17 September 2010

The View from the Top

Today has been a great day!  I arrived at school to a room full of smiles.  It was "Grandparents' Donut Day" and my kiddos brought their families out in full force!  I am a teacher who absolutely loves interacting with students and their loved ones...to celebrate together and encourage excellence in the minds of some of the smartest youngsters I've been privileged to know.  I am blessed beyond belief.  I hope, somewhere on their lists of thanksgiving, these very special people count me among their blessings too.

I am also in a great mood because my Cape Cod adventure draws ever nearer.  Phase 1 ~ color, cut, and brow wax ~ is complete.  Thank you, Gail, for always treating me right!  I think the most important thing a woman can have - next to talent, of course - is her hairdresser. ~ Joan Crawford  Perhaps this is why Gail and I have a partnership that boasts twenty-one years.  Her salon, Bella Capelli, is aptly named.  Phase 2 ~ shopping (er, soccer tournament in Kansas City) ~ commences this evening.  I'll be spending the next couple of days crossing back and forth over the state line.  I think I'll relish the opportunities to bolster my wardrobe.

On another note, I rediscovered the July issue of Oprah's O magazine while at the salon.  I do not often read this periodical but this particular summer issue is faithfully devoted to favorite books.  It did not disappoint.  I have already completed my Christmas list as a result!  There are titles I cannot wait to own...Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, and Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill (previously titled The Book of Negroes...named for a historical document that lists slaves who sailed to Nova Scotia).  Other titles captivated me too:  Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy, and If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black. Included on my wish list are titles of heroic women:   My Name is Mary Sutter, by Robin Oliveira; Domby and Son, by Charles Dickens; and Elizabeth Street, by Laurie Fabiano.  I'm excited to read about these women...the Civil War era doctor, the daughter in Dickens' "ironic joke" of a title, and Giovanna, the Italian immigrant of the early 1900s.  My love of early American history will have me reading Peter Carey's Parrot & Olivier in America.  And not to be missed:  Howard Norman's What is Left The Daughter, Jane Mendelsohn's American Music, and Lily King's Father of the Rain.  The latter is of particular interest.  It involves a "narcissistic alcoholic with an ugly temper and a magnetic charm."  (I've known a few like that...) The daughter apparently never gives up hoping he'll change, then "finally sees for herself what's been clear all along."  I wonder if I will as well.  This one, I'm sure, I'll make personal. 

So why "The View from the Top?"  A forest bird never wants a cage.  ~Henrik Ibsen  Somewhere I have a copy of Ibsen's play, The Doll House.  I've never been one for reading plays, but this is an exception I actually enjoyed.  His quote (from where, I haven't a clue) is something else I enjoy.  It's me, this forest bird!  I am truly free.  The commitments and connections I have are of my own choosing and not based on any mandate.  I'm an independent girl...and independent thinker with a furious sense of direction and an imperturbable mind of her own.  Gloria Steinem, being the feminist that she is, one said A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space. With all due respect, Ms. Steinem, you are absolutely incorrect.  No one placed me here because I'm some token female.  I climbed up here myself.   I'm worth it, and today, those who aren't just don't seem to matter much.

Have a great weekend.  I will, too. 
xoxo ~S.

11 September 2010

September Eleventh

This is one of those dates I cannot forget.  Even if it were possible, it is a date I choose never to forget.  It was, it is, a day of infamy.  As I write, the pain in my heart is palpable...my stomach is turning with the sickness of anger.  My heart bleeds patriotism.  I am an American.  The cement of this union is the heart-blood of every American. ~Thomas Jefferson

America is a tune. It must be sung together. ~Gerald Stanley Lee   Ah, yes, that song in our hearts.  Who can forget the aftermath of 9/11?  I had already arrived at school that morning as news of the terrorist attacks became apparent.  I remember what I wore...whose faces I first saw when I learned the truth.  Surely, surely, this was a scene from a poorly cast science fiction movie.  This is America!  We do not endure this type of living nightmare! And then, stepping into the teachers' lounge, I watched the second plane forever become meshed with the World Trade Center...and I cried.

The stern hand of fate has scourged us to an elevation where we can see the great everlasting things that matter for a nation; the great peaks of honour we had forgotten - duty and patriotism, clad in glittering white; the great pinnacle of sacrifice pointing like a rugged finger to heaven.
~David Lloyd George

I remember the desperate need to hug my children that day, to hear the voices of those I loved.  I did not hesitate to say the words 'I love you' because I knew, more than ever before, that tomorrow is elusive.  Suffering breaks our world. Like a tree struck by lightening—splintered, shaken, denuded—our world is broken by suffering, and we will never be the same again. ~Nathan Kollar

Now, we have inscribed a new memory alongside those others. It’s a memory of tragedy and shock, of loss and mourning. But not only of loss and mourning. It’s also a memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend–even a friend whose name it never knew."
~President George W. Bush, December 11, 2001

I knew then that the world must be coming to an end...and it did.  The world as I had known it ceased to exist.  I suppose I felt a bit like my grandparents must have felt on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.  There is a nakedness that comes with the loss of security, that farewell to peace of mind.  Today, my students have never known an existence without the stain of the horrors of 9/11.  What I hope they see in those of us who knew America "before" is this: 

Patriotism... is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
~Adlai Stevenson

And this:

A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. ~George William Curtis

Today I am reminded of the thousands of victims who lost their lives on that fateful day.  There are countless others, too, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the days afterwards.  And how many, many more have hearts with bruises that will never fade?
her·o·ism [ hérrō ìzzəm ] n.

1. great courage: remarkable physical or moral courage
2. heroic conduct or behavior
“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.” ~Ayn Rand
Heroes among us.  The soldier, the sacrifice.  The patriot.  Heroism is a way of life for most Americans.  It manifests itself in our greatest deeds, but also in our smallest actions. Is it not courageous to love your neighbor as yourself?  To set forth an example of patience, understanding, even kindness?  Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. ~Mark Twain
I've wondered about the life stories of those who perished in the attacks.  It's been years since I've read much about them.  My curiosity got the best of me and I sought names similar to my own.  I am humbled.
A memorial note regarding the life of Stephanie V. Irby, 38, who died at the World Trade Center:
Tonight we met a very special puppy walking in our neighborhood. When we stopped to talk to the owner, we found out that the dog's name was Irby, named after a victim of the World Trade Center tragedy. [Stephanie was apparently a dog breeder.] This puppy is going to grow up to be a bomb sniffing dog to keep us all safe. Being a huge dog "family" we just thought we were meeting a puppy.  Little did we know we were meeting a future hero. God bless to all the people that loved Stephanie.

And another:

You are often thought of. We are missing you singing on the choir and praise team. You now belong to that heavenly choir.  Sing on, sing on.  We will join you one day soon.

A memorial note regarding the life of Stacey L. Sanders, 25, who also died at the World Trade Center:

I've tried to forget her and all of the things that we've done, but as long as there are memories I'll never hang up my gun .

I found no memorial notes regarding Wanda Anita Green, 49, of New Jersey...yet I know there are those who mourn her loss.  As a crew member of Flight 93, she died in a Pennsylvania field on a plane rerouted for our capital city.  She was part of the esteemed group who participated in the passenger revolt, following the directive, "Let's roll."

Three women...countless others.  Who were they, really?  Who would they be today?  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
Love your country. Your country is the land where your parents sleep, where is spoken that language in which the chosen of your heart, blushing, whispered the first word of love; it is the home that God has given you that by striving to perfect yourselves therein you may prepare to ascend to him. ~Giuseppe Mazzini

09 September 2010


“The first step to improvement, whether mental, moral, or religious, is to know ourselves - our weakness, errors, deficiencies and sins, that, by divine grace, we may overcome and turn from them all.” ~Tryon Edwards
*     *     *
"God doesn't bless mediocrity.  He blesses excellence."

"Be the one to have an excellent spirit.  Be the one to stand out in the crowd."

I've borrowed these tidbits from Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now.  They reference some very (very) personal goals.  I'd tell you about them...but then they'd be less personal, wouldn't they?  Suffice it to say, I've decided not to settle.  Maybe I'm selfish.  Maybe I'm just worth it.

At school, all staff members, regardless of position, are participating in a book study.  We are reading the Wall Street Journal's business bestseller, Fish! (Catch the Energy and Release the Potential).  It is a parable based on the Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle, and it is touted as a "remarkable way to boost morale and improve results."  It is a key study component of my leadership work this year, relative to professional goals.  I am also hopeful it will help to direct my focus on areas for dissertation research.  We shall see.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
~Anne Frank

On a purely simplistic note, I'm setting some purely-simplistically-attainable goals.  I'm gearing up for Fall and just as the animal stores adipose tissue, I'll undergo some changes as well.  (Fortunately, mine doesn't include the extra layer of fat...not this year, anyway!) First, I'm gathering books to read during hibernation.  I suppose it's not actually a true hibernation, since I've been known to sit on the porch, in subfreezing temperatures, with a blanket and book in hand ~ and actually enjoy it!  Second, I'm stocking the kitchen with ingredients for comfort foods.  It's nice to come home from work to a crockpot of food, already prepared and piping hot.  On the menu this weekend: 

Cowboy Beans 

"I think anytime you can affect people in general, in a positive way, then you're a lucky individual." ~Sam Elliott  
(Well, Mr. Cowboy, I think we're the lucky ones.  There's nothing like a bit of eye candy for dessert.  Uh huh.)


•1 pound lean ground beef
•1/2 cup chopped onion
•1/4 cup ketchup
•1/4 cup barbecue sauce
•1/4 c. granulated sugar
•1/4 c. brown sugar
•2 tbsp. sorghum or other molasses
•1 tbsp. chili powder
•1 tsp. salt
•1 tsp. pepper
•2 tbsp. mustard
•1 can (approx. 16 ounces) pork 'n beans
•1 can (approx. 16 ounces) butter beans, drained
•1 can (approx. 16 ounces) kidney beans, drained
•1 can (approx. 16 ounces) pinto beans, drained
•1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled


Brown beef. Add onion and cook until tender.  Drain excess grease. Add remaining ingredients, except bacon. Put in crockpot and top with bacon crumbs. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour, then reduce heat to LOW and cook 2 to 4 hours.
*     *     *
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~Socrates   Hence, today's title.  Above all else, "The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." ~Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead  THAT, certainly, IS the question.

08 September 2010

Going Home

That is the title of today's positive quotation in the little book I've come to love.  "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." ~Nelson Mandela  And I can't help it...I took a sneak peak at tomorrow's words of wisdom.  They matter to me and are relevant to the thoughts I'm thinking today.  "Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter. Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better."  ~Samuel Beckett  The key is to fail better, to not repeat our same mistakes but to learn and grow from them...and then move on.  That is my wish for me today.  That is my wish for you as well. 

I suppose my weekend was an illustration of Mandela's words.  The block of time spent together as a family of five was a diversion from our routine of recent weeks.  McKenzie has left our home in pursuit of higher education, and we had not all been together since her departure...  I question how many times I have left our home ~ detaching myself in pursuit of personal interests.  There is no way to ascertain a truthful answer.  It has happened often.  Regardless, each time I wander, I return enlightened from the journey.  I can only hope the revelations encompass a bit of wisdom.  How many metamorphoses can one person possibly undergo?

“The butterfly's attractiveness derives not only from colors and symmetry: deeper motives contribute to it. We would not think them so beautiful if they did not fly, or if they flew straight and briskly like bees, or if they stung, or above all if they did not enact the perturbing mystery of metamorphosis: the latter assumes in our eyes the value of a badly decoded message, a symbol, a sign.” ~Primo Levi

As I looked back over the photos taken during the weekend jaunt, I came across a quote that is displayed in the Missouri History Museum at Forest Park.  It has certainly found its appropriate place, displayed at both the entrance and exit of the exhibit hall.  It also provides an adequate metaphor for the road I find myself traveling ~ to come full circle, and to begin again with new eyes.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
~T.S. Eliot

What I know for sure is that good friends text you in the wee hours when they discover you're awake.  Thank you, Jenny.  And good friends give you a "high five" when the song playing in your head makes you doubt your smile.  Thank you too, Cadie.  Today turned out to be a good day to move forward, and barring any rain, this evening will provide a perfect backdrop in which to enjoy a soccer game...or two.

02 September 2010


By Monday of this week I was already longing for the weekend, and not out of excitement for any particular upcoming agenda.  Monday was just one of those exhausting days that never seemed to end.  My emotions had been taxed enough for an entire week (or two, or three) before 3:00 p.m.  I've changed my mind.  Yes, I am still ready for the weekend but today, it is with enthusiasm that I look toward that which lies ahead.  Thank you to some very special friends who helped me change my outlook.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  John 8:32. 

Saturday I'll be traveling to St. Louis to visit my college freshman.  She apparently misses her parents and little sisters.  I doubt she misses us nearly as much as we miss her.  It will be good to get~and give~a hug.  I am throwing together a goodie bag filled with 'wants' and 'needs' and some surprises, too.  Some of my daughter's requests come with a [slightly] hefty price tag.  I suppose she's been spoiled by being allowed to accustom herself to a few of the finer things in life.  That would be my fault.  I offer no apology.  Never settle, McKenzie.  Never.

"The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it.” ~Diana Vreeland, American Editor

You, McKenzie, know this much is true.

the view from Saturday
I think I'm going to enjoy watching the Cardinals beat the Reds this Labor Day weekend.  (Optimism is my new mantra.)  Later, a fabulous St. Louis dinner ~ followed by a heaping dose of shopping for dessert ~ will surely encourage a good night's rest (especially after inhaling the fumes from the hotel's over-chlorinated swimming pool).  And then, Sunday...

 Monday will be my day of rest.  I'll be paying bills (ugh), catching up on laundry, stocking up on groceries, hitting the gym, working on a special someone's birthday surprise, and finishing lesson plans for the school week.  Oh, and I forgot...then I'm going to rest.  Isn't that the purpose of a holiday weekend after all?