Archive for March, 2011

Sarah Kay, photo by themikelee, flickr

I just watched a fun TED Talk (Technology Entertainment and Design) video by accident today.  I love TED.  The most outstanding and interesting people in their particular field present 5-20 minute talks recapping their research.  Many are inspirational or just plain cool.

If for whatever reason you have not been introduced to the TED Talks, then you must immediately go visit the website.  There truly is something there for everyone.

Today I followed a link to listen to a particular website, but the link was wrong.  It linked from Facebook incorrectly, but I don’t think it was truly the wrong link for ME.

Sarah Kay was the presenter.  She is a spoken word poet.  I do not particularly enjoy poetry (I really don’t get it), but I listened.  You can and should listen to her talk.


Sarah started an organization called Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression).  She and her partner in the organization, Phil Kaye, travel around the country, helping students learn more about themselves through spoken word poetry.

I was impressed with her optimism and openness to the pain and hurt in the world, but also for the opportunity for love and acceptance.

When trying to get the students to write their first poem, she first has them write a list of ten things that they know to be true.  She says that most people, in order to be cool, or try to keep their cool, walk around with their guard up all the time, ready to be defensive.  While we try to keep ourselves away from the hurt, we are also keeping ourselves from finding the connections that we so desperately need.

When her students start sharing their lists, they find some common ground between them, and also the things that set themselves apart.  This gives the students a place to start with their poetry.  More importantly, it gives the students a starting point in their self-examination.

I decided to make my own lists.  I could probably make a list of 100 things that I know to be true.  It is not exhaustive, prioritized, or even limited to ten.  Below is a list of random thoughts that popped up in the first ten minutes of list making.

Before reading my list, why don’t you take a few minutes to make your own, then we can compare notes.

Ten (plus) things I know to be true

  1. Everyone is an idiot, flailing about through life and winging it as they go.
  2. The love for my daughter guides my decisions.
  3. I feel shame and guilt daily.
  4. Eyes speak more loudly than words.
  5. I can’t not love my students and give all I have to them, even if it sucks me dry.
  6. Names of actors, movies, songs, and musicians or other useless details will never be important enough to me to remember.
  7. I am PigPen from Peanuts…clouds of dust follow me wherever I go.
  8. Love is a choice, and must be chosen each day by both individuals, especially on the days that you don’t feel like loving or being loved.
  9. Forgiveness and grace are essential.
  10. Curiosity and a love of learning make life more interesting, fun, and just plain worth living.
  11. There is always someone that has it much worse than you and yet each day wakes up loving life.
  12. When someone hugs you, be the last to let go.
  13. When you feel like pulling away, reach out instead.
  14. I cannot trust my instincts.
  15. Color feeds my soul: color in the sky, in the flowers, and on my living room walls.
  16. Dramatic lighting makes me giddy.
  17. I am head over heels crazy about my husband.
  18. Life is an incredible, intricate, and beautiful system of systems.
  19. There is always hope.

While I was writing the list above I felt exposed.  There were a couple of things that I took off of the list because they were just too personal to post on the web.  My uncensored list makes me feel vulnerable.  At the same time, it feels good to be honest with myself, and put some of those truths into words.

Below is another list Sarah Kay mentions in her talk.  I censored this list a bit too.  This list was fun to write, but there are definitely some things that make me feel shameful.  (Dangnabbit…there goes #3 above).

Ten things I should have learned by now, but haven’t

  1. When I call someone they are probably glad to hear from me, not mad because I interrupted the important thing they were doing.
  2. I should know how to put my dirty clothes into the laundry basket.
  3. For someone that really does enjoy getting to know new people, I should have learned how to mingle, make small talk with strangers at large gatherings.
  4. By now I should know what I want to be when I grow up.
  5. Surely I should be able to balance my home life with my the above occupation and financial obligations.
  6. I have never learned how to do my hair or make up, even when I had girly girl friends, I never learned a thing.
  7. Loving to read, you would think that I would have a long list of fiction books that I love.  I have just never really learned to spend my time reading things that weren’t practical.
  8. I’ve never learned to change my oil.  But I can check and replace the fluids.  It’s a start.
  9. I have never learned to do a cartwheel.
  10. Tomatoes are beautiful, fun to grow, delightful to can and make into salsa.  But I have never learned to eat them.
  11. I will probably never learn to stop dreaming, although there are times I wish I could just turn it off.

How do our lists compare?

Forward this post to your friends, and then compare notes with them as well.

Maybe we can learn something about ourselves, and about the ones we love if we are willing to be open and exposed.


As an aside, as I was finishing this post, Morrissey’s song, Sing your Life was playing in the backgroud.

“Sing your life
Any fool can think of words that rhyme
Many others do
Why don’t you ?
Do you want to ?
Sing your life
Walk right up to the microphone
And name
All the things you love
All the things that you loathe”

That’s appropriate.
sing your life lyrics
all about Morrissey

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About a month ago, my daughter read the Phantom Tollbooth, and loved it. Her teacher recommended it, and she even wrote about it on her own blog.

So imagine how tickled I was to see The Phantom Tollbooth DVD on the new arrival shelf at the library. I was excited to sit down with Bean and see how this story all worked out. It was a movie from 1969, complete with eerie, psychedelic music, bad special effects, terrible dialogue, and a didactic tone. I was waiting for it to end as quickly as it began, or for the power to go out so we could just make it stop.

I posted my opinion on facebook. One of my friends responded that he had loved the book as a kid, but it lost some of it’s zip when he reread it as an adult.

Stepping away from a book, movie, or memory for a while, and then revisiting it, can lead to some insight.

For instance, I watched Land of the Lost as a itty bitty kid, and had nightmares because it was all so real. Looking back it wasn’t scary, just pure cheese. Maybe it’s not so much insight as it is that our perspective on life has change significantly.

Recently I reread a book that I remembered enjoying when my daughter was a toddler. It is called, What should I Do With My Life, by Po Bronson.

At the time that I originally read it, I was a new mother trying to figure out how to combine full-time motherhood with a creative part-time career that would bring me fulfillment. My memory of the book was that it was a collection of success stories and people that had managed to figure out how to balance their dreams with the responsibilities, and happiness.

Over Christmas, I bumped into the book again on a bargain rack for a buck. I thought it might be nice to have to loan out, because I do recommend it from time to time.

I just finished rereading it. The book read very differently.

This time, instead of seeing success stories, I saw stories of real people that struggled to pursue their dreams. Some were winners, and some were losers. Some had their dreams within reach, and then chickened out. Others spent years trying out different paths, and then finally figured out how to put those paths together into something meaningful.

Wow. I don’t remember reading any of that 6 years ago. All I saw were people that achieved their dreams.

I liked reading the book better as a grown up. I liked that the people were real. I like being reminded that we are all a bunch of idiots just trying to make our way in the wold, and that very few of us have it all figured out.

I also liked reading about the people that listened to their hearts, and took the steps they needed to live an authentic life.

I’m fairly certain that the book didn’t change, but I did.

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Sunshiny Day

It's almost flip flop weather. Jenny Frech 2010

Yesterday was a sunshiny day for sure.  And I made the best of every moment.

The raised beds were raked, and I started a couple of new compost piles with the leaves that hadn’t decomposed over the winter.

The main compost pile was turned, and amazingly, had broken down quite a bit.

The chickens were moved from their winter location, and their poop harvested for the above compost pile.

A new herb garden, in a much sunnier location was mapped out.

Last fall’s mums were chopped down and Halloween 2010’s pumpkins were scraped off of the grass, and thrown into compost.  Now the front beds look incredibly bare.

Tilly’s winter business was shoveled up and disposed of (Tilly is the dog).

The grill was rolled out of the garage and used to cook up cheesy bratwurst.

Peppers and the last of the tomato plants were planted in trays.

The kids planted onion sets, and I planted spinach seeds.

We all walked down to the neighbors so the kids could play.

A song sparrow sang out loud from the neighbors apple tree.  A crane was heard, but remained unspotted.

And I laid on my back in the grass soaking up the sunshine.

It was warm and good.

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An Email

I got one of those “cutesy” patriotic forwarded emails last week.

Proud to be an Americat by Samantha Decker, Flickr - This photo was not a part of said "cutesy" patriotic email, but this kitten sure is a cute AND patriotic.

They are usually sent to me by Baby Boomers new to the internet.  They almost always have a chain letter feel to them, advising us to forward to everyone we know.  Sometimes I’ll click on it to see where it’s going, and then promptly delete it without much thought.

The email was obviously forwarded to the whole address book.

It was the first time that one of these forwarded chain emails offended me.

Without going into specifics, it offended me on several levels, including religion, politics, and my own personal beliefs about social justice.  There was even some not-so-subtle racism in the email.  The racism referred to a group of individuals and their religious beliefs, saying that America was not for them.

I was torn up about what to do.  I wanted to do the right thing.  I didn’t want to hurt the sender’s feelings.  But I also wanted to stand up for the group that was offended, and I wanted the sender to know that I did not share their feelings.

The letter was not from someone I was close to, so it seemed awkward to talk to them face-to-face.  I chose to send an email response, which was probably the cowardly way out.

I was afraid to check my email the whole next day, worried that the sender would be mad at me.  The sender said that they did not mean to hurt my feelings.  The most disheartening part of this process was that they didn’t acknowledge the racism.

A Letter

The following day, a facebook friend alerted us to a very racist letter to the editor in our local paper.  The letter blasted a different group of people, saying that there was nothing good about any of them, and that they should go home, no one wanted them here.

We are all entitled to our opinion, but sometimes our opinion is ethically wrong.

The writer of the letter was wrong.

The writer of the email was wrong.

When we’re in kindergarten, we are taught to love others as ourselves, that we should be kind to our neighbors, and accept them.

Where do we start to unlearn this?

When does it become okay to bash another group because of their race, homeland, language, religion, sexual orientation, or even occupation?

When do we find the courage within ourselves to stand up for what is right?

I hope that someone would stand up for me if one of the groups to which I belong was getting picked on.

Irena Sendler, a Catholic Polish social worker, smuggled 2,500 Jewish children from the ghettos in WWII.

The Holocaust

Since fifth grade I’ve had a fascination with books and movies about the Holocaust.  I think it started with the tragedy of the stories, and the unbelievability of it all.

As I grew older, I continued to read these books because I lack courage.  It is difficult to see myself standing up for what is right when those around you are doing wrong.  It is difficult to see myself going against the law even if it is ethically right, or if to go against the norm would equal death.

Reading those books was an education for my conscience.  Maybe if I read enough stories, I would have a blueprint on how to do the right thing.

Last year, a friend needed someone to attend a city council meeting with her because her group was being targeted by hate, and she needed someone to stand with her.   My husband and I went, bookending her with support.  It was difficult to hear the hateful words.  I was glad to be there for my friend but was there more that I could do?

After the “not so cutesy” email, I consulted with a trusted friend and mentor about what to do, and how I could most gently respond to the sendee.  I was scared, but I knew I had to do something.  My conscience made that very clear.

I’m trying to find courage to the right thing, but it is REALLY hard to speak up and say, “I disagree” when those around you are remaining silent.

Dweebs and Teachers

For the first time since being grouped with the dweebs in middle school, (dweebs are the lowest of the geek/nerd/dweeb scale), I am in a group that is being defiled by others.

Teachers in Indiana are being subjected to hateful emails from special interest groups, being ridiculed by the press, and demonized by our politicians.  It makes me feel like crap.

Do you know what feels good?

When one parent speaks up and says, “They don’t deserve this!”, or Jon Stewart calls out the demonizers and says, “Teachers are good people.”

I suppose this is a good hurt for me on my journey.  It enables me to feel both sides of an issue, to feel the hurt AND the support of others.

I am chicken.

I want to be courageous.

I have a voice, even if it’s only a whisper.

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