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!


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 .

Science Fair Saturday

She did it!

My 11 year old daughter proclaimed herself a scientist and received a “Superior” rating for her efforts. The reward? A trip to the Regional Science Fair this Saturday.

Before you step back in awe and amazement, let me assure you Einstein’s position in history as one of the greatest geniuses of all time is pretty well secure. Sierra’s Science Fair project, “Get Ready…. Get Set…. Chew!” is all about chewing gum. Her participants, (read family), tested five different chewing gums to determine which one had the longest lasting flavor. The hypothesis declared a particular brand and amazingly was proven correct. No great, life changing discovery, unless you work for Wrigley, Cadbury, or one of the other manufacturers of chewing gum.

This Science Fair project offered another type of education, however. It empowered my timid little girl giving her a huge boost of confidence and self esteem. Sierra is a bit of a late bloomer and a day dreamer. If I had to predict her future I would pigeonhole her as an artist or wistful poet. No one would ever accuse her of being too academic. In contrast, she is surrounded by older siblings, who tend to be high achievers. Being one of the youngest in a large brood, and especially being a girl on the brink of adolescence, can be a recipe for self esteem drags rather than boosts. The Science Fair, however is evolving as a bit of a turning point for Sierra in her journey of claiming her individuality and catching up. She is the first Spoerndle to ever attend such an event. We are all very proud.

After a mountain of bureaucratic paperwork to get her registered, and a hefty (in my opinion) registration fee, Sierra is ready for the Regional competition. It’s an all day affair complete with fancy awards. The Superior rated students will travel on to the State level and beyond that who knows? It’s a dream almost too big to contemplate, even for my little day dreamer. You never know though. Perhaps the biggest lesson this competition will teach my daughter is that if you can dream it, you can be it!

You go girl!

The Fight

“You are just going to have to deal with it Mom. You’ve raised us to be strong women and we are going to have our own opinions on some things!”

It was meant to sting. It was meant as retaliation in the midst of a disagreement. But, those words spoke to my heart. Those magic words, “You’ve raised us to be strong women….” rang in my ears and my head over and over. It was a clear, defining moment of parenthood.

My oldest daughter spoke them in defense of her not so much younger sister. We were in the midst of a disagreement; or let’s just face it, a knock down, drag out fight. I couldn’t agree with their opinion of the moment. We were divided and angry. And then the moment shifted with that simple statement.

Strong women! It was one of those rare paycheck moments of parenting. I held onto the truth of her utterance and savored it.

When you are a stay at home Mom, especially a stay at home, homeschooling Mom for most of your adult life, you don’t get many pats on the back from the world. In fact, you spend most of your days helping your kids and most of your evenings doubting if it is really worth the struggle. There is no paycheck, no awards dinner; no public recognition. In fact, most of your friends, and often your family, think you are crazy, or worse, wasting your life. It’s a constant state of struggle to maintain your self-esteem and fortitude to continue. The reward is at the end of the journey, and the journey, is long.

But then, one day you are standing in your daughter’s bedroom door, in the midst of a struggle, and words are spoken to reward the work. One day, your daughters  stand before you, in the face of adversity, and declare they are strong women! A defining statement, uttered in the heat of battle, becomes a gift. For despite the difficulties, despite the countless moments of doubt, insecurity, and negative messages from the world, you are reminded that it was worth the struggle.

Standing in the midst of middle age, I do not have a fabulous career. I don’t even have a real job. I am still working on my education and trying to determine my future. I am full of insecurities, self doubt, and live in a constant state of struggle with the world. I am riddled with questions of why.

I have taken the “road less traveled” and sometimes feel like I am paying dearly for it. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, the truth appears.

Despite many wrong turns, despite self doubt and worry; I have done one thing right. I have taught my daughters to be strong women.

I savor the moment; the parenting paycheck, and feel unbelievably blessed.

The Sixth

My youngest son, Aidan is the stereotypical youngest of the family. You know the type; the baby, the center of attention, an easy going personality with endless amounts of emotional flexibility and accommodation. I have determined, based on my position as the mother of a large family, these personality characteristics, whether genetic or environmentally developed, equate to survival skills as the youngest of six. Very few situations rattle or deter him.  A social butterfly; it could be said that everybody loves Aidan and Aidan loves everybody.

Last week was the first week back at school after a 10-day holiday break. Having just experienced the ultimate Lego Christmas, Aidan determined his first object for “Show and Tell” Friday would be a newly acquired Lego Ninjago Fighter plane. This Christmas marked a milestone for his development. Not only had he acquired his first really huge, ultimate Lego set, but he built it entirely by himself. A proud Lego enthusiast, Aidan was ready to share this accomplishment with his 2nd grade class.

I came back home after dropping Aidan at school on Friday and discovered the Lego creation, still in it’s bag ready for transport to school, sitting on top of the kitchen table. I felt  a pang of disappointment for Aidan. Despite his best intentions he apparently was distracted as we left the house and left the Show and Tell object behind. A brief consideration to run the bag to school flickered through my mind easily dismissed by the logical conclusion that our home is a 20 minute drive from the school. “There is always next week”, I resolved.

Reunited after school, I quizzed Aidan about his day. He recounted the menu at lunch, reminded me he had “NO HOMEWORK!!” and chatted about his impending sleep over that evening at a friend’s house. I remembered the Ninjago bag and asked him if he had been disappointed he forgot it.

“No”, he said, “It was okay”.

“What did you share for Show and Tell ?”

“Oh, I just showed everyone the Coffee Grinder (a dance move) aaaannnd my little plastic dinosaur”.

“Your plastic dinosaur?”

“Yeah, I found it in the coat room before Christmas and it was still in my desk.”

And there you have it. A perfect summation of my son, Aidan, and the sixth child’s endless ability to adapt. Always ready to perform at a moment’s notice, Aidan is the physical embodiment  of “The show must go on”. Forgetting his  presentation that day, he could have passed on his turn. He could have fell to pieces, lamented his misfortune, or passed blame on to his mother who should have conceivably remembered to remind him that Friday was “Show and Tell”.  Aidan didn’t waste time with any of that. Instead, he examined his resources and mustered up a “Show and Tell” presentation that capitalized on his opportunity to shine.

Aidan’s example is a handy lesson to remember as I Keep Calm and Carry On.

Hurricanes in Ohio

I’ve lived in Ohio my whole life and today was another Ohio first for me. Hurricane Sandy, a Frankenstorm, they say, moved in last night and took up residence for a few days in NE Ohio. High winds, rain, and flooding were enough for most school districts and businesses in the area to wave the white flag, so I joined suit and took the day off. For me that meant a day off with power.  What can I say?  I live in no man’s land and for once my remote hillside equated with security and electricity to boot. I feel a bit guilty at my fortune as I watch the storm on TV. But, I needed this break and it feels like a much needed staycation rather than tragedy.

I have accomplished all the required activities of a pajama day at home. I watched all sorts of daytime TV, played with the dog, ate lunch in my kitchen, wrote countless emails to “catch up” on correspondence and of course cruised Facebook without guilt. Best of all, I remembered I had this blog, patiently waiting for a moment when creativity would be allowed its moment in my generally overcrowded schedule.

Today I learned that ABC has a new talk show that follows “The View” called, “The Chew”. I now have a new resource for recipes. I also bore witness to The View’s 3,000th show and ached for Michael J. Fox as the evidence of his Parkinson’s ruled his visit with the ladies on today’s show. I met Kelly’s new co-host who replaced Regis this past Fall. I had time to remember my former life of stay-at-home Mom and enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I became a bit nostalgic for the little faces that used to surround my days at home,  now off in college classes.

Life is always sending forth reasons to spin out of control. But today, a hurricane blew into my hometown stirring up some much needed personal relaxation. I found some time I had thought I lost. It was time claimed to re-focus, so I can “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Welcome to my life and my blog!