Processing

It’s been three years since Dad died. I wrote this piece immediately after his funeral. I couldn’t post it. It was too close. Three years on, I have come into a different place of grief than what I talk about in the original post. I have more times when there is the pain of loss, the anger at him missing out on accomplishments of my family, the sadness of things I want to share with him. Grief is a strange burden that changes and hides and comes at unexpected times.  This is a long post and it’s certainly more personal than most posts, but if you’re interested, please read on.

I’ve put off writing this post for three weeks. Has it been more? Three and a half? This has nothing to do with education and everything to do with me as a person. Me as a learning, growing and changing person.

So, I’m going to start where I stopped. I’m pretty sure this is going to fall into the category of TLDR (too long, didn’t read) for some of you, and that’s okay. Like I said, this is for me, and it’s something that I need to get out…

…This morning I buried my dad. I say I buried him, but my mom, my brother, and our families buried my dad, my mom’s husband of 52 years, and 5 girls Grandpa/PopPop.

It was a cold, beautiful sunny morning.  The minister met us there and read from his Book of Worship, he said a brief prayer, and then it was over. The whole thing was less than 15 minutes. This is what Dad wanted. He laid out some very specific plans with our preacher. This summer when he was in the hospital he told the family, “Whether I get out of here or not, call the preacher and make an appointment with him. I have some things I need to tell him.”

Later in the afternoon, we held a memorial for him. It was a celebration of his life. It wasn’t a funeral because there wasn’t a casket. It was a memorial service. It was the memorial service that my dad wanted. The service played out as Dad planned it.

The family received family and friends for over an hour. It was incredibly moving. I was very touched by the amount of people that came to pay respects to my dad. I was beyond touched by the number of my friends that showed up to support me.

When it happened, Dad passing, I was with my students as they were rehearsing for the annual Trinity School Christmas Program.  I knew it was coming, my whole family did. We had moved Dad from the hospital to home hospice, but still when I got word it was a sudden slamming on the brakes.

I’ve been making it through as the time has passed. I never thought I wouldn’t, but I’ve been oddly okay with the whole thing. My dad died, though, and I feel like there’s some way that I should be feeling. Obviously, I’m sad. I miss him. I miss him calling me to tell me about an Eagles concert on PBS or calling when he’s at the farm asking if there’s anything I need when he literally couldn’t do it b/c he was 65 miles away.

But I haven’t been so sad that I can’t function. And I feel like I’m not doing it right.

I know there’s not a prescribed way to grieve. I know that, but still…

A couple of weeks after he had died I was in my Man/Boy Room. One of the cats had knocked junk over, as cats are known to do. When I went to clean it up I found the notes that my students had made for me the day Dad died.

That opened up the tear ducts. They had written me personal messages, they had included Bible verses. It makes me tear up a little right now as I’m writing this. They are so touching, and it means so much to me that my seventeen 10-11-year-olds reached out to me in this way.

It was one of those moments that solidifies my choice in careers. I never doubt being a teacher. Well, maybe every once in a while when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and the lesson I thought would take an entire period crumbles after a few minutes.

Where’s this even going? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s like the title says, I’m processing. And part of that processing is being back in the swing of my normal routine. Being surrounded by seventeen 5th Graders that I can share my world with. I give to them and they give to me. Sometimes it’s an even swap and sometimes it’s more one way than the other. And that’s what it’s about, right? Give and take?

One of the things I said in Dad’s service was about something he gave me, and that is  to always help someone out when you can. Always make that choice to help someone out because you never know when you might need some help. And that goes along with the process of give and take.

I miss you, Dad, and I’m sad that you’re not with us anymore, but you left us with so much. I hope to be able to do the same.

 

 

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10 Influential Albums – Day One

Oldies But Goodies Volume 1

A high school friend nominated me for this look at 10 influential albums in my life. I’m super excited and hope you’ll enjoy it. Each day I’ll look at an album that has been a big part of my life at one point or another. I tried to pick ones that have had a lasting impact on me. It hasn’t been easy and for every one I feature, I have one that I could have included, but then, it’s not 20 influential albums…

First up is a compilation. Some people say those don’t count, but I disagree, especially if it is one that first introduced me to several artists and songs that I love dearly to this day. This way my gateway to 50’s rock.

As a kid going on car trips with my family always meant listening to Dad’s music and that is what formed my foundation. Early rock ‘n roll, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly made up these collections. I loved playing them on the turntable! It was good, heavy vinyl, not any of the flimsy stuff that my current records were made of.  This particular album has so many great songs on it. Seems like Side 2 has more of my favorites on there. “Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)”, “Stranded in the Jungle”, and “Let the Good Times Roll” are definitely my favorite. These songs bring back so many memories, all good. I remember several years back Dad was able to burn this onto a CD for me. I honestly don’t know how because to the best of my knowledge he never hooked up his turntable capable of digital transferring, but he knew how much I loved these songs and somehow made it happen. 

It Could’ve Been

Chuck Berry – The Great 28

I know. Another compilation. However, it’s Chuck Berry. I’m not including this one because I have never gone and dug deep into Chuck’s catalog, therefore, as influential as he has been to my musical life, it doesn’t count the way today’s entry does. It does count in that it was an important part of my life when Glitter Queen and I got our second tattoo and this was the soundtrack. Full disclosure – we skipped past “Havana Moon”. That’s my least favorite Chuck Berry song.

Dragon*Con 2016!

It’s been a few weeks now since my favorite weekend-long activity has passed and I’m finally ready to write about it. For those of you that don’t know, Dragon*Con is the  “largest multimedia, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!” The universe. And it’s held here in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend. I love it. I look forward to it all year, but the start of the school year really starts to get me amped up about it.

For several years once Dragon Con ended I would get a little depressed. It is such a hyper-stimulation experience that it pushes me into a manic state. That’s not an exaggeration, you can ask GQ. We actually even came up with a phrase for this post-Dragon Con feeling, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail. It excited me so much that I had a hard time coming down and just getting back to the normal pace of life, which is exactly what you need to do after experiencing a full weekend of Dragon Con. So, for several years, I’d spend the two weeks after the show chasing the Dragon’s tail. I can proudly say that this year I was able to let it go once I left the convention area for the last time on Monday afternoon. That’s a first!

Why do I love it so much? Well, apart from the quotation above – which contains almost all the things I love and hold dear – it’s also the weekend that I get so see some of my favorite characters come to life. I get to walk around in the same space as Captain America, Black Widow, Wonder Woman, Batman (of all shapes, sizes, and costumes), The Flaming Carrot, Wookiees, Stormtroopers, robots, pirates, aliens and really, there are so many more that I can’t even name them all.

So, you may be wondering, do I just walk around agog at the spectacles around me all weekend? Far from it! I also go to several of the panels offered throughout the weekend. This past year Glitter Queen and I got 4-day passes for us and The Girls. When you buy them at the end of the current year’s con you get a serious discount for the following year. This year is the first time that I went down all four days. For all the years that I have been going, I think I went to more panels this year than I ever have before. One of the challenges that attendees face is that sometimes you are interested in more than one panel that is scheduled for a certain time. For instance, this year there was a comic book panel at the same time one for the CW show, Daredevil, was. Dilemma? Not this time. In order to get into panels for big shows like Daredevil you have to line up at least an hour early, if not two. I am not a big fan of standing in line for that long, but will do so on occasion. This wasn’t one of those occasions.

To keep this from being a ridiculously long post I am going to break the days down in separate posts; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday/Monday. I’ll leave you with a picture from last year’s parade. This guy got to come before the parade and kind of prep the crowd. He was having a great time getting the opposite sides of the street to cheer. How’s this related, you may be asking. Well, Dragon Con is completely run by volunteers like this gentleman here. They are dedicated, hard-working people that give up many, many hours of their lives to help out the tens of thousands of people that come and take part in this fabulous event.dscf1801

So, if you’re interested in reading more, look for three more posts over the next few days about Dragon Con.

 

Week of Service

This past week I had the pleasure and privilege to take part in the Week of Service with the Oak Grove UMC Youth Ministry. Five days out of the kids’ summer break were given to help different people in different parts of Atlanta with different needs. I participated Monday – Wednesday. My 14-y.o. did Monday – Thursday and my 11-y.o. did Tuesday and Wednesday. My plan was to include information that I took notes on each organization, but my phone took a bath and the notes are lost, so I’m just providing links to each organization for you to follow up on.13482932_296596774012852_935247682296494223_o

This is the first day and the group of kids that came with us. We went to Open Hand and delivered meals to folks in the Atlanta area. We broke into two groups and delivered meals to 21 people. Some of them invited the Youth in and visited with them. During our orientation, we were told that we may be the only people the clients see during the day. The team that got invited in was much smaller than our other team. We delivered meals to two assisted living communities on the same piece of property. All the clients were happy to see us, but also happy for us to go on our way.

Our second day we headed out to Mountain View Personal Care Home. For this day we were doing some maintenance around the facility. Some painting, some planting, some cleaning. The kids knocked it out very quickly and with only a couple of paint incidents (my 11-y.o. included). Luckily, the incidents were on the kids and not messes on the property. After finishing up our jobs pretty quickly, we loaded our buses back and headed for some good food for Taco Tuesday.

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The third day we headed over to the Toco Hills Community Alliance to help distribute food to families from the  Mobile Food Pantry. We watched as the truck pulled in and unloaded seven pallets of donated food to be distributed. It was hot work! The kids, however, were super efficient and super friendly. They greeted each family that drove through with a smile and arms full of groceries. We left feeling tired, but very grateful for what we have and happy to have been able to help those in need.13497928_297476123924917_4532408098611723673_o13528062_297476127258250_2968021674392176578_o13483395_297479697257893_3176185617188843107_o

The 11-y.o. and 14-y.o. showing some typical great Picture Faces

Thursday was my birthday (yay!) so I took this day off, but the Youth continued on! They made lunches for the Smart Lunch, Smart Kids program in Decatur and then delivered the lunches to some very appreciative children.

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The last day of the week, the Youth delivered care packages for girls ages 12-17 who have been  victims of sex trafficking. The last part of that sentence was painful to type, but it’s real and it is being addressed and helped by the Wellspring Living for Girls organization. Because of the severe nature of the organization, the Youth do not have contact with the girls living at the facility, but instead, they provided the aforementioned care packages to be handed out later. After delivering the packages they were able to help out around the grounds of the facility, doing some yard work and basic cleaning.

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Overall, the week saw 18-20 teenagers give 4 hours daily to help those in need. With summer swim league, jobs, summer reading, daily responsibilities and more, these kids showed up and put in a great effort to help others. It was humbling to be a part of this week. It made me more thankful for what I have. It also made me so proud to be a part of the ministry of Oak Grove UMC Youth. I love working with the kids anyway, but when I get to see them in this type of situation it really makes my heart swell with love and pride.

Earlier this year I spoke about the loss of my good friend, Katie. Katie was an integral part of the Central Night Shelter in downtown Atlanta.  After she died I was speaking with friends about how to move forward after such a loss of such a significant person. Someone who truly lived out Jesus’ words of, “Love your neighbor as yourself” in such a hands-on way. I hope that by taking part in this past week, as well as getting my Girls involved and participating, takes me a little closer to being able to follow in her footsteps.

I hope that you will follow one or more of these links and find a way to help at some point soon; whether by donation or giving some of your time to help. I can say, for me, it paid off tremendously.

Book Review – /The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth/ by Alexandra Robbins

preface statement – I hate that I can’t underline or italicize the title up there

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I found this book on one of the tables in the Teachers’ Lounge at Trinity back in late April or early May. I wasn’t sure I’d get to it, but it’s title grabbed my attention. I started reading it a few days after I took it home and got drawn in pretty quickly.

The author, Alexandra Robbins, follows six individuals for a school year. Each one is given a categorical label along with their name:

  • Blue – The Gamer
  • Whitney – The Popular Bitch
  • Regan – The Weird Girl
  • Noah – The Band Geek
  • Eli – The Nerd
  • Joy – The New Girl

In addition to introducing each of these people, Robbins also gives background information on what she calls the cafeteria fringe – “People who are not part of or who are excluded from a school’s or society’s in crowd.” She goes on to explain how very often those who a part of the cafeteria fringe go on to much more successful lives than the popular, or in crowd, people. She acknowledges that getting through those times of lack of popularity is not easy, and is a “gut-wrenching social landscape”. Robbins backs up her claim of the cafeteria fringe’s post-high school successes with something she calls Quirk Theory – “Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.”

The book is divided up into six parts, late summer-early fall all the way to late spring-early summer. In between each section Robbins introduces new ideas, explores different perspectives and shares stories of current well-known people that were not part of the popular crowds when they were in high school.

As I got further into the book I was amazed time and time again with how horrible high school students can be. I saw myself as part of the fringe when I was in high school, but I was really a floater – I could move pretty easily between groups at school. I did not fit into any easily definable category. I wasn’t a jock, but I swam for my school and played softball and basketball for a church league. I definitely wasn’t a nerd, my grades were far too low to be considered that. I didn’t drink or do drugs, so I wasn’t a stoner. I liked punk rock, but also many other types of music, so no to that too. I had the good fortune to be able to make the choice to walk away from the popular crowd at the end of 8th-grade. I say this as opposed to those that were never given the opportunity to be part of that crowd, more than an arrogant boast.

Robbins’ stories of her subjects are fascinating, sad, alarming as well as funny and touching. One of the subjects has an interesting twist that I won’t spoil. I highlighted over 30 parts of the book that struck me. There really are too many to go into, so I’m just going to try to hit some of the ones that really stuck out to me – positively and negatively.

The whole idea of popularity is split into the standard way of looking at it – the opinion of a person from another to perceived popularity – “how students rank a classmate’s reputation rather than their personal opinion”.

The part I am going to include now really blows me over. Even reading it again for this part just leaves me speechless. This comes from the mini-chapter, Understanding the Popular Bitch

When I asked a popular boy from Arkansas how people at his high school treated               students who were different from others, he said, “We crushed their dreams. We             had a kid who wanted to be cool, but he wore eyeliner, so we invited him to a party,         got him drunk and pushed him into a fire and then some guys peed on him when he         passed out. He moved the next week. [Supposedly due to technicalities, charges               against the aggressors were dropped.] We cut off a Pentecostal girl’s hair and hid             her skirt in gym class, just because we were all Baptists and thought Pentecostals             were weird. We felt it our right to do whatever we pleased. Part of being cool was             uniformity and anything that isn’t part of our hive mind needs to be mocked.”

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.

There’s nothing at all that get me to understand that mind set. Nothing. And the thing is, those kids were probably seen around their town as good, upstanding Christian boys and girls. It’s madness!

There is a section called, The Courage of Nonconformists that I really liked. I’ve always considered myself a nonconformist, and in high school I embraced that. Reading this section made me feel good about that, especially with all the science Robbins includes that shows how our brains are mostly hard-wired to conform. Looking at my daughters now, I can see some of the same non-conformity that I had. GQ had and has it in equal, if not greater quantities than I do.

Robbins talks a good bit about how school systems are designed to get kids to think inside the box when almost every article written about what America needs to do to get education back on track is help to develop students that can problem solve, and almost all of those articles mention students that think outside the box are the ones that are usually best at doing that. I have been fortunate enough to work in three schools where the usual is not the case.

The last part of the book that I’ll talk about is the end where Robbins gives three sections devoted to what students, parents and teachers can do to help this situation. For the students, it again is a little heart-breaking. To be told to hang in there, it will get better seems so shallow, even though it is, for the most part, true. I don’t know how many students will read this book, but I think if they do they can find some hope and some connections with the subjects. I guess the part about the parents seems to be what GQ and I naturally try to do for The Girls. I think the part about what schools can do may be just as hard as what students can do. So much in education is set in stone. So many rules and laws and standards come from people that are not in school buildings daily, with the students. Everything Robbins says is necessary, but not easy to attain at all. However, if an administrator or teacher reads this book and recognizes some changes they can make to help students on the fringe feel more valued then that is a step in the right direction.

I think that The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth should be required reading for anyone going into education. I also think that anyone considering being a parent, or has recently become a parent should read it also. It’s eye-opening on many different levels. I think that anyone who relates to children at all can find something that they can use to make a connection where there might not be one currently, and again, that is a step in the right direction.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is available for Kindle (currently $2.99!!), hardback and paperback.

Current Favorites (fka Top 10 List)

The Cheeps

These chickens. They’re known as The Cheeps here at the Benefield Homestead. Each year Trinity School kindergarten students hatch chicks. Lots and lots of chicks. Since our last chicken experiment didn’t end up like we had planned we decided to start from scratch. I brought 5 chicks home so they could be with us and get used to us (and all the other animals) and hopefully stick around with us instead of flying the coop. Literally. We spend time with The Cheeps every day so as they get older they will not run away from us like crazy chickens, even though that’s what they are. The two white ones and Tina, the caramel colored one seem to get that idea. The two black/gray ones, not so much. It has been fascinating watching them grow. We think that one of them is developing into a rooster – the black/gray one with the growing comb on its head – that we will give to a rooster-friendly home before he starts to crow.  As summer goes on look for updates and pictures.

Keeping Kids in Motion

I have the great fortune to work at a school with some amazing PE teachers.One of them, Justin Cahill, blogs regularly about exactly what the blog is titled, Keeping Kids in Motion.
He also has a Facebook group under the same name. It currently has 921 members! People from all over submit articles, videos, and pictures of games, ideas, thoughts, questions and more dedicated to helping keep our kids, our students, ourselves active. I love his passion and dedication.

May 28 – August 7

It’s summer break, y’all! It’s awesome. I am so thankful to have this time off. I know there are some teachers that like to say that summer break has nothing to do with their decision to teach. I have no time for that. Of course, it’s not the main reason to get into teaching, but to deny that time off as an absolute reason to celebrate? Come on! This summer break I am trying something new – New Directions! I’ve made a two lists: Things I Need to Do and Things I Want to Do. Unlike years in the past when I’ve made lists of things to get done over summer, this time, I’ve included plans for getting them done. Now, I am sure that not all of them will get done, but this past school year with the help and advice of my department supervisor I started making lists of daily goals to accomplish, so I have somewhat of a habit going. To many of you this may seem like it’s common sense, well, to me it’s still a new thing. The whole planning thing has never been a strength of mine, so I’m trying to develop a new habit.

Summer Swim Season

Both of The Girls swim during summer league. Coco swims year around, but Ramona has several other sports going on, so we give her a break. I absolutely love summer swim season! I understand that it’s easy for me to love it because it’s not me going to practice and exerting all that energy, but I love it nonetheless. I have many, many great memories of my years of swim team summers. The first meet is tomorrow! TOMORROW! And sadly, Coco potentially has strep throat and Ramona is out of town on a choir tour with our church. That’s okay! We have the whole month of June for other meets. I love cheering on all of the swimmers, not just The Girls. Seeing young people with amazing strokes and skills is very exciting. I have seen some amazing swimmers over the past 8 years that The Girls have been swimming. We are at a new pool this year, so a whole new batch of swimmers to cheer on!

Good Music

The Avett Brothers, “Ain’t No Man”

JR JR, “Gone”

The 1975 – “Love Me”

Fitz and the Tantrums, “HandClap

The Lumineers, “Ophelia

Podcasts

I have spoken before about how I like to listen to music a lot. I still do, clearly. However, I have recently started listening to some podcasts on my way to work in the morning, and I have to say they have been very enlightening and entertaining. Glitter Queen requests me to put some on her Nano, so I have gotten some from her. Here are a few that I’ve been listening to:

  • This American Life
  • Nerdist
  • Freakonomics
  • The Way I Heard It
  • Nerdette

Freakonomics just recently had a whole month to learning to be more productive. I don’t know if there could have been a more opportune time for me to listen. (I think GQ might have requested those on purpose so I’d get hooked into them) I probably will go back and re-listen to one or two of them because sometimes it is a lot to take in at once.

Trinity School

I have just finished my second year at Trinity School. It was another phenomenal school year. It was a very challenging personal year, but my class, their parents, my teacher team, the administration, and everyone else at Trinity really helped me through a tough time. I continue to grow professionally and personally. I am excited about training opportunities coming up, and equally excited about the upcoming group of students that I will get to spend time with next school year. I am so fortunate to be part of a great school community.

So, there you go, that’s what I’m into now. It’s not 10 things this time. Maybe I’m narrowing my focus a little bit. It tends to be wide-ranging and makes it easy for me to get distracted. Hopefully, this shorter list will help me stay on task a little better this summer.

How about you? What’s good with you right now?

 

 

 

 

Nostalgia is Funny

In social studies right now my students are working through the 50s and 60s. Three of the things invented during the 50s and 60s were Barbie dolls,  calculators, and cassette players. For a homework assignment, I had my students talk to their parents about these things. I included G.I. Joe for the dads. I told them they could write down their answers if they wanted, but did not have to. Two of them are pure gold and two are just kind of amusing.Barbie-Wallpapers-Cartoons-Disney-e1405610118291

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Claire B’s mom, Laura, said, “My biggest memories of the Barbie doll are that I played with them in my pool. I had the inflatable pool and slide. We had the Barbies in their bathing suits and we would swim with them all day. I had maybe 5 dolls. I played with them with my friends in the neighborhood, I think.”

“Cassette tapes were how we listened to music. You would put your cassette in your boom box and turn on Kasey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown. As soon as your favorite songs came on you would press the Record button really fast so you could replay the song later.” Claire also said, “My parents used cassette tapes to record our voices in conversations we had to send in the mail to our grandparents! And our grandparents would do the same thing and send them back to us.” Laura emailed me later to tell me more, “I got my first boom box for Christmas when I was 10. I spent hours on that thing recording songs from the radio and replaying them. I still have a somewhat large cassette collection bc I can’t bring myself to get rid of them!! Mix tapes – remember those? I had a few boyfriends who were big into music and would make the best mix tapes for me. Totally still have a few – ha ha ha!!!”

“I don’t have too many memories about my calculators. But I do have a funny story. Once in college, I took my remote control to my exam instead of my calculator.”

Katrina R’s mom, Judith, said, “I played with Barbies when I was younger. I played with them with my friends about once a week or so. I had the Barbie Dreamhouse. My brother had G.I. Joes.”

“My mom had an 8-track player in 2nd-3rd grade. Then she got a Steed [sic] Miller band for Christmas in 4th-5th grade. she then got a Sony Walkman in 6th-7th grade. My mom used her tapes almost daily from 2nd grade to college plus. She would sometimes make tapes for her friends as gifts.”

“My mom used calculators throughout school. In high school she used a graphing calculator about once a week. She got a calculator watch in late elementary school (she had to earn it).

Some of the other responses, “Record off radio on cassette tapes. Bring in car to listen to music. Had to buy tapes in a store if you wanted to listen to music.” “My dad had 600 cassette tapes. He used it twice a day.” “My dad had 1 calculator. He used it twice a week.” Fascinating recollection right there!

Two parents sent in some of their old cassette tapes to the classroom and I was SO EXCITED! Luckily, I have a boom box with dual cassette deck to play them on!  I played Duran Duran’s Rio cassette for the students that morning. I told my students about making mixed tapes for friends myself and my girlfriend (now wife – GQ was the recipient of many, many mixed tapes from me).  It’s not exactly the one in the picture, but it’s close.

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I had a great time reliving some of these memories. As stated in a previous post, G.I. Joe was my favorite toy

Anytime I can be a part of students and parents sharing like this is always fun. What about you?  What were your experiences with Barbies, cassettes, and calculators?

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 24 (Day 23 Prompt) – My Favorite Relative Outside of My Immediate Family

So, because I am giving my students the option of doing the weekend prompts, I’m choosing to do Day 23’s prompt on Day 24. To paraphrase Mel Brooke’s, it’s good to be the teacher.

My favorite relative outside of my immediate family is my mom’s sister, Mary Alice Wood. She is my mom’s older sister and she has always done a great job of being a part of my life and now my family’s life.

When I was younger she would take me to Turtle’s Records & Tapes for my birthday and let me buy myself a record, tape or CD. She would often question my selections and look at (and read [aloud!]) the lyrics, which my parents never did, and that was embarrassing sometimes. Especially when I was really digging Adam & the Ants, “Prince Charming“. I don’t know why the official video isn’t there on You Tube, but it’s not. Anyway, she always gave me the choice to get whatever I wanted.

When I was getting ready to go to college she gave me this advice: Make sure you talk to friends, especially older friends, to find out which professors are really good and which are really the ones you to stay away from. That’s some advice that I should have taken when it came to my Southern Lit class at UGA. That class resulted in the lowest grade I ever received in writing a paper, along with the comments,”This is barely legible.” and “I don’t know how you ever made it this far writing like this.” Up until that point, I had made really good grades on all of my papers. After that, it completely knocked me for a loop and took several classes to get my writing mojo back.

As I got older, got married and had kids, Mary Alice continued (and continues) to be interested and involved with what is going on with me. As GQ developed herself into the author, Angel Lawson, Mary Alice has kept up with her releases, asking her questions, recommending her books to friends of hers, and buying copies to share with friends. She shows the same level of interest with the Girls.

I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, but whenever I do it’s always entertaining and there’s always interesting conversation. I’m very thankful for Aunt Mary Alice.

30-Day Writing Challenge, Days 15, 17 & 18

Okay, so, when I started this I told my students that they didn’t have to do the weekends because it’s a school assignment, and I can’t assign them homework on the weekend. So, days 16 & 17 are weekend days. To be honest, Day 16 – Bullet Your Entire Day – blargh. Now, a comic book writer that I admire very much, Kelly Sue DeConnick uses a bullet point journal and does this every day and it seems to help her and many of her followers/fans be more productive. I’m not there. (in the spirit of Trinity School) Yet.

I didn’t get to Day 15 because I was packing for a trip GQ and I are currently on with The Girls. Oldest Child and GQ ran the Disney Dark Side Half Marathon down in Orlando, and so we used that as an opportunity to go to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I was packing and getting ready and didn’t have time to do “Three Pet Peeves”. Let me tell you right now, there are a lot more than three, but in the spirit of the thing, I’m going to stick with that. I’m also going to include Sunday, the 17th in there because it’s a really good one, “A Quote You Try to Live By”, and being that today is the 18th, I’m going to get back on track and do that one. They’re just all three going to be wrapped up in one package. It might be long. You might even be, TLDR, and well, not going to blame you for that, but I’ve gained some followers recently, I may even be up to EIGHT, so…there, I guess?

Three Pet Peeves

1. Being unaware of the people around you while you’re driving your car.
– I know, it’s easy to forget the world exists outside of your car. You’re in there safe and alone. You can pick your nose, you can sing out loud to your bad music choices, it’s just you and your automobile. But here’s the thing: THERE ARE STILL LOTS AND LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE BEING AFFECTED BY YOUR DRIVING! La lala lala…I’m going really slow or I’m stopping for no reason. My blinker is just an option. I’m changing lanes because I forgot to when I was supposed to. La lala lala.  Do me a favor, please. Pull your head out of the cloud, take a look in your rearview mirror and to the left and right of you. There are lots and lots of other drivers behind you and beside you that are shooting visual daggers at you, cursing you and your inability to drive well, and feeling that tightening pressure as their pulse quickens and their blood pressure rises. Just be aware of other people on the road and have some common sense. That’s a lot to ask, I know, but I think we’ll all be a lot better off for it.

2. Grammar Idiots
– “loose” is not the same as “lose”. They’re, there, and their are really, really, really easy to tell apart. I’m going to leave it at those two.

3. Putting the Ice Trays Back in the Freezer Empty
– Our ice maker is broken. I like ice in almost all of my drinks. I mean, I really like ice. I like ice so much that my in-laws buy bags of ice to keep at their house when I come visit. So, when I go to get ice from the ice trays and there are empty ice trays in the freezer, it definitely falls into the Pet Peeve category. Fill it up. It doesn’t take long. It might make a little watery mess as you take it from the sink to the freezer, but that’s okay. I’m better with water on the floor than no ice.

Day 17 – A Quote [Quotation – see Pet Peeve #2]  I Try to Live By

“I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells” Dr. Seuss. If you no me at all then you know that I certainly like nonsense. Perhaps more than my fair share of it. I like Seuss’ quotation because I find it to be completely true. When things are nonsensical you have to really prick up your mind to try to make sense of it all. You may not be able to make sense of it, but it will definitely get the old noggin moving trying to figure it out. Sometimes the nonsense doesn’t make me happy, and I would be apt to say that I don’t like it, but most of the time, 9 times out of 10 I do like it.

Day 18 – My Favorite Color & Why

I would be tempted to say that my favorite color is orange. I like orange. I like it a lot. My car in high school and college was orange and it totally fit me as a person. Whenever I do those Color Tests, I’m an orange. Recently though, I’ve become more blue. Blue was my first favorite color. When I was maybe 9, my mom told me that I could get my room painted whatever color I wanted. “Really?” She said yes, so I chose royal blue. It was so awesome. So, now I’m back to blue being my favorite color. Orange is a manic color and for a number of years I was pretty manic. Blue can be both exciting and subdued and I like that. I need that. I am not often subdued, but sometimes it’s necessary, and I find that blue can fill that need. It can also be awesome, like my royal blue bedroom walls. It can happy or sad. It can fit the mood that it needs to fit, and that is why blue is now my favorite color.

Well, that was fun. I am going to get back on track of doing this daily tomorrow after we return from Orlando. It has been a great trip! Lots of fun to be had at Universal. Another favorite Dr. Seuss quotation is, “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere,” perfectly sums up this trip.13029686_10209372403534090_1736733160495711928_o13001056_10209371879080979_5659724344373857463_n

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 8 – A book you love and one you don’t

Ugh, this is going to be a difficult one. There are so many books that I love. I mean, this could be put into segments – juvenile, young adult, classic, contemporary (to be honest, there’s not a lot of contemporary writing that I care for).

I’m going to go with one that fits into several categories; fiction, historical fiction, young adult, and even some fantasy. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief

the-book-thief

I’ve not seen this cover before. If you don’t know anything about this book then the cover might seem more creepy than it is. The narrator of the book is Death. The main character of the book is the little girl he’s holding up.

It’s set in WWII Nazi Germany and concerns a girl, Liesel, and her family who hide a Jewish man, the son of a friend of the little girl’s father.

This story is interesting because it’s told from the perspective of a German family that wants nothing to do with the Nazi Party. Liesel’s father suffers because of his refusal to join the party. She has a best friend named Rudy, who is hilarious.

Death is everywhere in this story, and he’s tired. He can’t catch a break, and that is really all he wants, but he can’t because, well, it’s WWII Nazi Germany.

The Book Thief is one of the very best books that I have ever read. I laughed and I cried. I have read it twice. I don’t want to overread it because I’m afraid it will lose some if its specialness for me.

A book that I do not love. This may cause some dissension (among my 6 followers). The book is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

 

love you foreverThere are two reactions when this book is mentioned or shown or brought out, or whatever. Most of the reactions are, “Awwww, I LOVE that book!” There are a few though that are, “Ooooh…that book.” Just now, GQ, saw the picture and said, “Ugh, that’s a terrible book.” [sidenote – there are many reasons we are together, her reaction right there is definitely one of them]

Look, I get it. It’s about a mother’s love. There’s nothing purer than that. I get it. But this book, I just can’t with this book. I think I’m all good with it until the mom drives over to the grown boy’s house in the middle of the night with a ladder on her car, climbs up the ladder and watches her grown son sleeping. That right there puts it into a place where I just can’t.

I’m a father of two beautiful girls. I will, of course, love them forever. I am excited, and nervous, about them growing into beautiful adults. I hope that the relationships that I am building with them will continue to grow as they become adults. That being said, I can’t think of any rational reason that I would do what the mom does there. That’s crazy. Seriously. Seriously crazy. Then, at the end, it’s just sad. The Book Thief is sad too, but it’s a different kind of sad. I don’t know, maybe Love You Forever is just too…close? That’s what I feel, but I don’t know if it comes across right. It’s like that horrible 70’s song, “Sometimes When We Touch”. That song is the worst. THE WORST. It’s too intimate. That’s how I feel about Love You Forever.

So, there you go. One I love and one I don’t. I can’t recommend The Book Thief enough. I’ve possibly offended you with my loathing of Love You Forever, but I think there are two camps where that book is considered, and I’m okay with mine being the smaller camp. How about you? What’s a book you love and one you don’t?