind and body. I will miss the mouna - the silence, the most when I return to the elementary school next week. But I will make an effort to continue my classes and practice as much as possible because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of yoga this summer.

This is what the teacher said yesterday: You are a vibrant expression of infinite intelligence. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Grand Show


This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming; on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir
naturalist, explorer, writer 1838-1914


Photo of sunrise on the Carribean July 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good Books

One of the wonderful things about summer for a teacher is the time to read. Somehow a good book is even more appealing while sitting on the deck (or beach) with a nice glass of wine or a cool iced tea.

I read four excellent books this summer and I want to share them with you.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. I love books that are sagas, that span a long period of time. This story starts out in Ethiopia with the tragic and compelling birth of conjoined twins, brothers who are separated at birth while their mother, a nun, dies in childbirth. Their father, a doctor, witnesses her death and abandons his boys to an Indian doctor, who raises them as her own. It continues for the next 25 years of their lives, through loss and betrayal, but with an almost mystical bond that the boys have. They both become physicians and one ends up in New York City. The book has an unexpected and shocking ending. Well worth the read.

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman. I never thought I'd read a Neil Gaiman book. He is most well-known for writing a type of fantasy and the Sandman graphic novels. Not my thing, but curiosity got the best of me. Even as I was reading the epic American Gods I was shocked that I was loving it. I chose the 10th anniversary issue which advertised "author's preferred text". I just discovered that it contained 12,000 extra words from the original! I cannot even describe this book to you so I am giving you the Wikipedia description:
"The novel is a blend of American, fantasy and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centered on a mysterious and taciturn protagonist, Shadow."
Gaiman is from England and now lives in America. This is his take on what makes America spin.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. If I could write like anyone I might choose to be Ann Patchett. She is also the author of Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars. Her books are wildly diverse in their topics. State of Wonder takes an American research scientist into the jungles of Brazil to check on the progress of an elusive scientist for a pharmaceutical company. She is also sent to discover what happened to a coworker who was reported dead. There, she becomes enveloped in the Amazonian tribe and their ways of living. It's a fascinating look into a world most of us know nothing about. Also, has quite a cool ending.

Life by Keith Richards. I can't really call myself a Rolling Stones fan let alone a Keith Richards fan, but I love autobiographies if they are well written and take you on journey into the person's life - and this one does that. He writes in a charming way. I particularly enjoy discovering how famous or successful people came to do what they have done, and this one is no exception. I did learn more about recreational drugs than I eve needed to know, but it was still a great read.

If you read, or have read any of these I'd love to read your comments. and of course, my own book The Desire Path is still available if you're looking for a good book:))

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Not Expressed

This is an excerpt from a book called "The Book Of Awakening" by Mark Nepo. It is a book of inspirational essays for every day of the year. My poem, "Unopened" (see below) is about my confusion at sometimes feeling rejected and even disrespected for the ways that I am compelled to express myself. I have experienced the desire for self-expression to be a blessing and a curse. People react with anything from encouragement and support to indifference and bitterness. I am always taken aback by the range of reactions since I consider what I share with the world from my heart and soul - with no other agenda but to do what God has given me to do.

One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen King, who says - "If God gives you something to do, why in the world wouldn't you do it?"
Another is from Mark Twain:
"Keep away from small people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you can become great."

A recent discouraging experience was in extreme contrast to my friend, Gail, who is a writer and poet, who took the time the other day to call me just to encourage me to continue promoting my new book. She had put a great deal of thought into ways that I could market it and assured me that she found the book worth every bit of effort I could give it. Amazing generosity.

What is Not Expressed
It seems the more we express, that is, bring out what is in, the more alive we are. The more we give voice to our pain in living, the less build-up we have between our soul and our way in the world. However, the more we depress, the more we push down and keep in , the smaller we become. The more we stuff between our heart and our daily experience, the more we have to work through to feel life directly. Our expressed life can become a callus we carry around and manicure, but never remove. Experience can in effect lose its essential tenderness and poignancy, as we mistakenly conclude that life is losing its meaning. To a man unaware of the cataracts filming his eyes, the world seems dimmer, not his seeing. How often do we find the world less stimulating, unaware our heart is diminished because its encasement in all that remains unexpressed?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Unopened

It is only risking ourselves from one hour to another that we live at all.
William James

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too can become great.
Mark Twain


I laid myself open,
freely sharing what God had given me to do,

what, for years, had joyously been rendered
from within my heart and spirit.

But the gift was left unopened in indifference,
an experience denied in a poverty of the imagination,

erasing years of acquaintances,
making all former conversations moot,

leaving me a stranger when I longed for an embrace,
a sharing of spirits and souls and friendship.

But it cannot diminish me,
it will not remove the truth and beauty

of the unopened gift.
It will not vanquish what I meant for good.


Monday, August 8, 2011

My New Heroine


Dame Helen Mirren, 66 years old, was recently voted "Best Bod" by a fitness magazine. This is what she recently said to Women and Home magazine.
"My big complaint is, why aren't more dresses made with sleeves? I don't want to wear a frumpy jacket over a sleeveless dress, and it enrages me that it's so difficult to find anything beautiful with sleeves. If you think of Elizabethan dresses or turn-of-the-century fashions, there are some amazing things you can do with sleeves, so why do so few designers put them on dresses?"

My sentiments EXACTLY! Thank you Helen. I hope someone listens.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So Sad - The End of Our Bookstores?


All I have heard is people expressing sadness over the closing of Borders. I feel the same way. Not just because it seems to be a frightening end of an era for all of us baby-boomers, but because I have personal feelings about our Borders as well.

There is a Borders right around the corner from my house. My husband and I went through some difficult years, in part, because we were restricted in where we could go and how long we could stay away from the house. Borders became a haven for us. It was sort of like our date night during the week where we could browse in the relative quiet with a coffee or a chai tea latte ( I never got over them changing my favorite chai tea to something much less tasty). We'd go our separate ways but end up back in the cafe sharing what we'd found on our journeys through the store. There was always something new to see. For a while my writer's group met there in the cafe as well. It just seemed like a natural place for writers to meet.

I completely understand the prominence and importance of electronic media. I have no problem with people who are enamored of their Kindles or Nooks. I think shopping on Amazon is fine if you know exactly what book you're looking for. But browse the Internet for a good book? I don't think so.

How many times has the cover or title of a book caught your eye? Then what did you do? You picked the book up, maybe read the cover, flipped through, felt it in your hands, noticed how many pages it had. Then maybe you put it back on the shelf - only to come back later when you realized you wanted to read it.

I can't imagine how many books I would NOT have read if I hadn't been able to peruse them in the book store. That is being taken away from us now.

The only bright spot I can see in the closing of so many "big box" bookstores is a reverse in the dwindling number of independent book stores. Did you ever see the movie - "You've Got Mail"? Your heart breaks when Meg Ryan has to close her mother's children's book store in the middle of New York City because she has been run out of business. Now the independent stores that have somehow survived those years I think will begin to thrive because book-lovers love looking at and holding real books. I think this is true for my generation and my children's generation as well.

When my daughter was a young girl she was in love with "The Babysitter's Club" books. It was an anticipated event to get to the bookstore on the day the new one came out to buy it. I had little money then, but nothing made me happier than buying a book for her that I knew she would read and enjoy. We would arrive at home and she would immediately crawl into her bed and start reading. How would that have compared to ordering it on the web for a 9 year-old?

I'm not sure what will become of actual physical books once the children born in this millennium grow up. All I know is that all three times I have opened a box and pulled out a book that I wrote and held it in my hands, I cried. Writing those books would have never felt complete without seeing it in someone's hands - or seeing it on my bookshelf.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our Mexico Vacation

Last week I was fortunate to spend my days on the beach in Mexico. My husband and I have had two close family deaths in the past 6 months and we used the week to just BE together - in peaceful respite. Somehow the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, the sound of the relentless waves and the opportunity to leave the world behind for a few days was healing. I did not see a computer screen for 6 days and did not miss it at all, but I am happy to share a few photos from our week.

This was the view from our room.



I loved exploring the tidepools and finding all kinds of creatures - thousands of sea snails clustered together in their colonies.



The water is perfectly clear and full of lovely (and friendly) iridescent blue/silver fish as well as some yellow and black striped ones that would circle around me, presumably looking for food.


We arose early on our last day to watch the sun rise on the Caribbean Sea.

PS - I am unsure about the spelling of Carribean - Caribbean. The dictionary has the latter, but it was spelled with two R's in this morning's paper. I'm a spelling nut
.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Post Secrets part 2

On May 1st I shared some entries from a book called "Post Secrets - Confessions on Life, Death and God." They are real secrets that are mailed anonymously to a man named Frank Warren and he compiles them into books. They come from all types of people from all over the world. Here are some more:(a little more light-hearted)

I'm an artist. Sometimes I give my pottery and painting to Goodwill in hopes that someone will fall in love with them.

When another woman steals your man the best revenge is to let her keep him!

My dad is my hero. He's dedicated his life to God and his faith, and made me a better person, So if there isn't a heaven I WILL kick some ASS.


I'm starting rabbinical school and I love BACON!

Seeing happy families doesn't make me sad anymore now that I've joined yours.


If my dog were human I think he would look like Brad Pitt.

Sometimes I text the "wrong" person..on purpose, just to start a conversation.

When I cook alone I always pretend I'm cooking for the Food Network.. audience and all.

I had an entire fake conversation on my cell phone so that I could brag about my kids to the snotty neighbor who I know was listening through the fence.

I make purposeful eye contact with men as they leave the "adult film" video store. I find it amusing. They don't.

I hate my living room couch so I let my dogs pee on it to force my husband into buying a new one.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's Your Idea of Heaven?

I recently read Keith Richards' memoir called "Life". I didn't read it because I was ever that much of a fan of the Rolling Stones, but I love to read about how people came to be who they are and do what they do. Always fascinating to me. Well, in this particular book I learned more about drugs than I ever needed to know and I do wonder how this man is still alive. It seems all successful groups break up at one point because of personality conflicts and usually one member tries to take over and be the star. (I just saw the musical "Jersey Boys" the other night. It's the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons - many similarities. And what a great, entertaining show - I highly recommend it!)

I digress. There was one passage in Keith Richards' book that I found interesting. At no point did he profess to have a faith, but apparently he married into a religious family and therefore has had to do some reflection. This is what he wrote about heaven. Since none of us really have a clue about it this might be as good an explanation as any other. I kinda liked it.

"I've never found heaven, for example, a particularly interesting place to go. In fact, I take the view that God, in his infinite wisdom, didn't bother to spring for two joints - heaven and hell. They're the same place, but heaven is when you get everything you want and you meet Mummy and Daddy and your best friends and you all have a hug and a kiss and play your harps. Hell is the same place - no fire and brimstone - but they just all pass by and don't see you. There's nothing. No recognition. You're waving, "It's me, your father," but you're invisible. You're on a cloud, you've got your harp, but you can't play with nobody because they don't see you. That's hell."


The reason that makes sense to me is because A) I don't believe that my God is a punishing God. He made us, He loves us. B) I believe we are on this earth to learn to love each other and to love God. Period. That's what I believe. And if we did not take the chance to love those around us, if we ignored the presence of God all the days of our lives then maybe we deserve to just be alone. And that, indeed, would be hell.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Battery Life

by Dane Zito

(This was written by a high school senior and friend of my late step-son Louie, who passed away in February at the age of 27 from muscular dystrophy. We have all been touched by his maturity, writing talent and profound compassion. He gave me permission to share this with you.)

The sun illuminated the landscape ahead as we approached
the neighborhood lake, your wheelchair bulldozed
the blades of grass.The wooden bench comforted me,
the branches above protecting us,but your body
still becoming weaker. Yet, you always made me laugh.
The battery on your wheelchair glowed green; full power.


The clouds cart wheeled in front of the sun, the air
becoming colder,as you grew old. Your brittle fingers
struggled to text as we sat staring at the water.
We observed our friends swim and play but I always chose
to stay with you. The eye of the birds stared at us,
as if they were listening to us talk. The battery meter
on your wheelchair flashed yellow, losing power.

The sun battled the clouds, the rays narrowed through the sky,
the grass accepting the light the sun provided. You were hungry
so I fed you,cutting your food into bite size pieces you could
manage to eat. The straw pressed to your lips,
the liquid washing down your throat.The battery meter
on your wheelchair flickered orange, power halfway gone.

The sun jumped behind the lake sliding down the sky,
painting the sky red. Darkness nearly won but you kept fighting.
You had no energy to do anything but I would still see you.
The Xbox controller exploded when it hit the ground but I helped
you placing it back in your hands. The battery meter
on your wheelchair has now turned to red, low power.

Darkness painted the sky, the sun disappearing,
the clouds choking any light that was left. I cried.
My palms crushed my face not knowing what to do.
I miss you already, and now I understand what it is like to
be alone. We no longer could see the lake.
The battery meter on your wheelchair shows no color, no power.

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th 2011

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck


This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith. ~Lyndon B. Johnson


There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. ~William J. Clinton

Monday, June 27, 2011

That Wednesday

That Wednesday

will mark all other Wednesdays.
That prosaic middle day

between our past
and all the days to come.

The exigency of the living carried on
while we were enveloped in

the sudden beauty and stink of the lilies,
in baskets and baskets of sorrow.

Now we speak to him in the day,
at night, in his room of earthly things.

We speak softly to each other
until we lose our words,

until there is nothing left
unfinished between us.

We wonder about his unexpected journey
to a place we do not understand.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Coexist Update and a Breath of Fresh Air!

A couple posts ago I wrote about the Greater Cleveland Congregations. More than 40 religious congregations showed up for the first meeting - Jews, Muslims,Evangelicals, Protestants, Unitarians (and only one Catholic representation due to the Bishop's non-support of the GCC.)

After a year of clergy meetings and brainstorming sessions with congregants the GCC announced it's five-prong agenda.

"We intend to organize, and campaign for good jobs, acccessible and affordable health care, safe and productive schools for our children, fair and equal treament in our criminal justice system, and sustainable and healthy food." said the Rev. Tracey Lind.

Connie Schultz reported in the Plain Dealer that "Greater Cleveland Congregations, like any interfaith group has a lot of work ahead, starting with its budget. The religious organizations contributed half of the $250,000 goal. The rest must come from foundations and private donations unless more religious organizations step up. That invitation remains open."

I hope I will have more news of this initiative in the future. A true example of COEXISTING!

And now for a breath of fresh air:

Yesterday former Utah governor John Huntsman announced his candidacy for President of the United States. In his speech he made it clear that he won't "run down" his rivals for the GOP nomination - or the president. He decried the "corrosive" 21st century politics and said, "I respect the President of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president, not who is the better American."

What? Did I hear ( and read) this right? Someone who intends to campaign on his own opinions, ideas and strengths without belittling, insulting and sarcasm? Not only coexisting in a campaign - but a true breath of fresh air! One I will be willing to listen to no matter what his political party. We will soon see if he can keep THIS campaign promise.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Daddy's Girl
(originally published in "The Storyteller")

You will never again trust
as you did

when Daddy was twice your size,
his arms the greatest you knew,

they could straighten your baton
or chop down a tree in the front yard.

He won every game
and you were his best partner.

Driving in the Fourth of July storm
your dread of lightning and thunder

abated with Daddy's hands
on the wheel,

fearless, you traveld the country
with the deepest knowledge

that Daddy
would bring you safely home.

He never told you he'd give his life
for you, you were born knowing.

You never felt doubt until the day
he held your hands and then let them go.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Coexist XXXII - Working Together for Social Justice

Nearly 40 synagogues, churches and mosques have joined in coalition to form Greater Cleveland Congregations in an effort to work together to build power for social justice. GCC will unite people across lines of race, class, religion and geography to promote public, private and civic-sector actions in the belief that it will strengthen and improve the quality of life of Cleveland's neighborhoods.

Some of their goals are to work for good jobs, accessibility to health care, safe and productive schools for children, just and fair treatment in the courts, prisons and re-entry programs, alleviate hunger and improve the environment.

Reverend Jawanza Colvin and Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk stated in a recent PLain Dealer article that "we pledge to fulfill what our faiths envision as the result of such unity;honest and civil discourse on issues that trouble us most and a promotion of solutions that produce improvement in quality of life for all people."

HALLELUJAH!!

If only certain sectors of our government would follow these guidelines instead of fighting and criticizing each other maybe some issues of social justice could become a reality in America.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quotes for the Last Day of May

What you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
Gospel of Thomas

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle

A chief event in life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go put your creed into your deed.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stuff On My Mind

The other day I filled in for a second grade teacher. I was in the classroom for one hour and for that entire hour one little boy did nothing but tattle. It reminded me of many politicians during election time. Children are children and hopefully they will someday accept the old adage that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. I said to the little boy "Sorry, but I can't hear tattling" and I covered my ears - just as I will do every election time, because grown-ups should know better.

The longer I live the less I understand politicians. So many of them claim to be "Christians". My assumption is that it is supposed to indicate to us that they are honest and trustworthy. As far as I know Christians still believe in the Bible and particularly the teachings of Jesus.

I guess I was reminded of how scripture is so often ignored (when it is convenient) by the rapture predictions of the weekend. The guy is still scratching his head wondering how his calculations could have been wrong, even though in Matthew 24 we are told that we will not know the hour He is coming - He will come like a thief in the night. Personally, I'm OK with that.

A great deal of what passes for current Christianity consists of denouncing other people's vices and faults. - Henry H. Williams

Being a teacher I have recently been made out to be a greedy, pampered slacker taking all the state's money, by our new governor. I join with gay people in wondering what the verse in Matthew 5 and John 15 and Galatians 5 (among many others) - love one another as I have loved you means to these people. I cannot find anywhere in the scriptures where Jesus puts conditions on that statement.

The devil loves nothing better than the intolerance of reformers. James Russell Lowell

Jesus also required us to take care of the poor and needy. There are over 300 biblical references to this. Yet most of Ohio's state budget cuts will involve $1 million cuts to food banks, $12 million from children's hospitals, $427 million from nursing homes, $15.9 million from adoption for special needs children, not to mention schools and libraries.

A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization. Samuel Johnson 1789

Mr. Kasich, however, has achieved a precedent in taking $31,400 in airplane trips in his first 80 days and given all his staff members raises. To be fair, he's not on the "I'm a Christian" bandwagon, but he was raised a Catholic and sends his children to Christian schools.

Even if you are not a Christian you may admire the teachings of Jesus - peaceful living, loving our neighbors and tolerance for those unlike ourselves. Jesus is my example of COEXISTING.

I struggle everyday with children who are unable to coexist with their peeers. They are defensive, angry and focused only on the actions of others. They tattle and complain to the point of being unable to do their schoolwork. They have some paranoia, always believing someone is picking a fight with them. I have not found the magic to make that stop. They may have learned this attitude at home, or do not have the personal security to be able to tolerate the faults and differences of others. It makes me sad to see children so unhappy with their surroundings. With my disabled students it is often an avoidance technique, but still sad.

I wish people in public officce would be good role models. They have the opportunity to set a different tone in this culture. There is enough heartache through things we cannot control like hurricanes and floods. And if they are Christians - which is NOT a requirement of public office in America - I might add, I wish they'd at least attempt to show us what a Christian is, given their great opportunity to do so. I don't know about you but I never did hear what Sarah Palin was going to do for this country because all I heard her say were criticisms of others. Not so Christian, but hey, I'm certainly not a perfect Christian - but I also don't use it as a public platform.

I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end .. I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be inside of me. Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Beautiful Mother's Day Gift


I had my first canary, Oliver, for 11 years and my second one, Sunny, for 8 years. Sunny died about a year ago and I have missed him ever since. I just didn't get around to fnding another canary - and apparently they are hard to find these days as well as pricy! Sunny didn't sing for his last several years, which I assumed was a result of old age. Then, a couple months before he died he sang again, but not with the gusto of earlier years. It was, of course, his "swan song."

The Friday before Mother's Day my daughter called and said she was coming over. She handed me a little cardboard box with holes in it and inside was the cutest little yellow and brown canary. I didn't know they came with colors other than yellow! I loved his markings and his personality immediately. He very comfortably hopped into the cage and almost immediately started chirping and singing - LOUDLY! He never stopped moving or singing, so by the next day I had an appropriate name for him - ROWDY!

This is not a very clear picture of ROWDY because he never stops moving! He is a joy. Somehow you cannot be blue with a canary singing it's heart out in your presense.

Thank you to my thoughtful, wonderful daughter.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Readin' and Writin'

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, somethiing no one would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
Christopher Morley
1890-1957

Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.
Arthur Helps
writer, 1813-1875

Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you're a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act. Truth is always subversive.
Anne Lamott
from Bird by Bird

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Finally Spring in Cleveland!!

I just read a book by Mark Winegardner called "Crooked River Burning." It's a novel set in Cleveland and mentions every single Cleveland memory I have and every Cleveland event and celebrity from my childhood. Interesting. Here's a paragraph from the book that I could really relate to:

SUMMER NIGHTS! What is there to say about summer nights in Cleveland. This: Rock it, daddy-o! In Cleveland there is no spring. In Cleveland there is winter, then a wetter, meaner sort of winter (to be a Clevelander is to have a story about a ten-inch snowfall in April that you endured with good grace, a story you tell whenever the chance arises, to horrify Sun-belt pantywaists.) Then one day winter/wet-winter ends and, bingo-bango, it's summer time. After enduring what a person made of less-stern stuff than a Clevelander would confront in five winters, ten winters, maybe even a lifetime of winters, you've by god, earned your nine and one-half paradisiacal weeks of nighttime glory. You're Goldilocks baby, and you've spent some twenty-some weeks in the too-hard bed and twenty-some weeks in the too-soft, and you hit the sheets on Baby Bear's bed and you can't believe how heavenly it feels to feel just right. Just right!

But this an't no fairy tale, jack. Get your fairy tales the pantywaist hell out of Cleveland.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For My Daughter on Her Birthday

When You Came

When you came
the leaves and lilacs came too

while we were gone in that secret place
the world went on

when you came
we were apprentices together

you brought forgiveness
and redemption for idle days

you brought love where
it had not existed before

when you came
I saw the world

as God made it
in your eyes

and I will never forget
the day you came

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Postsecrets

Frank Warren, sometimes called "the most trusted stranger in America," began collecting secrets for a community project in 2004. Since then more than 400,000 anonymous postcards from around the world have found their way to Warren's mailbox. The postcards have been featured in museum exhibitions, a popular music video, the best-selling Post Secrets books and an award-winning website. Here are some I found particularly touching from the book,"Post Secret, Confessions on Life, Death and God".

Even though I feel like I'm losing my faith in Christianity, I still hate the smug attitude of most atheists, that not believing in God is something only for smart people.

Rationally I think the idea of God makes no sense, but I cannot get rid of my FAITH no matter hard I try.

When two cars meet at night on a lonely road, when they dim their headlights for each other and their paths cross for that short moment during their journeys in opposite directions, I feel like I am NOT ALONE in this world.

I look for examples everyday that prove there is more good than evil in the world. I always find them.

Just because I don't believe in religion doesn't mean that I don't believe in FAITH.

Since life is so short, I feel I need to be active all the time. I feel guilty for taking time to RELAX.

When I was a little girl, the dance teacher stopped the class, made me hold my position and told the class to list all the things I was doing wrong. Every girl had something to say. I can still hear their voices when I dance.

I'm a Christian but I'm afraid to learn too much about God because I'm afraid it won't make sense and I'll stop believing.

Dear God, will you still love me if I believe in evolution??... My boyfriend won't.

I don't care if I see God in heaven, I only care if I see you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Falling Water




In March we had a little getaway and I got to visit something I had always wanted to see - and it did not disappoint!! "Falling Water" is a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built for the Kaufman family (of Kaufman's Department Stores) in 1936 in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is built into the natural landscape over a waterfall with reinforced concrete and a cantilevered design that seems to defy gravity. In 1963 the Kaufman's only child donated it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and it became a museum in 1964. Over 6 million people have since visited.

I found it to be truly beautiful and hugely inspiring. The second photo shows a living room "hatch" that could be opened to stairs that go straight down to the river and waterfall. Spectacular!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday


One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him, "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Luke 23:39-43

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hopefully - It Gets Better. . .

These comments are taken directly from a blog called "The Stranger". The facts were published by Lindsey Tainer. The commentary is by Dan Savage.

Suicide attempts by gay teens—and even straight kids—are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don't have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found. Those factors raised the odds and were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher. His study found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among kids who weren't bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.
Gay and straight teenagers who live in an areas with more same-sex couples and more registered Democrats, in areas where schools are likelier to have gay-straight student alliances and anti-bullying programs, are less likely to attempt suicide. "Environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth," the study's author told the AP.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

21st Century Education

The children I am teaching today have not lived in a world without the Internet. The children I am teaching today have experienced school mostly as a place to hear about tests and take tests with a paper and pencil - and yet, the way they see the rest of the world communicating and gathering information is through Skype, Facebook, iPhones, iPads, teleconferencing and the Internet.

In 1898 The Committee of 10 came together to create education standards for America. They were learned educators who decided there should be 8 core subjects, that students should be in school for 180 days a year with 6 hours of instrcution, that they should graduate with so many years of math and English etc. Sound familiar?? That was over 100 years ago and we still operate by the same standards.

Then a decade ago we threw in No Child Left Behind. The intentions sounded good, but beyond the poor funding by the government that decreed it, this law has been at the expense of preparing children for real world skills. Research shows we have turned out a decade of young people completely unprepared for 21st century employment. They all may be great at taking bubble tests, but this has not taught them critical thinking and problem solving. Tests have taken the joy out of school and removed any opportunity for teachable moments. Teachers have not had any time to delve into any non-tested subjects.

Leading curriculum expert Heidi Hayes Jacobs has researched our educational system and determined that we are preparing out students today for the world of 1991.

Along with integrating the rapidly changing use of technology, schools need to be graduating critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators. Author Daniel Pink says the future will be ruled by right-brained thinkers. He says that American will never lead in manufacturing again, Those days are over. So if America wants a successful future we will value the creators, those with imagination, the problem solvers. (Maybe MFAs will be more desirable than MBAs?)

The building where I teach is working to become an International Baccalaureate School. We will spend the next year as a candidate school and then become official. I am very new to this process, but my first impressions are positive. Sometimes It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and I am not one to jump into every new fad - I've seen too many fail miserably.

But here is the gist: Education in our building will be student-centered, not teacher-led with teachers giving the answers and students regurgitating them out on a test. It will be research-driven, not textbook-driven. It will encourage the use of all available technology and be project-oriented. It will integrate subject matter just as it is in the real world. We're moving from passive learning to active learning. Does this sound logical to you?

The big drawback is that our students will still be taking standardized tests until our legislators come to their senses and admit that these tests have been mandated to measure teacher performance, not student learning.

How will our kids fare after spending a few years actually learning to think and solve problems? That remains to be seen,but I actually feel some inspiration at this new turn in education - something I haven't felt for a long time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Value of Public Workers

We all know what's been going on. I have been a teacher for over 30 years. I have valuable experience, I have a Master's Degree, I have continued my training and learning all these years - I have stuck with it. I have a retirement plan based on all those years I have worked and I think I've earned it.

But, in the mind of Ohio's new governor, it can be taken away now. Young teachers who planned on supporting a family on a teacher's salary may have to kiss that idea good-bye. I wonder, in 10 years, who is going to be teaching our children, when it becomes a low class, disrespected, low paying job. Is anyone interested in the impact on children?? Do they really expect us to believe that this will balance the budget when all public workers in Ohio amounts to 9% ??

The sad thing is that teachers (I can't speak for police and firefighters) have always been willing to compromise and negotiate for the good of their students. But do we have the chance to compromise and negotiate now? No. When you take away the right to collectively bargain you take away everything.

I think teachers would have been quite willing to rethink and negotiate new agreements on tenure, retirement contributions, maybe even benefits - but we were not given the chance. We have been disrespected and somehow been labeled the enemy.

A small example would be last year when we were asked to give up some planning time during each day and an early dismissal day meant for parent conferences during the school day so the students had more instructional time. I did not hear any complaints (although we miss our early days) what I heard was - this is good for the students. We need more time to TEACH.

Labor unions were created to keep children from working adult hours, to provide workers with clean, safe workplaces, to assure break times and fair wages. Schools that run smoothly and efficiently do so, in part, because of conditions that unions have negotiated. Class sizes are not set for the convenience of teachers, but so that students have a fair and equal opportunity for a real education.

Forty-three years ago Martin Luther King was killed. In his last public speech he said, "You are doing many things here in this struggle. You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. . . all labor has dignity.

To question the dedication of public workers, to assume that we are all out for ourselves, when, in fact, the jobs we do are jobs of service to our communities, to blame us for the unbalanced budget, to take what we have worked for, does not give us dignity.

Will we hear about the governor and the legislators taking a pay cut? How about losing their benefits, or expense accounts? (Does anyone really believe that they actually work a 40 hour work week?) Or will they vote themselves another pay raise?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Where Have All the Protest Songs Gone?

I've been thinking about this long before I read a review in yesterday's Plain Dealer about a book called "33 Revolutions." The author Dorian Lynskey wrote, " I began this book intending to write a history of a still vital form of music. I finished it wondering if I had instead compsed a eulogy."

I am word person, a lyric listener. The sole reason I love certain songs are for their meaningful lyrics. My daughter gave me satellite radio for Christmas. I figured I would hear all kinds of new music and new brilliant lyrics - but, not so much. I started wondering why twentysomething artists are not commenting on the state of our country or the world anymore. Certainly there are enough reasons to protest!

I grew up in the 60's and 70's when, yes, we had our share of bubble-gum pop, but also evocative, mind-changing lyrics that impacted who I became in some ways. We had Neil Young singing four dead in Ohio, songs like "He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother", Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway, Don't block the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There's a battle outside and it's ragin'. It'll soon shake your walls for the times, they are a-changin."
Other songs like "Eve of Destruction" and "For What It's Worth." I could go on and on.

Now I hear one of the recent top songs is "Just the Way You Are." Didn't Billy Joel write that a few decades ago?
When I see your face there's not a thing that I would change, 'cause you're amazing just the way you are." Brilliant, huh?

Another popular one says, "You're so delicious, you're so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue. You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum."

Even the music is boring. I call them silly little ditties. There's even one called "The Giant Turd Song" but I'll let you imagine the lyrics.

The "Just the Way You Are" rip-off is an artist named Bruno Mars. In the PD review a critic from The New Yorker named Sasha Jones said in her critique of Bruno, that most current pop stars seem oblivious to the times in which they live.

So I did a web search for more recent protest songs. Guess who was doing them in the 2000's? Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Tom Waits... sound familiar?
I looked for some younger artists and there were a few: Pink and her "Dear Mr. President" - What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street? Who do you pray for at night before you sleep? What do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Greenday's "American Idiot" - Don't want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media, information age of hysteria.

John Mayer's "Waiting for the World to Change" apparently his protest against the apathy of his contemporaries in song writing. Now if we had the power to bring neighbors home from war, they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on the door."

There were a few more - Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, Eminem, Arcade Fire, but can you think of a current song that is going to stand the test of time like the ones written in the passionate time of the 60's and 70's? We are in two on-going wars, we have lived through a disastrous economy, we have poverty and hunger, celebrity worship and disease - doesn't anyone have anything to say? I am around a considerable amount of twentysomethings and I don't hear anything.

Where have all the protest songs gone?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kyrie Eleison

In an unfathomable universe
moving in free will on the path to heaven.
The iniquity we're drawn to
fades to prisms of merciful light.
We are loved and forgiven.
Awash in complacency, mired in errors
of omission, then waking up with wings,
pure love is revealed, and
we are existing in the divine truth
that we dwell in the midst of grace.
Kyrie eleison, christe eleison

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ode to the Wondrous Pencil

I am very fond of pencils. I still think they are cool - along with the fascinating crayon (but that's another post). The following was today's offering from "The Writer's Almanac".

On this day in 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. The eraser-tipped pencil is still something of an American phenomenon; most European pencils are still eraserless. The humble pencil has a long and storied history, going back to the Roman stylus, which was sometimes made of lead, and why we still call the business end of the pencil the "lead," even though it's been made of nontoxic graphite since 1564.

Pencils were first mass-produced in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1662, and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century really allowed the manufacture to flourish. Before he became known for Walden and "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau and his father were famous for manufacturing the hardest, blackest pencils in the United States. Edison was fond of short pencils that fit neatly into a vest pocket, readily accessible for the jotting down of ideas. John Steinbeck loved the pencil and started every day with 24 freshly sharpened ones; it's said that he went through 300 pencils in writing East of Eden (1952), and used 60 a day on The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Cannery Row (1945).

Our common pencils are hexagonal to keep them from rolling off the table, and they're yellow because the best graphite came from China, and yellow is traditionally associated with Chinese royalty. A single pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, or write around 45,000 words. And if you make a mistake, thanks to Hymen Lipman, you've probably got an eraser handy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aquainted With the Night

by Robert Frost

I have been acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in the rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not call me back or say good-bye;
And further still an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been acquainted with the night.

(I like this one because it's very much like something I would write, I think.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do You Pray? - Revisited

My last post stated that I had nothing to say - but surprise - I do! I scrolled down on my own blog and saw that I had written about prayer. Little did I know when I wrote that post that I would experience the subject in a whole new way a mere two weeks later when my life turned upside down.

My stepson unexpectedly died and everyone I ever knew sent their "love and PRAYERS" through calls, cards, emails,visits and Facebook messages. In my previous post I asked whether people were really praying or was that just a way of saying "I'm sending you good thoughts." So God answered my question in a most amazing way.

I FELT, with every cell of my body, the prayers that were being prayed for my husband and me. Can I explain what that means? Not really. No one's prayer took our pain away. No one's prayer stopped the flow of our tears. No one's prayer changed the shock and sadness. But this is what I experienced: A true sense of being lifted up, somehow held up, an undergirding of faith and hope. I cannot describe it better than that. There was hope and the promise of peace.

Going through the agony of a funeral home visitation and funeral is emotionally exhausting and confusing. In a moment your life has changed forever. But we made it. We were held up by all the beautiful things people said, by the stories of their own beliefs about heaven, by every hug and shared tear. This, to me, is the tangible expression of those prayers - and how it comforted us.

I also learned that during the weeks and months following a loss, prayers are needed as much as ever. Keep calling the grieving family, keep visiting, keep telling them beautiful things about their loved one - and especially keep praying for them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random Photos

I have nothing to say so here are some random photos:

Today is sunny and the snow is almost gone here in northeast Ohio, but just 9 days ago I had my fifth snow day this year! This is Stella taking it all in. Barbeque anyone?

A few weeks ago the area was suspended in crystallized beauty as the ice clung to each tiny twig. The sunlight caused a surreal beauty we'd never seen before. It lasted for two days. Click on this one to enlarge and you'll see what I mean.

This is my sweet Stella on a lazy summer afternoon. Well, everyday is lazy for spoiled dogs.

More ice beauty.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Requiem

Introit

This is just a time between losses
and now we've lost the future,
but there is rest, eternal rest ahead.
Doves are in the trees mourning,
an angel rides her winged horse
escorting us to the peace.
In the perpetual light of morning
there is no end,
no end, no end
to the shining on them, on us,
requiem aeternam, dona eis, domine

In Paradisum

Would you walk the same path again?
When the angels poured out their bowls
would you open your mouth wider?
Would you sing heavenly songs louder?
Gently lay your burdens down now,
don't wonder how it happens,
don't speak - just look up.
We have all been under the same sky,
the same loving eye, now we will be
in eternity, in paradise together.
In paradisum deductant te Angeli

Pie Jesu

Oh sweet Lord
untwist the harsh days of this world
and usher us to pure joy.
We are on our way to sleep,
wrapped in your infinite
blanket of love.
Now let the sky close
on all pain, and gift us
with our unearned requiem.
Grant us everlasting rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Grief Observed

I may not be able to write of anything but the grief process for awhile. I hope you don't mind and will bear with me. I hope you may be enlightened in some way. It turns out that grief is an all-consuming experience. One may return to work and smile, go to the grocery store and turn on the television again - but nothing much seems to matter. Life has been put in a stark and revealing perspective.

It has been a profound learning experience. I now know that when a friend loses a parent or sibling they are not all right just because they seem all right. After the funeral home visitation, the cards, the hugs, the funeral itself - there is a whole new life to consider. Something that may have been a singular part of you for all your life or for decades is a void now. You still need to talk, to relive the experience in order to accept it. You still need hugs.

I will now pay more attention to friends in the midst of this experience. I will not stop calling or visiting or bringing food when the funeral is over. I will continue to lift them up in sincere prayer because I have experienced the incomprehensible and indescribable sensation of being prayed for. It does not dry the tears. It does not take away the pain. But it gives an undergirding of hope and strength when you thought you were weak.

Those are my thoughts today. The only other thing on my mind seems to be all the people I would like to thank for their kindness. I will get to that soon. Otherwise, as I said, nothing else seems to matter much right now except loving my husband, who has lost more than anyone ever should.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Grief Observed

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet, I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

From A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Friday, February 25, 2011

Grief

Grief is like a nightmare you can't wake up from. On Wednesday my step-son, Louie, died at the age of 27 of complications from the muscular dystrophy he struggled with all his life. Nevertheless, it was unexpected. My dear husband has been his devoted and sole caretaker all of his life. I lived with him for almost 15 years. If you ever want to donate to a cause help the Muscular Dystrophy Association help find a cure for this horrible disease. And please stop back here in a week or two when I am able to write again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coexist XXXI - Coexisting in Political Viewpoints

Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction;therefore it destroys freedom.
Albert Camus
writer, philospher, Nobel laureate
1913-1960

My previous post and all the furor that is surrounding the states that are proposing eliminating collective bargaining for public employees has made me think a lot about the divisiveness of differing viewpoints. I am disturbed that I cannot express my point of view on this or many subjects to some people because of volitile reactions. In the past I have believed I could calmly discuss anything, but on this particular issue I am unsure whether I could be reasonable and open-minded. Why? Because it effects me in multiple areas of my life and my future - or what I had planned for my future.

I found some comfort in the Camus quote. If I understand him correctly, his brief statement tells me that justice can never be achieved in everyone's eyes. Everyone has a differing life experiences and reasons for their beliefs and viewpoints based on those experiences. If one group achieves their justice, another group loses theirs.

My own convictions have slowly changed over the past 20 years, not due to someone's influence, but due to the particular circumstances I live in every day and the people I have dealt with. Technically I work in a suburban school, but it is an "inner ring" school, which means it is more urban, with a low socio-economic population. Children growing up in poverty and often neglect, but American children deserving of a good life and education nonetheless. These twenty years have opened my eyes to much more than the middle class upbringing I enjoyed.

Maybe I have not paid enough attention in the past, but it seems to me the divisiveness of our country is growing stronger - and as a result will make us weaker. Another quote:

The more we let each voice sing out with its own true tone, the richer the diversity of the chant in unison.
Angelus Silesius

How can we, as human beings, see things so differently? How can what's fair, good and right seem so wrong and injust to someone else? Why can we not accept that someone else has a different life experience and allow for that - even accept it as the other person's truth? When will we stop and LISTEN to the other side instead of using sarcasm and name-calling? We are all Americans and we have enjoyed a good life as Americans. We each have the freedom to make our lives successful or not.

On this currect issue I feel like what I worked for, what has made my life successful, what supported my children and gave me a certain amount of security will now be taken from me and those who desire to be teachers, (or other public employees) in the future. Does anyone hear that - or do you just hear the loud shouting of a political party?

A house divided against itself will fall.
Luke 11:17

Come now, let us reason together.
Isaiah 1:18