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December 2009

November 2009 entries

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving was spent going to Mass and then to my parents' house in Roaring Spring.  We went out to eat with my mom and my sister and her husband and son.  As is typical of Thanksgivings, we all ate too much and didn't regret it one bit.

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Opening Night: A True Success!

Congrats to the Cast and Crew of MHS's production of Arsenic and Old Lace! Last night's first performance was great.  I am so incredibly proud of what my students have accomplished -- everything is entirely run by students, from the backstage work to the onstage work to the sound and light booth work.  We've got a special group of kids who make me proud to be a teacher and who remind me why I became a teacher in the first place.  We have two more shows -- tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.  Knock 'Em Dead, MHS!

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On Sunday, November 15, I had the awesome opportunity to attend Michael's last concert with the Bucknell Concert Chorale.  He conducted a new work of his called "Invictus" -- the title means "Unconquered".  The test is by William Earnest Healy, and while it begins by describing the "clutch of circumstance", the speaker of the poem (and the singers of the song) "thank whatever gods may be for [their] unconquerable soul[s]."  The climax of the poem asserts, "It matters not how strait the gate, punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." 

The Chorale frequently expresses their appreciation for Michael as a conductor and fellow singer, and they truly enjoy the music he creates for them.  One student told him that after being introduced to his piece of music, she taped the words, "I am the master of my fate" to a place above her work station.  She says that reflecting on these words every day has helped her grow in confidence as she pursues her dreams in college.

Dedicated to his LHU Choir director and his Bucknell director, the piece of music was, like all of Mike's works, beautiful -- filled with tension, close notes, and soaring moments of glory. 

Another piece in the concert, "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine", took the audience on a journey inside the genius mind of Leonardo DiVinci as he contemplated human flight.  The vocal painting and effects capture the audience and before we know it, we are being lured by the siren song of the wind: "Leonardo, Leonardo, come fly."

The concert was filled with such pieces of music -- works that grasp the hand of the listener and pulls him into another world, into another perspective, into another consciousness.  I felt that I walked away a better, more enriched person.  That is the power of music, the power of honesty in music, the power of art.

"Momma! That's MY shirt!"

Tonight at play rehearsal, Aidan and Gabrielle were with me for part of the evening.  At one point, Aidan removed his sweatshirt and tossed it on his personal, walking clothes rack (me).  So I started to put it on.  My students bet me that I couldn't do it...

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Well, getting it off was another story... Luckily, there is no film footage of that! :)  

"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately." Thoreau

Last week, my juniors read a portion of Henry David Thoreau's Walden called "Where I Lived and What I Lived For".  The title alone is a thought-provoking one -- in fact, I made it a journal prompt for Friday:  "Where I Live and What I Live For".  As I told them, the "where I live part" could mean anything: "I live in a state of delusional optimism" or "I live in a fish bowl where everyone watches my every move".  As for the "what I live for", well, that's anyone's guess:  "I live for Sundays and Steelers football" or "I live to make the world a better place". 

Needless to say, most of the kids had fun with the prompt and even a few asked to take their in-class journals home so they could finish the entry properly (I only gave them 15 minutes).

The essay of Thoreau's was tough for my students to read.  And unfortunately, several of them gave up when it was too difficult.  I even had one student try to argue that Thoreau was absurd when he claimed that he wanted to live deliberately so that he didn't discover that when he came to die that he hadn't lived:  "But, Mrs. Connor, when he's been alive and then is going to die, how can he say that he hadn't been alive his whole life?"  A discussion of semantics followed -- what's the difference between being alive and simply surviving, the difference between being alive and having a pulse? 

But truly, it is a thought-provoking concept for anyone.  Do you live deliberately?  That is, do you live on purpose?  Or, do you go through the motions of routine without being truly present in any one moment because you are already thinking about the next?  We live in an age that worships the "multi-tasker" but perhaps what we need are more "uni-taskers".  Otherwise, I am afraid we will miss out on the depth and breadth of life --  the true joy and love and passion and pain that is life. 

Believe me, I am no expert at living deliberately.  With two little ones and a million responsibilities, I find it extremely difficult to be in the present moment at all times.  Instead, I feel tugged in a multitude of directions by a multitude of disembodied hands clutching at my shirtsleeves.  But am I happy about this way of life?  No.  I like aspects of it: the experiences afforded my children; the moments of triumph when I see students becoming characters on stage; the words of praise from parishioners and audience members; the positive feedback from administrators and critics.  But I am exhausted.  

And yes, I should be sleeping, perhaps, instead of writing this blog, but this is when and where I do a lot of my self-reflection, albeit publically (I keep a journal for private musings) and to me, self-reflection is crucial.  So, do I live deliberately?  Not all the time.  Am I working on it?  Yes, especially since being recently reminded by Thoreau to live purposefully and "suck the marrow out of life".