Day 134 – Reading

Project Life 365 – Day 113 – Hands

The hardest part of going back to work after being a work-at-home mom for the last 3 years was trying to wrap my head around leaving my little girl in someone else’s care for the majority of the day. Well, that and actually have to get up, change out of my pajamas, and be both sociable and productive before 8:00 a.m.. Productive? Sure, I can handle that. No biggie. But being sociable in the morning, five days a week, before the caffeine has kicked in? You’re pushing your luck, friend.

Luckily for us, the transtion from two-day-a-week morning preschool to full-time preschool was pretty painless. Sure the first couple weeks we were all worn out, and Steven and I spent some time harassing each other about the lack of hot water for whomever was last to shower.

But overall, we really can’t conplain, because just three and a half weeks into our new lives, we’re getting the kinks worked out and we’re all feeling pretty satisfied.

And, best of all, it’s clear that we made the right decision for Cadence. She hops out of bed every morning ready to start the day, and comes home each afternoon excited to share all the new things she learned in school. And tonight, as I sit, listening to my baby girl giving her Daddy and me a lesson on the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes, I know, without a doubt, that my girl is in very good hands.


God bless the beautiful souls that take such great care of her while we’re away.

365 Project – Day 214 – This Just In…Cell Phones Do Cause Cancer

My friend Christin called me out of the blue today, excited to tell me about what she had just seen on a movie marquee while driving through Yonkers. I don’t know what made me happier–having an impromptu chat with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, or the fact that she immediately thought of me and my blog when she saw this…

See, Christin knows me well enough to know that, had I been driving past that very same marquee, I probably would have stopped to take a photo myself, so that I could talk about the ridiculousness in my blog. This is why I love my friends. It’s nice to know they are always looking out for me.

Okay, so let’s get down to it, shall we?

I won’t lie and say that I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I am married to a big fan of Harry Potter though, so I’m not totally immune to its charms. I’ve read exactly 1 1/2 of the books, and that was only because I wanted to use some examples from the text in my master’s thesis. I didn’t hate it, but I am not compelled to drop everything I am doing to sit down and read the rest of the novels either. Sure, they might be on my long list of things to read, but there are just a whole lot more books I need to finish first.

That being said, I will admit that I do appreciate and applaude the fact that J.K. Rowling captured the hearts and minds of millions–childrens and adults alike–with her novels. That is the kind of literary success that I can only dream of. And what I respect most about series is the fact that it got people reading again.

In our age of computers and video games and cell phones and televisions with more shows and channels than you could ever watch in your lifetime, Harry Potter got kids to put down the Playstation controllers and pick up books again. Hell, it even got them excited about books again, so excited that they would beg their parents to stand in line for hours outside bookstores, just so they could get in and buy a copy of the newest release and read it before the glue on the binding even had a chance to completely dry.

That, my friends, is worthy of knighthood, or a Nobel Prize, or perhaps we should just go ahead and petition for Ms. Rowling’s sainthood.

For someone like me–a writer, an avid reader, and a lover of words–the world is a downright dismal place these days. While television and movies and video games and the internet have all contributed to the decline of reading and writing, nothing has been quite as detrimental cell phones and texting.

Don’t get me wrong, I like texting as much as the next person. In fact, I much prefer texting or emailing  to actually talking on the phone. When Steven and I began dating and sending each other hundreds of text messages while we were away from each other working boring college fairs, we finally caved in and just got unlimited texting on our phones. We haven’t looked back since.

But, for all of my texting, I refuse to give in to the text message language. You know, all those abbreviations and acronyms that people use. Things like u intead of you. Pix instead of pictures. OMG.  SMH.

I’m pretty sure that people cringe when they carry on any sort of lengthy texting conversations with me, because this is usually the extent of my abbreviating…

Papa Shawn is actually lucky that I even abbreviated “G-ma” in that particular text, because if I hadn’t, he might have received four separate texts instead of only three.

I don’t think it really bothered me all that much when the texting language was confined to the world of texting, or even something like Twitter, where you only have a limited number of characters that you can enter at a time. Sure. Okay. Abbreviating under those circumstances makes sense. What I can’t handle though, is the way this texting language has begun to infect our everyday language, slowly seeping from our texts and tweets and into our classrooms and our offices, and sometimes (gag me) even into our speech. There have been several people that I had to refrain from slapping when they actually uttered OMG in the middle of a sentence.

Some teachers and administrators have even begun to embrace text language and use it as a teaching tool in their classrooms, arguing that it is necessary to get the kids’ attention and get them excited about learning.

I say bullshit.

There are too many kids today who can barely read, can’t spell a word correctly  to save their lives, and who wouldn’t even know how to correctly identify a prepositional phrase if it jumped off the page and sat in their laps singing showtunes.

Somehow, between the time I graduated from high school and the time I started teaching high school English, the whole system imploded.

Instead of rote memorization and lengthy reading assignments and cutthroat spelling bees and diagramming sentences until you swear your eyes are beginning to bleed, kids today are babied and coddled and passed through the broken systems until they somehow graduate high school without being able to write a coherent 5-page unplagiarized essay.

In short, we’ve gotten lazy.

It’s easier to abbreviate than to spell things out. It’s easier to pass kids through the school systems than to actually teach them and hold them accountable and mold them into productive and responsible members of society. It’s easier to do the minimal amount of work to get by than to actually put your heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears into something that you can really be proud of. And it’s a whole lot easier just to sit back and let it all happen than to actually go out and try to make a change.

It’s hard to change, but it’s not impossible.

And so, I’ll keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep annoying all of my friends and family members by spelling out all the words in my text messages. I’ll keep reading to my daughter. I’ll keep hoarding books like they are gold. And I’ll keep praying that more writers like J.K. Rowling come along, writers that catch our attention and ignite our imaginations and challenge us to keep on reading and wanting more.

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to finding ways to revive our love affair with words, and to stop the annoying text language from taking over the world. Who’s with me?!

365 Project – Day 209 – I Love the UNL Dairy Store

Since 1917, the UNL Dairy Store has been selling dairy products to the general public. The combination of exceptionally fresh ingredients and extremely low prices have made it a favorite destination for anyone craving some delicious homemade ice cream, cheeses, and even meat products.

It is, hands down, the best ice cream I have ever eaten.

What I find so cool about the UNL Dairy Store (aside from the ice cream of course) is the fact that everything is handcrafted and sold by UNL students. The Food Science, Agriculture and Animal Science students make everything in the store–from the ice cream and cheeses to the summer sausage, salami and jars of local honey. Students even work in the store, selling the items they made and learning how to run a business from the inside out.

Open 7 days a week, the UNL Dairy Store has a lot more to offer than just great tasting dairy products and low prices. They offer tours of the facilities if you’re interested in seeing exactly how everything works. They have a catering department that can cover everything from ice cream socials to full meal service. They have daily Lunch Specials, and a daily Happy Hour from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. They have a variety of Gift Boxes filled with your favorite meats and cheeses that can be purchased and shipped just about anywhere. And, last but not least, they have daily ice cream specials,  hand packed containers ranging from 10 oz. single serve to 3 gallon cartons, and an extensive list of always available flavors, rotated flavors, and special seasonal flavors so you can enjoy something new every time you visit.

I just might go so far to say that the UNL Dairy Store is a little piece of heaven here on Earth because, really, what would heaven be without ice cream?

The best part for us is that we live just a few blocks away from the East Campus location. So tonight, we took a little family stroll through the neighborhood to get some ice cream after dinner. As you can see, Cadence didn’t enjoy the cup of chocolate ice cream we shared at all!

Heck, even Electra got a little taste from a gentleman that thought our droopy-faced hound looked like she could use the last bite of his mint ice cream cone. Of course, she spent the next five minutes licking a five-foot perimeter of the ground around her, just to make sure she didn’t miss a crumb.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to the fine folks who are in the habit of making such delicious ice cream. If you are ever in Lincoln, the UNL Dairy Store should be at the top of your list of places to visit.

If you’d like more information about the UNL Dairy Store, head over to their website or find them on Facebook. You won’t be sorry.

The Mis-Education of America

Like all children, I went through periods when I hated school, and made up excuses and potentially life-threatening illnesses in order to convince Mom to let me stay home for the day. But, in general, those days were rare, as I always enjoyed learning. My occasional hiatus usually had more to do with being tired or fighting with my friends than it had to do with school.

Most of the classrooms of my youth ran like well-oiled machines. My teachers were knowledgeable, and enforced discipline and order in ways that were both fair and effective. Talking during class was taboo, and disrespect was simply not tolerated.

It was rare for a student to even try to bend the rules or show disrespect. When they did, they were sent straight to the Principal’s office and punished, mostly through detentions, suspensions, or expulsions. Sometimes they were even sentenced to manual labor, reporting for duty early on a Saturday morning to spend the day scraping gum off the bottom of the desks or scrubbing the black scuff marks from the gymnasium floor. Parents were always called immediately, and the punishment at home often far outweighed any the school administrators could dream up. We were a generation of kids who were grounded, given additional chores, and spanked when necessary.

Disrespect was simply not tolerated.

When I first started teaching, I was appalled by the things kids were doing and getting away with in schools these days. At first I thought it was just me–a rookie teacher in a Bronx high school is bound to have some problems, right? But it wasn’t just me, and I soon learned that it wasn’t just the kids in the Bronx either. As a whole, the educational system in the United States has taken a nosedive and splattered headfirst on the pavement.

Teachers are paid a pittance for the incredibly important job they do, and are being abused with extra duties, activities, committees, and meetings that they are forced to attend outside class. Instead of being able to focus on instruction, teachers these days also take on the role of head disciplinarian (an assignment that used to fall under the Principal or Vice-Principal’s job description). Unless a child actually pulls out a weapon and threatens to use it, it is virtually impossible for teachers to get a troubled child removed from class. Not to mention the fact that classrooms are so overcrowded they are literally stuffed with students. There are never enough textbooks or supplies, and many teachers even have to buy their own paper if they want to make photocopies for assignments.

Somewhere along the line, our nation adopted this soft, touchy-feely attitude toward children, and the problems with it are becoming apparent only now that it is literally blowing up in our faces. We are afraid to discipline children, or correct them, because we are afraid we might hurt their feelings. Kids are out of control, in classrooms and at home. They have no sense of right and wrong, no respect for their elders (or anyone else for that matter). They certainly aren’t learning anything because, God forbid, we can’t make them memorize anything anymore. We can’t make them diagram sentences or write long essays or read entire novels, because that would just be too much for them. No, no, no, we need to reward them for jobs half-done. We need to hold their hands and walk them through the watered down curriculum that even a monkey could decipher if properly trained.

In the infinite wisdom of our elected officials and administrators, we have severely cut our art music, and physical education programs–the very programs that give our children creative outlets for their abundance of pent up energy and emotions. I have one friend working in an elementary school without recess. An elementary school without recess!!! The school day stretches from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, with only a 15-minute break for lunch. Is it any surprise that approximately 6 million children are being diagnosed with ADHD in the United States every year? Is it any surprise that our children are beginning to lash out and bite the hands that are trying to feed them?

Our children don’t need to be coddled, and they certainly don’t need to be medicated. What they need is to be kids. They need to be given adequate time each day to run and play and stretch, not just their bodies, but their imaginations as well. Then, when it’s time to get serious and learn, they need rules and discipline and consequences. Children learn by imitation, by trial and error. If we want them to grow into well-rounded, respectable citizens who can really contribute to our society, then we need to stand up and be role models. We need to figure out how to fix ourselves, then do what it takes to fix things for our children.

The burden is all of ours to bear, for we do not live inside individual bubbles where the rules that govern the whole have no effect on us. It’s time for all of us to step up and take responsibility for the state of our world. Only then will it possible to roll up our sleeves, dig in, and do what it takes to fix it.

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