Now I Too Shall Feature "Recent Comments"!

And now, for my blogger using brethren and sistern, I present a tasty bit of code:

Farrago Recent Comments Hack 1.03

Now you may see any recent comments before you without checking each post. How happy this has made me!!

Spread Some Love, No Matter What Your Geographical Attitude

Just as I am contemplating the recent implication that I am too nice for the "big city" (for the record, I would say "too sensitive" rather than "too nice" and well, the meds help with that), SpinsterSpin puts me wise to the "You Are Beautiful" project. I like it. I like it and I might be sending off for some stickers.

Another look brought some irony. Where do you write to get the nice stickers that might just turn the world on with your smile? Chicago. That's right, Chicago, the big mean city that would eat the Country Mouse alive!!

Freakish Real Life Back To School Observation

On Wednesday, July 27th for about one hour in the afternoon, everything we know about student activities in American Public High School crumbled.

The Cheer coach had the Debate team.

Has no one watched Saved By The Bell or read the manual? The Debate coach is the king/queen of all nerds. It cannot happen, it disturbs the balance of the ecosystem!!!

The situation was rectified and no big noisy fuss was needed on my part.

Alabama Irony, Part II

Where is the irony, you say? Note the "I Had A Dream". Some of the citizens of Selma are protesting the text on this memorial.

Surest way to see your message jacked up--allow too many people to own it.

Damn You, Wanderlust!!!

I am not one of those people who hates everything about Oklahoma because it is Oklahoma. I pride myself on that. I like it here. Sometimes I even love it and I choose to stay. I like to use the statue at the top of the Capitol dome as a symbol of my "stay put" feelings.

Read what Senator Enoch Kelly Haney says about his work that now sits atop the dome.

"He is standing his ground. He refuses to be moved. He will continue to stand for those things he believes in such as family and other values Oklahomans hold dear. He stands strong in the face of adversity, as Oklahomans have. The people of this state have withstood so much: The Dust Bowl in the 1930s, and more recently the Oklahoma City bombing and the May 1999 tornadoes. Still, they maintain their dignity and determination. That is what Oklahoma is about."

(wipes away a tear) Did you hear that?! That warrior stays! His spear sticks his clothing to the ground and he is here!! That warrior doesn't come off the dome because we don't have an art house theatre, he goes to the art museum and sends his friends so that demand is greater and progress can happen! He shops local businesses! He knows he belongs to the land!!!

So imagine the state of my head when I spend the afternoon with my mentor from college. We talk about our concerns about OBU, he tells me how his Baptist school seems to be getting it right. This goes on for a couple of topics. Church, Mexican food, local art.

And then, dammit, there's theatre. I blog too much about this already. Sometimes I miss it. Lots of great and wonderful things have taken its place. My friends do a bit to replace the tight community that happens when you do a show. My work at school goes a long way to replace that feeling of giving a child a dream. This silly blog even does a bit to scratch the itch of performance, creativity and (I sigh as I admit this) attention. So most of the time the itch stays away, but a great production or a visit with just the right friend brings it back. When the itch comes back, it usually manages to bring some guilt along--am I wasting something I should be using?

Don reminded me of the right-out-of-college dream that got swept under the rug in the name of student loans, caring for my parents, and those damn kids that I end up loving, The Second City Training Center. So here's what I've started thinking: Second City Training Center isn't going away. In fact, I have found an intermediate step of sorts. Look! Look! Second City does a sort of teacher nerd camp! You know how I love nerd camps. So it's on. I get one other teacher to go with me for a week. We take the class (which is cheap), stay a coupla extra days, and I start to kill this itch. Scratching it doesn't mean I uproot everything in my life, scratching it doesn't mean I give over to it 24 hours a day again, it just means I have an itch.

I am beginning to think that everyone should itch a bit.

On Depression

I once read a book about depression titled The Beast. It is an accurate representation - at least for me, anyway- of what it's like to have depression. Things will be going along fine, and then BOOM. The beast moves in for a while.
Last night, for example, I started crying while watching ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel. There was this piece on the poverty and starvation in Niger. I couldn't change the channel, but I couldn't stop crying, either. I've been in a funk ever since. Didn't want to get out of bed this morning. Didn't want to do anything. Still don't.
Sometimes the world seems like such a cruel place.

New From The Leader in Cruci-Fiction!

Please be a joke, please be a joke, please be a joke.

HoHo. I Don't Need To Say Another Word.

I returned from two of my three weeks of Nerd Camp to find a Gazette in my car. The first time was because of my interview that was published but this time it was HoHo.

My sister and I were huge fans. Huge huge fans. We watched him every Saturday and both had him entertain at our fourth birthday parties. His birthday was sometime close to mine and so when he came to my party I gave him a set of suspenders and he opened them on television!!!

I have a few "tapes" that I can play in my head from my childhood. They are words I can still hear if I concentrate enough. One of my favorite "tapes" is of HoHo saying to Pokey, "We have a present here from a friend of ours, Educat." I was on television (remember, I was also an attention whore as a child)!!!!

Three years later, when my sister turned four and he came to her party, she gave him a set of suspenders too, for Christmas (she has a December birthday).

Every time we saw HoHo, at the State Fair, Home and Garden shows, anywhere, he remembered the whole family.

I loved how his sock puppet sidekick, Pokey, was such a smart ass. I loved that Mister Mistoe (who I think was the pseudonym for his producer or director or something) would often voice over "Big Deal, HoHo."

My sister and I were away at church camp when his funeral was televised in 1988. Dad taped it for us and we both watched it when we got home and we both cried. I later found out that a painfully shy child in my Speech class was his grandaughter. I let her do one speech for me alone and one in front of her soccer team. It was the least I could do for HoHo's granddaughter. I remember him telling us at both of our parties "If I seem scary to you, remember that underneath all of this makeup, I am a PaPa.".

So my sister made me read the Gazette article out loud in front of her and watched me tear up. We are both looking for our HoHo birthday pictures and when we get them, I will probably scan them in here. There isn't much about HoHo on the internet. I will be happy to contribute.

So when I saw how many copies of this week's Gazette she had laying around, I asked her if she had more of this issue than of the one with my picture in it. She admitted she did have more of HoHo and added, "After all, you're no HoHo."

Few of us are.

Obligatory Trip Photo, Third Volume, First Edition

Irony. Selma, AL

What's wrong with me?

So I'm having back-to-school dreams already - waking up with my heart racing. Dreading the whole rigamorole of updating the curriculum map, writing the course description (that no one ever reads anyway) and figuring out how to motivate 14 year olds.

Meanwhile, I'm home with my two young kids. I'm going NUTS. I love them, and feel guilty for getting frustrated but I'm tired of being ignored, chastized or contradicted by kids who still ask for help wiping themselves.

Hmm. I'm noticing some similarities between teaching 9th grade and parenting small children that I hadn't seen before.

Happy. Effing. Birthday.

Here's how it went:

8-11am-Wrap up final nerd camp of the summer with lesson plans, poetry, songs and tears.

11am-Join new friends on airport shuttle, planning for long lunch at airport. After all, my flight leaves at 2:40 and I will be home by 7!

2pm-Amble over to the gate, planning to quietly knit and read until my flight. After three weeks of being away, it will be good to be home.

2:05-Delay to flight is announced. Will not make conncecting flight. Check with airline, they will have to switch me to another airline and get me home 2 hours later.

3pm-Begin the process of getting bag from one airline and checking in at the next. Find counter attendant on the phone and generally preoccupied. Weigh bag that was moments ago ready to fly with Delta to find that it is 5 lbs overweight for American. Begin to wonder if this theory will carry over and if I will be forced to pay extra for my actual self to fly--Lord knows there's more to deal with there than my suitcase. Remove eight lb. institute binder rather than pay.

3:15-Proceed to re-enter security. Discover ID is missing. Dash back to American counter to find my charming attendant still on the phone, with my ID sitting out in full view. Thank her for all her help.

3:17-You have been randomly selected for an extra security check! Never mind that you made it through security effortlessly just hours ago. Step to the side for wanding, frisking, and bag search. Only visible breakdown of the day occurs here. In an attempt to console, security guard compliments knitting and wishes me a happy birthday. Somehow a pat on the back seems less sincere through a rubber glove.

3:30-Wait for flight in terminal with broken air conditioner. Wonder where I went wrong.

6pm-Land in Dallas and run into a teacher colleague who is on the same flight home. Collapse talking to her with the feeling I am almost home. She will now be my companion on the last leg of this doomed journey.

7pm-Miss flight to OKC. This is not yet funny to me. I shall speak of it when I am emotionally ready.

7:15-Rush to next available flight to OKC. Find it has changed gates.

7:25-Rush to next gate. Find flight is delayed.

8pm-Welcome about fifteen loud teenageers in a group to the terminal. Wonder if I love children anymore.

9:37-Board flight. Begin to feel I might arrive home again.

I shall be rescheduling my birthday.

*Special added comment for my new anonymous friend: Church. Church and church and God and Jesus.

In the Beginning...

So here I am.
I've been contemplating this whole blog thing for months now, and now I'm actually doing something about it.
This will be my online journal about teaching and the typical (as well as atypical) experiences of working with teenagers. Some of it probably won't be pretty - but I'm hoping that even I'll find inspiration by writing about it.

The Most Segregated Hour

One of our afternoon presenters today was Rev. Dr. Wilson Fallin, a pastor and history prof who wrote a book about the role of the African American Church in the Civil Rights movement (wouldn't it be great if I linked to it here? Wouldn't it be great if I had enough energy to after a 14 hour day and early departure for Selma and Tuskeegee tomorrow?).

I was able to ask him what he thought about our tendancy to self segregate ourselves in worship and his answer is worth quoting here.

"I don't trust the white Church. They aren't speaking out about

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

Where The Educat Explains Her Master Thespian Era After A Gentle Nudge From A Dear Friend

I have a post nearly ready, waiting for me in the "draft" folder, and The Crib Chick throws down the gauntlet. She is participating in a "Friday Five" (as it happens, the first one was so good, she never got past it) and needs an "amen" of sorts about our High School theatre experience.

"Stories!?!? About ME!!??" I squeal. "Of course!"

Although you can find her entry here. Please go read her entry, it's hilarious, but in an effort to make this easier for you, the reader, I will quote the her in spots for an easy flow for my response.

First the backstory: I spent the years of 14 to about 28 either onstage, rehearsing for a play, or figuring out how to get myself in a play. It was like living my entire life as Lucy Ricardo. It was good times. This is how I met The Crib Chick, fifteen years old in Drama I at Armpit High School.

On to my response...

...the old lady in 'Star Spangled Girl' that I think was the most fun. I know
what those of you who are familiar with Neil Simon are thinking. You're
thinking, "Um, Crib Chick...the old lady (I can't even remember her name, that's
how meaningful it was for me) was just talked about...she didn't actually appear
onstage." Well, she did in our version. And it was loads of fun. No dialogue to
memorize, just wacky props and costumes, and a gray wig. It was visionary.

Mrs. Mackeninny. Thank me later.

Picture it, OCU Children's Theatre, circa 1988. The Birthday Lady and The Big Blue Bunny charmed young theatre goers as the mascots of children's theatre.

On this particular day, the Educat was the Birthday Lady, lucky dog, and the Big
Blue Bunny was none other than yours truly. During one of our breaks, we decided
to descend to the basement dressing area, probably (again, I have a foggy
memory) so that the Birthday Lady could wrestle off my Big Blue Head, and I
could swear, and whine. Because the Big Blue Bunny suit was not new, friends.
Nor was it cool and breathable. Nor was it impossible to escape the odor which
was a constant reminder that you were not the first Big Blue Bunny. So, as we
began our trek down the stairs, I found myself tripping, probably because
wearing Big Blue Bunny feet to go down stairs, I found myself tripping,
probably because wearing Big Blue Bunny feet to go down stairs is akin to trying
to navigate them in skis. So I began to fall, trapped within my furry prison,
and helpless to realign myself, paws waving frantically. It was then that the
Educat grabbed me by the scruff of my furry blue neck, and through sheer brute
strength, hauled my blue furry behind to stability. I blinked at her, through
the ridiculous Blue Bunny face makeup; "You saved my life." And so she had.

I always thought I envied that Mrs. Chick got to be the Bunny. All the kids loved the fantastical Bunny, but I was just some silly girl in a 1980's Eagle's Eye skirt and sweater set. My mother loved them but I know I looked horrificly dorky. I wasn't a Bunny, and my mother dressed me funny. I was able to suddenly roll back my Bunny envy when I myself donned the big blue costume. I too surfed down a set of stairs in the huge bunny feet and all of the sudden, my teddy bear skirt and sweater held more appeal. My friend, I would save your life again.

My favorite (play), though? Gosh, I don't know. Educat, what's my favorite play?

Your favorite play is The Crucible, starring Educat and Anabaptist Monk (this is a huge joke, The Monk and I were Francis and Rebecca Nurse. He had about three lines and although the other characters talked about Rebecca quite a bit, her major stage time occurred at the end when she was hanged.). You also liked A Shayna Maidel. I played a dead woman. I was stunning.

Maybe if we prod her, the Educat will tell us the story about our co-star in
'The Haunted Maples'. That young man went on to great things. ;o)

Our greatest moment in children's theatre occurred in this production. Rather than dress up in silly animal costumes before the show, we dressed up like silly little boys and had actual lines. It was a dream come true. We two high school kids were in a college play! In the tradition of Russian children's theatre, the little boy characters were played by girls and Babba Yagga, the traditional witch in these fairy tales, was played by a man in drag. Who was that man in drag? Remember the 1997 scandal involving the film The Tin Drum? The fated movie watcher was none other than our Babba Yagga. I have since visited with Mike at a reception and was able to use my best conversation opener thus far: "You know, I bet I am the only person here who doesn't know you from renting a movie."

What a good time in the wayback machine! Thank you, my good friend. My thoughts here actually begin to set up my next entry...

The Big Deal

I had a great chat with a former Youth and Government kid recently. She finally (finally is her word, not mine) declared a PR/Journalism major and feels like she has really made the right decision but worries a little about the "perfect" job.

I was so glad to tell her not to worry. I was so glad to tell her that the goal is not to find the job, but to find the ultimate goal. A job is a means to a greater goal, I think, and your ultimate task is to find the great goal.

I figured this out a couple of years ago when I was a bit depressed at not doing theatre. From the time I was about 14 to the time I was 27 or so, my goal seemed to be finding the right show, whether it was to direct it or perfrom. It worked for a long time, but when the show didn't fly or I didn't get the role, what was left? Once I took a job as a speech teacher, I spent about a year feeling empty without rehearsal, but then I found what I think is my bigger deal.

I think my bigger deal is to catch people at their best.

I get the same rush coaching kids to learn for a debate as I did getting them ready for a show. I find the same rush teaching a bit of knitting to someone. I get a rush helping a teacher learn to work with technology or find a new way to teach their classes.

It is this idea that keeps me working as a mentor for the Bar Association. The Bar helps create an atmosphere that validates teachers by bringing in speakers and attorneys to generally help make a fuss over us. As a mentor, I get to help with that process. I make sure they are comfortable, learning from the speakers, and I help them craft a lesson plan for the Law Related Education library. That was this week's nerd camp. I was able to encourage young teachers and help to give a shot in the arm to more experienced teachers.

I need to remember that larger goal all the time. I need to remember it now when I am worn out and during the school year when I can't see out of the silly details of my job. Last week at the Institute wasn't always joyful. It was sometimes very frustrating. But I got a call today from a participant telling me she had never been so validated as a teacher, and thanking me for "forcing her to apply". So that's why I do this work.

I have at least one more story from this nerd camp and hopefully will get it done before I leave for my last trip--to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Unsure of the internet situation there, but we'll always have audio.

Great Moments In Teacher Institute

Our 18 teachers from all over the State toured the OKC Bombing Memorial today. This brilliantly engineered museum begins with a trip up the elevator--you work your way down as you tour.

So here we are, a large group of teachers in matching t-shirts with "Oklahoma Bar Association" emblazoned theron. As we prepare to board the elevator, a park ranger approaches. He is wearing sunglasses inside, sporting a big, plush, mustache, and chewing gum in such a manner that he greatly resembles Mr Burt Reynolds. The elevator attendant looks to "Burt" and says, "Be careful, these people are all lawyers.".

We're not lawyers, but we play along.

"Harumph" says Burt, "I hate lawyers."

"Heh", I say without thinking, "I hate Cannonball Run.".

You Got Some 'Splainin' To Do!!!

I haven't had much time, but I think it's important to talk a bit about my interview in the OKC Gazette (it's at the bottom of the web page, last article).

Before I left town for CONA, Greg and I did a quick phone interview about the resolution recently passed by the SBC asking that parents examine the curriculum of their child's school for morally objectionable material. I was out of town when the issue came out, but have talked quite a bit about it since returning home. I have been asked why I sounded so angry and my mother tells me she was given a hard time at Church.

So let's talk....

Am I angry? Yeah, a little bit. I am a bit angry that the people who raised me and educated me are are hinting that I might not be fit to teach their children. It hurts a bit that parents have to be told by a Church body to take part in their child's education.

Another question that has arisen is did Greg portray me fairly. Yeah, he did. Greg is a friend and I trusted him to present the story without making me look like a loon (any looniness I exhibit is unrelated to my thoughts on the SBC and Public Education). I think he did. I take issue with the photographer for portraying me with multiple chins, but his job is not to take glamour shots.

But you know what? So much good has come from the article. I had a call while I was gone from a friend of a friend who thanked me for representing my view so well and how grateful she was for my willingness to speak. I had an email from a former student that was very kind, and today one of my fellow mentors at this institute saidto me "you know, I am pretty conservative, but after I read what you said I couldn't argue with you. We are commanded to love." But that wasn't even the best story.

Our first event of this week's institute was a mentor brunch at a local, Gazette-carrying establishment. The first thing my favorite mentor (an incredibly well read, gentle man who happens to be a church of Christ elder and is still usually up for a beer) said to me was "I can't wait to show this to John, he will be so proud!"

John is the father of some college friends of mine who pastors a Baptist church in a small, Eastern Oklahoma town. John loves to talk Theology. He also loves to salt slugs (I am fully aware of how irrelevant this is, but it's the funniest thing to see him head out to the garden with a salt shaker and an evil grin). He asks my friend about me even these twelve years since I have been in his family's life. He is also the only pastor in town who would bury a man with AIDS when he passed a few years ago. If I lived in John's tiny town, I wonder if I might still be Baptist, at least his kind.

I think that sums it up for me, the people I am proud to know are proud of me. For me, that's mighty good stuff.

Obligatory Trip Photos, III

cona 124
Originally uploaded by jenowens.
This is the view from my front porch on Thursday after Cindy cleared out.

If Only Mint Juleps Were Served...Obligatory Trip Photos II

cona 204
Originally uploaded by jenowens.
My dorm at the conference, Robert E Lee hall (seriously), is on the National Register of Historic Places.

So was the bedspread.

This is the porch, view of the mountains to follow. This might be my favorite reading/knitting spot on earth.

Obligatory Trip Photos I

cona 201
Originally uploaded by jenowens.
I formed a bit of a knitting cult among advisors at National Affairs. We ended up learning (well, they learned) on dishcloths with the shape of our respective home states. Note the organic cotton. Note also the sumptous YMCA conference center bedspread.

Note To Self: Must See North.

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C. /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Thirty Second At Home

The Oklahoma Delegation is safely home. Weather was fine driving out. After a mad festival of packing, I might have time to blog. Next week's institute will have internet access so I should be dropping a few words.

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play