My fellow humans are pretty impressive.

It used to drive me crazy that I teach a subject without a real curriculum. Combined with the fact that my education program was insanely light on teaching curriculum development, I was left pretty lost, overwhelmed, and frustrated as a new teacher. But now I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve come to embrace teaching one of the only subjects left with significant creative freedom. There will never be a canned curriculum that I enjoy teaching as much as my own units, and nobody knows how to meet my student’s needs better than I do. (Sad how that feels like such a bold claim these days, rather than like stating the obvious….)

There are plenty of topics that I love teaching for the impact on the students. But there’s one that I also love for my own personal enjoyment–guys, the career unit is the best. It feeds me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Lots of elements come together in my career unit. The kids are doing research, taking notes, summarizing, evaluating, and after lots of exploring, creating a presentation on a career of their choice. And that’s all great. But the fun part, the part I talk about incessantly to anyone who gets stuck listening, is the guest speakers!

I’ve taken the traditional “career day” model, and exploded it. I’m sprinkling career speakers over the course of 7ish week, and they all come from my personal network of friends, family, friends-of-friends, etc. And thanks to the wonders of Skype, I’m not limited to local speakers! We’ve had guests from all over the country chat with us about their careers.

(Fun random video about career day!)

Each class ends up getting a different assortment of speakers, and we’re not done yet, but so far we’ve chatted with a(n):

  • physical therapist
  • speech pathologist
  • naturopathic doctor
  • historian/writer
  • professor
  • embalmer/aspiring funeral director
  • public defender/judge
  • news producer
  • immigration attorney
  • doctor/urologist
  • advertising copywriter
  • social media/outreach specialist
  • physician’s assistant
  • stage manager
  • educator
  • graphic designer

(I hope I didn’t miss anyone…) It’s been fascinating! For the kids, obviously. But I’ve learned from every speaker too! It turns out that everyone I know is an expert in something. Everyone has a wealth of knowledge that I don’t tap into very often. And my brain loves being woken up and fed these tidbits from fields that I’m only barely aware of. I love knowing more about how the world works.

Did I mention that everyone I know is an expert in something? It’s so inspiring. I think most of us have a certain way that we tend to relate to each of our friends–the topics that we usually talk about, the tone our conversations usually take, the jokes we usually tell. But I’m seeing everyone outside those usual ruts. I get to hear the details of what they do, what they love, what they’re passionate about. Many are digging back into their roots, and sharing where their journey started. Some admit to weaknesses, vulnerabilities, stumbling blocks that have made their path tough. And everyone projects an air of confidence as they discuss the stuff they know, the stuff they’re good at. It’s fun to see my people shining in their comfort zone, while hearing the story of how it became their comfort zone. I keep gaining new levels of respect and love for everyone I have the opportunity to listen to!

One of the most common themes I’ve heard is “I never imagined that life would take me in this direction.” A few people are doing exactly what they always planned, but most aren’t. Most people seem to start going in one direction, and then trying this other thing, and then meeting this person, and learning this thing, and then applying it to something else… Looking back, they can talk about how all the steps along the way taught them something that’s valuable now, and brought them closer to where they are. But in the moment, they had no idea the direction life was going to take.

I find it inspiring on such a spiritual level! The way we don’t have the perspective to see the big picture in the present moment, so we just squeeze all the value out of it that we can. Then we carry those things with us, and make them part of us, so that we’re better prepared for the next opportunity/curveball that life throws at us. I fully believe that it’s not random, that God can see the full map, and knows how all these things will work together for our good. And I kind of love how messy it is! Daily life can feel so chaotic, but with distance you can see the order, the form, the beauty.

My fellow humans are pretty impressive. Everybody has such a wealth of stories, knowledge, and wisdom to share. We don’t appreciate each other nearly enough.

A story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down…

Since I started teaching, I’ve referred to summer as my “time to get to know Kristine again.” Being Ms. Napper is pretty all-consuming. But the last couple years, I’ve made steps toward holding onto Kristine during the rest of the year. This year’s New Year’s thing–not exactly a resolution, just a thing–was starting this blog. I needed writing back in my life. Putting my thoughts into tangible words helps keep my feet on the ground.

In 2015, my back-to-Kristine thing was joining a choir. And I’m still thanking 2015-me for being smart enough and brave enough to make that leap! I needed music back in my life. So badly.

I was a choir kid throughout middle and high school. Started in 6th grade, and fell instantly in love with everything about the music-making process. Instantly idolized Ms. Duck, who expected us to comport ourselves like professionals at all times and accepted nothing less than our best. I also idolized the older students who’d been in choir longer, and were doing cool things with leadership positions, small groups, solos, musical theater, etc. I wanted to do everything they were doing!

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I did get a little taste of all that when I was in 8th grade. I was choir vice president. (And I honestly still don’t know how I got nominated or elected….) I sang baritone in the girls’ barbershop group. I got a teensy, tiny little part in the school musical.

At the end of 8th grade, I was thrilled when our teacher announced that she was also moving to the high school the next year. Being the kind of person that hates change, I was a big fan of something staying the same when I started high school. I still remember that first day of 9th grade, when everything was crazy and overwhelming, and I couldn’t even get to half my classes because of a broken elevator. Choir was my last class of the day, and it was such a relief and boost to my spirits to walk into a room where everything just felt right! New room, a handful of new faces. But it was the same energy, the same routines, the same musical journey. Only better! We got to pick up where we left off, and keep moving forward, excited about what our slightly more mature voices could do.

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I stayed with it throughout high school, and I loved it. I really did.  Even during The Dark Year, my senior year, when Ms. Duck had to abandon us for the year and everything in the choir room was terrible, I never considered quitting. (I don’t even know why, because I don’t remember actually enjoying choir that year… Pure loyalty to the program, I guess.) But the truth is, it was also hard for me. As much as I loved singing, I always knew I wasn’t a very strong singer. All the hard work and dedication in the world wasn’t going to do more than marginally change that. I got 8/10 on every “voice test” I was ever given–not a bad score, but so frustrating to never break the ceiling! High school is a bigger pond than middle school, and I was a small fish. I was never chosen for anything I tried out for. Rejection always hurts, no matter how much we pretend that it’s rolling off our thick skin. And it was hard to watch everyone else (at least, it felt like everyone else) bonding over shared groups, shows, and events that I couldn’t be a part of. I spent so much time on the periphery, wishing I were one of them, that I can still tell stories  from trips I never went on, recite quotes from shows I was never a part of, and sing lines from songs I’ve never sung. (Have I mentioned what a cool kid I was? Goodness….)

By the time I went away to college, I couldn’t do it anymore. If the high school pond was already too big for this little fish, then BYU was an ocean I’d surely drown in. I didn’t want to sing in the “no audition necessary” group, because I knew I’d be bored. I needed more challenge than that. But there was no way I’d be accepted to any audition groups. So I declared the choir chapter of my life over. I tried to sing in church choir on-and-off over the years, but most of those groups at BYU tended to practice in places that were upstairs with no elevators. The directors would shrug helplessly and tell me “I wish you could come.” But I knew they didn’t wish it that badly. It was BYU, home to a gazillion pianos! The campus had plenty of accessible spaces where they could have held practice. Inaccessibility was a choice, and I wasn’t going to beg to be included.

Adult life had been pretty much the same. I’d sing in church choir now and then, but accessibility issues got in the way a lot. And even during the periods when I was actively participating and even enjoying, church choir is only church choir. It has its place, but it doesn’t come close to meeting my musical needs.

At age 30, I finally recognized that there was a giant choir-shaped hole in my life, and it wasn’t going away. I always figured I’d stop missing it eventually, but I was wrong. I needed singing back in my life.

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I spent a while exploring the internets, looking for local opportunities, and not finding much that fit. This group looked too intense. That group looked too sing-alongy. These groups practiced in inaccessible spaces. Those groups were too much time commitment. I’m too old for that group, and too young for that other one.

Until I finally stumbled across PDX Vox! The locations weren’t ideal for me in my westside suburb (a fact that has since changed), but everything else looked like exactly what my soul was craving. When my “is it wheelchair friendly” inquiry was answered with the most thorough, detailed, thoughtful response I’ve ever received to an accessibility question–decision made.

And it was such a good decision. I nervously showed up by myself to a place I’d never been, with a hundred people I’d never met, and immediately felt I’d come home. It was like 6th period on the first day of 9th grade, all over again! It was amazing to be with “my people” again, speaking a language I hadn’t used in years, exercising parts of my body and brain that had been neglected, but still mostly knew what to do. When I was 18, I’d been so afraid of the too-big pond, that I’d taken myself completely out of the water! I don’t know how I even survived like that until 30. But it felt fantastic to slip back into the water and start swimming again.

Choir really does feed my mind, body, and spirit. I’m one of those nerds who loves every step of the process. I love getting new sheet music, reading the notes on the page, figuring out my part, and how it fits into the song. I love letting go of the sheet music, finding out how much of it lives inside me now, and moving from the mechanics to the artistry. I love interpreting, shaping, and playing with the song. I love the performance piece, where we invite a room full of people to feel something with us–to feel lots of somethings with us, actually.

And I love the group dynamics. It’s truly magical when a group of people come together, blending their different voices, to create something as one. Everyone breathing together, feeling the same rhythm, shaping their mouths the same way, listening to each other so the harmonies are tight, bringing the volume up and down, creating a mood, telling a story… Is there anything but music that can bring people together on that level?

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I’ve only been part of Vox for a little over a year (three sessions), but I’ve already heard Andrea say many times, “I came for the music. I stay for the people.” Andrea’s not wrong. (Ever.:)) It turns out that the world’s warmest, friendliest, kindest, funniest, most genuine people all live in the Portland metro area and have a passion for singing a cappella. (Who knew, right?) I was overwhelmed with welcome the first time I showed up, and I feel so lucky to now be part of a such a great group of people. These aren’t the kind of people who make you beg for accommodation or inclusion. They’re the kind of people who naturally accommodate, not just for me, but for everyone and their unique needs. Because of course. That’s just what you do. They’re the kind of people who make a space feel safe. It’s safe to take risks. It’s safe to choose not to take a risk. It’s safe to laugh or cry or both; you’ll be encouraged in whatever ways you need.

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The magic of Voxers being such high quality humans is probably the trickle down effect from our director. Maybe I still have the childhood habit of idolizing choir directors. But I’m pretty convinced they don’t come better than Marie Schumacher. I have endless admiration for her as a musician (look up her stuff, and thank me later), as a teacher, and just as a person. I know she’s always juggling a million things at once in her life, head, and heart, but she still speaks and listens to you as if you were the most important person in the world. I think we all want to be a little more like Marie, and maybe that’s why we bring our best selves to Vox. Or at least we try to!

Every week, I have to talk myself into going to rehearsal. I’m always so tired, and surely I could just skip it this once… But then I suck it up and go, because I’m always crazy-glad I did! I leave reinvigorated. Tired, but fed. My soul needs this. Choir needs to stay a priority in my life.

How I Became A Liberal…

Sometimes people ask how I turned out to be (mostly) liberal, given the (mostly) conservative world I grew up in. Sometimes I ask myself the same question. There are many, many answers–enough so that if anyone had been paying attention, they’d have known from day one that I’d end up a registered Democrat. It was inevitable. But today I’m going to trace my political leanings–and, more importantly, a large chunk of my value system–back to three literary moments that have stayed in my head since childhood.

Starting with Bruce Coville. Somewhere around 3rd grade, Bruce Coville became my favorite author, and held that spot for as long as it was age-appropriate. His books were so full of magic, mystery, silliness, and scariness, all wrapped up into the perfect package for my already overactive imagination. I’d love to get copies to share with the children in my life, but they’ll have to be old copies, because I resent all the new cover art. The originals were so much better…

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I mean, come on. The rainbow book is so much more enticing.

Anyway, that’s a tangent, and not the book I’m talking about. Coville also wrote the “My Teacher Is An Alien” series, ending with the only one I still vividly recall, My Teacher Flunked The Planet.

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Original cover. Because duh.

In this book, a group of aliens are filing a report on the planet Earth, determining whether they should destroy it. At one point, the aliens take our team of child-heroes to witness world hunger up close and personal. They see the vacant look in people’s eyes as they’re told there will be no food again today. They watch a baby die in its milkless mother’s arms. The shocked kids demand of the aliens, “Why don’t you fix this?! Why don’t you feed these people??” The aliens respond, “Why should we, when you can fix it yourselves?” They then take the kids on a quick trip around the world, showing them all the food that’s going to waste.

That scene must have pierced my little heart, because it’s never left my head. I was thinking about it again just last week, when I attended TEDx in Portland, and one of the talks was all about hunger. The speaker kept repeating that we don’t have a food supply problem; we have a distribution problem.

A cynical adult might side-eye the book for brainwashing kids or simplifying a complex issue. And sure, it is a simplification. But you know what? I don’t care if you call it brainwashing. I’m in favor of teaching values like, “we should feed people,” “sharing is good,” “waste is bad,” and “we should feed people.” (Yes, I repeated that on purpose.) We can argue over the details of how to carry out these ideas. But I remain convinced that humanity could totally solve the whole hunger problem if we all agreed to make it a priority.

So, sorry-not-sorry, but since that scene etched itself into my brain, I’ve firmly believed this…

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(The version with a family is probably a stronger image. But I feel weird about posting photos of people who probably didn’t consent to being spread around the Internet…)

As I outgrew Bruce Coville, I remained an unashamed book nerd. Anther gem that helped solidify my liberal leanings was in The Once and Future King by T. H. White.

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There was a chapter where the Wart was transformed into a goose, and he migrates with the flock. At some point, he asks one of the geese if they’re at war with other geese, and the response is shock and disgust. The goose can’t imagine what wretched species would intentionally kill its own. The Wart insists that they must fight over territory. The goose responds, “There are no boundaries among the geese.” The Wart, still a child, asks what boundaries are. “Imaginary lines on the earth, I suppose,” the goose answers, but “How can you have boundaries if you fly?”

Again, I remember almost nothing about the rest of the book, but this scene still pops into my head all the time. Sometimes because of the war and violence issue. We all seem to accept war as a natural part of life, but when you stop and think about it, it’s mindblowing that a supposedly civilized species deals with problems by killing each other. We teach toddlers to use their words and not hit, but then somewhere along the line, that lesson goes out the window.

But more often, I think about the boundaries between countries being “imaginary lines.” Ever since reading that book as a kid, I can’t see borders as anything more than imaginary lines. We place so much importance on those lines. Everything about your circumstances–your access to wealth, resources, opportunities, and likelihood to live another day–depends so much on which side of a line you were born on. But pull yourself up into the air a bit, and look at the world from a goose’s level, and you can’t even see those lines. They’re imaginary. Pretend. Make-believe.

Simplification of complex issues again? Sure. But regardless, I’ll never be able to view my fellow humans as being less “one of my own” just because they were born on a different side of an imaginary line. I’ll certainly never be able to use the common slur of calling anyone “illegal” because they crossed an imaginary line. I can’t and I won’t.

Ok, my third example is a major stretch of the word “literature.” It isn’t a book; even a book nerd like me watched plenty of 90s Nickelodeon. But TV shows have scripts and stories, or at least they did pre-reality TV, so it’s kind of like literature, right?

Whatever, my third scene-in-my-head-forever came from an episode of “Hey Dude.”

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90s kids, you know you remember the killer cacti!

In this episode, Ted was putting together some stereotypical movie portrayals of Native Americans, and Danny called him out on it. The argument led to Ted accepting a dare to go an entire week without using anything that originated with the American Indians.

Throughout the episode, Danny kept taking food and other things away from Ted, telling him about the ingredients that were first used by Indians. The challenge ends with Ted in a towel, all of his clothes off limits, and after explaining the influence of Indian government in the founding of the US government, Danny tells Ted that even his towel violates the terms of the dare. Danny admits he was wrong, and together they recreate Ted’s original presentation with more accurate and respectful portrayals of Native American history.

And that was the day I started thinking about the vast overrepresentation of white people in the media, the entertainment industry, and the history books. I realized how little I actually knew about any other group’s stories, and yet how much those stories probably influenced my own life in a million ways I wasn’t even aware of. I was too young to eloquently talk about those thoughts, but they were taking shape. By high school I was complaining about how my education had consisted of eleventy billion courses on American history, a little dabbling in western Europe, and then crammed the rest of the planet into a single year of “world history.” I was seeing the token diversity in everything I watched on TV through the non-white friend of the white main characters, and it wasn’t good enough for me. I knew there were still Indian reservations around because that’s where people bought their fireworks for the 4th of July, and they’d show up on the news occasionally to debate whale hunting. But other than that, my education would leave me believing they’d all died off a hundred years ago, so I wondered what else I didn’t know.

Thanks, Nickelodeon, for making me think and ask questions that I wouldn’t be able to put into words until many years later.

I’m usually terrible to discuss books and other entertainment with, because I forget the details so quickly. When I’m enjoying a story, I tear through it as fast as possible, eager to know what happens next. After finishing quickly, the details don’t stay in my head. I think it’s significant that these three scenes have stayed strongly rooted in my mind for decades.

I’m afraid that publicly expressing my beliefs via children’s books and TV makes them seem childish. I really do understand that the world is more complicated. But none of those complications can change my core value, and I think it’s important to  reflect now and then on what those values are and where they came from. This is the soil that my more nuanced adult beliefs are planted in. It anchors me through the storms and ugliness of the “real world.” I’m not apologizing for any of it! And then I wonder, does the world even have to be as complicated as we make it?

I’m Very, Very, Very Intelligent

When terrorist attacks and mass shootings start blending together in your memory because there are just so many, something is wrong. (Biggest understatement to ever be understated.) So we start to ask questions, and look for patterns. Where is all this violence coming from? I see one consistent factor: men. And by men, I don’t mean humankind in general. I mean the humans with the Y chromosome.

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Before I go any further, I have an announcement to make. I’m officially declaring my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

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Our country is in danger. Our world is in danger. We’ve allowed men to roam freely around our planet, taking things over, blowing things up, for far too long. As a world power, it’s the job of the US to set the example, and stand up to this threat on our humanity.

It’s time to make America great again. And I plan to do this by putting a stop to the men.

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First, they must be contained and controlled. We have to have a wall. I’ll put all the men in those northern, middle states that nobody’s using–Minnesota, the Dakotas, most of Montana, etc. And then I’ll build a great wall. Nobody builds a better wall than me. And I’ll make the men pay for it. Mark my words.

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There will be a door in the wall, where we can access the men and harvest them for sperm. We recognize the role men play in making more women. But not just any men can contribute to the Continuation Of Species Project. They’ll have to fill out the paperwork and wait in line. They’ll have to be great. So they, too, can help me make American great again. We’ll continue to raise the young boys until they hit puberty, and then behind the wall they go. So America can be great.

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Kristine M. Napper is calling for a total and complete shutdown of men entering the United States until the women can figure out what is going on. We need time to clean up the mess the men have made. I can’t risk more men getting in the way, and communicating with the men in other countries, opening the door to more violence and chaos.

I don’t hate all men. The thing is, the men aren’t giving us their best. They’re giving us lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

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I have a great relationship with the men. I’ve always had a great relationship with the men. My brother’s a man, and he’s a good person. Family man. If he weren’t a happily married guy, and, you know, my brother, perhaps I’d be dating him.

But you know who else is a man? Hitler. Stalin. Bin Laden. Saddam. Franco. Pinochet. Trujillo. I rest my case.

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43 male US commanders in chief, not to mention the mostly male leaders of the rest of the world, haven’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying the planet.

It’s time to take our country back. A vote for Napper is a vote for a great America. I do not wear a wig.

You’re all invited to start shamelessly sucking up to me, in hopes for the VP bid or other spot in my cabinet. Once we lock up the men, there will be a lot of seats to fill.

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How To Dress Like Portland 2

A friend reminded me that I forgot a chapter in my guide to dressing like Portland… I neglected the rainbow chapter!

I’ve always been a lover of the rainbow… My elementary school drawings included a giant rainbow across the sky every single time. I once dressed as Rainbow Brite for Halloween–and that wasn’t  elementary school, but in my 20s! Colors make me happy. They always have.

Portland is a rainbowy city. And I love it. I love living in a time and place where people can be who they are, and love who they love, and generally not have to hide or fear. I know there are mountains of complicated politics and religious beliefs complicating that statement all over the place, and I don’t have all the answers to all the things. But I do have a simple happiness in other people’s happiness, and love for love. I’m anti-hiding, anti-bullying, anti-fear. And I feel like that’s a very Portland way to be.

So when things happen that make my world feel less rainbowy, kind, and loving, when I see my LGBT friends and neighbors hurting… there isn’t much I can do about it. But I do like to wear one of these Portland outfits, as a bat signal of love to anyone who needs it. Because, really, who doesn’t need a bat signal of love sometimes?

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There’s the prismy rainbow dress….I almost forget how much I love this dress! It needs to come out more often. Also, I’m going to have to do red in my hair again sometime….

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When I want to be even brighter and bolder, but also warmer, there’s the rainbow sweater. Worn over a black dress in this photo, but it goes with pretty much anything and everything. And I love it. There’s also a rainbow headband happening here, just in case there wasn’t enough rainbow… The world needed a lot of love that weekend, so I did what I could. (I was definitely in need of a fresh color job in my hair though. Looks like some severely faded purple with roots for days…)

I can be a straight girl who decks herself out proudly in rainbows. Because I am Portland…. Or at least I dress Portland. 🙂

How To Dress Like Portland

So now that I’ve been on Portlandia and shoulder the responsibility of representing my city, I’m perfecting the art of how to dress like Portland. I don’t mean how to dress like Portlanders dress; I mean how to dress like the city itself. If Portland were a person, this is what its wardrobe would look like. It’s time to document this style journey…

The project began when I was randomly invited for the audition. I had no idea what a person wears to audition for a tv show, but after a little facebook crowdsourcing, I came up with this…

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We don’t carry umbrellas in Portland, or anywhere in the Northwest. But we can wear them ironically on our clothing. This umbrella print skirt is one of my favorite things, especially when I pair it with a notice-me-yellow top. (We don’t get enough sunshine in our Vitamin D deprived city, so I like to do my part by providing the sunny yellow.) And the outfit absolutely needed these shoes–normal people would call them brown Oxfords. I alternately refer to them as my hipster shoes, my old man shoes, or my American Girl doll shoes.

And accessories are important, so let’s not fail to give credit to the quirky cat necklace.

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I don’t know exactly why this outfit needed a quirky cat necklace, or why that fits the Portland theme. We’re really more of a dog loving city. Maybe when I wear it, people think it’s a dog? Whatever, it just felt right.

Having discovered my love for umbrella skirts, I came across this LuLaRoe maxi, and had to have it. There wasn’t even a choice in the matter; it just had to happen. The umbrellas and the raindrops and the utter essence of Portland…. I stuck with the bright yellow on top. I think it’ll be cuter with red flats next time, but it’s very hard to talk myself into wearing anything but boots in the winter.

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You have to zoom in to appreciate the full value of this skirt. The blue umbrellas have tiny unicorns on them!

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Portland is a unicorn of a city. Magical, mythical, you can’t believe it’s real, even when you’re looking right at it. (Although it does have the ability to stab you. And it’s pretty white….) This Portland unicorn sticker lives on the side of my chair (thanks, Powell’s), and is another one of my favorite things.

 

 

My mission to dress like Portland continued when I fell in love with these leggings, which my friend said reminded her of the PDX carpet. There can’t possibly be another city in the world that loves its airport carpet with the same fervor that Portland loved this one. The carpet may have been replaced a couple years ago, but it will live forever in our hearts… and our tshirts, socks, mugs, key chains, and all varieties of merch. I have a pair of earrings that another friend says are reminiscent of PDX carpet, so obviously I had to wear them with the leggings.

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And this outfit was born.

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I am PDX.

Fun fact: I also wore that chambray shirt on Portlandia, only buttoned, and the costume department deemed it “very Carrie.” So, the outfit scores a couple more Portland points.

Next. For the last six years, I’ve had a fashion rule for myself: nothing with a bird on it. It was too cliche; I just couldn’t do it. Sometimes I’d find really cute things, but with a bird, and I’d get mad at Portlandia for taking birds away from me. When I fell in love with this shirt, I felt the familiar irritation rising… and then I realized, things have changed. Portlandia is part of me now. I not just can, but should own something with a bird on it. So I bought the shirt, enjoying my new fashion freedom, and saved it for the day my episode would air.

Bird on it outfit

Since it was an occasion, I had to go all the way with my theme, and wear bird earrings too.

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Hummingbirds are kind of my spirit animal. They just speak to me. And for some reason, I’ve stumbled into learning the word “hummingbird” in three indigenous languages, plus, of course, Spanish.

For Portlandia day, Carolee got in the spirit by wearing her bicycle scarf. Portland loves bikes even more than it loves putting birds on things! We tied ourselves together with the scarf, because sharing also feels like the spirit of Portland.

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I’m told that by sharing a scarf, we may or may not be married in Hawaii. I haven’t investigated this alleged tradition. But Carolee’s husband is a cool guy, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me being her Hawaiian spouse. It feels like an oddly Portland arrangement.

Keep Portland weird! But not ugly. 🙂

Portlandia’s Coming….

I tend to  believe the future is never really coming. Does that mean I’m still mentally a teenager? Maybe. I usually have a mental calendar that goes to the next break from school, and then ends. (If I were Mayan, you’d all have 2012 style crises about six times per year.) That means I’m likely to enthusiastically agree to anything you ask, as long as it’s far enough in advance. Whatever it is, it sounds like a great idea, because deep down in my heart, I don’t really believe it’s ever going to happen.

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The world is ending AGAIN….
Photo Credit: insert screen name here via Compfight cc

And then I’m always wrong, and the day of reckoning comes.

Last summer, it seemed like a great idea to say yes when Portlandia texted me out of the blue, and asked, “Hey, random person who’s never even thought about acting before. Want to audition for an episode?” And it seemed like an even greater idea to say yes when they actually gave me the role! I feel like those are the kind of adventures that you don’t think about; you just say yes and go along for the ride.

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Bex.Walton via Compfight cc

My attitude from the first text message was, “Hey, this will give me a story to tell later.” And I’ve definitely told the story! I feel bad for certain people who must be so tired of hearing it. I don’t usually bring it up, but everybody else asks about it. So the people who spend the most time around me, end up hearing about it all the time.

Sorry-not-sorry, I guess. This part’s been fun! I love having a good story to tell. It’s fun to get a little attention. It was a crazy experience that I never dreamed I’d have, and I’m sure nothing like it will happen again, so while it lasts, I’m smiling and enjoying the moment.

But up until now, I’ve had all the control over the story. Everybody knows my version of events, and that’s it. For all anyone knows, I could be making the entire thing up!

That ends Thursday…

Well, more like Friday. Who watches TV live anymore? At 10:00? On a school night? Not even to see my own acting debut. Guys, I’m old.

This is the part where it feels like possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had!! I have absolutely no idea what this scene is going to look like. I could be completely cut out and laying forgotten on the editing room floor. Or…. I could look and sound like a complete fool. I probably do. I didn’t know what I was doing! I didn’t know what to do with my face, my hands, anything. When I’m nervous, my voice gets even more high-pitched and irritating than normal. Who wants to listen to that? Ugh…. And in front of the world? Other people will see this! Didn’t I consider that last August??

No, not really. Because in August, I didn’t believe in February.

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Save me a star, guys… Or a chair to hide under. Whatever.
Photo Credit: jimmywayne via Compfight cc

I’ll miss this whole phase of the Portlandia story, when nobody’s seen anything and it all feels imaginary. After this week, it’s entirely possible that I’ll never want to talk about it again.

Or I’ll run away to Hollywood and dedicate the rest of my life to my acting career.

Definitely one or the other. 😉

(This Thursday night on IFC, Portlandia episode 6.6!)

Thank you, Harper Lee

I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a while now, mostly so I’d have it to remember and make me smile later, but suddenly it feels appropriate right now.

I don’t want to give personal details here, so I’m just going to say that a student you’d never expect, surprised me several weeks ago. He’s never been a reader, but he informed me that we were starting a (very small) book club. He and his friend would be coming to my classroom twice a week during lunch, and we’d be listening to the audiobook version of To Kill A Mockingbird. My job was to provide the audiobook and press the play button.

You can’t say no to that!

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Photo Credit: Pickersgill Reef via Compfight cc

I have no idea where he got the idea to read TKAM. He heard about it somewhere though, and according to plan, he’s dragged his friend along twice a week to eat lunch in my room and listen to the book. They sit mostly in silence, occasionally asking me to hit the pause button so we can discuss part of the story.

I can’t emphasize enough–this wasn’t my idea! I didn’t do this. I’ve made a lot of efforts to encourage my kids to fall in love with reading, but I never suggested this book, and I never suggested lunchtime book club. In fact, I’m probably the least engaged member of the club. While they’re listening to the book, I’m usually working on other stuff and only kinda-sorta paying attention. When they want to stop and discuss, I’m leaning heavily on my memory of reading the book way back in high school, and seeing the movie several years ago. Zero effort is going into teaching this novel.

I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me. Book club completely warms my teacher heart. Watching two kids giving up their free time to voluntarily enjoy a classic novel–it’s the dream. And not just any two kids, but kids that I originally met as total non-readers.

We do all kinds of language activities in my ELD classes of course, but my favorite, and the kids’ favorite, is when we read a novel together. Yes, I make them do academic work to go with it. But sometimes I wish we could just sit around, reading and discussing novels, every single day. Drop the structure and accountability and grading and everything else. Just savor good books and discussion. The kids wouldn’t complain!

Harper Lee passed away yesterday. And I’m remembering that quote somebody said on Twitter during the celebrity death streak last month–“Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them; we cry because they helped us know ourselves.” The quote struck a chord with me, but as I’m thinking of it now in relation to Lee and other writers, I want to add to it–artists help us know ourselves, and help us know outside of ourselves.

When our book club started chapter one of To Kill A Mockingbird, the kids were asking questions like, “Does this take place before or after 9/11?” (If I’d been actually teaching the novel in class, I would have provided some background before jumping into the book. But since this was so informal and student-led, I hadn’t done that.) I paused the book and we all took a step back to discuss the setting and some historical context.

The conversation felt a little bit like this:

“We’re in the 1930s… Great Depression… ”

“So, slavery?”

“After that.”

“Martin Luther King?”

“Before that–well, actually, he would have been a little kid at this point.”

Through conversation, but mostly through Harper Lee’s words, the kids and I are being transported back to rural Alabama in the 30s. For the students, this is their first journey, and they’re learning the language and flavors and background of a new-to-them time and place in our country’s history. For me, it’s a comfortable return to a place I’ve visited before–but only via literature. I’d read plenty of historical fiction and had lots of relevant background knowledge the first time I read Mockingbird in sophomore English class, but the novel still shines brighter in my memory than so many others I’ve read. Lee’s stories, characters, and words never really leave you.

Book club hasn’t gotten into much of the heavy stuff yet. We’re still romping around, bugging Boo Radley. The kids are charmed by the small town, entertained by Dill (who can read!), unimpressed with Scout’s experiences with public education, and intrigued by the elusive Radley. They’ve been shocked by some of the racial language, casually used, that they know is unacceptable today. I have no doubt that the discussion will be rich as they meet Tom Robinson and get into the court battle. Their sense of justice, equity, and right/wrong is strong, and they’re going to have thoughts and feelings about this one! I can’t wait.

They’re learning about the world beyond their own experience. And they’re also learning about who they are, and who they want to be. Because who can read about Atticus Finch, without internalizing some desire to be that person?

For right now, I’m happy to let them stick with the Mockingbird version of Atticus. It’s developmentally appropriate. They need to believe in a world where good guys stand up against injustice, fight racism head on, and win their battles. They need to learn and believe the lessons Mockingbird Atticus has to teach–lessons about what courage really is, about listening to your conscience, about understanding other people. Correction: we all need Mockingbird Atticus.

And someday, when they’re older, I hope my students return to Maycomb and get to know Go Set A Watchman’s Atticus. That story and that Atticus are harder to swallow, but we need to grapple with them. One day my students will have to understand that racism doesn’t just belong to the bad guys. It’s embedded into the very structure of our society, and its insidious traces can be seen even in people we love and respect. They’ll learn that good guys and bad guys rarely appear outside of the comic books–most of us are just humans, products of our environment, doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience we have. Just like Jean Louise and her Watchman Atticus, my kids will see their own heroes slip off pedestals, and their own ideals fail them. Hopefully Watchman Atticus will help them learn that a person’s heroism doesn’t make them immune to wrongdoing, but their shortcomings also don’t cancel out the good they offer the world. Watchman Atticus can help them learn to live with some cognitive dissonance, and think critically with their heads and their hearts.

Mockingbird Atticus will help my kids want to change the world, and Watchman Atticus will give them the smarts to do it.

Thank you, Harper Lee.

What’s My Age Again?

It’s amazing how quickly one can get old anymore. I remember accepting that my childhood, and my teenage years, were already relics of a distant past. That overalls and puka shells were to be used for throwback costume purposes only, and that the holographic, platform-inspired, periwinkle Sketchers I once treasured now looked like they came from another planet. But that’s what happens, right? Middle and high school were a long time ago. Circle of life, or whatever.

TMNT overallsperiwinkle shoes

College, however, just happened. Not that long ago. Because I’m still young. Stuff I did in college was just a few years ago, right? Right…?

Maybe not right.

It hit, and hit hard, when I was doing some planning in my classroom recently. I was researching some iPad apps, figuring out what could be useful in my classes, how I could best use it, how to manage the logistics with the kids. I spend a lot of time this way, and that day I felt a wave of irritation that the technology class in my teaching program at BYU didn’t teach my any of this stuff. Why didn’t we spend any time learning about iPad apps that would be useful in education? Tips for managing a class set of these devices? Why didn’t we learn about navigating Chromebooks, or even using Google Docs with students?

Oh. Right.

Because none of those things existed when I was in college… I graduated from my teaching program in 2007. The first iPad was introduced in 2010. Even the first iPhone came out a few weeks after I walked across the stage in my cap and gown. Google was still mostly just a search engine, although we felt cool for having Gmail addresses, and Chromebooks wouldn’t exist until 2011.

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Don’t let the ancient CD player in the background ruin your enjoyment of this modern tech cart.

Literally all of the technology that I base my teaching around now, didn’t exist when I was in college. The more high-tech professors were still getting students to pay big bucks for “clickers” so they could respond instantly to questions in class. Nowadays, I can name half a dozen websites off the top of my head that let my students do the same thing for free.

How is that possible? How can college be so long ago, that it’s essentially another era? Have I really been teaching that long? Was graduation that long ago?

When I stop and think about it, though, I guess a lot has changed. Sure, I had a cell phone in college, and it had a camera and texting… But the photos were terrible, like no megapixels, and most of us were still paying per text. We generally still used our phones for actual phone calls. We left voicemails. We played Snake. And that’s about it.

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Look how pixely my roommate and I were when Spiderman 3 came out!

It was easy to be cool when I started teaching. I could T9 text faster than any of the kids—under the table, without taking my eyes off the person presenting at a meeting. And I had a Facebook profile. (Which I had to log onto an actual computer to look at.) That’s all it really took to be relevant. But now you need accounts on a million different social network platforms, with a new one popping up every time I turn around, and you have to check/update all of them constantly.

The Gilmore Guys have also been making me feel old. I went through college with Rory Gilmore, and looked forward to the show every week. I specifically remember being fidgety in one of my ESL Ed classes on Tuesday evenings, just wanting it to end so I could get home and watch Gilmore Girls…. But now I listen to Kevin and Demi analyzing every episode of the show, and constantly referring to how “It was a different time.” Was it? Was it really? Was Gilmore Girls on the air that long ago?

Yeah, I guess it was.

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Remember when only the gillies knew about Melissa McCarthy?

I guess it has been a while since I’ve worn a corduroy jacket over a t-shirt declaring in rhinestones that I’m a “princess,” “cute,” or “sassy.” And I can’t remember the last time I logged into AIM. Nobody quotes Homestar Runner or Charlie the Unicorn anymore, and the last time I dropped a Napoleon Dynamite reference, only one 8th grader got it.

So… I guess it’s been a minute since college happened. How does the world change so quickly??

Gilmore Geek

I love that we live in an age where it’s socially acceptable to be an out-and-proud nerd about our favorite things. I couldn’t care less about anime, or Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek Wars (Did I just eliminate my entire audience?), but I’m so glad the people who do care, and care a lot, have entire communities where they can come together, dress up in costumes (excuse me, cosplay…), and just geek out together.

Top of my own geek-out-about-it list? No contest–Gilmore Girls! For years, I haven’t even known how to answer when people ask about my favorite tv show, because it seems wrong to name a show that hasn’t been on since 2007. (And that last year barely even counts, amirite, gillies?) But it would be dishonest to put any other show above my Gilmores! I’m not usually a rewatch person. With so many movies, shows, and books that I haven’t experienced yet, I rarely go back to old favorites. But I never get tired of watching GG episodes again and again! To me, the characters are all real people, and Stars Hollow is a real place. The way everyone talks in super fast-paced, witty dialogue, peppered with cultural references that span all of history? That’s my dream. I don’t care that people don’t actually talk that way; I wish they did.

As Rory and I grew up together (She was one year younger than me, but I spent 5 years in college, so we ended up graduating at the same time.), I made a life rule for myself. If I were ever to meet a random celebrity, I wouldn’t be annoying and go interrupt their day…..unless it were a Gilmore Girls cast member. Then, all bets off, I’d absolutely go say hello, get a photo, probably make a fool of myself, but have my moment. Yes, it’s an oddly specific life rule, but it always felt right.

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Thank you, Netflix, for saving me from needing a stack like this.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/23412868@N03/5341066529/

Around the time Netflix made us freshly gaga for Gilmore all over again, a wonderful phenomenon was born–introducing, The Gilmore Guys. Their podcast analyzes every episode of GG in great depth, including the f-f-f-fashion, pop!-goes-the-culture, ….is-that-homophobic?, say-yes-to-the-Jess, etc. Kevin is a lifelong gilly (a term that I’m pretty sure he coined); Demi is watching the show for the first time, and they’re both very funny, entertaining guys. Since becoming a big thing, the Guys have been able to do special Gilmore Gab episodes with cast members, writers, casting directors, etc. And I love every second of it!

It takes way too much exposition to get to the main event, but here it finally is…. Since the podcast became so huge, they started doing live shows around the country. And last week they came to Portland!! Nothing was going to keep me from that show, and it took zero arm-twisting to convince my fellow gilly friend, Heather, to come with me. (This isn’t my first friendship that’s at least half-based in Gilmore love…. Hi, Samantha!)

Wheelchair perk: Since the tickets were all general admission, no assigned seating, they let wheelchair users come in first to beat the crowd and get settled. Well, if you insist… front row it is, then!

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Do you see that? I was at a town meeting! Practically like being in Miss Patty’s barn!

I know that you normal people (Are there any still reading?) don’t understand why it’s so cool to sit this close to a couple random guys who put a thing on iTunes… But, A) they’re hilarious and I love them, and, B) I figured this was the closest I’d ever get to my lifelong dream of meeting any GG characters.

While waiting for the show to start, we bought the obligatory and adorable t-shirts. We rocked out to the soundtrack of every song they’ve ever played on the podcast. We discussed the rumor that Michael Winters (Taylor Doose) was going to show up, since he allegedly lives in Oregon and performs Shakespeare in Ashland. And we thought the Asian lady who walked past us looked uncannily like Keiko Agena (Lane Kim).

And then, this wonderful moment happened….

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The episode of the night was 6.08, the one where Jess comes back and talks some sense into Rory-the-Yale-dropout. I remember losing my mind when it aired in 2005, but turns out that was only a foreshadowing of the heart palpitations I’d have when these two came out singing “Let’s Talk About Jess” (thanks, Salt-N-Pepa), with a slideshow of sexy Jess/Milo photos happening behind them!! My eyes didn’t know where to focus! Should I be watching the Guys, or my guy in the photos? I don’t know! It didn’t matter! It was wonderful!

As Heather put it afterward, sitting in the front row made it very tempting to invite ourselves into the conversation the entire time. And it was beautiful to be surrounded by people who don’t think it’s weird to spend over two hours listening to people discuss a one hour episode of a WB show that aired ten years. Just look at all those gillies!

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Sometimes inside show-jokes are a lil’ bit creepy.

We had the privilege of witnessing a historic moment. Kevin is known as the crier. Not like the town crier who makes public announcements on the street corner. (Although doesn’t it seem like Stars Hollow would have one of those?) No, he’s the crier who tears up at every emotional moment, and/or every time Emily Gilmore is on the screen. Typically, the crying happens during his private viewings of the show, then he shamelessly admits to it on air. However, for what seems to be the first time, Kevin shed some tears right there on stage. What inspired this public outpouring of emotion? The scene where sick Paul Anka spends the night on Rory’s bed. Yes, I’m serious.

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It’s ok, Kevin, go ahead and feel all the feels.

(By the way, the la-la-la-la special guest in the middle is local comedian and gilly, Caitlin Weierhauser.)

After watching the clip together, and crying about it, we still weren’t done with the Paul Anka bit. Then it was necessary to rework the scene, with Kevin playing Lorelei and Demi as Paul Anka.

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You know that Paul Anka is actually a dog in Gilmore land, right? Right.

I would like to say that this next photo is Demi’s cool guy way of covering up his own Gilmore tears… But I’d be lying. Demi is a robot who will live forever. Instead, this photo may or may not be during one of the half a dozen reenactments we saw of Jess in his bookbinding job… I realize that doesn’t sound worthy of a half dozen repetitions, but does it paint a better picture if I mention that Ginuwine was playing? No, that doesn’t make sense either? Ok, well, I tried.

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Note that Caitlin has fled the stage at this point. Traumatized.

Toward the end of the show, my face was hurting from nonstop smiling, laughs, and gilly-chucks. Then just when it seems like things might eventually settle down with some pretty typical audience Q&A, Kevin fake-stumbled upon this notable audience member… In the microphone, she shyly stuttered and that her name was Christine and Lane Kim was her favorite character. But look! Look! Look!!!

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Fun fact: I looked on Wikipedia later, and Christine wasn’t just a randomly chosen pseudonym. It’s actually Keiko’s real first name! For Spanish speakers, Lane Kim is my tocaya!!

Turns out we weren’t just being racists at the beginning of the show, thinking all Asian women look like Lane. It really was Keiko Agena!!

I can’t even express the fireworks that were going off in my head at this point. I was in the same room as a Gilmore girl! I could barely stay in my seat! Keiko has memorized word-perfect pages of Amy Sherman Palladino scripts. She’s spit out “this band meets that band meets this other band” lines at the speed of light. She’s eaten Luke’s fries and crashed on Lorelei’s couch. She’s drummed in Hep Alien. And she was right there!!!

We did manage to refocus long enough to wrap up the show and all sing the theme song together. There’s nothing like an entire theater full of people standing to sing and dance to Carole King’s “Where You Lead.” Nothing like it.

And then! Then I got the chance to finally live out the good half of my “don’t be a fool in front of celebs, unless Gilmore” rule. Because I’d been true to my word up until then! When I spent some magical time with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, I kept my cool. The universe owed me this!

When it was our turn to meet and greet, I shamelessly and awkwardly babbled about my life rule and the “exception clause for residents of Stars Hollow.” No regrets. Keiko graciously agreed that it was a very good rule to live by. And then took this photo with us.

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I think Heather and I should be Lane’s very own Madeline and Louise. Yes? Also, how much do you love Heather’s hoodie? Almost as much as you love Keiko/Lane looking like our bestie?

And obviously this photo also had to happen. How cute are Demi and Kevin? I love the Gilmore Guys more than ever! It’s crazy that their show is such a success, and I’m so glad that it is!

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Just quick note of f-f-f-fashion…. Yes, I’m wearing the wrong t-shirt. I sadly had nothing Gilmore to wear, so I decided to go with another dated tv show that’s about to have a revival. Also, I realized that’s the rainbow sweater I also wore when hanging out with 105.1 The Buzz’s Daria, Mitch, and Ted. It’s officially my meet-cool-people sweater.

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And I’m going to finally end this entry by giving a shout-out (or, in Kevin’s words, a Stars Holla!) to someone named Lisa Santucci Schvach for creating the Spotify playlist of Gilmore Girls music, which kept me in the mood to write all this.

#ILikeThatSong