Monthly Archives: April 2010

Scream On, Siobhan! At Least Jane Is Still Listening.

It’s 36 hours later and I’m still bummed.

American Idol said goodbye to Siobhan Magnus.

I know she isn’t polished. She isn’t mainstream. She is a bit quirky. She has tattoos and piercings and wears eclectic clothing combinations.

Maybe that’s why I like her.

Oh yeah, and she can sing. Really sing. And scream the notes – which she’s been criticized for, but hey, I like screaming. Especially in rock music.

Siobhan reminds me a bit of Amy Lee. You remember Amy. Lead singer for Evanescence. When I first heard their song “Bring Me To Life” I was hooked. Loved their sound. Erroneously thinking that it was a rock band with both  male and female singers (the male singer in “Bring Me to Life” is guest Paul McCoy – helping out for just one song). I bought the album and was horribly and hopelessly disappointed. Amy Lee can only sing about 5 notes. Not even a full octave. Siobhan, on the other hand, has full command of a few octaves. Same clear, beautiful tone. Same rock edge. But fantastic range.

Ellen DeGeneres complimented Siobhan because she “marched to the beat of her own drummer.” I suppose that’s why I like her, too. She isn’t a cookie-cutter. She always seems true to herself.

“I do what I do because it rests well on my heart,” she once said.

Each week I voted for her whether I thought her performance was stellar or not. I wanted her to succeed because she was different, packed with a good bit of talent. I didn’t know too much about her until she was voted off. Then I started doing a bit of background information so I could write an informed post about her.

On Wikipedia, I found out she is 20 years old and has had the typical high school musical and choral experiences, as well as taking part in a struggling alternative rock band. She’s an apprentice glassblower. She was on the wait list at Berklee College of Music when she auditioned for American Idol last summer. I love it that she felt out-of-place in college because she was a “non-partier.” With her “bad girl” image with tattoos and piercings, I love that she appears to have a solid head on her shoulders, down-to-earth, confident and devoted to her family.

And I love her parting quote: “I have faith that everything happens for a reason. I couldn’t be luckier.”

Oh, and I love her screams. I do. Sue me. There’s a little rocker chick, deep inside me, that loves gut wrenching screams. Her best songs have a bluesy, dark rock and roll sound. I loved her renditions of “Painted Black” and “House of the Rising Sun.”

So, I’m sad to see her go. I’m one of those dorks who actually votes. And this is about the time when my dark horse is voted off and I lose interest in voting. Sure, the remaining contestents have talent. They’ll all have opportunites to sell records.  But none of them is as unique, quirky and fun as Siobhan. 

Scream on, Siobhan! Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Advertisements

19 Comments

Filed under Music

Welcome To The South, Y’all

17 Comments

Filed under How We Roll

My Water Broke With The Call

We had been waiting for three months. Pregnant since we first applied over a year ago. Then patiently waiting for the elusive due date.

That is the limbo you flounder in when you choose to adopt. The pregnancy lasts about as long as an elephant’s (which is 22 months for those with inquiring minds). And then, you go into labor with “The Call.”

You hold onto a picture. Your only glimpse of your daughter. You treasure it. You talk to it. You put it in a frame by your bedside table. You pray to it. You cry, holding it. It is all you have.

Until The Call. Then you go into labor.

I was working as an administrator and part-time teacher at a small, private college prep school. I was in my office and my secretary said I had a call from the adoption agency. Thinking something had gone wrong I quickly picked up the phone.

My water broke.

She was arriving two days later, on Friday, April 30th at 10:45pm.

I stuttered. I stammered. I had no idea what to say. I stood there in shock. I thanked our social worker and hung up the phone. I walked out of my office, dazed.

“How soon do we have to take her to the vet?” I asked our school nurse.

My babies, before human children, were my dogs and my cat. My world was reeling. My vocabulary (and doctors it seemed) had to change.

I called the social worker back. I could hear her grin over the phone.

“I thought I’d be hearing back from you,” she said.

This time I asked all the proper questions: Flight #? Airline? Airport? How soon we’d have to take her to the pediatrician. (I’m a quick learner.)

My boss heard all of the commotion and told me to go home. Get ready. Time the contractions.

When you’re in labor it’s hard to sleep. The anticipation. The discomfort. We had nothing ready. She wasn’t due for another month. Our baby was premature. We had no crib. No stroller. No car seat.

The next 48 hours were a whirlwind. Racing to Sears and K-Mart. Grabbing whatever supplies we could find. I found out later that the hostesses of my shower (scheduled in two weeks) were thrown for a loop. They made many returns and exchanges. We were buying all the things they were going to present to us at the shower.

Seventeen years ago today and I remember it like yesterday. I’m sorry. I can’t avoid using a cliché. It’s true. Who knew seventeen years later I’d have this beautiful, smart, caring, witty, fun, amazing young lady sharing pieces of herself with me? Teaching me about love, commitment, responsibility and patience. Daring me to be a better human being. Testing my limits. Pushing my boundaries.

Forcing my heart to grow three sizes that day.

35 Comments

Filed under children, Motherhood

Give Michael A Chance – It’s Not His Fault His Brother Is Sean Penn

The DJ said, “Now, don’t hold it against him that Sean Penn is his brother. This next song is pretty good. Please, give it a chance!”

As soon as I heard “Sean Penn” I wanted to tune out. But this DJ was speaking to me. Because I’m the one that holds it against you if you’re mean, self-centered, loathsome, egotistical or cruel. I’m not saying Sean Penn is all of those things. Far from it. But a couple of those adjectives might suit him.

What do I hold against Sean Penn? His ill-advised activism, using his celebrity as a vehicle to be heard.

Hugo Chavez is NOT a dictator? The less than literate rant that he paid $56,000 to have printed in the Washington Post speaking out against President Bush?

I’m ok with him having an opinion. I’m ok with his right to express it. What I have a problem with is him relying on his high school education coupled with his portrayal of serious characters in film in myopic Hollywood and thinking this makes him a highly educated, worldly, wise and fair representative of the poor and down trodden.

Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way. You’re getting paid to pretend to be someone else.  After you finish pretending, you’re still you. You do not get to keep all of the intelligence, world experience and wisdom of the character you played.

It is so hard for me to look past the in-your-face activism of Hollywood. Whether it be Jane Fonda or Oprah. Sean Penn or Charlton Heston. Give me the quiet, humble, hard-working, and fairly anonymous Steven Spielberg, Mariah Carey or Sandra Bullock – all widely recognized for their philanthropic efforts without major headlines.

So give Michael a chance. This song is pretty good. And I prefer this unplugged version.

An oldie, but a goodie.

A one hit wonder.

Possibly because his brother is Sean Penn.

15 Comments

Filed under Music

A Blogger’s Law of Averages

1. Half of the blogs out there boast an average of 100 – 249 words per post.  I average about 400 – 600. Hmmmm, seems I’m above average.

2. The average blog reader spends about a minute and a half at your blog before moving on. That’s a lot of speed readers out there.

3. The average lifespan for a homosexual is between 43-46 years of age. Ok. I’m not going to even credit the source because their statistic is surely faulty and full of garbage. Let’s just say it popped up when I was searching blog lifespan averages and out of curiosity I clicked on it to see what the bozos are talking about. I can’t believe there are people out there that believe this crap.

4. Two thirds of all bloggers are male.  Another site claims 51% are male. Not in my world. I have a feeling we women are gaining on them. And I’m sure all three of my male readers will attest to that.

5. Bloggers that describe themselves as “snarky?” 16%. I must run in the wrong circles. ALL of my blogging buddies are the sweetest, most wonderful people I know. I’ll bet they don’t even know what snarky means!

6. The average for blog updates is 2-3 times a week. Good to know. When I started, I gave myself a goal of 6 times per week. I’ve adjusted that to 5 times per week. Lately, I’ve been considering just 4 times per week. Looks like I’m well on my way to becoming a statistic.

7. “Fewer than 10% of bloggers say they don’t know the traffic to their blogs.” Now THIS I believe. Especially with how many posts I see out there lamenting on how they’re embarrassed to admit that they envy other popular bloggers, or posting tips on how to receive more comments, increase traffic, etc. Sometimes I think blogging only enhances our insecurities.

8. The average age of a blogger is between 25 and 44 years of age. Oh. My. God. I am officially an old-timer!

9. Do a Google search about “blogs about nothing” and you will receive 223,000,000 hits. That’s an awful lot of people hanging on Seinfeld’s coattails.

10. There are more bloggers out there obsessing over their statistics than I ever  imagined. And after reading their exhaustive research I’ve decided I don’t want to become one of them. I enjoy writing for me. And when it pleases you, too, all the better!

(Interesting sidenote: while researching for this post I found myself very disappointed in the availability of “current” information. All of the above data is from 2005-2010. I wouldn’t even read a post if it was published over 5 years ago. That was TOO old. Sign ‘o the times, eh?)

28 Comments

Filed under Observations

Dear Mrs. Wood

Dear Mrs. Wood,

One of my mentors, a man I never met, died last month. I wrote about him on my blog.  It got me thinking about all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had in my lifetime. My thoughts immediately turned to you.

You were my fourth grade teacher. I had just moved to the area. I was shy. I was awkward. You made me feel like I belonged. As if I had been going to that school since kindergarten. You made me want to be a teacher. Just like you.

I remember afternoons, sitting cross-legged on the floor,  listening to “A Wrinkle In Time” and “From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” I remember math games and warm hugs.

Oh, the hugs. I wanted to escape into your arms every single day. I imagined your home smelled of ginger snaps and fresh laundry. I pictured books stacked high on tabletops and a garden in the back with ripe tomatoes. A cat lazily sunning on the porch. Two lemonade glasses, one for you and one for me.

I imagined going home with you – instead of my empty home. Someone to be there for me when I was scared. Someone to cook me dinner, instead of having to fend for ourselves. A place where kindness was typical and harsh words were few.

When I talked, you would listen with interest. You encouraged me to dream, to hope, to reach. In y0ur classroom, the possibilities were endless. I never felt criticized or helpless.

Remembering now, as an adult, I picture your classroom and it was bright, sunny, full of light. I picture my childhood house and see darkness, stillness and fear. No wonder I raced to school each day, earlier than anyone else – always the first one in line at the door.

My teeth were a mess and I desperately needed braces. You made me feel beautiful.

My home provided shelter. You provided warmth.

My parents were always too busy to listen to me. You dropped everything each time I opened my mouth.

Discipline at home was unpredictable and harsh. You counseled us with care and concern.

I miss you, Mrs. Wood. I miss that very important year in my life. A pivotal moment in my lifetime. A time I remember, oh so well.

It was the year I decided to become a teacher.

Just like you.

Much love,

Jane

19 Comments

Filed under Growing Up, Teaching

Jaime Escalante – Passionate. Brilliant. Hero.

A few weeks ago, a hero died.

Jaime Escalante.

Jaime Escalante - December 31, 1930 - March 30, 2010

He was my hero. I first learned about him in college. I was finishing up my teaching degree and I had an amazing math professor. Her teaching style was energetic, positive and fun. She taught us about Jaime Escalante and the work he was doing at Garfield High School in California. When the movie about his work with students in L.A. “Stand and Deliver” was released, a bunch of us went to see it.

I was mesmerized.  His energy. His stamina. His drive. His passion.

He was an amazing teacher. He was the teacher I wanted to be.

I was never a strong math student. I struggled to understand and keep up. But in high school, with an amazing Algebra I teacher, something clicked. I was catching on. It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. But I was a girl. And girls don’t do math. And boys don’t like smart girls. So I played dumb. I fostered the belief in myself that I still wasn’t very good with numbers. My path was English, not math.

During my senior year of high school, I had already received early acceptance to a major university. So, like any other senior in the same position, I slacked off. I coasted. I even dropped out of Trig because, hey – I was going to teach English. Who needs higher math?

When I took my university placement exams I had tested out of freshman mathematics. I shook my head in disbelief and asked them to check again, because I wasn’t very good at math. My advisor assured me that the scores were correct. Had I considered a career in mathematics?

I laughed. Of course not. But unable to stay away, I took a few math courses. And a few more. Pretty soon I was able to have a double major in both math and English. Might come in handy someday, I thought.

I always felt I was a better Math Teacher than English Teacher. English came too easily for me. How in the world do you teach someone how to write? How to analyze? How to interpret?

But with numbers? Easy. Step by step. There was a pattern to discover. A direct path leading to the correct answer.

And, I used to be a struggling math student. I knew, first hand, what it was like to sit in a classroom with numbers whizzing by and you have no idea how everyone else seems to know the answer. I knew how to struggle with a calculus problem that took pages to complete and three tries to get the right answer while your study partner got it right the first time and in 10 less steps.

Math didn’t come easily to me but boy, was it fun! Every day a new puzzle. A new riddle to solve.

Jaime Escalante showed a bunch of kids, a random sampling of American high school students, that they were capable of being great math students. Each year that he taught AP Calculus at Garfield High, more and more students were inspired and passed the exam.

Each and every year.

They weren’t geniuses. It wasn’t luck. It was all because of a man with tenacity, knowledge and a pure love of teaching and his students. The students were inspired by his energy and drive. They were pumped up by his confidence in their abilities. They began to believe in themselves. And then they just went out and did it!

In the years that followed Jaime Escalante’s departure from the Garfield High math program, passing AP Calculus scores plummeted by 80 percent. There was no longer a champion for the students, encouraging a love for math. Garfield High School students were again, just like any other math student across the country. Struggling to see the wonder in numbers. Becoming bored with applications that they’ll “never use.”

An amazing teacher died last month.

A passionate advocate. A brilliant role model.

A hero.

15 Comments

Filed under People, Teaching