Penguin Sweater

I got a penguin sweater for Christmas. My daughters and I were shopping at Kohl’s when I first saw it. With a fluffy white tummy and silver sparkly bow tie, I couldn’t think of any prouder honor than to sport this fat penguin on a cold, snowy day.

My teenage daughter, fashion consultant, cautioned against it.

“But, it’s SO CUTE!” I countered.

The Penguin Sweater

The Penguin Sweater

The older daughter, having lived through more of these episodes than her younger sibling, and having let go of the hope of transforming me into a fashion forward maven, said they would alert my husband.

I left the sweater hanging on the rack, secretly hoping we would meet again.

I’ve come to realize, that such a powerful fashion accessory as the coveted penguin sweater takes careful moderating. We’ve had, like most of the country, a particularly snowy, blustery winter. I could have easily worn my penguin sweater every day. Conscious of the cautioning of my daughters, I’ve had to choose selectively when to go all penguin. It’s been a struggle.

It’s now near the end of February and old man winter is not letting up. I’ve read the depressed Facebook posts of friends regarding winter, the braggarts’ posts of basking in the Florida sun, but I’m not saying a word. Sure winter has it’s downside, but when else can you wear your favorite penguin sweater?

So bring on the snow! Blow all the arctic air my way! Slushy streets, salt trucks, and icy patches? No problem. I’m rocking my penguin sweater!

Passion is evolving..

Students are blogging. Some are really good. Some are still, well, let’s just say, developing. I’ve noticed that those who tapped into their passion are leading the pack. The visual design and quality of content is evident. Gina-Bella demonstrates this with her blog, Conserving Marine Life. A native of Hawai’i, Gina-Bella’s passion is clearly evident in each of her posts.Writing Passion 

Our next big challenge in class will be to work on writing tight, concise copy filled with passion. My goal is to help these developing writers find their voice and make sure it is well developed and heard. Wish us luck!

Let the Blogs roll….

Before having the students dive in to the blogosphere I had them take Poynter Institute’s FREE online class designed to teach bloggers the ins and outs of online Media Law. The great thing about this course, besides being free, is that it covered the important topics of copyright infringement, defamation and invasion of privacy in an engaging format. At the conclusion of the course, the student is led through a brief 20 question quiz and provided an immediate evaluation of the content of the course. Students can email their scores to whomever they choose (me) and within the space of about an hour, complete a hefty assignment designed to prepare them for journalistic blogging.

Students are beginning to create their blogs, slowly, but surely. Most have worked through their Blogging Commitment Sheet, but only a few brave souls have actually created their WordPress blog and written that first post. I’m wondering if they are suffering from Writer’s block or Snow Day doldrums. 

Lucky for us, most of our class readings and assignments can be done virtually. We have missed two class days thus far this semester due to inclement weather. Our small college resides in what is affectionately known as the “snow belt” of NE Ohio. Yeah. We have managed to stay true to the spirit of deadlines, however, despite the absences. Blogs are popping up.

The collection of work is as diverse as the student body. If you would like to follow these young writers I know they would love to chat with you. Check out: The216Artist or Pawforacauseblog for a sampling of their work.

 

Off and Running…

We have spent the past two weeks reading about the transformation of print media to on-line. We have read, discussed and analyzed the concepts of citizen journalism and the future role of journalists in our culture’s constantly shifting on-line media consumption. Now, it’s time to get to work.

Over the past weekend, students were asked to examine a social advocacy blog, Girls’ globe. This blog, created with a mission to “raise awareness and educate others about global issues concerning the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls”, represents my goal for the students. I have charged them to find a charity, issue or social concern that they are passionate about and which to design their blog’s content focus. They are, hopefully, pondering this.

Next Monday, they will commit to their passion. Along the way they will read helpful advice from WordPress regarding naming their blog, and write a brief self-reflective essay detailing their plan of attack for research, identifying sources and story ideas for their future, life-changing blog adventure. I’m hoping I can tap into their passion and they will take this assignment with serious energy and focus. 

Stay tuned.

I won!

Image

Photo Credit: Micah Spoerndle, photographer extraordinaire

I jumped into the water and it paid off. I read about a writing contest sponsored by a fellow WordPress blogger and knew I had to submit. I keep saying, “Someday, I’ll get around to submitting work”, but never do. I usually have a thousand excuses, none of which really hold water. The contest deadline was scheduled for my daughter’s birthday. The submission detail easy and efficient. I opened an email, attached the file and clicked “send”.

Too late to retrieve it. It was out in cyberspace and the deed was done. Good for me! Or was it?

My effort was rewarded. My work recognized. Thank you, Luann for sponsoring this contest. Thank you for encouraging me to remember writing is meant to be shared. Thank  you for my honorable mention.

Read more here: http://writersite.org/2013/09/30/honorable-mention-for-ian/

Feeling blessed 

Baby Books

Some things just slip off the radar when you enter Grad school in the midst of raising six kids. Cleaning my youngest son’s bedroom was one of those things. This past December, I decided the time had come to tackle this 9 x 12 section of my home that held enough contents to fill a room twice its size.

My son was at school, making it safe to enter the room with a large black trash bag, all-purpose cleaner, and paper towels. I was determined to downsize, clean and organize the remains.  After filling the trash bag, and two large plastic toy bin drawers, I faced the worst part of the job, a large, white, pressed wood, floor-to- ceiling shelf unit serving as toy/book storage.

As the youngest of six, Aidan had inherited all the children’s books and toys that ever graced the entrance to our home. His shelving unit was filled with a mass of childhood treasures, but mostly books. If I tossed old, long forgotten, and disregarded books, Aidan might have room for his burgeoning Lego collection. Throwing away old books seemed like a reasonable idea, in theory.

Fortunately, only my oldest daughter has inherited my obsession for books. The other children, when streamlining their bedrooms, rationally place outgrown, copies of Dr. Seuss or Corduroy the Bear, in donation bags with old clothes.  I routinely follow up by foraging through the donation bags, motivated by a desire to rescue precious texts. I helpfully suggest a more practical and responsible act would include giving the books to a younger sibling.  This “pass it on” practice saves me the agony of wrestling with bibliophile issues. Salvation ended, however when I ran out of children.  As I look at Aidan’s messy shelves, I realize they represent twenty-two years of childhood.

Sighing deeply, I know what needs to happen.  I begin to sort, wondering how I can part from board books filled with“special edition” illustrations drawn by former two year olds. Their worn edges and cracked binding tell a story of a different time. Countless Scholastic paperbacks with missing pages hold reminders of young children pouring over thin newsprint catalogs, dreaming of a new book to call their own.  A worn copy of Five Little Monkeys delivers a memory of distant bath-times and squeaky -clean toddlers with wet heads smelling of coconut. I remember the feeling of little warm bodies pressed against my chest as I rocked and read. And this. Moo, Baa, La, La, La– Didn’t I recite this for at least 1,000 naptime reads in the middle of the day, while guiltily wishing for a break? Even then I knew I needed to savor the moment. I knew this day would come.

The toddlers that once held these books are now in high school fretting over AP exams and college choices.  The pre-schoolers are in college fretting over GPA’s, tuition prices, and graduation requirements. The baby is eight years old. It is time to deal with reality and place these books, these memories, where they belong.

I realize I am fortunate.  By having six children, I have managed to extend cuddly reading time, the life of these books, way past a normal experience of the average family.  But now, the truth lies in my hands.  The books are aged and truly need to be discarded. The little children who once held them, read them, and treasured them have moved forward in life.

I survey the remnants of childhood and feel their power.  These pieces of cardboard, paper, ink, staples and glue are so much more. They are the gentle sway of a rocking chair and a warm, snuggling child on my lap. They are a Christmas morning squeal, a Spot the Dog birthday celebration, a naptime, and bedtime ritual. These seemingly insignificant, worn texts hold within their pages treasured memories; a record of childhood and early motherhood.

As I pick through familiar titles of stories once memorized, I am overwhelmed with emotion. The brevity and shifting evolution of life is an ominous foe. These little pieces of literature remind me of snuggles in bed before a thousand kisses and “I love you”s to chase away the monsters. They speak of giggles and joy bursting forth from a shared love of poetry and prose. They reflect long afternoons of “just one more story” that I thought would never end. These treasures are the captivating peace and beauty of a sleeping child whose breathing slows as you whisper, “And good night to the old lady whispering…hush”

I dust off the titles gently and place them in neat stacks on the floor. These books are my Velveteen Rabbit of mothering.  They are precious and loved because they no longer represent crisp, pristine copies of unknown stories and adventure. They are precious because they remind me of the power of language, the written word, and my great love of reading,. This love, shared and transferred to my children, is a powerful force. This love has transformed raggedy books into real, precious artifacts of life.

The streamlining of childhood toys will have to wait. I need to find a tote box to house the worn, tattered books. For some day, I hope to sit in a rocking chair and once again hold a precious child. I will smell their sweet, wet head and enjoy the weight of their body resting on my chest. I will gaze at the miracle of life and patiently recite the words held on the pages “one more time”. I will stroke their hair as they drift off to sleep and know what only a grandmother can know. Time races forward, but through written words we freeze it in a perfect, precious memory.

Poem in my Pocket Day

The other day I pointed my car at the interstate for another dismal, mad rush home. I hate commuting, dodging cars with distracted drivers, and the endless stops and starts. It was another dreary day in a string of gray, drizzly days, with lower than average temperatures. Northeast Ohio Winter is easily summed up with one word. Gray.

As my car gathered speed to join the pack, I sighed audibly, feeling the weight of oppressive, depressing weather and circumstances. Then my eye caught a flash of yellow peeking out of the brown grass beside the road berm. I merged into the line-up, but took the time to examine the little ray of sunshine that had caught my eye. Sure enough, there they were. A tiny little cluster of daffodils waving their heads with optimism to any fortunate passerby taking the time to notice. These little sprites of spring cheered me. Their image transformed my thoughts of drudgery to the words of William Wordsworth, I couldn’t help but recite.

In third grade, my teacher made the class memorize a poem! Such drudgery. Such uselessness. Or so we all thought. The words were strange and awkward to our young minds. “Who cares about daffodils”? We all asked one another. Our teacher not only had the audacity to make us memorize the words of a dead poet, but she also made us perform the poem for each other. We were convinced the adults in charge of our education had lost their minds. We were sure there would be no lasting benefit to memorizing a poem about flowers.

I cannot tell you how often in my adult life I have been ashamed of my 3rd grade attitude. I do understand where it probably originated. I believe we are a product of our culture more times than we would like to admit, and it is only through education that we overcome it. How often in American culture do we honor the poet? Why do we fail to realize the value of beautiful words, words that bring forth the rhythm of life and give birth to deep emotion and meaning? It is a shameful thing.

If it were not for Mr. Wordsworth’s gift of poetry, my heart and mind would not be transformed by a vision of tiny daffodils on a road embankment. My gray day would have remained lackluster and tiring. My thoughts upon an initial vision of yellow quickly passing my window, would not tap a memory engrained through the efforts of my 3rd grade teacher. I would not have perceived the hope, promise, and joy these beautiful words ignite:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

Today as we rushed out the door, my daughter announced, “It’s “poem in your pocket day”.

“It is?!” I responded. “How lovely. How absolutely lovely”.

Thank you Mr. Wordsworth for the poem that will always remain in my “pocket”. It enriches my adult life more than I could ever imagine .