Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fashion & Babbling

 “That is why it was called Babel, because there the Lord
confused the language of the whole world.”
—Genesis 11:9

I have always loved Lucy. Lucille Ball, aka Lucy Ricardo, was the queen of miscommunication and watching her confusing antics on the classic TV show “I Love Lucy” makes me feel less of a loser in life when I mess things up.
            Like one day when I was getting my nails done.
            Basking in spa glory, my manicurist, Katrina Bowers, complimented my originality and somewhat quirky nature in my fashion column, “All the Rage,” which appeared every week in our local newspaper.
            “I have an idea for a column you can write about,” she said. I knew it was going to be a good lead because Katrina is like a wild flower in a meadow of native plants. She is Scottish, spicy, and a lot of fun.
“Well, I think you should do one about women over farting,” she said confidently.
I wasn’t sure what to say and I didn’t want to be rude. I thought for a moment that perhaps the Scottish are very open about flatulence. Then she said, “You know, you can say something about the do’s and don’ts.”
As I tried not to laugh, I said, “Well, aren’t they all don’ts?”
“Not at all,” she said. “But if anyone can write about it, you can!”
Her vote of confidence left me a little disturbed. If she thought I could handle writing a column about the very thing I tell my two sons is “quite rude,” then what kind of writer am I? Have I succumbed to the plankton level of musings, where jokes about bodily functions are the only option for me?
As Katrina started to explain all the rules about “women over farting,” I just had to break the poor gal’s heart. I mean, she looked so confident and excited as she shared her column idea. “Katrina, I just can’t write about women farting.”
There was immediate silence, and then she just stared at me. I had hurt her feelings, insulted her creativity, and doomed myself to some sort of manicure retaliation (“accidentally” of course) for my insensitive remarks.
Then came the laughter. “Oh, it’s my accent,” she blurted out. “I said a column for women over FORTY!”
As I embraced my inner loser, I wondered what Lucy would do in a moment like this. Since there were no bongos in the salon, I laughed, let her finish the manicure, and made my next appointment.

So whether you are over forty, or are “over-flatulating,” here are some fashion tips for you:

• Women over 40-years-old need to be careful about wearing mini skirts. Some women can get away with pairing a mini-skirt with tights, but it is safer to avoid them altogether. If you want to see what your legs look like in a mini-skirt, get out your high school pictures.
• Short-shorts should also be banned from your closet. I don’t care if your legs look like Tina Turner’s and you remember all the words to the “We wear short shorts” tune—get rid of them now.
• If anything in your closet resembles something from a Hawaiian luau, then save it for days when you watch Brady Bunch re-runs or when you vacation in Hawaii. Think about it—there’s a reason you don’t see a lot of muu muus in New York fashion shows.
• Jeans and pants tapered at the ankle, only make your hips look larger. You can balance out your hips with a boot cut.
• My best friend told me her pastor said once, “If you kneel down to pray and no one thinks of Jesus, then you need to cover up.” Amen. You might be proud of your abundance, but not everyone needs or wants to see it. Layer tank tops under shirts to hide cleavage. “My cup overfloweth” should be about your joy, not your…well, you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter how proud you are of what nature or Dr. Plastic gave you, modesty is still key.
• If Mary Kate and Ashley design your clothes, then it is time to start shopping in the big girl section. Even if you wear a small size, shop in the Misses’ department for age-appropriate clothing. If you and your teenage granddaughter are sharing clothes, you might want to reevaluate your taste. And take out the tongue ring.
• Do not fall victim to the Visible Panty line (VPL) disease. There is such a thing as seamless underwear and Spanx.
• If you have ever passed out, or blacked out, while trying to squeeze into a size six pants from your youth, be a friend to your real size.

Regardless of your age, you should have fun with fashion. In today’s modern world, you can dress your age and still look trendy. So ditch the mini, cover up the cleavage, and don’t be afraid to embrace your inner Lucy! 

Oh, and just in case I had heard my manicurist correctly, you might want to consider stocking up on Bean-O.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

For the love of Photoshop...

In my classroom, there are two types of students - those who love Indesign and those who love Photoshop. It's really that simple.

There are also a a few idiosyncratic students who prefer Illustrator, After Effects, and Garage Band. Then, there are those who like Publisher, but we tend to ignore those admirations.

For the most part, it's a clear cut love for either ID or PS.The problem is the love affair is short-lived. There is a 50-minute window in which my students are allowed to learn about the design software and then they must venture back into the undoodled world. Our students have MacBook Air laptops, but they do not have the Adobe Suite on them. So, the endearment is usually confined to the classroom.

So, what can you do? While there is not another application quite like Adobe's Photoshop, there are some alternatives.
  1. Pixlr is for photo editing and effects. Online or offline. Browser based or native app. Mac or Windows, as well as iOS and Android. The toolbar is most similar to Photoshop, so it is the one I prefer students to use outside of class.
  2. Sumo Paint is an online image editor and is focused more on illustrations, rather than photos.  
  3. Gimp is best for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. It is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be used on Mac or Windows. 
  4. Photoshop Express is by Adobe, but it is limited in that you can only upload a jpeg and it has less features than the full version.
So, this summer, when you are bored and wish to put your photo into the background of a historical picture of JFK or swap your face with a presidential candidate, you have some options.

Peace out. 

It's not about you...

I've done everything imaginably wrong as a teacher.

I've called students by the wrong name. In the second semester.
I've lost projects that needed to be graded.
I've given assignments that flat out didn't work.
I've worn my shirt inside out and didn't notice until 6th period.
I've stared at a roomful of teenagers and could see that watching an episode of South of Sunset was more interesting than listening to me.
I've given A's when students didn't deserve it.
I've given F's when students did deserve it.
I've meant to praise more, but allowed paperwork, emails, and phone calls to overwhelm me.
I've allowed negativity to get the best of me some days.
I've written lesson plans and, for educational assistance, Googled objectives, before/during/after, and rubrics and still not understood what I wrote.
The list could go on and on...

In all of my failures, doubting myself, and wondering if I'm doing any good at all, I remember one thing a former journalism professor told me, "It's not about you."

That advice really fits for anything in life. Because, it really isn't about me. It's always about the students. It's why I choose to become a teacher.

When I turned 40, I suppose you could say that becoming a high school teacher was my midlife crisis. Although I was working in my dream job as managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine for The Anniston Star, I left to teach high school. Some celebrated and some pondered my mental status.

Well, I just finished my third year of teaching and I realize there are so many things I would have never learned in a newsroom. (No offense to my former co-workers as you may relate to a lot of these).

  • I've learned how to awkwardly Dougie and to Nae Nae,
  • I've learned that teenagers have dreams, but are sometimes scared to dream.
  • I've learned teenagers may stare blankly at you, but they are listening. Sometimes, they just like to stare.
  • I've learned that there are life lessons in everything. Literally. Just ask my students.
  • I've learned that jumping jacks are a good thing when they are dragging. (Thank you Ron Clark for that validation.)
  • I've learned that it's OK to eat lunch alone, but it's much better when you eat with a friend.
  • I've learned to laugh at my mistakes. Because, honestly, most of the time the students are already laughing.
  • I've learned to listen. I mean "Deer in the headlight" and "I'm not moving until you are finished talking" kind of listening. Sometimes, teenagers just need to be heard.
  • I've learned that teenagers think they are the only ones who make mistakes and they need compassion, not condemnation. 
  • I've learned that F10 is your BFF when you allow students to choose the music.
  • I've learned that when adults believe teenagers are all thinking about immoral and illicit things, some are really thinking about how they will eat that night or if the power will be on when they get home.
  • I've learned that my "last nerve" is really longer than I thought.
  • I've learned that choosing to be "too nice" is always better than the alternative.
  • I've learned that my heart has multiplied. Because every time a student has graduated, a piece of my heart is released into the world. Every new student has filled that empty spot and the growth continues.
So, as I venture into my fourth year of teaching, the main thing I'm going to keep in mind is that, It's not about me. It's about them. I'm going to repeat it over and over and over....

Selfie with some of my students at the 2015 Alabama SkillsUSA competition in Birmingham, AL. We pretty much rocked. 

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed day!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Road Paved with Wisdom

I read a sign recently that stated, "Rules are made to break." I used to believe that and I tested it in my youthful days. But, the older I get, the more I cherish the simplicity of living. I don't look at rules as something to keep me out of life, but to keep me alive.

In reading Proverbs 3 recently, it really hit home that God rewards us for our devotion to Him and following the rules He sets for us. It's not for His good, but for ours. Because He loves us.

In reading the wisdom of Proverbs 3, there are 10 things that really stood out to me. Along with the rules God gives, there are 10 rewards when wisdom is the path taken. It's pretty clear that God wants us to treat others with love and kindness. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to show wisdom in the choices we make.

I've simplified the chapter, but I think you can see clearly when we follow what God has set before us, we will not have shame or doubt littering the road we travel. Instead, our road will be paved with wisdom.

Read Proverbs 3:1-35 here.

1. Don't forget His Commandments.
Reward: Long Life and Peace

2. Be Merciful and Truthful
Reward: Favor and High Esteem with God and man

3. Trust in the Lord
Reward: He will Direct your Way

4. Fear the Lord and Live a Holy Life
Reward: Health and Strength

5. Give First Fruits and Store
Reward: You will be prepared

6. Take Corrections (ouch, this is a difficult one)
Reward: Reveals Love

7. Seek Wisdom and Wise People
Reward: Tree of Life and Happiness

8. Be Wise and Discrete
Reward: Safety, Rest and Peace

9. Be Kind to Others
Reward: Blessings from God

10. Be Humble
Reward: Inherit Glory and No Shame. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Noble with words

While cleaning recently, I found a typed note from an anonymous writer who graciously mailed me after I spoke at an event. Well, so I wasn't really cleaning. I was thinking about cleaning and tripped over a box and the note was on the floor. I picked it up. That is considered cleaning.

In any regard, the note corrected my grammar. The message was simple. It included a noun, verb, and an odd statement about a word I used that didn't exist. There was no return address. There were no fingerprints on the paper or envelope.

To be honest, I was actually impressed with her typing skills and devotion to correct grammar use. Although it's been several years, I still think the note is adorable. I would never take the time to type a message, including the address on the envelope, and then purchase a stamp and actually mail it.

I kept the note as a reminder that perfection would never be an option for me. I also wanted to remind myself that making up words while speaking to crowds of people can cause grammatical pandemonium, but it might sell stamps.

To be honest, I understood the writer's need to inform me that my use of a word was incorrect. It probably kept her awake for many nights. Writing me gave her some satisfaction that one less person in the world would misuse a word. When she mailed the note, she could finally get some rest. She was at peace with me, myself, and I.

There was also a time a woman told me all that was wrong with Longleaf Style magazine and how her writing was better than mine. She didn't come right out and tell me that, but she made it pretty clear she was a real editor and the magazine was looking to save money by hiring me as managing editor because I missed a spelling error. It was such an amazingly awkward conversation.

A few weeks after our conversation, she sent me something she wrote and asked if I would consider publishing it. I thought about sending her an anonymous letter. But, I didn't have a stamp.

My two grammatical benefactors are not alone in feeling the urge to share mistakes.

I admit that I irritate my students all the time by correcting their grammar. I plead with them to overcome the sickness associated with using only lowercase letters and no punctuation. But, it's my duty to rid them of the linguistic plague that attacks with a vengeance.

If we do not stand together and become the glue that bonds words, inflections, punctuation, and functions of the alphabet, then we are nothing.

So, today, during Noble Prize Week, I wish to salute my anonymous writer and the real editor, who both helped me to appreciate the power of words.

Because, I've learned that we must all not only use words correctly, but we must be noble with them.

Apology to Three

Have you ever noticed that the number three is somewhat of an odd-number out? One is a lonely number and pairs are exceptional and balanced. But, when you add one more to two, which every math genius knows makes three, something changes.

Three is a crowd.

Three is the bear who suggests leaving porridge on the table to take a stroll in the woods with two other bears, only to have a sleepy intruder sample his porridge and break his chair.

Three is like a wheel that doesn't have much use unless you add another wheel, which is only good if you are riding a tricycle. Then again, a bike on two wheels is much more fun than a tricycle, which can be easily throw you off balance if you shift your weight too far to the left or right.

Three is that person who can't seem to get the message that he is irritating when he constantly tells computer algorithm jokes and no one gets them.

Truth be told, three is the guy who bought a sword at a novelty shop and bragged to his two buddies that he was an expert swordsmen and ended up a musketeer.

I admit that I haven't always been fond of three. To me, it seems like bad things always seem to happen in threes. But, lately I've had to face my own harsh judgement towards three.

Three is a precious baby who was produced from the union of two.

Three is that person who rescues you from a lagging conversation between you and a guy telling jokes about computer algorithms.

Three is a number multiplied by it's square. There is a joke about this a guy was telling recently, but I sort of checked out...

Since I'm now a teacher, three is tenure.

But, what I realize most of all is that three is the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.

So, with that, I officially apologize to three for all the years of  believing you were odd. Even if you are odd cause you are not even...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

God loves ugly

I'm not sure why so many women hate themselves. We are our own worst enemies. We hide behind masks of Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl. We embellish ourselves with vanity and pride. We completely ignore our heart.

I'm most bewildered at Christian women who look in the mirror and can't see their beauty. 

I love the song God Loves Ugly by Christa Black. It's not a new song. It was released in 2010. This song is a real journey. In her book, God Loves Ugly and Love Makes Beautiful, she reveals her own struggles with childhood sexual abuse, an eating disorder, and depression. 

I can't relate to the sexual abuse, but I can relate to her struggle to love herself and see herself as beautiful. Sometimes, I turn on this song and just listen to it over and over. I soak in all the words and allow them to permeate inside my head and heart. 

Her song has power because it's her personal realization that what the world sees as ugly, God sees as beautiful. It's a song that I encourage you to turn on, then close your eyes and focus on what she's saying. It's a great song for those days when even Almay, Bare Essentials, and CoverGirl can't help you.

Listen here>> God Loves Ugly by Christa Black

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Solomon 4:7