Unfortunately, all is not well with John Green. Last week I came across the article below discussing how Looking for Alaska is being challenged in his hometown of Orange County, Florida You can read the article below.
Frankly, this isn’t about John Green or Looking for Alaska; it is all about banning books. I don’t care what anyone’s personal political views may be, banning books should have no place in the United States of America. I love that libraries have Banned Book Week and have expanded on the idea. Some of the best books I have ever read have been challenged over the years. Personally, I believe that any good library should have something to offend everyone. Outright banning of books is disgusting to me.
As a teacher, I do have to clarify something though. Banning books in a library or even a school library is completely different from deciding which books are taught in the classroom. While I believe that all students should have access to as wide variety of books as possible, parents should be able to have options if they have concerns regarding books their child is reading in the classroom. However, one parent’s objections should not be forced on to everyone else. Ideally, a resolution should be agreed upon by the teacher, parent(s), and administration. Why do we have to make it so complicated?
That is about it: My little political rant for the week. I just hope that people come to their senses and realize that it is OK if not everyone views things the same way. That is the beauty of living in a complex society. We as a society need to relearn that we don’t have to agree on everything.
The Marshall Fredericks Museum at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is one of my favorite museums. Considering its size, it is jam packed. Over the years, I’ve visited the museum a handful of times, and I always leave inspired. There is so much to see, and frankly, it is impressive to see the results of such a long and varied career in sculpture. At one time, Grandma B. and I talked about the museum, and she said that she always wanted to visit. Unfortunately, she never took the opportunity. I can’t help but think of her every time I am there.
One of my favorite Marshall Fredericks sculptures is “The Man on the Cross,” which resides at the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan. I’ve seen it in person (the full-size mold resides in the art gallery at SVSU, see below), and it is something that one needs to experience in person. I plan to go back at some point. It is gorgeous and moving.
As I left class today (I’m currently finishing my English endorsement at SVSU), I decided to head over the museum. It did not disappoint. Following is a quick overview of different sections of the museum.
The main gallery includes the original molds for many of Marshall Fredericks’ larger works, including “The Man on the Cross” (see photo below), interspersed with smaller models in various mediums. All are on permanent display and make up the core of the museum.
The museum has taken great care to replicate parts of Marshall Fredericks’ studio. It is impressive, and frankly, there is something about this part of the museum that fascinates me. You get to understand how he created such large sculptures and the work involved, including tools and studies. It actually inspired me to write a post on Scrivener and the idea of a writer’s studio, which can be found here.
The Sculpture Garden
It is just a beautiful outdoor space with all kinds of bronze sculptures inspired by Marshall Fredericks’ work. You can find other images of the sculpture garden here.
A visit to the museum is certainly worth it. In addition to the sections described above, there are also a couple of smaller galleries in the museum that hold rotating exhibitions. You can find more information on the museum’s website.
I’ve wanted to write about Across the Universe (2007) ever since I first watched it several months ago. It is one of those movies that grabs you, not letting you go. Just when you think you have it figured out, you start back at the beginning. I’m afraid I won’t do it justice.
Let’s start with the facts. First, it was a given that I would enjoy Across the Universe (2007) for the music and subject matter alone. A musical using new renditions of Beatles’ songs that encompasses many of the major themes of the 1960s? What isn’t there to like? Never mind the actual film. It was either going to be wonderful or something never to speak of again.
Next, the music itself is exceptional. When it comes to Beatles’ music, I am normally skeptical when it comes to covers (with the exception of Joe Cocker, of course). In this case, Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), Jim Sturgess (Jude), and Dana Fuchs (Sadie) forced me to look at some of the Beatles catalog in a new way. Not an easy feat. There are several examples of this, but some of the ones that come to mind immediately are “It Won’t Be Long” (Evan Rachel Wood), “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (Jim Sturgess), and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (Dana Fuchs). That is just for starters. The use of “Let It Be” (Carol Woods & Timothy T. Mitchum) as a hymn fits the scene(s) perfectly.
My feelings on the song “Across the Universe” have evolved as result. While I’ve always liked “Across the Universe,” I would be hard pressed to even rank it among my top 25 or possibly 50 Beatles’ songs. No joke. The movie made me reevaluate. While I enjoy the movie version of “Across the Universe,” the cover by the band Evanescence is now one of favorite songs. It is haunting in the best possible way, not easily replicated.
Fortunately for us, the music is only the beginning. All the principals not only can act and sing, but dance as well. The choreography in Across the Universe (2007) is second to none and, along with superb costume and set design, make the movie. It enhances the music in a way that is unforgettable. The bowling scene that takes place during “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is so much fun and over the top. While the first part of the movie is just that – fun and over the top – the choreography and music work together to tell a much darker story as the movie progresses.
While I won’t give away the plot, it is the plot itself that keeps me guessing, keeps me coming back to the movie. When I finished watching Across the Universe (2007) for the first time, my first thought was:
What the heck just happened? What did I just watch?
Frankly, its plot, or lack thereof, is both its strength and weakness. While it isn’t as though it doesn’t have a plot at all, there are large swaths of the movie that leave you asking so many questions. Much can explained away by implied drug use. Now might be a good time to mention that Across the Universe (2007) earned every bit of its PG-13 rating. Personally, I believe it should be more in the R category considering the violence, implied drug use, and sexual references/implications.
Implied drug use can explain away much of the plot issues in the movie, but it doesn’t explain everything. For example, there are certain characters (namely Prudence, Sadie, and Jo-Jo) that I want to know more about. They are that interesting, considering what we know of them. However, I have yet to figure out the purpose of Prudence’s character. She seems to just show up.
While it is easy to see all of these things as “flaws” with the plot, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intentional. I’m not quite sure how the movie could have captured as much of the history of the ‘60s as it did without leaving so much to the viewer’s imagination. As a Beatles fan, that is what is so fun about this movie. There are so many references for fans. My personal favorite is the Brigitte Bardot poster. Supposedly all the Beatles had a huge crush on her. Then, there are the characters themselves. Jude, played by Jim Sturgess, looks an awful lot like a young Paul McCartney. His character is even from Liverpool. With some characters, it is obvious: Jo-Jo is somehow a stand-in for Jimi Hendrix. Others, it isn’t so clear. For example, I want to peg Sadie as Janis Joplin, and yet, it doesn’t feel quite right. In the end, the music, the choreography, the confusing plot, and the Easter eggs geared towards Beatles fans will keep me coming back. If you like the Beatles at all, it is a must-see. If I ever have the opportunity to see it on the big screen, I am there. I’m not sure how I missed Across the Universe (2007) when it was first released.
The List (2009) is an older album, but the story behind it is compelling. I admit, I’m not much of a country music fan. That said, I love Johnny Cash’s music. He is one of the few musicians/groups that belong in their own category, others include Elvis, the Beatles, and a handful of others. Frankly, I don’t listen to Johnny Cash’s music much. My ex adored his music almost as much as I adore the Beatles – almost. At this point, I’d just rather not. Now that that is all out of the way, you are probably wondering why I am bringing Johnny Cash into this discussion at all. I’m here to talk about his daughter’s album, not his. Well, The List (2009) wouldn’t exist without him. It is that story that fascinates me.
Supposedly when Rosanne turned 18, her father gave her a list of what he thought were the 100 most influential country and American songs to help expand her knowledge of music. Can you imagine? It would be as if I grew up the daughter of a world famous American author and he or she gave me a list of what he or she perceived to be the most important works in American literature. Unimaginable. Rosanne Cash, much to her credit, actually kept the list and turned it into a wonderful album, even if she only included 12 songs.
The interview is interesting enough. It is the reason why I checked out the album at all. The album itself, with all of its country roots, isn’t exclusively classified as country. It belongs to the folk and world genres as well. There are so many elements of folk music all throughout the album. It is timeless, which is precisely why you should check it out.
Restarting my conversation with all of you here has been on my mind for quite some time. As with so much in my life, things became bogged down during the pandemic. It is telling that my last posts described my feelings at the beginning of the shutdown – my experience as a new teacher suddenly thrown into the great unknown and then a two-part series on the pandemic and the canoe livery. The survival of that constant in my life weighed so heavily on my mind during the darkest days of the shutdown. It was almost unspeakable.
And now … Well, I feel as though I just witnessed the end of an era on Friday with the death of Betty White. I watched The Golden Girls during its original run. Yes, I am that old. Even though I was a child and tween during that time, there always seemed to be something timeless about that show and the principal actresses as well. I spent many Saturday evenings watching with my grandparents. Grandpa Owen adored Sophia, and of course, we all loved the humor. Out of the remaining three actresses, Betty White’s Rose reminded me the most of Grandma Reid. However, there is one huge catch: Grandma was never, ever even close to being that naïve (or dumb)! Yet, Rose’s willingness to help anyone and everyone fit the bill and her constant positivity reflected my experiences with both of my grandmothers. I think it is that kindness, reflected in both Betty White’s character Rose Nylund and anecdotes of Betty White’s generosity towards her colleagues and fans, that I am sensing is gone. It is also a longing for a simpler time.
If I am honest, the feeling that it is the end of an era started before Friday. This past fall, one of my Grandma Reid’s last remaining friends passed away (although there may be a few left). It hit particularly hard because Ginny was such a positive person. I have fond childhood memories of visiting her home during Halloween, at which time she would show me her vast porcelain doll collection and shared stories about working for my grandfather. As an adult, I saw her often as she volunteered at the Skilled Nursing Facility where Grandma Reid lived out the last few years of her life. I can only hope that I will be around to volunteer in my 80s and 90s! I remember her as so full of life. Again, the world could use more positivity at this point.
In fact, I am done. There are so many times I’ve wanted to write that simple sentence, and I now know how to explain it a bit better. I am done listening to the negative, which, let’s be honest, is everywhere now. I’m also done spending any time or energy on people who only focus on what could go wrong. It is time to finally move forward after the last nearly two years of hiding in the shadows and not living to the fullest. Yes, I truly believe that there have always been ways to do so safely.
We can get back to ourselves, but we might find that we have discover ourselves once again. As I work on decluttering my life, I will hopefully make even more room for what is truly important. I still have important to decisions to make, but I am finally once again headed in the right direction. There is hope for me yet (see article below).
So, thank you. Thank you for staying with me through all the craziness that is my life. Thank you for still reading even if I am nothing but inconsistent. Thank you for letting me share a tiny piece of my life.
If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that I crave structure. I need it to be productive. I am slowly working on getting back into some type of routine as everything has shifted over the last couple of weeks. Right now, I’m not even sure what it would look like.
I’d love to put tons of time and energy into my Google Classroom now, but Michigan just closed schools for the rest of the school year. Up until this point, I was unable to assign anything for a grade. I could share things I would like my students to look at and do, but that was about it. I did come across some great stuff that I will be using with my students moving forward. Unfortunately, that is the point. Until we can figure out what distance learning will look like at our school, I’m not sure how we will handle students without out devices and internet access. Hopefully, we will know more next week and will be able to move on from there.
I miss and worry about my students. My heart breaks for my 8th graders who will be heading off to high school next year. Will they be ready? We did not get to send them off in the way they need to be sent off – not yet, anyway. I worry less about 6th and 7th graders. I can put things in place to help us fill in gaps next year. It may not be fun, but it might be necessary. I still miss them though, and they are certainly missing out on so much. When we left school on Friday, March 13th – a day I will never forget – I was in the middle of planning a field trip to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts. My 6th graders were also supposed to go to Lansing on another field trip in early May – a field trip that never happened last year. 8th graders are also missing out on their last dance, usually put on by 7th grade. Not to mention track and field day, the last events surrounding Lent and Easter, and the wonderful chaos that is the last week of the school year. Oh, and I could cry when I think of what we had planned for March is reading month, most of which never took place, including Prime Time Live Friday Night (originally slated for that ill-fated Friday the 13th) and a poetry café, among so much else.
Then there are the student council events. I am the student council advisor, and my students pleaded with me to plan an end of year event. A trip to an escape room and laser tag were in the works. We were also supposed to have a carnival for younger students during March is reading month, all sponsored and put on by student council. I’m now trying to figure out how we are going to do elections for next year, which take place every spring. I may be able to come up with something there. The point is that everyone who works in or deals with education day-in, day-out – teachers, administrators, volunteers, staff, parents, and certainly students – lost so much over these last few weeks.
I feel as though that goes double for students in Catholic schools. I am not Catholic, and I do not teach religion, but I know what my students are missing at a time when they could use their faith the most. They need guidance when it comes to faith formation, and that is what they are lacking now. I keep thinking … 20 years from now, how I will I explain these times to my students? There are times when I feel at a loss when I try discussing September 11th with current students who were born longer after 2001.
This is not what I wanted or dreamed for my first full year teaching. It just isn’t. I do hope that next year will bring a “normal” year. During the 2018-2019 school year, those of us in Michigan experienced a record number of “cold”/snow days. Something no one experienced before. Now this. I think everyone could use a return to “normal” at this point.
Then there is the canoe livery. Fortunately for us, we don’t truly begin to get busy until the end of June, early July. August keeps getting busier and busier every year. This time of year, we get things ready for opening on Memorial Weekend. We will see what happens. While we can make some progress, in other ways, it is difficult. For example, I can’t finish ordering our t-shirts and sweatshirts at this point. Would it be wise to do so right now with so much uncertainty? Same goes for other merchandise in our stores.
There are so many summer scenarios that are running through my head. I can’t help but think we’d be especially busy if things start returning to normal by early June. If it is towards the end of June, that might put more pressure on already extremely busy weekends. Should we extend our season? Time will tell.
I do know that I will survive. My family will survive. The canoe livery will survive. We’ve weathered so many storms in the past. I keep telling myself how bleak things looked in 2018 in the wake of massive 100-year flooding due to ice. We made it and came back better than ever. Eventually a path will be made clear, and there will be a new “normal.” We all just need to hold on until then.
Why do I write? I write because I must write. I have a story within me that must be told. There may be other ways to tell that story, but writing fits me – and more importantly, it fits the story I need to tell. I’ve dabbled in many forms of writing over the years, everything from daily throw away articles to blogging to academic papers. I view it all as preparation for writing a larger story.
More than anything, writing allows me to organize all the seemingly random thoughts rambling around my head. I love reading what I wrote years ago as it normally takes me back to a certain time and place. It is a way for me to see just how much I’ve grown over the years, both personally and as a writer.
As a teacher, it saddens me when students tell me they hate to read and write. In my mind, my love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I loved to read as a child – and I still love to read. Reading and writing are so intertwined in my life that it is difficult for me to tell where one begins and the other ends. For example, something I plan to write will inspire me to read a certain book. Other times, a book I pick up because it looks good will inspire me to write. One of my all-time favorite books, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, sums up the symbiotic relationship perfectly. In fact, it changed how I read as a writer in every sense of those words. As long as I have books, paper, and pen, I will never be bored.
Writing, to me, also means a sense of community. I’ve taken writing classes at the local community college, spent years as a member of Mid-Michigan Writers, Inc., and attended workshops and seminars for writers. I have yet to meet one writer who didn’t have something to offer others, whether it be a new critique technique, a new source of writing prompts, or information on various programs for writers. As with teachers, writers are happy to share. We can all learn from one another.
The wonderful thing about writing is that it can be personal or shared, solitary or social, and organized or spontaneous. There is room for all types, and there is no one set of rules that apply to everyone. I love that young and old have access to reading and writing. Unlike many sports, there is no expiration date. There is no real barrier to entry other than basic literacy. I like to think that my writing will just get better with age, like a fine wine. It inspires me that many writers did not find their way until late in life. Above all, there is no stopping a great story.
Let’s face it: Good storytelling isn’t going anywhere, whether that means books, movies, television, or something else entirely. As long as there is hunger for a good story, there will be writers. I am proud to be a part of that tradition.
Ever since schools closed on Friday, March 13th, so many people have posted about spring break trips, proms, graduations, and so much more being cancelled and/or postponed. I’ve watched others shame those same people truly grieving their loss by stating things such as “at least you’re healthy” and “how can you think of things at a time like this?” What awful things to say!
While graduations and field trips certainly aren’t the sickness or loss of a loved one – no one is making that comparison – most of us are suffering from loss at this point. We have lost our “normal” and working like hell to get to a “new normal,” whatever that may be. As a teacher, I’m in awe at how teachers have come together. I belong to a Google Classroom group on Facebook, and the activity I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks is unreal. So many strangers, all teachers or in education, coming to help one another help students across the United States and the world. In fact, I’ve had my own crash course over the last few weeks. In fact, that is precisely why I am a teacher, I love to keep learning and then share what I’ve learned with my students.
When all this madness is over, and things return to “normal” – and they will – it is my hope that we are all kinder and gentler with one another. Hopefully this will bring many people closer to God. I also hope that it brings everyone, students included, a new appreciation for their everyday lives. It already has for me. As stressed out as I was at the end of last trimester, I’d love to be worried about planning all the fun things for March is reading month and the end of the school year again. So, I am taking some time to grieve my loss of normal – and you should too. When this is over, we are all going to love on each other and support our neighborhoods, small businesses, and cities, towns, and villages like never before. Personally, I am hoping for a great party out on the river!
All I can say is that there will be time to reschedule those missed spring break trips, make those memories with your seniors, and generally make up for lost time. I am looking forward to that day, and I expect to be so busy that I will be tempted to complain. Until then, I will just keep plugging away.
I will never forget Friday, March 13th, 2020. I teach middle school at a small, rural Catholic school, and we had just had an unexpected day off due to a boiler issue. Late in the day on Thursday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer mandated all schools closed as of Monday, March 16th. Suddenly we were all faced with an undetermined amount of time off. Not only did teachers and administrators not quite know what to expect, students looked to us for answers and we had none.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After school on that Friday, we were supposed to have an after school event for March is reading month, Prime Time Live Friday Night. Games, dinner, and prizes all cancelled. Our once full March calendar suddenly free. Now, our last Stations of the Cross is the last school memory I will have for a while.
I can’t help but think of all my 6th through 8th graders through all of this. Are they OK? How do I help make sure they are still learning? What can I do when I can’t assign any graded work as not everyone has internet access? I’ve worked my way through a crash-course on creating Google Classrooms, learning by doing.
Oh, the events! I so looked forward to so many events this spring! We had one field trip planned to Lansing in May, and I was in the process of booking another to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Art. We were just beginning the novel Esperanza Rising as a middle school. Oh, and the poetry unit I wanted to do. Then there were the professional development opportunities now cancelled. I looked forward to learning to become the best possible middle school teacher I can be. I am hoping that I have the same opportunities next year.
Then there are the longer-term questions. When will we return to school? What to expect when we do? When will society return to “normal’? How will things work with our seasonal family business, which is due to start Memorial Weekend? In fact, I’ve been splitting my time between trying to round up resources for my students and using this opportunity to get some business done.
Watching and observing how we have all come together as a profession (teachers are the best!), a church, a community, a state, and a country is heartwarming. Ultimately, we will all become stronger through this adversity.
Today I am happy to share an e-mail interview with Mari L. McCarthy. It is all about the power of journaling! Check it out below:
Why did you decide to start journaling in the first place?
It was for physical therapy purposes only. I had an MS episode where I lost most use of the right side of my body, and I needed to teach myself how to write with my left hand ASAP.
When did you notice a connection between journaling and how you felt physically, spiritually, and mentally?
Right away. I got started with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, and the three stream-of-consciousness pages first thing every morning took me on a magical mystery tour. I started hearing rhymes and started writing poetry for the first time in my life. And, I started remembering things from my childhood 60 years ago and experiencing it as if it was happening right now. I was able to process the events through the pages, became aware of how many erroneous thoughts and feelings I was carrying around in my body, and created new thoughts that reduced all kinds of mental, physical and spiritual stress.
Who do you think could benefit most from journaling daily?
Everyone. We all have had challenging childhoods where we just sucked in everything, including a lot of erroneous thoughts and feelings (I call them issues in our tissues). Journaling provides us the opportunity to understand the origins of our crazy thinking and shows us how to reframe our thought process.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting on their journaling journey?
Journaling is about facing our fears, learning how to manage our negativity and inner critics, and reclaiming our power. That is monumental behavior change. Take it easy. Journaling is about thinking with your heart and soul. Our overanalytical head has been in change for so long she’s afraid of losing control. My recommendation is to ask your journal a question and then free-write fast until you feel – my favorite 4 letter F word – like stopping.
What do you think is the biggest roadblock for those who want to make journaling a daily habit and fail to do so?
We are our biggest roadblock. We are experienced in self-sabotage and in having an unhealthy relationship with ourselves. Fear has controlled us since forever, and it is scary and a lot of hard work to explore our inner world. Plus, we were raised to think that alone time is so selfish. It is a totally new experience to work through the pain and heal our wounds.
Do you prefer to handwrite or type your journal entries? Which would you recommend to those new to journaling?
Pen to paper every day is the only way to get all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits that are available to you from journaling. Jumping right in and freewriting is a good start. Make sure you breathe and understand that your head (ego, inner critic, other voices…) will go crazy. Writing fast will show them you are in charge.
Why do you think journaling has such a profound effect on our lives and how we perceive ourselves?
I don’t know. I can only tell you that I have monumentally healed, grown and transformed myself thanks to journaling. I live a compassionate (!) unconditional love-in with myself, and it grows every day. In my first book, Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, I have results from scientific studies that are researching and monitoring this magical, mysterious self-healing process.
Aside from journaling, how else do you think writing can help us lead better lives?
Writing is creative self-expression, and we have so much inside of us that we’ve been stuffing down for so long. Writing is giving ourselves permission to be the truly talented (wild and crazy) person we are and share our brilliance with the world.
What do you think we as writers can learn from our journaling patterns (i.e. the topics we keep coming back to time and time again)?
Besides the therapeutic value journaling has, it gives us great ideas for poetry, essays, characters for fiction writing.
Aside from journaling, what advice would you give readers eager to live their best lives?
Carve out “ME” (self-care) time every day where you can just be with yourself. We’re great doers and care takers and fixers and…. What we need to do is put ourselves first and work on reconnecting and staying connected to our true self every day.
Mari, thank you for sharing such great advice and insight with my readers! Best of luck with the rest of your blog tour.