Thursday, March 31, 2011


Finally, my entire narrative for your viewing pleasure. Comments, feedback, questions, all welcome. I'm a struggling writer here, so throw a dog a bone. I want to know what you think!

This document is Copyright protected under U.S. Copyright law and may not be re-published or distributed without explicit, written consent of the author.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


Today the Edmund Rice Society at Iona College raised over $1000 for Vasculitis Research. 

I couldn't be happier or more proud to have been a part of the best organization at Iona College.  They truly mean everything to me, and at this moment, I can't quite express my gratitude in words.  But someday I will.

Posts to come:
  • A Lesson in English- The Denotation and the Connotation of the word "Single"
  • A link to my finished narrative. Which I hope to get published, so if anyone has any connections, hook a chick up. 
  • I love that I can put bullets here and make a list.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Squelched by Blueberries"

On more than one occasion, I've found myself ruthlessly defending public education and the teaching profession.  I really dislike individuals who attack the NYCDOE, the UFT, and teachers in general when they have never set foot inside a public school aside from their own education (if they even went to public school at all).  This past Tuesday, as part of our writer's workshop in my Methods of Teaching Writing class we talked about a zillion different components of writing and revising our personal narratives that are due next Tuesday (yikes!!).  My professor put up a section of a piece called "Squelched by Blueberries" by Jamie Vollmer and by golly, I wish I could respond like the teacher did in this piece when she shamlessly slaughters the formerly ignorant business man. 

For your reading pleasure, "Squelched by Blueberries", by Jamie Vollmer

Squelched by blueberries
POINT OF VIEW By Jamie Robert Vollmer
October 9, 2002

"If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"
I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of in-service training. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.
I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle 1980s when People magazine chose its blueberry flavor as the "Best Ice Cream in America."

I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society." Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! Total Quality Management! Continuous improvement!

In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload. She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."
I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, ma'am."
"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"
"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.
"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.
"Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie.
"I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude and brilliant. We take them with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!"
In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

And so began my long transformation. Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

Jamie Robert Vollmer, a former business executive and attorney, is now a keynote presenter and consultant who works to increase community support for public schools. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa, and can be reached by e-mail at
Reprinted from March 6, 2002 Education Week.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lying by Omission.

“How are you feeling?”
    “I’m fine, thanks.” (inner eye roll).

It isn’t that I don’t appreciate when friends and family express their concern about my illness, but let me tell you- for the most part (aka 99% of the time) even if I am feeling like complete crap, I’m not going to tell you. 

For one, unless you live with a chronic illness or chronic pain, you won’t understand half of what I’m feeling. I get a lot of comments and suggestions from people more often than I like, and occasionally it takes every ounce of self-restraint that I have to not put someone’s head through a brick wall. 

And for another thing- sometimes a little knowledge is a VERY dangerous thing for people.  After I pronounce my disease verrryyyy slooooowwwlllyyyy for people, first thing they do is google.  In this age of instant information, this becomes a problem.  Some people without brains, you know, do an awful lot of talking.

Reading WebMD does not make you an expert on my condition.  In fact, the only way I may consider taking your suggestions seriously is if you have a medical degree in rheumatology or psychiatry; and even then I will take what you have to say with several grains of salt.  Don’t take this the wrong way... I know people ask because they care, but I say I’m fine because that is the expected answer. 

How often is the “how are you?” comment passed with actual intention?  Do people say it because it is expected? Or because they actually want to know?  Before I got sick, if someone asked me how my day was going, I would tell them the good things that happened and I would tell them the bad things that happened... then I’d be accused of “complaining”.  After a few rather edgy comments of such, I shut up.  Someone asks me, and I’m either “good” or “fine”. 

I mean, come on.  How many of you really want to know every little detail of how I’m feeling?  I can say I’m fine, or I can say “I’m tired of having to take medications every single day.  I’m sick of not being able to hear out of one ear, and I’m even more tired of asking people to repeat themselves constantly because I still can’t hear them.  I’m angry that I got stuck with this stupid disease that ruined my life, I’m sad because I have no idea what the future will hold for me, I’m scared because tomorrow could be the day that I relapse, or flare-up, or worse- get stuck with the world’s most god-awful drug (prednisone).  I’m tired of having my mood blown to bits everytime I take my weekly maintenance chemo dose, and I hate that I lose my appetite when I take said pills.  I’m absolutely tired of fighting with the frizzy mane of hair on my head, with the formerly-straight-now-curly-brittle-post-chemo-hair.  My joints hurt, and sometimes the pain is so intense that I can’t even hold a pencil, or a piece of chalk. I’m tired.  No matter how much rest I get, I’m tired. I’m tired of living a life where I have to hide behind a smile because ultimately, I’m not okay.  I’m not fine, and I’m not good.”  I can say “I’m fine” and try to pretend, even for just a few, short hours that I really am fine.  I say it because I wish, every night, on every star, on every 11:11 that I really could be fine.  I say “I’m fine” because the majority of the time- it is easier to pretend that I am then it is to fight with the demons in my head.  I say “I’m fine” because the looks of pity that I get are so downright depressing that it makes everything in my head that much worse.

So “lucky” for me, I can hide the fact that I’m sick from the outside.  I have no visible scars, or defects, or spots or dots that scream out “I HAVE WEGENER’S GRANULOMATOSIS”.  I’m “lucky” that I can hide it because if I don’t tell a potential date or guy-friend that I have such an affliction, I actually might stand a fighting chance at a relationship- because after all, who wants to be friends/in a relationship with “the sick girl”?

But just like the Wizard of Oz ends up being an ordinary man behind a green curtain, I’m just a scared little girl hiding behind a smile that is beginning to waver.  And maybe someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me, where troubles melt like lemon drops...

Oh, and if you really want to know what f-i-n-e stands for?  Go ask Aerosmith.

Additionally, thank goodness for, where I found an article that fueled this post. The author, Christine Miserandino, is far more eloquent than I and really puts all of my emotions into words far better than I could ever hope to do so.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Amor Vincit Omnia... Love Conquers All.

Earlier tonight I was browsing facebook, and came across a music video my high school history teacher had posted on his page.  His reasoning for posting the link to the video? Absolutely heartwrenching.  So I hit play, and was treated to one of the most romantic songs I’ve heard in a long time.  Henceforth, a list of my top 10 love songs, in no particular order.

1. Marry Me- Train
    With lyrics like “Forever can never be long enough for me / To feel like I’ve had long enough with you... / Marry me / Today and every day... / You wear white and I’ll wear out the words I love you”- how can even the most grinchiest of hearts not grow a few sizes too large? This is romantic simplicity at its absolute best.

2. Wonderful Tonight- Eric Clapton
    This song, in every syllable of its being, is about truly loving the person you are with, loving them for who they are and being proud of who they are. How much better can that kind of love get?

3. At Last- Etta James
    The Obamas danced to Beyonce’s rendition of Etta James’ “At Last” at one of the inagural balls they attended, and countless numbers of couples have used this timeless classic as the song for their first dance.  Etta’s smooth, soulful voice drips with love as she sings of a love found, at last.

4. Amazed- Lonestar
    Now don’t get me wrong- it isn’t that I dislike country music, but it isn’t really my favorite genre.  However, there are a few exceptions, one of which is “Amazed” by Lonestar.  This song is the perfect example of loving someone so much that it almost hurts.

5. Fix You- Coldplay
    I often listen to this song when I’m having the absolute worst of days, when nothing seems to be going my way- and then I listen to Chris Martin sing “Lights will guide you home / And ignite your bones / And I will try to fix you”.  And then I feel better.  I’d feel even better if there were someone for me to actually go home to, but that’s another story for another post.

6. My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion
    Yes, it is far overplayed and so unbelievably cheesy, but so damn classically romantic. The music only helps, not to mention the fact that the song plays during one of my favorite moments in the film Titanic.  Seriously, what other song would you want played while you were standing on the front of an ocean liner with your soul mate behind you, arms outstretched, wind blowing in your hair... Ok, I think you get my point.

7. Wonderwall- Oasis
    The lyrics are kind of non-sensical (what exactly is a wonderwall?) and the lead singer of Oasis is an absolute raving lunatic, but come on, “Maybe / Your gonna be the one to save me / And after all, your my wonderwall”... that's the kind of love everyone wants to find and hold on to.

8. Breathe- Faith Hill
    Funny that I mentioned that I didn’t like country music, yet here’s another... “There’s nothing left to prove... / Baby, isn’t that the way that love’s supposed to be?” Oh Faith Hill.  You remind us that no matter how high the walls are that we build after we cut the jerks out of our lives that they can always come tumbling down when the right one comes along.
[*Another Faith Hill song that I find romantic is “There You’ll Be”, but it it is sad.  And currently I’m trying to avoid the sad love songs because my love life is currently quite sad and I don’t want to remind myself of that.  Oh wait, I just did.]

9. Halo- Beyonce
    Speaking of walls that are tumbling down, Beyonce’s “Halo” is quite a touching song when you just look at some of the lyrics. A good friend of mine (who I’ve sort of grown apart from) once said to me that he felt like he was my guardian angel... angels have “halos”... get it? Ok. Well anyway... We tend to build walls around ourselves, thick, steel-reinforced-concrete walls that can withstand just about anything save for atomic destruction.  It takes someone special to be able to break through those walls- to make it feel like love is safe and good. This song, no matter how many times I listen to it, brings chills, and makes me wish that I still had my best friend in my life.

10. Just Haven’t Met You Yet- Michael Buble
    And to end on a much more uplifting note, last in this least but certainly not least is the song whose music video made you want to go grocery shopping- Michael Buble’s “Just Haven’t Met You Yet”.  I’ve always been a fan of Michael Buble’s smooth vocals, and this upbeat and catchy song lets us know that we shouldn’t give up, somewhere out there in that sometimes scary world, is the perfect person for us. And who knows, maybe, when you find them, you’ll get to dance through the aisles of a grocery store :)

This list certainly isn’t all encompassing, but these are the ten songs that stick out over and over to me when I think about the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard.  There are plenty more, but I’ll save the rest for the next rainy day.

When your best just isn't good enough.

Some mornings, its really hard to get up and get out of bed knowing what you have to face.  Occasionally sleep provides you a few hours of sanctuary, where you can hide from the demons you must battle every, single day.  The darkness of sleep masks the darkness of your days, and for a short amount of time you feel normal- for at night, its dark for everyone. 

But when you do have to force yourself out of bed, bypassing the mirror to head straight for the coffeemaker, the sheer act of admitting another day’s dawn has arrived is enough to zap you of every ounce of energy, every shred of willpower that you might have been able to muster up while everything was dark.

You force yourself through all-too-common routines, dreading just about everything in that bright, shiny world out there.  You feel like a dull copper penny- the ones that no one picks up after they’ve fallen on the ground, for what good is such a small amount of change?  Why bother pick yourself up when there is so little left inside that empty shell you’ve become?

Once in a while you can fight through the heaviness of heart and mind, you can smile at people to fool them into believing that everything inside that head of yours is tranquil and normal.  But far too often you can’t, and the weight of feeling powerless is just too much to bear.

The feeling that you are alone, and not included... the kind of feeling you get in your gut when you approach a group which immediately falls silent as you pass, then bursts into laughter when they think you’ve walked far enough away... the feeling you get when everyone around you has you convinced that whatever it is that you can do isn’t good enough for them- aren’t you tired of hearing people yell at you? Scold you? Demean you? Make you feel like you aren’t any good?

Of course you are.  But what else is left to do, but admit defeat and walk away with your eyes cast downward?  At least you have the solitude of darkness, the cloaking blanket of invisibility that can cover you and absorb your tears and your fears, for one more long, lonely night.