Friday, October 13, 2017


You have probably heard it said (often, if you are in the second year of my class!) that context is everything.  Okay, so I admit, it is definitely a cliche, but I would also like to suggest that it is a whole lot more than that.

I recently read a blog post in which a woman detailed a story about attending a church service that was very "charismatic."  In other words, people were very vocal and enthusiastic in their worship style.  She was okay with that, at least at first.  But it really started becoming annoying to her when a woman behind her started yelling "Glory!" and sometimes, "Glory, Glory, Glory!" during the service and the preacher's sermon.  Once was fine.  Twice or three times was pushing it.  But when it became constant, the blogger had enough.  She had formed a judgment about this woman and it wasn't a complimentary one.

After the service, the blogger stopped to speak with the pastor's wife, who was a friend.
The pastor's wife asked, "Did you happen to notice the woman who sat behind you today?"  The blogger commented that yes, indeed, she had noticed her, but she stopped herself from saying anything negative or judgmental that she might regret (she was in a church, after all!). That was when the pastor's wife said, "Her son was killed just last week in a drive by shooting."  The pastor's wife went on to share what an inspiration the woman had been to everyone at the church in the way she had clung to her faith through her pain, "It's truly beautiful," she said.

In that moment, everything changed.  No longer did the blogger see the woman as an obnoxious, over zealous church goer.  The woman calling out, "Glory!" had suffered unspeakable loss and tragedy; she was a human being who was bravely confronting her pain and suffering.  The blogger posted these words:  "When we know context, we are slower to judge, slower to write people off, slower to feel disdain, and slower to puff ourselves up in self-righteous [or indignant] pride."*

Communication and social interaction processes are an integral part of our every day lives;  at school, at work, and at home.  In each of these situations, both our culture and the unique context of our individual lives and situations play a role in how information is communicated, received, and most importantly, understood.  This is such an important revelation as you take in the flurry of information hurled in almost rapid fire succession at you everyday. Whether in watching the news, paging through advertisements, engaging in hallway gossip, or just making your own observations, you must always consider the role that the larger context of that message or sound bite is playing.

This should inspire this question in us all:  Who is judging you without a context today?  All of us can
do only so much to allow others to see the "bigger picture."  But ultimately; in a world of Snapchats, Instagram, Facebook Posts, short tweets and snippets of time that people may see us in the grocery store, hallway, or out on the field, they are going to see what they want to see, make of it what they will, and form an instant judgement.  This shouldn't surprise us; after all, we live in a hurried, "instant" world.  Personally, I'd like to hope that people who see me out and about, at my best and my worst, will give me the benefit of the doubt...

I have attached a video link here that highlights the results of a very interesting experiment.  Several photographers were hired (unaware of each other) to photograph the same man.  Each photographer was given a simple background or "context" of their subject.  None of them were true, and all were very different from each other.  It's very interesting how it affected even their artistic choices!  Please watch it by clicking this link:   
Share what you learned in the video, and what your own life experiences have taught you about the importance of context.

We live in a fast moving, rapidly changing world of quick reactions and snap judgements.  Maybe it would do us all good to stop, take a deep breath, and consider all the experiences, emotions, interactions and relationships that have brought us to this very moment.  Maybe it would do us all one better if we took the time to stop and consider all the possible factors that have brought each individual we encounter to this moment, as well...

(*Booker, Adriel.  "Context is Everything," I Still Belong blog, 2017)

Friday, September 29, 2017


These past few weeks, we have been talking about the power of our language.  As juniors, we are looking at the language of persuasion, and the power of language to educate and influence others ideologically and politically.  As seniors, we are looking at influential and instrumental power and propaganda, and how the language we use and meaning we construct is largely shaped by the structure and content of the message AND the culture and beliefs of the recipient.  In both cases, it is very important to take a leisurely stroll back through the "asparagus patch..."

Juniors, you have just "met" my friend Larry Frost through his writing, and learned of his deep desire to look beyond the messages and into the hearts of the messengers.  Seniors, you first read this piece last year and have heard me make reference to it since then from time to time.  But in both of our studies, the message of Mr. Frost's reflective narrative, "Conversations in the Asparagus Patch," is very appropriate and worthy of our ongoing consideration.

We are currently living in an environment of deep division and polarization.  Even though we have been given the gift of free speech in our country, a truly precious gift bought at a very high price, we are often afraid to use it, or we find ourselves wishing we could stop others from exercising it.  Living in a Democracy requires a GREAT deal of emotional maturity, and a commitment to staying active and informed in the events that shape our lives and history.  Because our views are so closely tied to our emotions, it is very hard to discuss, listen to, understand and accept opposing or opposite points of view without feeling "attacked."  Unfortunately, we cannot look to our leaders as shining models and examples.  They often seem more concerned with winning votes and gaining power than creating solutions, cultivating productive discussions and achieving unity.  So what do we do? 

There is a well known piece of advice  that goes:  "If you want to keep your friends, don't talk religion, politics or finances."  I believe that in many contexts, that is very good advice to be heeded.  But problems don't get solved if nobody talks about them.  In fact, often they grow.  So...maybe the problem isn't WHAT we talk about, maybe it's in HOW we talk about it.

Grace Bronder recently shared a Ted Talk with me that really connected to another Ted Talk we watched in year one last week called "Dare to Disagree."  You probably remember in that talk, the speaker proposed that it is in learning how to face and welcome conflict in problem solving and discussion that we discover new ways to inspire creativity.  It even suggested that asking for and offering constructive criticism or opposing points of view in a spirit of respect is, in fact, a form of love!

I have provided a link here for you to watch the Ted Talk Grace sent to me:

It is a very specific personal story of a unique friendship that really could and should become a model for all Americans. Watch the talk and then respond in your blog by addressing the following points and questions:

1.  What is your reflection on the message of the friends?
2.  Do you have a friendship like that?  What is your strategy to keep it?
3.  How will you challenge yourself to practice open, respectful dialogue that welcomes conflict and/or challenges to your own viewpoints?

 I am here to tell you, learning to listen to other points of view on the touchy subjects is a lifelong
lesson, but it is one we MUST agree to pursue with great determination and passion.  I am still learning how to do this, that's for sure--and probably will continue learning and trying to master it up to my last breath!  Language is powerful, that is for sure, and it is often wielded as a lethal weapon.   But as Americans, we owe it to those who came before us--to those who fought and died for these precious and rare freedoms we enjoy--to master the art of listening, questioning, and considering other ideas and points of view.  It means we learn to use our language to break down barriers and heal the wounds of misconception.   It doesn't mean we are wishy-washy or changeable.  It doesn't mean we lack conviction.  It means we care about and value each human being's right to learn, to seek and pursue truth, and to develop a sense of purpose.  We put people before politics and policies.

We are SO unique!  Let's celebrate and embrace that! We are a country founded on a principle of welcoming and even encouraging diverse ideas, not stifling them.  Whatever our problems or issues may be, we certainly cannot untangle them by ignoring or silencing them.
We must be brave; we must listen to each other, with open minds and open hearts...

We must be willing to take a stroll through the asparagus patch.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Communication break-down can occur at any time and in many different settings.  There's Group Project Anxiety: everyone has great ideas at discussion meetings, but you feel like the only one with a sense of urgency to get any actual work done.  There's Discussion Frustration:  whenever you engage in a discussion with your group, you feel as if your thoughts and ideas are not valued or brushed aside with no regard to your feelings.  And finally, there is just sheer information overload: why is it that after a full day of school, you feel completely zapped of energy, consumed by an overwhelming need to be where people are not?

We all realize that we are social creatures.  We seek out and thrive within interpersonal relationships. We long to be heard and appreciated, to create and explore.  This is probably not new information.  Rewarding as they may be, however, relationships of every type are complex and not without their
difficulties.  People are different.  Where we come from, our experiences, our beliefs, and our DNA all go into who we are, how we see and interpret the world, and how we communicate.

Many corporations have invested large sums of money on consultants with one goal in mind:  to improve inter-office communication and efficiency.  Where do you begin?  The communicators, themselves!  Knowing who you are helps you to better understand how and why you communicate the way that you do.  Knowing who your co-workers are can help you better understand how to communicate with them more effectively and efficiently.

So, as Aristotle taught centuries ago, we will begin by seeking the wisdom that comes from knowing ourselves.  Here is a link to a personality inventory:  Once you complete the test, you can have your results emailed to yourself and you can read all about your personality type: how you relate to others, how others see you, how you work, etc.

The test takes about 20 minutes, but it provides a wealth of information as it analyzes four distinct areas of personality and then adds a fifth area that analyzes overall identity.  It is created from a combination of the infamous Myers/Briggs and Carl Jung's Theory of Psychological Types.  The four areas are explained as follows:

1.  Introversion vs Extroversion: (I vs. E) This is more than just "shy" vs. "outgoing."  In fact, according to Jung, it is really not about that at all.  It has to do more with where you get your energy.  Do you find yourself getting energized when you are around others, or do you find that you need to be away from people to re-energize?
2.  Intuitive vs. Sensing: (N vs. S) Intuitives are creative, imaginative and curious individuals who are open-minded.  They tend to go with novelty over stability and see/feel possibilities.  They tend to have strong discernment in new situations.  Sensing or Observant individuals are practical, pragmatic and down to earth.  They tend to have strong habits and rather than going with their gut, they are more focused on what has happened or what is happening.

3.  Feeling vs. Thinking: (F vs. T) Feeling individuals are sensitive and emotionally expressive.  They are more empathetic and tend to be less competitive than T's.  They tend to focus on social harmony and cooperation.   Thinkers focus on objectivity and rationality, prioritizing logic over emotion.  They tend to hide their feelings and value efficiency over cooperation.

4.  Judging vs. Perceiving or Prospecting: (J vs. P)  Judging personalities are decisive, thorough and highly organized.  They value clarity, predictability and closure preferring structure and planning to spontaneity.  Perceiving individuals are good at improvising and spotting opportunities.  They are flexible, relaxed, non-conformists who prefer to keep their options open.

Identity Variables of Assertive vs. Turbulent: (A vs. T)  Assertive types are confident, self-assured and pretty resistant to stress.  They do not push themselves too hard.  The turbulent types are self-conscious and sensitive to stress.  They are perfectionistic types who experience a wide array of emotions.

So, test away, and then....
3.  NOW, as a BONUS, click this link, and find out if you are more left or right brained, and let me know your results!

 For example:  I am an INFJ - T.   This was absolutely no surprise to me, but a big surprise to those who know me, as I come across as an extrovert (SO not true!)   I think this is because I am a people pleaser, a trait I am working hard on to mellow.  I am also a J, but BARELY.  I need to feel organized in my environment, but DO NOT open any drawers!  They show my true, right-brained, messy creativity!  Now, it's your turn!

Friday, September 1, 2017


A very long time ago, in a state not so far away (California), I was beginning my teaching career at a very innovative school in Turtle Rock, a community in the city of Irvine.  When I assumed my brand new position, we had a training in a relatively new program that had been launched by parents and educators that was born out of the "Self-Esteem" movement that had first blossomed in the late 1980s. 

As I learned about the program, and how it
would be integrated into our teaching and classroom management and philosophy, which proposed lavish praising of kids and handing out trophies just for "trying hard," I felt myself inwardly cringe.  At first, I wasn't sure why.  I mean, isn't cultivating a "positive" self-esteem a good thing?  You would think so, but that still, small voice inside of me, you know the one? That sort of sixth sense or inspired discernment that just "knows" things to be true or not, whether or not you have concrete proof?  That's the one.  That voice whispered to me "bad idea."  While I couldn't articulate exactly why at the time, I just knew this was not the right approach to cultivate the dedication and enthusiastic engagement of young learners.

As time passed, I learned that low and behold, that voice was right.  It turned out that subsequent studies showed that kids did NOT try harder as a result of the program.  In fact, it was the opposite: coddled kids became softer, slower, and less likely to persevere.  Why?  Because there was one very important characteristic that past generations knew about and encouraged that was NOT fostered and learned in the process:  GRIT.

Carolyn Adams Miller, an author and speaker on the topic from Bethesda, Maryland, said, "This is not a gritty generation.  They become overwhelmed and stressed easily because they have been protected from failure."(1)  Like Miller, Psychologists now assert that grit, not a positive self concept, is the best predictor of future success and overall happiness.

So...what, exactly, is grit?  According to the dictionary, it is, in this sense, "courage and resolve; strength of character." (2)  It is a passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals.  It is what determines survival of the West Point or Naval Academy student or who makes the cut for the Olympic team; in other words, it sifts out those who can ultimately make it to the finish line of hard goals in life from those who cannot.  Miller says that talent can only get you so far.  It is really your grit that determines whether or not you make it.

In fact, research has shown that grit is completely unrelated to talent. (3) At times, it is even
inversely related!  Those who are not blessed with talent discover they must work twice as hard, and with grit, they develop the skills of discipline and perseverance.   Grit is contagious.  It is inspiring.  It CAN be taught and fostered.  In a Washington Post article, Miller proposed some steps to cultivate Grit, and they largely relate to our thinking and how we view and approach challenges:

1.  When you face a tough problem, don't tell yourself "this is too hard."  Instead, ask, "Why not me?"

2.  When things get hard and you want to quit, mentally change the channel.   Focus on a spiritual phrase, mantra, or image that encourages you on.

3.  Build a team around you.  Encourage each other.  Be sounding boards.  Connect positively as you pursue your long term goals through the achievement of smaller goals.

4.  Instead of offering empty praise and pity in failure, parents should coax their kids through failure.  Point out the lessons and praise the efforts to keep on going through pain and failure.

5.   While it is tough for parents to let their kids experience failure, it is actually the most important KEY in developing Grit!

Back in the 1980s, many communities opted to "soften" neighborhood parks so that kids could fall into a pillow of wood chips.  This seemed, in many ways, very prudent, but as it turns out, it has made kids "softer" as a result.  Creeping grade inflation, allowing kids to take and retake tests that they "bombed," has also shown to erode the development of grit.  Alternately, participation in true, competitive sports and auditioning for roles (and experiencing the disappointment of not always getting the role you want) in theater arts has shown to cultivate grit.

This all really seems to put a spotlight this week on the IB profile attribute of risk taking.  We have learned through hard experience here that playing it safe, and protecting ourselves and our kids from failure doesn't seem to net anything but more anxiety and cowardice.  But taking risks, watching and learning from those who never seem to quit, that will actually encourage curiosity and feeling truly alive.

Nancy Wake, an Australian woman who went to fight with the French Resistance against the Nazis during World War Two, once stated that while she was incredibly grateful the war ended as it did and freedom was restored, she never felt more alive and like she was living in her true purpose than during those long, fearful months she spent with troops of thousands of men hiding out in the forests.  At a time of great danger, Nancy chose not to listen to the cautionary pleas and warnings of those around her.  She learned to fight like the men she ended up ultimately leading.  It turns out that her being a woman was not a "weakness" after all; in fact, it made her less likely to be seen as a threat by the enemy!  Several of her fellow fighters were quoted as saying that having one woman named Nancy Wake was like having "five additional men" in their ranks!

Kids with Grit are finishers.  They are the tortoises in the race that keep on
moving towards their own established finish lines.  You may trip and fall in life.  You may experience heart breaking defeat and failure.  But the kids who ultimately succeed are the ones who take risks and feel alive.  They are the ones who get back up after a blowing disappointment with a sparkle in their eye, and that sparkle? That's GRIT!

Here is a link to a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth.  Listen carefully to all she has to say, and then comment below on what you have learned, and how you are going to apply it to your life.  Don't be afraid to get GRITTY!!


(Footnotes:  1.  Holland, Judy.  Washington Post, "The Key Ingredient to Your Kids' Success."  March 9, 2015.  2. Merriam Webster Dictionary  3.  Holland, Judy.  Washington Post, "The Key Ingredient to Your Kids' Success."  March 9, 2015.) 

Friday, May 5, 2017

WORDS TO THE WISE: Sage advice from our Seniors to the Next Generation of IB Lang and Lit Scholars...

Well, it is hard to believe, but we are almost to the close of another year at Odyssey.  Soon, our second graduating class, the Class of 2017, will be zipping up their gowns, donning their cords, and looking forward to the next phase of their exciting life journey:  college, career, military service...wherever their dreams take them...

They have, no doubt, learned a great deal over these past four years; not just academically, mind you, but also in the realms of life skills, cultivating and nurturing relationships, and learning from both mistakes and triumphs.

It is for this reason that I thought reflection was in order:  reflection that can help our next generation of upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, as they navigate through similar waters and build upon their knowledge as IB scholars.  So, here it is:  advice from your seniors to you...those who have successfully reached the summit of IB Language and Literature in the DP program.  They were the "official first" to finish it, so really take their words to heart!  And to you seniors who are quoted here, please know that I have learned just as much, if not more, from working with you as you did in this classroom.  I will miss you terribly, but I am ALWAYS and FOREVER in your corner, cheering you on, through all of life's challenges and celebrations!  LOTS of love, gratitude, prayer and pride to YOU from me!

Buckle up, here we go...

To the kids who have not yet been through their first year of IB Language and Literature, and those about to begin their second, we have some advice that will help you get through the two years…

First and foremost, DO YOUR WORK ON TIME.  Some credit is better than no credit/getting points docked for it being late. But do try your best. I find it great looking back on my written tasks, projects, and other assignments. You can really see your growth by doing that, so save your work and keep it organized. 

Try to relax and have fun. I'm not just saying this to make you feel better, it's true: I really enjoy DP Language and Literature. Don't make it stressful, and it doesn't have to be. Just do your best, and you'll make it through just fine :)

Although we write many written tasks over the two years, appreciate them.  You get to be creative with them and pretty much have your own structure.  Also make sure you use the in class time.  That is a whole 65 minutes to help get a start on your written task.  The time Mrs. Caraway gives in class helps tremendously, but only if you use your time correctly!

Learn to love "Critical Friends."  Although the first time doing it can be hard and scary, because who am I kidding, who wants to sit in silence and listen to your friends tear apart your essay?  But with all the great feedback they give, it is something you most likely would never have thought to add.  Therefore, you are able to add to your word count and come out with a better written task.

Listen in class.  Although Mrs. Caraway doesn't yell at students for being on their computers in class and for not really paying attention like most teachers do.  The things you learn in IB language and literature build on knowledge that you can use in other classes, at home, and definitely in college or the work field.  We don't just discuss books, but culture, and the history behind these cultures, novels and plays.

A piece of advice I would like to give to the incoming juniors is to be prepared to be challenged because language and literature is not just about reading books or writing essays, it involves critically thinking about pieces of text and applying that into a bigger context.

My advice to the future year one and year two DP language and literature is to not procrastinate when it comes to writing your written tasks.  It is a lot less stressful to write the written tasks in sections.  Also, make sure to actually read all of the novels and plays.  You will definitely be missing out if you don't!

Make sure you're extremely interested in whatever you pick for your Written Task One.  It's much easier to write a thousand words about something you're passionate about.

Put your best foot forward on all of your QPA's.  They may seem restrictive, but you'll learn to love the structure. 

Make a template for the QPA so you never forget the structure!

Always ATFQ.  ALWAYS.  Don't'll soon learn what that means!!

Read books you're interested in for your summer assignment.  Like with the WT1, it's much easier to read a book you're interested in.

Start your summer assignment early.  Don't be the kid who has to spend the last week of summer inside on your computer, writing!


Make sure you mark in your text, especially parts you go over in class.  You might even want to invest in a digital copy of the book to type in notes you take.

If you're having trouble with one of the books, read the chapter first, and then go over the Shmoop or Sparknotes.  Not the other way around.

Ask questions! Seriously!

Try to find ways to see the characters in modern day, it'll help when you are trying to go over their characteristics. 

I want to tell you to buy all of your books during the summer and to put them in your backpacks.  Trust me, if you don't, they WILL magically disappear.  Also, plan out how you're going to write your written tasks before you even read your novels/plays.  It may sound ridiculous, but get a good feel for the book.

As you are entering the second year, make sure to keep up on all of your assignments. Senior year goes by extremely fast, enjoy it, but do not forget about your responsibilities! Senior ditch day is extremely fun, but make sure you have everything ready beforehand, so you do not fall behind.

These blogs are actually fun!  Seeing that I love to write casually, the blogs are a free space to respond in anyway you would like!  There's not a set structure, and you can honestly say anything you would like.

The blogs are easy points!  They will add up quickly and can make or break your grade.  Just do them.  AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  They don't take up much of your time.  Just take the points.

Read the book.  Even when you think they are boring.  If I had a penny for each time I wanted to fall asleep while reading Jane Eyre, I would be a billionaire.  However, I wouldn't have passed my written task if I didn't push through.  The books can be boring, but Mrs. Caraway has this amazing way of talking about the books in a totally different way!  She makes you want to know more about the story, she makes you feel a part of the story.

There is no "busy work."  
Everything that is assigned to you
has a purpose.  Remember that.

HAVE FUN.  Throughout all of my years at Odyssey, I never quite felt like I was having fun while learning through multiple subjects until this class.  Mrs. Caraway is funny, and often lets us discuss things as a class to help with understanding.  We often turn and face each other and talk about our experiences with whatever subject is being taught.  This helps tremendously....
and we almost always end up in a class full of laughter!

So if you decide to stick with IB Language and Literature for the full two years, I promise you that it will become one of your favorite classes!

Now...FUTURE seniors, and those scholars just about to begin the journey that is IB Lang and Lit, DP, it is your turn to comment. What are you MOST excited about? What are your fears? OR, what words of advice really helped soothe your fears or inspire you? I cannot WAIT to begin and continue the journey with YOU!

Saturday, April 8, 2017


To this day, I believe the most incredible speech ever given by a human being is McRaven's inspiring commencement speech at the University of Texas:  "If You Want to Change the World, Start by Making Your Bed."  That has become my favorite pep talk to rewatch - even though I still struggle with making my bed on a daily basis.  Recently, I had the opportunity to read an interview with McRaven and others, and once again, I was stunned.  When training the future SEALS, McRaven said something to the effect that his job was not to teach them things they didn't know how to do. These guys are the best of the best when it came to physical conditioning and athleticism.  His job was to push them beyond that forty percent.

What does that mean?  Well, earlier in the interview, McRaven said that when we, as humans reach the point of exhaustion, we still have only used about sixty percent of our capacity.  That means, we have forty percent left.  Forty percent!  That's a lot, when you really think about it!  So, what is it that holds us back from pushing harder?  What is it that keeps us from accessing that power that we have in our own reserve tank?  How do we learn to push beyond to achieve that result we so desire?

I have thought a lot about this over the years.  I have watched individuals and teams achieve what many had said was impossible.  I have seen people shut down incredible odds to realize their dreams. What is it, exactly, that enables them to do that?  I believe it is that same thing that sets the SEALS apart in their training as elites:  They manage to push beyond into that extra forty percent.

In my own experience and observation, and in listening to those who have coached and achieved the impossible, here is what I have learned:

1.  "Any team can win on any given day" (Terry Bradshaw).  It all comes down to gumption.  How badly do you want this?  How far are you willing to push yourself to get it?  My mother used to say all the time, "Is this a mountain you want to die on?"  Same thing.  How important is it?  Your mind is king when it comes to pushing your physical limits.  Many think it is the condition of the body.  It is, to a degree.  But even more powerful is the will of your mind.  It is profound.  In short, passion is just about everything.

2.  "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment" (Jim Rohn).  My dad called this work ethic.  Achieving the impossible requires discipline.  Discipline requires denying yourself things that you want now for the ultimate goal you dream to achieve then.  I have been very hard on my kids when it comes to this one.  Maybe your parents have, too.  You can play later.  Work and chores first.  It's a lesson I started learning very young.  My own father lived in poverty in South Dakota.  His home didn't even have actual flooring - it was dirt.  They lost their farm once, and had to work hard to get it back.  He had to set out on his own at thirteen because he didn't want to be a farmer like his father.  He lived at a boarding house, trading a place to live for cooking breakfast, cleaning, and other chores.  He worked three  jobs in high school, and went ROTC to pay for university.  After serving his country in the Korean War and landing a job with a huge retailing company, he promised loyalty as an executive with that company in exchange for them financing his Masters at NYU.  He was a self-made millionaire.  When dad told us to finish our work, we didn't challenge him!

3.  "I like criticism.  It makes you strong" (LeBron James).  Another thing that separates the wildly
successful from the moderately successful is their ability to take and apply criticism.  If I may be perfectly candid, our society has, in SO many ways, gone soft.  We have spent so much time focused on making everyone feel good about themselves, we have lost that art of offering and seeking constructive criticism.  If you cannot take criticism, you cannot grow.  You cannot develop.  You cannot challenge yourself to push harder.

4.  "Have patience.  Everything is difficult before it is easy" (Saadi).  Sometimes, the fastest way to something is far from the best way.  I have found in my life that anything that is worth having requires both hard work AND patience.  You may hear a thousand no's, but all you need is that one yes!  Instead of hearing no, hear "Not Now."  Waiting is SO hard....but anyone who has had to endure waiting knows it takes a lot of energy.  Patience is the art of enduring the wait and keeping the upbeat, will do (not can do) attitude.

5.  "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail" (Ralph Waldo
Emerson).  Closely related to patience (I call it patience's twin) is persistence.  You must have the endurance to persevere.  At the risk of using a corny runner's metaphor, Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  To those with big dreams, it is a race.  You need to tackle it as such.  Looking forward to what lies ahead is much more productive than looking back.  Use the hard lessons, pain and hurt to propel you forward.  You'll be a better person with a stronger character and lots of wisdom that way when you do reach your summit!

In all of this, be kind.  Accept the help and support of others, and when you have achieved, offer what you have learned to those who are in the midst of the storms of struggle.  Inspire others!  And always, above all things, be grateful.  Nobody reaches beyond that forty percent without someone shouting encouragement and urging them on along the sidelines.

I hope this is helpful in some small way.  At the very least, maybe it will give you something to think about as you assess your goals and dreams, your gifts and talents, and your willingness to push beyond that forty percent.

Attached, are two articles about pushing beyond limits, and, of course, the infamous McRaven speech.  What stands out to you?  What is your secret formula for success and pushing beyond your limits?  Teachers who read this blog:  here is your chance to also share your wisdom with scholars!

Article #1:
Article #2:

McRaven's Speech -

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Ever since Alanis Morissette released her song "Ironic," people have started buzzing about the true
meaning of certain literary terms and whether or not they are truly being used properly in context.
Irony confuses, and like the two p's and satire, which will be addressed momentarily, it depends somewhat on the intention of the writer or speaker.

Irony requires an opposing meaning between what's said and what's intended.  Stop.  Think about that for a long moment.  Even the definition is somewhat head scratching, so if you often find yourself confused by irony, you're in excellent company.  One of the confounding factors of irony isn't just that its definition is a bit, well, complex, but also the sheer number of possibilities for correct usage.  It's bad enough that irony is hard to grasp, but now add to that fact that there are, in fact, a multitude of definitions for different forms of irony, including verbal, dramatic, and cosmic. The sheer plethora of ways ironic can be used meaningfully suggests that is something of a "catch all" for a situation that seems odd, upsetting or amusing.  Enter Ms. Morissette...

If it rains on your wedding day, that may be seen as a coincidence, but not irony.  However, if you moved your wedding to an indoor venue because the forecast predicted rain, but the day turned out to be sunny, and then the sprinkler system at your venue malfunctioned and doused the ceremony with water, so you all get wet, after all, THAT'S ironic.  If you win the lottery and drop dead before claiming the money, that is simply good luck followed by bad luck.  If you meet the man of your dreams and then meet his beautiful wife, that's just a bummer.  But if, then, a song called "Ironic" contains no irony, is that in and of itself ironic?  Nope...not really.  It may just be an example of ignorance.  It depends on the creator's intent.  So if Alanis purposely wrote a song about irony with no ironic content at all, is THAT ironic?  We are getting closer....

Here are six ways to look at Irony:

1.  VERBAL IRONY:  when a speaker or writer is intentionally using words that literally convey the opposite of their true beliefs, generally for comic emphasis (sarcasm).  In fact, there is a strong overlap between sarcasm and comic irony.  Example:  Saying "Oh, that's just fantastic," when the situation is really poor.  OR Dimmesdale's sermons about how sinful he is, and how he deserves disgust resulting in the congregation loving him and following him even more.

2.  SITUATIONAL IRONY:  A sharp divergence between expectations or perceptions and reality.  Expectations, of course, often differ from results, but to rise to the state of irony, the gulf between them should be vast and the contrast sharp.  See the wedding example above with Ms. Morissette's song breakdown.

3.  DRAMATIC IRONY:  Perhaps the easiest to understand as its use is so specialized.  The device in which the reader or audience is tipped off to a crucial fact still unknown to one or more of the characters.  Example:  The audience and friar know that Juliet isn't really dead, but Romeo doesn't.

4.  COSMIC IRONY:  Not very often used.  It denotes the idea that the fates are against us, if not indifferent to us, and that our struggles are the result of higher forces amusing themselves at our expense.  Example:  The owner declared of the Titanic, "God, Himself, cannot sink this ship."  Well, you can infer the rest.

5.  HISTORICAL IRONY:  Some things become ironic with time.  If the passage of years creates an amusing juxtaposition between a historical event or claim and what has happened since to contradict it.  Example:  Isn't it ironic that the inventor of the machine gun thought his new weapon would end war?"  Answer:  YES! It is, in fact, historically ironic. :)

6.  SOCRATIC IRONY:  The pretense of ignorance used to draw an opponent into slipping up or revealing flaws in their argument.  Example:  She used socratic questioning in order to poke holes in his emphatic argument.

How's that for confusing?  If that isn't enough, irony is only one way to bring in humor or thought-provoking elements in literature.  There are also parody, pastiche and satire....Buckle up, here we go!

PARODY:  An imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialize an original work, its subject author, style or some other target, by means of imitation. Example:  The movie "Airplane" is a parody of 1970's disaster movies.  AND Most everything created by Weird Al Yankovic.

PASTICHE:  A work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.  Unlike parody, the intention of pastiche is to celebrate rather than mock. Example:  Many modern artists seek to produce works of impressionism in homage to Renoir and Monet, who are very much beloved.

SATIRE:  A genre of literature and art in which the vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations or society, itself, into improvement.  Although funny, its intention is to shame or offer constructive social criticism.  Examples:  The Daily Show, most political cartoons

Just for fun, the definition of cynicism, or cynical, is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.  It is a form of skepticism that often leads to the production of satire.

There you have it!  Here's to understanding the various ways authors, speakers, poets and artists humor us, pay homage to us, and humiliate us in all sorts of creative and confounding ways!

I have attached the Morissette song for you to evaluate, armed with your new knowledge of irony.  I have also attached two very funny little videos for your enjoyment.  Reply with the following:

1.  Did you find any examples of true irony in the Morissette song?  Give me an example of irony in something you have heard or read.  What type of irony is it?  Why?

2. What are each of the funny little videos an example of and why?

3.  Which of the previous definitions confused you the most?  What literary device do you find most confusing?

Alanis Morissette:
Tim Hawkins Video #1:
Tim Hawkins Video #2: