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Another school year is beginning, for some it already has. I am in my 9th year of teaching, not counting two years of subbing, student teaching, and several years of teaching classes at The Henry Ford. It’s safe to say that I’ve been working with kids for a long time. There are some things I’ve learned along the way to help you and your kid have a successful school year. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I hate sugarcoating so here we go.

  1. Make reading a priority in your home. I have SO many kids who do not come from a reading background and it shows. Read to your kids when they’re small and continue it as they get older. Reading is so incredibly important in school, so put the electronics away and make them read. Start small and gradually increase the time they spend on a book, it doesn’t matter what the genre is an show them that you read, too. Your example is the most important thing.
  2. Help them improve their attention span. I have middle schoolers who can’t focus for more than a couple of minutes on a daily basis. Do they have ADHD? No, they’ve just never been taught to stick with something. Now, I do have kids with ADD and ADHD who legitimately have trouble focusing, but a lot of the kids I teach don’t have an attention span because they’ve never been taught to have a work ethic. Give them jobs at home that they have to complete until the end, until they get the job done. Life skill.
  3. Teach them to respect. We teachers can handle a lot of things. Your child is struggling in English, math, science, social studies? We can handle that, it’s our job. It’s what we do. But when we have kids who routinely curse us out, I’m talking daily, openly talk back in class for no reason, and shamelessly lie, it makes our job ridiculously difficult. If you allow your child to be disrespectful to you at home and or to other people, they will be disrespectful at school.  Please, please, please teach your child how to speak and act respectfully, not just to adults, but to everyone, including you. I don’t mean that you should teach them to be a submissive little mouse, but if I had a dollar for every time a child openly challenged me at school, I’d be a rich woman. Learning how to treat others and situations with respect is a HUGE life skill. Look, kids are going to test limits, we teachers know that, but when you don’t back us up or worse, you take your kid’s side when he or she has been an absolute brat, you are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse people. Chances are, by the time we call you, we’ve already tried a lot of strategies. I’ve actually had parents tell their children, right in front of me, that they believe their child over anything I had to say and that’s true for a lot of my colleagues, too. That only teaches your kids that they have the power to behave any way they want and won’t receive any consequences. The trouble with that is a boss or, God forbid, a judge won’t see it the same way. Actions have consequences, good and bad.
  4. Don’t blame the teacher for your child’s shortcomings. I had a kid one time, 5th grade, who did not turn in any homework. When his parents came in to see the principal and me about his Es, his father rifled through the mess under his desk, fished out a paper, shook it in the air and said, “All she had to do was look here!” No. One hundred million percent not okay. Students are responsible for turning in their own work. Period. Responsibility is a life skill; teach your kid to own their mistakes. Again, life skill.
  5. Let. Them. Fail. It’s not the end of the world if Junior forgets their homework or forgets to study for the test. It will be okay, they will learn. Stop saving them; it will help them stand on their own two feet. Don’t make excuses for them. I once had a dad who caved and did his 5th grader’s homework for him because he cried if he didn’t understand it. I asked him if he would be doing his child’s calculus in high school. On the other hand, do encourage them! Ask them about school, what projects they have, tests, grades. Ask them about their day. Do you have a kid who won’t talk about it? Email the teacher! We’ll be happy to fill you in.
  6. Don’t take a phone call from your gynecologist and have a conversation about vaginal suppositories during a Parent-Teacher Conference. Seriously. I cannot scrub that from my brain and it’s been about eight years. Just… no. Not kidding.

We know your kids aren’t perfect, mine definitely aren’t. Youngest and Middle Child had some “fun” school moments last year, oy, but we learned from it. In my case, I need to check ParentConnect more often. Teachers don’t expect kids to be little angels, but for a child to have a successful year, we need the cooperation and help from you, the parents. It’s a partnership.

It’s more important than you’ll ever know.

Have a great school year!

 

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Everyone has hobbies, right? We need hobbies to explore our passions, to relax, to stay sane in a crazy world. Normal ones, weird ones, who cares? As long as your hobby doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, they’re fine. My hobbies include writing (duh), reading, history, theatre, music, travel. sewing/crochet, running, my garden (when it’s not a million degrees outside), and learning about the supernatural. It’s safe to say that I have a lot of interests and that I’m always busy.

Now, you may look at one or more of my hobbies and wonder why the heck I’m interested in that. Maybe, God forbid, history bored you to tears as a kid or the thought of running anywhere makes you anxious. Whatever the reason, you probably don’t share all of my interests and that’s okay. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things.

A hobby that I have trouble understanding is maintaining the perfect lawn. I just don’t get it. My lawn is green and made up of a lot of different things: clover, dandelions, a bit of grass, and some other unidentifiable stuff. I mow it once it week and that’s the extent of my lawn care. Some of my neighbors have beautiful meticulous lawns and they spend a lot of time and care to make them look that way, but I can’t see myself doing that.

Another hobby I don’t get is watching sports. My husband and sons love to watch football and baseball throughout the year. I would rather watch paint dry, unless it’s an important U of M game. Then, it’s a matter of principle. They love it when I have rehearsal because that means they can watch whatever game is on that night. It’s just not my thing.

So, what are some hobbies that you could not see yourself doing? Rock climbing? Skydiving? Fishing? Now I don’t mean things that harm others or the environment, just ordinary hobbies that you are most definitely not interested in. Don’t be shy, put it in the comments.

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Last February, I signed up for a work conference that was to be held this past week. Admittedly, part of the reason I signed up was because it was in downtown Detroit at the Cobo Center. I get weirdly excited anytime I have a reason to hang out downtown or in midtown. I have a strong attachment to the city where I was born, in a small hospital on Tuxedo Street, and it’s such a treat to explore.

I live about 15-20 minutes from the heart of downtown, depending on the traffic and I don’t get there nearly enough. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love big cities and Detroit, while not as big as some, is no exception. They’re so busy, the energy is so high, and there’s always something going on. I can’t explain it, but I love it. I love the country, too, but for different reasons and I’m ready to leave after a few days, but I haven’t gotten tired of being in a big city yet.

There’s so much history, the architecture of the older buildings is so beautiful. Detroit has a wonderful collection of skyscrapers and other buildings that have gorgeous Art Deco designs and decorations that mix in with the modern, like the Fisher Building and the Fox Theatre. And construction isn’t finished! A new skyscraper is going up on the site of the old Hudson’s building in addition to the new (delayed) construction that’s going up in the midtown area next to the new Little Caesar’s Arena, better known as the LCA, where the Red Wings and The Pistons play, just down the street, literally, from the Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Lions’ Ford Field. And let’s not forget the beautiful Detroit Riverwalk where you can watch freighters and pleasure boats pass between you and Windsor, Canada on the other side. Couple that with dozens of restaurants and cool bars and you’ll never run out of things to do.

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A view of the Detroit River and Windsor from Detroit’s Cobo Center.

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Honoring Detroit as part of the Underground Railroad in Hart Plaza.

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Assorted skyscrapers

 

I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I bought into the ideology that Detroit was a terrible place, nothing but blight and run by corruption, a virtual hellhole. Like many ideologies that people buy into, this one was false and fear-based. I was taught those things and believed them because I was afraid of things I had heard, not because they had merit. Now, the blight and corruption do exist, especially in some of the neglected neighborhoods, but Detroit with all of her imperfections, is beautiful. I learned that by actually going there and doing things, not staying secluded in the suburbs.

I don’t mean to downplay the bad things; I’ve seen some of Detroit’s problems firsthand. I once dated a guy who lived in southwest Detroit, in one of those gorgeous old houses with a huge front porch. One lovely summer night, not long after we began dating, we were sitting out on the porch when I thought I heard fireworks. His dad stood up and said, “Honey, those aren’t fireworks and it’s time to go inside.” I’ve stood next to a crazed addict in a rage at a corner store while trying to buy coffee creamer for intermission at the Hilberry Theatre and have been yelled at by a prostitute who thought I was elbowing in on her territory when my car broke down in Delray. (Once she realized that my car broke down, however, she made sure to get me somewhere safe, then asked me for money, which I gave.) I’ve been lost driving in neighborhoods full of burned out and abandoned buildings where it would be foolish to roll the windows down and avoided rats as big as small cats. I used to teach Detroit students at a charter school and some of those kids had seen and experienced things that no child should. I see the stories on the news every night of violence and theft, of shootings and murder and rape and I pray. Detroit definitely has it’s troubles, there’s no denying that.

But I also see the wonderful things: the activists, the Detroit men who band together to mentor children with absent fathers and to protect women who walk alone, the Angel Night volunteers who have put a serious dent in the number of arson fires that used to be so prevalent the night before Halloween, the absolute talent that is fostered and nurtured in schools like Cass Tech, where students thrive in spite of drug deals going on just a block away. I see the crowds that gather for clean-up days, cutting grass, hauling old tires and abandoned appliances away, revitalizing playgrounds. I see the initiative to fix and install streetlights to help deter crime, the abandoned houses being either restored or torn down. I see the missions in full force, like Focus Hope, Gleaners, and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen who help thousands of people every year. I see growth and I see hope.

Of course, Detroit has it’s issues. What big city doesn’t? Detroit has had to come back from the white flight in the 1950s and 60s, the riots of 1967, racism and extreme political corruption, as recently as when Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor in the early 2000s, but Detroit bounces back. It rebuilds, it changes, and it thrives in spite of it all. The city’s heart continues to beat strongly, no matter how many hits it takes.

I took time this week to just stand at the river and watch, letting it soak into my bones, reflecting on how much it has changed in the last 318 years since Cadillac landed on these shores. I always feel my best when I’m near water. It gives me peace. I took advantage of the long lunch times to walk the streets, joining the downtown bustle of working people hurrying to and fro, absorbing the energy. I gave 75 cents to a man who wanted to get home to Inkster. (It’s all I had on me.) I watched families push strollers down the Riverwalk and saw the same philosophical homeless man sitting outside of the parking garage three days in a row, his spot, and took it all in.

It was sad when the conference was over yesterday afternoon, not because of the conference itself (although it was a really good one), but because I wouldn’t get to be in the midst of that every day. I did make a promise to myself, however, that I would get down there more, for no other reason than I want to be there, in the city. My city. I am a Metro Detroiter and proud of it.

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The Ambassador Bridge to Canada, taken from the Riverwalk.

 

 

 

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So, I wrote this article and it got published!!!

Here it is: https://introvertdear.com/news/yes-introverts-can-be-actors/

For those who don’t know, Introvert Dear is a site geared toward introverts. They publish articles on a variety of related topics. Mine just happens to be about being an introverted actor.

I hope you enjoy it and the other wonderful articles on the site. Spend some time there; I do.

 

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It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, but hopefully all is back to normal now.

Just to give you a brief overview. Two weeks ago Thursday, I noticed that my shower was barely lukewarm. Ugh. We called in the company that had installed it 5 1/2 years ago. The technician came out, took one look at it, and said. “Uh oh. It’s no good.” I asked what he meant and he explained that there was a leak on the inside. Even worse, our warranty had Just. Run. Out. Of course it did. Sigh.

We set up a time the next day to replace it. The guys came out, did the job, and we thought all was well until we all got home from the theatre that night. When we opened the front door, we were greeted by a rush of natural gas. We got Middle Child out of the house and called the gas company right away. We must have been a sight, all out in the front yard at 10:30 at night, our neighbor cats winding around our ankles trying to play. The gas company came out, saw that we had a leak, and shut it off, telling us to call the other company in the morning.

Long story short, the leak did not get fixed the next day; we needed the pipes replaced. Our awesome neighbor hooked us up with a handyman who was able to come out Tuesday morning, which meant a few days of cold showers. Back up just a bit, though. Did I tell you that the power went out Saturday night? Yep. Good times. No air, no gas. The only utility we had was cold water. Luckily, my mother-in-law graciously let us bring our laundry over (and DID it for us) and our other awesome neighbors let me heat up water on their grill so that I could wash the dishes. It was hot, humid, and dark for a couple of nights. We took cold showers just to feel better. Of course, Marty had just gone grocery shopping, so we eventually added that cost to our losses with the exception of a big ham that hadn’t completely thawed in the freezer.

The power came back on Monday night, yay, and the handyman arrived early Tuesday morning to fix the line. (If you live in my area and need a handyman job done, message me and I’ll pass hi name along.) Marty, Youngest Child and I were leaving for Niagara Falls that morning, so my mother-in-law stepped in again to be there for the repairs. Middle Child stayed home because of work so he had a few more days of cold showers because one of the homeowners needed to be there when the gas was turned back on. We wouldn’t have risked it with him home alone anyway.

We got home Friday afternoon, called the gas company, and they eventually got there to turn it on. In the meantime, we noticed that it was rather warm in the house, even though the air conditioner was running. The problem was that it was blowing room temperature air, not cold air. I was really feeling at this point that the house was rebelling against us. I mean, come on! We called a different heating and cooling company to come and see what was going on. Apparently, the power coming back on had either created or worsened an existing leak and instead of the normal 70 PSI, our 30-year-old unit had 7. It would be a huge cost to fix it and it was easier to replace it. So, we chose a new unit and waited a few more days for it to be installed.

Truthfully, I grew up without air conditioning and we spent the first five years of our marriage without it, but I always hated summer. I mean, really and truly hated it. The kind of hate reserved for mortal enemies. Summer was much worse than winter. The sweat, the heaviness of the air, the stickiness of the air, not sleeping, general grossness. With air conditioning, summer and I have a truce; I always have an escape. Without air, misery ensues.

That brings us to this morning. The new company was here right on time and spent a little over five hours getting rid of our old air conditioner and installing the new, fancy-schmancy one. There was only one more attack of the house when the internet went out today, but that proved to be a simple fix handled over the phone. The period of house rebellion is, hopefully, over.

At this point, we have air, (hot) water, electricity, gas, and internet. Life is good, even if our credit card debt just went up tremendously. (The Big Red Eye will have to be mostly off-limits for a long time and I’ll be sending articles out left and right to make a little extra money.) I have rarely felt more relieved and blessed. I freely admit that I take it all for granted; we think these things will always be here but the truth is that they can go at any time. It made me really think about those who have no choice but to do without, who don’t have the credit to get things fixed or a home to go to. We are truly one of the lucky ones.

In the meantime, we’re going to make the house watch Dr. Phil for awhile.

God is good.

All the time.

 

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If you haven’t heard, it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. I am all about sharks; I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid when I read Shark Lady, a book about the life of Dr. Eugenie Clark. (She was amazing, by the way, and wrote two books of her own, Lady With a Spear and The Lady and the Sharks.)

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After reading Shark Lady, I discovered everything I could about sharks, wanting to become an ichthyologist. I’d come home from the library with piles of books about sharks, an obsession not shared by anyone else in my family, then and now. My favorites are still the great white shark and the mako, both huge and aggressive. I also love the whale shark, the biggest fish in the ocean. It has no teeth, only baleen to filter for tiny prey, and is so docile that it doesn’t seem to mind when divers want to swim along beside it.

Eventually, I gave up on being an ichthyologist but not on my fascination with this top predator. I still want to swim with them someday. Not only are they super-cool, but they’re really important to the ecosystem. Unfortunately, they’re also endangered due to fishing, both of them and their food sources, and global warming. That’s where Shark Week comes in.

Sure, Shark Week is ultra-hyped, but it also educates us about these amazing creatures. Jaws, while a wonderful book and movie, is truly a work of fiction and gave people the wrong impression about sharks, something that the author, Peter Benchley, regrets tremendously. He has since devoted a lot of time, money, and energy to educating people about what sharks are really like. (For example, they don’t form vendettas against small town sheriffs. They don’t have vendettas, at least I don’t think so. You know who I would have a vendetta against if I were a shark? Fishermen. But I digress,) Shark Week does involve a lot of the entertainment aspect, but it highlights an animal that deserves our respect.

See how cute they are?

underwater photography of black fishImage result for great white shark images freeAdmittedly, they’re not terribly snuggly, but there’s something ancient and elegant about them. They deserve our respect, so educate yourself.

Do yourself a favor a watch Shark Week on Discovery through this weekend. Oh, and read Shark Lady. It’s a life-changer.

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We just got back from a short vacation, three days. Originally, we had planned on taking a longer vacation, an Oceans and Dead People Tour Part II. (See my Oceans and Dead People Tour blog from a year ago to know what that was all about.) We were going to go down to Maryland and Washington D.C., stopping at Gettysburg on the way back, but due to several reasons, we decided on something shorter: Niagara Falls and Cooperstown, New York.

Niagara Falls has changed a bit from when I was there as a kid. It’s way more built up with touristy stuff: casinos, Hard Rock Cafe, Rain Forest Cafe, the Hershey Store, which I sadly did not go to because we ran out of time. To be fair, I really only remember the museum where I saw the mummy (see last post) so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I remember it being a lot less busy.

What was amazing to me, though, was the diversity of people who were there. I can’t count how many different languages I heard: Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, Arabic, just to name a few. Everyone was happy, taking pictures, having picnics, blowing bubbles, taking pictures, and having a wonderful time. I know it’s a tourist destination, but I couldn’t help wishing it could be like this all over the world, all the time. One can hope.

Niagara was amazing. I didn’t appreciate it as a kid, but just look at the power of the Falls:

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The edge of the Horseshoe Falls

I can’t post a video because I don’t have a premium plan on WordPress, but watching those millions of gallons constantly flowing over and down just grounded me for a while. I could quite literally sit there and watch it all day if there weren’t so many other people around. I felt at peace.

Taking the Maid of the Mist ride the next day was really cool. The boat goes almost right to the bottom of the falls and everyone gets wet, which feels great on a warm day. Cool little droplets of water sprayed and attached themselves to everything, so I tucked my phone away in the provided poncho when we got really close. The poncho is to keep your clothes dry and you can either keep or recycle it after the ride. We chose to keep ours as souvenirs.

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Taken from the rock trail along the American Falls

Leaving Niagara, we made our way via the New York Thruway, I-90, which is a toll road. Some people aren’t fans of toll roads, but I am. They’re usually in better shape than the regular interstates and I LOVE the service plazas. For those that don’t know, service plazas have large restrooms, a couple of fast food restaurants for food choices, perhaps a gift shop, and a gas station all in the same place, no getting off on a regular exit and driving between food and gas stations, hoping for a semi-decent restroom and negotiating traffic to get back on the freeway. Service plazas put it all in one spot and for someone like me who appreciate convenience, they’re a gem on a long road trip. Oh! And they have massage chairs. Three minutes of heaven for $1.00. Sidenote: I-90 is parallel to the Erie Canal Heritage Corridor, which is a lot longer than I thought. I grew up singing, “I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”, and for some reason, I never thought it was as long as it is, which is 362.9 miles. Now you’ve learned something new.

We made our way to Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, nestled in the beautiful rolling mountains of the Adirondacks and the Catskills. I can’t tell you much about the Hall of Fame, except that I thought it would be bigger. I almost drove right past it while dropping Marty and Youngest Child at the entrance. They told me all about it later. They saw plaques, baseball cards, and other stuff, like uniforms. That’s all I’ve got.

As for me, I found a delightful lake, Otsego Lake, to be exact. I had dropped off my family and turned down a side street only to drive right up to a staircase that led to the lake. It was surrounded by small mountains and was crystal clear. After a man and his dog moved on, I was the only one there and it was so calming, so lovely. I took off my sandals and waded in. It was rocky and surprisingly warm, but it centered me for a few minutes before I moved on. Here ’tis:

After my wow moment at Lake Otswago, I made my way to the Farmer’s Museum, also in Cooperstown. It’s like a small Greenfield Village, except that all of the buildings are all from New York. The highlight of my trip was seeing the little Jersey calf, Parsnip, who was born in March. Cows aren’t my favorite barnyard animal, but those big brown eyes were gorgeous. The Farmer’s Museum also has the famous Cardiff Giant, a famous hoax perpetrated in 1869. Here’s a link to the story if you’re interested: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/cardiff-giant-was-just-big-hoax-180965274/

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Parsnip

It was also at the Farmer’s Museum that I had a spooky happening. I was in the doctor’s office alone (I had sprinted to get ahead of the senior bus tour). There were only two rooms and no second floor. The first room felt kind of charged, like someone was there and when I walked into the second room, I heard three very loud distinct steps on the wooden floor behind me in the first room. I turned quickly, in case one of those seniors was faster than I thought, but there was no one there. Hmmmm… Here’s the spooky doctor’s office:

We began driving back the next day, stopping in Dunkirk, NY on the shore of Lake Erie for the night. It was the same motel we stopped at last year on the way home from Salem and we liked being right on the water for a reasonable price. It’s not a great part of town, but the hotel area feels safe. Plus, the sunsets there are gorgeous.

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Lake Erie, Dunkirk, NY

Yesterday, we came home, processing all of the new things we saw and the adventures we had. We settled in, unpacked, took the dirty clothes downstairs, and relaxed. Life was back to normal. (Well, almost. Our house is rebelling against us, but more on that in another post. Let’s just say it’s hot in here.)

Travel is good for the soul, even the short trips. Next year, though, I want the ocean again.

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