Looking into the Artists’ Eyes

It’s easy to give feedback. But there’s something about giving honest and genuine feedback while looking into the eyes of an artist that’s emotional, different.

View of the Congregational Church that started the festival in 1967.

View of the Congregational Church that started the festival in 1967.

The Scituate Art Festival is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the nation. We’ve been coming for years. It’s my husband Rusty’s hometown. He always wanted to move back here but the time was never right. I’ve found the time is never right for most big things in life–changing careers, having a baby, moving…making any life change, really. The time is never right.

Sometimes, the universe intervenes. Other times it sends people to drop kick me. This time, it was both. The airport began to swallow up homes behind our house threatening to take our last shred of value. Selling wasn’t easy–who wants to move into a neighborhood where the roofs are part of the tarmac? Moving is tough–stressful, expensive. It’s never time. We found this house in the woods in my husband’s hometown, the town with the huge art festival and postcard New England village, and a buyer who was grateful to get from an apartment to a house. We escaped. And now this art festival is our hometown event.

“You’d better get rid of your hyphenation,” my husband said, “It’ll do you no good here.” This is his hometown. His last name gets nods. Mine, not so much. This is the type of town where people have lived for generations. I’ve been grandfathered in. “Oh, you have that house…” Everyone knows the house by description. People tell me stories of each generation who lived here, and the stonemason who built it. It’s the type of history I love.

As a real resident of this town, I pay attention to the festival. I listen to the old-timers, talking about the way the town was and used to be. The real history. The kind you can’t find in a book. The Greatest Generation telling the way things use to be, could have been, and sometimes still are.

The food court is everyone's favorite at festivals.

The food court is everyone’s favorite at festivals.

The Art Festival is the way it always is, a finely tuned operation that draws 2-300K people in a good year. Locals and people flock in for the artisans and the New England foliage alike.  We stop here and there for a small-town greeting or an apple dumpling–the type I eat every year, once a year, like clockwork. The civic organizations, school clubs, and people of the region set up booths and all the repeat revelers know how to find the best BBQ, the biggest sausage and peppers, the most perfect fries…and that apple dumpling.

And of course you can’t run a New England town without chowda and clam cakes.

Everyone in town bakes, mans a booth, volunteers or attends. Artists from all over the world show their crafts. As an outsider, I appreciate the variety and efficiency. As an insider, I see the community. I am starting to attach.

I see the antiques booths, the painters, the artisans. What started as a twelve-booth event in 1967 has expanded to pay for repairs to the Congregational Church has become something to behold.

But the best feature, by far, is the artists and artisans. I used to look at art through the eyes of a simpleton, an ignoramus.  Now, I look through the eyes of the creator. Just for an hour or two, I imagine myself painting, sculpting, bringing forth woodwork or pottery into the world, instead of writing, and showcasing my creations for the public. I look at the soul of the artist sitting, quietly showing his or her work. What courage to put oneself out there, in the middle of 300K people passing by casually, blending as people say things like “Beautiful,” or “Oh, no, that’s awful,” or worse yet, passing by without a single glance. The heart and soul of the artist unnoticed. Brilliance blending into the background of clamcakes and doughboys. There can be no greater insult than that.

I see the soul of the artist with the brush, crayon, typewriter, or lens. When possible, I talk to them. I appreciate them. We’re all the same, no matter the genre. We all put stuff out there, hoping someone will appreciate it. Or maybe, just maybe, that it’ll make a difference.

That’s what I see at the festival. Community, cohesion, and people making a difference. It’s the way every community should be, and can be, if we all just smile, create, and share. I’m grateful to be a part. Even if the screaming boy makes me leave early. Some day, this festival will be his.

Three Dumb Questions

“How long does it have to be?” he asks.

“There are three questions you will never ask me,” I reply. “What’s the date and time,” I motion to the date scribed in red and the analog clock ticking out seconds as our lives pass by. “And, ‘How many sentences in a paragraph?'”

I reference a complete paragraph that’s twelve pages long. Russian lit. They got paid by the word, and they were suffering. Writing was therapy and income. Neither one of those things should be in short supply to authors.

The students become scared. They require an answer. How much do I have to write to get you off my back??!! Students avoid uncertainty, as do we all. I give them a guide.

“A paragraph says what it needs to say. Nothing more.” They stare. “I used to write like that.” I lift the imaginary twelve-page paragraph, heavy in my hand. “I still do, when it serves my purpose. But really, I want you to read what I wrote. Nobody wants to read a twelve page paragraph.” They smile. I see my author friend who “cried at the length” of my writing. He hears this apology through the miles. He smiles, too. Or winces at the irony…I can’t discern. And my friend who called me “Tolstoy.” He is laughing.

“So, how long does my paragraph have to be?” He’s stuck. We sure teach that five-sentence paragraph embedded in five-paragraph essay format pretty solid, Strunk & White be praised.

“It has to say what it has to say. What do you have to say?”

There are two books on writing that I love. The first, Stephen King’s On Writing. Author Amy Tan mentioned to King that no such book existed–there are books about grammar, punctuation, form, and synthesis, but no book about what goes on in the mind of a great writer.  Stephen King took the challenge, writing about confidence,  hard work, about writing every day, in a room, with the door closed. About writing to one’s “ideal reader,” and editing out the unnecessary. “The road to hell is paved with adjectives,” said King.

The second book is Larry Phillips’ edited book  Ernest Hemingway On Writing

“I can write it like Tolstoi and make the book seem larger, wiser, and all the rest of it. But then I remember that was what I always skipped in Tolstoi…” Hemingway wrote to editor Maxwell Perkins in 1940. Hemingway learned “to distrust adjectives as I would later learn to distrust certain people in certain situations.” He drew up contracts that forbade changes to his manuscripts, stating in a letter to publisher Horace Liveright that “no alterations of words shall be made without my approval” because he wrote “so tight and so hard that the alteration of a word can throw an entire story out of key.”

Yet students sometimes get the idea–or maybe we teach the idea–that longer is better. That simple, concise, and effective isn’t good enough.

“You want people to read your stuff?” I say to Asker of the Question, “Cut it down by half. Make what you say count. And for the sake of all that is holy, try to spell a few words right,” I’m required to add that in.

“I don’t have to write five paragraphs?” he says.

“Do you need to?” I tell a story about my own writing. “I’m a historian. Our motto is ‘…to make a short story longer.’ Nobody reads the stuff I write about history. Maybe six people. Who have six people reading their stuff. We’re writing about dead guys. Make your writing come alive. Teach me. If you don’t teach me, then don’t bother to write it.”

“But you’re the teacher…” The comment trails off. Hemingway addressed this too…It was what he left out that mattered most.

That, for me, is the most difficult part of the journey, the part I’ve barely started. We’re trained to bloviate, pontificate…to beat a dead horse into hamburger. Thus, the “write 500 words about…” or “Give me a million paragraphs on…” Why? How long does it take to say what must be said? And the implication that because I’m the teacher, I’m automatically the hanging judge?

I tell them that we’re all teachers and learners. All readers and writers. All working toward being better human beings, in our fields and out.

We’re no different…we’re simply on different parts of the journey. In this case, our paths have crossed. Hopefully, through our experiences, we’ll help each other to the top of the mountain. Today, over some writing…that is, I hope, shorter than twelve pages…

Nobody wants to read twelve pages…I still have to give feedback on this stuff.



Wild West of Punctuation

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 2.20.03 PMThe dash is like the Wild West of punctuation. It has no rules. As a writer, I overuse it. I commit other grammatical crimes, too, like my regular use of the sentence fragment, but there’s nothing like a dash to liven up a paragraph. Author and grammar watchdog Lynn Truss of NY Times Bestseller “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” states, “The main reason people use [the em dash], however, is that they know you can’t use it wrongly–which for a punctuation mark, is an uncommon virtue.” (quote)

Isn’t it cool to have a punctuation mark with no rules? It’s like having a boss that says, “Oh, I don’t care, do whatever you want.” I think I want to drink coffee and relax. Then get paid.

I feel strongly about grammar, I’ve written about the Oxford comma before, and God help you I’ll judge if you use the wrong homophone. My love for grammar never departs even though I cave to the sentence fragment in favor of rhythm and flow. All the great masters study classically before they deconstruct. I’m no master, but I’ve used the English language enough to indulge myself in a deviation now and again. I imagine what it would be like to be a great master using dashes and fragments at will, then I come down to earth when The Editor gets involved.

I overuse the dash–I write satire. I can never use too many dashes, but if I do, I’ll just make fun of myself, and as all good comedians know, when you make fun of yourself, the joke’s off the table. My conscience rests peacefully at night, grammatical controversy notwithstanding.

This year I want to do a lot more writing with my students–it’s changed my life for the better, and I don’t want them to grow up and get chastised by their editors for things they could have prevented. It’s important to learn the conventions of the English language so you don’t look stupid in general and editors don’t get cranky when they have to backspace out your extra spaces. I’ll teach my students to use the right homophone, too, as well as about commas, dashes, and dependent clauses.

With so much pressure out there in the land of writing, it’s nice to have one fall-back piece of punctuation–and there aren’t many, that you can use to have a good time and not worry about breaking any rules–although you’re certain to have plenty of critics. My math friend chimed in with, “In cooking, a dash is something used sparingly. So should it be with writing.” How can I take that critique from a math guy? You cannot force me into submission! Even if you are perfectly correct. And most likely tons smarter than me–I don’t care.

Thanks, em-dash. I hope the manuals and rules don’t catch up with you. I like the flexibility. You stay just the way you are.

[image: prdaily.com]


He Said, “No”

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 6.08.24 AM

“Is this you following me on this blog?”

“Yes,” I said, nearly one year ago. I’d just started blogging. I got caught setting up a blog with a bad name.

Kamal made me promise to write. For real. He must have thought I spelled enough words correctly to elicit that promise. Promise. What would I write about? Who’d read it? I knew–I’d write about ed reform. I knew education. I set up a meeting with the Commissioner. Soon, I changed my mind. Reform’s contentious…it’d be less painful to stab myself in the eye with a chopstick than to jump into that ring. I like harmony.

“You should blog,” said Kamal.

“Okay. Set me up. I’ll do it.” I agreed. Reluctantly. Who’d read it? Every day?…That wasn’t the point. The point was to keep my promise.  Keeping my promise, I thought, would involve an essay or two. Simple. Blogging was a horse of a different color.

“No, you don’t need me to do that–it’s easy…You can do it yourself…Use WordPress. Take the domain name, too. You may want to do something with it later.” What would I possibly “do later” with a blog no one would read? (Literary folks: enter the element of foreshadowing).

Naming the blog was the challenge. That required me, in some sense, to define who I was and what I wanted to be. Not easy. I’d been institutionalized.

My friend Herb told me never to blog about education. “You’ll get fired. Be careful.” Herb’s practical like that. He’s much smarter than me–I usually listen. But I’d promised. I promised Kamal I would write. I promised Herb I wouldn’t shake the tree too much. I was stacking up promises to everyone but myself.

There were tons of names that were just plain bad. GreenyGal, for example. Maybe I’d write about food-freak stuff and sustainability. “Sounds like you’re sea sick,” my husband, Rusty, said. My friend Slash said “no” a lot, too. Slash sounds like a great name for a copy editor. It’s really a leftover guitar nickname from college.

Frustration. “No, no, no. You can’t do that…” We hear that a lot in life. It usually stops us, doesn’t it? Puts us in a box.

What would I write? Not fiction…not poetry. I stopped writing those long ago. Too serious. Before teaching, I did a lot of historical research…a blog about historical research? Bet that’d go viral…

Finally, I decided. I’d write about everything. If it entered my mind, I’d write about it. Mock it, even. Wittischism. Perfect title. Schism in my mind? Check. Witty? Check. Wit. Schism. Eureka! Turns out, it wasn’t such a good name.

I got caught exactly thirty-two seconds after I pushed the WordPress Button.

“Is that you following my blog?” #$@%*^! tech people–can’t outwit them. I’d done everything quietly, trying to make it a surprise. Truthfully, I was avoiding another “no.”

But WordPress connected me to everyone. It followed my brilliant writer friend Anna and others. And it followed the soul-touching blog Kamal uses from time to time. He doesn’t blog much now that he has two books of his own. If the most recent, Live Your Truth, had been available earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have suffered through some of these lessons quite so harshly. But it wasn’t the lack of the book–it was the blog that got me caught.

“Um…yes?” I could lie. These guys were as magic as Merlin to a tech newbie. They knew everything, developed an app for everything, and had gadgets I couldn’t pronounce. He had an app that saw into my brain. So I told the truth.

“You can’t use that name.”

Apparently you can’t choose blog names that are long, confusing, the public can’t spell, are non-common foreign language words, swears, or have double letters. You should also avoid the vowel “e” when naming your blog on Sunday.

Choosing a name was taking weeks. Frustration built with every “no.”  I should’ve recognized the lesson, delivered in the authentic zen style I knew well from years of study of Japanese sword. Americans expect a direct answer. True learning comes when you are led to, then discover the answers on your own. It’s how I teach. Ironically, I didn’t recognize that I was being taught, even with the lesson two inches from my face.  I wasn’t equipped yet to understand.

If I can’t even name this thing, how will I write? “Listen, do it right, or don’t do it at all,” said the text. I became upset. And out of ideas. He sensed that. The tone softened. “You can have this old blog name I don’t use if you want, but it should really come from you.” Finally, I named the blog. It came from me.

This blog wasn’t just keeping a promise. A year later, I see it wasn’t lessons in SEO or writing. It was a lesson in vision. We get stuck in our boxes.  Sometimes, we never get out. My gift was a friend who knew this, and was willing to power through my objections, because writing had helped him do the same. That literally changed my life. Often people say, “You should,” and the conversation ends right there.

My promise, finally, to myself was to return the favor…in my writing, my teaching, and in seeking out visionaries trying to change the world. It no longer feels like fighting windmills. Now, I’m talking to people who build them, and it feels good. It feels like I can push over the domino that starts a revolution. I’ve seen now, that it’s possible. It’s how I strive to teach–inspiring every student to push that domino.

I stop to think about my friend who cared enough to say “no,” opening up a whole new world of “yes.”  “Yes” is inside of all of us… the only thing stopping me, was me.


[This post is dedicated to, among others, DC, who seeks to open up honest conversations … pick a good name for that blog. If you can’t think of one, “Wittischisms” is available.]

Sloooowwww Down! And Do Not Delete

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 6.14.27 AM“No!!” I said as I watched my finger click “Don’t save.”

I was multitasking–talking, thinking, and typing, laptop balanced on my knee. My finger headed for the wrong square. Microsoft Word gave me the a courtesy reminder.

“Are you SURE you want to push the left-hand button, you absolute idiot, given the fact that you’ve transcribed each conversation, pre-written three articles, and put down all your ideas in this one Word document which you haven’t named or saved all day? ARE YOU QUITE CERTAIN YOU WANT TO DELETE ‘DOCUMENT 1’?”

And yet my finger could not change course. It was a little like watching a horror movie, where I know the killer’s in the closet but can’t warn the hero. Click. Fear washed over my body. The document was gone.

“Why didn’t you write it in Google Docs?” said Helpful Friend. The network isn’t reliable at school, usually frozen while Google “searches for the network.” I’ve been programmed to use other things. But thank you for the tip–maybe next time suggest that I save my docs every four days or so.

I’d have issued the “sucks to be you” look if this had been a student.

I was at EdCamp Boston. That’s what EdCamps do–generate eighty ideas at a time. EdCamps are “unconferences.” People get together and share ideas. They present what they want, they move around, when things interest them, and they fall into a million conversations at once–this is just the type of thing a multitasking-probably ADHD-individual loves. I did my thing–I started a discussion about blogging in the classroom, showed how I use Learnist, Twitter and my blog to engage students, but really what I went to do was steal ideas.  “So, does anyone else out there do this? What do you suggest?” It’s a beautiful thing.

I took all my ideas, and typed them neatly into a million-paged document, entitled “Document 1.”

I met some great educators. I went to my favorite presentation of the day, “How to be a badass teacher” which discussed how to maintain a positive outlook in the face of educational challenges, how to give oneself permission to move on to bigger and better things, and how to take back the climate and culture of a school. The discussion was crammed with innovative teachers in a small space in the Microsoft facilities second floor lounge–teachers sprawled on chairs, carpets, corners… all taking notes. “Document 1” was filling rapidly.

“What do I do? I think differently and every time I come up with an innovation, I get put down,” said one teacher.

“We can’t seem to make any changes at my school,” said another.

“All the teachers at my school are old and cranky. And they hang out in the teacher’s lounge.” Everyone nodded.

“How do we create good mentoring situations so new teachers don’t get assaulted by well-meaning but cranky teachers?”  That question got a great answer. I typed it into Document 1.

“Let’s consider that these teachers have a lot of experience,” person suggested. “Maybe they’ve become tired. Been beaten down by the system. Really want to help you not experience the same thing,” he continued, “How do we get these nuggets of information from these experienced educators? Reinvigorate them? Approach them correctly to recognize their experience?” This was a critical comment for me.  I’ll admit I get frustrated–by the roadblocks–testing, standardization, data, data, data…

It’s important to have these conversations. To laugh. To brainstorm. To connect.

I learned so much. I typed away, I quoted, I reflected, introduced, exchanged business cards, ate a sandwich, made a Learnist board, wrote article outlines.

Then pressed delete.

Time to slow down. Pause. Think. Reflect. Consider. Do…not…delete.

All is not lost. The ideas sunk in. And maybe I shouldn’t have been typing all day in Document 1 anyway. It’s important, sometimes, to savor the experience of creating. “Experiences are everything,” says my good friend constantly.  Like when I used to do a lot of photography and spent more time hiding behind the lens than living. It’s like that.

Slow down. Breathe. Consider. Don’t push the button too fast. You’ll miss the essence of what’s behind it all. Life will pass you by.

Shakespeare Smackdown (You Can’t Handle the Truth!)

ShakespeareIt’s Shakespeare’s birthday. I don’t have a card. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit angry at the man, dead though he may be, because no one will do my work in class. They’re all walking around with scraplets of paper in their palms, muttering.

“Get your work done,” I cajoled.

“I can’t! I’ve got to recite this #$%$ Shakespeare next period. It’s stupid!” I’m not a very good teacher if a guy dead 500+ years trumps my assignment. That annoys me even more. Oh, Shakespeare! I do desire that we’d be better strangers…More of your conversation would infect my brain! And I’d like to have a few words in Shakespearian with these young braggarts, as well.

Shakespeare makes me think about how elegant the British are–it’s entirely possible to be insulted by any Brit on the planet except Gordon Ramsay and walk away feeling like you have just been given a Golden Globe. Shakespeare trained them too well.

“Shakespeare’s not stupid,” He was simply interfering with my work.

“No, Miss, he’s dead. But still boring,” said the knave in training.

“He’s not boring. You’re just not equipped to understand it.” I popped off a line or two from Julius Caesar and a couple from MacBeth. The rest I had to look up. It’s been a while. Now would be a great time for a Shakespearian insult that’d make Gordon Ramsay blush, “Your wife’s a hobby horse…your tongue outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.” Truth be told, I enjoy how Shakespeare made up words where common insults just wouldn’t do. Maybe Rachael Ray read Shakespeare, too. And half the kids who write essays in my class.

I consulted Google. Discussing the Shakespearian insult would, in fact, make the artless doghearted bugbear more…bearable. Error– BLOCKED–IP EXCEPTION. HUMOR.

Humor?  I cannot discuss Shakespearian insults with my students because they might be…funny? There will be no humor on our watch!  I so wanted to give them something they could actually use in the locker room today. She would swear that gentleman would be her sister.

Is anyone really equipped to understand the Bard of Avon at fifteen? Have you had that soul-wrenching love yet? No…but you just got dumped via Twitter…Have you been forced to kill someone to take the throne? Maybe not, but team politics may have ousted you as captain of the cheerleading squad. Have you been cast aside for failing to conform? That one’s easy. Look at teen fashion.

To tell the truth, I’m rereading my Shakespeare. And my Steinbeck. And my Hemingway–and most of the “greats” who were thrust upon me at fifteen, part of the Great Cannon of Things I’m Not Equipped to Understand. I hated them in high school, too. Who gets this stuff at fifteen?

Steinbeck–showing the simultaneous crushing and resilience of human spirit…reading this now, I cry. I weep for the struggles of the characters in The Grapes of Wrath…no teen is equipped to understand this level of tragedy, defeat, life beating you down, not being able to support your family. Who gets that at fifteen? You have not lived. It’s not about a guy sucking on a lady’s breast, it’s not “ewwww….” It’s the essence of human compassion triumphing in impossible times–such a critical lesson in today’s world of violence, economic uncertainty, and difficult times.  As a teacher, I can make this analogy in class, but until you’ve really lived, and either been or saved that troubled soul…it’s a conversation that can’t fully connect.

At fifteen, the end of Of Mice and Men was the worst resolution in the world.

“I read that whole book and he shoots his friend?” said fifteen year-old me. “WHO SHOOTS THEIR FRIEND?” How long do you have to live to understand that level of love, compassion, human self-sacrifice? Someone who would do anything for a friend, even the unspeakable?

I’d thought Great Cannon should be revised to include more world literature–some Allende, Achebe, Dostoyevsky. But Shakespeare, like a plantar’s wart, never moved aside.  Eighty Shakespeares a year. Steinbeck remained. Hemingway loomed. Kids roamed the halls with fake swords in the era of no-tolerance muttering lines, refusing to do my work.

Now, I sit for tea with Shakespeare. And my other dusty, dead literary friends. I apologize. Because now, I have lived. I know why you drank. Smoked. Wrote. Bled on the page. And in some cases, like Hemingway, died. I tell stories to kids grumbling about texts. They stop. Stare. Look. And comprehend to the best of their life’s experiences…If I’m very, very lucky, they come back and say, “Hey, I read this, did you know….”

This has been a “be careful what you wish for” epiphany for me, because at the very moment I admit I was wrong and embrace these friends, the new standards are, in fact, replacing The Cannon with a great deal of informational text. “Students need to learn this for college and the workplace.” I picture Hemingway, with a dry martini, shaking his head. But maybe this is a good thing–they’ll save the greats for later. A 30-year old alum texted me about Kafka yesterday.

“Holy @#%$!” he said. I’d like them to say “Holy #$%^$!” about every lesson I teach. But if I saved them all till they were ready, there’d be nothing to do today. Sometimes you just have to dive in.

Happy birthday, Will. I’m sorry for the years of underappreciation. I have just one request–can you keep the sword fights down next door? I’m giving a test today.

[image: Shakespeare2006.net]


Write Less. Be Right More. A Top 10 List.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 8.27.18 PMEverywhere I go, there’s a top ten list. “Top 10 Ways to Make Your Sneakers Smell Fresh,” “Top 10 Ways to Declutter.” As an stodgy history writer, I decried the top ten list for the longest time.  Now I write them.

“What? People have such short attention spans they can’t even read a paragraph?” I’d say in my former life, imaging historian James McPherson’s Civil War epic as a top ten.

I was wrong about brevity. Completely wrong. I stand beaten down and corrected. I now strive for brevity and clarity. I’m honored by your reading this, and do not want you to suffer, ever. “If you need a priest, get a priest,” said my friend who got me into this mess.  He advised me never to torture my reader. I love that line–a real writer’s slap in the face.

As I stood between several worlds, each with a different writing style and view on the quantity and quality of the written world, I transformed. The worlds of research, teaching, and Corporate America overuse words. The world of tech does not. Once I stopped having cold sweats encountering sentence fragments, I liked the world of tech; it became freeing. Zen.

Brevity has value. There is a reason six people in the world want to read anything historians write.  Historians are too obscure–and too darned long.  This year, I’ve taken a lesson from the tech people. I try to be brief, interesting, fun, and informative. I hope I have been succeeding.

Here, in honor of my 100th post, I’ll make my recompense complete by employing the Top 10 list, sharing some of my favorite posts about life, happiness, education–things that matter to me.

Failing at Music–Succeeding at Life, Part Two: This is a story of how I fell flat on my face in college.

A Formal Apology to Henri Matisse: I apologize to a dead artist for being so ignorant as to disrespect his work.

The Frankenstorm of the Century–Storm Prep, Rhode Island Style: Rhode Islanders are crazy. This proves it.

Teach Like a Soviet: In order to navigate the education system, I ask “How would a Soviet do this?”

What Is That Moment Where I Change Someone’s LIfe Forever?: We never know how we affect the lives of others. Sometimes we never find out. But that moment has the potential to exist every day.

Don’t Ban Dodgeball: Ban Life: Society’s propensity to restrict everything is silly. Beyond silly; it has crossed the line into stupid.

Carrying People through the Sand: Lifting each other up makes a difference–may we never fail to see the significance of our actions even to those our lives touch in slight measure.

Crumpled Paper Airplanes: Taking My Own Advice: Declan crumples airplanes. I tell him we must try in life without being afraid which turns out to be a giant hypocritical moment in parenting.

Separating Out the Geniuses: Traditional education values one kind of genius. Everyone is a genius. It would be great if schools would notice this.

Loser for Life: Tales of a Girl without Klout: In the beginning of this journey, I discovered the concept that Silicon Valley could, indeed, brand me a loser. Mathematically.

I am deeply honored have enough content to make this list, and even more honored that you read my stories. Nothing is more meaningful to me than the relationships I have made through writing. I am grateful I kept my promise to create–I’ve made friends, and my life has changed direction forever. Friends are the treasure we receive if we open our heart and mind to the experience; experiences are what make up the essence of life. I thank you, not only for reading, but becoming part of that essence, teaching me so much this year, and inspiring me to strive to improve each day.

[image: thisoldhouse.com]