Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A New Spin on Awesome

In the throes of research paper grading, it is hard to imagine using that word to describe anything. As I bang my head against the 456th comma splice, I am challenged to remember what it even means...and how it can possibly apply to my life.

Then a light clicks on in a student brain....light beaming from the ears...a passion forms...a fire starts....

The students in English 104 are there...they are where they need to be....finally....and they got their on their own; they got there by being curious, by being frustrated, by, um, learning to think independently.

The easiest way to teach is to spoon feed. I could just tell them the answers...but what fun would that be? How will they use that skill (being spoon fed) in their lives? They have already mastered it, truly. I give them the answers...they spit them out on an exam or in an essay. This is the way they were trained.

It is awesome to see them come to grips with what they don't know; it is awesome to see them struggle through their beliefs...wading through mush...drifting through clouds of the ideas they have never considered...teaching becomes an awesome vocation.

The word awesome has been tainted by the valley girls, and, in this sense, I don't mean it in the OMG...that is, like, omg soooo awesome! In this case, I mean it in its literal sense. The lights turning on, slowly but surely, are awesome...and I am in awe of their abilities and the struggles that helped them get there.

I had the excellent fortune to travel to a New England boarding school this week and meet a group of dedicated people working toward the same goal of student self reliance. Evidence surrounded me at every turn that these kids were not part of the "feed me" generation...they are independent thinkers...they are creative...they are passionate...they serve others. The experience was awesome in that non-valley girl way.

We are blessed to be part of that process.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Sooo..Thanksgiving is here once again. Today kicks off our traditions for the holiday season...

We ate dinner at my Dad's house and then went to the Thanksgiving Eve Mass at Moustache Man's school.

Tomorrow, we will wake up and watch the Macy's Parade from inside our warm house (remembering the days when my high school band played in it - remembering how I wore three layers of panty hose under my kilt to stay warm [um ,yes, I played the bagpipes in the HS band]).

The Boss will make bacon (lots and lots of bacon) and cheesy omelets and listen to crazy Christmas tunes like "Father Christmas" by that rock band from the 80s (whose name escapes me).

At noon, we will turn on all the radios in the house and listen to Alice's Restaurant and attempt to sing along in sixteen part harmony.

Then we will hunt for treats left by the magical turkey fairy (well, if the fairy can bring cash for bloody teeth, one can bring yummy snacks at Thanksgiving, too).

I will spend the next two hours planning out my Hunting for Women Extravaganza (black Friday shopping).

At 3ish, we will all pack into the Mamamobile and head over to pick up Ruthie the Grandma and then unleash ourselves upon my brother, Uggie, and his family. We will stuff ourselves silly and then pause and stuff again. Then we will choose among the 789 desserts made by my chef-to-be niece, and then we will pick at more turkey.

Sometime after dark, we will make an insane amount of buttered popcorn and watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and laugh as if it were the first time.

We will then drive around and look at houses that are lit up for the first time before returning home. I will check the ads one last time and set my alarm for 3AM. And, thus begins my Holiday :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Capella a Day - Reprise

Today's a Capella clip from the Nassoons at Princeton...a total riot!

Spirit of Thankfulness

(Picture Source)

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I both love and wonder about. While I am not so thankful that we displaced the culture of a great people to acquire this land, it is a time to be reminded of the grace we receive daily.

Whilst I don't want to sound preachy, I do want to take a second to be thankful for the many gifts I receive. There are so many things to be thankful for, and I am not sure any list can be complete, but it is important to reflect on those things which we are truly thankful for in our lives.

I try to be thankful on a daily basis for the many blessings that come my way. These blessings include my family, friends, coworkers, collaborators, etc. These blessings include shelter, food, gas money, and other worldly goods. These blessings include music, art, poetry, literature, and drama.

Of the many blessings, I consider the blessings of the spirit the most compelling. As a Christian, I believe these blessings come from God through the life and death of Christ. So, I am eternally thankful for that grace which, I believe, saves us and the mercy that allows everyone to come to his or her own convictions and conclusions.

Humility is another gift that is truly amazing. There are people who are truly humble, and I hope - each and every day - to be like them. So, I strive, daily, to work toward humility. It's funny that not all people value humility - in general or their own (or, in a few cases, my attempts). We are supposed to run around championing our successes, right? I would argue that our successes champion themselves, and there is no need to run about calling from roof tops. In any event, no success is singular; they are always crafted by many hands. So, if pride should exist, it should be shared.

The spirit of giving is another incredible gift...the ability to give and not to take. The homeless of Washington could give nothing back for the meals they received; some could not even speak to offer a shy thank you. But, to give the food with a spirit of love and not expecting a thing in return was more valuable than any object. Serving others allows us to remember that we are only a short space away from being in the line, and we have every obligation to be thankful for the distance.

As we move toward Thanksgiving and the holidays, may we all be blessed with the gifts of humility and sharing.

Here is wonderful video from one of my favorite bands - the Trans Siberian Orchestra

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Capella a Day

Ok, so if you know me well, you know that I am a HUGE fan of a capella groups. My favorites are the Nassoons and the Tiger Tones at Princeton. But, I found this great video today of these folks.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Web 2.0, Sliver Ivory & Wood, and Chris Ruch: New Memories from a Distant Past

The power of Web 2.0 amazes me daily. Not to be all cheese doodle and all, but, REALLY, it has connected me with lots of super duper awesome peeps (you all know who you are) and reconnected me with super duper awesome peeps from my past.

For example, way back in the dark days of teenagerdom, I knew a kid named Chris Ruch. Well, I think we knew each other in grade school, too. Chris was kinda quiet, and I was unduly obnoxious in a variety of ways. We didn't talk much to each other, but we were in a lot of classes together. He grew up to marry a great girl and have a beautiful family, and I grew up, too, and was less obnoxious (oh stop), got married to the boss, and had my little band of super heroes. Our high school class, a true representative of the X generation, is not big on reunions...we have really only had 1 in the course of at least 3 cycles (you have to do the math, sorry ;p). But, Chris found me on Facebook or MySpace or somewhere and we actually (omg) became friends after all those years of teenage angst. He sends reports about his amazingly cool family, and it is just great to connect with him after all these years.

What I didn't know about Chris during the years of spandex, arm bangles, and Madonna hair is that he is this incredible photographer and artist. He sent an email this morning with some of his art work (one is pictured above) and a shout out for some work he is doing. I love the music, and I love the art work, so I am going to shout it out here, too, for those of you looking for a wicked cool holiday gift:

I just did some photography for the Silver Wood & Ivory holiday concert at Hershey theatre over the past two days.... and I must say I was floored by the quality and creativity in this group of musicians, producers, cast & crew. I wish I could have been a casual observer for part or all of it to really soak it all in. Thankfully, they have a cd and dvd of most of the music from the concert (both of which I designed the covers for)... and they are hoping to do a tour of this show in the near future. The dvd is from the first performance of this show that they did last year... and the cd is all done in-studio with the production help of the multi-talented Jeff King. They have a number of other cd's (and tracks on itunes if you prefer), and a variety of nice packages (lotion candles with cd's) that would make really nice Christmas presents. I've included a few photos from the rehearsal and performance, and some images showing the interior of (the very lovely) Hershey theater. Happy holidays to everyone! Talk to you all soon!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Second Life and NCTE

What happens when 14,000 English teachers and professors gather in New York City for a conference?

I can't think of a good punch line. I am taking punch line donations down there in the comments tab ;p

In any case, I just returned from that National Council of Teachers of English conference, and of those 14,000 participants and over 300+ presentations, there was only ONE presentation on Second Life. Many thanks to Rob Rozema for organizing a panel with Laura Nicosia and I on teaching literature/English in SL. Rob talked about the history of gaming in English, I talked about Literature Alive!, and Laura talked about student responses. It was a great mix.

By far, Amy Tan was my favorite speaker. She is just REALLY funny but touching, as well.

And, of course, I LOVED THE EXHIBITORS!!!! I can only say that it is like Trick or Treat for English teachers. There are so many cool resources. I only got through two aisles, and then I had to stop. I was loaded up with all sorts of goodies, and simply had no more hands left.

My favorite workshop/presentation was on graphic novels. I think they are so wicked cool in general, but am now thinking of ways to get them mashed up with SL.

Conferences always energize me, but more than that, my students energize me. Before leaving Thursday, my students wanted a lounge discussion on Truth. For extra credit, 7 students met for two hours and talked about truth and justice and what it means to be an American. Their thoughts drifted with me as I met teachers from all over the world who were concerned that this generation has nothing important to say. I suspect they have a lot of stuff to say, but they need a place to say it and they need people to listen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Crazy Little Thing Called Land

Building projects for Literature Alive! is just an absolute blast. Our current build, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner is, truly, a wonderful experience.

First, Marcius Downing from Finger Lakes Community College in New York is SUCH a generous supporter of Literature Alive! He has provided land for the Progressive Era Amusement Park, for the World University Exchange, for Contemporary Fiction, and, now, for Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Without people like him, Literature Alive! could not exist.

Second, Eloise Pasteur is, once again, volunteering her time to help script and build the environment. Eloise has become such an integral part of Literature Alive! that it is impossible to imagine a build without her, but, truthfully, he real life work is in Second Life, so - at any time - I could lose her generosity to employment. I am so thankful to have her help on these projects because she and I just share an incredible vision for what SL can do in the classroom.

Third, Daliah and Neveah and just super duper staffers. Daliah earns her weight in gold by stuffing things like pumpkins or gold nuggets. When she isn't shopping for a build, she is helping students get dressed or giving tours. But her newest job...sorting my probably the most daunting! So, if I am logged in and she is because she is me and I am her. I am not sure which of us will have an identity crisis first!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

James Blunt and You're Beautiful

I love this song, and wanted to get it posted somewhere.

I am working on a new plot for Literature Alive! on teaching Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This is a new challenge and one that I am truly excited to start!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

DD Boy Says a Wee Prayer

In his second star moment, 5 year old Giddy Up Man recites some prayers he learned at Notre Dame Preschool.


DD Boy Hits the Waves

Today, Moustache Man makes his Podcasting Debut with some hits he learned at school...first up...The Pledge of Allegiance!


These are African roses that I bought for myself (trust me - no one else round there here parts has a clue that the Giant sells roses!).