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.