The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Mysteries of Life--Arizona and Fleecy Mullets

        Tony Diaz, a writer and educator, was a guest speaker at the National Writing Project's Urban Sites conference last weekend.

        He gave us a tidbit of information that floored me. Right now it's against the law to teach Mexican American studies in Arizona schools. Books like House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Banned. Apparently Cisneros is trying to overthrow the government with her literature. Several (I imagine) Sherman Alexie books are on the taboo list (I only saw one). Like Water for Chocolate--another one of my favorites--is apparently subversive. 

       What is up with that?

       And once you pick your jaw off the floor (if this is new information for you, like it was for me), I'm going to leave you with something lighter… something like fleecy mullets.

       Fleecy mullets? You're intrigued now, right? You're wondering if you're going to have to put a hit on Billy Ray Cyrus, because you won't be able to stomach a mullet craze getting revived?

      Read and enjoy...   

Monday, April 20, 2015

Where is SOAS When I Need Her?

        This weekend I went to New Orleans to present at a national conference. When I got there, I found out Barry Lane was going to be there. Barry Lane! Squeal! Squeal! Shriek in such a high-pitched fashion, only bats can hear. I know--Barry Lane! 

         If you're not a teacher of writing (and probably if you're not specifically a teacher of elementary or middle-school writing), then you might not know who he is, but trust me--to lots of teachers, he is a god.

         Here's a bit of what Barry Lane is like...

      Now, I should have learned from Cathy Hall. Whenever I go to any workshop or conference, I should take Sioux-on-a-Stick, because a person never knows when they're going to be reduced to a drooling groupie and they desperately want their picture with the god/goddess and they never have a good hair day but they have no choice... unless they have their alter ego on a stick.

      Of course, Cathy-on-a-Stick looks lovely. Hair perfectly in place. A blazing-white smile. COAS is attractive, just like the real-life Cathy. And Sioux-on-a-Stick looks very much like the real life Sioux. Except not so lovely as the lovely COAS.

Here is SOAS when she went on Val's tour.
SOAS made a surprise appearance at Val's gas-station chicken spot.

       So, when I found out Barry Lane was going to be part of the program in New Orleans, I felt fortunate I at least had my ipad packed and charged up. No SOAS tucked away in my suitcase, so I had no choice. I'd have to take a selfie to prove to all my writing friends that I got to schmooze a bit with Barry Lane.

I know. I'm blurry. I have a couple more where I'm in focus, but I kind of like
being a blur. And guess who took each of the selfies that I have?  Barry Lane.

      So, when I saw this leprechaun-like man walking ahead of me (leprechaun because he's magical), I pounced. (Thankfully it wasn't the Lucky Charms guy, it was Lane.) Since I just recently figured out how to reverse the camera to take a selfie, Barry Lane ended up taking the pictures. (Most likely he would have done anything to get rid of me, so taking a few photos was easier than chewing his own leg off...)

       Take Cathy Hall's advice so you don't end up like I did. Take your stick version with you to conferences and workshops and concerts. In fact, take your stick version with you no matter where you go. 

      'Cause you never know who you'll run into...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Find the Orifice

         My philosophy, when it comes to technology, is if the cord will jam into the orifice, it'll work.

      No need to bother with keeping the matching cord with the device. Try several. Huff and puff and sweat and try to cram it in. Eventually I find one that fits.

      Last night, as I was packing for a work trip in my normal procrastinating style with plenty of lead-time, I was unplugging my work ipad. The cord would not come out. It had gone in with ease. What was the problem?

       I had used this cord before, and had trouble getting it out before as well. I spent enough time on it that I started to worry. What would my boss say when I turned in the damaged ipad with the Nintendo cord dangling from it?

       Yes, that's correct. This was a cord abandoned by our son years ago, and had gotten into the cord rotation... and apparently it was one of my favorite go-to's, because this was the second time I had gotten into a jam (literally and figuratively).

        Thankfully, I eventually was able to yank it out. 

         It made me wonder what kind of openings we pay attention to as people, as writers, as artists. Are we stuck plugging away at the stuff that's "safe" for us and while doing so, do we miss out on some avenues, some opportunities?

        Jennifer Brown Banks--on her blog Pen and Prosper--is sharing a link for an anthology on music. Chicken Soup for the Soul has several call-outs. I'm stalking an editor for a children's book that I have unwavering faith in. (It's a slow stalk... imagine a slug leaving a trail behind it as it stalks someone.) My NaNoGoneWrongo is stagnant, but I hope to get some work done on it this weekend. 

         (And I don't need large spans of time to move it forward a little. Even a half hour, if I take advantage of it, will add to the story.)

       What are some openings/opportunities you've taken advantage of? Exhausted minds want to know... 


Monday, April 13, 2015

Born Free

        Well, I'm more than old enough to remember the movie "Born Free" when it debuted, but that movie is not what this post is about. (However, I can even sing part of the song, but since I'm fond of anyone who takes the time to read my meanderings, I'll refrain.)

        Yesterday a friend and I drove to Wheaton--a rural town that's in the middle of puppymill country. Four and a half hours each way. (Missouri is the overachiever of states. We're the top meth state and the top puppymill state. At least I think we still can claim those trophies.) We were headed to pick up two puppymill golden retrievers whose "birthday" was 4/12/15--they day they were reborn as family pets.

         On Saturday, the day before, I watched Radar gallop around like a crazy boy--more like a colt than a canine. At least once a day I say, "Up," and he jumps up a little to help me lift him into my lap so we can snuggle. (I know, I know. A dog who weighs almost 80 pounds is not a lap puppy. I just can't help myself.) He has such fun running with the dogs in the house behind us. He so enjoys playing with his squeak ball. And I wondered...

         What if the Amish or other heartless puppymill people got a hold of Radar's mom? If they had, once Radar was born, he might be lived out his life in a run or a cage, with very little human contact. He would not have ever known the thrill of running with Teddy, the shih tzu behind us. He wouldn't get to go for long walks in the park. He wouldn't be invited onto the bed to cuddle. (Actually, most of the time we don't invite him--he just jumps up and makes himself at home.)

             Radar, Ruthie and the no-name-yet puppy (rescued yesterday) are lucky dogs indeed.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Breaking Down Over a Broken-Down System

        The book Breaking the Silence:  My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher is both easy and difficult to read.

         It's an easy read because Shannon Hernandez's memoir is honest and straightforward. She willingly opens herself up to the reader, offering up her vulnerability. For those who aren't working as a teacher in a public school, her account is eye-opening. For those who do teach or have taught recently, each page brings about an "amen" or makes the reader nod their head knowingly. 

         It's excruciating to read because from the very title, the cat's out of the bag. The reader knows how it's going to end. This is the story of a former teacher. These days, most new teachers leave within five years. It's that hard of a job, so anytime a talented and dedicated educator leaves the field, it's a loss.

          However, the story doesn't end there. Hernandez started up her own business, and gave birth to it while she was still teaching, since she had made the decision that she deserved happiness. She deserved to do work that brought her joy. She loved teaching. It was her mission. It was a part of her. But today so much of the teaching job doesn't involve teaching. It's paperwork. It's data driven. It's purposeless professional development. 

         And when so much of a teacher's time and energy is sucked dry by non-teaching duties, it's disheartening.

         Add to that the crazy allegations that are sometimes made against teachers, and it's more than clear why Hernandez had to leave the classroom. Today, there are teachers who are afraid to put a hand on a student's shoulder in encouragement. There are teachers who are afraid to hug a student. Teachers must be conscious at every moment. We can't tutor a student one-on-one without other students in the room, since there would be no witnesses. It's sad. 

           I've been a teacher since 1991. Having worked in several school districts, I realize how fortunate I am now to have a wonderful principal. He's appreciative, has a great sense of humor, and is super-sharp. He also has a coach mentality when it comes to the staff, the kids and the parents... meaning he is tough and encouraging and is never afraid to get onto the field and get a little dirty.

         But I haven't always been so lucky...

         Check out Shannon Hernandez's book Breaking the Silence, and check out her out at to find out more.