Add This

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Deadlines and difficulties

Feeling pretty badly about not posting, but this is the deadline week from hell. And my hard drive crashed on Monday so I'm relying on the kindness of friends who are letting me hang at their offices and use their equipment. Hope to be back and posting on Creative Ink by next Monday.

Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Keeping it real

I used to keep written journals for years. Ever since I started Creative Ink (six months ago!), I’ve put many (though certainly not all) of my deepest thoughts here instead. Some people say it takes courage to write about the things I do, but I don’t see it that way. This is my safe place to explore what’s on my mind. Like the quote from Joan Didion says at the top of this page, I write to find out what I’m thinking and even about my fears. Ultimately, I write because I have something to say and sometimes that something is just for me.

While paging through some old journals recently I couldn’t help but notice that my pace of life was as hectic in 1997 (with only two children) as it is now. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I know myself well enough to know that I thrive off of activity. But as I get older, I’m also hoping that I can channel my efforts on the things that truly matter most.

Maybe that’s why I’m getting so much out of reading the spirituality books for reviews. The bits and pieces of wisdom I’m finding are helping me to figure out who I am, where I am and where I hope to be in the future.

This year has been amazing for many reasons. Certainly I’m glad to be doing the work I enjoy, but I’m also glad to have had the time and the outlet to learn more about myself. As silly as that sounds, I think I was a stranger (and enemy) to myself for most of my adult life. I constantly fight the feeling of having wasted time. I know I haven’t wasted time, but I'm just searching for an authentic life, even as I’m unsure exactly what that means.

I suppose I want to feel that what I do matters, that my voice is heard and that I don’t simply vanish into sea of strung-out moms desperately clinging to scraps of their individuality. I want to find a way to keep it all real—life, love, parenting, writing, joy, fulfillment. Life is a big question mark, a riddle that will never be answered. But that’s okay, because the joy—and real personal growth—is found in the journey.

The remarkable byproduct of all this self-awareness is that I really feel it’s making me a better person, particularly as a mom. There is so much of me—and my energy—in my boys that at times I am overcome by the joy they bring me. If I know anything for sure, it’s that I’m setting a model (hopefully a good one) for my sons on what is a modern woman. It’s so important to me, more important than anything else that they grow up to be loving, compassionate, supportive, giving men with strong characters.

When my neighbor and I groused the other night about playing traffic cop in the mornings and evenings, directing everyone to school, sports, homework, showers, etc., always mindful that we’re 10 minutes behind schedule, she said to me we have to take comfort in knowing that we are raising fine young men who will really understand how important it is that a woman fulfill her many sides. She is so right. And when I was feeling badly about wanting to take advantage of a professional opportunity, she was the one to tell me that it’s important that our boys understand that moms can take their careers seriously, explore opportunities and still be good moms. Some day the boys will look back and value what their moms did both for them (the boys) and for themselves. Thanks for that, Patty Banks.

“Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” — William Shakespeare

Monday, September 20, 2004

Moyers' speech

I promised to post Bill Moyers' incredible speech from the SPJ National Convention here when it was made available. And here it is. It's a long speech, but a good read. Moyers will be retiring in three months and said, "I cannot imagine a better turn into the home stretch than this morning with you." His delivery was akin to that of a southern preaching, delivering his sermon to the faithful gathered in the revival tent.

Here are two excerpts to spur you to read on:

"Journalism has been a continuing course in adult education–—my own; other people paid the tuition and travel, and I've never really had to grow up and get a day job. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I've enjoyed the company of colleagues as good as they come, who kept inspiring me to try harder.

"They helped me relearn another of journalism's basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. Unless you're willing to fight and refight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take hit after unfair hit accusing you of 'bias,' or these days even a point of view, there's no use even trying. You have to love it, and I do."

He concluded his speech with this:
"We have it so easy here in this country. America is a utopia for journalists. Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, told me a couple of years ago that 'the 1990s were a terrible time for journalism in this country but a wonderful time for journalists; we're living like Jack Welch,' he said, referring to the then CEO of General Electric. Perhaps that is why we weren't asking tough questions of Jack Welch. Because we have it so easy in America, we tend to go easy on America -- so easy that maybe (former Baltimore Sun reporter David) Simon's right; compaired to entertainment and propaganda, maybe journalism doesn't matter.

"But I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined. The late Martha Gellhorn, who spent have a century reporting on war and politicians -- and observing journalists, too -- eventually lost her faith that journalism could, by itself, change the world. but the act of keeping the record straight is valuable in itself, she said. 'Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader.' I second that. I believe democracy requires 'a sacred contract' between journalists and those who put their trust in us to tell them what we can about how the world really works."

The urge to bake

Can’t believe I hauled out my little space heater today and it’s not yet October. I have a little problem with poor circulation and incredibly cold feet. The temperature need only dip into the 60s and I’m in need of some wool socks. But I’m not complaining. No sir. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.

Once I was able to muster up the courage this morning to leave my bed, I sprinted to the closet to grab my favorite oversized Irish sweater. Could practically see my breath when I let the dog out today. But I’m not complaining.

I’m ready to dig out the down comforter, put the sandals away for another season, throw on a fuzzy warm sweater and take a walk with the dog. This is my time of year. I’m completely energized by the crisp air, and (soon) the changing colors of the leaves. Today is an ideal day for apple picking. Too bad I have much work to do. I’ll have to settle for an apple for lunch instead.

Fall reconnects me with my kitchen, good news all around for my family. I have an overwhelming urge to bake (went so far as to buy ingredients). I may need to open a bottle of wine and whip up some seafood risotto this weekend. Can’t make a really fine risotto without the ritual of sipping on a glass of wine. Maybe I’ll surprise the boys by baking some cookies (and not the slice-and-bake variety).

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Magical moments

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to write about my most recent trip to NYC. So many wonderful, surprising things happened. There was plenty of work to be done and I found myself energized by the many hallway and lobby meetings that sprung up in between the scheduled meetings. Here are some of the highlights of SPJ NYC:

1) Walter Cronkite is frail and elderly, but still commands the respect of fellow journalists. And who knew that Brian Williams has a sense of humor?

2) I nearly flipped when the program chair of the convention turned to me and said, "It was your idea to bring (William) Zinsser here, why don't you introduce him?" What a thrill! I'm still feeding off of the high of meeting him.

3) A night-time cruise down the Hudson River gave us three spectacular sights——the Manhattan skyline at night, the ghostly illumination of the Twin Towers on the eve of the third anniversary of the attacks and an up-close-and-personal view of the State of Liberty.

4) So much time was spent inside the conference hotel that I welcomed the chance to walk over to TIAA-CREF on Third Avenue. The woman I was meeting asked if I wanted to sit outside. "Sure," I replied, "I've spent the past 24 hours in a conference hotel." And so we took the elevator to the 25th floor and out onto a spectacular rooftop patio. The sun was shining and the sky was crystal clear. A slight breeze kept us cool in the sun. I could've tilted my head back and just savored the sun and relative silence on that patio. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon in Midtown Manhattan.

5) Enjoyed $12 Cosmos and fine Italian food with some friends from Cincy, OU and Florida. Though we suffered sticker shock from the price of our drinks, we had a ball sharing war stories.

6) Bill Moyers spoke to our group for an hour in what can best be described as a Revival. We were all born-again into the field of journalism and Moyers received a lengthy standing ovation from his peers. If I can track down a copy of his speech somewhere, I'll be sure to post a link. A signed copy of his speech was auctioned off later that night for $2,500, benefiting SPJ's Legal Defense Fund.

7) Finally, and perhaps most important, I got to spend some time getting to know like-minded people who share my passion for writing and connecting with others. It was a memorable, exhausting, exhilarating week and one filled with amazing experiences.

New York is like a drug and I'm already trying to figure out how to get back there next month for another fix.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Catching up and following up

There's nothing like the invigoration that comes from spending a weekend of learning with like-minded individuals. I'm still processing all of the wonderful experiences from SPJ in NYC and will share them this week as time permits. Here are a few gems that capture the theme of this weekend...

It is clear from both speakers and participants that writing is a vocation. After all, as the author Leo Rosten said, "The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."

Writing is hard work. But the joy comes in learning, perhaps over a lifetime, that you can discover many things about life, yourself and the world through the process. And there's a deep satisfaction that comes from knowing you've written well. You may not feel it often, but when you do it's the drug that will keep you hooked. "Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long."
Leonard Bernstein

People are energy and light personified. And as the great Edith Wharton says, "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

And so the bottom line is that, "You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." — W. H. Auden

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Frances in NYC

Hurricane Frances has settled in New York City. Not even the remnants of a hurricane can dampen my spirits. It's great to be back. Today is packed with meetings, starting this morning when I'm meeting with Digna Sanchez, executive director of Learning Leaders, a volunteer organization serving the needs of New York City public school children. Had just enough time to grab coffee and the Times, check e-mail and head to the Subway.

They say if you stand in the middle of Grand Central Station at 5 p.m. you'll run into someone you know within 10 minutes. I hadn't even walked into the building yesterday at 5:15 and I heard my name called. It was Bruce Cadwallader, SPJ's Region 4 director and a reporter at the Columbus Dispatch. Pretty cool...

Enjoyed a glass of wine with Marcello at the Oyster Bar. He told me that people come to his little nook to smooth the transition between the city and their real life at home in the suburbs. Bartenders are great observers of life, philosophizing on the human race as seen from the wide-angle view available behind the bar. Marcello's only rule at the bar is no ringing cell phones. If your phone rings, you have to buy a round of drinks.

Gotta catch the Lexington No. 6 local downtown.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

September 8, 2004

For years I clipped this out of the PD and pasted into my journals, so it seems only fitting that this year I post on my blog.

If today is your birthday: You have an unusually creative and dynamic way of expressing yourself, which surprises many and delights others. You express your uniqueness. Partnerships reflect this very same eccentricity. Give up your ideas of how others should be. As a result, you will flex and gain. Network and make new friends. During 2005 you might reach one of your financial peaks if you walk a conservative path.

And from today’s Washington Post:
IF SEPTEMBER 8 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: . . . you are more interested in defending what is important to you than in other people's views today. There is a boost in your physical energy and the ability to lead others now, but you may have a tough time maintaining the momentum. Work fast if you have irons in the fire. Expect to receive rewards for your hard work in January and an important improvement in your life. By next spring, a new factor could affect your life, and a compelling partnership may become the center of your universe.

I’m off to New York City today for five days packed full of great stuff—networking, seeing New York, meeting my idols, catching up with SPJ friends and meeting new friends…

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

On the eve of another flight

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
—Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, September 02, 2004

My boy loves school!

Sitting in the brand-spanking new cafeteria of the Bay Middle School last night I found myself near tears. It was open house for the sixth grade and my first at Ryan's new school. My fears of him not making the transition were unfounded to say the least. He came home the first day and proclaimed, "Mom, the middle school is the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life!" Pretty strong words from my boy who dreaded school for the past two years.

To be sure he's in stunning physical surroundings. Students and teachers moved into the new school in January, but they spent the second semester last year co-existing with a barrage of workmen finishing up the school. This year, it's done. The library's giant windows face a gorgeous view across Cahoon Park to Lake Erie. The art rooms are finer than those I remember from college days. And the technology program is simply incredible—not only do the kids learn keyboarding, word, excel and powerpoint, but they also get to spend time in a modular lab exploring graphic design, aerospace, human genetics, video production and editing and other possible career paths.

The school is amazing, but it was my first exposure to Ryan's teachers and the curriculum that moved me nearly to tears. Though it may seem normal to those who have fine educational experiences, this level of energy, enthusiasm and educational creativity is NOT at all what we experienced over the past two years.

Core subjects (math, language arts, social studies and science) are taught in hour-long segments. Within the block, teachers have the flexibility to use more or less time, depending on the preparation for that day. For example, if the math teacher is preparing students for a big test, she can use 75 minutes instead of 60 minutes! And built in to their schedule is 45 minutes for academic support. We used to call it study hall, but this is far more structured. Students may complete homework assignments or meet with one of their teachers for more instruction. Students receive no more than an hour's worth of homework (total) each night. If they spend more than 20 minutes on an assignment, parents are to write a note to the teacher and the teacher will accept the homework because (and this is the real kicker), if it took the student too long, the teachers feel as if they didn't explain it well enough.

The spokesperson for Ryan's team was Mr. I, the science teacher. He's a young guy (my son's first male teacher) and full of humor and energy. He actually studied the yearbook photos of the kids (as fifth graders) so he would know their names when they first stepped into his classroom!!!

Equally amazing were his two language arts and social studies teachers who—and this is when my jaw nearly dropped to the floor—teach the two subjects in concert!!! This is the year for learning about the ancients and language arts assignments are linked to what the students are learning in social studies. My heart be still, we're actually connecting the dots!!!!

And then Ryan's math teacher stood up, with a chicken puppet plopped on her head. She uses it to help students let go of their fear of math. In talking with her afterward I explained that Ryan's math experience over the past two years has been mind-boggling horrid. I'm not even sure what he has learned or retained from fifth grade. Of all his subjects, this is the one in which he is alarmingly behind. She reassured me that Ryan is very enthusiastic about math and assured me that he would soon catch up with his classmates.

She's making math fun and has set up a system of organization that makes my heart sing! The only method of communication his fifth grade teacher at the parochial school employed was screaming, even when a student asked for help. She was so horrible at teaching math that she is no longer teaching it this year. That someone who so clearly does not enjoy children is still teaching AT ALL is such a tragedy for those who must endure her this year.

Ryan is so excited about school this year. He leaps out of bed every morning, has written down all his assignments in great detail (and even his after-school practices, etc.) and finishes all his homework before football practice. I was always amazed at how our students (and boys are particularly bad about this) were expected to master organization between their fourth and fifth grade years at parochial school. It's a nice goal, but it's an ongoing goal. And his new teachers understand that kids still need time to LEARN organizational skills, not just be expected to possess them.

As I walked back to my car last night, I called Ryan on the cell and told him how cool his teachers are and how happy I am that he is in a place where he can thrive. He responds to teachers who treat him with respect, who make learning fun (and not simply rote), and who are engaging his young mind in ways I know will cause him to succeed.

I slept soundly last night knowing my boy is where he needs to be.