Thursday, December 31, 2009



The Farmers' Almanac lists these Algonquin Indian names for the full moon of each month: January: Wolf Moon February: Snow Moon March: Worm Moon April: Pink Moon May: Flower Moon June: Strawberry Moon July: Buck Moon August: Sturgeon Moon September: Corn Moon October: Harvest Moon November: Beaver Moon December: Cold Moon Source:


Relate: To react in response, especially favorably.

To feel at peace and in harmony with your world!
From Dr. Frank Lipman, and his book, "Spent":

Practice ubuntu.
“Ubuntu” is an African term that means what makes us human is the humanity we show each other. It’s a worldview that sees humanity as a web of family rather than a mass of individuals. When you relate in this way, you feel connected, energized and have a sense of abundance.

Happy New Year. May you find ubuntu easy to practice and may it bring you closer to the earth and all of its inhabitants.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fluffy: Light and airy; soft.

B.I.G. News
It's snowing in Lucca.
It almost never snows and when
it does, it melts really fast.
Big, fluffy, heavy snowflakes.
I caught some on my tongue.
Martin's first snow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Resolution: The act or an instance of resolving; as in Conflict Resolution.

Teaching in the Classical High School again this year.
Decided to have some lessons on Conflict Resolution.
Went to Carter Center online for materials.
Goodwill toward, well, in ALL OF US.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Banquet: An elaborate, sumptuous repast. A ceremonial dinner honouring a particular guest or occasion.

"Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."

--Auntie Mame

Auntie: A familiar or diminutive word for aunt.

Veronica loaned me the film "Auntie Mame". Delicious.

Then I realised, I AM AUNTIE MAME!

Moon: Reach for the moon; to desire or attempt something unattainable or difficult to obtain

Go for the moon. Why shouldn't you go for the moon? Don't do it. Don't settle for that 40W bulb just becuase it's pretty. You'll be stuck with it long after it has burned out.

Novelist Jane Gardam

Saturday, December 5, 2009

DOG:A domesticated carnivorous mammal (Canis familiaris) related to the foxes and wolves and raised in a wide variety of breeds.

On December 21st, 2006, my friends Sara and Mark drove me about an hour and a half from Lucca to a kennel. That night we came home with Mart.

Name it and claim it # 150: I want a dog.
Name it and claim it # 151: I want a Chihuahua.

Martin was in a cage with his little sister who was half his size, shimmery black and looked like a bat. I held her, trembling, in my hands and put her next to my chest.
I had been told that girls were nice, so I thought, ok, this is the girl...
Mark, meanwhile, was playing with a champagne coloured doe-deer-dog, and leaning over, whispered, "Steph, I don't know why you're playing with that dog. THIS is your dog."
He set the bambi boy down, took the girl out of my arms and pointed, "This is your DOG, Steph. That's him. Screw the girl-thing."
The dog was standing on his back feet, dancing, his huge ears drooped down over his big, olive black eyes. He was smiling.

I paid for him and we left his little, tiny sister in the cage.

Mart came home and Mary welcomed him.
People said she was jealous. But they weren't paying attention. She was fine. He was jealous of her.
At the end of her life, she was playing ball with him, and the day I put her to sleep, he gave her a kiss goodbye.

Martin changed my life. He is smart and funny and handsome and likes to cuddle and travel and walk. He tolerates my working and studying at the desk, sitting on my lap, patiently.
He sleeps under the covers in summer and winter, practically nude, he suffers from cold.
I love him.
i LOVE him.

I live in a country where he can go everywhere: the butcher, Christmas mass, tea in the bar, dinner at the trattoria. He comes to business meetings with me. When he isn't with me, people ask where he is and I usually say, "Home, playing computer games."

The summer we spent in New York, Mary was here in Lucca, sitting on the piano, watching Sara composing songs in her aerie.
Mart and I walked the streets of Manhattan and we were happy.
I snuck him into Dean and Deluca and the Angelica cinema.
The only place he couldn't go with me was the MOMA because they would have discovered him when they put my bag through the metal detector...But Gessica ( or was it Dorene?) , convinced the man at the New York Public Library to let us in and the guard said as long as the dog stayed inside the bag, it would be ok.
All the subway staff let him come on the trains and he rode in a bag on the buses, too.
He was at Takashimaya with me and Tiffany's. He remembered where Lynn and Marty lived and would lead me there most days, preferring Spring Street to Prince.

I want to thank Luana for babysitting Mart when he was a baby when I was still working a lot; all the people who have welcomed us into their homes in the USA; Ella for babysitting; Einat for letting me put her phone number on his tag; Dorene and Gess for being his aunties; Kenzie for having an open mind; Isabella for giving him his name; and finally, Mark and Sara for taking me to pick him up. Mark was right. He is my dog.

Companion: Comrade.

Final: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin fnlis, from fnis, end.

Finished my two final papers. A few comments left online to wrap up my first semester at school.

Parting words:


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jaded: Adj., Worn out. Dulled. Callous.

Oh my gosh. Today I realised something. I am not jaded. Ha! Cool.

Equality = The state of being equal.

=equality, what a concept

I have been doing research into my comparison period in history class where I will compare my assigned period of 'The Colonies and American Revolution' with that of another period of my choice, in this case, 'TheCold War, Suburnisation and the Sixties' , and came upon this primary source again:

History and Politics Out Loud

It is really cool to listen to some of those audio files.

I could not help but noting the only woman's voice was this entry:

Eileen McCann, Canadian Folksinger

Her song, "Too Stupid For Democracy" is quite amusing. If you are in the mood, take a listen.

I know why women are missing from this audio history site, I do. But it is still disturbing. Disturbing. And I think it is further testiment to the lack of voice given to women historically.

Recently I watched a program called "The World Debate" on BBC World entitled 'Women, The Boost Business Needs?'

The panel discussed the value of women in positions of power in government and business and the importance of investing in education and health care for women around the world. Indra Nooyi, the President of PepsiCo, USA (an Indian woman) said that when government gives opportunity to only 50% of the population, it is like a car that only uses two wheels instead of four- it doesn't run well and never reaches its potential.

Something to think about.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Hero: One who is endowed with great courage and strength.

Heros are everywhere. In your neighbourhood. In the mirror.

Creative solutions. Amen.

The New York Times is a COOL PLACE to find COOL STUFF

Thanksgiving in the time of Love and Crisis

My dear friends,
Please go to this link and see the hands that plant and the children's faces and the fast food stands and George Washington and the fastness of the city street and the slowness of the country and the sweetness of narly carrots and the festive redchecktablecloth and the cow in the field and shoes in the street and the clearest sky. And think about happiness. I am studying happiness. I am studying America and america. I am a student of life. I am thankful for all of you and the freedom I was born into and the freedom I created for myself and the freedom that I was given by others that went before. So, from The Walls of Lucca to Macy's, from a garden in Brooklyn to a garden in Northern California, from the garden that is my life to the garden that is yours, Happy Thanksgiving. P.S. Be kind to each other. Even the stinky people that make your life difficult.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teacher: One who teaches.

Maya Angelou says that we are all teachers, that someone is always watching how we respond to kindness, to cruelty, to life's challenges. And, that we inspire with a smile or a truth, with the way we carry ourselves into a room or prepare a meal, touch the head of a child or hold a cat to our chest.

Yesterday I went back to high school for the first of two courses I will be teaching this year. The kids were engaging, bright, curious and lovely, really lovely. I still have no voice, so I wrote everything on the big scruffy blackboard in a cold room of a three hundred year old building. There are sideboard cabinets lining the the walls and filled with school records and taxidermy geese and lizards and drawers with Latin labeling, taped shut with wrapping tape. (I plan on asking them what the heck that is all about when I get my voice back!)

I gave them a questionnaire about their plans and dreams and later, reading their words, I was filled with hope. Youthful hope is a contagious thing.

I like my job so much.

Last night I met a student for coffee to try to convince him to stay in a course where he is the weakest student and doubts his ability to catch up; doubts his capacity to keep up. Teaching is asking someone to believe in themselves. Teaching is giving someone a tool and watching them use it. A teacher is a person who watches and learns what the student needs and then tries to find a way to help them discover how to get it.

At ESC I can navigate the course to my degree in a very personal way and this week I laid out the academic path to my B.A. and here are some of the courses I have chosen.

Reflective Learning
Proposal Writing
Intro to Religious Studies
Intro to Ethics
Exploring Place: History (The study of how 'place' and community have shaped civilisation)
Thinking about Race, Class and Gender
The Development of Gender Identity
Adolescence and Identity: Home, School and Community
Intro to Sex and Gender - Cross-Cultural Perspective
Stress and Coping
Adults as Learners: Theories and Strategies
Family and Society
Schooling in America
Analysing Behavioural Choices
Women, Girls in Media
Images of Women in Western Civilisation
Artistic Expression in Multicultural America
The Future of Being Human
Contemporary Mathematics
Spanish Language and Culture

A rich selection, and there were so many other courses in Latino culture and African American culture that I did not choose, but was curious about.

I am trying to layout a foundation of knowledge and consciousness that will make me a better teacher, critcal thinker and more balanced human being. My challenge is to leave behind my prejudices and take up the cause for a clearer mind and an open heart.

I send a shout out to Gessica and tell her to be strong, Einat who is cleaning her stuff out, to Francesca who is living her dream in London, to Kenzie who is harvesting (better late than never), to my sister who is in the middle of change, to Lynn who is healing, to Veronica who is a rock, to Kari who is swimming in her own poetry, to my mom and dad who are navigating illness, to Dorene who is living at home again, to Rita who is planning her course, and, to Isabella who is negotiating her future. And to my students, tiny and old, who are courageous enough to learn a new language.

Maya says, teach on and continue to inspire.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sick: Suffering from or affected with a physical illness; ailing.

Here are the things I like about being sick:
Staying in bed with a dog who can hold his pee an incredibly long time.
Being warm in bed.
Watching movies in bed.
Studying in bed.
Sending text messages cancelling lessons from bed.
Knowing that the grocer downstairs delivers food.
Nodding off...

I lost my voice.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update: To bring up to date.

From August 15th:

Here is how it works: I write my perfect schedule and let's see if I can make it happen! (...with you, the reader, as my witness!) Let's test the 'name it and claim it' philosophy together!

I intend to work more with my training agency as an instructor in business English (I earn more per hour in these courses)
AND I intend to work near home (=less commuting by bus to companies outside my immediate neighbourhood).
This means I will take less private students,
sending the overflow to a new American teacher who has recently moved here, thus boosting her earning power at the same time!

Ok, so that's the challenge. The first week of September I will go to my training agency to see how our new courses are going and see if I can help with marketing and planning.
I have a good private client base, and the privates who start in September will be the ones I take; the ones who sometimes drag their feet starting later in October I hope to pass on to other teachers.

Tick-tock. A nonspatial continuum, indeed.
Work hard...
and don't forget to BREATHE/BREATHE!!!!

Absence: The time during which one is away.

Well, it isn't difficult to imagine why I have been absent: I AM DROWNING IN EVERYTHING!!!!

I am doing a lot and feeling overwhelmed.

I am not sleeping very well. This is because my brain is GOING. Yoga is helping. Thank you YOGA.

I am in sinc with my studies, though and refining my method of study, as well.

I am toying with going to school for the rest of my life. That is how much I LOVE IT.

Tomorrow I go to London on business so Mart and I are in our nice, warm bed watching films. The pigeons in the Tower Condominium next door are cooing and Lucca is waking up, slowly.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Birthday: the day on which a person, or dog, is born.

Happy Birthday, Martin. Three candles on the biscuit.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monster: One who inspires horror or disgust.

I am reading an article on the psychology of how we learn. An example was given of baby monkies whose tendency is to cling to a surrogate 'mother' who is cloth covered over a surrogate 'mother' which is made from wire. At a certain point, the monkey bonds with the surrogate and this bond is so strong that when that 'mother' appears to reject, mistreat or display other forms of cruelty towards its offspring, the baby monkey still clings. The monster mother can do no wrong.
What does that say? Why, as adults, do we continue to embrace our family members if they are cruel. As adults, shouldn't we be able to understand the difference?
Is the realisation that we must reject cruelty even when it comes from our own people, our own tribe so abhorant to us? Because to reject our own leaves us truly alone in the world?
Can I tell you, I would rather be alone.
Just putting it out there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pink: Any of a group of colors reddish in hue, of medium to high lightness, and of low to moderate saturation.

photo from 'glamour puss' kitty wigs company

Blue: 1. The hue of that portion of the visible spectrum lying between green and indigo.

photo from

J'aime: I love... (in French)

j'aime la pluie
j'aime etre seul
j'aime lire
e dormir
j'aime mon chien
e ma maison

i love the rain
i love being alone
i love to read
and sleep
i love my dog
and my house

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Enlightenment: The state of being enlightened.

I origninally wanted to title this entry with the definition for NAIVE, but after reading the unflattering Free Dictionary offering, decided to reconsider my current insights by choosing ENLIGHTENMENT instead! HA!!!!

Lacking worldly experience and understanding, especially:
Simple and guileless; artless: a child with a naive charm.
b. Unsuspecting or credulous.
2. Showing or characterized by a lack of sophistication and critical judgment.
3. One who is artless, credulous, or uncritical.


I wanted to dedicate this entry to my new sense of understanding which is evident to me now that I am in school again and how I cling to ideas and beliefs that have defined me over the past three decades.

I have not changed the core of those beliefs, but feel more day by day, the sandy ground upon which they have been built.

One of my students, a very well educated Swiss man, told me that as he watched the effects of globalisation and the current market trends, he could not help but think of the fall of the Roman Empire. He said, 'All great empires collapse. We are simply witnessing this one in the 21st Century!'

He was able to step back from his personal views to see the BIG picture. And that, my friends, is what I am doing now.

I feel,
Liberated: To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control.

The shifting of perception, however slight, and the effects of that shift, is what this experience is teaching me everyday. I would still be sitting in a little dark room had I not decided to go back to school.
Isn't this all ironic? Lost on me as a 19 year old girl, the fruits of study, added to the wealth of my life experience up to this point, have made me ripe for new ideas which challenge my idealogy and idealism. At the risk of showing my age, I say this: I am digging the sh*t out of this. Now I will take my California-bred colloquialisms and leave you.

Happy Saturday, all. me and Mart

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Message: A usually short communication transmitted by words, signals, or other means from one person or group to another.


How many times do I have to try to tell you
That I'm sorry for the things I've done
But when I start to try to tell you
That's when you have to tell me
Hey... this kind of trouble's only just begun
I tell myself too many times
Why don't you ever learn to keep your big mouth shut
That's why it hurts so bad to hear the words
That keep on falling from your mouth
Falling from your mouth
Tell me...

I may be mad
I may be blind
I may be viciously unkind
But I can still read what you're thinking
And I've heard it said too many times
That you'd be better off
Why can't you see this boat is sinking
(this boat is sinking this boat is sinking)
Let's go down to the water's edge
we can cast away those doubts
Some things are better left unsaid
But they still turn me inside out
Turning inside out turning inside out
Tell me...
Tell me...

This is the book I never read
These are the words I never said
This is the path I'll never tread
These are the dreams I'll dream instead
This is the joy that's seldom spread
These are the tears...
The tears we shed
This is the fear
This is the dread
These are the contents of my head
And these are the years that we have spent
And this is what they represent
And this is how I feel
Do you know how I feel
'cause i don't think you know how I feel
I don't think you know what I feel
I don't think you know what I fear
You don't know what I fear

For Gregory

California: A state of the western United States on the Pacific Ocean.

Here is Joni's version of my 'home state'-

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They wont give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldnt want to stay here
It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh, but California
California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a sunset pig
California I'm coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue, the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you, California
Oh California, I'm coming home
Oh make me feel good rock 'n roll band
I'm your biggest fan
California, I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues

So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue
They said, how long can you hang around?
I said a week, maybe two,
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I'm going home to California
California, I'm coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California, I'm coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you're walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as l am?
Will you take me as l am?
Will you?

Abandon: To give over or resign (oneself) to something, as to an emotion.

if you really know me, you know that i do not often listen to music.

how can a singer not listen to music? ever? easy. music makes me feel things i do not wish to feel.

today it occured to me that i am listening to music, again, like i did when i was young-thirty years ago...

is it school? i don't know.

surrender away... if feels ok. the poetry of it all is bitter and sweet and it's ok. i haven't drowned in the poetry today. i am still standing. i'm ok.

Model: One serving as an example to be imitated or compared:

In 2007 I had the honour of working for Language Studies International in their San Diego school teaching during their summer sessions.
I met extraordinary people like Rachel Ishiguru, the Director of Studies, who became a mentor for me. The admin staff were helpful and nurturing and were an example of cooperation and efficiency. The teachers were all enthusiastic, fun and committed educators. I saw that it was possible for a school to do good work, for teachers to work TOGETHER and for students to have fun and learn at the same time!

This model of teamwork and professionalism gave me the courage to resign from my teaching position in my Italian private language school and lead me to try and create something new by working for a training agency as a consultant.
The director of Formetica Training Agency, Paola Martelli, is vibrant and forward-thinking and she has allowed me to work in a new way, and for that I am grateful.

I believe that we make the world with our thoughts and this empowers me to think differently, to think positively, to look for the best in others and strive to be the best I can be.
My work is important to me. This is why I returned to university. I want to be better.

If we have one life only, this one has been about discovering how to have fun and love my day to day existence. It has taken me far away from my family and all things familiar and asked the people who love me to let me go and do my own thing. The definition and achievment of happiness for one may cause harm or pain or loss to another. And that is the theme of my course this year: How our pursuits affect others. And ulitmately, what that means.

As I go forward, I am challenged to see my views in a new light and to try to open my mind and heart. Sometimes this is uncomfortable.

I saw the documentary maker Ken Burns in an interview talking about his PBS film, 'The National Parks: America's Best Idea'. He celebrates American history and all its flaws and sees our challenges as the very fiber of what makes a Democracy interesting and complicated.

When I am frustrated by the things I want to change in myself or my world, I always return to Rilke. He wrote, "...learn to love the questions themselves."
Going to school brings more questions and so, more to love.

Happy Happiness Sunday, friends and readers. Stephanie and Martin, Lucca, Italy

Investment: the commitment of something other than money (time, energy, or effort) to a project with the expectation of some worthwhile result.

In the two weeks since school officially started, I have dedicated more than forty hours to study, read nine chapters of textbook material, written an essay and completed three online assignments which were part of our classroom communication requirement. Each day I log in to read the comments of my fellow classmates, writing my own commentary as I contribute to this community discussion, and have gone online to look at some primary sources which are part of an assignment in our 'American History: Pursuit of Happiness' course.

My professional goals this academic year include incorporating a social cause into my conversation course:
We meet once a month for four hours. Each year we work on one particular aspect of English- one year we had book club readings and last year we did 'flash writing' which challenged the students to write very, very quickly on a topic, thus forcing them to think fast in their second language and improve their writing skills and as such, their fluency.
This year we may work to educate ourselves on some world problems in the area of human rights- this may include the plight of women and children in Congo (where rape is used as a weapon) and human trafficking. Then, if this goes well, we are thinking about holding some sort of event in Lucca to raise money for
which helps people all over the world to sponsor events and build awareness of issues.
(Their step by step approach makes organising very easy!)

Another professional goal this year is the building of a community of teachers in my city. This is a new concept as often educators living abroad are polarised and often private language schools may discourage teachers from unifying (in an effort to keep wages down?). Last week I met with fifteen teachers from S. Africa, Australia, Canada, the UK and USA to organise them for work in the training agency where I am a consultant and instructor. It was incredible to see all that potential in one room and it is the first time in my ten years here that we met in an effort to share ideas and network for academic excellence and opportunities.

My daily yoga and walks are keeping me sane and I am making time to see a few friends with whom I share my daily life while keeping in touch with my niece, who is facing interesting challenges this year, my sister, who is a fabulous professor and who guided me in my first essay assignment and the rest of my clan/tribe in the states who are a constant support and inspiration to me.

My investment of time, energy (and money, in the form of a Federal Loan) is paying off in many, many ways.

My students continue to inspire me and I am working toward my 'name it and claim it' goal to work less and earn more in an effort to make room for my studies and stay healthy and motivated as I pursue my version of happiness.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Historian: A writer, student, or scholar of history.

You guys, this course is so COOL. First of all, I am blown away by how even online, the professor has been able to create a fabric of comraderie among the participants, inviting each of us to address our memories of history courses in the past. We read each other's comments and add something here and there. The dialogue is open and honest- a lot of students hate history or do not remember ANYTHING from high school or university courses.

This is one of our first assignments:
In a nutshell: we will act the role of historian, identify a certain period in U.S. History- something we are truely interested in, and, using the book "History Matters" which is a guide to online research for primary sources: documents, audio and film archives, artifacts, photos, etc., we will start digging into the material and identify an explicit or implicit reference to 'happiness' or 'the good life'.

This text is full of the most interesting stuff- on EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you can imagine.

I am struck not only by how incredible it is to be going to school ONLINE, but also how fabulous the technology is when used as a tool in this way!

I have narrowed down my choices to:
Margaret Sanger Papers Project
Teach Women's History Project
Oral History digital Collection
Watergate Revisited
Performing Arts in America, 1875 - 1923
Emma Goldman Papers
By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936 - 1943
Medicine and Madison Avenue

I mean, I wish I could be a student for life! How great that after all these years, I finally get it. When Greg was studying, he used to tell me about everything he was reading and I realise now that he was recalling the information, explaining it and therefore proving that he understood it. Esoteric Sophists, Hegel, Kirkegard, Kant, Thomas Aquinas-a parade of high thinkers! And how fun it was to listen. I learned a lot- his enthusiasm was contagious.

I explain things to Martin as he sits on the sofa blinking at me...

I am finding balance between work and study- my work load is less now and I have to strive to keep that delicate equilibrium.

I am a late bloomer!!!! Better to bloom late, than never! (Above; Photograph of a late bloomer.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happiness: State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

Course Description 222114

In this course we're going to study how "happiness" and "the good life" have been variously defined and debated in U.S. history. Our emphasis throughout the term is going to be on the processes of "doing" history; in other words, we're going to go about our study of history as historians do, by locating, analyzing, and comparing primary documents pertaining to "the good life" as they are rooted in particular historical contexts and periods. We'll work on sharpening skills in writing and analysis that are important to your success in college and whatever career path you wish to undertake. But beyond this, careful consideration of "happiness" and "the good life" in historical perspective is invaluable in gaining a sense not just of where we've been, but where we are and where we're going in a nation and world facing enormous changes and challenges. The study of history is useful not only in exploring the past, but also getting a firmer grasp on the present, and the future.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fall: The season of the year between summer and winter, lasting from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice in the No. Hemisphere.

From Einat

2. Fall: To be born. Used chiefly of lambs.

Ritual: A ceremonial act or a series of such acts.


This weekend is the celebration of Luminara, a prosession of worshipers celebrating the Volto Santo (a wooden crucifix supposedly carved by the Pharisee Nicodemus himself) , marching through the streets- drum cores accompany Renaissance clad players making their way down the route of winding coblestone lit by thousands of votive candles arranged 'round the windows of old, decaying buildings and as the drums beat and the people march I am listening to Joni Mitchell ('For Free', 'A Case of You', 'Free Man in Paris', 'Ladies of the Canyon'...) and classic Elton John ('Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters' and 'Tiny Dancer'). Martin is on my lap and I am downloading 'Entrouage' (I am so discustingly American) on my itunes and I live in a dream and I live here far from the people who know me and love me just the same, surrounded by people who do not know me so well and love me anyway, too.

Elton's (and Bernie Taupin's) poetry/music

And now I know
Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew
But now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City

Until you've seen this trash can dreams come true
You stand at the edge while people run you through
And I thank the lord there's people out there like you
I thank the lord there's people out there like you

While mona lisas and mad hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can't and that is why
They know not if it's dark outside or light

This Broadway's got
It's got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I'll go my way alone
Grow my own, my own seeds shall be sown in New York City

Subway's no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the lord for the people I have found
I thank the lord for the people I have found

Wish you were here to sit for a bit in the piazza. Wish you were here to 'bake some brownies, today' be a mad hatter and watch the mona lisas strolling like it's perfectly normal to be a mona lisa...

There are people in the piazza below laughing over cocktails and Joni is skating away on her river.

And, me, I thank the lord for the people I have found.


Transformation: A marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better.

I took a little test to discover which Tarot card represents me best.
La Morte
Va tutto bene, ora calmati. E' la carta della trasformazione e del movimento, il necessario abbandono del passato per accedere a un futuro pieno di promesse. Nella tua vita hai affrontato situazioni pesanti e difficili, nelle quali hai visto crollare le tue illusioni. E' stato necessario chiudere col passato, troncare legami, abitudini, situazioni, ormai divenuti rami secchi. Ma tu riesci a evolvere in modo inarrestabile davanti alle difficoltà. Riesci sempre a fare un salto di qualità, anche se non ti senti preparato. Hai spesso in mente nuovi progetti, nuove idee, nuove circostanze, nuova vita, naturalmente col suo prezzo da pagare: tutto segue la logica del passaggio e della rinascita e se una sconfitta c'è stata, deve essere accettata per l'utile lezione che porta con sé. Devi sapere trarre insegnamento da ogni tuo passo. La forza evidentemente non ti manca. Sei una persona molto riflessiva e analitica; a volte ti perdi nella gravità dei tuoi pensieri, per poi tornare a sorridere non appena qualcuno ti si affianca con gentilezza e rispetto.

The Tarot Card of Death
Stay calm! Everything is ok. This is the card of transformation and movement and the necessity to abandon the past in order to move into a future full of promise. In your life, you have confronted tough situations and thus have destroyed crippling illlusions. It was necessary to leave the past behind, to cut ties and change habits to avoid becoming stagnant. But you have been able to evolve and move ahead past difficulty. You have managed to raise yourself up, taking on new and better challanges-even if you did not really feel ready. You often have new projects and ideas and naturally, you have had to pay the price of rebirth: to leave behind what you were and learn the lessons to become who you are- all by yourself. You do not lack strength. You are very reflective and analytical and sometimes lose yourself in the graveness of your thoughts but are able to rally when you have someone beside you who is gentle and respectful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BREAKTHROUGH: An act of overcoming or penetrating an obstacle or restriction.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


ok, so this is my flow of consciousness exercise in freestyle writing because even if school officially starts next monday, the online course sylabus - ok how do you spell syllabus - was available yesterday so i sat down and started. STARTED. STARTED to STUDY. i am freaking out. honestly freaking. my mind is so lazy, i mean i read vogue, for crumb sake. yes, i read the new york times (hey, there is the new adobe 2.0 times reader and it is awesome) and i love classic literature and my favourite writer is edith wharton but when i read that stuff there is nothing a stake!!!!!

ok, so breathe and remember that this first course, intro to college reading and writing, is exactly what i need to build the foundation necessary to face the next four or five years (!) and i am going to be ok. i just need to focus.

oh, yeah, how do you focus? i look at the pages and i get confused. i am confused already!

i am not going to have a nervous breakdown. (don't worry folks, this blog entry is based on reality but i am using comic relief for affect.)

ok, so, i have my study time set up and i am so excited about my books and i am facing the music. it is time to rock. ROCK.

Rock and Breathe. now, GO!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Definition: A determination of outline, extent, or limits:

I will only ever be defined by my choices. I choose this, I pass on that. I take this and miss the other. I stand here and not over there. I pick up this book because there is only time for one, and so the words of one will be ingested, while the words of the other will find their way to another's eyes and so on.
There is definition in these final days of summer as the light goes quicker and the winds come up and the blankets come out. My little dog needs a light sweater for morning walks. I am now donning my pancho and am more likely to proffer a cup of hot tea than a tall glass of lemonaid.
The other night I went for a swim at twilight with a friend and as we treaded water and talked ideas the night seemed to say, 'Children, come out of that water. You'll catch a cold.'
After dinner the equally loving and interesting hosts of the evening invited me to a very magical full moon blooming of some magnificent, other-worldly, bigger-than-life flowers that, facing their wide mouths upward toward the orb, glowed in her glory and moved gently as bees drunkenly flew here and there, intoxicated by the perfume.
We were intoxicated, too, by the water, night air, full light and conversation. And, as I bid farewell, and was driven down the hill and back to the city by the master of the house, I reflected on the moon and her light and the way the world looks when she shines.
I will only ever be defined by my choices. My choice of nourishment and beverage, movement or rest, music or silence, book or newspaper, dog or cat, high heels or ballerina flats, breath deep or shallow, stretch forward or back, the red coat or camel one, the summer here or the summer there. And with each choice I must make the most of the moments and the days, no matter how long or short they may be. And with each choice I cherish what comes with choosing.
A good friend is leaving her job to write her thesis. She made her choice. She is braving the next six months without a proper job to concentrate on finishing what she started. I wish her a happy choice and a happy birthday.
And to all of you, a nice, hot, cup of tea and warmer blanket to see you into the longer nights ahead.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Addio: Italian for 'a final good-bye'.

Addio Senator Kennedy, e, grazie.

Google: To use the Google search engine or MAP to look for information/locations on the World Wide Web.

today i took a walk down bleeker past macdougal and carmine and over to the west village. i tried to zoom in on magnolia bakery, hoping to catch a glimpse of my favourite vanilla cupcake with butter creme frosting. i used the up, down, left and right arrows on my laptop to stand across from the biography bookshop (and in my head I smelled the smell of used books and coffee) and then headed over to minetta park. as i crossed the avenue of americas i saw the take out where i used to get some damned good enchiladas and tacos. then i skillfully crossed houston street, taking a moment to pass le gamin, my cafe au lait bar and the angelica movie theatre marquee (where i saw some great films and some mediocre films) toward soho. i crossed the street toward the pet shop where martin picked out a nice squirrel toy and a miliner shop i photographed in honour of my mom who loves hats even more than me...walking past the spring street apartment where my friends lynn and marty live. on the way back i went out of my way to go into washington square park and the bench that hosted me many a morning, the dog run where mart lost a toenail and bled on the way to the vet in a nice, yellow new york taxi and over to the corner deli where einat and i used to buy yogurt for lunches together. the nyu student union and bookshop must be filled with kids now...i will be starting school myself in two weeks. last summer i was a thompson street girl with a book, a newspaper and a lot of glorious time on my hands. i slept surrounded by sara genn's paintings and relished the air from lupa, wafting up into the open windows looking out over the fire escape, past the sentinal water towers into the lovely mess that makes up new york/manhattan. i made friends (well, marty did, anyway) in the street and ate butterfinger candybars while window shopping. i had a crush on the guy who served us at the humas restaurant and when i ventured up north towards midtown and central park, i sat for hours on benches watching humanity and everything that makes humanity wonderful and horrible. the moma was where i wept in front of pollack and the hotdog stand right outside nourished me the way only a new york hotdog can. the upper east side wowed me, the upper west cradled me and riverside park was mart's favourite place to pee. a year ago today i was packin' up my stuff and hugging the walls of sara's apartment because i wanted to leave a part of myself imprinted on the crumbling old building and let it know how much I loved it- you can love a building, you know. and on my last afternoon i spent helping einy clean her apartment my belovedly old, old navy low ride boot cut jeans split up the back and i rode home on the subway trying to cover my butt... a google map walk isn't the real thing, but it seemed like a nice way to spend an hour today. and a nice way to remember and yeah, i cried a little. because the CITY gave me something: it gave me and mart its beating, buzzing, bellowing and beautiful self.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Abundance: Degree of plentifulness, fullness to overflowing.

Celebrating the abundance of the last days of August, of summer. I found an avocado!!! I am a Southern California girl and for me the avocado is like green, there will be guacamole for lunch...and humas and chickpea salad and a nice, cold Corona beer with a twist of lime because I FOUND LIMES, too! Limes and avocados come from Brazil and discovering them in the green grocer is like finding treasure! Happy end of summer everyone.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conscious: Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts, aware.

I've been playing the Italian Superenalotto lottery over the past few weeks and yesterday the biggest win ever in Europe, around 143 million Euros, went to somebody in a small Tuscan village. They had a BIG party.

Yesterday while reading The New York Times I saw this:

'In the last 50 years, more girls have died for being girls than all the men who died in wars fought in the 20th Century.'

Maybe I did win the lottery. I mean, I was born 50 years ago to a middle class family, had enough to eat, clothes to wear, an education. I had the choice to have children, to work, to dream. And now I am going back to school.

The Chinese have a saying, 'Women hold up half the sky.' Many policy makers believe that by educating and empowering women we will secure a peaceful and prosperous future, focusing on women and girls to fight global poverty and extremism.

My friend Einat sent me the film, 'Paris Was A Woman', a documentary about the contributions made by a handful of women expatriates living on The Left Bank between the first two world wars, and as I was watching it I was reminded what a recent phenomenon it is that women should have the choice to go on to higher education. Once again, I feel incredibly lucky to be going back to school.

I have a photo of me standing in front of my dorm the morning my parents drove me three hours to Lawrence, Kansas for my first semester at K.U., which is amazing, because when I moved to Italy I threw away tons of pictures as there was no room to take them and no way to store them. I am barefoot, wearing Levis, my head tilted to the side, hands on hips. My mom and Dad unloaded my stuff and drove away.

I sat on the unmade bed of my dorm room looking at the light blue walls and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror over my built-in drawers. I was lost.

At 18 I did not yet have the insight to understand what going to school (especially out of state) really meant. I was way too young...

When my old boyfriend went to school many years later he would comment on the much younger student body at U.C.S.D. (he was 33 at the time) commenting that they seemed oblivious to their good fortune- he, on the other hand knew how lucky he was. He was conscious of his good fortune. He felt like he had won a lottery.

And me, too.

Have a great Sunday, everybody.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recurring: To happen, come up, or show up again or repeatedly.

I recently hung a detail of this Klimt reproduction in my house. The title, I discovered today, is 'Wasserschlangen II', 1904/07, Water Snakes II.

I have been having a recurring dream since the first time I visited Venice several years ago. I dreamt that I was taking a walk from canal to canal, crossing over floating bridges and sitting on stepways that disappeared into the green-grey waters, waters that were swallowing up her magesty, Venezia. At one point I slipped down those steps into the water and swam with white serpents, unafraid. They were unmistakably female, dancing upward from the undulating surfaces reflecting the splendor of two worlds, east and west, and the ochre, pink and orange buildings became liquid, too, the real buildings melting into their water counterparts and it was difficult to tell what was solid and what was not. (!) At one point, right before I woke up, I reached out to touch the wall of one palace, my hand passing through to another place...

Now the water snakes have returned but I am not in Venice anymore. The snakes are emerging from the screen of my mini laptop, the colour of hilighter pens- acid green and yellow- they are saavy and slick and unwavering.

Now these ladies are hanging in my house. Water snakes. My recurring serpents, revisiting, replying to my fears? My fears about school? About entering a world through the computer screen? Holding a hilighter pen to the page of a textbook?

I don't mind the serpents. I don't mind any of my recurring dreams.
Here is a list:
  • I rise up and fly around the room, my back just next to the ceiling. I have to walk myself down the wall to return to earth.
  • I am holding a kitten in my hand. But the kitten is the size of a thimble, cleaning its face with a tiny black and white paw.
  • I am on a cloud, sitting, and the light from the world below is shining up through the mist that surrounds me. The cloud is edible. It tastes like cotton candy. It always smells like cotton candy when I wake up. I can smell it when I wake up.
The air is thick and the humidity is stifling today. Perfect weather for water snakes...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time: A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

This is the 15th of August and a national holiday in Italy; most everyone has gone to the beach, the mountains or country to escape the heat and all the routines that await us as we move into September.

Summer. Last summer I was living (for two months) in The Village in New York City and I can say that it was the most magical summer of my life. It was SO GOOD that when I left the apartment I had exchanged with artist, singer and composer Sara Genn, I didn't even feel ripped off. I felt FILLED UP and so buzzed from my experience, I was ready to come home and see where that juice I got from the City would take me in 2009!
I rode that wave of energy and set the goal to return to school in fall 2009 and here I am.

I've been thinking a lot about time over the last few days and am trying to picture myself juggling my work schedule with the hours I will have to dedicate to school all the while taking care of my body, soul and mind.
This August I have been able to teach one day a week leaving six other GLORIOUS days to rest, practice yoga morning and evening, walk the dog, study, read and write (I am writing a book) and see a few friends for a chat or day trip here and there.
This morning I am in bed blogging and feeling lazy, Martin snoozing at my side, trying to picture the cold mornings in November before the heater goes on, getting out of bed early enough to do yoga, take the dog for a long walk and write as I usually do while studying three or four hours a day and working as much as I need to/can. (And I will try to do all of this while keeping my sacred Sundays completely and utterly free!)
I am a freelance teacher and work contract to contract. This is fabulous because I don't have to go to the same place every day and I can set some of my schedule to meet my needs or preferences... but the truth is, I pretty much work from morning to night- professional people want to study English in the evenings, kids after school, exam prep students are going to university so they come in the mornings and lots of my consulting and business English courses are done over lunch. I am a busy girl and I like it that way. (Oh, and I need 8 hours of sleep per night.) The question is- when am I going to study?
This blog entry is a challenge to myself to set my goals, tell the universe what I need/want, and, see if I can achieve a little more balance in my life this year to make room for my commitment to school.

WHAT A TIMELY TIME FOR ME TO BE STUDYING Reading Graphs and Tables IN MyReadingLab. HERE IS THE PIECHART EXAMPLE (Figure 4: A typical day for a college student) REPRODUCED TO THE RIGHT.
IN ITALIAN WE SAY, magari, or, 'I should be so lucky...'
or 'from your mouth to God's ear!' Ah, there's the rub...

Here is how it works: I write my perfect schedule and let's see if I can make it happen! (...with you, the reader, as my witness!) Let's test the 'name it and claim it' philosophy together!

I intend to work more with my training agency as an instructor in business English (I earn more per hour in these courses) AND I intend to work near home (=less commuting by bus to companies outside my immediate neighbourhood). This means I will take less private students, sending the overflow to a new American teacher who has recently moved here, thus boosting her earning power at the same time!
Ok, so that's the challenge. The first week of September I will go to my training agency to see how our new courses are going and see if I can help with marketing and planning.
I have a good private client base, and the privates who start in September will be the ones I take; the ones who sometimes drag their feet starting later in October I hope to pass on to other teachers.

Tick-tock. A nonspatial continuum, indeed.

Work hard...
and don't forget to BREATHE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Prize: Something worth striving for; a highly desirable possession.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Don't be afraid. Everything is gonna be alright...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Change: To go from one phase to another, as the moon or the seasons.

Over the bridge of twenty-nine years.

My best friend Rita (college grad) with me (dropout) in 1980 and me now..............
(Black and white photo by Carla Fortina)

Ripe: Sufficiently advanced in preparation or aging to be used or eaten. 2. Thoroughly matured, as by study or experience; seasoned.

I am ripe, seasoned and ready.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

System: A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.

Before I start this entry, I wish to clarify that this could be considered my 'stand-up comedy routine' on living and working in Italy and is not meant to be overtly offensive to anyone. It is meant to enlighten and entertain. That said, if you are curious, read on!
Some observations on Italy's public educational system.

  • Teachers do not study Child Development in their certification.
  • The certification process itself does not work very well and has a dog-chasing-tail, jump-through-hoops preparation that makes very little sense and discourages many from becoming educators.
  • Teachers earn between 23,000.00 to 32,000.00 (gross before income tax) equivalent in U.S. $ per year depending on whether they teach at the primary or secondary level and on how many years they have been teaching. Teachers with 15 years or more experience are at the top end of salaries. (2005 figures)
  • Teachers are placed on pedestals and kids are considered untouchables.
  • Disruptive children are not removed from the classroom as there is no place to send them! (No principle's office!)
  • Many teachers never award a perfect grade of 10 on an exam even if the child answers every question correctly. This is meant to inspire kids to always strive to achieve more. (This makes no sense in my universe, but hey, that's just me.)
  • Kids are rarely praised for their efforts.
  • The rigourous primary, middle and high school program means that most children have at least a half hour of homework a day( including Saturday which for many kids is a school day) from age six, increasing to one hour a day in middle school and may increase, depending on the high school kids choose, to two or three hours a day.
  • Kids carry their books back and forth to school in backpacks that weigh around 5 kilos each and these backpacks end up on the floor in the aisles between the desks in a classroom and are a hazard to anyone walking through! (Many of my kids ask me about school lockers! They have seen them in American films and are fascinated by the phenomenon!)
  • These books are purchased by parents every year at a cost of about 250 Euros per student per year.
  • Students who attend the Scientific and Classical high schools study Greek and, at the Classical, Latin. This builds critical thinkers from an early age and reinforces a rigidity in learning which welcomes following processes and discourages creativity in the classroom.
  • Exams are about memorising material. Teachers do not give students much information on what may appear on a test. The kids have to know everything.
  • There is a promotion between middle and high school which includes written and oral exams which are given in front of an impartial panel of educators from various schools in the region.
  • The big one, or maturità exam, happens at the end of the last (fifth year) of high school and can cover any material studied during a student's five years in high school.
  • Young Italians often lack respect and discipline and 'talk back' to teachers on a regular basis. Young Italian males show even less self-discipline than do their female counterparts.
  • Guns and gun violence are not a problem in Italian schools.
  • Public university is free.
  • Parents pay a tax directly to the government at a rate of about 1000 Euros per year for their kid to attend university. This tax puts stress on many an Italian family as the average salary in Italy is between 800 and 1,200 Euros net per month (the average company paying 50 to 100% tax on each worker, depending on the industry and work contract agreement). Since the conversion of the Lire to Euro in 2002, the cost of living has literally doubled while earnings have stayed the same. It should be noted that like all European countries, a national health care system makes medical visits, medicine, hospitalization and treatments for serious diseases available to all.
  • The majority of university students live at home.
  • Many degree programs in university do not require that students attend class or lectures. A philosophy student, for example, may not once enter a classroom during a semester, instead, reading on his or her own and taking an exam to test knowledge covered in a textbook.
  • Professors are generally not available to their students for conversations or meetings. (Many of my students who saw the film, 'Lions for Lambs' were impressed by the relationship between the professor, played by Robert Redford, and his student; half of the film is spent on their conversation during the professor's 'open office' hours.)
  • A large number of people attend university in Italy. The unemployment rate is very, very high and many graduates do not find jobs.
  • There is an underlying feeling that who you know is more important than what you know and this blocks many individuals from achieving professional success, promotion or satisfaction. Italians are highly self critical and readily admit that this system of nepotism is their downfall yet they remain unsettlingly stuck and most would say that there is not much hope of changing this mentality.

  • It is not surprising that many people have asked to look at my ESC catalog of undergraduate studies enjoying the variety of courses offered and are intrigued by how well the system is organized and implemented. Many of them have said they would prefer to pay more for school if it meant better organization and more options. They scoff, however, at the cost of an average four-year public college education in the U.S.A. of $ 7,000.00 per year. There are private universities in Italy but none of them approach the costs of their counterparts in the States.

  • My students have also been impressed at the availability of Federal Student Loans to attend school. One of my friends has been living independently since she was 20 years old but cannot qualify for a loan at the bank because she and her father are still considered a 'family unit'. She is 33 years old.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cognition: The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning and judgement.

Day 4 of MyReadingLab.
This online study guide supports my 'Intro to College Reading and Writing' class following the text, 'Bridging the Gap'. I am in hell.
This is day 2 of Stephanie trying to grasp the concept of supporting ideas. I teach this stuff in my Cambridge and Toefl exam courses with my non-English speaking students including how to outline a subject, write introductions, topic sentences with supporting ideas, summaries and conclusions. Now, you would think that I would be able to pass out of this particular study area!
It occured to me that either,
a. My brain is softer than I thought
b. I am not very bright
c. Maybe I think differently or,
d. All of the above

This reminds me of a story. My sister Val has a fabulous daughter named MacKenzie and long story short sent her for a short period of time to a Montessori school when she was 4 years old. At one point early in the year, Val was summoned to school for a meeting with one of MacKenzie's teachers who was concerned with a cognitive test Kenzie had taken that week.

The teacher had shown Kenz a series of three figures and asked her to put them in order.
fig. 1
a little girl
fig. 2
a little girl licking an ice cream cone
fig. 3
a little girl with an ice cream cone

She explained to my sister the correct order was:
fig. 1
fig. 3
fig. 2
Explanation: a little girl gets an ice cream cone and eats it.

Then she proceeded to show Val the order Kenzie had chosen:
fig. 2
fig. 1
fig. 3
Kenzie's explanation: a little girl eats an ice cream cone, when it's gone she asks for another one!

Post script: My sister did take her daughter out of that school the very next week.

Tomorrow I will attempt to cross over into the dimension of supporting ideas. (Then I intend to treat myself to some gelato.)
I guess I do think differently and now I have to train my mind to think in a different way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reality: The quality or state of being actual or true.

My books arrived on Wednesday. I ripped open the box, admired the covers, flipped through some pages, took a look at the tables of contents and stood them up end to end on my work table. My fall semester at ESC = two GE courses, 8 credits = 'Intro to College Reading and Writing' and 'The Pursuit of Happiness in American History' (don't you LOVE that title?). One of my coursebooks came with a membership to MyReadingLab, a marvelous online class that follows one of my textbooks. I sat down and registered, navigating through the site, finally arriving at the Diagnostic Pre-Test which I hankered down and took. Reality set in on question three.

Let me explain. I am an optimist (see my blog When I left my job, sold all my stuff and said goodbye to everyone in my San Diego life ten years ago to move to Italy I walked onto that airplane with one suitcase and my cat Mary and did not look back. When people asked me if I was afraid of leaving my country and moving to a new place/culture without a job intact, well, the truth is, I never allowed myself to be afraid. Otherwise I probably wouldn't be sitting here today. So, I am on the airplane, over the Atlantic and I have a panic attack. Reality set in. I was MOVING. I was on my own.

I had been preparing for that moment for twelve years. It was not a whimsical, mid-life freak out. I trained to teach English, I saved the cash, I did my research. I had a reservation for my first night in a hotel room in Milan that took cats and a friend in Tuscany to stay with for a few weeks while I was looking for a job and my own place.

In the middle of my panic attack I repeated my mantra: "I am a wave in an ocean of peace" and tried not to think about the fact that I was flying over a big body of dark water, surrounded by snoring strangers , far from the familiar, heading into WHAT? And then, I BREATHED. (I remembered to BREATHE!). I put my hand in Mary's carrier and she started to purr.

In Milan I called my sister, best friend and boyfriend. My sister did her best to comfort me. My girlfriend reminded me that this was my dream. My boyfriend told me to get on the train and look out the window to remind myself of why I was there----------Reality set in. I was living my dream and I wanted to be

So, I am working on MyReadingLab and it hits me. I AM GOING TO SCHOOL. What does that mean? I will be reading and writing TONS, have to organise my time because I work forty hours a week and my brain is out of shape. Just as I was heading to the refridgerator to eat a large container of cherry yogurt, I stopped myself and made a list of what I know. WHAT I KNOW:

I know that I can read, like to read, am interested and curious and heck, I can do that. I just need to take breaks from studying, stretch, drink water, take the dog for a walk.
I know that I can write. I need to follow a writing structure, but, hey, I can do that. I like writing. I write everyday.
I am organized. NO, ORGANIZED. Working and going to school. That is why I chose to study online. I can study in my pj's.....
Yes, my brain is soft. But this is my chance to beef it up, leave behind my preconceptions, open my mind, think critically.

You see what I mean by negativeintopositive? I have decided to study everyday for three hours to get myself into shape. I start school on September 14th. I can do that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Process: A system of operations in the production of something, ongoing movement.

In the days leading up to my first semester back at school I have been revisiting online orientations, tech and library tutorials and beoming familiar with academic writing styles using a multitude of resources provided. It feels like I'm doing yoga for my brain. Stretching, breathing into the tighter, less used areas and pushing, gently, just beyond my limit, each day getting more flexible, agile. I am a writer and so some of the tasks that lie ahead are not as daunting as they might otherwise be, but I am noticing that something inside of me is waking up! And, because I had some difficulties at school the first time all those many years ago, I cannot help but compare the 18 year-old to the 50 year-old. My mind can manage concepts and thought processes much better now. I am more experienced. More mature. I am more curious than I was at 18! Is that because I needed life experience to make connections to what seemed esoteric and beyond my reach?! Ha! I am having a good time! And confidence. Geez, I've got so much more confidence than I have ever had! It feels good to be here now with this in front of me and I feel priveledged to be able to do this now at this point in my life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regret: A feeling of disappointment about something that one wishes could be different.

Having dinner with my friend Dorene a few weeks ago and talking about regret, I realised that I don't have any. Imagine if I regreted dropping out of school (and was bummed that without a B.A. I can't serve in the Peace Corps or participate in Teach for America) or if I wished I had had children or not spending my inheritance on a downpayment for a house (I traveled instead!). Regret cancels out the decisions I made, the way I have lived, the person I am now. Regret makes me a victim because I don't take responsibility for my choices. Regret is exhausting. No, I don't believe in regret but I do believe in learning from my mistakes and this empowers me. It also teaches me to forgive myself and others, too. I can see that for some people regrets may be a motivating force but for me it always seemed that planting that little seed of 'what if...' would bring nothin' but pain and sorrow. I'm lucky because I grew up in a time when I could make a lot of choices for myself- choices my mom couldn't have made so easily. I am grateful for this and happy to say, now I'm ready for school. In 1977, I wasn't. When I turned 50 last February I welcomed the half century mark willingly and with excitement. I have never been more Stephanie than I am now- more passionate, flawed, excited, compassionate, grateful and yes, celebratory that all the choices I made so far have brought me to this moment: I am here now. I can live with that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tenacity: Persistent determination.

This is my rooftop garden and this is a photo of a vine that grew through the wall and into the house with tenacity and determination. Pass through walls. Glass ceilings. Over the mountain to the other side. I am a graduate of the school of 'name it and claim it', a philosophy that Lee Russel, an extraordinary woman I worked with in a social service agency many years ago, taught me when I was 21 years old. She told me that I just had to tell the universe what I want and work towards that goal using all the resources I was fortunate enough to possess and it would come. Dream big. Bigger. BIGGER!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dream: A wild fancy or hope. A condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration.

Ok, so, you may be wondering what I aim to achieve with my B.A. and M.A.T. (Masters of Arts in Teaching). Well..... I wanna teach school in New York City. Yes, when I finish I'm gonna go to the New York City Department of Education and apply for a job in the innercity. I want to work with kids who are at risk. Now I know what you're thinking. I'll be in my late 50s when I graduate. That's right. My late 50s. And, only time will tell and you'll have to stick around to see if I can pull it off. But you know what? All my life, I have achieved anything I put my mind to. I wanted to sing. I sang. I wanted a great love. I had that, too. I wanted a Chihuahua, to live and teach in Italy, to travel, to dance. I did all of that. Now I'm on my next ten year plan and here to say that you can do anything you put your mind to. My sister warned me that chances are I won't find a job when I return to the States. I love my sister and she is a very wise lady. But she told me this after finding a new job herself at the age of 58. I did not point this out to her. I let it be. My friend Lynn says I am tenacious. Like a bull dog. So, here begins the journey. It's gonna be hard. Scary. Exhausting. And, it's gonna be FUN.

Attendance: The frequency with which a person is present.

I should say that I did not get good grades in university. You have to study and go to class to do that. It was a long time ago and I can't remember everything clearly but I didn't even bother having my transcrips sent to ESC when I applied. I wanted to start fresh. So I am starting from zero.
I may be able to use my life experience to get Credit By Evaluation. My very nice student mentor suggested that after ten years living in Italy I could probably test out of Italian and therefore satisfy my foreign language G.E. credits. Gee, I wish I could, but the truth is, I don't speak Italian very well. I speak English all day long. I can ask for the kind of bread I want, order my coffee, even find the words to show my dismay over recent news about the Prime Minister Silvio Berluschoni and his tryst with an 18 year-old model, but I honestly don't think I can test out of Italian.
I was fortunate enough to accompany my boyfriend to some of his classes at Mesa City College and U.C.S.D. when he was going to school in the early 1990s. It was great, sitting in on a lecture on the Midieval University or Kant or a lecture on entropy or the depletion of our natural resources. And how proud I was to see him at his table every night, surrounded by tons of reading material, our cat, Dotti, seated under the green desk lamp (those classic kind that look studious and can be aimed in three or four directions)... he was a natural at school. Curious about everything. Logical. An avid reader. He was my hero.
The first day he went to school I picked him up and he apologized for being a few minutes late. 'Held up at the library.' He had gone there to get supplementary reading material. This floored me. I asked him, how did you know what you needed, without a list? "Hey babe, you gotta get commentary on all this stuff. You need help to understand Heigl and Burkeley...." Commentary, indeed. We all need additional commentary. That's why we have friends and the library. I have a library, too. And, I can 'Ask a Librarian' right online whenever I want. I am going to school online. I bought my books online and 'talk' to my mentor online and can have my writing critiqued online. I am online, baby. Online.

Acceptance: The state of being accepted or acceptable.

When I told my Italian friend Gessjica that I had received a letter of acceptance from Empire State College, SUNY, she squealed with delight saying, "Just like in the movies!" It's true. It's just like in the movies. Except I am 50. When I received my first letter of acceptance from K.U. in the winter of 1977 I was a high school senior sitting on my bed opening what I saw as a chance to escape from my family but I wasn't really ready for school. I wasn't much of a student and worse, did not know how to study (and I never asked anyone for help). I floundered in Biology and drowned in Math. Being an artist at heart, I flourished in English Composition and History of Art but waivered in my Solfeggio class because I was lazy and disinterested. I missed my studious boyfriend who had ended up at a private university in Texas and even if my college roommate was one of my best friends from high school I was lonely and disconnected, free of my family woes but cut adrift without purpose or direction. I knew I wanted to sing. Sing. Not study singing or listen to great singers in the listening lab. I wanted to be a singer so, a year and a half later, I left school and moved to San Diego.

Aid: To help or furnish with support or relief.

This is a uniquely American story: In 1994 I married my live-in boyfriend of 12 years for health insurance. Yes, for health insurance. He had it and I didn't. It seemed like a very good idea to me at the time. Now, all these years later I am still married to this person but I do not know where he is so when it came time to apply for financial aid to return to school, I had this little problem. Though I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get a legal separation several years ago, I was still legally married even though I haven't seen my boyfriend (I never liked the word 'husband') since 2001 and I had to somehow prove to the Federal Government that I am financially independent. Unable to call said ex-boy as a witness, I sent a letter pleading my case. Last week I was awarded my aid money. YEAH. YIPEE. YAHOO.

Dropout: One who quits school.

I dropped out of university a long time ago. And that was ok because I followed my bliss and became a singer and then I got a certificate to teach English and now I live in Italy and I love my job. I have been thinking about returning to university to get my teaching degree and last summer in New York my friend Silvia who teaches at SUNY told me about their online degree program. I start school this September.