Monday, September 19, 2016


 “One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” —Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

From the immortal words of Shakespeare to the poetry of Yeats; the tragic romance of Wuthering Heights to the terrifying beauty of Dracula, words continue to make our hearts beat a little faster, our lungs breathe in a little deeper, and our eyes see a little more clearly of all the deeper meaning that lies in every single moment of life.  

In both year one and year two, we are exploring the power of language--the power of words.  A good writer is extremely powerful.  His or her ability to put ink on paper in such an order that our emotions are moved in several different directions--often in the very same page--as we sit in our favorite chair eagerly devouring the story is nothing short of miraculous.  Words nourish us, hurt us, build us up, tear us down, make our hearts swell with love and romance or puncture with the most gut wrenching pain; words can leave us empty, in a puddle of our own tears while bystanding family members stand in wonder and confused dismay.

I have finished books before and been left a complete wreck; I have looked around at the world and wondered, "How can everything continue on as normal, as if none of this story ever happened?  Why isn't everyone else as heartbroken as I am right now?  How can they smile?"  I have also been left by a book thinking that life is more beauteous and amazing and miraculous than I have ever managed to notice before; that language is the same thing as art and that pages of what I just finished reading should be framed, and hung on the walls of the Getty and Louvre.  

Marcus Zusak writes in The Book Thief in that special, gorgeous, metaphorical way of his that words are the keys to power.  We have all heard  "The pen is mightier than the sword."  This Buzz Feed author who wrote the article in the link I am sharing with you  knows it, too.  Here, she has compiled what she claims are 50 of the most beautiful lines of literature.  While I have no idea how anyone could narrow it down to 50, I have to agree that every one of these lines belongs on a list of this description.  As I read some of them, I stopped, closed my eyes, and drank in the words like some sort of liquid nirvana.  Does that sound crazy?  I know what you're thinking:  How does Mrs. Caraway get so excited about a specific arrangement of words in a sentence?

Maybe I am a literature geek.  If that's the label that means I am obsessed with words, their power, and a life-changing story, then I wear the label proudly.  One of my proudest moments in recent years was having the opportunity to direct my Will Power Troupe in Romeo and Juliet, a performance of the words that Shakespeare organized in a script to tell an ancient story of violence and feudal hatred that is shot through the very heart by a love that transcends time.  We can debate the historical fact about whether the story is completely true or not, but here is something I do know for a fact: The appeal of  Romeo and Juliet isn't necessarily that it is "real," but something about it is universal.  It is what, in our hearts, we truly believe love to be:  powerful, heartbreaking, beautiful.  It's timeless.  Every time I watched my cast perform, it was like I was watching it all for the first time.  The words of this story clutched my heart, and they always will.

Whether it's Shakespeare or Stroker,  Whitman or Wilde, the words of a skilled word artist will do that to us time and time again.  And you know what?  Thank goodness they do.  For when we are sitting in our favorite chair, drowning in a puddle of our own tears and torn hearts, cursing the writer for putting us in that condition while our family members look on bewildered and concerned, we know, in that moment, we are alive.  We are human.  We can feel the depths of sorrow and the limitlessness of joy.  As a writer and a reader, I celebrate that.

Read through this list, pick a quote or two that speaks the loudest to you, and reflect on it.  What does it mean?  How does it speak to your heart?  What do you love about it?  THEN, (you are not done yet!) share a quote NOT on this list from a favorite book and tell us why you love it.

I'll lead off:  my favorite quote on this list is #45 from The Kite Runner.  It absolutely transfixed me the first time I read it in that novel.  It was life changing--a perception of forgiveness that spoke right to my soul.  Another favorite (not on this list) is from a book we will read in year 2 very soon:  Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.   It is one I always go back to...not just because of the words, but because of what they mean now that I connect them to the story as a whole: "I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."  When you read the book, you'll see why.'s your turn!  Quote away!  Feel the power of the words that tug on your heart!


Monday, September 5, 2016


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....

 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!