Arms waving, feet flying – This is my life!!

Rome, Italy: Picture this  – a 10 year old American boy running full speed down the cobblestone street – arms spread out and waving in the air – excitedly and repeatedly screaming at the top of his lungs “This is my liiiifffffe!”,   “This is my liiiifffffe!”

I wish I would have snapped a photo of this little boy. Happiness consumed him until he actually burst and could no longer contain himself.  Pure joy.  And pure energy. After we witnessed this, my travel buddy and I decided to strike this pose whenever we were feeling overcome with that joy of realizing how amazing it is that we can visit and experience such beautiful places.

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This is our life – in Florence, Italy

Travel with us through this blog!  So far, you can climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvuius, visit the ruins of Pompeii, or spend a day in England visiting Stonehenge, Abbey Road and the home of Sherlock Holmes.  I lead student tours through Europe – follow me to see where we go next!

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Pompeii, Italy

DSC_0759Italy remains one of my favorite destinations.  After our journey to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, we took an expertly guided tour of the ruins of Pompeii.  Mt. Vesuvius destroyed this ancient Roman town in 79 AD, but the ash, evidently, preserved quite a bit of it.  There are lots of photos and I only saw, probably, a quarter of the town.  All of my information comes from our tour guide.  So, if there are any historians out there that think I have it wrong, please let me know. I am a tourist, not a historian.  Please enjoy my photos and the mini amateur tour through the ruins.

 

 

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Before we entered the walls of the city, we viewed the mass graves in what would have been right outside the city walls.  DSC_0762DSC_0763

We first entered the Gladiator training grounds – a big courtyard, basically.  The trees are magnificent.DSC_0773

Then we made our way to the amphitheater.  You can see the courtyard we just left in the background – and look at those mountains – wow!DSC_0790

So, then we started walking through the ancient streets.  We were told that the giant stones in the middle of the road were for pedestrians to be able to cross without stepping into the sewage that flowed in the street.  Each of those gates represent a different shop.  This was the market street, evidently.DSC_0793

This is a wood burning pizza oven – ha!  Seriously, it was said to be a bakery.  They thought this because the fireplace was so much larger than that in the home areas.DSC_0791

Random street of Pompeii.DSC_0827

Me and my best travel buddy, Kelly.  We make a great team. She makes laugh and laugh – we have so much fun together.  We are standing outside the infamous Pompeii brothel.  The middle school group that walked through with us could not quite handle the artwork on the walls.DSC_0826

So, this is the brothel.  Do you see the upside down cross?DSC_0841

As we made our way from the brothel to the city square the tour guide pointed out the map on the ground carved into the stone.  It points to the brothel so that those visiting the city for the first time know where to go.  The brothel does, in fact, have artwork that survived on its walls, as well.  Images of people, men and women, in various sexual positions cover the walls of the brothel.  Our guide explained that a customer would simply point to the desired position.  Bed pictured below.DSC_0830

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Another random street.  We are on our way to the city square.  We just left the brothel.DSC_0797

You can’t really make out the walls, exactly, but this street was “apartments”.DSC_0800

An example of the residential fireplace.  DSC_0802

The courtyard of the gladiator school.  This area was one of the best preserved.  The photo below was the ornate, arched ceiling.  The photo does not do it justice.  The colors and the artistry took my breath away.DSC_0808

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This was displayed within the walls of the gladiator school.  I am not sure why he was separated from the rest of the artifacts that I posted below.  This was just mesmerizing.  The thought of all of those people being buried so quickly in the ash that they were frozen and then preserved.  Amazing.DSC_0821

So, a regular ally leading to a beautiful courtyard.  These small private courtyards were blocked off and we could not see them up close.  They were off of private residences.DSC_0863

The next several photos are of the many artifacts recovered from the ash.DSC_0865DSC_0867DSC_0866

Lots of vases and urns.  The plastic crates in the background unfortunately detract from the collection.  Did you see the dog in the glass box?  I think that was a dog…I never did get a definitive answer.DSC_0847

If you saw my Mt. Vesuvius post, then this photo may look familiar.  That’s it in the background – the devastating volcano that covered this city in ash.DSC_0870

More images of the city square.DSC_0871DSC_0872DSC_0877DSC_0881DSC_0883DSC_0887

DSC_0889Some of those last pictures really show the beauty of the area.  So that’s it.  My trip through the ruins of Pompeii.  A very hot day that ended with overpriced frozen lemonade and a stroll through the vendors outside the gates.  Oh – and we saw a demonstration of cameos being made from shells – then we went for the lemonade.  They were beautiful, but not for me.

If you have not seen my Mt. Vesuvius post you can find it in this link to the top of the volcano.

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To the top of Mt. Vesuvius, Gulf of Naples, Italy

Mt. Vesuvius is the one of the most dangerous and most closely monitored active volcanoes in the world – according to our awesomely amazing guide – ANNA.  It stands 1293 meters and was last active in 1944 during WWII – at which point the area was evacuated.  I mention the war, because I remember something about an airbase there at this time losing lots of planes to the heat and the ash.  Again – tour guide, ANNA.

Our group took a special journey to the top of the volcano.  We walked through gravel to the top until we peered over the edge into the crater.  The trail goes around the top of the opening, but did not go the distance due to our schedule.  The stairs in the featured photo led to the other side of the crater.

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As we traveled from Rome to the Naples Region and Mt. Vesuvius we saw the Italian country side from the bus window.

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From the window of the bus on the way to the drop off point.  I love the tree on the right, giving the photo depth.  Anyway – this is the port of Naples.

DSC_0630 (2)DSC_0629 (2)As we drove up part of Mt. Vesuvius, the roads were very winding and narrow.  Sometimes I did not quite know how the bus driver did it.  Pure luck, because the rode was not wide enough for one tour bus, let alone, a second bus coming down the hill.  The photos above, again, were from the bus window. The buildings and life surrounding this potential firestorm are amazing.

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We arrive to the point where we could get out and walk the rest of the way.  Lots of souvenirs made from the lava rocks from the volcano.  The girls above are in their this is my life pose.  And so…the climb begins….

They do offer tour guides at the site.  We were held up a bit, actually, because they would not let o20140622_112656ur tour guide lead the group – we had to hire theirs.  Honestly, we did not even want a guide, but we were required to have one.  She was kind of awful.  So boring. Too quiet, she seemed like maybe she, herself, had looked at this crater one too many times.  Eventually, we trailed off and kind of left her.  I am sure we missed out on history of the hill this way, but I could not help it.  There is nothing worse than a boring tour guide when in the presence of such amazing history and beauty.

And so, we make it to the top.

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Looking to the left….(above)

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And looking to the right….Naples, Italy…then zoomed in.  Literally felt like we were on top of the world.  Breathtaking views, beautiful wind, and the excitement of knowing the thing could erupt at any moment (not really, but I’m just sayin’)

Also at the top of Mt. Vesuvius…

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Remnants of a once functioning cable car ride to the top of the volcano.  The guide did not seem to know anything about the history of that or why they removed it.  I would imagine, perhaps, it is a gruesome, tragic tale better forgotten.  I rode on one of these in Chattanooga, TN once.  ONCE.

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Another little visitor on the top of the volcano…I caught him mid color change.

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Beautiful flowers in the harshest of conditions…in gravel and stone…with such a backdrop!

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DSC_0690DSC_0691Views of the inside of the crater wall.  The steam coming out of the holes in the ground tell us that this is, indeed, an active volcano.

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This is the view from our lunch spot,  half way back down the mountain.  The Island of Capri is in the distance…going there tomorrow.

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After our climb and a little lunch, a guided tour of Pompeii awaits us.  The mountain in the distance is Mt. Vesuvius.  If only all of those pesky people were not in the photo!

Both locations – worth every penny.  If you are in the area and have the strength, I totally recommend the climb to the top.  I will always remember that view with the wind in my hair and the sun in my face.  Also in fields of poppies – check out the post about Pompeii.

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Dear New Teachers:

Dear new teachers,

We need you.  This difficult job will reward you in many ways.  Please stick with it, even when  you want to quit – it does get easier.  Well, not easier, but you figure out how to be better at it and find balance.  Our nation faces a crisis in the classroom.  We need good teachers, like you.  Compassionate, giving, selfless, hard-working.  Go next door, to the next classroom and ask for help.  If you mistakenly entered the wrong room, the room where that negative energy resides – just go to the next door and keep going until you find the support that you need. Do not try to do it on your own.  Also, make yourself leave on time and do not take work home with you.  It will get done.  I promise.

We have all been there – have all felt overwhelmed and wanted to throw in the towel.  Keep at it.  You are valued.  You are needed.  You are our future.

Sincerely,

the nation

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“The Heart of the Matter”

Released in 1989 – I was in my early 20’s when I first really heard this song in small bar in Miamisburg, Ohio.  Sitting with friends, drinking, I found myself lost in the lyrics.

What the song is about: The lyrics of Don Henley’s song reflect on a lost lover that has moved on and one man’s attempt to move past the pain caused then and now.  It’s about forgiveness and learning how to move on beyond the pain, not just from a lost love – but from pain in the world.

My favorite lines:

“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down; you know they hurt your pride
You got to put it all behind you ’cause life goes on
You keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside”

What the words mean to me: The heart of the matter – the bare, base meaning of it all – is forgiveness.  Forgive to have a peaceful heart.  Forgive so that you can live.  You are more than your anger. This song just pounds forgiveness into my head and helps to remind me that I have to let go of the angst in my heart.  None of the people I thought of that night were ex-boyfriends.  My issues were much larger than that. People suck – get over it and move on. Do not give them the power to change you – Just love them more.

“What are all these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment and beg for something more?”

What the words mean to me: These 2 lines stand out more now that I am 46 – and not 20.  Love can make us happy and content…yet sometimes something on the other side calls to us.  Other side of what?  you may ask.  Other side of anything, really.  The other side of our contentment – just other – not this, but that.  We struggle as we age, wondering is this it?  Sometimese we have longings that we can not understand.  Some find the answers in faith, some find the answers in family or work, and some never find them.

“The more I know, the less I understand”

What the words mean to me:  These lines need no explanation beyond ignorance is bliss.

Heart of the Matter – full lyrics

By Don Henley

I got the call today I didn’t wanna hear
But I knew that it would come
An old, true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone
She said you’d found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck and all the struggles we went through
How I lost me, and you lost you
What are all these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment and beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak, and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined and people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?
And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
Are the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the world they put between us – you know it doesn’t keep us warm

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
The more I know, the less I understand
And all the things I thought I’d figured out, I have to learn again
I been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter
But everything changes and my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

Oh, there are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down; you know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you, baby,  ’cause life goes on
You keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside, baby

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness
Even if you don’t love me

Songwriters: MIKE CAMPBELL, DONALD HUGH HENLEY, JOHN SOUTHER, JOHN DAVID SOUTHER

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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“The Rose”

I used to sing this to my kids at night as I put them to bed.  Every word speaks of love and the ability to overcome even the harshest conditions to find and give love.  No matter how dark the world gets, have faith in love.  Such a beautiful message.

 

The Rose

By Bette Midler

Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes a chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.

Songwriters: GORDON MILLS
© Universal Music Publishing Group
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baby girl brag book

I recently made this paper bag album for a colleague.  I so enjoy making these little brag books. The color scheme – pink, green, and yellow – ridiculously cute.  Ribbons and buttons are two of my favorite cuteness tools.

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Dear Social Engineers:

websterDear social engineers:  Dear manipulative members of society and micromanaging social climbers:

According to Merriam-Webster, social engineering is simply “the practice of making laws or using other methods to influence public opinion and solve social problems or improve social conditions.  [Also,] management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society:  applied social science. Simplified even further by Urban Dictionary.com – “the attempt to control social behavior”.   And finally, on a digital security website we have “the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information…exploiting your natural inclination to trust”.  But, my personal favorite: “the art and science of human manipulation”.  WOW.Puppet-On-A-String

I wonder how this very volatile phrase has morphed and has been trivialized to mean controlled and purposeful manipulation of a child’s life by a parent, as he or she tries to improve his or her own social status through the life, friends, and activities of the child.

While I appreciate that the human condition lends itself towards selfish behavior, wrapping others up in one’s own twisted reality of an imaginary hierarchical realm really depletes my life force.  Fake friendships and phony smiles – simply exhausting.  Please exclude me because I choose to be excluded, not because I have succumbed to the inane attempts to make me feel lesser.  And while I understand the parental right to protect one’s child from hurtful relationships and detrimental environments, I will never reconcile the vicarious living that occurs through the lives of children by their parents as anything but sad.  Furthermore, I do understand that society has classes and that in every scenario there is a pecking order.  However, it seems the reality of the order, often disputed or unclear, remains abstract and truly unimportant when considering other human beings.  As I teach in my classroom, I will continue to see individuals and not members of cliques.  I will continue to exhaust myself to make the invisible child visible to all.

social engineeringSo please back up and look at the big picture.  Please stop “managing human beings in accordance with” YOUR idea of THEIR place and function in YOUR life.  If you want to bring about improved social conditions for everyone, your child included, simply treat the world and individuals in it as though they all matter.  Please stop trying to micro-managing the lives of others and get one of your own.  You will be a much happier person.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Everyone.

 

 

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Slushie to the face!

Wow – what a way to end a brutal 10 work hour day.  Tonight after a day of teaching, an afternoon of coaching, and an evening of parenting teenagers – my other half seemed to be having some philosophical questions as to the purpose, and perhaps futility, of parenting and vented them my way:  “What does it matter?  They are just going to do whatever they want when they get out on their own.  None of this matters – they are who they are.”  That was the gist.

My insides kind of imploded as I tried to understand the harsh feelings I was having in reaction to his comments.  Don’t get me wrong.  I, too, go to this dark place sometimes – wondering about the futility of it all…trying to train teach teenagers/children how to be responsible, productive citizens.  How to teach them to be kind, generous, honest, and humble (and how to write an outline).  I want them to learn how to take care of themselves without being selfish and I do my my very best to lead by example.   But today I sort of needed  a rock to lean on  when I got home, and instead, I got a slushie in the face.  All day today I stood in the library with high school students telling me that there were no books…that is a post for another day.

Now, I try to raise my students with all the love and patience I give my own children, but, of course, with the added dimension of trying to teach research skills and strategies – and boy do I fall short sometimes.

So – my husband did not say that I am worthless.  Not those words.  He is not responsible for my reaction to and interpretation of his words.  And when I told him what I was hearing…that my whole life has been dedicated to teaching and raising children on the premise that they can be nurtured and molded and he is telling me that it is all for nothing (ie I am worthless)…well… he felt badly and immediately stopped speaking,  gave me a hug, and told me he loved me.  He tried with all his might to fill the love bucket he had just accidentally kicked over.  he started laughing and went downstairs to bed. Ugh! Gracie!*

All people are the products of nature and nurture.  The two are forever entwined.  Some personalities clearly reside in nature and some abound with learned behaviors.  Some bad and some good.  If I did not believe in the effects of nurture I could not teach, nor would I have children.  However – I also believe that most kids people are average – and that is okay.  I do not need to raise the valedictorian, or the sport superstar, or the trophy winning whatever.  You don’t need to be the next President, you don’t need to make a million dollars, and you don’t need to be famous to live. Have aspirations – but be grounded.

I want my kids to know love, family, and hope.  I want them to know joy and have faith.  I want them to experience life and not fear it – even the bad parts.  I want them to find success – however it is defined.  If they do these things then, really, they will be anything but average.  As a parent, as a teacher – I can give them these things – show them how to find these things for themselves.  Maybe along the way I can teach them to read, write, and make an argument.  I have worth.  Indeed, I have worth.

*Gracie is the name that I gave my marriage years ago.  After having kids and realizing how much work motherhood is and what having a solid marriage requires, I decided to treat my marriage like one of my kids.  I try to give it just as much attention as the other kids demand.  It is easy to loose your spouse in the family,  put date nights off, and fail to connect as you push through raising those little cherubs.  By giving it a name – Gracie – it helps me to remember to treat my marriage with patience and love.  Tonight, Gracie is in a time out!

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***Update: My husband totally redeemed himself the next morning.  As I explained to him the day ahead included attending a softball game to watch my students play I followed it up with “I know, I know I could just say no”.  To which he replied as he made the bed, without missing a beat, and with nothing but compassion, love, and understanding in his voice, “no you can’t, that’s why you are a such a great teacher”.  What I heard:  What you do matters.