NANO … a model for life? Part I of II posts…

Harry Brake:

National Novel Writing Month Philosophy – larger than the story itself…

Originally posted on PAVEing a Blog:

You may have heard me go on and on about NANO, (National Novel Writing Month) – and sure, if you take it at face value, 50,000 words in a month, why would I torture myself. Good question. Except, there is more to it than you’d expect and that is where the treasure lies. Yes, I learned the hard way about this yet, the ore I participated, the more I realized how much of a bigger picture there is. I think the best way is just to first dip into the commentary that was a live talk tonight with founder of NANO, Chrisy Baty and current operations manager, Grant Falkner. I think you will realize, ESPCIALLY if you are not a writer, how big a deal this actually is.

Blurb and Livestream, two very cool services, help support this Nano endeavor and I really, really like how technology…

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NANO … a model for life? Part I of II posts…

You may have heard me go on and on about NANO, (National Novel Writing Month) – and sure, if you take it at face value, 50,000 words in a month, why would I torture myself. Good question. Except, there is more to it than you’d expect and that is where the treasure lies. Yes, I learned the hard way about this yet, the ore I participated, the more I realized how much of a bigger picture there is. I think the best way is just to first dip into the commentary that was a live talk tonight with founder of NANO, Chrisy Baty and current operations manager, Grant Falkner. I think you will realize, ESPCIALLY if you are not a writer, how big a deal this actually is.

Blurb and Livestream, two very cool services, help support this Nano endeavor and I really, really like how technology services jump in to support literacy and especially such a cool project like Nano and The Young Writers Program. Think if other major companies jumped in and found ways to launch and support academic endeavors to not only advertise their services but to promote such project-based learning??

Blurb, is a very comprehensive and dynamic platform for helping to publish books in many, many varieties!   This can be found through National Writing Month at and also simply at to see what they are all about.

I liked the background into how NANO became NANO. Chris Baty stated there was no greater thing than novel writing and smacktalk, and I have to say having a group of peers challenging each other, wow, just like in Cross Country when you have someone run with you – we always noticed those being some of the greatest gains – and those conversation would stick through us at a meet and push us further than we thought we could! Writing in groups and now, that activity of creativity endorsed, so cool!

Starting with only 8 people in the main office of NaNo in Berkeley, CA,(that conduct a international endeavor!) and friends putting together a month for just writing; in 1999 starting with 21 friends that believed in this dream, and now, I mean look! It reminds me of how small we started as a magazine, 6 people, yet that dream to make art be a centerpiece and let others know how important a communicative tool is, we now see it reach hundreds of artists, and sometimes, they do not realize they are artists until this experience. We had this dream that became a reality thank to others that believed in it, and the same with NANO, it is exciting the challenges and the realizations you make as a person when you devote a month to that purpose of rediscovering yourself

I have been there and heard the, “I can’t do that, no way.” I was one of them, trust me yet, I discovered some amazing things about myself through this process as well. I liked how Stephen King also commits to writing 2000 words a day, and this idea of a novel being the clay you can mold, shape, etc., and not sure what it will turn out to be, yet along the way growing with it as it grows.

Chris Baty now has the edited version of his book, that original came out in 2004 titled, No Plot No Problem. I love this title because some of the hardest things are to put aside planning and just take the leap. This applies to roadtrips, (Adi Alsaid’s book Let’s Get Lost!) risks at work, risks with relationships, and overall, risks on how you will live your life. Yes, you can minimize the importance of something like NANO, yet, it simply is a tool for you to bring out some pretty great things in your own life and make it better. I feel, and have always felt, as an educator the most powerful tools to bring success up, whether it be just grades, test scores, or the self esteem needed to succeed in school overall, are projects that put the learner in touch with dealing with the world around them.

When Chris stated, “The biggest things separating people form their ambitions…is a deadline”, I do agree it is like you have to make a date with yourself to give yourself permission to explore, to discover and to truly live. I see NANO as doing this and this leads to other things that will make an impact.

When it was said, it is “…hard to prioritize when you see what other things they are up against,” I could not agree more. You see mega distractions today with technology, and imagine when you are writing and have a lull! The tendency to check your blog, check Facebook, check this, check that, it is GRUELING! This same analogy exists when you have to carve time out for something that puts you back to a time where you did do things to discover yourself all over. NANO is one way to do this in one period of the year.

The following points did point to NANO directly:

-People need more creativity in their lives!

-Life presents these obstacles to prevent this much of the time.

When you begin to see this as a doorway to excuse yourself from the treadmill of tasks, and you experience such a sense of freedom for one month, this experience becomes even more personal. In looking at the other NANO events such as Camp Nanowrimo that occurs in April and July, last year 60 000 participants and then alongside NANO the Young Writers program –where 100,000 writers, which is easily 2000 classrooms, you realize, WHOA.

A lot of people say, “I do not have the time, the ideas, the talent, …” to do such a project and a GREAT response is, “Nobody has the time but you can make the time.” If it is important enough to you. The same thing applies to reading something of your own each night, or carving out that brief period each day that is YOURS.

In saying that NANO will change your creative life, and change the way you read books and the way you will see the world, you night say, um, seriously? From something just like NANO? The amazing part is when you take in the other sources of inspiration, seeing people on video writing with you, hearing authors take time to share with you their experiences so they can push YOU, and so many people alongside you willing to take time WITH you to see you and themselves succeed, you start to realize the power of groups, and writing, and seeing the world differently.   Then you se this is a powerful tool to get you to that point, to be able to change your perspective for the better.

Oddly enough, I do agree that the busier you are the easier it is to approach it with a“anything goes” attitude you need for NANO. I often found the days I woke up and did not plan the classroom as much as I did for a week ahead of time, I was so tired in those cases, I had let down a lot of pretense and did not have the energy to b worried, anxiety-filled, etc, and the class went better than the times I spent planning, planning, planning. Such is the case with NANO, instead of planning everything before it happens, when you take that leap into the inknown, some pretty cool things happen as a result.

Going for quantity of words at a madcap pace and not thinking of anything else, often give you the quality you look for later as you have liberated yourself from an inner editor! Even with some years you do not like what you wrote, you grow and learn from the experience overall ad have given yourself the freedom to stretch and explore what you have to offer in one of many areas.

I also love that some (like 10!) pretty great New York Times Bestsellers have come out of the NANO experience, some such as Books out of Nanowrimo like:

Night Circus and Water for Elephants just to name to of them!

The idea of – Exuberant Imperfection! - giving yourself permission to be creative, to NOT know ahead of time, to not edit and just write, write, write and not even THINK about any mistakes made, I think this makes a huge difference in you as a person by the end of November.

If you create 1667 words a day that equals to make 50,000 a month, but of course this varies on typing speed, people tend to write as fast as they can type. Chris was stating he writes 5 night a week, 2 hours per night, and this gives him the space to reflect and think in between. This whole experience lets you organize your month, and lets you put on your project manager hat.

Some amazing aspects to NANO become that a slow cooker is an amazing tool and the support you can expect from that significant other during the month of November. Important advice for people new to the whole endeavor is to take breaks – after Grant mentioned statistics being looked at for the past years of NANO, he stated when people hit 25000 words, 85% were likely to finish to 50000 words and beyond.

I do agree we discover our books as we write them, and not knowing the end, or thinking you know the end and a character surprising yourself halfway through is part of this journey. Encouraging yourself to wait until you make it perfect – well wait until you finish to do that, because the best part is just ripping out what you see, hear, smell, and feel until the very end!

Some additional tools that help are the advent of the writing buddies you can find, both in the site forums, from the liasons that are in different geographic regions, to the constant Virtual Write-ins NANO provides, to write-ins you an create with people that have an interest in developing their writing, to the inspirational materials that are provided for you, there are limitless supplies of tools that help transform you into someone you were not when you started!

Some NANO vocabulary of interest to leave you with for a part TWO post in a day or so!:

Snowflake Method

Writing totem

Plotting vs a Pantser

Virtual Write In

Plot Bunny

NANO Wrimo Rebel

Traveling Shovel of Death


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…It Takes Time to Realize the good things…sometimes…

The Giver. I remember reading this book by Lois Lowry so long ago, and the initial reaction was of shock, a voice piercing through my normal sense of what novels were, and Lowry being able to change everything I knew about what a story could do once you wee inside.

I loved the way this film exploited the opportunity that each of us have to break against the norm, and make a difference, either in a large way or a small one. I would see challenges to this book repeatedly, see people that would try to sling mud at others that did in fact try to break against the norm of making differences, as you can see, the implications of this story remained with me for a long time, and the connections that it made ran deep. So let’s get into the world that has been happening around us…

There are people that silently devote their time to better the word around them, despite the hurdles that exist and always spring up. A large portion of this blog is devoted to Melinda Duryea, who birthday was a few days ago, and although not much was said or maybe not enough was said, let me expound on what she has done that truly is somewhat short of amazing and is one of many, and let me clarify, very few you have been willing to take so much of their lives and try to make the world a better place.

From getting up at the crack of dawn certain days to set up plans for planting beach grass to restore beach fronts, to late night counting the record of sand crabs in their comeback on the Eastern Shore, to the uncanny ability to always support students in many arenas, from sports, to Wildlife Reserve cleanups, to making the environment better for those that have never stepped outside of their own community, she has been relentless. She is often very quiet about her contributions amid volunteering to do things of beauty, from counting dolphins, to silently studying habitats from one side of the shore to another, yet, without proclaiming her contributions, without as much as a whisper, she pushes forward and continues to add this hour here, move a student towards success there, and continues to open the gap between volunteering for the sake of feeling good to volunteering to allow others to move forward and better the world along with themselves. If ever there was an individual that sacrificed he time for others n the face of uncomfortable weather, odds, or situation look no further than to find Melinda Duryea there to have pushed the restrictions of what is possible to what can be achieved. It seems appropriate to wait a few days after her birthday to recognize her efforts, as they are worth more than celebrating on one day – and certainly deserved to be revisited after her birthday – for she is a stand alone example of what each of us could do to change the world for the better.

I realized in thinking about the countless hours she has contributed that in line with watching The Giver, I might have had the whole story wrong. When I thought the Giver was in the form of the memory keeper, I might truly have his this wrong, in some way the Giver actually was the Receiver, who enabled the actual Giver to be strong in his weakest moment. I would have to agree so has Melinda Duryea done so for those around her. More than a belated Birthday, it would be fitting for you to remind Melinda Duryea, when you see her, thank you for standing among the crowd to change things for the better, not only a great belated birthday wish for her, but a gift she has given to those around her continually.

You often hear people say in voting, seriously? ONE vote will not make a difference. I believe I truly disagree. I have seen one person, a conviction they embody change one, then four then twenty, then set whole tide of tradition ofn it’s head and before you realize it, a change is occurring. This is what everyone should strive to do to better everything around us.

There truly is tragedy all around us, from the issues of more –more – more, found in economies and industry causing such a decrease in environments, wildlife, clean air, clean water, conservation efforts, pollution, and yet, there are saviors that are future generations that can easily be supported and save this movement towards decline.

There is the recent tragedy in Mexico where students in a mass grave have been found, not only shot, but mutilated, at what sees at the hand of police officers that have been turned to corruption. Add the injustices to college students and the misconceptions of protests on both sides, add opportunities for student groups on our own campus that struggle to find a voice and a way to support initiatives they believe in, the constant argument that Starbucks found on every corner and hiding the local coffee entrepreneurs that represent a country rather than a business, and this is a small collection of struggles and conflicts we must try to reckon with in our own lives.  The community is reacting in protests that are impacted but their convictions to want something better from their government.

Yet, looking at each of these in a different light, asking ourselves personally, what can WE do to make this better or at least try to put in a more positive light, changes how at first a small portion of people will view an issue, and then how an even larger portion of individuals can go on to suggest ways to turn these negatives into something positive.

While it is hard to see this process, sometimes it is much easier to flow with the bad situations and try to make something positive out of it, and indeed, this takes patience and time, aspects that are hard to swallow at the time. Yet the individuals willing to hang on, ride the negativity out and still provide alternatives, soon enough will prevail with amazing results. This is the reason students need to be dealt the negatives to their plate, and then be pushed and encouraged to come up with alternatives rather than rash lashing out reactions and then the end result being a dead end, nothing more to do. A larger education and ratio of success will result due to this approach, and I have learned that lesson the hard way over countless years, thanks to many students and individuals that went on change many things that at first seemed daunting. In the process it changed myself too.

I look back on the countless food sales, music festivals, Non-Profit benefit events, hours of time spent outside of the regular hours and what do you have?  You simply have a growth curve to put selfless on the shelf and bring out experience in scrambling to benefit others, the more vast experiences the more experienced and knowledgable, and I have to say, looking back, there are so many that shaped me to be more optimistic and find A WAY to make something possible and more positive for others as well as slice off something for myself.  Often I would find myself self wallowing in wanting something something for myself and finding out – self pity and benefitting something for pretty much gets me to a shorter path, opposed to recruiting others to find an inner strength and ability that helps pull me up – and out to make a difference.

I have to say I am extremely proud of the women and men that were students at one time, and now are the shakers and movers of communities in so many parts of the world.  This seems to be the true purpose of education, creating a change and shift in how what we learn with the walls of a school can be actually applied outside of an institution, real world application beyond what our own interests are.  In the prices others benefit and we change for the better.  As in a student named Alice (last name to be withheld due to staking purposes) – I have seen her grow and change as well, and despite obstacles that she encounters, she had a grid-iron determination and will that can carry her through many a hurdle.  At fist I found her impulse to react trigger-happy and slowly, I am seeing her back up before making rash decisions and contemplating before she makes her move.

Life often becomes hectic, becomes hurried, becomes tangled, and yet, the more we pull ourself out of the craziness that seems to be overcome with faster, better, newer, and more – we back out of that and simply take a look – and let ourselves think and contemplate, nothing but a river experience begins to appear amid much craziness.  I actually learned that from the very individuals that helped me grow as a teacher, a mentor, an advisor, an educator, and overall an individual.  These are the experiences that will follow us through many a struggle and let us reappear victorious.

It is true, sometimes it takes time to realize the good things that surround us, but never realizing it is worse than that time need for it all to soak in :)

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Intensity and Reflection

Kind of stumbling out of seeing Gone Girl, with Ben Affleck and an amazing trio of actors – I am pretty sure I left earth a few feet.  The past, flew past me as I was in some sort of a tail spin – kind of like the production of Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf in 2001 in Stratford, Canada, did when I viewed this in Stratford quite a while ago, a group of us, and relishing the moments that Shakespeare brought our lives to a standstill during that brief stint that reined in our minds forever.  Funny, even then, some of us noticed the power of images, acting, and pieces of drama that could so impact us and bring our past full circle – moments that rarely surfaced and rarely were reckoned with -yet when they did appear they appeared full circle and had a lasting impact.  I can’t even possibly explain the experiences, memories, and emotions this film brought up in for me personally, the most harrowing, haunting and dreadful moments I had in a relationship that I truly thought would be the end of me – and yet – there is that sense of bravery that I felt – maybe even shock, that appears with the ending of this film – yes. I wanted more but it took me  few moments to realize how artful this tale was soon, how artful and suspenseful this movie packed so much, and I think you too will dredge up a memory that you once thought lost or forgotten, and yet, it appears to once again be resurrected.

Sometimes you get surprised with the films you see not knowing anything about them and this is certainly not the exception. Out of nowhere, a barrage of thoughts appear that bring one’s life full focus, I truly have no idea how this happens and certainly do not know when it will occur, yet, when it does I just gave to get it down SOMEWHERE to sit back and reflect on…

Mexico.  I am seriously, I am SERIOUSLY IN MEXICO - someone that caused much much trouble as a kindergartner, hyper and starved to make friends with anything that moved, inkling anyone, a typical small town Butlerite and who know after my various misadventures through colleges stumbling toward  vague kind of interest in this that and- GRADUATION – internship, rooted in the Eastern Shore of Delaware and pretty darn sure that this was my rooting ground and – obviously skipping on the soap opera details that make stories I could tell well, pretty un believable and – MEXICO.  I walk out the door of my apartment any given night and breathe in the smells, sounds, and scenes of  country I thought I knew from textbooks – and realize the deep and entrenched beauty of the women, the tragic, proud, and domineering appearances of the men, the endearing children, the amazing young women I am lucky to see grow up as that 9th grader and become influential in al parts of the world, just as I thought and viewed Mexico way outside of my reach – all of this happening in Mexico, and be in it, and a world away of places I called home, happening, turning, fast forward, reverse, back again, replay – spin full circle and here I am sitting in shock at the events on the big screen in Gone Girl and wondering, how in the HECK did I make it out alive from so many close calls that a normal person would never be able to quite scrape out of?  How?  and Why me?

I realize I am brought to face so many stories of my past that have never been told yet what I hold inside and – whoa – I vaguely slow down long enough to realize how amazing I am because of the individuals that have become a part of a life I never knew could be possible – and yet it is.  Let’s take say the past week -

Working alongside an event that seems to be resurrected from the Battle of the Bands that attracted hundreds of people to musical talent from the north, south, east and western shores in DE, this thing we know as Open Mic

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that seems so natural, occurring for the very first time in the 204-2015 year, and yes, I am still reeling.  Reeling from the bravery, the confidence, the talent, the sheer individuality of the presenters that flowed in front of us in so many forms, I blink sometimes and I wonder how I have made these personal friendships and memories with students that a mere 5 years ago I never even knew or expected to meet in yes, a country a world away and yet, I can’t get them out of my mind or out of my realization that – they mean so much to me based on that very bravery, confidence, and talent they do not hide from us but put out that will challenge others to reach inside and – reveal that we all have something important to share with each other – if we’d just get that extra push from someone to let it out.

Authors, actors, musicians – this is just the surface of what an Open mic represents and I think, no, am convinced as time goes on, only individuals on a deeper level, willing to let the experience soak over them, realize how much more such an event can mean – some things have not moved past that very first year where Battle of the Bands would lead me to a different country whatsoever and create something amazing out of something from my past -

Concessions that happened by accident in Delaware that have resurfaced and become the bread and butter in Mexico City among amazingly hard -woking and commuted individuals, that simply use them as a means to obtain something beautiful later downy the road – it is either very ironic or very coincidental how truly – events resurface in another form and can change how you see everything.

I could never emphasize how much and how fast the commitments I have made to some amazing and talented individuals in Mexico have in turn changed me for the better.  I still find myself in a tailspin when they move on, or continue to create something that I find belonged in my past, yet their creation manages to define the very person I am.  I find myself never able to forget the footprints of individuals that I thought never did have an impact, in high school in Butler, PA, in my transitions through college, the Highland Festivals, the first Hooters concert at Slippery Rock (not the restaurant or interesting waitresses folks), the concerts of country, rock, Billy Joel, the Blues at Star Lake, and jumping to Mexico and again, bumping into individuals that would change me forever, life is something not to be underestimated, and often, when I thought in my past I was at my lowest, I look back now and realize that was a beginning to so many things I did not know would come to pass.

I look back at some of my lowest moments, people so critical of me I second guessed myself and all the years I thought I had it in line, to the moments where I thought I knew without a shadow of a doubt I knew what my future would be, where I was headed, and in one single day it all changed, just like that.  Yet, thought those drastic changes, I find some of the dearest people that bring this slight tinge to my heart, they remain the same despite these strong changes in this direction and that and I realize -

they are magic.  They are the mainstay that define who I am through this hailstorm and that hailstorm, they remain the one true constant, despite the memories that flash back and make me cringe, make me wonder how I made it through, create a nostalgic being in my memory, I realize it is because of each and every one of them, my family, my friends that became my family, my current, former, and future students that in some form become my family over time, they allow me to be a better me, every day.

I can’t guarantee that seeing Gone Girl will cause you this kind of reflection, and a part of me hopes not because, it might be enough for you to never WANT to see another film, yet   – the realization that life is nothing of what any of us think it is or was – if something can make you stop and reflect on how amazing your life has been – how lucky are you?  Beyond words I’d say.

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Organic Market Explodes on the ASF Scene!

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.16.37 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.16.45 AMASF’s Organic Market!

AdeCocoMx – Coconut milk is AMAZING  and it tastes GREAT!

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.29.53 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.30.00 AM    This is a great site for activities and gifts for children and is educational, MANY cool things to choose from and here is the Facebook to also see!

Coros - WOW!   Great designs of jewelry and great, GREAT gifts – you need to check

this out!  IMG_8205

El Buen Campo!

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El Buen Campo – A GREAT service that can deliver to your home a VARIETY of products organic in nature!

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Frutos de Vida

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This is an amazing beverage as we have seen this as many organize markets, and you get a chance to stop by – do so, you will never forget this!

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Holanda – Great waffles and the chance to tour an awesome area?  Yes!!  :)

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Mariela con sabor a beso

Nuci Gourmet

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Nuci Gourmet – If you think nuts are delicious, you haven’t tried these with cinnamon and a variety of other toppings – wow, and home grown from Chihuahua and available here in Mexico City.

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Porto Organica – YOU HAVE to try this honey – thick, sweet and totally organic.

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Querido Rincon – Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.14.34 PM

Very cool gifts that involved shaped, animals, complex creations that are creative ad eye catching!  Their virtual store makes this a GREAT chance to shop as well!

SE Gourmet baguettes – oh YES.  They literally melted in my mouth between the cheese, and the bread – DELICIOUS.  They cater to special events, as well as to homes, so this is a GREAT GREAT opportunity, and if you haven’t tried one – you NEED to.  I tried the Jamon de Pavo and never looked back after the first bite!

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Soy Y Tierra – Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.55.21 AM

WOW!  The dehydrated tomatoes AND the powered to make milkshakes – seriously,  could not resist these after the taste!

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“Clubbing” Past the Stereotype

The seen and the unseen. It is all about what makes us better people, lead better lives, and learn more about ourselves in the process. Alongside the unexpected turn of events that occur in our lives, I have said it once, and will say it again, you need to slow the pace of life sometimes to notice the small details that matter, they are often bigger than the experiences we think will matter.

Working alongside the staff of Repentino. for the last three events, just when you think there is a high bar for excellence, students will rise about that if you continue to think of ways to challenge them. No offense, but there is little recognition due to me as a leader when the students take an idea, an opportunity, or an idea and turn it into success. Yes, I am there ot motivate, initiate, and “prime” if you will, but to really see educational experiences be just that, become TRUE learning experiences individuals take with them, a sense of letting go needs to be initiated and students pushed towards using their own decisions and choices that will effect a successful culimnating result. The last three fundraisers for the Repentino. staff earned no less than $4500.00 pesos was earned, with at least two to three hours ahead of time put into the preparation, showing one thing – the individuals, that become a group, willing to put the effort, reaped major benefits compared to last year, increase all across the group are seen – then…

When you hear the comments, you realize what is happening, something you would not see from just hearing or seeing a group of students at work – you see individuals growing, pushing themselves to be better than anything previous – “I have never done this before!”, “I am unsure what to do as far as setting my own agenda and for others…” – “I never saw this aspect of an organization, this has become more than a CLUB, this is n the job and future preparation!” – you cannot help but realize there is a true sense of learning but looking ahead to the future, planning, predicting an audience and meeting a select audience’s needs, enhancing the needs of fiscal records, enhancing public relations skills, developing a mission statement and theme that meets a communication need?

Yet, if you only look on the surface, and see a club, you would see clumps of students running here and there, but without a closer look you miss the whole picture. It is easy to take fro granted the deep-seeded skills that students acquire, be it researching using tools they never thought of, connecting themes of topics to other key words that them them to new research, using the idea of a club or organization to grow as a group and individually in areas to prepare for college, taking advantage of every situation and ignoring the comments of outsiders – those that fail to look deeper and see what happens on a staff by staff basis. My biggest fear is to I will lose focus and not have tasks be connected to a higher purpose, one that benefits the individual involved in a task at the time, combines the skills of thinking outside of the box, that connects to researching personal inquiry and not relying on simply an assignment to do so, triggering creativity along the way, and combining a WIDE WIDE selection of skills and planning that involves what you would normally not receive from a typical library, from a typical organization, from a typical approach to education, and boom – students rocket off the charts with feeling confidence of what they can do with others AND on their own. I believe this year’s magazine has had a GREAT start to taking what an organization like Repentino. can do to add to what the library, research, investigation, literature, art, and communication with others outside of the school can do to shape the overall learner.

Yes, you could minimize what we do as a magazine, organization, and a club (Sounds the same at first, doesn’t it?) , but do not be fooled, Repentino. is simply a vehicle for which the library and valuable acquired skills can be realized – to travel on this highway of the 21st Century. My goal is to leave those not able to see the future on the side of the road while those that do catch a glimpse of what could be, make it a reality.

Wednesday night was an odd night, yet, another opportunity of learning that would be priceless. A colleague informed me there was a research opportunity through Lake Research Partners and people were needed in their opinions on absentee voting, the process, and a little bit of other information. I was excited because I needed to figure that out for myself. Yet, the last phrase I admit, also caught my attention. They will pay you $75.00 for the 90 minute opportunity. Um, yeeeaaaaH!   In in the course of one week, lost my garage ticket at Costco’s having to pay a 190 pesos fee (Trust me, I looked everywhere), on top of running around the past few weeks non stop and felt this would help me recover a few steps of the losses I experienced.  Yet what I would discover was something far more valuable than $75.00.

We did a webinar Wednesday on the latest and newest technology that simply is AMAZING for libraries, as well as the possibilities, and realized it was 4:55 on a required 3:45 day, and I had until 5:50 to be at the Hampton Inn, in Centro to be eligible for this survey. Amazingly, I made it home, I got to the dogs, in the cab, (hanging head) a cab through the mess of Centro traffic? Doubtful – and yet, the driver seemed to sense my nervousness and delivered me right to the door with 5 minutes to spare, the desk not knowing where I needed to be without a name, me attacking the hotel computer and opening my email, grabbing the name, rushing up to the 2nd floor, to the conference room, 2 minutes to spare, a breeze  :)

Settling in, we started and after meeting three ladies, one who had recruited for absentee voting and encouraging/teaching others to do this process as a right of being a citizen of the United Stated, another research recipient that was at least 85 years old and had been through so many countries, raised children on her own, been denied years of voting due to state regulations until recently, and actually being in tears with the thought of the right she could exercise, and the third woman who was a member of the Democrat party here in Mexico that was a staunch advocate of exercising the right of voting for her party – we over the course of 90 minutes learned how personal the right to vote is in the Unite States, how for granted this right can be in the United States, let alone overseas, and the challenges that remain in getting this information out to so many that can, and do not. We see countries that influence voters, fix votes, try to remove the right to vote to some parties, and we as citizens need to treasure how we can protect this privilege and right. After 90 minutes I was exhausted mentally from the deep considerations and discussions and yet walked away treasuring what I did not know I would be able to do days before. Again, the moments you might take for granted actually carry more weight than you would glance away in a quick moment.

Every year that passes, I realize more and more about myself, as well as dealing better and better with criticisms, and I do realize this. Yes, I get mad when people around me do not see how fast ahead I am thinking, or not seeing the bigger picture. I hate misunderstandings that are acted out without proper communication. Yet, over the last few years, actually since I came to Mexico, I have found ways to channel that frustration, anger, and disappointment and create new strategies never tried, as a holding area, if you will, for a way to turn it around. Sometimes it is an idea no one has tried that that energizes you, other times it is individuals themselves that hold this optimism, potential, and energy that just push you without saying a word. I am grateful to have staff members, students, and close friends that relay that kind of energy. Simply put, it is easier to eliminate those that do not hold that energy so you can led a much more optimistic life, something I continue to learn year after year.   Before you know it, an open road is on front of you with the sky as the limit, and what a landscape that turns out to be…

Did I mention enjoying Saturday movie night with colleagues, getting tulle dover and checked for papers fro driving and thanks to the help of a colleague being let go and okay (first time for everything), running to Costco’s 3 times in a one week period to stock and replenish for student events, visiting Zacatlan, ending a Week of previewing banned books, visiting a few new restaurants to add to the blog, just to name a few things?   Boring time?  Not here.  :)

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Lucy…in the sky…in the air…everywhere…

Many connect Lucy in the Sky to the Beatles, yet, when you see the film Lucy with one of my favorite, talented, intelligent, and sexiest actresses,  Scarlett Johansson, you take away a piece of wonderment with you as well regarding, and contemplating,  your role in the world we take a place in, or not in some cases.

Not knowing any information going into the theatre, Lucy bit into me from the first 10 minutes, and never let go.  One has to wonder once you depart how you can become more in tune with the world around us while we are surrounded by evolving technology that serves to transforms the intimate to the impersonal with so much activity and fanfare over technology making our live “easier.”  Yet, is easier, better?  I have to say, the connections to stories such as The LawnMower Man, The Matrix, and others yet, a simple truth is available.

We can get caught upon going going going, having the newest technology, being in the know with the latest fashion, being on top of the world in our own little sphere, pushing limits faster, faster, faster, being here, being there, being everywhere, and when it comes down to it, it is possible to have nothing at all.  Those moments where you push away the world a little each day, and enable a solitude of thought, memory, and thought to break into a world now dominated by superficial “things”, to experience more than to want and buy buy buy, these are experiences that are priceless and will stick with individuals longer than any IPhone, Iwatch, and the element of “I” or self as well.  When you let the element of life come to you in sometimes the smallest forms, from a laugh with friends, family and close acquaintances, and realize the world of technology and advances will never slow, but you as an individual CAN slow things down to appreciate them more, then I think the true meanings of life do become a part of you more so than always being connected.  The eery implications of what could happen if we tap into our full bran capacity, as well as the amazing presence of Morgan Freeman, all winds up into being action-packed, provocative, and compelling.

Let’s take a sec.  I am being a critic but also the first one to admit how much I rely on technology to reach others, and I do.  I find myself often wrapped into several different technologies at one time, and realize that someones I need to pull back as well to find myself again curled up on a couch, reading, connecting with a good friend though it has been years, and often just the simplest of experiences that help root me back to the very things I treasure most.

So many connections are available and difficult to resist the urge or feeling of a need to always be competitive, always be in the know to be popular, and I took away from Lucy, that once realized, life is a totally different gallery than the one I thought I was strolling through, one made up of close relationships that cannot be priced or valued by the number of Tweets, IM’s, or friends, but by the individual memories that will remain with you beyond the newest gadget coming out on the market.   Lucy?  If you let it, it can become a life-changing experience of what you want life to be, now and in the future.

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Erasing to a daily Tabula Rasa…

They hit you sometimes when you least expect it causing you tone off balance.

I find that these epiphany moments exist that hit me when I am waking up, sitting down to a morning moment, and just the oddest moments, waves of emotion that just come from, from…and I realize where.  Over the years I have been given the amazing amazing gift, every day, of individuals that make me feel alive amid the roller coasters of stress we all encounter.  Hence the eraser – I hear all the time people say they will not erase anything that has happened in their lives.  I wish I could be one of them.  Yet, I have to say, I would gladly take an eraser and fill a tabletop full of shavings to erase those moments where I fill my cup is full to the max, stressed beyond the word “S”, and I am unable to take in the very moments I feel on top of the world, thanks to the very people that make me feel on top of the world.

Tabula rasa was the concept provided by a group of teachers at the beginning of the school year as a way to head into the 2014-2015 year, and I could not agree more, yet a larger challenge makes it even better.  Since the first day of school, I have been surprised on a daily basis – I will remove the word students and say their names, because each of these individuals has moved past the role of student, even though they still serve in that capacity, are are coming into their own as someone you adds so much to those around them.

If you have ever seen Sarah Herrera’s smile, you know what I am talking about, it is just ear to ear and perhaps one of the most amazing aspects to brighten a day, and when I saw her walk through the doors of ASF after her seemingly forever trip in Israel, I just realized how lucky I was to have met someone who can shine a light on all things, whether good or bad, life is so fun if you just allow it to come to you in those waves.  Add to that a procession of amazing young “movers and shakers” like Monse Ibanez, Lucia Ocejo, Sofia Sanchez, David Hubp, Natalia Clark, Camila de la Parra, David Favila, this SMALL PERCENTAGE of amazing people that have changed a whole day just with there smile that brings back a wave of how much I miss them – well if that wasn’t enough…

…we look at a young Repentino. staff for 2014-2015 – young in the sense that yes we have a mixture of seniors, freshmen, juniors and sophomores, but their energy cannot be contained to a single organization or club ; how amazingly lucky are we to have all of them together?  That is beyond a price tag – THEN take the amazing individuals that changed, influenced, and shaped my life as it is now from Seafod, DE, from Coach Doakes and an amazing amazing spirited XC team, to the amazing individuals like Mrs Wheatley, Mrs Cox-Cannon, and so so many more that allowed every day’s challenge to turn into a smile of some sort - the amazing individuals that shaped my life in Butler, PA and being lucky enough to reactivate the connections with them and knowing they still are rising to accomplishments unseen as of yet, but still rising.  It is maybe cliche, but without a doubt, I feel like Matt in the outtakes of this video where these are simply outtakes, yet, I always feel I am in a different place and a different time thanks to the uplifting memories everyone has been involved with me in – I always feel surrounded and not having to be with those individuals every day and STILL feeling that ?  I am not sure there is any amount of trips, price tag, or experience that can cause that realization – and I would not trade it for the world.

Looking over the past weeks since school has started, it is astounding what has occurred in honestly a short amount of time – seeing my first luche libre in Mexico since being here four years (it was AMAZING and SO FUN!), meeting talented authors and sharing them with students and seeing their strengths come out as a result, Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.55.47 AMcombining the past and present Repentino. to completely new challenges and accomplishments in the 2014-2015 year, revisiting the past with so many individuals that have defines what a good life really is, an AMAZING freshmen Advocacy group at school that defines the idea of optimism and to be honest, is just amazingly fun to be around in the morning, taking in all that Mexico has to offer over the summer and accenting it with the graduates that grew with me, and never losing touch with them -

I have said it once and will say it again – I am blessed thanks to the magical possibilities of those around me and get very motivated when I see this tight knit family of achievers rise to so many occasions – 2014-2015 will be an amazing year due to each of them – so yes, erasing the moments where I succumb to the stress that still floats in the air is a definite, erasing the past bad moments? – I would say no, it helps me realize how good I have it when I came to a bright spot in the form of each of the smiles I see playing back in my mind.  These unseen magical moments that occur everyday, from meeting the perfect German stand in Mexico making the perfect Bratwurst, and not knowing this would happen, to feeling the success of those around you, when they see these events as just tiny, little insignificant tasks, (yet you know it is just one step towards them becoming something even greater!), to the peace you soak in of an early boring or late night – it becomes each to create tabula rasa with the right people around you to move you in the direction.

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Subtle and Often Missed…but Never Too Late to Celebrate!

As I was walking through Parque Rio last night, it was impossible to hear the sounds of opera emanating as we wound our way through the park for our nightly jaunt.  As I neared, truly, a man and a woman were exchanging parts of some of the most famous operas, and people walking their dogs, with their children, with the significant other, everything came to a halt.

It was perfectly wonderful for a weekend.

Truly, nothing else could stop crowds on the sudden, unless their voices had not been completely mesmerizing.  It was also something you had to reach for, but the usual party, Friday night sounds of acting out and celebrating the end of a week had all but stopped too, it was as if the whole area was celebrating their talent and putting everything else on hold.  It takes much for Kinah, Wriggley, and Amaya to stop in their tracks, yet they were completely content to stop and the in what these sounds were that they were so unused to.  I thought, I could not have spent a Friday any better – and without having to make a reservation and appointment, without a ticket :)

As we would our way back home out of the park, we passed four men, their faces lit up by the back licking fire out of a wheelbarrow, mixing tar, and to fill in the street, it was a perfect picture had I had my camera with me, the black of dark pushed away from the lively dance of the fire they were feeding. Moments that pass you so quickly often are subtle, yet can touch you so deeply.  As I passed a couple she questioned where I was from and remarked, “You picked a great place, visiting Mexico!” mistaking me for a week or two visitor, and I smiled thinking, I surely did.

We think these thoughts as our staff sifts through and celebrates the many artists that come in and out of Repentino.’s eyes, and realize many artists are chosen by the staff to represent a particular theme, yet, so many more submissions that escape the pages of Repentino. have this subtle whisper to let you not miss the amazing details that surround us every day, and bring back a memory of something long ago that touched us deeply.  We are blessed to have a forum for celebrate the beauty they bring to our doorstep, and we hope you agree. There could be no better gift, and we hope you also sense the subtle beauty that many bright out through so many mediums, priceless in the gifts they provide for our soul and mind!


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Mexican Life from a Scooter…

Say, 15 years ago, if someone would have said, “You will be sliding through the streets of Coyoacan, with a friend from Argentina, on your way to the BEST pizza joint in Mexico, and yeah, it will be on a scooter…”  I would have said, “Um, what are you smoking?” Yet, there I was.

You just happen to catch the before rain scent of the air and you know anywhere you go will be magic. “This is the BEST pizza in Mexico!” and of course, just like that, between a challenge and a brag, I knew what was going to happen.  Yet, whisking through the spaces that seemed only large enough for a small piece of paper (VERY SMALL), we were bumping, rolling, and sliding past traffic with ease and taking in the way Mexico looked from the back of my friend Andre’s scooter.  I realized how efficient his company, Walking Dog, was with the transportation and getting around Mexico so quickly with the scooters his company has.  Traveling by foot is completely different than by vehicle and seeing and feeling Mexico from a scooter is even more different and completely exhilarating.

I instantly was brought back to my seven year old self, being on the back of a motorcycle, (be it a Triumph, a Harley, Indian), my Dad was quite a collector!, and that freedom of air, catching your breath over small jumps, and just feeling Alive, it was great to have a good recollection of those days and here a lifetime later, reliving them.

Before I realized it, (used to how long it takes via car) – we were HERE! Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.08.18 AM  Mama’s Pizza, and I was sucked in before I even realized it.

Was it the fact that Pink Floyd’s The Wall

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was all over literally, one wall?







Or the fact that a huge pinup of Marilyn Monroe was exhibited on the second floor?

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Or maybe that the drawings by the customers had been posted on the walls for customers to see?  Or that the restaurants provided crayons and paper for you to create your own?  It might have been the 80’s music and videos

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.21.09 AMplaying constantly, but honestly….when you see the at least four inch pizza,

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.11.37 AM and a potato that covers the whole plate -

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.12.30 AMWhere am I?  Chicago?  Literally, I can’t say I can refute this being the best pizza in Mexico , Hola Mama Rumba and Mama Mia combined, this was ABSOLUTE a ecstasy in eating!

Looking over the balcony (ironically, looking at California Pizza),

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.09.40 AM while the nightly rain began and taking in the buzz of a weekend crowd, the meal, the music, the things to laugh about, the FOOD, everything, made you realize how lucky you were to be in Mexico.  For a restaurant to be able to do that for an evening, you will remember it hands down.  Finding out this establishment has been around for 30 years is no surprise, you will know this from just the tasting of the food. Having a garage for the public is needed because as we left,it was PACKED, and it seemed these lucky individuals knew the secret as well of where to get one of the best pizza’s, next to Chicago, here in Mexico.

Taking food home was a no brainer, and believe it or not no way no how room for dessert, BUT, Andres plodded on with dessert.  Note, if you like cheesecake, get the Flan, because it tastes like cheesecakeScreen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.18.22 AM, which I prefer, so I was good, Andres, was NOT.  Literally, the next day, I had a full meal with the leftover potato (King Kong size) and “flan” cheesecake, so it was amazing!  But the also in the freshness of the air, the coolness of an after rain evening, Walking Dog’s Andres that was accommodating to show some of the best Mexico had to offer life is good.  Andres by the way, is meticulous about the care of your canines when you are around and when you are not.  Aside from leading me through the prices of replacing a lost debit card, walking your dogs and treating them like family, to replacing items in my apartment, to a host of other items, you can tell how reliable someone is from their friendship, and you can tell this right away in his genuine nature.  Add to that he is an artist  Aside from this hysterical photo he whipped up Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.09.24 AMwith mediocre crayons!

…that will be exhibiting his work soon (stay tuned for details!) – you have an all around eclectic individual that is simply talented and amazing.  We are lucky to have him as part of our Mexican experience, adding Argentina as a huge fact of what makes experiences so rewarding.

Is it possible to top the perfectness and enjoyment with friends, weather, scenery, and atmosphere after a night at Mama’s?  I am sure it is possible, but it will be a hard choice to be able to forget the experience you will have thanks to the food.

P.S.  My picture was desperate at best so good thing Andres’ and the food was KILLER!

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