Sharper than Usual but Bringing into Focus the Idea of Moving Up!

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“Mr. Brake, it breaks my heart to know that you are also going to leave Repentino.  I understand why, but I just feel our little Repentino. family grew up too fast and flew out of the nest. A year ago seems to have happened yesturday, and yet it feels like a life time has gone by.

There is nothing else I can say but that I miss everything that high school was for me. I miss just walking into the library and have 5 life long conversations that would make me laugh so much that my stomach and cheeks would hurt.

Sorry for my emotional speech, but your news made me so!!!”

Of course a post like that gets you right here – and allows you to look back and realize – what we have done – yes, we are making a difference in many lives that go on before us, and individuals silently, and unexpectedly, become leaders in some way, shape or form.

In preparing for this workshop today titled Moving Up – I struggled like anyone struggled with what would be a dynamic way to start, as well to get across the idea that in order to get a PR to be successful, you need to have everyone involved, everyone on PR that is effective, feel it here (your heart).  If this is obtained, if this is not felt, then sure, you will have a mediocre PR and results from your PR – the opposite, life will be sensed through every tweet, post and publishing that occurs.  That is your goal.  How can you achieve everyone, from so many backgrounds, to feel the power of what is possible, mores than any other publication in your school?

I can only share with you some tricks and options that have worked with me and you add in your own mix of what works with you – and as we do this workshop today – we are also sending these tips out to the world.

In being able to transition from a yearbook advisor for at least five years, then mooing into a position of literary arts magazine editor – you can take all the tips of the trade that so many advisors and staffs have put into place before you, and if you forget the heart of the matter, you still will fall short.

I like this video about yearbooks but it easily transgresses across to many other publications and activities that staffs should feel to reach their potential.

Some great ideas to help contributing members move up into positions of influence ?

  • Moving UP is a misnomer – actually if you are encouraged to move horizontally – all things will be revealed regarding strengths, etc.. and so will your publication: Bookmarks for Literacy, helping other clubs even when you can use the help, Open up venues for expression outside of the print - (this also opens op new positions) – International Acquisitions - contribute to where your magazine has been without words and tap into video talents of your staff, let your school see you are involved with creative initiatives like NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and more …
  • Creating an application process for new staff
  • Creating an application process for editor wishes to editor want to be’s
  • A GREAT idea for evaluating new staff and considering positions, taken from yesterday’s workshop titled, No Repeat Staff, No Problem! by the following two staff members – Allie Straub – and Laura Zhu
  • 1) Tic Tac Toe Board – 60 minutes – 3 tasks
  • 2) clipboard – soon to be leaving staff and monitor snack bar buffet

Put out the work ahead of time into the process – such as:

create contracts for approval of pieces, as well as applications to add justification to members being on staff,

create Bylaws of standards to remain in the group,

add some teeth to awards that are not just freely given by EARNED,

add job descriptions that will help add validity to the job someone will do, but have exiting staff edit these for the incoming staff!

Find places for training – some ideas:

Yearbooks – We always attended a retreat as Advisors and staff in Gettysburg College for Jostens and Yearbooks – it made a difference when it came to creating the theme, creating the ladder and then reinforcing that with conferences for yes, both advisors and staff such as CSPA!

Better yet – have YOUR staff veterans and newcomers CREATE their own summer camp – add sections of photo, layout, writing, and more this WORKS!

Never, ever be afraid to promote what you do in being an extension of preparation for post-gaff involvement:

Why be involved ?

Can you remind me again?

Why be an advisor?  Justify in front of the staff?

Common Core Ties?

Why be part of a literary staff?

It is vital to not be afraid to create new interpretations every year of what your publications aim to do – how to do this?

Create new positions – and have them appear in new places:

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Go the extra mile but show your staff how to do that (Secretary is also your chief correspondent) – thank you’s sent personally for everything from allowing you to be part of a concessions to earn funds – allowing you to do an interview, acknowledgement of the freedom and spaces for creativity, this comes from administration, faculty, colleagues, and staff members that normally are not thanked during the process (editors, layout designers, etc.).

A good analogy is that of the Open Mic versus the Slam Poetry.  The difference between entertaining an idea and slamming the idea into motion around you.

Celebrations are necessary to celebrate the actions that go unseen, however, add more than a party celebration to define a thanks.  Christmas – Polar Express with Hot chocolate and cookies spread everywhere, Secret Santa among staff, create your own leadership Awards for the group at the end of the year – have a set essay that goes out to the staff when they graduate that becomes a custom, create a custom of excellent to a “mecca” that they obtain new ideas, skills for the next year or current year, create a gala to orient new students to what your publication has to offer reach out to younger staff in Middle School, reach out to alumni, reach out to parents –

One crucial aspect is always, ALWAYS keep alumni form your staff included, their job does not have to be over when they depart, not at all- it could be just beginning!  Check out Erick Gordon from right here in Columbia.  It is vital the staffs realize these coincidences as they occur in your publication.

If you allow yourself, your staff to dig deep and find elements of moving forward that will result in ultimately Moving Up, but your staff has to feel it.

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Deeper than the Symbolism, Worlds Away but Close to the Future, and the Oscars.

In looking at the Oscars, you can also interpret how we live our lived based on our selections/choices and favorites in films.

Right before I boarded the plane headed back to the states, I caught the film Selma.  I LOVE the fact that this comes in the middle of Black History Month.  While it seems distant for anyone in Mexico to recognize Black History Month, I think it is vital to remember, and this was brought to my attention ever so clearly, thanks to Brad’s Pitt’s help in an amazing film titled Selma.  I realized, as I am lucky enough to have people, events, and experiences to remind me, that universality is the idea that – if you allow it – can influence people, what we do in this world, how we treat others, and where we choose to go in life.  What I have found is that does not come to our doorstep.  Not at all.  We have to be on the move for such things, always looking for something that gives us that new information that inspires us motivates us, and opens our mind to the view that yes, the world is a larger place than we think.

Every time I get ready to jump on a plane to the states, I get nervous like I did when i was at the starting line for a 5k, 10k or a marathon – and that lets me know there is still exhilaration in a location that personalized with you in some way, shape, or form and means so much.  That lets me know this it is important.  The same thing occurred in Selma, and I thought of how we packaged books for Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 7.31.23 AMBlind Date with a Book this year, how patrons delved into books such as The Invisible Man, Home, and more, and it matters.  You hear the age old complaint of when are we going to celebrate White American day?  Don’t be stupid.   We have so many American Days, where we celebrate every race as a whole, and as a bonus, choose specific cultures and races to celebrate again, that is the beauty of America as well multiple awarenesses and multiple chances to celebrate the diversity that makes American , America.  It is the duty of citizens of America to respect that fact that diversity can reinforce the very values that keep American America, not what others try to do to change that.  Being able to celebrate many cultural and racial backgrounds multiple times and if in the right mindset – be grateful to have reasons to celebrate those around is and with us, is a true America.

Selma brings to life the sacrifices and demands for freedoms often denied so may people around the world, and connecting what we do in our library, what we do among people around us, what we strive to do in MUN, and so much more?  That is the beauty of opening your eyes to the world around us.

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What Would Your Soundtrack Be?

It’s funny how particular comments stick with you and linger.  Ever since I started a blog, I have found so many avenues of thought, experiences, and moments that linger behind me, and urge me to bring them out.  Many times I do not even realize how important they are and I just find myself putting them down in a blog, and from somewhere, I  have not figured out where yet, a story comes.  That to me is inspiring and everything I would want to happen with writing that has been denied to me due to a lack of allowing time previously for events around me to soak in – and allowing myself to write about it and contemplate.  Writing is powerful and should be allowed to envelope people, and in a world that is so fast-paced, a lot of the simpler things in life slip away so easily – and that has been the gift I have received in coming to Mexico – learning to allow those moments to seep in and shape my writing.

One particular comment still haunts me as as have moved past seeing an amazing film, Unbroken, comments from two individuals in the theatre.  As we were halfway through the movie and the amazing and yes, horrible conditions that Louis Zamperini survived  – the comment of two movie-watchers beside me was, “This is why Americans have such a hate for the Japanese.”  Honestly, I was flabbergasted.  This was the OPPOSITE of what Unbroken, and so many other life lessons have taught us.  Holding a grudge despite the gift of being alive, everyone, including these commentators on the movie theatre, realized that the lesson of forgiveness allowed many to become stronger – and move past, simply the past.  There are so many people that keep blinders on and fail to truly welcome and embrace a life that has much room and time to teach us amazing lessons every day, and those not being able to move past prejudices of all kinds, simply limits their ability to live life to the fullest.

As I poured over papers from my specific advocacies’ Model United Nations position papers, I realized how lucky (they do not see this now) but how much opportunity experiences like MUN give students to infuse their own philosophies and experiences in possibilities like MUN.  Yes, I have heard my share of complaining about particular requirements, but the talented individuals that can see past the now, in fact created their papers with a part of why they believe and see in life everyday, and that was refreshing to see the connection to something I overheard, was disappointed about, and could also see how events like MUN could and can be used to extend how someone sees the world around us, and how we can make jot better.  Sure, Model United Nations seems forced but in reality, doesn’t going to school?  Don’t assignments feel that way?  I have found when you combine what is asked of you with what you believe and see and have experienced, education as a whole begins to also change shape, and for the better.  While I a highly disappointed in the comments and way those two movie-goers wrote off the conclusions they had halfway through Unbroken, I can only hope they realized at some point they misjudged too early the overall importance of what they were seeing.

The word accomplishment comes to mind when I look over the past few weeks.  Initially, the ASOMEX Soccer tournament was crazy with the planning, full of activity, mascots, sharks, leopards, fans, players and our girls placing second overall and the boys fighting back and holding their own – I realized how talented our soccer platers truly are.  They make things look so easy once on the field, and then magic just occurs and whole many of us as fans and mascots want to yell, WHAT??  Why did that happen!!!! We all also realized how much sweat time, and practice it took to be even slightly competitive on the field, and how the discrepancy appears from the stands.

In the backdrop you also had the ASF Debate Team going on to do great things at Tecnológico de Monterrey during the 2015 Debate Tournament.  Don’t forget the ASF Jazz Band being featured in the Reforma, Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 10.43.00 AMand so many other accomplishments from groups such as Repentino. staff receiving accolades in Columbia and NCTE with the Repentino 2014 award, and more groups that truly have made today, Founder’s Day at ASF – worthy of the spirit of achievement, learning, and accomplishment the founders could only hope for.  The upcoming Week Without Walls trips that 9th graders will embark on, will only contain the possibilities of learning, experiencing and changing the perspectives we think are us, and realize that different experiences mold us into people we formally didn’t know before.

As the week came to a close, I found myself preparing for meeting individuals that were so important to me as a growing experience before I left Mexico, attending a wedding of a student that went on to take her aspirations through the Naval Academy and became one of many exciting students that put her dreams to a realistic test in life.  As I four myself boarding a plane to the states to come back into the world that had once been mine, I would find many exciting visits to aspects of myself that I quickly had forgotten.

So what soundtrack would I be?  That remains to be elaborated on, as there are so many pieces of classic, upbeat, and new age selections that have become my life thanks to the people around me.  Yet, the very reactions to the world around us that do result in taking steps backward help me decide on what pieces of a soundtrack I do not want to become, in order to actually become a selection that mass a difference.  I would be curious to find out what soundtrack would others around me wish to be based on their experiences.

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Heartbeats That Add Up To One Major Valentine’s Day…

Ever put in a cd and it just – IT JUST WORKS.  Sometimes it happens whenever you least expect it, and I sure didn’t even THINK about what was in store for me on Valentine’s Day 2015.  Yet, I did remember the name calling my former high school best friend and I always used to do back forth – “Yeah, black roses would be nice.”  “What about a pathetic V Day card sent to myself?” We’d laugh, and realize, wow, commercialized and nothing we could do about it except harass the idea that a real Valentine’s Day had nothing to do with who we really were deep down, whether we were in relationships or not, there was more to it than anyone tried to express.

So let’s go back to that CD for a minute – Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems might sound like a quite ironic piece of selection for a Valentine’s Day – and you’d be right.  yet, what came out of it, is so much more. The greatest thing was I did not even realize it until being able to slow into a lazy Saturday and ease into a weekend that just allowed me to sink into whatever I felt like doing.

I Can’t Go There

You know that restaurant on highway 1
With the key lime pie that song the sand and the sun
Where we ran in our bare feet built a castle on the beach
Just the wind, the rocks, the waves and you and me

I can’t go there ’cause thats just too much us
I can’t go there, I still feel your touch
Theres places in my heart and head that feel as empty as our bed
So most nights I don’t even walk upstairs ’cause I can’t go there

Remember San Francisco on that cable car
Our reflection in the window of that store
How we danced the night away with the lights out on the bay
Then wound up in a blanket on the floor

I can’t go there ’cause Frisco’s too much us
I can’t go there, I still feel your touch
Now there’s places in my heart and head
That still feel as empty as our bed
So most nights i don’t even walk upstairs ’cause I can’t go there

If it was only Florida or California
Maybe I could let myself move on
But it’s everywhere we’ve been and everywhere I turn
I can’t love again because I’ve learned

That I can’t go there, it’s somethin’ I can’t do
I can’t go there, I’ll run into you
I can’t go there

When the sun shines, when it rains
Christmas party’s, football games
I can’t go there
Winter, summer, fall or spring
I see you in everything

I can’t go there, it’s too much us
I can’t go there

Read more: Kenny Chesney – I Can’t Go There Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I look back and am so incredibly proud of who I have become since when I first viewed Valentine’s Day as a high school lovesick kid, lol.  I used to spend so much time at the roller rink on the weekend with friends wondering who would be the person I was supposed to be with during the slow songs, and when it never happened, I wondered what was wrong with me.  Typical feel-sad-for-yourself teenager wanting it, wanting that love everyone else seemed to have.  I remember the rapper pants I wore and in a circle with Mark and Brad Wheeler, dancing all night, and just enjoying being a kid :)   I now realize the heart throbbing disappointment I had – were priceless and are also moments I miss so badly because even though I experienced those feelings, I was surrounded by some truly amazing friends I could get nowhere else.

The hardest times I ever had were remedied with some of the best people I ever met and helped me through them.  I remember when I was having a very tough time in my life as a stable hand and riding assistant with the horses at Glade Run, and I spilled my guts to one Jen Hohmann and Julie Wahlenmeyer, and realized, they saved my life.  They really did – you always can remember that one single moment, that a problem that seems so heavy, so large, that it is immovable and you just feel like wilting – but then – everything changes.  For me, the hills, the woods, the horses beneath me as we rode through perfect freedom, the breaking of ice buckets for the horses in the winter, the emptying of stalls that others found disgusting, everything about it was beautiful and was a backdrop to the advice they gave me and shifted me to realizing I needed to do something for myself to be happy too and that perhaps was the best job I might have ever had in my life, thanks to the simply friendship and chances they gave me as the original tractor boy – :)

A lot of Things Different

Of course, looking back I can think of a hundred times where I wish I would have held my temper, responded differently, or taken advantage of an opportunity I never did and it might have spun me into a totally different direction. Yet, I look back and see moments that invaded my whole personality stronger than any biting winds I had experienced in the middle of winter, and I am thankful.  From the hysterical methods we had to pass large cartons of items through and down the halls to each other as working high school and college workers at Friedmans and Bi Lo – to the whispering motivation that occurred as I would transform into a Cross Country Coach that needed the athletes to push me as much as I tried to push them – a myriad of wonders – from triplets that you could laugh with and hug to the end of time, to the moments I could never forget in the classroom as a teacher that never let me forget how incredibly lucky I was to have so many individuals around me.  Memories flood and take over so much of the past, and it is important to revisit.  From letters I received from students I still stay in touch with when I left my first elementary school, the dogs I grew up with exploring the woods behind my house, the rough-neck students I came into contact with in my first city school at West End and learned life was so different simply 3 minutes away from a country home area, the jobs of paperboy, fast food prep, music store and men’s story clerk, graduating high school, the mammoth group that made up our graduating class, just a few of the massive events that helped create a future for myself.

Weddings.  This next week I will be attending an amazing wedding for an amazing young lady that took chances and risks and made the best of them and turned them to her advantage, and as a result, she transformed from a hungry student leader to a beautiful young woman that met her dream-come-true-to-be-husband, and for one brief moment we all get to be together, one night, to celebrate where we have all come from and grown.

I could perhaps go back to another wedding one of the very first young ladies I remember in my AP English class, funny, intelligent, brassy, and just overall made you realize you’d go to any lengths just to have her in your class  Being a mascot and surprising her at her wedding was a dream come true, and yet, she is still the amazing talented, beautiful, young lady you always knew back as a teacher, and seeing her have her first baby, you ask yourself, where does the time go and how does it go so fast?  More importantly you also realize, how lucky am I to have had her in my life?  Priceless.

Sure, there are TONS of things I would love to go back ad redo, and yet, the paths we have chosen have led us to some pretty incredible moments, and a sense of love for those very moments that no one, anywhere, no how can recreate or take away.  I truly have realized some of the hardest moments I have ever had to tread through have become possible thanks to the very friends, former students, and of course family that always gives you that feeling of being able to feel like belonging, no mater where you end up.

Mexico.  I know I say it often, how did I get here?  It is still a gift I could never ask for or expect and the days I complain, I do not have any right to.  The amazing and talented young people, colleges that remain, and that have come and go, and the amazing amazing love of those that live around me – I tell you what it is.  The combination of the amazing amazing people I have been lucky enough to have in my life up to this point, add the reunion of the amazing people I have just mentioned above, and you have a utopia.  While Mexico right now is my current utopia, and I have been luck enough to carry all of these precious moments with me – I do realize this – I could go to one end of the world to another, and every one of these moments would stay with me – thanks to the amazing love and strong personalities that have been found in the individuals that have been a part of my life.  That redefines what the whole Valentine’s Day means to me as I walked around today on a 16 stop trip through a country I have come to love in a few short 4 years, short compared to reminiscing about all the amazing times I have had thanks to the people that touched and still touch my heart no matter where I travel.


There is so much to look back on and laugh about, and the best part?  The sheer number sod individuals that helped me do so  :)   While time DOES fly by, certain things remain with you forever and continue to shape and usb you forward if you let them.  As I walked past the couples today, the countless stands of chocolate, stuffed animals, balloons, cards everything, the materials I always used to recognize Valentine’s Day began to fade into the distance and I realized – the materialism of simply having THINGS – fades and what remains, if you are lucky enough – are the memories, words, and phrases with laughter that stick with you if the people around you mean more than the actual time it took for them to occur.  Those individuals are timeless as well as the moments that gave you.  Heck, you’ll realize you are the richest person on earth if you have these aspects of a life when you look back on it.

Young is always a matter of fact if you choose to live your life around pretty much one basic belief. “I am going to carry around with me the best of those that gave me their best.”  True to that, it has ever failed with me and has always helped me find what I am supposed to do and where I am supposed to go.  As ironic as it is, I have found in Mexico, the time is given to me to not be filled in by tasks every second of the day, but time to enjoy what have already been given to me, and become a better person because of all those individuals that helped me get to where I am now.  That is true love, in it’s truest sense, and I am so so grateful to realize, the people in my life up to this point are loved so much and are responsible for who I am, and help me get rid of the bad when I sense those less desirable qualities now and then, they have actually become my consciousness!

Thousands and thousand of heartbeats that have combined into one day that remind me – You are never alone if you let the past benefit you.  There are so many naysayers in the world, so many people that think they know you better than you do, so many people that feel the need to bring others down to bring themselves up and so on.  But think for a minute.  Think about all those people that are the opposite that have brought your self-esteem, brought your life to be a celebration every time you are around them, if you can think of them every time you have those moments of someone trying to bring yourself down – you’ll survive and just became stronger.  You have an army of supporters in your corner, every single day, and that is how I feel thanks to some amazing people in my life then and now.

For me, it was the spaghetti dinners we had before meets with our Cross Country Team, it was the too crowded classrooms in Delaware that always brought me into hysterical bouts of laughter from the diverse talents that would go on to become amazing futures, it was the smell and sound of the saltwater in summers of wonderful life on the eastern shore, it was hugs from triplets, it was reuniting with families in reunions that would fill whole parks, it was sleepovers at friends’ houses I had not seen in SO long and their sons and daughters, it IS being in a country with some amazing and talented individuals that it almost makes you want to cry, that is how old it feels (ironic,, right?)

So yes, there are the normal checklist items to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but if you just sit down and slow things down, you’ll realize the very things you can’t find in stores and last minute in flower shops, are the very aspects of Valentine’s Day that should be internalized and kept close to your heart.  They will stick with you for a lifetime.

Have a WELL DESERVED Valentine’s Day everyone :)

The No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems album by Kenny Chesney truly has a country sound, which I have to admit, I miss and love about my life.  More importantly, the words carry the messages of a life that can’t be measured in money, position, or fame, just the people that surround you that make you feel that way.  I am lucky enough to have always had an endless supply of individuals to allow me to live my dreams and go after more with their presence in my life – as well as those that taught me, whether they were in my life or not, I had the responsibility to honor their lives through what I could do in the years to come.  :)

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Coincidences of Reality, Ability, and Nostalgia Taken to Heart

I have talked a lot on the past about the advent of coincidence.  I like the way events, people, and actions have a tendency to slide together, in my mind like tectonic plates that usually also result in some sort of lasting effect.  If coincidences were a field of study, I am pretty sure I’d be a life-long student of such.  My fascination with films as well helps feed that interest, as viewing the films Boyhood and The Theory of Everything lately fit right alongside my finishing of the book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers.

When I went to view The Theory of Everything, I knew nothing about this film.  Yet, witnessing the amazing hurdles, obstacles, as well as ability to navigate seemingly impossible odds of Stephen Hawking’s life, which I knew almost nothing about, was to put it mildly an inspiration.  Director James Marsh  goes above and beyond what many thought they would have know about Stephen Hawking and lets viewers realize, how precious every moment is of life, and yet, the ability very few individuals have to appreciate every second of what life dishes out, the good, the bad, the awful, the exhilarating.

Then take into consideration the amazing acting of Eddie Redmayne as well as Felicity Jones, and you have to wonder how hard and difficult it was to mirror such a miracle of maneuvering life with so many physical boulders in the path.  And getting it so personal on screen.

Despite the potential for giving up, failure, and gloom, Stephen Hawking’s life shows a parting of the waves of depression, and reveals a land of success, hope, and valuing life in every single aspect of the word.  Those days that I sit back and review the complaints I have about the world around me?  Meaningless and unsubstantiated when you put yourself in the experiences of Stephen Hawking,which is quite impossible yet, this film provides an introspection that will not leave you any time soon.  You find yourself sitting in your seat at the end of the film still taking in the strength of Stephen Hawking’s life, from his relationships to his knowledge, to the decision he had to make before and after his life changing impacts.

s if this film was not enough to emphasize the value and power of life around us and in our minds, I was in for another treat after viewing Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.  Yes, I saw the comments ahead of time, mostly mediocre from viewers that stated it was boring, it was not interesting to see a whole life of a big in front of them, etc..  I thought it ironic that many of the comments came from individuals younger than 18, and thought okay.  As a 42 year old, I connected with poignant moments in my life that did churn back in my mind, as a rest of seeing how the characters within Boyhood tackled what life in general and creating a meaning and purpose amid the churning up that so often occurs.

The peaceful, timid, and truly laying below the surface personality of Ellar Coltrane, as Mason, begins to sink into your very being as the movie progresses, and represents the cool approach he seems to take to all that he witness as he is growing and begins to question life, his existence, and the role among it all.  Lorelei Linklater, as Samantha and who in reality is the director’s daughter, born in San Miguel Allende, Mexico  just is GREAT.  Her reactions to everything, including a brother, family conflicts, and just her movement through life is perfect – not overdramatized and non unrealistic in the least and she is superb.  Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are perfect through the turmoils that occur in their lives and keep moving forward despite the decisions and indecisions that seem to change everything around them.

I see the aspect of nostalgia interesting, similar to films, life, and just what comes to your doorstep.  Many people are content to allow elements to be perceived simply and have no impact other than basic entertainment.  I get that, I escape to the movie cinema she I just red an escape, a chance to submerge my whole mind into something that is just an escape for me to reorganize and plan for my next move.  However, there is so much to be found in the aspects of life depicted in movies, that can be a catalyst for change, as such can be found in books and the negative, as well as positive elements of life.  There are always the individuals that look at anything that is considered nostalgic and to let it lie and serve as a memory.  Yet, there are others to use this defining moments to define and serve as a course to map out a different future, and a chance to move on and create experiences even more inspirational in their future.  I like that idea, or at least the idea of those individuals, and it seems these will be the movers and shakers that shape life to become more than moving throughout the years, but carving out meaning that strikes to the soul and heart of many more.

Loving life, defining life, embracing challenges, appreciating the aspects of life that fly by and usually can be missed quite easily, and many more themes are captured in these films and brilliantly.  I loved the fact that as I finish David Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I felt these same themes being worked through by all involved.  Coincidence?  Truly, but one not to be shrugged off to have a lasting impact on our lives.

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XC – the Spiritual Aspect and Being Unbroken

I remember that one moment that ultimately was just a paradigm shift in all that I had know.  I have mentioned this before but I still can not forget the one particular moment that turned in my head like keys, in a combination of sequences that unlocked discovery. Dr. Danette DiMarco, World Literature, and authors I never, knew existed. I was surprised because up to this point I read ALOT, and yet there was a whole world of authors that had gone unknown to me all through my undergraduate experiences, and I did not want that to ever occur again, ever.  Margaret Atwood, Leslie Marmon Silko, Chinua Achebe, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez,  just to name a few, that would influence me forever.

That honestly is a small shock I had, not knowing much deeper life lessons would stand the test of time for being shocking, changing my life in a specific direction, or having a deep impact.  When my good friend passed away due to a suicide of not feeling any worth in this world, when I lost my father who represented a lot of that whole world, I instantly felt that I had to go on and live a life for them as well, two lives if you will.  Later I would lose students and colleagues that would even more deeply impact me.  To this day, I climb these mammoth stairs in the morning, mammoth being really, comparable to a small pyramid at the base of the Observatorio metro and bus station, maybe 350 minimum stairs? (I call them “Moctezuma stairs”).  And to this day, as I am almost out of steam, I hear an amazing coach – Vince Morris, I still hear his voice whisper, “You are alive – and can live the spirit of what I left for so many others to spread so don’t give up- you are alive!” and through his encouragement, as well as those mentioned above, if I go without living a life for them, I feel their spirit is wiped out, which they never intended.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind as I sat in the theatre, watching the preview of  McFarland – and it all came back to me.  There is one thing you might have a misconception about – Cross Country.  The sport is one that goes deeper than the dirt and wooded paths, deeper than the aches that initiate that first two weeks, gaining a uniform, and more than hearing your heart sometimes come up through your throat.  That is the practice, the training, and then somehow it just – melts and you are FREE. Absolutely 100% bonafide Free.  what heart weeks ago has turned into determination, what seems like simply running to run and finish a beginning and ending course?  Time to do soul searching, and trust me, you have a lot of time to think out there and become one with yourself and honest with your actions.

Cross Country running brought me closer to individuals that needed that time away from everything else to find themselves, yes, sometimes in involved pain  Yet, the physical sometimes matched the actual pain that people held inside trying to be found, sifted through, interpreted, and contemplated.  On a 5k course, in the woods, whether trying to catch up the that person’s shoulder ahead of you or sonly dealing with the pace of your body, your heart, your pulse, a truth begins to appear.  You are yourself on the course, very difficult to fake as all it laid out in the open, and so it is true of your time, your thoughts, your competing against  yourself.  It took me many many runs before I didn’t need headphones to concentrate, before I realize if I blotted out the runners around me and competed with myself, I naturally became better.

Stemming from the cross country moments came patience, fellowship, and communion.  No, we are not talking church, yet, there was something holy about the process of being a cross country runner.  We felt a solidarity and support whether the boys or the girls were competing, and the spaghetti dinners that occurred the night before a meet ? – They were the oat holy of all, because it brought some amazing pasta, some amazing sweet peach tea, and amazing individuals off the track.  The pain was the begging but it was easy to fade once you had a group of people that believed in you, and that you believed in.

I always found it fitting that we have a course at Chapel Branch, because we were always taught, honor the spaces where you find yourself and can sure it with others.  Honor, and honor it we did, among each other’s company.  We had, and I had my share of conflicts and yet, I would do it all over again just to have that feeling in my heart as I practiced, as I ran, as I watch boys and girls become men and women right on the course.  Everything you need to succeed in life could be found in the practices, the events, the times we got together, Cross Country brought it all together for me.

I laugh at how many times I asked Coach Smith and Coach Doakes to get in my head that the highest score does not mean the winner, but the lowest.  Funny, that has applied to many of the moments where I have been at my owes point, and those have helped me ale the best decisions to go on to succeed.  From triplets, to athletes that were built like a tank and still defied the times, to brothers, to swimmers, to nurses, to future teachers to coaches wise beyond their years – Cross Country was my second religion.  I could send that in the film McFarland, and am more excited than these paragraphs show about that.

I would hope that one day some of those athletes we experiences these moments with will take that and make a comeback either on the course of in life based on those very moments.  I am slowly making a comeback with my running and it is exciting to see so.  Also holding those very days and weeks of competing, laughing, and growing, I can never let go, and I hope a piece of that remains with everyone that was involved. Yes, those that gave little effort or failed to endure what enduring would do for them, have less to experience in their life, whether they realized that then or now, again the course and the meets themselves?  Just practice for life when we would all move on.

Not to say there were some down and out hysterical moments.  Consider the time we did a Chinese Fire Drill and I ran the whole course with my braces pretty much buried in my lower lip – and someone’s head bleeding from my teeth finding their head in the wrong direction doing the Chinese fire drill, the athlete from update in the Port o Potty supposedly yelling and moaning to his bowel movements for all of the state teams competing to hear, to our own teammates on the sidelines making up names and encouraging them on for every single runner, and then Bull Run.  You have to see it to believe it.  The challenges could add up in a hurry, but never so much as what each of us walked away with at the end of a meet, practice, or long day of running and baring our soul to others and to ourselves.

In seeing the film Unbroken, all of the above elements and beyond take hold. So many unknown elects at first surface.  Angelina Jolie as director, the Cohen Brothers involved with this production, and the legendary Olympic and life story hero – Louie Zamperini.  You talk about problems, issues, conflicts, life and death decisions, I can’t even explain, but numerous times I find myself in despair, jumping, shocked, terrified, and elated throughout this film.  Everyone, every single person, should have the chance to see this film and then apply it to their lives, and know, the bad is necessary to often people us forward into greatness.  If I ever learned anything from the amazing run at Cross Country, it was to always leave something behind on the course for yourself, it it is a time, an effort you did not think possible, but one thing is fact, there are no – do-overs.  With that mentality, I went on to push myself in everything I do, and to try to make a difference instead of thinking about making a difference.  That in itself IS the difference.  The connection between cross country and the mantra, “If you can take it, you will make it” – is trull through movies, to real life, to the experiences of Louie Zamperini.  I could only hope the best gift ever passed from coach, to runner, to heroes like Louie Zamperini, is life is a snapshot, and we can make it be a panorama if we choose to.  

To imagine Laura Hillenbrand’s book on this topic is too much, but I want to dive into it immediately.  

“Ziggy Zaggy Ziggy Zaggy oy oy oy!”  and “Get the Excellence!” have never rang so true –  some things will never disappear if we can continue to allow the spirit of these very things to work in our lives, as well as others.

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Soaring Through Depths To New Heights Through Music & Film

The Bird Man. I totally hated the previews and thought to myself, “Like Michael Keeton, hate the previews. Am I going to go to a film that exudes bravado of a supposed former star and his return to greatness, as well as celebrating the individuals Hollywood creates and celebrates? Hate. No thanks.” So I maintained this train of thought from the previews. Yet individuals who saw the film had different opinions, much. Different. Opinions. It makes you wonder, could there even be a thread of possibility that this is NOT the film you are seeing in the preview?

After weeks of considering just that, I broke down and went to see The Bird Man last night.    I love the quite from Raymond Carver“And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.”  True to his word, Alejandro Gonzalez  Inarritu’s  The Bird Man delivers a message of struggle, ego, relationships gone awry, and cinematic deviations from the norm.  Unimpressed in the beginning pace, though wondering what kind of craziness have I gotten myself into I hung on, just as Michael Keeton’s character, Riggan Thomas, hangs on, slips, climbs, back, second guesses, then hangs on again, and eventually comes into his own.  What caught my attention was the actress Emma Stone, playing Riggan’s Daughter, Sam.  Her struggle was worthy.  I found her down and out life kind of irritating at first, but the friction between her and Keeton becomes smoothed out as the plot managed to as well, and it just happened.  It all clicked.

Often see in Alfred Hitchock’s films, and in Rope, the rolling camera on long scenes, provided a panoramic and extended “following” of characters.  I like cinema.  Okay, LOVE.   I especially noticed when you study film classes, the mystery of film is sometimes ruined with the techniques keep jumping out at you.  Yet, this film allows you to realize elects as a simply viewer and as a film connoisseur without much effort, and that becomes the art of a great film.  Also leaving you with, “What really happened?” and with that elements of unsureness comes the reality that good films can do that.  Just as mirrored in Citizen Kane, leaving viewer with multiple possibilities and meanings, enter The Bird Man. (Some liked it before and hated it after some not liking it after and having positive ideas before). However, Ttat opinion I had earlier?  “Why would I care about seeing  Michael Keeton striding through the streets of New York in his underwear?”  Throw the doubts out the window (literally) and you will see why in The Bird Man.

Turn back the days to Thursday – not a popular day for many to plan an event since it was a puente – hand even harder to promote a parent Association concert I knew nothing about, titled Croix Rousse, a String Trio  featuring Jozef Olechowski, Kazimierz Olechowski, Ignacy Miecznikowski, and Ewa Miecznikowska, playing the piano, violin, viola, and cello respectively.   Yet, the opportunity was divine.  The 3:00 time slot allowed IMG_1531students to receive master classes from the musicians.  I was able to see a few individuals thai advantage of this was was stunned.  It was beautiful to hear music form both sides seemingly appear like magic, and it was difficult to imagine the sound being heard was actually emanating from the instruments.

However, the concert itself?  Well attended, and the results was truly beautiful.  Finding yourself nodding to the beat, finding yourself lost in the pieces, as well as taken away amid the normal drops and scuffles of these in the audience, none of these were even a problem when you found yourself in the audience.  You realized how lucky you were to actually be in the audience to take this all in, especially before a puente.  Repentino. staff photographer Pamela captured many amazing piece of this evening, and yet, being there was a story in itself.

Representing the experiences being played in cities and countries such as Krakow, Spain, Lyon, Mexico, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Central America, Colombia, Poland, the performances and locations represented by these musician was amazing in itself, then you hear the performances and count yourself lucky, thank you Teruhi and Hugo from the Fine Arts Division and the PA Association at ASF!

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Two x 2 = For you? Great Success!

The weekend.  YESSSS…..Saturday was crazy hectic as Repentino. staff worked from bare minimum to pull of a concession for 12+ teams at ASF and walk away with a record success.  They never fail to surprise, impress, and motivate me.  Exhausted, yes, I couldn’t feel my feet around 3:00 PM and I knew dogs in waiting it would be a long afternoon, but a necessary one.

As soon as I hit Plaza Cabrera, and soaked in the warm sunshine, the day, being outside, I JUST happened to turn my had and no kidding.  Yes it was true, what looked like to be a soon-t0-be restaurant equipped with cargo trailers, was open!  PACKED.  IMG_1456Tons of individuals, and it looked GREAT.  Porco Rosso was open.  This was Saturday.  I literally jogged home, dropped the dogs off – headed back, and sauntered up to grab at first a request for a Pulled Pork Sandwich, which they were out of.  I was kind of not surprised looking at every single picnic bench table empty.  Then I grabbed the next best thing, the Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 6.06.42 PMBrisquet sandwich.  As I waited at the counter taking in the small gardens built into every picnic table, the cargo holds that were made to be serving counters, the butcher papers on tables that sometimes carried ribs, pulled pork, brisquet all together!, the ease of the customers, the friendliness of the servers, rooftop lettuce IMG_1461and other garden specialties growing, my glance fell on the menu.  Wait a minute, actually, my eyes fell on the cups of Oreos that were being dropped in batter, then then menu and I saw the selection for deep-fried Oreo’s.  DEEP FRIED OREOS.  YES.  Banana splits, ice cream and a WIDE range of options more for appetizers – this is truly Kansas City Barbecue at its finest.

As I left I looked back admiring the location of Porco Rosso, and realized, if the tables did become too full, the nearby Plaza Carbrera remedied that situation,  Overall, you have to love how an establishment adds a little bounce into your step and on this day it certainly did.  This sounds kind of minuscule but it seemed to make it all worth it.  Amid this juicy sandwich dripping with just the right seasoning in its BBQ sauce, yes, in fact, that is right, Johnny Cash.  A long list of Johnny Cash was playing and I sat there pretty much dumbfounded, I loved this very place, LOVED.  The Saturday just was perfect with everything fitting into this very corner – and yet I would surprise myself again the next day.

Raving about the fact that this was finally open – I was able to connect with a colleague at ASF and sure enough, we headed back there the next day on Sunday to show this great find off.  As we entered, it was rather early – maybe 12ish, and this time there were seats available.  IMG_1470This allowed us to take the scenery all in, from the cool idea of plants that were tunneled in rows in the middle of the picnic tables, more classic country music that floated out that complemented the Kansas City Barbecue, and overall – it is was great all over again.  Meeting the owners, how crazy was it that they were both ASF alumni?  Sure enough, Pedro Ochoa and Robert Craig, IMG_1459both ASF alumni of 1998, and part of the first ASF Talks, were there and we began a dialogue of the ideas that became Porco Rosso over a three year period obtaining proper permits, paperwork, etc..

It was worth it.  I clamored up the ladder to see produce growing and labelled on the roof of the cargo trailer, and could see into Plaza Cabrera, down onto the layout of the restaurant, and overall, it was great all over again.  I watched as my college dove into a pulled pork sandwich and knew when I came back on Friday, the start of a puente, I was going to get the side orders of beans, several types of BBQ, and make it an all evening event.  I simply could net get enough, and was thankful.  There is something satisfying in seeing something so satisfying as a place where you feel at home, and meet people from a place you also have found a home.  This is such a place.  I figured this was a PERFECT sequel to the previous day, and the mouthwatering food factored as a huge part of it, but then accompany that with the return of individuals from ASF and it just all came together as a perfect puzzle.

Yet, surprises were just beginning.  Later that day, as I sat catching up on some reports and reading, I received a text from Adi Alsaid, no, his new books as not out but he was at a Food truck event IMG_1472on the corner of Chapultepec and Morelia, and I thought, “What the heck?”  Thinking this was one specific food truck he was supporting, I didn’t realize this was a whole lot of food trucks,  music and overall festival!  With a little perusing, I saw Adi, IMG_1486and no kidding right in the mix of things as a member of the servers.  I thought, what does he NOT do?  Young adult literature writer, assistant basketball coach, preparer of food, – would we see him in the luche libre ring next? I stepped up to the IMG_1490Kaiju Food truck and began to contemplate my order and decided on  Cha Siu, IMG_1516which turned out to be Cha Siu over a bed of steamed rice (Gohan) with a soy and lime vinaigrette.  I have to tell you, the sauce was think when done and looked, DELICIOUS.  It was.


Josh Zoller explain the variety.


Sergio Rodriguez and Adi Alsaid take a moment for a breather.

Right before approaching the Kaiju truck, I ran into two other colleagues, that told me Kaiju truck was the way to go, not the other trucks serving noodles as they were either way too salty, not salty enough, or a little on the bland side. I was pretty sure I made the correct choice.  Just before I began to dive into my bowl, I started talking briefly with Adi and well yeah, of course Joshua Zoller and Sergio Rodriguez were for ASF too?  I was a little like, wait.  What?  ASF too?  I laughed more than I could explain inside and out, FOUR ASF alumni, both churning out the orders, and both very successful and great at what they were doing!  I say GREAT because as I started to eat the Cha Siu, I realized, this was perhaps one of the best combinations, with the best sauce I could remember tasting.  The rice was perfectly soft, perfectly appetizing, and well perfect.  I really mean it, I inhaled that with chopsticks in less than 6 minutes and instantly wanted more.  Now all I have to do is try to find how how I can find them amid the next food truck bazaar :)  the speed and service was phenomenal despite being surrounded by a closing crows similar to Woodstock, and till the food was fast, healthy, and DE freaking licious.

When I look back at the day, I couldn’t help but relish the success I could see for these four (FOUR IN ONE DAY!) alumni with the establishments they started.  Their attention that the customers needs, the food they prepared and served, as well as their commitment to being the best among-many-faces-of-competition, you simply have to give both of these a try to even realize what an experience both were in the area of success, on MANY levels.

Now you know you are thinking it, and I will just I’ve in.  Is there room for two quality BBQ establishments such as Pinche Gringo and Porco Rosso?  Both are mouth-watering  but each has its own style, and yet, both make you feel comfortable in a totally different way.  Pinche Gringo allows me to walk in and I expect to hear the classic, “NORM!” from Cheers, that is the feeling you get, sporty, clubby, and a welcome site as well with great accompanying food, especially when you are pumped up for a sporting event, want to see familiar faces, and be as close to being in your living room enjoying delicious BBQ (and lots of it) as well as being entertained.  Pinche Gringo no doubt stirs and satisfies your appetite and allows you to be thankful for this very idea in Mexico City.  They cover you for Thanksgiving, are a different taste than Porco Rosso , have great people at the helm, great ideas and model the inventive spirit.  I was and am grateful to have been invited to their openings, and overall, the have definitely easily “carved” a place in Mexico City, and rightly so.

Walking into Porco Rosso, you do not necessarily feel the “home” internal stirrings like a sports bar or living room that you feel in Pinche Gringo, but no need. The feeling of being around a lot of other people that also just like being around each other (as a sort of communion among everyone), soaking in the sun, relaxing to nostalgic and classical music that goes along with the mouth watering choices you have, this is a priceless experience.  You can almost see yourself putting your legs up without doing so, and that feeling doesn’t leave you during the whole visit.  Each of these four entrepreneurs have created masterpieces that appeal to those familiar with Kansas City style BBQ, yet delicious enough to supplement the desire for good ‘ol Texas BBQ.  As my colleague said, when you have a napkin covered by sauce,  left over from the sauce, then you know it is good, and no doubt, you will find there is plenty remaining for you to relish the richness and appetite-inducing selections you will find here.

The hardest part was not ordering this past Sunday (conserving resources), but only revved up the excitement that Friday will be BBQ Day for me! (AND ) I would make up for lost time with so many enticing selections.   The chances of meeting someone that was school alumni, four times as great was unexpected, but I have to say, those unexpectations were  were exceeded every time with the service and great experiences.

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“Lennie is the Heart of George Outside of His Body.”

Harry Brake:

Post reaction to Anna Shapiro’s Of Mice and Men.

Originally posted on PAVEing a Blog:

Having never wrote about a play BEFORE it occurred, I have to say, I am VERY excited to be seeing the London Theatre’s presentation of Of Mice and Men tomorrow – some great actors, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.  Pretty much one of my favorite stories, this will be great to see at the Lunario, and I am anticipating this blog post POST viewing  :)


As usual, the night was perfect for this production.  As custom, I biked from Roma Norte to the Auditorio, and it never ceases to amaze me the sky.  Lit up and still admiring a beautiful evening, moon, and great atmosphere, the trip to the Auditorio helped build my anticipation for the  night.   Wanting to leave earlier than I did but not, I slid past police at a gate that were remnants of the days protest.  With friends and students from ASF attending…

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“Lennie is the Heart of George outside of his body.”

Having never wrote about a play BEFORE it occurred, I have to say, I am VERY excited to be seeing the London Theatre’s presentation of Of Mice and Men tomorrow – some great actors, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd.  Pretty much one of my favorite stories, this will be great to see at the Lunario, and I am anticipating this blog post POST viewing  :)


As usual, the night was perfect for this production.  As custom, I biked from Roma Norte to the Auditorio, and it never ceases to amaze me the sky.  Lit up and still admiring a beautiful evening, moon, and great atmosphere, the trip to the Auditorio helped build my anticipation for the  night.   Wanting to leave earlier than I did but not, I slid past police at a gate that were remnants of the days protest.  With friends and students from ASF attending this evening, this was home for  a few hours for another production.

There are moments when dialogue occurs from an acorn and it hangs there in the silence, and just seeps into your being.  This happened on many occasions throughout what I already knew to be a great story written by Steinbeck, now appearing at The LongAcre Theatre.   Seeing the Gary Sinise and John Malkovich version previously, and having read and taught the book previously, I had no drawbacks to this story unfold before me, for the reasons that impacted me this very night.

Those moments that stuck with you after dropped from the various characters, often sticking with you like a hot bowl of oatmeal in the morning – the lines that are so powerfully written take on new meaning when the pauses when they are drawn out slowly, an d are left to hang on your heart, mind, and soul.  This occurred now only with the character of Candy played by Jim Norton, lamenting the loss of his dog and the feeling of being forced into coming to tasks with the coming of age and inevitable isolation, to the points where Lennie has remarkable comebacks in memory that cause George to pause in his mental regret of being with Lennie – and “…all the things he could do without Lennie.”

The genius of Steinbeck and the power of words that have the ability to hang in the air and become stronger as time passes becomes reinforced with the mid session comments from the producer Anna D. Shapiro – “Lennie is the heart of George outside of his body.”  Think about that, just the way that is said, is powerful.  Yet, Steinbeck does the same thing with the way companionship, trust, and the various needs of the of the human condition and how essential they are.  What really surprised me was the character strength of Lennie played by Chris O’Dowd, he really grabbed me and he had many such lines that were emotional in a new way thanks to the subtle pauses, lingerings, and emphasis that were found on some of the lines.

I do like the reviews that are available from various critics, but as I sat there, I realized, that so many human traits come out from Steinbeck’s writing, creating, and organization of elements that maybe might be Candy’s dog in the beginning, but resemble the same characteristics Lennie contains towards the end when the same painful situation arises to solve a problem that just goes in circles.  The suspense of waiting for the final shot with Candy’s dog, revisits the viewer only now in human form with Lennie.  The anticipation mirrors the same anticipation and anxious waiting that can occur when someone longs for genuine companionship, as in the case of Lennie’s wife.

I was disappointed that the ending, I just wanted more to be a final wrap up of the power that was carried through the whole piece I felt emotionally, and that Steinbeck, alongside Anna Shapiro manages to have us revisit.  Yet, I did not have a right to dictate good or bad I realized, as the strength that came from those very lines that seemed to hang in the air lightly, truly made this play powerful despite bits and pieces of irrelevant scenes that might now have been considered foe this interpretation.  I realized, that no matter how many times individuals revisit certain situations related to the human condition, they can be reinterpreted, sometimes in different ways, sometimes differently depending on someone’s stage in life, or a change in the environment.  Of Mice and Men was able to capture all these variations in so many ways, and to see the familiar face of James Franco, the strength of characters that seemed to fit perfectly in Slim and Carlson (played by Jim Parrack and Joel Marsh Garland respectively).

Heading back to Roma Nortre, I couldn’t help how sometimes the need for isolation, silence, being alone pervades my soul on some days so bad, I thirst for it and just sink into it as comfortable as the softest bathrobe.  Yet, the memories of moments with people along your side that allow you to have dreams to soothe the pains of the day, allow dreams to come alive, and hope to flourish is as strong as the strongest urge for being alone;  their clashing often emphasizes the power of each side, and how, similar to the quiet streets of Reforma and Roma, as I glide into the entrance of what I call home, how real this elements are to the human condition.  Steinbeck, Anna Shapiro, the actors, and all of us that are lucky enough to see this revisited, are the artists day after day.  it is nostalgic to recall a time long past, and a luxury to be able to revisit it with the emotions that influence us still today.

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