retro writing (on twitter).

I'm twittering (twattering, tweetering, whatever) more. I started an account there in 2009(ish) when it first went viral, because I always wanted to be THE "AtlantaAmy" somewhere, and this was my big opportunity! And even though there were only 10 other users on Twitter at that point (not really, but seriously, it was practically desert over there still), I discovered somebody already had THE "AtlantaAmy." What? So I had to go with "Atlanta_Amy." Honestly, just how many Amys in Atlanta are there? If I were more competitive I'd have offered to arm wrestle over it. I would like to be THE AtlantaAmy.

So the thing sat for 2 years, and then I tweeted because 2 years later, EVERYbody was suddenly doing it.  (I like to be part of the group.) I half-heartedly tried to get into it, because you know: Social Media, so why not. But I just didn't get it. I didn't get twitter. I still don't understand it, quite frankly--I mean, I get the actual tweet your brain spew part, I'm all about spewing brains out over the internet. But I don't get the purpose of retweets (and now you can either just retweet or quote--this is just DOUBLING my confusion, Twitter), and the whole @reply thing simply feels completely unnatural to me. Is the @reply thing supposed be like a big "HEY YOU!" shout? Or what is that? Why? Can't I just stick a quiet, "hi, how are you?" message on their twitter page?

Which is why I'm more facebook-y. I get Facebook--you type up a status, and then people comment under it with their reactions/thoughts, or they just give you a big thumbs up like Ebert & Roper only one thumb. That's just like this blog: I type an entry, and then nobody comments but on Facebook they do. (I promise, 5 people read this blog and they always either hit LIKE on Facebook or leave me a nice comment on Facebook.) (Hi, Mom!)

But I love reading what other people have to say and twitter is pretty fast at getting the news out. And also I have this deep people pleasing desire to be part of the group, so I'm twittering (or whatever) more. ...I suppose I should learn how to say it right (I'm pretty sure it's tweet...tweeting...tweeted...tweetered...tweetish), but the word "tweeting" feels so dumb to say. Or type. Though, to be fair, I go around talking about "friending" and "unfriending" people, so...damn it, Social Media! You're mucking up English!

The biggest complaint I have about Twitter is its 140 character limit. This complaint is multi-layered:

1-I'd like to firmly disagree with having the @reply thing and/or the retweeted or shared website link characters count toward the 140 twitter tweet limit. We ONLY get 140 characters of space. If I'm sharing someone else's tweet/link or whatever, then that leaves me with even LESS character space to type my thoughts. And if I have to go back in with 10 other tweets to type my thoughts about the link I just retweeted/shared, this seems to defeat the purpose of the 140 character tweet limit.

Occupy Twitter, is where I'm starting to be at on this...I'm about to start a formal sit-in protest downtown,demanding the @reply thing and web link characters not count in the 140 character limit. Or increase the space. Power to the tweet!

2-This lack of 140 character space is really effing with my inner humorless English teacher. When I tweeted to Jason Isaacs the other day, I had to type the letter "u" instead of the word "you" to make my whole message fit. And it wasn't even the WHOLE message I wanted to put. He got, like, the watered down version which made it only half as entertainingly odd as it could have been. You have no idea how painful it was for me, no idea. I had to take a lot of deep breaths when I typed that "u." And I have to use the ampersand (&) sign a lot.

3-Plus, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I'm a tad wordy when I write. It's always been a problem. Which is why I'm probably so worked up about this 140 character limit thing. 10 billion other twitter users seem just fine with it. Me? I'm painting outraged picket signs for the march, shaking my fists at the scabs trying to cross the line.

Bright side? I've discovered twitter's "keep it brief" policy has forced me to be conservative with my word choice. But goddamn it, there are so! many! awesome! words to use. Don't they understand?? (sigh)

Anyway. Here's a 4 part micro-story I posted to Twitter today. You get the wordier version, because the Twitter Character Police aren't around right now:


She took all the journeys she'd never take and placed them at the bottom of a deep, dark drawer as far back as she possibly could.

On Friday, she locked the drawer and buried its key in the garden. First under the rose bushes, then next to the oak, but nothing felt quite right.

By Monday morning, she'd resigned to wearing the key on a silver chain, feeling its coldness dangle between her breasts now and then, hoping to find her courage again some day.

She knew that, if she dared, she could unlock the drawer some day, tug out its dreams,and dance with them under the moon somewhere wild and ancient.


Did not even have to use one single ampersand here. They're all over that 4 part story on my twitter page. That's why blogging is way better.

In other news, I am obsessed (obsessed) with 70's/80s songs. I wish I could tell you why, but even I struggle to understand the inner workings of my soul. I've downloaded hundreds of these songs to my phone, and I'm on the hunt for some flared jeans, a polyester disco outfit, and some leg warmers. May I kindly suggest the following songs to help create your own retro 70s/80s Summer Experience?

*Anything by Donna Summer, but specifically Hot Stuff and I Feel Love
*Anything by Bob Marley, but specifically Stir It Up, Concrete Jungle, and 3 Little Birds
*Anything by The Eagles, but specifically Hotel California, Take It Easy, and Take It To The Limit
*Anything by Lynyrd Skynyrd but specifically Freebird, Sweet Home Alabama, and Simple Man
*Anything by Boz Scaggs but specifically Lowdown and Lido Shuffle
*Anything by Marvin Gaye but specifically Mercy Mercy Me, How Sweet It Is, Let's Get It On, I Want You, Me & Mrs Jones, and Got To Give It Up....on second thought, just go download all the Marvin Gaye songs.
*Get Back by The Beatles
*Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts
*My Sharona by The Knack
*Alcohol and Lola by The Kinks

Then, of course, there's The Bee Gees & ABBA. Anything by them is good by the pool or beach or at a barbecue. And don't forget Barry Manilow! (Because I was supposed to marry him when I was 7.) (I would not marry him now; he's had one too many plastic surgeries.)

For the rest of today, I'll be sorting my 70s/80s music into categories. It's so I don't have to fold laundry. Happy Summer, y'all.


stalker ghosts.

Fear got to me. I took down my ten confessions blog because I looked at my statcounter after work today and saw someone from the school district had been reading it. Aagh! No no no. (Heads need roofs and all that.)

But then I got mad. Because damn it, this is how I feel and I'm entitled to my opinions. What's going on in education today is not okay. It's NOT okay. And nobody seems to be listening to the foot soldiers in the trenches. So I did a slight bit of editing and then re-published it. (Here, I am singing Let it Go! Let it Go! Don't hold back anymore-ore-ore!) (Thank god for Disney songs, you know?)

Hey! Do you want to hear two stories? I have two stories. One is about stalkers and one is about ghosts, which are kind of like stalkers only friendlier:

Story 1: Stalkers are Gigantic Jackasses.
I have a statcounter on this page. The reason I have a statcounter is because about 11 years ago, I started blogging. I started blogging for many reasons, but the most important thing is that I started blogging. Eleven years ago, blogs were still sort of newish. I'd tell people I had a blog, and they'd go: "A what?? Is that like a big log? A blog? Or are you saying bog? Or dog?"

Nowadays, practically everyone has a blog. Moms have blogs, dads have blogs, kids have blogs, grandmas have blogs, dogs have blogs, gerbils have blogs. But 11 years ago, blogs were kind of like the wild frontier (sort of) of the Internet, and I was headed west. The problem was that I was very naive about blogs, the internet, and human beings in general.

Want to know a secret about me? Mostly, I remain naive about human beings (it never ever fails to shock me when someone I thought was super duper nice and awesome turns out to be malicious--I'd love to think I can suss out someone's character right away, but the sad truth is that I like people; I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, and if we could all just sit around on long summer evenings singing Kumbayah, I'd be pretty dang happy). I give people 10, 12, 500 chances--well beyond their expiration dates--when they eff up. Because I want to live in a world where people take care of each other, and don't judge, and we're gentle with one another's hearts. (Kumbayah my lord....kumbayah....)

Which is why, 11 years ago, it never occurred to me that someone nefarious might be reading my blog. I'd accrued a following of a whopping 10 people or so--they commented on my stuff, I commented on theirs, etc and so forth. So when I wrote, I wrote to those people: my fans, my tribe, my very astute and totally good taste audience. And I practically drew them a map: here's where I get my hair done, here's my favorite supermarket, here's where I work, here's where I LIVE... come visit me, anytime! Bring duct tape and a hacksaw.

And sure enough, somebody did. Somebody showed up on my (internet) doorstep with his duct tape and a hacksaw. He was going by a mysteriously stupid (I won't repeat here in case he finds me again) internet name...oh, I'll just call him Jackass; that's fairly close to what he called himself anyway. And Jackass's big problem was that (a) he was a Christian fundamentalist and (b) I'd dared to use the gender pronoun "she" when making reference to God in a slew of my blog postings. (Because it's a well documented and scientifically proven fact that God has a penis, of course.)

He also didn't like the fact I wrote about hanging out with my friends. Teachers should go home, put on their appropriate, ankle-length Victorian flannel nightgowns, and sit by the fire with their knitting, an open Bible, and a little cuppa tea. Not go out to restaurants and be silly with girlfriends.

So he threatened to get me fired. I asked him not to do that, but also let him know I didn't think he could. So Jackass stepped up the crazy, set up a very scary blog filled with violent Biblical passages (the Bible: a disturbing piece of literature), and, in a psychotically detailed manner, outlined exactly what he'd like to do to me (slitting a lamb's throat over my unclothed body and then doing dastardly, unwanted things to me in lamb's blood were just part of it all). Because that's EXACTLY what Jesus would do, SO rape-y, that Jesus. I'm sure Jesus' mom Mary would be so proud as well.

I know when to wave the white flag; I'm not dense. So I deleted that blog, blocked his email, and stayed the hell off the internet for a good year, year and a half.

I still get mad when I think about it though. Stalkers make me so mad because seriously. Who are you? Who are you to threaten someone? Who are you to try to have that kind of control over another human being? Stalkers are perfect, stupid examples of how humanity is entirely more than capable of screwing itself off a perfectly good planet.

At any rate, now I have a statcounter. It logs IP addresses, just in case Jackass or his inbred cousins come back; next time I'll go to the police, I suppose. I don't know what the police could do for me, but I don't think stalking is okay.

But the statcounter also freaked me out today, because I do still need a day job even if I completely disagree with how they're doing public education right now. Until I publish my book and Hollywood options it, it gets greenlit, and 200 Hollywood A-listers all appear in the film and Oscar nominations come flooding in, I have bills to pay. (You know that's the only way to strike it rich with a writing career, yes? Yes, you do now. Ask the Twilight series chick--she's still reeling from the heady unreality of it all.)

Story #2: Ghosts Hate Reality TV.

Story number two is for my friend Patresa. Patresa and I met via the blog that Jackass found. Patresa is an amazingly talented human being and a freakishly lovely rock star of a woman (AND she's got great hair!) who I admire and love tremendously. She's a storyteller, too, both in words and music, of the best variety. You can visit her HERE on the internet. She's brilliant. But more importantly, she believes in ghosts and likes ghost stories, and I happen to have one (she demanded, on facebook, that I tell her the story...and so here it is, all for YOU, P-licious!):

It was a dark and stormy night, and Savannah's ghosts were restless. We'd come, a group of eight of us, married and exhausted, to find respite from life's demands...

No! Wait, I'm sorry. That's so 19th century over the top. I'll just cut to the chase: some friends & I went to Savannah for a girls' getaway weekend, about 4 years ago and I got to interact with a ghost.

We stayed in a 100+ year old renovated church. It was lovely. The only problem was, about 3:30 AM, someone would walk down the stairs...and never walk back up.

So here's the thing about this travel girl group: in that group, there are skeptics and believers about ghosts, but we all agree: ghost hunts are fun! And we picked to visit Savannah one summer because, quite frankly, you can't get more haunted in America than Savannah, GA.

On one of our last nights there, I was exhausted. I went to bed early while everyone else stayed up scaring the crapping bejeesus out of each other. I'd gallantly volunteered to sleep on a pullout bed in the sunroom, right underneath a creepy painting with THIS oogy guy staring down at me all night:

That horn to the right probably belongs to Lucifer.

So you'll  understand if I was a bit nervous before falling asleep. In addition, I'm a notorious insomniac, so that didn't help.

But that night, for some odd reason, I was just utterly exhausted, and I didn't care. I flipped Man in the Yellow Hat the bird, and went right to sleep...until 1:45 AM, that is, when I was woken by a loud crash. I laid there, startled...and then it happened AGAIN (do do do!). Well, that was it, readers. I tried to go to back to sleep, but Yellow Hat Man was staring at me with his Beelzebub eyes, and when I heard that! That second crash! Oh. Em. Gee!!! That!  THAT was something! Oh my god, did everyone else NOT hear those sounds?? Why are they still asleep?!? For the love of holy, those are the kinds of sounds that send everybody on Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Paranormal Activity, and the Exorcist all running right into the poltergeist portal area of the house!!!

So I got up, went into the living room (turning on every single light in the downstairs area), and sat on the sofa. With the TV on. My friend S had a coughing fit about 10 minutes later, came out of her bedroom for some water, and saw me sitting--very very bug-eyed, please know--on the sofa. Desperately trying to distract myself with an episode of Bridezillas (it's all that's on, at 2 in the morning...Bridezillas, infomercials, and Fox "News." Bridezilla reality brides seemed to be the most honest choice of all three of those).

"What are you doing??" she asked.
"Did you not hear that?" I whispered in a "I see ghosts!" kind of voice.
"Hear what?"
"That...that...CRASH. That was SOMETHING."

(S is one of our skeptics, so this highly amused her, and she went into a coughing fit again.) Recovered, she said, "Oh my god, no. No, Amy! That wasn't a ghost. We were making fun of M, R, and H before we all went to bed, and so C got her shampoo bottle and dropped it from the laundry shoot upstairs after she thought they were about to fall asleep."

The second crash was C making sure M,R, and H heard the first crash. So, no ghost. Just a trickster Skeptic. Frickin' skeptics.

So S got her water, trotted off back to bed, but I was done. Insomnia had set in, and there'd be little sleep for me that night. I watched Bridezillas, an incredibly stupid show about women competing to lose 10+ pounds before their wedding, and Say Yes to the Dress. And I did ponder in my heart on doing a research project about why women are so obsessed with marriage and getting a man, and my feminist heart wept quite a lot that night, wee into the early hours of a gray, Savannah morning. Susan B. Anthony would be outraged if she knew. Those women are exactly what the 19th amendment didn't want to see happen.

Then, about 3:00 AM....stuff....started to happen. That's all I can say to describe it: just, STUFF. Started to happen. Weird pops, lots of creaks, strange rustlings. Thank god for electric lights! Thank god for them. I turned up the television louder. Ghosts hate that you know. I'm pretty sure loud TVs make them run away.

About quarter to four AM, I suddenly heard an old lady's voice say (in the doorway of the kitchen) in a sort of irritated, what-the-hell-is-going-on-here?? kind of way:  "Hello? Hello?!?" And then that was it. All the noises stopped, and nobody ever materialized. And I finally fell asleep, funnily enough. (I had a nightmare about an evil bridesmaid in a yellow hat.)

I've told this story to several skeptics. The reaction I get is typically (a) maybe you thought you were awake, but you'd actually fallen asleep and dreamt the whole thing, (b) are you SURE it wasn't something off the tv?, or (c) have you been checked out for schizophrenia?

Listen you people: I was awake, it wasn't the tv (Bridezillas are simply not as polite as my old lady), and I haven't been checked out for schizophrenia, but I'm pretty sure my brother inherited that, not me. In addition, the voice wasn't in my head, it was outside of my head. As if someone (an invisible someone) was standing in the doorway speaking to me. Clear as a bell. Sure as death. As reliable as a politician turning up for a an all-expenses paid golf resort trip with a group of lobbyists in the Caribbean.

We named her Edna. And we spoke friendly words to her for the rest of our stay that weekend: "Hey, Edna! How'd you sleep?" "Want a glass of wine, Edna?" "Edna, did you just take my last tampon? Bad form, lady! Not cool!"

 The End.

(Oh wait! Also: this one time, when I was living in Yuma, Arizona, a friend won front row tickets to see The Who at The Staples Center in LA and I went with her. We spent the night at a really cheap motel right outside Anaheim, and in the middle of the night, I woke up to see a man in a trench coat hunched over something. He was sitting at the foot of my bed, and for some reason, I just KNEW he had a gun between  his legs and was about to pull the trigger. I certainly didn't want to see THAT, so I yanked the covers up over my head and begged God not to let the ghost in a trench coat get up to lean over me or anything or, Jesus Christ!, touch me with a dead finger! And I went back to sleep. I have no idea how I went back to sleep, but somehow I did. Actually, I think I may have just fainted from terror and woken up when sunlight hit my eyelids.)

Ghosts. They walk amongst us, sometimes down stairs like these:

But stalkers are scarier.


fear zones.

It's really hard for me not to delete the entry below this one. First of all, I feel like I'm whining in it (I hate it when I whine). Second of all, I'm terrified of what I put out there. But then again, terror isn't necessarily a BAD thing, right? Terror is good; it's usually a solid indication you're stretching way beyond your comfort zone. Which is soul growth, I think. It's probably good to terrify yourself at least once per year, preferably more. Unless, I suppose, you put yourself into a situation where you're being chased down by a bunch of Walking Dead zombies or blood thirsty vampires. That terror may be the kind to avoid. Also: running with bulls in Madrid or swimming in bloody waters with a bunch of frenzied sharks. Be smart in your self terror endeavors. Is my motto.

You know who else is terrified right now? My sweet little Miss Melissa. I was getting dressed this morning and heard her sobbing in the living room. So I went in, and saw her lying face down, prone, on the floor, absolutely inconsolable.

"What's wrong??" I asked.
"I want to be her again!" she wailed, pointing at last year's school picture of herself.
"What? Why??"
"Because I'm growing up too, too fast! I don't want to grow up. I want to be little and be your little girl forever."

That is one bad case of the Peter Pans, I'd say.

So we talked it out, and I assured her that even when she's 80-something and I'm 100-whatever, she'll still be my little girl. And we made a good, long list of all the things she couldn't do last year that she can do this year, and another sizeable list of the things she can't do this year that she'll be able to do next year. Did I mention she's already losing her first tooth?

Just between you and me, this growing up roller coaster does need to slow down. I didn't tell her, but I don't want her to grow up either, and sometimes I watch her sleep at night and all I can see is me standing in her bedroom with her tiny little sleeping body in my arms when she was 3 or so weeks old. And my favorite year was when she was 2. Two was such an incredible, chockablock-full-of-stinking-cute year, and I miss it a lot.

I'm trying to figure out a way to get to the Red Clay Writer's Conference in Savannah, GA this October. I have a good writerly friend who may be able to go, which makes it less intimidating. And Savannah has some lovely places to rent that aren't that expensive--old houses filled with memories (and ghosts) (no, seriously! ghosts are real...I've talked to one. Or, rather, one talked at me. Long story. And true! Don't look at me like that...it happened). Savannah, Georgia is probably one of my most favorite American cities of all time. If you haven't been, I insist that you go there as soon as possible. The people are quirky, ghosts are everywhere, and the Spanish moss alone will make you feel just like you stepped right into midnight in the garden of good and evil.

Basically, what I'm saying is I'm feeling a need to stretch and grow, just like my kid. And there's a big part of me that just wants to sob, lying prone on the floor next to her, and absolutely resist this. But I'm ready to expand, I think.

This evening, I tweeted one of my favorite actors. I'm so ridiculous--it's just the frickin' INTERNET, Amy. And I consulted a bunch of friends before I replied to his tweet--should I do it? what if he doesn't respond? (he won't respond.) i'm so intimidated! what do i do?? He probably won't see it or if he does, I shall be one of many. But it was huge and scary for me to hit "tweet." He's one of my heroes. (Remember? I'm so worried I'm bugging them or I'll look weird.)

But I'm expanding and doing things that are scary, so I sent it. And asked him to get Dobby some socks--I don't know why? (I don't read/watch Harry Potter movies; that was on behalf of a friend who, apparently, thinks Dobby needs socks? The actor is Jason Isaacs, who plays Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter, and I heart him because he's a consummate storyteller. You are a-okay in my book if you worry a lot about telling really good stories.) At any rate, i took a HUGE, deep breath and clicked tweet. And then I threw up. (Ha! No, I'm just kidding. I actually went and painted Melissa's toe nails--she's been on my back about it all day.) I let her know little babies can't get their nails painted, so it's good she's growing up...willfully choosing not to remember the 6? 9? month old baby I saw one day with painted fingernails. (Honestly, people. Why not just put wigs and stuff on them? Oh, right. Sigh.)

Edit/Update: Oh hahaha! I had no idea why in the world I was asked to ask Jason Isaacs/Lucius Malfoy to give Dobby the house elf socks. So I googled it. Well. I suppose there are worse ways to lose a house elf? Maybe? (sigh) Frickin' Harry Potter fans. Seriously.


ten confessions.

True confession #1: This blog post will have very little do with writing.

True confession #2: I'm not really happy being a teacher anymore.

True confession #3: I'm not sure I ever really was happy being a teacher.

True confession #4: It's terrifying to type that out loud.

True confession #5: It's terrifying because I have a mortgage to pay, a small child to raise, and a lot of Fear (note the capital F) in my current Day Job. Ask any public school teacher, and they'll tell you: morale is low these days, fear is high. Keep your mouth shut and do what you're told. No boat rocking allowed in the 21st century, because there are X number of cheaper, cuter, younger potential hires willing to have your job.

Here's the thing: I love kids. I got into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. I remember in many a conversation with my dad (a complicated but ridiculously loyal and dependable man with a penchant for doing research about anything and everything just for the sheer hell of it) I was told over and over: No matter where you go in the world or what you do, make sure you leave the place in the world just a little bit better than you found it. 

Over and over I was told this, until it became an ingrained part of my psyche. It's a part of who I am to be kind and compassionate, with a healthy sense of loyal responsibility, to be fully aware it's important to leave the tiny parcel of planet Earth I'm standing on a little better than how I found it.

True confession #6: Today, given the stuff going on in Public Education World, I'm really struggling with whether or not I'm leaving my planetary parcel better than how I found it. REALLY struggling. I love kids, a lot. I love their brains, and helping them with all their stupid kid problems (and believe me: kids have a lot of stupid problems. Every day on the playground, I have to deal with things like: "He told me I was playing tag wrong!" "No I didn't!" "Yes you did, you said I tagged you wrong!" "Nu uh." "Yes! Yes he did!" Which always ends in me saying something like, "Are you two serious, for real?? THIS is your biggest problem? You have no idea what a big problem is. You don't even pay taxes yet; go play hide-n-go seek and stop tagging each other.")

I love their stories, I love their hugs, I love their notes, I love sitting and talking to them and hearing the kid version of celebrity gossip ("X told me she thinks Mr. B is really cute! I bet she wants to marry him when she grows up!"). They just wrote me a bunch of End of the Year thank you letters with their Literacy teacher, and I shall cherish these forever and ever, amen. They were thankful for me because I read them Peter Pan, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlotte's Web, and Edward Tulane (2nd grade spelling version of that name: Ed Word To Lane). They loved that I always showed them the movie versions so they could contrast and compare. They REALLY loved the winter party I threw them (I must admit: I do throw a great party.)

They said thank you for always helping solve their problems (here's how I do it: I tell them about my tax bills and mortgage payments and credit card debt until they start weeping--I feel it's important to compare your problems to other people's problems so you understand what a real problem actually is). Several of the girls think I'm the prettiest teacher and many of the boys told me they like how kind I am. They like that I'm silly and funny and do the voices when I read stories. Six of them apologized for acting up all year and ten expressed deep regret for not getting me anything in return for all the fun stuff I bought them.

These are sweet children, and I am desperately worried about the 6 who acted up all year. These 6 were the bane of my existence, and I'm not afraid to say they probably know that. But I could see their hearts, and I told them this all the time as I was taking them downtown for whatever major/minor infraction that hour--I can see their sweet hearts, and I know this misbehavior stuff is not what they really want, or who they truly are.

I'm not sure what these 6 will do in their lives when they're grown ups. I had a lot of real talks with those 6, and all of my class. I wanted them to know the world is big and magical and beautiful, but it does get harder and harder as you grow up, and so you should do something with your life that lets you enjoy the beauty and the magic, but also you need a roof over your head and the government will be asking for a portion of whatever is left over after you pay for the roof so make sure you can afford that. And make sure you get along with others and follow directions, so you don't keep getting fired because they WILL fire you. And stay away from credit cards! Those are nothing but dark, dangerous coal mines with fire breathing dragons waiting at the bottom.

True confession #7:  Should I be having these talks with people who are 7 and 8? Holy crap, why am I having these talks with little kids??

Because Common Core says they need to already be thinking about their futures and which college they'll attend, that's why. At seven. SEV-en. What were you thinking about when you were 7? Do you remember? I do, and I can tell you it wasn't which University I'd go to; I was thinking about how dreamy Barry Manilow's eyes were, and which imaginary, dead historical figures would be in the audience during my Saturday matinee of The Wizard of Oz this weekend at The Bedroom Theatre.

Some times I feel I'm my dad talking to my 19 year old self who had been at Illinois State University for going on 2 years, was struggling with what major to pick, and had just expressed an interest in majoring in English with a minor in Theater. And I'm saying things like, "What are you going to do with that? Write television scripts for a living?" (Well, actually, uh, kind of, yes?) And: "Let me tell you about Hollywood, Amy." (Because my dad, with his degree in Political Science who parlayed that into managing a manufacturing plant for Corning, was an expert on Hollywood. Remember? Researcher: Paragraph 5 above.) "Let me tell you about Hollywood, Amy: Hollywood is where girls go to become waitresses or end up dead on the side of a road."

FYI: He never explained exactly how girls who go to Hollywood to be waitresses end up dead on the side of a road or, god knows, why he knew that. But I certainly had no desire to end up dead on the sides of any Los Angeles freeways, so I quietly put aside my writing/acting/theater dreams and thought about what else I could do that would keep me from ending up dead on a California road.

And here I am today, trying desperately not to crush anyone else's little dreams, but still feeling the need to warn them: Be careful what you do! Choose wisely. Don't be Me.

Because (True Confession #8): I feel like I'm in the wrong profession. But then, I don't know. Some days I feel like it's okay, and maybe I'm just in the wrong version of it. I don't know! I don't know! (I'm letting you in on some of my inner angst, things that give me occasional insomnia.) I do get to write every day. I get to do a lot of acting every day (not just with kids, either). I get to read all the time. I get to tell stories. I get to be highly bemused at the inner ramblings and workings of the Child Mind (a veritable amusement park, I assure you).

But I'm also under a lot of stress. I checked out on my own family more than once this year. I'm restless. And I'm doing things with and to children I don't agree with. The term "Educational Malpractice" pops into my mind a lot. I disagree with testing small children; I don't see the necessity of it. I don't mind being held accountable, but please find a different way to do this. Childhood is so fleeting; can you please just let them have it? I think this testing obsession and Common Core are very adult-oriented things; adults want to make sure their Return on Investment is high (taxes). Testing little kids to death and making them think about future careers before they really need to doesn't seem to bother adults a bit, and why would it? Grown ups have to fill out endless paperwork and take tests and do hard work and worry about the future all the time...if it's good for us, ergo ipso facto it must be good for kids.

But it isn't! It isn't good for kids. Kids need to play and create art and be wildly imaginative and exist in impossible worlds. They need to socialize and talk and laugh and be really loud and silly and not worry about what career or college they'll choose. Not when they're ages 5-10, at least.

And some of the kids I work with come from extremely sad and hard, hard homes; after 19 years of doing this job and willfully choosing to only work with low income families and kids (because those are the ones who need the most help), I could tell you story after story that'll break your heart. Those are the children who need to play and be silly and find their inner storyteller and let go and let creativity in. Let them go to school and dream and have some magic and fun for 8 hours a day.

True confession #9: I'm worried this country, possibly the world even, is losing its ability to dream. I'm a little angry about that, because I'm a big proponent of daydreaming. I think it's healthy. Where can I find a job where dreams are the focus? Pixar, I hear. But I'm not sure they're hiring. In addition, I'm 19 years into this job I have, I have a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's in early childhood, and I'm 42 with a kid and a mortgage. That's not exactly a great time to make a huge life change. If I were single and childless, it'd be a no-brainer. But I am not. And so (I'm letting you in again) I struggle inwardly with doing what I know would make me more fulfilled, and protecting my child and giving her everything she needs to fulfill her own dreams. (Life gets expensive as you age and tack on baggage, I'm learning.)

True confession #10: Hardly anybody reads this blog (hi mom!). But I'm afraid someone will find it, judge me, and try to get me fired. (I got stalked once online several years ago by a fundamentalist Christian who did that, amongst other scary things.) But I am so worried about my choice in vocation and the roads it's going down these days, that I can't not write about it. It's the end of another long school year fraught with stress and worry, and I'm in the middle of reflecting and spewing, is what I'm saying. I'm living out loud. Taking a risk. Putting it out there, for good or bad.

Praying like that crazy stalker Christian fundamentalists won't find this blog because I have a small child to rear and need to keep a roof over our heads.


team movies vs. team books

I think I said not long ago I had an opinion about why so many people see a movie based on a book they loved and leave the theater going, "Meh, the book was better."

Here's why (and I am no expert; just a chick who digs stories, so take this with a grain of salt): When you read a book, you're in it like Gwynneth (before her conscious uncoupling). You're in the minds of your characters (who and how much depends on point of view the author chose), you've got foreshadowing, back story, lots and lots of descriptive narrative, etc and so forth. In addition, you're the movie maker:  you're casting the actors, coming up with the set design, you're the experienced camera guy who knows the perfect angles, and all that. All inside your own big brain. Your amazing, movie projector brain.

Not to mention you have the luxury of re-reading parts you didn't quite get, or just really loved, and the storyteller had a good 200+ pages to tell you the story. And you can make notes! (Not on an electronic reader--do it on paperback; far more scholastic.) And if that storyteller was a master weaver, she or he knew about good character development as they wove their tale, and was able to pull you right smack dab into a character's life, heart, and soul. Because everybody knows most stories have already been told one way or another over hundreds and hundreds of years, so what really causes us to fall in or out of love with a book (or a movie; any story, actually) isn't just good (or bad) writing, but also a writer's ability to create believable, wholly formed, really good protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Everyone knows this, yes? Yes.

That's what makes you love a really good book. (Or maybe you actually prefer graphic novels. In which case, god love you. I don't understand. But there's a niche market for everyone, and god love you.)

The problem with translating a lot of books to movies is that you only have a finite amount of time to get in, get the story told, and get out of there. Two hours, tops. Maybe three if you somehow managed to con a major movie studio company out of 250 million bucks or something. Which means you probably also have contacts in the Mafia. (I'm not Hollywood, so I don't quite know how that works; I just know I read it Mario Puzo's THE GODFATHER and saw it in the movie version. But if it gets a movie made, I'm open to it.) (Wait! No no! What am I saying??? I watched The Sopranos. I saw THE GODFATHER parts 1-3. I know about family blood pacts and all that. So no, I'm NOT open to The Mafia! I only like The Mafia on TV or the movies. The TV Movie Mafia.) (I'm sorry. I'll get back on topic.)***

So you only have 2 hours to tell your tale. And what do you leave in? What do you cut out? (Assuming you're the writer, director, AND editor.) (Quite frankly, as an overworked teacher who does about 5 people's jobs August-May, I don't know why the heck you'd want to do all 3 jobs, but I suppose somebody's got to. Hopefully, Hollywood will pay you better and you'll get treated nicer by the US Dept of Education.)

I think the deciding what to put in/leave out would be the hardest part for me to do; what I really love about a book is often very different than what moved Friend A who also read it, and Friend B liked (or disliked) other things about it. A lot of times, Friends A & B and I all love the same part(s) of a book...and we are INCENSED beyond all human reason if what we loved all together gets left out. That's when you get on imdb.com and start leaving troll posts that make no sense, have poor grammar, and are spelled so ridiculously nobody even knows what the hell you're talking about but they do know you're mentally ill. (I don't troll imdb.com. My handle on imdb.com is amylynne223, and I promise I just stick to what I know: which is lurking so I can silently judge other people who do post stuff on imdb.com. The End.)

At any rate, that's also part of the beauty of reading a book--the connections you make in them.The things you love (or hate) best about characters and incidents in any given story are due to personal connections you make. In 2nd grade Reading Workshop, we call this text-to-text, text-to-world, or text-to-self connecting; you do that all the time when you read. Personally, I think it's what draws us to certain stories and repels us from others.

So basically: Time's a-ticking; what to cut? what to include?; you're IN the book when reading; you're in the THEATER when watching a movie...you're in the store while reading a book; you're window shopping at the movie. All of it equals hard to adapt books to movie. Not impossible, just really really hard. I think people who make movies who give you a sense of losing yourself while watching a movie (based on a beloved book) somehow manage to tap into those connections we have--they get you to the shop's threshold, and it is AMAZING. Like a Victoria's Secret sale where everything is 95% off. (No? Not a Victoria's Secret fan? Okay...like everything's 1 cent at the Dollar Tree.) (Heh. Teacher wet dreams.) You're a part of the action, even though you're sitting in a theater with a lot of fallen popcorn in your bra, maybe sitting on a melted Junior Mint, too (here's a cinematic tip: NEVER wear white to the movies, Things Amy Learned circa 1992). But you don't care! This is a  freaking beautifully woven story, on paper AND film. It's a testament to how amazing human beings can be when that happens.(And yet we continue to melt the polar ice caps. *sigh* yin. yang.)

I think the Harry Potter films mostly do an excellent job with this. I'm not a big Harry Potter fan, but I have friends who are obsessed (OBSESSED! In weird, are-you-okay?? kinds of ways), and they assure me movies based on  books don't get more magical than the Harry P. ones. I thought Interview With a Vampire also did a good job (in spite of Anne Rice's tirade against its casting of Tom Cruise in the lead role...and be honest: weren't you all, "Yeah, Anne! What the hell?!" right along with her? But then Tom did okay. And also, there was Brad Pitt. And Antonio Banderas (in a bad wig). It all came together and worked, somehow. High five, Neil Jordan! And Anne Rice, who adapted her own book to script...which may have contributed a lot to that.) (Later, someone adapted Rice's Queen of the Damned, which is a good example of how NOT to translate a book to a movie. I notice Anne didn't take out any full page rants in the NY Times over that...sometimes, you just take the check, get on a plane for Maldives, and pretend it isn't happening. Is what I'd do.)

Was this a boring blog post? I'm worried this was a boring blog post. I tried to make it as entertaining as possible, and apologies if you fell asleep or  you've already clicked over to tmz.com (stay off of that site! you'll rot  your mind!).

In more entertaining news, summer break is a mere 6 days away. Six! Days! Away! I have a lot of plans, because Miss M is headed off to theater camp, bug camp, princess/fairy tale camp, and (gigantic pause for cinematic effect) The Swim Nazi (do do do!). Yes, it is true. We found a Swim Nazi. Don't tell her people call her that. We do it behind her back. What she does is...well, first of all, you can't stay. You have to wait in her driveway in your car. She suggests blasting music and wearing headphones so you don't hear the screams. But apparently, by Day 3 (you go all week: Monday through Friday) they're over their fear of putting their heads underwater. It's worked for countless children, I'm told.

I have a good child psychologist number at hand, though, for in case. Just in case. (Does anybody know if children can get PTSD?) (I'm slightly nervous about this, I don't know if you can tell or not. But desperate times call for desperate measures and so. Let's hope kids can take Xanax or something.)

***Speaking of movie mafia...I'd think another difficulty in adapting a book to a movie would be the people holding the money bags. It seems to a lot about ROI (return on investment) these days in Movieville. Bookville, too. But especially Movieville. I like it when people just want to tell a good story. In PublicEducationville, it's also become a lot about ROI, and I can tell you the results are pretty sad. Some day, I'll write a blog post about what happens when ROI takes over the world and nobody cares about connecting anymore; they just want their damn money back times 10,000. (Hint: zombies are involved.)


the miraculous journey for good heroes.

Sometimes I stumble upon someone who makes me think: huh, here is a fascinating, seemingly admirable human being. So I get out The Hero List. Because before I decide to officially make someone my hero, I have a really picky list of Criteria (capital C, because criteria matters). (You realize I'm about to list some of these Criteria now?) (FYI: none of the Kardashians have ever made my list) (ditto all Fox "News" analysts plus Rush Limbaugh and the creator of Girls Gone Wild) (I know someone who finds all of these people heroic, and if you're reading this That Someone, I'm not scared to let you know you need a better hero list):

*Does this person seem like a kind person? Do they seem approachable and real?

Side story: Once, I met an author--I won't name her, but she was a Somebody in the world of Writing Somebodies--who I gathered enough courage to speak to at a book reading/signing...a BIG thing for me, an incredibly INFP person, to do. I went up to her, her book in my shaking hands, and asked her to sign it. The book was about a diary she'd kept as a young writer, and I thought she'd written a lot of interesting, important things in it. I gulped down all my starstruck and said as she autographed the title page, "I really loved what you wrote about journaling; it's something I've always done, since I was little." Her response? "God. I hate that word 'journaling'. I prefer 'keeping a diary' or 'writing down thoughts.' My mother always called it journaling, and my mother was just so...SO. You shouldn't call it that. That's not really what it is."(Please re-read that in a really judge-y kind of tone of voice.)

I threw her book (and her stupid snotty autograph) in the trash when I got home because I just felt so ucky about her then. In my brain, I knew I'd just met a person with (clearly) deep psychiatric mother issues, but my heart was broken. My heart was just a jumbled up mess of confused and broken disappointment. A simple, humble "Thank you" is nice and (I think) the best route to go when someone tells you they admire you or your work...because we all have our issues, believe me--no one gets out of childhood alive without them. So unless you're paying me the big bucks, I'm not a psychotherapist to help you through your mental woes; just a girl who thought you rocked as a (insert creative outlet job here) and wanted to let you know it. Because if someone did that to me, it would have made my day, so I'm hoping it'll make yours and that you won't be a complete a-hole. Please don't be an a-hole, we have far too many of those already.

(To be fair: I do think experiences like I had with Arrogant Author are also quite good for us, because those tend to stick with us for awhile in our scarred over and bruised hearts, so they teach us how to treat others and make important decisions on who and how we want to be.)

*Are they genuinely talented and freakishly smart? I mean: Will they make me aspire to be like them? Will they inspire me to be better? Isn't it always awesome to run across people who not only make you want to be you and make you feel good about the You you already are, but also inspire you to want to be a better version of you? I love these kinds of humans; my sweet friend Carol is one of these, and I think this crazy rock we're flying around on is better because she's here.

*Are they people I'd invite to my house for dinner, or even just meet for coffee? Do I have conversations with them, read things they've written, or listen to speeches they give, or enjoy creations they've gifted to the world and do these things make me think: Man, I wish we were next door neighbors all the time! I'd pick up your mail and keep vigil over your house while you're on vacation. AND invite you over for barbecues every summer.Certainly I'd loan you all my lawn tools.

*Do I sense we could talk about sensitive subjects (politics, sex, religion, the bizarreness that is 21st century American public education) and this person will not create in me a deep and driving need to punch them in the neck? These kinds of humans are so hard to find these days. (When did we, as a species, become so divided over things that will matter so little 200 years from now? And why are people so ANGRY about everything? What are you so angry about, fellow Earthlings?) (Here, let's pause to allow Frozen's "Let It Go" play in our brains until it gets stuck there for the next 3 hours.) (You're welcome!)

*Do they have a good sense of humor? Oh, this is so important! Having a good appreciation of irony along with an irreverent, self-deprecating wit is such a delicious quality in a person. I think people with a good sense of humor flavored heavily with irreverence, self-deprecating irony, and maybe even a good dash of gentle, sardonic wit are the kind of people who ought to be running the planet, because they're smart. Smart people like irony; that's why not too many right wingers get irony (HA! I kid! I kid the right wingers...in a very ironically sardonic way).

But, for obvious reasons--reasons like being too smart to wind up in some Corporate Sleazy Guy's pocket--those who are irreverently ironic will not ever run anything global. But they should at least be in charge of a very large Homeowner's Association somewhere, in my opinion.

Have you ever met one of your heroes? Elizabeth Gilbert (a tremendously important hero of mine) has met some of hers, and she wrote once about it. About the relief when your hero turns out to be a true hero, someone worthy of your admiration. And I have a long list of heroes from various different artistic fields I'd sell a lot of my worldly possessions to just to be able to shake hands with, or even just stand in the same room 5 feet away from and breathe the same general oxygen. And every time I envision myself meeting one of these people, I do it with a deeply held breath of hope with some tightly crossed fingers that the person will get to remain a hero in my heart after we shake hands or make brief but meaningful eye contact across a crowded room. Because I don't want to throw any more autographs in the trash.

Here's my point: I wrote to Kate Dicamillo recently, a new hero I've discovered, who wrote The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (please read this book if you haven't and/or share it with your child/ren if you haven't yet; it won't just change your life...it will change your HEART. Your whole heart will be softened in magnificent, magical ways you don't even know about right now. I mean, seriously: you don't even KNOW).

I'm writing about this because it's terribly big for me: I rarely contact people who are heroes I don't personally know, but I love and admire from afar. Doing this intimidates me, because I worry I'm bothering them and/or they won't respond, or that they will respond but they'll respond in a weird, you-are-in-deep-need-of-a-good-therapist tone of voice, which means I'll get the sads and won't know how to feel about them anymore. I want my heroes to stay my heroes--don't you? This planet is full of Crazy with a capital C; I sense it has a lot of hearts crying out for a good hero or three to safely harbor forever.

I hope you have some of your own heroes. If you've met some of your heroes, I hope you haven't had to throw any of their work in any trash bins. I hope you get a chance to have at least one of your heroes' full attention over coffee and a long chat one day. I hope you come away knowing your heart made a right choice and your hero gets a permanent home in it. (And I hope you have a very detailed list of criteria for who gets to be a hero in your heart, because I don't think sipping coffee with Donald Trump's self-promoting egotistically weird hair would be quite as awesome as sipping coffee with the Dalai Lama beaming across the table at you with his laughing, kind eyes. Just sayin'.)

And go read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane! Right now! It could save your life.