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Charting your journey.


This article link content is NOT about your personal  beliefs, or mine.

It is about what we talked about (briefly) the other day — in addition to books, poetry and songs can also help us find answers to our questions–they speak to us. Another path is reading what other great thinkers/philosphers reflect upon, and consider. This article has three minds considering an historical figure, and the possible significance, all from their own cultural perspectives.

If you read this article, consider the questions the writers were attempting to explore. I don’t say “answer” because rarely do we find definitive answers to anything- life is all about exploration. That’s what makes it interesting.

Consider that when you are seeking answers – be open-minded, flexible, and critical – what is the person saying? What is their purpose for saying it? And, what is your deeper purpose for reading it?

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Fire good. (Or Saturn, Snow White, and Baby New Year share a Yule Log.)

Feeling mighty low...
Feeling mighty low...

I have a hemispheric bias. I understand my northern hemisphere, its traditions, and its quirks. We northerners personify the dark days.When I see an image of Chronos/Saturn using one of his children as a midnight snack, it’s a metaphoric munchie , and innately I understand its cultural roots and the darkness of December–it’s time eating our lives.

It is near logical to me that people, in their complete and “advanced darkness” (thanks, Spongebob) would make finding out when the darkest day of the year would be a really…big…deal. Time to cut down some evergreen branches and put another log on the fire. Heck, sacrifice a young maiden if you need to, it’s dark! We want light! Sun, come back! Come back, sun!! I can set my Stonehenge to it.

And how do I connect Saturn to Snow White? When the Queen, with one tenuous hold on her youth and beauty, all due to the subjective whims of a rhyming mirror, decides that the ebony-haired beauty, with nary a grey hair or wrinkle,  is encroaching on her territory, well, then, Snow’s heart is the price she must pay! What is it with older folks symbolically ‘eating’ the young? Hey, dude, I can buy an i-Pod too – so what if I break a hip trying to dance to it?

Enter Baby New Year. Crackling. Colicky. Cranky. Abandoned by old man Saturn, this kid grows up all over again on his own, to learn the same lessons, to touch the burning stove again, and stick the proverbial fork in the proverbial light socket repeatedly. No wonder why we never learn anything, really.


Both Chronos/Saturn and the Queen should have a chat, compare notes. Getting older isn’t all that bad, is it? Reminiscing on past triumphs and errors–it’s as someone said: “It all works out okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I can’t think of a more paradoxically optimistic/pessimistic quote as that one.

The sun will come out tomorrow.

 National Geographic Winter Solstice 2009 Link

The Writer’s Almanac Winter Solstice Link (December 21, 2009)

In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It’s officially the first day of winter. It’s officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

Science World

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Hey, you, get off of my cloud.

Impulsivity + Meanness=Regret.

I am still trying to find forgiveness for something I did when I was about seven or eight years old. When I was on the playground, one cold, crisp Texan school yard afternoon, the bell rang, and we went to line up. One of my classmates, a sweet, shy boy, while running to line up, was tripped by me. I impulsively stuck out my leg, and down he went. The look on his face when he was getting up was so sad – the meanness was so unexpected, so abrupt, that I knew, I knewI had done something near unforgivable. I will never forget the look on his face. (I know I helped him up, said sorry, but the damage was done.) I am the one who provided that kid with the experience of people are jerks, and sometimes do cruel things for no reason. Yea, me.

Since I can’t find the little boy (who’s obviously not little anymore) that I tripped in first grade, since the vast detective work of Google, Bing, or others will not find this one soul out of billions, and, I don’t remember names, exact dates or locations, I may never be able to find him and say, “I am sorry. I acted rashly, impulsively, but it may have hurt your feelings, and you still may remember it, and it hurt you for a long time.” 

Sharing this anecdote with students, one girl commented (several times), “that’s mean, Mrs. L,” until I finally had to say, “Yes, I know…it was mean, and I regret it, feel guilty and remorseful every time I think of it. Now let’s move on.” I would like to think that one act of impulsive, yet intentional bullying was out of character for me. That perhaps I was just ‘trying it on,’ and answering an inner curiosity about what is it like to do something wrong…totally, and absolutely outright wrong. But that sounds like a lot of mental justification.

 Trolling for interesting podcasts the other day, I came upon a This American Life episode called “Mind Games” that made me think about how people treat each other, and how if it’s based on lies, it usually doesn’t work out. At all.

This led me to listen to another episode from May, 2002, titled ‘Devil on My Shoulder.’  The premise or theme is that we humans are in constant struggle to choose right versus wrong, moral versus immoral behaviors, and we have so many outside influences pushing us, tempting us, this way and that, that sometimes we are compelled to blame it on a ‘devil on our shoulder,’ feeding us tiny lies and whispering small, but powerfully motivating ways to act unkindly. While my personal philosophy doesn’t include a personification of immoral judgements sitting on my left shoulder, I do believe in a dash of free will along with decision making, cognitive abilities thrown in with a cup of destiny, frosted with fate. Meaning, whether or not you believe in devils and angels, deities and do-gooders, we humans are still faced with the burning question, “what does it mean to do the right thing, and why do we sometimes NOT?”

 When I think about what I did, my heart hurts. That’s guilt. I might be a bit mired (stuck) in this one event, true. I am not sure why I’ve had difficulty finding atonement. If one of my children did something like this, I would tell them to learn from it, not to behave in a mean way again, and move on. So, I guess in that way, perhaps if I took my own advice, I can say I did learn from it. I never tripped anyone else again, and certainly never intentionally hurt anyone again. I just hope that somewhere out there, that boy knows I am sorry.bored angel

“Safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other.”-CS Lewis

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Monster spray.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear”–Mark Twain

On Wednesday, while we were reviewing the final Journey of the Hero project, I shared a personal story with some of you about when I was a little girl. My parents were renting a house, and I had a room somewhat separated from the rest of the family. My room had its own bathroom, which on the surface seems very luxurious. The closet in the bathroom, holding cleaners, towels, etc., had a crawl space, that hosted constant shadows, no matter how the light shone in, or how bright the sunlight glowed. There were monsters in that crawl space. No doubt, no question, no mystery. Monsters. Small, yes, but ferocious. Spiky, oozing, biting monsters. Luckily, I had a hero–my dad. When I brought him my worry and concerns about the crawl-space-bathroom-dwelling-monsters, he didn’t dismiss my fears; he solved them. Taking a can of Lysol, he thoroughly sprayed the inside of the monsters’ lair, and all around the bathroom. In my four-year-old’s memory, I can still see those monsters disintegrating like so much foul fog and smoke. He placed the can by my bed, in case I should ever need to kill monsters in the middle of the night. I haven’t had a monster problem since.

That’s kind of a silly story, I know. Just a small moment in time when someone who loved me made me feel braver. I guess I could think of the Monster Spray as being my own supernatural aid.

But we know that heroes face much worse–and that the definition of a hero/heroine is someone who does something for other people without thinking of themselves. But that’s the ideal hero. Humans are far more complicated than that. It’s the complications I want you to think about. We can’t relate to heroes who make it look easy all the time-it becomes unattainable. Maybe that’s why in Greek/Roman mythology, the gods/goddesses are flawed. Maybe that’s why in the Bible story of David and Goliath, David is this runt kid. Maybe that’s why in the legend of Joan of Arc, she’s this crazy teenage girl. There’s the Jewish story of a young girl named Esther, who saved her people through her bravery. Scheherazade used her brains and beauty to tell imaginative stories that not only saved her own neck, but showed her loyalty and faithfulness.

But what is the nature of bravery, and courage?

From Mr. Spencer’s Blog:  I saw a woman lose it at the grocery store the other day. She picked up a pink box  and slammed it to the shelf. I can’t remember the words exactly, but she said, “they’re using cancer to sell cereal. I’m sick of it. Why can’t they just have a celebrity?” And she started into a loud rant that quickly cleared the aisle and left her husband red-faced.

She stopped herself after knocking down a few of the boxes. I stared at Brenna and heard, “I’m sick of wearing pink and I’m tired of pretending. Cancer sucks.”

As I drove my cart off, she took off her hat and cried right there in the grocery store. Loud tears. Heaving sobs. Her husband held her.

Listen to these three stories, chosen because the storyteller met an obstacle, or had to overcome a fear:

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Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I enjoy these teachers’ blog about writing. One of them recently went to a conference, and I must admit, there is something about being surrounded by other teachers who share the same passions about this profession. Here’s what she had to say:

Swirling Thoughts from NCTE

Posted on Friday November 20, 2009 by Ruth

Today was a good day, but what day at NCTE isn’t?  Since we just finished our last session and have dinner plans in a few minutes, you’re getting a list of swirling thoughts.  Expect more blog posts about NCTE  in the future.

  • Choice matters.  Today I’ve been inspired to stand up and defend student choice in reading and writing.
  • Poetry parties are fun.  Stacey and I attended one this morning in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins.  There was sparkling cider, cookies, and party favors.  A toast started the session and then a series of amazing poets paid tribute with words and poems.  I walked away with the reminder that it is OKAY to be passionate about something.  Lee’s passion was bringing poetry to children.  I was left with the question tumbling in my mind:  What am I passionate about? I’ll need to think more deeply about this, but off the cuff, I’d say:   I’m passionate about using everyday, ordinary stories from our lives to understand ourselves and the world more deeply.
  • At the end of my career, I want to look back and be able to say I stood up for things that mattered in the grand scheme of life; I spoke out against injustice; I did what I knew was best for students, even when it contradicted what “they” told me to do.
  • Stories matter.  My story. Your story. Their story. Reading stories.  Drawing stories.  Writing stories.  They all matter.
  • When all is stripped away, I find I want students knowing they matter in the world.  I want them to know their voice matters.  In order for this to happen, they must read widely, talk honestly, and write the tough stuff.  Only an individual knows the things which are important enough to read, talk about, and write.  My job is to foster the desire and provide the time for students to do this important work of living a literate life.
  • I will remember that a single person can make the world a better place.
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