Sunday, February 24, 2013

ATC Swaps in February

At the end of last week I sent off three ATC (Artist Trading Card) swaps on Swap-bot. I sent them off at the very end of the time limit because of the envelopes I left to almost the last minute. The first swap was to two partners, Brown Paper Bag ATC; and the second a Black and White ATC to one partner. One of the swap partners said on her profile that she likes Betty Boop, so I used that on her envelope. One of her favorite movies is The Princess Bride, so I also used that for an ATC. I had saved several Chinese fortune cookie fortunes, and they came in handy for the ATCs.


The swap partner for the Black and White ATC wrote on her profile that she likes caramel apples, so I tried my hand at drawing a caramel apple with sprinkles.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My First Memoir Piece

From time to time, I have posted some of my short memoir pieces on my blog. This is the first memoir piece I wrote, about twelve years ago. I was working on a little writing project for seventh grade students and decided to have them write a mini-memoir. This was my example. We published each student's mini-memoir in individual origami books which each student created.
In 2003, I started taking a memoir writing class through the Jordan School District inservice system. I repeated the inservice class for seven years.
Johnny Angel

            I heard “Johnny Angel” on the radio the other day and took one of those mental trips on the magical, musical time machine back to the old school bus stop on a foggy, gray morning in February, 1962.  Our breaths puffed out in pale clouds of steam and quickly blended with the cold, moist air that covered everything with dew as we joked and caught up on the missed gossip from the day before. Someone in the little group of juniors and seniors had a transistor radio.  They were softly singing and swaying along with the music as they huddled together for warmth, excluding us mere freshmen and sophomores.

            A new song started, and I heard a sweet, soft voice singing that plaintive song. I no longer felt the wet, penetrating cold.  It was she. My heart was drumming in my chest. I was in love.  Well, maybe not in love, but certainly in deep crush or maybe intense infatuation. Whatever you want to call it, I was in it.  My family, along with most of America, had been watching Shelley Fabares every Wednesday or Thursday evening for five years on The Donna Reed Show. She sang “Johnny Angel” on that show when I heard the song for the first time.

            I knew this silly crush of mine was hopeless from the start. There wasn’t the slightest chance that I would ever even meet her. There was the age difference: I was practically the youngest “geeky” freshman at Huntington Beach High School, and she was a “cool” senior. There was the distance problem: I was in Huntington Beach, and she lived in Santa Monica and filmed in Burbank. But I fantasized about how it might be if I did know her and if I were someone she might consider a “boyfriend.”  “Johnny Angel” was “our song.” It was my secret. I never told anyone-not even my two best friends, Jim and Joe, especially not them. And, of course, Shelley never knew.  My feelings were absolutely unrequited, and somehow, miraculously, I survived. Anyway, she left the show the next year and the crush faded mercifully away.

            Thirty-five years later, my daughters Rachel and Emma were watching a rerun of Coach when I entered the family room headed for the computer.  I caught a glimpse of the TV screen and stopped to watch for a moment.

            “Ah, Shelley Fabares,” I said casually. “When I was in high school, I had a crush on her.”

            “Her?” they asked incredulously. “She’s old!”

            “Well,” I said in my defense, “so am I.  But we weren’t old then.  And anyway, you two should look so good when you’re as old as she is!”

            I decided I would not tell them about my other crush on a woman not just four years older than I, but thirteen years older.  It would be just me and Shelley as far as they were concerned.  But for me, it will always be Shelley – and Sophia Loren!


Of course, I married my true love, and we are in our forty-first year together.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Meandering Through A Bitter Sweet Melancholy

I was listening to my Johnny Crawford play list on Youtube while cataloging new Spanish language books I am adding to the library collection for the dual language students. As I was typing along filling in all the necessary information to make a "clean" MARC record for the library online catalog, I started feeling a bit of that bitter sweet melancholy with which I am sometimes afflicted when I listen to the "old" songs from the '50s and '60s. It is not a depression, but a profound feeling of loss: a sadness that brings a lump to the throat, a weight to the heart, and sometimes a moistness to the eyes. I have noticed that this melancholy occurs more often as I have passed "middle age" and am speeding toward the end. Usually, when this phenomenon  starts to take hold of me, I stop listening to the '50s and '60s pop and rock and roll and rescue my mental health by fleeing to my classical or movie theme playlist. (Bach is stupendous for the uplifting of the spirit and the recreation of the mind.) Silence doesn't help much as the songs and the memories they have conjured linger like fog.

I did not try to escape this time. I started replaying multiple times some of the songs like "Living in the Past" (1963), "When I Fall in Love" (1963), and "Lonesome Town" (1962). (I have always been a sucker for a good ol' ballad.) While I listened, my cataloging became slower as my mind meandered from one thought stream to another.

For some reason known only to my subconscious mind, I replayed Crawford's version of "Moon River" again and again until I could hear it without playing it. I like most of the versions of this song by Andy Williams and others. Even Audrey Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's version has its charm. But Johnny Crawford's rendition has become my favorite. As the old melancholy crept over me, I began a metacognition (good education buzz-word) about why these old songs from my youth tend to affect me this way.

As my mind flitted pell mell from one thought stream to another, I settled on Breakfast at Tiffany's, the film for which "Moon River" was written. I pondered the fact that all the actors in Breakfast at Tiffany's, excepting Mickey Rooney and maybe Beverly Powers, are dead, and many of them died at a younger age than I am now. And I am not old. This is true as well of many friends and family members who were around when Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini won the 1961 Oscar for best song for "Moon River."    "... Must give us pause ..."

My thoughts skipped over to the play Our Town, specifically the third act when the newly deceased Emily Webb goes back to a point in her life to relive a happy day. I played part of the Stage Manager in Our Town when I was a senior in high school.* This play used to be, and may still be, a staple of high school drama departments performed by adolescents who couldn't possibly understand the painful depths of the third act, having themselves such little personal past and a paucity of experience to reflect upon. The Stage Manager warns Emily that going back to experience a day, even a good, happy day will be more pain than joy. No, Emily, you can't go back, even in reverie, and have a completely happy time. Even a good, happy day is shrouded with a thin veil of sadness. The moment is gone; the time, the place, the people are gone.

The memory is sweet, but the reality is bitter. The two mingled together is a heady mix. I am addicted to it, but if I want to accomplish anything of worth, I must not indulge too often. Ah, time for an antidote.

*Ten years later, while working at BUY as the Pardoe Theatre stage manager during a production of Our Town, I was an emergency four performance stand in for the part of the constable. The actor had a death in his family, and I was the only one who was tall enough to wear the his costume. The other cast members were woried I would ruin their production; they knew me only as a stage tech and not as an actor. I did received rave reviews from the director during cast notes before my second performance.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. I sent out thirteen cards; some of them even early enough to get to the recipients on or before the red letter day. One didn't get mailed until today because my brain is too small to contain all the information it needs to hold. Most of the envelopes were on the same design, the only difference being the color stains on the paper. The first envelope was hand delivered.

This was the alternate design on three of the envelopes:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Comparing Our Apples to Their Oranges We Fail Every Time

I am afraid that if I hear another federal politician, bureaucrat, or television talking head blather the propaganda that American schools are horrible and failing and are way behind other developed nations, I will be on my way to jail after pummeling them soundly about the head and shoulders with an iron cudgel. And that goes for their useful idiot followers too! These prevaricators, telling a half truth is the same as telling a whole lie, have an agenda, i.e. more interference in and control of public education by the federal gummit. (With apologies to Pogo.)

These nattering naybobs are constantly braying that the American educational system does not measure up to the systems of other developed countries.With all the hand wringing and breast beating they are in effect saying that our apples don't give orange juice like the other countries' oranges so our apples are rotten. Of course, they stop short of demanding that our apples be exchanged for oranges because they would then have no position from which to push their agenda of interference and control.

The impossibility of making a fair comparison of systems and results is the fact that our apples are egalitarian while their oranges are elitist. In other words, most other education systems track students into alternative schools for trades if they cannot pass a comprehensive exam in the eighth grade leaving only those students who are able to pass the exam to enter high school and go on to university. The American system takes every child who walks across the school threshold regardless of his or her physical and mental abilities, aptitudes, attitudes, or desires and mandates that they remain in the same track (college and careers is what they call it this week) with no alternatives (skilled labor and trades).

When you compare the average scores of all our students with only the best of their students, of course, they will always have the higher ranking. Compare our best with their best, and we shall give them a run for the gold and shine as brightly as they appear to shine now. The educrats will never allow that to happen. Remember, interference and control.

Now that my rant is out of the way, I will freely admit after twenty-five years as a classroom teacher and fifteen years a public school librarian, that we do have problems in the American educational system. The problems are large and as multi faceted as the Hope Diamond and their curse has destroyed many a reformer's dreams of a new system. As long as we continue to be egalitarian, striving to educate every child in America, making alarmist and rather supercilious comparisons will not solve any problems.

Great gummit educational fiats, like No Child Left Behind, solve no problems. The only law that might help would be one requiring every legislator anywhere in America who wants to propose education legislation to teach in a public school for a month before he or she can submit the law. Even that wouldn't help though. The bureaucrat rule writers would foul up even a good piece of legislation: Title IX comes to mind. But that is a rant for another day.