Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The following is a poetry exercise I do with my creative writing class. I find pictures of several exotic flowers, and their job is to write an 8-line poem that is a series of metaphors describing that flower. At the end of class that day, we try to guess which poem goes with which flower picture. The goal is that we begin to notice detail and notice facets of nature that we otherwise would have overlooked; it's also helpful when teaching metaphors. Here's one I wrote tonight as a sample for my students tomorrow. I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but it is one of the most beautiful and creative pieces of nature I have ever seen.

A tie-dye t-shirt drying in dewey grass
An open eye with 80s blue mascara
An alien with three plum tentacles and a flowing skirt
A hot dog and kiwi picnic
A rocket at takeoff, spewing blue fire
A graceful tutu-ed octopus
An impractical speckled umbrella
Eight silver-green shovels with one unforgettable handle.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More is Less

I like to develop theories about various activities and patterns in the universe, and my latest is the "More is Less" Theory, which states that any product with enough sway, power, and popularity, eventually shortens its name. Take, for example, the Macintosh computer. When I hear the word "Macintosh," I think of pixled images, no Internet, Oregon Trail, and perforated printing paper, but when I hear the word "Mac," a thousand sleek, intelligent pictures come to mind. Why? Because Apple has conquered the More is Less Theory. Another example: Coke, formerly known as Coca-Cola. If I were to ask you for a Coca-cola, you might think I had aged a few decades or perhaps just arrived from another planet. Why use the mouth full "Coca-cola" when you could just ask for a Coke? Coke, too, has a firm grasp on the More is Less Theory.

This theory applies to people as well: become famous enough and we don't even need to mention your last name anymore. Cher. Bono. Regis. Madonna. Oprah. Actually, Oprah has moved beyond just the first name recognition to the single letter recognition, O. She and George W. do have something in common after all. However, Obama might be competing for rights to that letter, so we'll see what happens.

Despite what you might think, less isn't more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tut, tut. Looks like thought showers!

For those of you who don't read the Limbaugh Letter like my husband, you missed quite an entertaining article this past month about the buzzword "brainstorming." Apparently, the town of Kent, England has decided that the term brainstorming "might offend mentally ill people and those with epilepsy." Just to clarify, it's not that this term is offensive; it's that it may be offensive...because people with mental illnesses and epilepsy have storms in their brain? And that is something they are embarrassed by and might possibly consider offensive? According to Kent's town council, the answer is YES. So, the politically correct term is now "thought showers," which, might be offensive to meteorologists world wide. So perhaps they should change it to "thought explosions," although that's too easily linked to terrorism. Maybe "brain power"? Or would that offend the geniuses of the world? Political correctness is a black hole. So, just remember: the next time you're in Kent, England doing some brainstorming, make sure you're thought showering or you could have to have some diversity training--Michael Scott style.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A new Olympic sport

My dreams have concocted yet another creative morsel: a new Olympic sport! What sport could possibly top gymnastics, beach volleyball, or the swimming of U.S.A. darling, Michael Phelps? Why, downhill water hockey, of course. This new event combines downhill skiing, water skiing, and hockey to deliver a face-paced, intense and wet competition that is sure to wow audiences around the world. In this one-on-one event, two athletes water ski down a wide and gradual water slide while hitting a hockey puck back and forth with hockey sticks. Each athlete can only touch the puck once before his or her opponent must touch it, and this "hot potato" effect must continue until the bottom of the slide, where there is a red line. Once the players cross the red line, the person who hits the puck first and successfully lands it in the net at the bottom of the slide wins a point. If the player unsuccessfully shoots, neither player receives a point. After each run down the slide, the players return to the top for another round until one player reaches five points. The player who earns five points first is declared the winner.

I'm considering contacting the Olympic committee to tell them about this novelty. Nevermind that this sport defies physics and logic; that's its draw. And you have to admit that it's much more of a sport than, say, curling. Downhill water hockey? In my dreams.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Writing, living, and Chinese food

I read an article in The Writer magazine today, explaining that good writing comes from good living. Maybe that's why I have a hard time blogging during the school year and such an easy time in the summer. The author suggested living creatively, oddly, adventurously with the aim that it will fuel more interesting writing. He noted that it might be appropriate sometimes to take off a day of work, try a new skill, write with your non-dominant hand, or go somewhere unusual. Some might call teaching adolescents an adventure in itself (and it is), but from August to May my life crams with work, ousting that extra time for "creative living." So, one of my goals this year is to find time and ways to do interesting things in the midst of the working world--not just so that I'll have more to write about, but also so that I can have some f-u-n. After a day of planning, meetings, making copies, and putting tennis balls on the legs of desks so they don't scrape the floor, I'm ready for some of that good living. So, in honor of living creatively and well, Phil and I are off to my brother's house to order Chinese food (it's only appropriate) and watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics! Life is good.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Two more dream stories

As many of you know, my dream life is extremely active and entertaining, especially after reading before going to bed. Phil and I have been reading book 7 of Harry Potter out loud to each other at night (I've already read it once and Phil is experiencing it for the first time) and it has produced some pretty hilarious and outlandish dreams. Here are the latest two:

1. The first dream wasn't very coherent, but what I remember is that by friend Matt, who is in med school with Phil and goes to church with us, was a renowned lawyer, dressed very suavely with a crisp suit and tie, shined shoes, a briefcase, and aviator sunglasses (of course). He ended up on a helicopter that started to spin out of control. For whatever reason, the pilot wasn't doing anything, so he took the controls and safely landed it. Because of that, we named him "church lawyer," although at another point in the dream he was also the pastor of a mega church. When he was the pastor of the mega-church, he was bringing on the reformed theology (no Joel Osteen, thankfully) dressed in slacks and a button down--maybe a tie--and it was rather carnival-like with people moving around all the time, ushers with headsets, and 3 rows of balconies. So, if the medicine thing doesn't work out for him, he could apparently be a lawyer, pilot, and pastor...or all three, for that matter!

2. My second dream this week was a bit more coherent and was the product of one of my new favorite shows, Last Comic Standing. In my dream, however, it was Last Improver Standing. I was in the final 20 or so contestants and, while I didn't think I was good enough to win, I was able to hold my own. Here's how it worked: we went out on stage in pairs, not having any idea what we would be asked to do, and were judged on our ability to improvise a scene. One time I went on stage with an exceptionally attractive guy. We were given the first line of the scene and that was it. Unfortunately, I can't remember what the line was, but I do remember making all the judges, audience members, and most importantly, the hot guy laugh, which was rewarding. The second time I went on stage I was with a middle-aged woman and there was a small pile of props there that we were to incorporate into a scene. All I remember is using a bunch of green apples somehow and yelling at her (in character, of course). I woke up before the final cuts, but it was nice to be so entertaining and creative and fearless! Only in my dreams...

We have several chapters left in Harry Potter, so I'm sure there are more dream stories to come. Until then, beware: you might just show up in my next nocturnal adventure!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to school

There was a time when I looked forward to the beginning of a new school year--mostly for the new, colorful folders, new clothes, and new classes. In seventh grade, I was most excited about a pink and aqua folder, a new pair of Keds, landing a top locker, and having almost all my classes with my best friends, Kim and Caroline. (Side note: I also played the french horn and had what I affectionately call the "trifecta": glasses, braces, and bangs).

Today is my last day before reporting to work for another year of teaching and I am honestly excited about it. I usually finish the school year feeling fairly depleted in every way, so the summer pace of part-time work and part-time relaxation was just what I needed to refuel for a new school year.

I will, however, miss the following from my summer schedule:
slow mornings
dressing down
coffee with friends
working out regularly
staying up late
slower pace
less stress
counseling at Sav-A-Life

But I am also looking forward to the following starting tomorrow:
structure in my schedule
new students (and old ones)
a fresh start
reconnecting with colleagues
writing more by teaching creative writing
relying on Jesus more
football games
fine tuning my teaching practices

So, school year 2008-2009, here I come! Tomorrow.