Wednesday, July 28, 2010

brain development

if you get a chance to attend a workshop or conference where Karen Williams is speaking about brain development, go. Trust me. Drop everything and go.

(I can't find a specific website to link to her, but check these out if you want proof.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

where everybody knows your name

The conference I'm at, formally known as Dropout Prevention, has been renamed Positive Youth Development (turns out youth who stop attending school don't really like being referred to as dropouts, and honestly, I can't say as I blame them). This year specifically is titled R3, which stands for Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I, the self-proclaimed QUEEN of relationships, am here. I have heard so much over the past two days that has affirmed what I do and given me ideas for where to go from here. (For those of you who attended two years ago, fear not: it's a whole new gig. The organizers took all our suggestions to heart and you really should come back with me next summer. Seriously.)

Anyhow, that's not the point of this post. The point, in my typically wordy manner (Strunk and White would be SOOO mad at me!) is that (madder still...) the organizers have taken relationships research to heart. As I was checking in (listed by first names, not last, as a way to be more personal) the woman in front of me had a lot of questions and held up the line. As I waited patiently, the administrative assistant for the college department that sponsors this event had my folder ready for me. Yes, she remembered me, out of a sea of hundreds of people and having talked to me face to face maybe 5 times? Wow. That is impressive. She is good, no doubt about it, and yes, one of her friends is the mom of my childhood best friends, but still.... that's darned impressive. Practicing what you preach.... yea, beyond impressive.

Over the last 2 days I've run into other organizers who remember me, both from state government and other alternative educators and administrators. Me! So much of this is because all of us in this field believe in the power of relationships, and know that no real work happens without it. No matter the reason, it feels pretty good to know I am making a name for myself in my chosen field. (Let's just hope they remember me for good reasons and not because I'm someone they're trying to avoid...)


My head is filled with ideas... and yet I may have just found the simple focus I need. Dr. Gil Noam designed a model he calls PEAR, and it's simple enough to work but complex enough to pack a punch. This is the model I think we'll use this year to sort of focus what we're trying to do. It is based on a 4 leaf clover, with 4 aspects that should be considered: active engagement, assertiveness, belonging, reflection. I can build lessons, curriculum, and programs around all of those models.

Other thoughts include using the 40 Developmental Assets that the SEARCH Institute have developed on a regular basis. These are measurable assets that have been proven to reduce risk behaviors; research has also shown these assets can be improved and taught.

I've got ideas on our schedule, what classes we can teach, how I can improve my classes, how to use these little white boxes more effectively..... So many thoughts, so little time to process!

Perhaps most importantly, however, I've had a chance to meet and talk in depth with my new colleague. I feel really good about our ability to work together, to help each other, and to improve our program and the lives of our students.

I love this conference, and I am so very glad I came and that she could come with me. I think it's going to be a great year. Summer's not over yet, but I'll be ready when it is. Man, I heart my job...

Monday, July 26, 2010

stay tuned

Thank you, WB, for making sure I came to this conference. Next year you might want to join me... yes, it's that good.

Deets later.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

my next Food Network star

One of the jobs that Boy has assumed this summer is starting the charcoal fire. It's not always easy acknowledging that the babies are growing up, but they are, and it's good to get some work out of them while we can. While starting the fire one night this week, he decided what he really wanted was Chinese, specifically teriyaki chicken. "So find a recipe and make it" I answered.

He did. He searched the net for a good recipe, and found one for fried rice, too. He also wanted spring rolls, and had a hard time finding one that had ingredients we could find in our very limited Asian foods isle, so I helped. (Which means I looked at a few recipes, and figured out enough to be able to wing it. That's a good skill to learn, too.)

Last night we made rice with dinner so we'd have leftovers for today. He put together the marinade for the chicken this afternoon, as "all-by-himself" as he could for the first time doing things like mincing ginger and chopping scallions. This evening, he assembled the spring rolls (cabbage, carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger sauteed and mixed with soy sauce and corn starch), including rolling them after I showed him how to do one. He cooked the rice as I deep fried the rolls (he's still afraid of a vat of oil, and I guess one should know one's limits when learning their way around the kitchen). He also convinced me to put the chicken on their sticks, and I cooked those on the fire he'd started before. "Let me get these plated before we take the pictures..." (I swear, I don't make this stuff up.)

It was delicious. Even more satisfying, though, was just how proud he was. He thought of the meal, figured out what we needed, prepped and cooked most of it. He also knows that he's got to learn to get over his dislike of raw meat and to get comfortable with the different heat sources. But he did get a better understanding of how to use his knife differently for different tasks, and how to follow a recipe and adapt it to your own likes and abilities. I don't think he's ready to take over full time kitchen duties, but he's not that far away. By the time he leaves home, I have no doubt that he'll be a great cook who can keep all those around him full and happy. Who knows? Maybe this will be the meal that he looks back on and says "It all started because I wanted some Chicken on a Stick..."

I'm proud of you, Boy. You figured it out and you did it. Sometimes that's all cooking really is-- knowing what you want and then figuring out how to get there. Fresh ingredients help, but confidence is also required. You can't be a good cook if you don't believe you are one. And you can practice on us anytime you want.

***It should also be noted that he normally picks around certain veggies, including peppers and onions, both of which were in the rice. It would seem that when you cut them yourself, you're more likely to give them a try, as Girly still tried to eat around hers. She's a few years away, though, so I guess I'll just wait and see.

Friday, July 23, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

at the top of the hill

WB pointed out to me that we're at the half-way point of summer, but sure doesn't feel that way. I guess the 3 day R3 conference I'm attending next week and the 7.5 days of work scheduled for August are coloring my view. Regardless, the math doesn't lie, and here we are. Katie agrees.

Bestfriend dubbed this "The Summer of No Regrets", and I do believe it's an apt title. We've gone to DC to meet up with my siblings and to Quebec City as just us. We've had lazy days around the house and have taken off in an attempt to find a body of water. We've watched Wimbledon, World Cup, Tour de France, and baseball. We've been to weddings and hung around with friends. We've cooked, grilled, canned, and enjoyed the bounty from WB's garden. The kids have socialized here, there, and everywhere. And the sun has shone through most of it... yes, there have been no regrets this summer.

We still have a month to go, and even with the work days creeping in, we have much left to do. We go to the Cape with WB's sister next week. Our party is coming up (are you coming???), as are other gatherings. And we still have a month of evenings to sit around and not worry about what time it is and what we need to wear when we get up. No regrets, baby.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

learn from the master

Many of my readers are sports fans, and many are not. All of you, however, are readers. Do yourself a favor, no matter where you place yourself on this divide, and read the above article. Joe Posnanski is an amazing writer. He's mostly a baseball writer, and I am most certainly not a reader of baseball blogs, but he is on my Reader: when he writes about other topics it is so worth my time. I promise it will be worth yours.

Since my sister headed off to UNC for college, I have been a fan of Coach Dean. I consider myself lucky to have been at a UNC/Virgina game in the Dean Dome (I even snuck in on one of her roommate's student passes-- I felt like such a rebellious college kid!) while he was still coaching. I won a basketball pool based on the infamous Chris Webber timeout call. The man is all class, and always has been. I did not know just how classy until I read this article, but knowing that he recruited the first African American scholarship player in North Carolina was all I ever really needed to know.

One of the diseases that scares me is dementia. I've always been known for my memory (certain friends call me when they need a phone number because it's quicker to ask me than to look it up) and the idea of losing that mental edge is worrisome. That the Fates subscribe to irony is certainly distressing, and they seem to have thrown their hats into this match. It is incredibly sad that he can't remember everything anymore, but he seems to be handling it with the grace with which he handled every other event in his life. It is comforting to know, however that the man does live up to his legend.

Forget about me... just go read Poz's post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

old roads

I've been fascinated with old roads for quite a few years. Maine has a lot of them; somewhere along the way DOT decided the original road needed to be straightened, but there were already houses on it, so they left it behind and built the new line around it. Some are easy to find ("Old County Road" sits to the right of "County Road") and some you need to look for other clues, like a bunch of houses that look like they were built facing backwards. When I find one and figure it out, it just makes me happy.

Yesterday we visited my parents and my brother, and I think I identified the source of this fascination. When we moved to town in 1978, they were in the process of changing the road. I don't remember it specifically, but there was the side road, just beyond the turnpike, that runs about a half a mile and dead ends each way, with a huge old farm at one end that is obviously facing the wrong way. I remember asking my mom about it, and suddenly, I could see where the road used to come in front of the remaining houses. I could see the path the old bridge took and how those yards on the other side were affected by the change. And I've been looking for them ever since.

(And yes, I did find old 173 SUD as we were driving home from Quebec City...)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Je me souviens

Since the beginning of our relationship, music has been key. We are famous for heading off to Boston on a random Tuesday night to see some band no one else has heard of... and then driving back home and teaching the next day. We started taking the kids with us when they were 4 and 6. We were on our way to a family reunion, flying out of NH... so when a triple bill of some favorites were playing 30 min away the night before our trip started, we couldn't refuse. So, when we were trying to figure out what to do for our 15th anniversary, we started with music.

WB found our current favorite family band performing at the summer festival in Quebec City, a city he loves and the rest of us had never seen. Because it was in honor of our anniversary, we splurged on a hotel room. I must say, I do like the summer mode of concerts... being able to walk back to the room and be comfortable and asleep within 15 minutes is much more fun than fighting to stay awake as we drive back home. But I digress...

Arcade Fire ROCKED! They played many of our favorites (WB called 2 of their first 3 numbers) and generally made everyone happy to be alive. One of the band members was born in Canada, butonly because her family escaped Haiti's dictatorship. The band has worked to help with earthquake damage, and launched kanpe that day, a charity dedicated to helping improve life for Haitians. We certainly love us a good band, but it makes it even more endearing when said band has a social agenda and uses their influence to make the world a better place. The Festival is donating .25 per person who attended this show, and Arcade Fire is matching up to 1 million given through a text donation number (sadly, it seems this only works in Canada). It really was the perfect way to honor our lives together as a family.

Tuesday morning we wandered around and checked out the Old City. It's a relaxed sort of place-- there's no rush, few lines... you just wander around and check out what intrigues you. And so we did. The kids found oversized lollipops, I found some postcards, and WB showed us different places of note. My lack of knowledge of the hometown language certainly hindered my ability to read up on the history of things-- many signs are printed in both languages, but not all. I was keenly aware of my language deficit, although all the shop owners and waitstaff were fluent in English. This trip did cement the idea in the kids heads that being bi-lingual is a good thing, be it in French or in Spanish. (The 2 years of Latin that I took most certainly did not help me this week!)

There is a good chance that both kids will return to Quebec City on 8th grade trips and that we will return ourselves. I may, however, need to sit in on a French immersion class first... I don't like feeling like the Ugly American who refuses to try to conform to the native culture.

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Friday, July 09, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


So many things have started to make sense. I didn't know they hadn't made sense before, but sometimes the light bulb just gets shocked on, and then, suddenly, you know. Nothing has changed, but everything is different.

When I'm in the middle of something, something real and true, I never think about it being temporary. I guess if I thought about it, it would no longer be real, but would become a thing to hold onto somehow, and the magic would end. But looking back is sometimes so painful that it brings tears to my eyes because I miss it so. I've been lucky enough to have a few of these somethings over my relatively short life; usually the path-altering event is a sudden one-- something I, anyway, didn't see coming at the time, but can clearly see now. Something which, once occurred, throws everything under water and you hope to bob back to the surface, breathing, able to find shore somewhere. The scars do heal, with time, and the lessons to be learned emerge from the carnage, but still, some days you think back at how perfect that time was...

I've also missed some things along the way, and for that, I sincerely apologize. Not for not doing anything, because you can't react to something you don't know exists, but for not listening to that quiet voice that said something isn't quite right, and for not trusting it enough to investigate. I hope you know that I'm better at listening to that voice now; I'm sure it helps that I'm regularly getting full nights of sleep. But I know I still miss things; if you need my help and I'm not listening, knock me upside the head.

Sixteen years ago I agreed to bind my life to his, forever. I didn't really understand what that meant-- I understood the words, and the concept, but how can you understand something you've never done? Somehow or another, we've figured out how to navigate this crazy road, construction, right turns and everything else. Three years ago, bestfriend said "I do" for the second time. Which of us was braver? Crazier? Neither and both, I would answer, depending on the day. This summer, one of the next generation is saying I choose you, to be with me, forever. They are kids... like we were... but different, too, and as ready as they can be. I hope my little role in her childhood has helped prepare her, and if she needs help along her journey, I hope she will feel comfortable enough to ask, because we never stop needing the influence of those who have trod along ahead of us.

I started watching Saving Grace again, from the pilot, this summer. Grace has some demons... and some angels, too. I am lucky enough to not need a Last Chance Angel, nor to have met Satan himself. But I have loved my friends and family completely and without bias, and hope that that small part has made their journey easier. Ham tells Grace he will wait for her, and Rhetta trusts her truth without details to prove it. That I can do. I will continue to do. I may not have known at the time, but I know now, and I am here to help.

Monday, July 05, 2010

dip me in the water

Different places have different smells. You know what I'm talking about-- ocean air is heavy with an undertone of Coppertone and fried seafood; public pools have a harsh chemical smell where private ones smell clean; isolated ponds with little direct sun smell cold and untouched. Babbling streams where the unexposed rocks are coated with slippery flora but have been smoothed by the passage of time have a distinct smell as well. It's harder for me to describe, but the closest I can come is understated. Beautiful, yes, but in a quiet, confident way, without needing hundreds of people lining it's shores saying so.

Today, we set out in search of water, and ended up here. Once we'd slid down the little hill to the shoreline, my nose confirmed that we had, indeed, found the place of which we were seeking.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

4th of July

4th of July, X

She's waitin' for me when I get home from work
oh, but things ain't just the same
She turns out the light and cries in the dark
won't answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips
but I don't have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
we gave up trying so long ago

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

What ever happened I apologize
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, Baby take a walk outside

Friday, July 02, 2010

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from my friend Wendy, who got it from SouleMama. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

the fortnight

In the past week, we've watched hours of World Cup, Wimbledon, USA Track and Field Championships, and the Tour de France starts soon.

This is my kind of daytime TV!