Some people see my old logo and immediately rattle off
"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
I would change evil to fear.
Not the kind of fear that keeps you from jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.
The other kind of fear
the one that keeps you safe ...
keeps you comfortable and content ...
never stretching your boundaries and finding out what you can do.
You won't die.
You might stammer a little, have some heart palpitations
and then walk out a stronger person.
If it isn't a raging success, you'll cry in your beer, dust yourself off, and give it another go.
The next time you'll be smarter and more wily.
Writing is one of the scariest things we can do. Writing is staring fear in the face. Do I have anything worthy to say? Will what I have to say make any sense? Will I expose too much? Be too personal? Sound stupid?
Writing is being vulnerable.
You need a magic shield to keep those arrows of fear going straight to your writing soul causing you to hunker down and quit.
Shields can come from many places, shoring up your confidence by knowing if you wrote- you won already.
It can come from a writing group, a schedule of filling notebooks with freewrites, morning pages a la Julia Cameron, the philosophy of "shitty first drafts" (thank you Anne Lamott).
It can come from reading books on writing. It can come from a coach, a mentor, a class.
I can help you develop that shield... so you can write.
You'll still be afraid.
But you'll do it.
Our last day in Italy I pulled out the dress, the gorgeous, sexy dress and I wore it…to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, shopping and gelato, house red wine and pasta. That dress did Rome and finally, finally I got some attention from the Italian men.
I am a person who wants to be young, who works with young people, who is young inside, and who, I hope, looks younger than her true age. I avoid the thought of being old. I don’t spend hours with creams or avoid the sun but I on Facebook, I dye my hair, I don’t wear my shirt tucked in with a belt, and I listen to the music and the you-tubes the teens tell me to. I, in the words of my dad, shall not age gracefully but shall fight it every step of the way.
On my trip to Italy, I was confronted face-on, undeniably, with my age, my true age, middle-aged and on the downhill side to OLD. I took a group of students to Italy, one of whom was my 19-year-old daughter Kayla. My young gorgeous Italian-featured daughter: long brown naturally wavy thick hair, flashing green eyes, and olive skin and let’s not even discuss her body. Where did she get all that anyway? She attracted attention wherever she went. To put the following “conversations” in context, during most of the following encounters, we were with the entire tour group of 49 people.
In Venice at the glass-blowing demonstration: “Hi Barbie. My name is Ken,” from a male my age if he was a day.
In Florence at the souvenir stand: “I will trade you those 7 postcards if you will just leave your daughter here with me,” from a younger Italian male as he held on to her for dear life.
In Sorrento at the artisan wood factory: As he was showing the tour group of 49 people who did he speak to, who did he look at as he described the $2500 poker table ….mmmm hmmm, Kayla. Before she left the shop he told her, "You come back to Sorrento so I can see your beautiful eyes again."
In Assisi: The tour guide did the double-cheek kiss with Kayla, only Kayla, and he was GAY.
In Rome: She got “the look” from the gorgeous Italian men everywhere we went.
Everywhere we went: “Ciao Bella!” Hello Beautiful!
I tell you this was tough for me on so many levels. Not only was I smacked in the face with my old self but also I was seeing these older men fall all over themselves to talk to my young, so young, daughter.
How did I cope? Our last day in Italy I pulled out the dress, my sexy new sundress, hoping for some male attention, simply to feel vibrant and full of life, not dead and passe’. And I got it: the man sitting by the ancient Egyptian obelisk who stared me down and seemed to be hoping the breeze would give him a view as I walked by, the taxi driver who leaned halfway out of his window to watch me bend over in the street to pick up something I dropped, the twenty-something male who approached me saying something along the lines of “Ciao Bella” with a huge grin that made me uncomfortable so I turned my back on him.
My favorite encounter was with a man just doing his job but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of his attention. Rome had these gorgeous men who stand on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant encouraging people to come in and eat. What is it with these Italian guys? Why are they so cute? As our tour group walked by, I was straggling at the back not ready to leave Rome or Italy or any of it. He caught my eye and crooned, “Bella, come sit. Come eat.”
“I’m sorry. We already ate dinner,” I said looking him in the eye, playing his game. He dropped his chin and gave me “the look.” The look I had wanted to see. The look that said I still have the elusive “it.” I don’t have one foot in the grave. I am still alive and wily. The look that made my heart skip a little beat to reinforce all these points. He gave me “the look,” lowered his voice, caressed me with his dark eyes and sexily said, “You come back tomorrow night, okay?”
I grinned weakly, pretended that the look was real, and breathlessly said, “Ohhhhh-kay,” knowing, but not wanting to explain, that I would be on a plane back to Misery, I mean, Missouri, the next day.
2/28/2022 0 Comments
I don't have to tell Seinfeld fans what the above photo is. It's the Restaurant used in all the Seinfeld episodes. In earlier episodes, you can see the Tom's. In later ones, they just used the Restaurant side.
I visited here in November 2011 with my son Heath. We were so excited to go to the restaurant we had seen in all the shows. We left the Metropolitan Museum of Art at closing time and walked out front to catch a cab. It was cold and windy and there was quite a crowd at the cab stop. "Let's walk up the street and try to catch it before the stop," I suggested after we'd waiting, freezing, for 10 minutes in line with nary a cab stopping.
We walked and hailed, walked and hailed and were ignored. They were all full. It was getting darker by the moment. No luck. Giving up, I searched for the closest sub station (Thank you I-phone App) and we began to walk to it. Several blocks later, NY blocks are huge you know, we gave up and finally caught a cab's attention. It was still quite a long ride to Tom's, over by Columbia University. We wanted to go so bad even though it was cold and the restaurant was very far away, we were headed away from our hotel, and we were racking up quite a cab bill, we still wanted to go sit in Jerry's booth. It felt very adventurous. I was very proud of us. We had limited time and money but we were putting both toward this experience.
We opened the door expecting to see Jerry's booth and our hopes were smashed. It looked nothing like Monk's! We figured out this is the restaurant they use, for the outside. The inside, "Monks," is a stage. We stayed and ate a great diner meal. It was fun to see the people eating there because we were the only tourists. There were lots of college students. I love diners and it was a great diner. But not Jerry's booth. I kicked myself for being dumb and not realizing. I wondered if we should have spent the time since there were so many other things we could have done. I got pretty down about it for a little while. However, now I treasure this photo. Below is the photo with me in it. Every time we watch Seinfeld now, almost nightly, it makes me happy inside to see the RESTAURANT sign. We were there.
I learned to make the best of things and push past the disappointment. Nothing and no one is perfect. Relax darlin' .
Lawrence County was known for two things in the early ‘80s: the highest producing beef county in Missouri and a Paul Harvey national radio show mention, because we had the highest per capita teen pregnancy rate. This is where I completed my K-12 education in southwest Missouri. I didn’t fit in.
From my t-shirt which displayed the definition of feminine (characteristic of or unique to women), to being the lone voice arguing the pro-choice side in my senior composition class, to creating a panel of career women speakers for our Future Homemakers of America meeting, I didn’t fit in. I felt the sting of unfair and saw it happen to other students in my small white high school.
Obviously, the issues we experienced then are nothing compared to things happening right now: the fear my friend Kim, who adopted two boys from Africa, experiences when a video shows cops handcuffing teen black boys in a park in St. Paul, Minnesota, for seemingly existing. It’s nothing compared to trying to get to a safer environment for your children and being separated, imprisoned and called “animals.” It’s nothing to not having clean drinking water like the families of Flint.
But somehow in that tiny rural town a seed was planted to care about fairness for all, no matter race, income, gender, and so forth. I want to do that for my students.
After mulling the why of this extreme focus on fairness, I've come up with three moments that made a difference to me:
The first? I read. Voraciously. I fell in love as a first grader and never looked back. In reading, and enjoying the hell out of it by choosing my own books, I learned empathy.
Next, I was lucky enough to befriend a new student named Salma in my first grade class, a Muslim from Egypt. This fortuitous moment occurred because a hospital in our tiny rural community had visiting physicians from everywhere in the world. We became friends and visited each other's homes. I remember being shocked as I walked past an open door and saw Salma’s mother kneeling in her afternoon prayers. I learned early on that different isn’t bad.
Obviously there are more than three but this last one still stings, which is kind of funny when you see what it is.
I ran for president when I was 12. It was an exercise in voting for the sixth graders in 1975, the Ford/Carter election year. I took it very seriously. My dad helped me write a speech about women’s rights and the space program and a strong military. Much of it was his ideas and words but I was already a little feminist having argued for the Equal Rights Amendment on the playground in fifth grade. There was a primary in which I won my party's nomination so it was down two candidates. I recorded my amazing speech on a cassette and it was played for each sixth grade class.
I lost. The winner was a comely auburn-haired football quarterback who’s speech consisted of he and his friends laughing a lot and promising Coke machines in the middle school. The sting of such utter stupidity winning an election sunk into my soul. (This sting was repeated in November 2016 with much worse consequences.) It was because they were cute boys.
I watched teachers allow their children’s friends come to class late without a tardy but not others. A friend said, “Why did you say hello to him? He’s so weird,” when I spoke to the kid with cuts on his arms who was living in a foster home. I hated all of those things.
How does this translate to my classroom and my students?
I start the year with an attitude about my classroom that I share with the students in my “I Don’t Care” speech. I tell them all the things that will not change how I treat them: money, parents, which church they attend, the teacher down the hall's opinion of them, siblings, sports, clothes, etc. Social justice in the classroom. Put your money where your mouth is.
I devise assignments that give them a voice; one they’ve never used sometimes. Sometimes they hate these assignments and want a multiple choice box. Most love it.
I try my best to meet the student where they are, which is the ultimate fairness. No one gets perks for athletics or family. Sometimes a student sits the class out in the peace corner, because LIFE.
I get things wrong sometimes. I apologize.
I'm human. They are human. We are slogging through the mire of the bells ruling our time, the pure insanity of seven hours of back to back to back to back to back to back to back classes, bell to bell ladies, bell to belllll. 30+ bodies in a classroom. 1000+ plus in the halls at passing time. Constant chaos. Whew. How does this ever work? It works, sometimes, when we reach out and acknowledge, "Hey fellow human, how are you?" It works when we don't have tight lesson plans because the discussion of whatever we just read is too juicy and powerful to cut short. It works when we don't forget what unfair feels like and we don't participate in it. Thank god for all those moments I felt the sting of unfair. And I didn't forget.
Author Kim Blevins
Writing has been important to me since I started listing how to spend the $5 I made picking blackberries as a child. At the top of that list was a large fuzzy foot rug I never got. In high school I wrote of the boys I loved, the important decisions I had to make, the homework I dreaded, and which family member had annoyed me the most that day. I lost writing for a few years, then got paid to write, lost it again for many years then being a part of the National Writing Project took my hand and led me to it again. I turned my back on it one more time chasing a love that didn't work out to then find this fierce obsessive love that will always be a part of my life, the love of words, of stories, of musings and mullings. Thanks for reading.