It’s been a while…Here’s why.

Hi friends.

It has been a long while since I posted here.

I hadn’t anticipated taking such a long sabbatical, but after a busy work season this past spring, I needed a break. More than that, I needed some quiet.

The truth is, it’s getting awfully loud around here. And when I say, “around here,” I mean the worldwide web.

It makes me weary.

It’s like a traffic jam in hot weather…horns are honking and drivers are jockeying for position.

I’m weary of the competition and one upsmanship.
I’m weary of the bullying.
I’m tired of the barrage of promotions.
I’m sick of the rat-race that has overtaken the information super-highway.
(It requires too much merging. And anyone who knows me knows that highway merging makes me very, very nervous.)

Make no mistake…I love the internet! The convenience alone makes life so much better…I tried to explain to my kids how I used to do research. You remember…Reference books. Journals. Microfiche. (They stared blankly, as though I was recounting life in another millennium. Which, of course, it was.)

Because of Facebook, I’m in touch with “old friends” more often; those friendships aren’t punctuated only by Christmas cards and reunions. We’re all a little more connected. I love seeing vacation photos and celebrating birthdays, new jobs, graduations, touchdowns and lead roles.

I worry, though, that by being so connected, we’re getting a little disconnected. Our memories and experiences are boxed into pithy hashtags while our touch screens have gotten us decidedly out of touch with each other. Life has become a caricature of itself as we clamor for attention and laughs and time on the virtual soapbox.

My wise grandfather, for whom my son is named, greatly appreciated architecture, science and technology. If he were here, Papa Bill would likely marvel at the speed and efficiency of the internet, and he’d love the richness of the information. But he’d also urge moderation. And, most certainly, he’d invoke one of his favorite quotes from Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” A gentleman, my grandfather always maintained his integrity and stood firm in his beliefs, without humiliating or belittling others…without having to have the last word.

Those are good standards for merging into the worldwide web.mitziecar

I’m searching, I think, not for an internet super-highway, but rather, a virtual Route 66. Slower. Kinder. Friendlier.
Quieter.

And I want my vehicle here (my blog!) to be like my minivan…In real life, I drive a dented, 10 year-old minivan, with fraying upholstery, and a CD player that works…sometimes. But it’s comfortable and reliable, and it holds lots of people. It gets us safely from A to B.

I still have research to do, stories to tell and articles to write. As I do, I want to respect the other “drivers,” even though some might pass me by or even bump into me from time to time. I know I’ll make some mistakes, too. I might cut someone off or slow somebody down. If I do, I’ll try to apologize…or at least wave politely.  No one’s perfect…least of all, me. I’ll be prepared, though, and I will choose my route carefully and be sure my mind and heart are headed in the right direction.

It’s pretty unrealistic to think that the whole internet can suddenly become a safer, smoother, more genteel place. But I can certainly make THIS part of the internet better. I hope you’ll come with me…Hop in. Buckle your safety belt. Roll down the windows.

And don’t worry…if the CD player isn’t working…

We’ll sing.

 

 

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You are So Much More Than Just a Score

This is a letter to every student who has taken a standardized test, from a teacher (and a mom), who wants you to know the truth.

washingtonpost.com

washingtonpost.com

Dear Students,

Much has been made about the state of our educational system these days…and the news hasn’t been good. We’re not keeping up with other countries. We’re lagging in our adoption of technology, and we haven’t mastered the math and science concepts necessary to win the nauseating, never-ending Race To Nowhere.

To solve this, policy-makers have decided that testing is necessary to monitor not only your progress, but that of your teachers and administrators, too.

They are partly right.

If you graduate from high school, and you’re not able to read, write, and understand math concepts capably, then we have utterly failed you. You deserve to go to school in a safe place where you can grow and learn. Schools need to be accountable, so that when you cross the stage in cap and gown, the diploma you grasp really, truly means something. It should be a symbol that you have met the standards set for you, and a testimony to the dedication of your teachers (and parents!) who guided you through the process.

So, kids…testing IS necessary. However, just like your grandma says, you CAN have too much of a good thing. We have descended to a place where testing is everything. And sadly, it seems we may be headed to an abyss where testing is the ONLY thing. Many of you are beginning to wonder if your test scores are the most important information about you. And,students, if you believe that, we’ve failed you again.

Who you are, and who you will become, cannot be captured in scaled scores or percentiles…

bill-annie-2004

You are creative, and funny, and insightful.

You’re an actor. A lacrosse player. An artist. An entrepreneur.

When you’re faced with a tough assignment, you persist, even when it feels like you’ll never finish.

And when you saw the child  alone on the swings, you invited her to play foursquare with you and your friends. No one ever asked her to play before that moment. Did you know that?

A test can’t measure sensitivity.
Or determination
Or grace.

No test can quantify the richness of your soul or the lyrical melody of your contagious giggles. No standardized measure can predict your ability to find joy in the midst of pain, or your willingness to show love to those who seem unlovable.

And even though we’ve armed you with No. 2 pencils, and calculators and response books, the tools you’ll really need to succeed are within you…

Leadership
Wisdom
Kindness
Faith

So take heart, students…and take courage. You DO have what it takes. Sit up straight. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Do your best job. Check your work.
And then remember this most important truth:
You are so much more than just a score.

 

What Philip Seymour Hoffman Taught Me

The news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was delivered to me by my 17 year-old son. Fascinated with the entertainment industry, our son keeps quite current all things related to film, stage and screen. Usually his reports are given at lightning speed, the excitement in his voice difficult to contain. On Saturday, however, he spoke in somber tones.

(clarionledger.com)

(clarionledger.com)

“Mom. Philip Seymour Hoffman died. They found him in his apartment.”

And then later, “It was drugs. . An overdose.”

As the story unfolded, my son provided updates and details…”He had three kids. The police found a lot of heroin. Bags of it in his apartment…”

And of course, the inevitable opinions began to pepper Facebook and Twitter. Some people were respectful, and others lauded Mr. Hoffman’s great talent, calling him one of the best actors of his generation. Still others bemoaned the epidemic of substance abuse that plagues not only Hollywood, but every neighborhood in this country.

Finally, I began to read some comments that expressed irritation …people who were weary of the praise for Hoffman’s giftedness. They cited weakness. Lack of character. Selfishness. “He left three kids behind without a father.”

That’s when I started really hurting. Because I really don’t think that Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted to leave his kids without a father.

And I began to wonder…If Philip Seymour Hoffman had a different disease, like diabetes or melanoma (both of which can be caused, in part, by an individual’s lifestyle and choices) would we “blame” him?

Addiction is disease. A really horrible, life-long, chronic disease. I’ve seen it tear apart families, destroy careers and annihilate hopes and dreams.  I’ve celebrated as people have gained a measure of victory over it, and cried when they experience a relapse. I’ve listened to parents sob as they confront a child and watched as families deal with the courts and jail and fines…and utter disappointment.

Addiction poses a constant threat to health. Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its members to take “One day at a time.” And yet, “sometimes,” confided one young person, “It’s really more like one minute at a time.” 

And while I know and love so many who have been injured and angered through addiction, I also know I can’t possibly imagine the torture this disease inflicts upon those caught in its grip. And Philip Seymour Hoffman, with his brilliance and brokenness, reminded me that throwing stones in speculation only bruises and belittles.

I’m thankful Philip Seymour Hoffman inspired so many people through his great gifts as an actor. I’m also thankful that he  was honest about his disease. He said once, in an interview,  ” I’m afraid I’ll be the kind of actor who thought he would make a difference and didn’t. Right now, though, I feel like I made a little bit of difference.”

And finally, I’m glad that the Hollywood and Broadway communities are recognizing him for his immense talent. Hopefully that will provide some measure of comfort to his family as they wade through unspeakable grief.

One minute at a time.