because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Mid-November Mash Up

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It was my 44th birthday yesterday. If you were paying attention, you learned about Scorpios.

I have to say, I don’t feel a day over 20. Seriously. If I lived in the land of  anti-reflective surfaces, I am pretty sure that I could believe that I was the same spring chicken I was decades ago. (Stupid mirrors.)

In honor of all Scorpios everywhere, I’m playing head-banging heavy metal from the Scorpions. Guaranteed to wake you up before you go-go. And check out these bloggers because, like the Scorpions, they’ll rock you like a hurricane.

(But not like a real life hurricane because that is no kind of fun. Just a metaphorical hurricane.)

From the English Department

Susie Lindau’s Anger, Fear or Joy?  might make writers think about how we treat our loved ones when we are on a writing spree.

Jami Gold asks How Do You Celebrate? when you have finished writing the first draft of a book. Right now, I can only dare to dream that moment, but the idea of this post carries over into other areas. How do you celebrate when you have reached a goal. Do you allow yourself to experience joy? Or do you jump right into the next project?

From the Math Department

From Wild About Math I have Happy 11/11/11 Day! Seriously, I have no idea what this man is talking about. When I listen to him talk, I feel so English Teacher-ishy. And I totally meant to have my class look at the clock at 11:11 on 11/11. Except I forgot. Oh well, there’s always next year on 12/12 at 12:12.

From the Science Department

David Dobbs debunks The Slut Gene.

From the History Department

Kathy Owen shares the history of Thanksgivings Past from the New York Times.

Ellie Ann Soderstrom has a sobering report on The Top 10 Baddies of The World.

From the Physical Education Department

Why Parents Must Speak of Unspeakable Things by Chase McFadden speaks of the atrocities which occurred to children at the hands of their coach. It will break your heart.

From the Political Science Department

Piper Bayard’s Political and Corporate Phrase Book is a must read when it comes to some of the things politicians are actually quoted as actually saying out loud.

Jenny Hansen interviews Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb about their 2012 Worldwide Blog Tour Kickoff and their run for President and Vice President in a campaign where everyone — even Canadians and pets — can vote!

From the Religious Studies Department

Galit Breen is trying something new in Our Jewish Family Is Celebrating Christmas This Year.

From the Art Department

Artist Mary Mollica’s Not To Be Trashed features a memory of a favorite art teacher.

From the Theater Department

Gigi from Kludgy Mom writes about How to Help Your Child Overcome Stage Fright — which is really about how to parent when your child doesn’t naturally do the things that come so easily to you.

In Come Again?, Clay Morgan has Paul Johnson (aka: The Good Greatsby) at his place to discuss how to screw with nosy passers-by. If this isn’t theater, I don’t know what is.

From Home Economics

Georgette Sullins’ There are Vegans in the Family is about how to do Thanksgiving while meeting everyone’s dietary needs.

Annie from Six-Ring Circus tracks her family’s Post-Halloween Candy Consumption.

Jessica Buttram has a guest blogger at her place. Alise Wright’s It Ain’t Pretty is about putting together a rag doll with her daughter — at the last minute.

From the Parenting Department

Leanne Shirtliffe has her daughter on a Scavenger Hunt in the Dictionary!

From the Awesome-Sauce Department

WARNING: Absolutely, positively NOT for children’s ears.

CLICK HERE for The Hilarious Video: Siri Argument

What rocked you this week?

Not To Be Trashed: Guest Post by Mary Mollica

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That's my girl!

Today’s guest blogger is my old friend, Mary Mollica whom I have known since 1975 when we found each other in 2nd grade.  Mary and I have been in and out of each others lives for over 3 decades, but we really reconnected when we learned that we had both been blogging.

Mary’s professional blog, The Decorative Paintbrush, is a journey where she shows readers how she finds trash and turns it into treasure. (I was recently with her when she found a piece of crap leaning against a building and she circled back to get it, declaring with absolute certainty that she was going to turn it into something gorgeous. I am sure she has. I have seen what she can do.)

Mary’s personal blog is called 2moms5kids and that is a whole different kind of adventure, equally amazing. You can follow Mary on Twitter @thedpb

Today, Mary recalls our most excellent high school art teacher, Carl Wenzel whose work can be found HERE. She’s not lying about his quirky-awesomeness. Note: While I took numerous art classes, I had nowhere near the artistic potential that Mary did.  Some of us are artists and some of us are writers. And some of us are financial guys. 

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 Not To Be Trashed

I remember the first time I stepped into his classroom. There was music playing, and the lights were off. Quel ambiance, right? I remember thinking this guy is either a total nut job or very cool. Turns out he was a bit of both, and I say that with total admiration. He’d probably admit that himself. Mr. Wenzel was, and still is, an amazing artist and, as an artist now myself, I’d have to admit, in order to be a good one, you have to be a bit of both!

Until ninth grade, I had taken art classes along with the rest of my peers. Pinch pots, papier maché, and abstract self-portraits cluttered my mother’s refrigerator. Like most young children I liked art – it was fun – but the first day I walked into Mr. Wenzel’s classroom, I knew things were going to be different. He ignited a passion for art inside of me like no other teacher had before.

Mr. Wenzel introduced me to techniques that enhanced my own creativity instead of trying to manipulate my work into a carbon copy of his own.  He gave praise as well as constructive criticism, which, at first, I’ll admit was not easy to take. But along with the criticism, he always gave a solution that helped fix the problem.

I remember once we were getting ready for the annual art show. We all had to do a piece in hopes that it might be submitted. At the time, Mr. Wenzel was trying to teach us about atmospheric perspective (reducing value contrasts, and neutralizing colors in objects as they recede) and, for whatever reason, I was struggling with this concept.

My frustration started to build.

I wanted to be in the art show so badly, to show people what I could do, to prove I was a good artist, but my piece was not cooperating with me. At all.  

I was irritated as I watched Mr. Wenzel walk around the room casually, giving kudos and words of praise to the other students. I wanted those accolades and looking at the junk in front of me, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. He finally stopped at my desk.

“So, what’s going on here?” He made a circle with his forefinger over my work.

“I don’t know…”(Yes, I was whining.) “I just can’t seem to get the hang of this.” I threw down my pencil in disgust. “I should just start over again.”

“Well you could start over…” he said sympathetically, “or you could try something else.” In one swift motion he grabbed a sheet of rice paper from a shallow drawer behind him, flipped the chair next to me around and snatched a big old jar of Elmer’s Glue.

He plopped down and started humming as he ripped the paper into large random pieces.

I watched him.

“Some of your biggest artistic mistakes will turn out to be some of your best creative work,” he said gluing down random slips of paper to the front of my project.

I had been trying to recreate a landscape from a picture I had cut from a magazine and although the background was wonderful, the fence in front was flat and unattractive. He slapped down the paper over the large fence posts, layering and molding them as he went, until finally they resembled old pieces of wood.

“A paper collé!” He exclaimed.

“A what?”

“A paper collé. A visual and tactile technique you can use to embellish certain areas.” He smiled and his mustache wiggled. “If you add color to these, they will stand out and make the background seem distant, like it should. Sort of 3D.”

I worked feverishly on that piece, falling in love with it more every day. My piece actually took first place in the art show that year and sold for a nice chunk of change. And to think — I had wanted to throw it in the trash.

Mr. Wenzel inspired me for many years after high school and helped me transform my hobby into a lifelong quest. His ability to arouse the imagination and motivate students was astounding. He taught us how to transform the mundane into the magnificent with very little effort. So, now when I screw up on a piece of art (or in life), I remain calm and remember Mr. Wenzel’s words.

This is the kind of stuff that Mary does now!

What are some school art projects that you remember loving? Or hating?

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If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!