Sunday, March 31, 2013

Shape Up!

Sitting around the kitchen table catching up with Grandma and Grandpa.

Grandpa: So what is your favorite shape?

Which, yes, is an admittedly odd question to ask. I don't know that I've ever really given a moment's thought to a shape's various positive and negative attributes. Yet, this simple question provides a very keen insight into the personalities of my children. Even better than an ink blot. Observe:

Chase: I like squares.

Amaya: I like hearts. Oh and diamonds.

Yes, my friends, that sums those two up pretty well. Chase--a square, rule-abiding model citizen. Amaya--full of love, hugs, kisses, and demands. Always demands.

Me? I've concluded that since I am partial to polka dots, the circle must be my favorite shape. Which it turns out is a fairly apt pictorial depiction of my personality and the way I bounce through life.  No matter how crazy I may get, I always find a way to work myself back around to sanity. Now, some may argue it's the other way around, but that's the beauty of a circle. You can start and end anywhere you choose. And with each bound I make, I further envelope the prize I guard inside: the people around me that make up my world, my reason for continuing on this journey. I circle my love around them.  Infinitely.  I like that visual.

My favorite shape? Easy: a circle.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hey Tom, Let's Talk Real Oblivion

March Madness. TV is on. Somewhere between the sound of shoes squeaking and endless product placement, I catch a commercial for Tom Cruise's new ego-driven work: Oblivion. The story line is the routine American action film canon: conflicted man, planet facing extinction, time is ticking and only he holds the ability to save us all and claim his reward of a kiss from a pretty girl half his age. The idea being that a single man who is angry enough can face the enemy, get beaten around a little, yet in the end, arise victorious.

That's all well and good when the enemy arrives in the form of aliens, zombies or rabid talking monkeys throwing their crap at you for 96 minutes of action-packed fun. But what happens when the enemy that is threatening the planet's future isn't a thing that can be seen, but apathy? How do you defend against weapons of ignorance, laziness and complacency? Because in my mind, the future of our planet is indeed in grave danger. I just believe that danger lies more in the extinction of independent thought than in the invasion of blood-sucking cyborg penguins.

I have been very frustrated lately with the dumbing down of content in order to make it accessible to the masses. Steven Brill wrote an eye-opening article about the billing practices of the medical industry for Time magazine called Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us. Those who have read it insist that it should be required reading for anyone living in America, yet always with the caveat of "It's a long read, but worth it."  What? It's an article in a mainstream MAGAZINE. Even if it took up the entire 60 pages in an unprecedented ad-free publishing, it still wouldn't begin to fall under the category of long read. Atlas Shrugged? That's a long read. An article of 24,000 words spread amongst glossy pictures, graphs and charts? Not a long read. Yes, it's longer than typical news magazine articles, and that's the point really. We have so lulled our nation into a sluggish state of passive consumption with short blips of predigested news, that when we break from that pattern to present a more researched and thorough picture of an issue, we must first warn the reader that some time and thought are going to be required in order to access it.

And here is where Tom Cruise comes back. Because, there was a man who saw this destiny awaiting us. In 1953, a man named Ray Bradbury published a book called Fahrenheit 451 that when read through the internet-accustomed eyes of today, feels like it was used as a blueprint for the renovation of our society.  He, of course, didn't mean for it to be taken that way. He was warning of the dangers of censorship, on putting blinders on to the suffering of the world to keep from feeling anything bad. He was outlining the consequences that await us when we choose to accept the doctrine fed to us in a syrupy sweet elixir. A drug which keeps us moving from one manufactured distraction to the next never pausing long enough to see, think and determine for ourselves the truth.

The book was published 60 years ago in the time of I Love Lucy,  and he nailed the plot vacuum that would become the reality television genre and our complete, zombied acceptance of it. He envisioned a future where the people on the screen replace the people next to us to become our new family.  In this world, there is no greater happiness than to find oneself encased inside 4 walls of pixelated, full-color emptiness. Always moving, but never advancing.

We are not so very far removed from that world now.

We've allowed the hollow to replace the solid. Let the deeper truths melt away. Bradbury saw that coming too. His words:

How like a beautiful statue of ice it was, melting in the sun. I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them.  And then the Government, seeing how advantageous it was to have people reading only about passionate lips and the fist in the stomach, circled the situation with your fire-eaters. 

And a snippet of today's twitter feed from an online newspaperesque replacement:

Passionate lips and fists in stomachs. Check. And this is what is read and considered news. We've created an artificial world and embedded it so deeply that anything real begins to feel like the fraud-- the information so preposterous and irrelevant to our candy-coated world that it is not worth our time. Why read about war and genocide when Kim Kardashian is pregnant and about to tell me how much she weighs? That's what I really care about. My family. And then just as Bradbury wrote--suicides, drug addiction, violence all follow swiftly thereafter. Simply the price paid for smothering the voice buried deep inside us that screams: This is not what life is meant to be.

Ray tried to save us from ourselves 60 years ago and failed. We weren't listening. So Tom, it seems it might be up to you. Can the weapon be turned against itself?  Use the Hollywood machine to fight the true Oblivion?  You can even keep the pretty girl. Tick tock.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Day of Rest? Very funny God.

It is 9:55AM on a Sunday morning. I have been bleary-eyed and entertaining children since 6:00AM. I have answered questions, played games, gotten food, cleaned up food, given baths, dressed wiggling bodies, been used as a jungle gym, answered more questions while simultaneously trying to chew my own breakfast, refereed fights, and kissed injuries. I ponder the possibility of a few minutes of peace in the only room with a working lock: the bathroom.

9:55AM    All quiet. Ahhh.

9:56AM    It comes...that sound: Mama? Mama? Mama? MAMA? Maybe if I'm really quiet, she'll give up? Figure it out for herself? Ask her brother? I'll just sit here and wait. Stealth.

9:57AM    MAMA? MAMA? the voice is closer now. Right outside the door.  I don't think I can wait it out. I am going to have to answer: What is it child? I am trying to use the bathroom.

9:58AM:   Mama, how come on Halloween the power went out for a second? That was weird.

I don't know child, but if I could figure out a way to make your power go out for a minute, believe you me, I'd be flipping that switch. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is enough ever enough?

I was skimming my news feed this morning and came across this article about how Apple has "jolted investors with lower than expected iPhone sales." Jolted. Like an electric shock. That's pretty strong language. Things must have gone really, really bad for the reigning fruit of the consumption forest, right?
Apple sold 47.8m iPhones over the Christmas quarter, missing a forecast average of around 50m. Unusually for a company that has regularly outperformed analyst expectations, revenue growth of 18% year on year to $54.5bn was below the $54.9bn forecast, and profits were flat on the previous year at $13.1bn.

Wait. So they sold 47.8 million phones in a single quarter and had a previous year's profit of $13.1bn? And this is a problem? A sign of impending doom? Oh. I see. They fell short of expectations. Their revenue growth was only $54.5bn instead of the hoped for $54.9bn. How disappointing. Because obviously things have to always get bigger no matter how big they already are. $54bn is nothing to be happy about unless there is a .9 after it. And only then may we crack a slight smile because that would only be meeting expectations, not exceeding them.

On the bright side, our inability to ever be content with enough is exceeding annual per capita greed expectations.  I wonder who controls the market share on collective avarice?  Slap an apple on it and call it good.

Sunday, January 20, 2013



should be relabeled




a single task done well

is better than a handful



The things we love aren't always the best for us. See: reality tv and cheeseburgers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

That'll do kid

Chase's Letter to Santa


Dear Santa,

We never get to talk. We should have lunch together someday.


(Plus a lot of other random stuff including Be Cool Santa and Life is Good)

Mama's letter to Chase:

Dear Chase,

First you out math me and now you out write me? You got all the best of me kid. Use it well.  And remember to thank me in the credits.



Go to Type findthestarlight. Awe for a minute at the genius, creativity and attention to detail. Then: play.

See also:

@luckyshirt on Twitter

Be warned though:  you may disappear completely into the mystery. Wave to me.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's true

I'm not going to lie. You'd know I was and I'd know I was, so what's the point? I'm just going to come right out and say it: Yes, teachers have favorites. We try not to, but we do. And now I'm going to show you some of mine.

Here's the first:

Tetris Post It notes! Yes, of course I meant favorite presents. What did you think I meant?  What?? Are you crazy?? maybe I did have each of my ~110 students hand write a letter to Santa for homework on Tuesday telling him just how good I've been, and that I really and truly deserved to get these in my stocking. One must use the resources one has at hand when dealing with that jolly old elf. I knew those post its would be mine--Santa couldn't possibly resist the innocent pleas of 110 fifth graders.  But, I have to say that I am blown away that one of my little darlings went online that very night to find them and deliver them to me today.  Poor Santa, made obsolete by a 10 year old.

Number 2:

Candyland band-aids! These are from Juliet, who isn't technically a student, but I do school her in many things--like what is and is not an acceptable music choice for instance--so it counts. These are so freaking adorable that I kind of want to cut myself just so I can put one on RIGHT NOW before Amaya finds them and commandeers them for her own boo-boos. I don't share well with others. Don't tell Santa. Oh, wait you can. I already got my Post Its.  o

And last, but not least:

A hand drawn card illustrating what I've taught him in Social Studies thus far. I have to be honest again here. I find the county's 5th grade SS curriculum to be drier than 5 day old toast. That's neither here nor there really, just a side note. The point is that the best gifts are always the ones that time and thought have gone into. And the ones that acknowledge all that someone does for you, and that tell you that you deserve a wonderful Christmas break. The ones that make it clear that you matter to someone, that you've made a difference in his life. Those are the ones that make me tear up and the ones I'll save for years. Those are the ones that keep me doing this job when I have days when I think I should do anything but teach. It's more than just paper, it's the gift of purpose--reminding me that I have one, and I need to keep on trying to fulfill it. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hammer the Grammar

On our way to our fifth grade Christmas dinner/gift exhange/reason to enjoy an adult beverage, we found ourselves behind this vehicle:

 First, I had to laugh. Because, well, it's so very Christian like to have a snarky bumper sticker. Then I forced Lauren to take a picture because I was in the back seat. Which made me laugh some more at my own ridiculousness. Yes, I force others into partaking in my madness. They call this leadership.

Next, I had a private, chipmunkesque little chuckle over the questionable use of the word close. Inner monologue: "Come on Mr. Bumper Sticker creator. WWJD yo? You need an adverb there dude. Cause you're modifying the verb following? Are you following me here?? Closely? The word you want is closely. Unless of course, you want to get into the whole ambiguous adverb debate, but really who wants to do that? Best to stick with established forms for professional writing. Wouldn't you agree? I bet Jesus would."

Giggles at my own nerd girl ways were quickly followed by a few nervous guffaws to mask my growing concern over the decreased level of my own sanity for having an entire conversation with myself over the grammatical virtue of a red rectangle stuck to a minivan. And all that before I even had a single sip of this...

Mango Margarita. I will be following it quite closely. As it goes in my belly! Religion found. Which probably explains why for the rest of the night my response to every question was: WWJD dude? Whatever it is, I'm following Him thhhhhiiiiiisssss close, Lee. *snort*

Monday, December 17, 2012

Potty Humor

Note left on the classroom bathroom door.
Made me chuckle.  I do believe the truth in advertising people would take issue with its accuracy though. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So many toys. So many unhappy people.

I did it. I can't believe it. But I did. I survived Toys R Us on a Sunday in December. It was touch and go there for a bit, but I made it. I did have Emily as a wing man (wing woman?) but I am the one who steered the cart the majority of the time and that's where all the real danger lies. She was more of a navigator really. She's the Michael Collins to my Neil Armstrong. Who? Exactly.

TRU Check out dude: Do you have your Rewards Card with you?

Me: No, but I do have a Groupon.

TRU COD: Is there a phone number tied to it?

Me: My groupon? No, an email address? Wait. You mean the Rewards Card. No I don't have one at all.

Different TRU COD: Oh, so no rainbow in your wallet then.

Me: Um no. No rainbow. Two circles though. Master & Card.

Both TRU CODS: (blank stare)

Me: Nevermind.

TRU COD: You must have a Rewards Card. They only give Groupons to people who have a Rewards Card.

Me: Hmmm. Nope. Still no rainbow in there.

At this point I begin to feel the loss of not having a rainbow in my wallet. What kind of wonders would the rainbow bring? Aisles that magically cleared? The toy I want found marked down 85%? A check out line that opened just for me? Valet service? I must get that card! Take me to it Mikey!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Don't say his name.

Don't post his picture.

Don't run countless loops of commentary conjecturing on motive and means.

Don't give another sick individual out there who feels unheard a direct line to infamy for the cost of a box of bullets.

Just don't.

Do, weep for the families. The lights extinguished.

Do hold your own loves tighter and be grateful for every minute.

Do refuse to feed the media system that gives more air time to a mass murderer than the 1000s of saints who walk amongst us daily. Turn your TV off. Stop reading the endless updates. If we don't feed it, it will die. And with it, the promise of immortality it brings for anyone sick enough to point a gun at a child and pull the trigger.

Friday, December 14, 2012

to the core

i sometimes wonder
if we as humans
believe that if we
grasp tightly enough
to our fears,
our resentments,
our inadequacies;
i mean
really squeeze them
in fists of steel;
that somehow the
mounting pressure
combined with the
heat from our own
will transform those
imperfections and flaws
into diamonds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ticker Tape Through Today

Wake up to cross dressing elf:

Rock, Paper, Scissors with the female offspring to determine who gets the last pancake. Lose. Pout.

Arrive at school to find cross dressing elf must have friends:

Cease pouting.

Talk with teammates about scat. As in poop. For far too many minutes. Chuckle like a 10 year old boy. Realize it's true that you are who you hang out with all day.

Spend 225 minutes grading tests, organizing Geo Bee, writing interims, delegating party duties, answering emails, tallying permission slips, and filling out behavior reports while DARE officer talks about pressure. Eh? Pressure? No experience with that. More coffee please.

Eat cake for lunch. 15 minutes later, want more cake.

Arrive at gym. Realize I can either remember a water bottle or a hair tie, but never both. Begin crafting detailed postulates to explain the inability for both items to be in my possession at the same time when anywhere near a place of exercise. Blow hair out of face for 5000th time while taking a giant gulp of lukewarm water. Contemplate shaving it all off.

Still want cake. Eat a banana instead. Taste buds neither fooled nor amused.  

Make dinner utilizing leeks as an ingredient. Smell like leeks for rest of evening. Kinda like it.

Have 10 minute conversation with Amaya in attempt to explain the meaning of the word ornery. Chase sums it up: You're just trouble Amaya.  Close enough. 

Surf internets for a bit before sleep. Find this:

Begin outlining diabolical plan to get students to cut and dye thousands of triangles so I can copy Yuko Takada Keller's work. Wonder if this in some way violates child labor laws. Decide it doesn't. Yet think it best not to mention it to DARE officer.

Sit down to write a blog post. Stare at screen. Fingers move. Words appear. Wonder if they make sense to anyone but me. Doubt it.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Safe in my Bubble

He's baaaaccckk.

Pluses of having Alfie around:
  • Kids are glee-filled
  • Kids somewhat behave for fear of what Alfie will tell Santa
  • Promotes the holly and jolly.
Minuses of having Alfie around:
  • Glee-filled children want you to wake up at 6 am on a Saturday so you can see how Alfie is sitting in the gumball machine eating "Starbucks". Starbucks you say? Gimme some of that kid. (well played Juliet--keep me up all night and then disappear when the kids drag me out of bed to view your handy work. Revenge will be mine...oh yes it will be mine.)
  • There is no actual Starbucks.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

If a word is written and no one is around to read it, does it make a...nevermind

If you've read the blog before, you might be under the impression that I am together and organized and always happy. Do you want to know a secret? I have no idea what I'm doing. About anything. Ever. I float through life and just let it take me where it wants. I have an easy smile, and I use it to distract people from asking any really tough questions or getting too close. I divert. dodge. deflect. And probably a whole host of other D words that my brain hasn't quite wrapped itself around just yet. I'm really just a jumbled mess inside a decently wrapped package. Actually, this probably isn't such a secret since I am returning from a year long hiatus from writing. Not the best secret then, is it? Ok, I'll owe you one.

What is still true even a year later is that I have some pretty incredible people in my life. People who amaze me with their strength, captivate me with their creativity and comfort me with their love. My mama lost her own mama on Tuesday. Saying goodbye to a parent is something I can't even begin to fathom. My heart breaks for her and all that could have been that will now never be. Yet, even in her own pain, she remains my mama giving me love and encouragement to continue on through my own life's challenges.

That picture above? Flowers from my teammates in sympathy for my loss. And cough medicine from Emily--though I think that was more from her getting tired of listening to me hack for the last hour and a half than concern for my well being. Still, she went out in the cold to get it. That counts.

I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing people who love me. I need to remember to stop hiding behind walls and start letting them in to do just that. Death to the 3 Ds.

Today's soundtrack. And not just because saying Biffy makes me giggle either.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

On saying goodbye

This life that we live gives us so many opportunities to practice saying goodbye. Most of the time we have some choice in the matter. And, most of the time we really don't want to, yet we say it anyway because we know it is for the best. But there are times when there was no choice given to us, and we know it can't possibly be for the best. Those are the final goodbyes. Irrevocable. Forever etched onto the tablet of our history as the day that our world stopped spinning for a second until it could regain its balance and begin to move once more. Those are the goodbyes that have us parting not just with another being, but with a piece of our very own souls.

I've found in these moments that the pain of forever can hit you repeatedly and without relent. There will be the briefest moment where you've forgotten the loss only to have it wash over you anew. And you feel it in your belly, your chest tightens and you are sure that there is no possible way that you can carry on under this pressure. You can't imagine fighting against the emptiness and meaninglessness of it all for the rest of your life. Because it feels like that is what you will have to do: battle every day to face the void. And you will. For awhile. And that while will very much feel like forever while you're living it. But gradually, it will ease. The force compressing your heart will weaken until it becomes a ghost of what it once was. Still pressing, still present. But no longer debilitating. And it is in that space that you can say goodbye and mean it.