Saturday, June 28, 2008

Writers @ Work

This past week I've been in Salt Lake City at the annual Writers at Work Conference.

Faculty writers included Steve Almond, Dean Bakopoulos, Victoria Redel, Abigail Thomas (her writing happened to be my favorite-favorite and what I would recommend first and foremost to any of you--specifically her memoir A Three Dog Life), and my poet-extraordinaire workshop leader for the past five days, Kim Addonizio. And that woman can bring down a house during a reading--blues-y rifts on the harmonica and a light joking fodder that keeps you riveted. Poetry readings are not the sterile, benign events they once were with that woman reading. The woman puts on a great show, people. So great, you may not recognize her poetic prowess and know-how. (For more information on any of these writers, click on their names.)

It was an inspiring and educational week. I am still reeling with all of the information, the entirety of the experience was intense and overwhelming. I was doing 12-13 hour days soaking in information, attending workshops and panel discussions, and meeting individually with poet and editor, Martha Rhodes, to discuss more about my poetry, fitting writing into my schedule during the school year, and how to move towards publication.

I am so appreciative for the opportunity, the expertise and pure brilliance of my instructors--each were specialists in the craft of writing. Already, I am writing poems and already I can tell that I'm growing as a writer with their supportive voices in my head. And already, I am certain I'm forgetting some of what was said. But oh, what a week!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Annual GIRLS' Trip?

Not so much. You see, our annual girls trip to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho was crashed by boys. That's okay, considering it was Father's Day Weekend and all. :)

I'll have you all know that I didn't have any
near-death experiences, though the Sheriff (who reminded me a bit of Volunteer Deputy Shrewt) did drop by at 3 in the morning. Yes, apparently four grown women in their pajamas and a 4-month-old baby are prime suspect for wreaking havoc in the tiny town of Lava. Imagine, if you will, finally finding a comfortable position on the wretched motel mattress after a night of giggling and gossiping with the girls. Only to be rudely awakened by:

"This is the Sheriff. Open the door or I will have the Hotel Manager do it for me!"

Yes, you guessed it folks. "Room 501" was causing one heck of a ruckus--yelling profanities, throwing furniture off of the balcony (because on the ground floor that's totally our game...totally).

Poor Officer Shrewt, err, the Sheriff. When we opened the door in our jammies, all standing around the door in the glow of his Power Flashlight with scared, wide open eyes (hey--I've never been arrested before), he looked a bit dismayed. Could this possibly be the culprits?

Apparently not, we heard him talking outside with the complaint-maker, reassuring him that, "it's definitely not the ladies in 501. Definitely not."

Other than Friday night's rude awakening, great fun was had by all.

There was, most importantly, this little guy:

We did a whole lotta eating junk food and talking and talking and this activity left my abs and cheeks aching by the end of the weekend:

We played our own version of "Stupid Human Tricks" or something like it.

(Don't ask, just witness the evidence):

Now that you've seen that, you all know you must pretend you never did, right?

I avoided setting foot in THE river altogether. Opting instead to sit in the shade on solid ground watching Its victims pass me by. But there were a few daring victims/souls:

For an annual GIRLS' trip, it was still fun to have our friends' spouses/sons crash in on our party...even if they have their own weird male bonding rituals:

Next year, I think we'll invite officer Shrewt in on the Pretty Panties Pillow Fight. (Okay, that one was for you ladies who were know who you are, you Law Breakers, you).


I have to show off all I've been working on lately.

There is the photo collage in my hallway with fabulously framed scrapbooking paper as art:

Alice, Ashley and I all got together Wednesday and made these fun magnetic message boards. I'm putting mine in my classroom (and yes, that should say BRILLIANT, not RILLIANT...but I'm a moron and botched the B so I'll have to figure out a solution at my local craft store some time soon):

We still have a project day ahead to make our designer magnets for these.

And this is Alice's magnetic message board along with some more framed scrapbooking paper as art in the kitchen:

I am on a roll. Suddenly, I love projects! All that HGTV I've been watching must be getting to me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Self Portrait Challenge

Jumping on yet another bandwagon, I know. Welcome to my newest blogging feature: The Self Portrait Challenge. Alice described it best. I think it is a great idea. The Self Portrait Challenge: an opportunity to show my ever-changing face. The challenge of this is not posing, which I'm prone to do in front of the camera. This is an attempt to catch those natural moments. Me. Raw.

Humor me while I blabber on about why I'm doing this. For me, this is about letting go of insecurities and a faulty self-image. As a woman, I am told how I am to look through a million different mediums. Mediums which, more often than not, tell me I look wrong. The SPC is about me owning my own body and my own face in my own way. No supposed rules. Who cares if I have blemishes or a double chin when I laugh? That is how I look. While I can think this, I don't always feel it. For me, this is about getting to a place where I feel it. Where that critical voice in my head just disappears. I hope that through the Self Portrait Challenge I can capture a piece of me at different spots along my life thread.

And so we begin. We'll call this one "Uncertainty".

Monday, June 16, 2008

Better Late Than Never

It was Father's Day yesterday, but I missed posting a blog because I was out of town (more info to follow...tomorrow hopefully). So, here is my belated post in honor of my dad.

Things I Love...OR Hate to Love...OR Love to Hate About "The Beav":

He has two "swim shirts" he loves to wear to his condo's pool. Each are thread-bare and pitiful. One Hard Rock Cafe: Acapulco (pictured below) was acquired when my brother went on a study abroad to Mexico in the early 90's if that gives you any kind of hint. The older "swim shirt" is a skin-thin Tazmanian Devil Valentine's Day t-shirt reading "Irresistible Force." This one hasn't made an appearance in a while, my mother may or may not have had something to do with this.

He is frugal to a fault. When we were toilet papered, he'd gather the toilet paper and put it all in a giant garbage bag and make US, the victims, use it until the bag was empty. I think he secretly hoped we'd get toilet papered.

In the car, his off-key voice (the man REALLY can't sing) would serenade me: "Mare's eat oats and fowls eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you?" His solo was always followed by his questioning, "Is that right, kiddo? Is that right?"

Teddybear that he is, he would hug anyone. And I mean anyone. Physical boundaries do not exist in his life philosophy. His tender loving heart once kissed my best friend ON THE MOUTH! Yes, you read that correctly. She'd just gotten home from grad school and he was thrilled to see her home again. Apparently, more so than any of us. I tried to stop him but it was all in slow motion and I couldn't quit his puckering in time.

The man loves nuts. Any gift given him is 210% improved if accompanied by a giant Costco jar of mixed nuts (which he received as part of his gift this year). Further proof of his nut obsession: He married my mother (tee hee hee, Ma, you know I love you).

Upon hearing my mother was pregnant with me, he did not respond in joy, oh no. He was embarrassed to be having another 40. "AT FORTY, ADELE! I'll be an old father and people will think I'm the kid's grandpa." You were an old father, Dad. But you're my old father.

Happy Father's Day to my sweet Papa!
You make me laugh, Dad, and I love you very, very much.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This I Believe: The Intrinsic Value of Learning

Every year I have my 9th graders write a "This I Believe" essay. If you haven't heard about this fantastic NPR series, now you have. There is no excuse. My first year of teaching I was a little too gung-ho, I wrote my own This I Believe Essay for two reasons. First of all, this essay had been waiting in the soft corners of my mind for a while. Secondly, I thought this was something my students needed to know about their teacher. I hoped it would be an example in more than one way.

I came across it while exploring the documents on my dying computer today (I'm on Alice's computer lately), and thought I'd share. Enjoy.

I believe in the intrinsic value of learning.

I am the youngest in a big "yours, mine, and ours" family. There were many mouths to feed growing up. My parents "got by" the best they could. While both attended, neither graduated from college. Mom often tells stories about my grandfather's refusal to help her with college, "Adele, why would I waste good money to send you to college when you'll find a man to take care of you?" Women's Lib hadn't hit full force in her hometown yet.

College was encouraged in my family, however. While my parents couldn't back me financially, they put a roof over my head and helped wherever possible. After a year of saving up, I started at a commuter school just five miles from the house I grew up in.

My first semester of college, a new dimension was opened for me. Here people generated ideas, debated theories, and dissected knowledge. There was a passion for learning that erupted in me. The world I'd always lived in seemed suddenly dynamic and vivid the more understanding I gained. I recognized that there was more available and waiting for my discovery than I had time to find. I threw myself into my education, worked odd jobs that fit my schedule, took out student loans, and competed for every scholarship I could find. At the time, I knew that this experience must have been well worth the sacrifices. I grew: in self confidence, in my capacity for analytical thinking, in the very way I interacted with other human beings.

Now, more than six years after that first semester in college, I have transitioned from student to teacher. This decision came at that pivotal point in every student's education where they must ask themselves, "So, what is the actual practical application of my major?" Practicality was what first drew me to teaching. But this passion for learning I'd been fueling made me recognize I had to share this gift of learning. I wanted to help someone experience the same opportunities I had.

Today I teach English to high school kids. When it comes to teaching, I am a novice at best. Once again, I am consistently reminded of how very much I have left to learn. In my students' faces I see some who have already caught the learning bug and others who, unfortunately, struggle through each grueling class period. It is for these students I work hardest, catching them away from their peers to talk not only about future goals, but about what learning can do for the human soul. It is for these students I've spent late evenings at school hunting for materials and methods which will reach their "bored-out-of-my-skull" gazes and strike even slight interest in the power that comes hand in hand with knowledge. I work hardest for these students because they need and deserve the best I can give. It is consistently defeating work. Self-doubt runs rampant. I tell myself that if I can help just one student recognize their potential and give them tools for the road of learning and sacrifice ahead, I have made a significant impact and all the difference in the world for that one person.

I believe the gift of learning is a lifelong process that requires sacrifice and has no final destination. Education is the currency required for true success. True success, by my measure, is an ability to think and feel the force of constant challenge. Education is the ticket to a higher quality of life, a better understanding of self, and a deeper appreciation for everything and everyone around you. If there is one message I have for my students, it is this: Learning has value in and of itself. And this, I believe.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It Must Be Summer

Today at my local Costco I purchased this:


and a gigantic clam shell of these: was my last day at work until next year! It is officially summer in Rookie Land and I can think of nothing better than a bowl full of cherries and a couple of bestsellers to kick this season off right!

Oh, and this came in the mail yesterday! :)