Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another baby step.

I gave away my white and green doll's house today. I loaded it into the car and trucked it to my mother's, the intent being to give it to her neighbor's seven-year-old daughter. Due to a few other errands, it ended up sitting in my backseat for a few hours, baking in the sun. Getting in the car to make the final leg of the trip, I inhaled one more time, taking in the scent of warm wood. My memories stirred then, ones I gave little thought to recently.

When I was twelve, I took $22 of my hard-earned newspaper delivery money and plunked it down on a four-room assembly-required pressed-wood dollhouse. Dad and I put it together at the dining room table. Over the next year, I poured my heart into it, painting and decorating it. Then re-painting and re-decorating. I learned how to wallpaper, how to wield an X-Acto knife without losing any fingers, and how to "kit-bash." Most of the furnishings were re-upholstered, re-painted, re-something. I never met a kit I couldn't redesign. I also learned how to use Sculpy and Fimo, and soon my dollhouse was teeming with people and toys. Eventually I started selling my clay toys at a local miniature shop.

When I exhibited my dollhouse at the shop's annual show and sale, the raffle prize was a seven-room one-of-a-kind white and green dollhouse. My little brother and his friend, who were in sixth grade and looking to kill time, stuffed the raffle box. We took the house home that night.

Between the night I took the house home and the day I married, I practiced the art of Martha Stewart in miniature. I took a break from the clay and moved to needlepoint and tiny flower arrangements. The house still needed something, so I learned how to measure and cut and stain. Soon enough, every room had baseboards and moulding. It was lovely by the time I was finished with it.

Surprisingly, packing it away, as I moved into married life wasn't that hard. I hadn't put the same love into it as I had with the one my father and I built together. That, with it's sandpaper shingles and die-cut gingerbread, was infinitely the favorite. The smaller one was the one I took with me to my new house. The large one was "too big." I'd learned on that one, true; but how many of us treasure the workbooks we used in grade school?

The Mother's Day after Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I convinced the big guy to buy The McKinley dollhouse kit for me as a gift. I wanted to build something again, not just win by default. And I wanted to build it with my father. I wanted to spend the time with him like I had fifteen years earlier.

The kit is half-assembled and in my basement. Dad simply didn't have it in him to build, so I started the shell myself. The directions were -- are -- easy enough. But I just don't want to do it anymore. I don't want it anymore.

I want another dollhouse though; I miss the challenge of working in such small spaces with delicate materials. However, building, to me, will always be a father-daughter event -- and perhaps someday mother and son. Tomorrow, Gavie and I are going to put all of my birthday money on the (pre-built) house I've chosen. He and I are going to work on it together, though I'm limiting his input and keeping the hammers out of his hands.

So when I pulled that old cumbersome dollhouse out of the backseat today and gave it away, it was without much feeling at all, unless you count my eagerness to make room for the new and the chance to spend time with my son.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ferocious, precocious, and four

The battle of bed continues. For some reason unbeknownst to us, the child has taken to loathing bedtime. Absolutely hating it. In his eyes, bedtime is overrated and useless. Something meant for the masses, the mortals... certainly not for him.

I know it's not fear. What make me so certain? Mainly because of the fact that, when he gets out of bed and runs into my bedroom (where I sit and write each night while waiting for him to fall asleep), he is trying very hard not to laugh. He's actually trying to look scared and upset.

The ear-to-ear grin kills the effect, of course.

Several parents I know close their children's door or put a gate up to keep the little critter contained. Since a gate would be nothing but a broken bone waiting to happen, we've opted for the closed door approach.

He hates that worse then he hates bedtime.

It's like kryptonite. Captain Chaos is rendered powerless in the face of the closed bedroom door. Before I even have the door closed, he has resorted to crocodile tears and promises that he'll stay in bed if I open the door. My favorite is when he starts to holler for me to open the door because he's asleep. (If he actually were asleep, I think all of his yelling would wake him -- don't you?)

Soft-heart that I am, I always open the door before he falls asleep, though never on his cue. Only on mine and only when I think he really means what he promises.

Each night is a new challenge. Each night brings a new opportunity for him to come up with excuses to stay awake and out of bed. Some nights he'll bellow for someone to tuck him in eight times. Other nights he'll insist that he can't reach the box of tissues on his nightstand. Sometimes he just insists that he's not tired.

Last night, though, we had a new one. It was a good bluff, and had I not gone through the whole pre-bedtime snack time song and dance, I would have bought it. But, alas for Gavie, I wasn't born under a rock last night.

"Mommy! I'm hungry!"

Wonder what tonight will bring?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carving the niche

We're getting there! Of Ferocious Tigers and Wild Strawberries is now titled, addressed, and ready for posting.

Methinks I hit a milestone.

Thus, time to set a new one: publish the first post! It's in the works -- believe it or not I'm writing a draft or two or ten before hitting that wonderful "publish post" key!

(Where did this side come from? Since when did I draft anything? Must've appeared in that personality blip I had, right about the same time I started typing my lecture notes and developing PowerPoint lectures.)


For the curious, two answers:

1. The "niche" is to put my left-handed view of the world, my tendency to liken teaching to the business world, and my refusal to be left-brained into reworking the classroom. The same brain that made a former principal insane (she was often heard to mutter that I "just didn't get it," usually after I did something horrible like sit on my desk while having a discussion with my students) is now going to put fingers to keyboard on the topic of education and see what happens.

Last week I (figuratively) "resigned" from teaching. I told them it was their turn, that I was through with all this lecturing stuff, and that I wanted to treat them as employees and not students. The vast majority like the idea, so I'm going to run with it. Ferocious Tigers is going to explore this brave new lecture-free world.

2. Part of this niche was inspired by two particularly uninspiring workshop presentations I encountered last week. Both made me think about pulling my teeth out with a spork -- it would've been less painful. Both were so blah that I had no choice but to begin questioning what passes for conventional wisdom in the post-secondary classroom. I walk in each day and look at up to three generations in the seats before me, women who are bruised from their latest encounter with the ex, men whose long pants hide the ankle bracelet, and fresh-faced young adults who had a few kids before they were old enough to legally drink.

Let me tell you, if one more "expert" tells me that ice breakers will pack the students in and make them feel like school is the most important thing in life, I'm going to start convulsing from the utter stupidity of it all. I fail to see how a "tell me two truths and one lie about yourself" getting-to-know-you guessing game will make school more important then working overtime when the landlord threatens eviction.

(Can anyone clue me in on that one, please?)

There you have it, readers. I'm carving that niche.
The next blog you read will be ferocious!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Today, in Cuba.

I'm lifting this from Chantel's blog.
Yes, the capitalization is deliberate.

On Tuesday, June 5, TODAY’s Matt Lauer will take viewers on a special visit — to Cuba. Join Lauer as he reports live from Havana to discuss the current political and cultural climates of Cuba. The broadcast will include reports on Castro's health, a discussion about Castro's importance in the country, where its political future is headed, Cuba’s relations with the U.S. and how the U.S.- Cuba embargo affects both countries. It will a unique and exciting trip — it's one of the very few times an American TV show has broadcast live from Cuba, so don't miss it!

This is the write-up on the TODAY Show's website. I could rewrite it a thousand different ways. Instead of "special visit," I'd change the words to "sobering visit." I'd rewrite the line about "castro's importance in the country" to read, rather, "castro's oppressive hold on the country," and switch out the line about the embargo to read "how Cuba uses the embargo as an excuse to mask the freedoms in denies its people." But all that rewriting would assume a program that will reflect the realities in Cuba, and not the usual tropes about Cuba's health care, colorful people, and music. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Matt Lauer's "unique and exciting trip" is not only one of the "very few times an American TV show has broadcast live from Cuba," but also, the first time that any American TV show has gone there and told the truth. In the meantime, I've sent Matt Lauer a note, which follows. You can send one, too.

Dear Mr. Lauer,

Consider that the hotel you are staying in is one that is verboten to Cuban citizens, that the clean, decked-out beaches are only for tourists, and the three square meals you are getting while in Cuba are denied to ration-card carrying Cubans. Consider that the young girls you see loitering about in Havana may well be underaged jineteras, prostitutes trying to make ends meet and hoping against hope that you might call them tonight. Consider that a government that does not allow information access to its citizens is adept at hiding the truth from everyone.

Once you’ve considered all this, ask someone in the Cuban government why they feel the need to oppress their people this way. And Matt, don’t settle for anything other than a real answer, which has nothing to do with the embargo, or sacrifice for the common good. If you can be as ballsy as the Ladies in White, Cuban dissidents who weekly march to protest the unjust imprisonment of their husbands for political reasons, then you will have secured a place in history as the first American journalist not only to broadcast television from the island, but to take a pair to Cuba.


Chantel Acevedo


'Nuff said, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, June 03, 2007


It all comes down to finding my niche. I've decided that. What's my niche? Trashy romance? I'm working on it -- an average of 500+ readers a month can't be wrong. But what about the rest of me? What about the tens of thousands of dollars I spent, and will continue to spend, on my education?

In high school -- and this is indeed a cringe-worthy moment, Chantel! -- I wrote an editorial for the school paper and, being the editor, got it published without anyone (namely the advisor) reading it over. It was, um, an article on the merits of the NC-17 rating and how (and I quote!) a "whole new generation could experience" a particular flick that, until my college years, I thought was something entirely different. How was I, then still a prim little Catholic school girl, to know that someone would name a woman Emmanuel?! And film her in 3-D no less!

Yeah, how's that for cringing?
(I'm much wiser now. An all-women's Catholic college will do that to you, I suppose.)

My editorial on the senior class play was much better informed, polarizing the class and making our point known by having a good many seniors sign the editorial in protest to what we -- rightly or wrongly -- considered unfair.

The point is that once-upon-yesterday, I didn't shy from making my opinions known. I had a niche.

We're back to Guy again. I watched his presentation twice today, showing it to both of my management classes. Tomorrow the organizational business class gets to see it. Wednesday brings it to my economics class.

Make meaning, find a niche, write. My brain was on overdrive today.

Truthfully, this blog alone has a niche: keeping me in touch with family and friends. I'm keeping this niche. What I want to do is write something professional, something relevant. Methinks it's time for a third blog.

And, since conventional wisdom is "write what you know," I'm going to do that. I'm also going to go out on a few limbs and, while they'll be much better researched then that high school editorial, I'm going to see just what happens when I stop apologizing for or just flat-out avoiding having an opinion.

My topics? What else? Education, management, and ethics.

More to come! I'll keep you, eh, posted!

Friday, June 01, 2007

New Title, New Ideas, New Approach...

... new reason to stress.

It's all Guy's fault. Not that I ever met him, mind you. Heck, until today I thought he was the fellow behind Kawasaki motorcycles. It's all a particular mentor's fault, too. If he hadn't mentioned Guy to me in a conversation, I wouldn't have clicked on the link to his blog, I wouldn't have read his remarks, and I wouldn't have watched the video for his Art of the Start presentation.

But, the Fates have their quirks, and now here I am... pondering the role of this blog in the great blogosphere out there.

I thought of e-mailing him with a pleasant little "thank you for changing my entire perspective on the world of management and this is how I'm going to use your ideas/blog/video in my classroom," but haven't been able to craft a note that doesn't sound like a burgeoning sycophant penned it. Yet. I have at least 45 minutes before my next class kicks in...

But what does this blog do? What is it's point? Is it really just a little vanity rag to showcase the mis-adventures of Gavie and talk about my life? I'd really rather not become one of those mindless bloggers who just rants.

If a blogger posts and no one reads it, does she really post?

Well, gang, the ego is kicking in right along with the realization that I need to write or else I will implode (explode?) due to the innumerable amount of opinions crowding my brain. Today's thought: why not write something with meaning?

(By the way, that's Guy's first rule: make meaning.)

What do I need to write?