Tuesday, March 29, 2016

College Essay Time? Start Journaling

Yes, it's already time for high school juniors to start planning their summers and their college essays.

You can't write a good essay unless you have something to write about. And you can't figure out who you are without journaling about important experiences.

Trust me. I've helped students do it. The first phase is experience. The second is journaling. The third is your first draft.

Here are some great tips to get started: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays/8-tips-for-crafting-your-best-college-essay

But the best thing of all? Get together with a specialist who will help you plan an authentic experience, coach you through your journaling on it, and take you through the entire dreadful experience until you can hit "SUBMIT" and feel just like you do after a great workout. DONE!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why I Haven't Washed My Hair

It's been four days since I've shampooed. Yesterday I slipped my dental floss in my sweatshirt pocket and forgot all about it.

Sure, I've stuck my head under the kitchen faucet and crazily turned the hairdryer on it. I've doused myself with dry shampoo and sneezed. I've leaned forward and shaken like a dog. I've brushed my teeth, I promise.

But my personal hygiene is going to shit.

Here's one of the reasons: I've been looking for America. Knocking on doors, making calls, and ranting ad nauseum all over social media. Massachusetts didn't go the way I'd hoped, but it ain't over yet. Yesterday's blatant flouting of election law by President Bill Clinton is only one small reason hope for the better candidate stays alive. A woman who wages war in Libya and then trots about the destabilized nation after the fact for publicity's sake shouldn't be our next president. Of course, the rest of the field is not encouraging, which is why I hold onto my hope for a Sanders presidency. That has challenged my patience and made me re-examine my feminism--but I'm sure of my choice. Feminism is not about anyone's anatomy. And war-mongering is war-mongering. It is NOT my feminism.

Here's another reason: I'm getting busier professionally with students and college prep families. I'm starting to teach enrichment, which is one of the things our high school students really need, starting in 9th grade, to be able to think critically. Civics, current events and issues, contemporary feminist teen lit, just for starters. With a few old chestnuts in there to help get them ready for the tough language on the New SAT and the even tougher reading they're going to have to do in college and sure as hell aren't doing in public high school, which sadly these days is consumed with getting them ready for standardized tests.

Finally, my greasy hair and furry teeth are also the result of my current editing work: 

  • A bio by an audiologist who has helped others rediscover sound
  • A blog by an ex student of mine who is in the throes of recovery from domestic emotional, verbal, and physical abuse.
I feel fortunate to be able to help these women's voices reach an audience, no matter how small, no matter how great.

IMHO, my giving them a voice, my campaigning for Bernie, my fiction writing, my daily ritual counting my many blessings--these things are feminism.

There is so need for progress, and I'm earnestly trying to do my small part. Every day, my efforts and output seem woefully inadequate.

But the point is to show up and do what you can, a mantra I remind myself of every morning as I pray (and yes, I pray) that I do the will of my Higher Power (God, the Goddess, the Universe, the Great Spirit, the Spirit of Life, my dog Chuck--all of these monikers work for me). The will of my Higher Power, not mine. Then the even harder work is to accept the results.

The Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr, sums it up and applies to everyone, not just those in 12-Step programs (sticklers for tradition, please grant me forgiveness for feminizing the deity in this prayer--it works for me):

Goddess, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

This philosopher, theologian, and political thinker who was the son of German immigrants wrote in his diary:

[I] went through one of the big automobile factories to-day [sic] ... The heat was terrific. The men seemed weary. Here manual labor is a drudgery and toil is slavery. The men cannot possibly find any satisfaction in their work. They simply work to make a living. Their ... dull pain are part of the price paid for the fine cars we ... run ... And most of us run the cars without knowing what price is being paid for them ... We are all responsible. 
--Leaves from the Notebook of a Friend

Finally, my unkempt "do" and furry teeth are also the result of some of my current editing work: (1) A bio by a career audiologist whose holistic approach helped many who never thought they would hear again rediscover sound. (2) A blog by a 30-something ex-student of mine who is in the midst, still, of recovering from domestic emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. This blog will first appear on my professional site's blog -- watch for more news on its premier.