Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being a Boy is Hard

Here is a short Response Paper I wrote for my Young Adult Literature Class.

Being a Boy is Hard

As a young woman, I often found solace and learned important truths from reading novels. In fact, I learned so much from reading novels that I often wondered how my non-reader friends ever learned anything and how they got along in the world. Well, they didn’t or at least not very well. This extra knowledge I gleaned from reading has served me well over the years and that is one reason why I feel it is so important to provide access to books and additional understanding to students who read them.

Boys have traditionally been left to other devices to learn the lessons of life, reading was never high on the list of any of the boys I knew and I always felt like it was a shame. It was especially sad when the other “devices” boys learned by were their idiot friends, their bigoted neighbors or their chauvinistic fathers. Young men need just as much information as young women do in order to grow up to be enlightened, functional and happy grown-ups. Reading is a terrific way to accomplish this search for information on how to become an adult.

I know reading about regular, average boy’s lives is probably not as exciting as the novels the authors in the articles summarized, but, don’t these boys exist somewhere or is every young man in a cage match with girls, friends, dating, drinking, sex, love, emotions and testosterone? Maybe they are. And if they are, they should read more. They should read many of the novels listed in these articles and take the time to think about their situations and possible solutions, or interventions, to their apparently destructive behavior.

Taking time is something that boys NEVER do. The boys that I know are always running: to school where they can see their friends, to practice, to a game, to a party afterwards, to a movie after the party, then to a bonfire out on the Arizona Strip. The only time they slow down is when they collapse into bed after being on their feet for the 20-hour, adrenaline-filled-juggernaut they call a Wednesday. There is no time spent on introspection, future planning, coming to terms, social development, relationships or (heaven forbid) homework.

The problem is that homework, reading and any of the above mentioned skills that are necessary for ending up in a good place instead of prison, or (the closely-related) teen parenthood, are not cool and they are not fun and those are the two things that drive boys: coolness and fun.

It will be up to every English teacher in the country to pay attention to boys and their reading habits and try to develop cool and fun ways to get them interested in books, and especially books that could teach valuable lessons in life that boys need, just as much as girls do.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Emerson, Thoreau and Usefulness

Here is an assignment I had for my English 2400, American Literature class today.

Self-Reliance 2008

“A sturdy lad form Vermont or New Hampshire, who in turn tries all the professions, who team it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls.”
I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools: for these are more easily acquired than got rid of.”
Even the most polymathic, dexterous, open-ended individual is, after all, just one guy. He might retreat to Walden Pond for the simple life alone with a hoe, but if he dwells among mankind, he’ll need a veritable Gutenberg Galaxy of tools.
This author has taken the transcendentalist ideals and tried to interpret them in a framework for our day. He suggests that in our modern day, a hoe, a wheelbarrow, an axe, is not enough to get by with. He goes on to say that if Thoreau were still at the pond, he would at least have a Leatherman Multi-Tool because they have “a certain tight-mouthed, implacable Yankee quality. They’re a state of mind.”
He next suggests the Apple iPhone as the “post-millennial version of the Leatherman.” It devours other tools: phone, camera, e-mail, Web browser, text-messaging, music, video players, whole plant-girdling sets of urban Google maps, house keys, pedometer, TV remote, seismometer, Breathalyzer, alarm clock, video games, radio, bar-code scanner…the list grows by the day.”
What about us, in our world. We might want to live in the world of ideas and nature, but we have to eat, every day. What tools do we use that inevitably feed us? What tools do we use to get along in the world? The tools we use to feed and clothe ourselves depend on the situations and professions we choose or find ourselves in. If this is true, it looks like everyone under 25 years of age has chosen to feed themselves by the creation, consumption and digestion of banal information. I have seen young men trying to dig a hole with a shovel. It is a pathetic sight. But, they are very good text-messagers, video game players and YouTube watchers. That doesn’t seem very useful to me. But, maybe I am just an old lady. It makes me wonder who will be feeding these people and their hungry families in the future. What marketplace are they preparing to enter? Who will be able to come up with authentic ideas and ways to live? It is important to remember that there was no cell phone coverage, PS2 , or internet connection at Walden Pond.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poetry Assignment

Our teacher gave us the assignment to read a chapter out of our book on teaching poetry and then respond to the chapter in poetic form. You should have heard the groaning when she announced it. I might have been the loudest. But, here is my offering. Tell me what you think.


I found myself sound asleep,
alarm buzzing to start my day.
I found myself in a truck,
motor racing me towards school.
I found myself in a classroom,
ears ringing with information.
I found myself in a book,
eyes reading about a sometimes scary subject.


I found myself learning about feelings, forms, experiences, sounds and language.

I found myself walking inside a beautiful structure of words and rhythm.

I found myself desiring to follow the example of a master teacher.

I found poetry.


I found myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Developing a Class-Related blog

Moenika and I are in class wondering about all the different ways a person can die of boredom.

1.You could drown in your own drool.

2. You could fall asleep and suddenly fall forward onto your sharp pencil.

3.You could hear the word "cool" one time too many and your ears could explode.

4. Your teacher could walk up behind you and read this and you could die of embarrassment instead of boredom.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Birthday Poem

It is my birthday on Wednesday, the 22nd and Dan wrote me a poem. He wrote me a poem 28 years ago when we were dating and I loved it. He's been saving up for this one. It's really wonderful. Thank you sweetheart.

Beautiful Symphony

Many, many years ago,
I mustered up all of my brainpower.
To jot down a simple rhyme, in hopes
of convincing you to be my sweet flower.

I cannot remember what I wrote so long ago,
though the words must have touched your heart.
For after all these some 28 years,
we do not like being apart.

I don’t know why,
but I again, feel the desire,
To muster up a rhyme,
on what has transpired.

We did not know what life together would entail,
a wonderful journey we hoped would be had.
We could not have known how much love would be felt,
when our four little ones would call out, “Hey, Mom and Dad”.

As I look back on those years,
the days blend together, full of emotions aplenty.
With happiness and tears coming together,
to create for me a beautiful symphony.

You and I are partners,
on a wonderful journey.
You have been my true friend,
so I look forward to eternity.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In Honor of Brad's Bithday

Cheshire Cat

As he walked towards the Dairy Queen, he tried not to wear the Cheshire Cat grin he was feeling. He couldn’t help it though. He knew it wasn’t cool and that people were watching; he tried to tone it down, but then only the corners of his mouth gave it away.
He saw her through the window and was temporarily blinded. He allowed the electricity to pass through him, barely acknowledging it. To acknowledge it would mean he would have to admit what everyone was saying was true: he had a crush on her. He didn’t want that, not some high school, puppy love, comedy, or worse yet, drama. He wanted whatever they had to be different, special, something no one else had.
As he opened the door, he saw her sitting there with some friends. He could tell he was moving forward but he couldn’t feel his legs. His body was working of its own accord as he continued to walk towards the group. In slow motion she looked up at him, their eyes met and she flashed a smile so sweet, so expectant, and so pure, he was again temporarily blinded by the lightness of it.
Unable to explain how, he found himself standing right next to her. He’d been listening to love songs on the radio his whole life, his mother was a rock and roll fanatic, but none of those songs had ever meant a thing to him until this girl had smiled at him. Finally, Frankie Valli was making a lot of sense.
It was corny, he knew that, but he didn’t care. He knew what he knew. He knew what she had told him. He knew what they talked about. He knew how he felt when they were together or apart. He wanted to say, “Let me tell you everything I did today. I know you are interested in my every move and I want to share my whole world with you.” Instead, he just said, “Hi.”
Her heart was beating in her throat and what she really wanted to say was, “I have been waiting all day to see you. I have so much to talk to you about, so much to share, a lot can happen in a day and I know you will be interested.” Instead she smiled and said, “How are you tonight?”
Neither of them had very much more to say than that. If other people wouldn’t have been around, and if they had been a couple of years older, and if he was more brazen, and she was more flirtatious, and they lived in Europe, he would have picked her hand up and pressed it to his lips and whispered something soft and meaningful. Instead he looked around at everyone and asked, “What are we having?”
He found it impossible to say everything he was thinking, or anything he was thinking, when she was sitting right there and people were watching. He didn’t have a problem talking when they were on the phone or in the car by themselves or at her house, but out in public it was a different matter. She knew this about him and loved it. It was important to him to keep things private and low-key, special, only between them and she was happy to play along.
On the outside it was no big deal, he was just a guy she knew, we laugh together, he likes to tease me….On the inside she was thinking, “I can tell him anything. I want to know everything about him. I don’t want to make any mistakes because when I look at this boy I see everything all at the same time.” If they had been older and he had been less serious and she had been sillier, she would have thrown her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek and shouted, “Don’t ever leave my side!” Instead she just answered, “I’m having a chocolate shake.”
“That sounds good to me,” and he walked up to the counter to order.
He got a few paces away and turned, almost imperceptibly, to look at her again. She was staring right at him. Their eyes met and her face shone with the knowledge that he liked her just as much as she liked him and she liked him just as much as he liked her. Safety, security, ultimate acceptance, unconditional and child-like; all that passed between them in that millisecond as he turned away, trying to hide his Cheshire Cat grin and compose himself long enough to order from the girl at the counter.
As they sat together and talked and laughed about everything and everyone, anyone looking at them would think they were just two kids in a group of kids. Only the most observant would see how, when he spoke, her eyes lowered and she listened carefully, holding her breath a little and straining to hear every word and thought that was being uttered. She would remember what he said and they would talk about it later tonight. She would tell him what she had thought when he said this and that and how it made her feel, share her ideas.
Only someone who knew what they were looking for would see his breath catch when she told the events of the day. The way he fought to keep a cool look on his face and the effort involved in keeping the grin under control. His quietly teasing comments meant to show her that he was listening but to throw everyone else off the scent. He saved his bitter sarcasm for others. For her it was the gentle humor of an admirer.
Only the most seasoned eye would see how she beamed when he told of an activity or accomplishment, or how he winced a tiny bit when someone else jokingly made fun of her. He would remember those things and tell her later that the joker was wrong and stupid and she shouldn’t listen to them any more.
Later that night when he drove her home, he wanted to tell her everything but there was too much to say. So he said nothing. She also had nothing to say, not because she had nothing to say to him but because they had already said it all, in their looks, their laughter, their thoughts.
As he walked her to the door he wanted to sweep her up in his newly muscled arms and squeeze her tight. But he didn’t. He knew she was already afraid of the big feelings she was having and that she was being cautious. She had seen a lot of her friends burn bright for a boy only to burn out a few days later. That wasn’t what she wanted. She was glad he didn’t rush her and hug her and put his big, strong arms around her and hold her. It was so common. She was afraid of what she would feel, of what she would do or be unable to do. But she was sad when he said, “I guess I’ll see you later and stopped walking.
She turned around and in a soft voice answered, “It was fun tonight.”
Fun! Her mind was screaming! Fun! Fun is what little kids have when they play at the park. Fun is what little boys have when they ride bikes or when little girls play dress up. This wasn’t fun, it was bigger, more important than fun. This was sure knowledge. The knowledge that someone wonderful thinks you are wonderful and someone handsome thinks you are beautiful and someone intelligent thinks you are smart. Someone you want to spend time with wants to spend time with you. It isn’t fun, it’s validation. All the time and energy she had spent developing herself had been reciprocated and had turned out to be worth the effort. She smiled and said nothing but her face said everything.
He smiled back at her because he knew exactly what she meant, so he said, “Yeah, I had fun too.”
As she went inside, he turned and walked up the path to the car. He was so full of life and energy that he wanted to run and take the steps three at a time and slide over the hood of the car and then speed off in a shower of gravel, but he knew her dad was probably watching from the window. He carefully walked up to the car, got inside, put on his seatbelt and drove home. Finally, he let the cat out of the bag and grinned his Cheshire Cat grin, just like he wanted to all night.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Little Rainy

Twenty four years ago, as I was waddling around our house in Highland, Utah, feeling slightly sick and a little sore, I wondered what kind of baby I was carrying in my giant belly. Was it a boy or a girl? Fat, skinny, long, short, blond hair, brown hair, curly hair, straight hair. What would it be? I went to bed feeling like I was ready to meet this little child sometime soon.

The very next morning, I woke up to labor cramps and back pain. I shuffled around the house, kept Dan home from school and finally, called the doctor. He told us to go to the hospital and he would meet us there. Sure enough, they were real contractions, they were strong and steady and meant business. They put me in a bed, I called Joan (my mom) to tell her the news, and for the rest of the day we waited patiently for our little bundle of joy.

Finally, about 6:00 pm, the nurse came in to check me, scratched my amniotic sac with her fingernail, bursting it and letting a flood of water onto the plastic sheets, and it wasn't 5 minutes before I started pushing. No medication, no IV, no nothing and I am not saying this to sound brave, it is just that I was more afraid of any of those other things than I was of pain.

First, a head, covered with wet dark hair. Then, the slim little shoulders, one at a time. White, creamy, muscular. Then, in a rush, the rest of our beautiful, perfect, little girl. For the first of so many times, she turned around and looked right at me. It seemed that her crystal blue eyes were looking right to my very soul.

It was at this exact point in time that Joan came through the door in her school dress with her pink sweater. She had taught school in California that day, got on a flight at 3:30 and landed in time to be driven straight to the hospital by my brother-in-law Trent.

"Oooohhh, oooohhhh, she's beautiful", Joan cooed while giving me a hug, "Look at her long, perfectly shaped fingers. And all that dark hair."

I was still recovering from the shock that I had a little girl. Of my very own. A little friend to dress up and play house with and read fairy tales to and play school with. Plus, when you are in a stressful spot, the very person you want to see walking in that door is your mother! And she had miraculously appeared. Hormones, fatigue, relief, joy. I was a little overwhelmed at the time.

My mother continued by saying, "Wow, she looks a lot like my little Lorraine." At which point we both started crying like babies. My mother's Lorraine is my little sister, born right after me and Kelley and who only lived three days. She was born with a heart problem and in those old days, medicine had not advanced enough to save her life. We grew up visiting her grave occasionally, celebrating her birthday with a small conversation of remembrance, always knowing that in Heaven we had a sister that we would meet someday.

I choked out, "I have always loved that name. Would you mind if I named my baby girl Lorraine?"

So that is how it happened. My Lorraine is as strong, steady and means as much business as those contractions she was responsible for 24 years ago. I have laughed, cried, prayed and fought over Lorraine and I have been happy to do it. I can't imagine my life without her and couldn't be prouder of the grown-up girl she has become.

Now she has a little girl of her own to dress up, play house with, read fairy tales to and play school with.

Happy Birthday Lorraine!