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Recently, I was driving in the car with my two boys, ages 1 and 7.  The conversation somehow morphed into how people choose whom to marry.  Through this dialogue, my 7 year-old led me to an important realization about the phrase “opposites attract.” 

 

Have you ever sighed, rolled your eyes, held up your husband’s dirty shirt which happens to be strewn mere inches from the actual laundry hamper and asked in frustration, “ why can’t you just put these in the hamper?!” 

 

Have you ever wanted to really take a risk in life?  You know, like sell the house and move to a completely different (and warmer!) state for a few years just because you can?  When you’re thrilled about the adventure awaiting you and tell your spouse he simply smiles at the suggestion and keeps on chopping vegetables for dinner like nothing actually happened while you wander off, again in frustration. 

 

I have.  I have been there in so many ways, often wondering why my husband can’t just be more like me!  Why can’t he be more organized?  Why can’t he be more of a dreamer?  Why can’t he be more creative?  Why can’t he have a passion for education, literacy, and fitness like I do?  Wouldn’t life be so much easier?!

 

Thanks to my son, I now, after 30 plus years of life and 9 years of marriage realized that no, life would not be easier then.  In fact, God provided me with this amazing man who is different from me in just the right ways to make our relationship work.  In the words of my son,  “It’s like God takes a half of a line, joins it with someone else’s half a line, and makes a full line!”

 

Think about it.  I never pay attention to detail.  I see the big picture and come up with the creative, bizarre dreams.  My husband, he takes that dream analyzes every little piece of it and makes it into a reality.  Line complete.

 

When our kids are sick, I snuggle and love on my kids every second I can, making sure they know I love them and only want the best for them.  My husband researches the medicine, the dose, the storage, how to administer it, and provides our kids with the best medical attention possible for them to get better.  Line complete.

 

When I’m crazy organized and put every item in our house into a basket, including papers, my husband manages all of our finances and important documents in a system that has proven flawless for years – even though the papers sometimes clutter our counter.  Line complete. 

 

When I am crazy and act without thinking, my husband smiles, pulls me into his arms, and loves me.  I provide him someone to take care of and he provides me with the support I need.  Line complete. 

 

So the next time you feel frustration rising because once again, your spouse failed to hang up their jacket, just remember…line complete.  What has God brought this amazing person into your life to complete for you and what are you there to complete for them?  Smile and know that you were truly made for each other – in just the right ways. 

 

Brian and Bridgett Laird
2-05-05

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I am officially a Ralph Fletcher groupie.  During the UIWP, I read two of his books and even ordered an additional one to read on my own time!  Who knew!  I even have some of his books at school, but I’ve never really used them or looked through them much.  Now, I can’t wait to get back to school and check them out!

For my third book choice at UIWP, I read Fletcher’s Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices.  Looking ahead to this coming school year, I thought this would be a good choice.  The class that is coming my way is about 65% boys, and from what I’ve heard, very stereo-typical “boy” boys.  They are active, rough, have crude humor, and all that good stuff!  Last years teachers were really challenged by them and so I want to prepare myself for the best year possible.  What better way to do this than learn more about boy behavior.  In fact, after reading Fletcher’s book, I now want to read “Misreading Masculinity,” which Fletcher sites often throughout his  book.  I just really want to be able to connect with this plethora of boys, even if I am on the other team!

Like the previous Fletcher book I read, I really enjoyed this one.  I found it to be very easy to read, entertaining and yet informative at the same time.  The book is divided into typical characteristics shared by boys that usually get in the way of their writing, or enjoying writing, such as violent writing, humor, handwriting, and even drawing as a part of writing.  Fletcher discusses these traits and then provides sound advice on how to overcome them.  More importantly, he shares WHY it is important to accept these differences in boy behavior and learn to use them to fuel writing.  Each chapter then ends with a very simple and yet useful, “What Can I Do in My Classroom” section.  Here, Fletcher uses bullet points to quickly provide a summary of advice from the chapter.  Another nice touch to the set up of the book is the beginning of each chapter.  Before Fletcher begins, he includes an excerpt from a boy writer ranging from 3rd grade to 9th grade.  After the piece, Fletcher includes comments about the what “boy trait” makes the writing so special.

Another reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the use of data throughout.  Before writing the book, Fletcher collected surveys from a number of people including, teachers, parents, and boys.  He then used this data to form his ideas and advice throughout the book.  For example, on page 137, Fletcher supports his claim that boy writers should frequently be allowed to write fiction by including a table displaying results from his survey.  According to the table, when asked what their favorite genre to write about was, 19 of 242 boys responded with personal narrative, 13 responded with poetry, 46 responded with nonfiction, and 164 of the 242 responded with fiction.  By looking at these results, it’s hard to argue fiction should not be tackled by boys in the writing classroom.

What I think will be challenging for me to deal with and accept in the coming year is allowing boy humor (described as “crude” by Fletcher), boy action (often violent), and boy language (often negative slang words).  The hardest part of this will be the violence.  Fletcher claims we should not stifle boys writing and creativity be saying “no blood, guts, or weapons,”  because this is naturally how boys write.  Of course we all know how censored schools are now due to the unfortunate school shootings,  extreme bullying, and child suicide that have occurred throughout the past years.  I have been so trained to tell my kids NOT to include these topics because of how sensitive our society is to these issues in school.  It will definitely be out of my comfort zone to allow and even possibly encourage this type of writing in the classroom.  But, as Fletcher points out, we do not want boys to go home and be private writers.  We want them to feel accepted and allowed to write in the classroom.

By allowing this type of writing, I fear the boys will try to shock me.  They will try and push me, try to get a rise out of me and the other students.  What I need to do is simply be prepared for this.  I know there is a very good chance this will happen in the first few weeks, but really, that’s just how all kids are!  When they are given a new freedom, a freedom they really don’t believe they have, they will test me to see if it’s true.  As long as I am prepared for this, and possibly even prepared to appropriately and still positively respond to the subjects that are a bit too out-of-hand, I will be okay.  Fletcher and the teacher’s he interviewed do state that it is okay to have some boundaries.  While we want the boys to be free to write in our classroom, of course there is still a line.  What we need to remember, however, is that this line is farther than we are used to thinking it is, and that will take some getting used to.

Overall, I really enjoyed Fletcher’s book.  I was again amazed at his ability to engage the reader while also providing necessary, sound facts and advice.  After reading this book, I do feel I will be a bit more prepared to tackle the boys coming my way this year.  I’m no longer dreading the challenge, but instead looking forward to the new experiences I know I will have with all my boys!

UIWP Final Reflection

The UIWP.  I don’t really know how to begin expressing my feelings for this life-changing experience.  I just finished the writing marathon and figured, what better time to reflect on the institute.  In a way, the writing marathon mirrors my feelings throughout the entire program, and so, I will simply reflect upon the writing marathon, and thus consequently reflect on the past three weeks at the UIWP.

I began excited, but a little hesitant.  “I’m not a writer,” I thought. “How am I going to write for so long?  How am I going to live up to the words of my peers?”  But, despite my doubts, the journey began.  My writing group stopped first at the Newman House.  I picked a large chair and began my most common and comfortable form of writing, stream of consciousness.  I wrote about love and the myths that follow it.  I shared.  My group commented favorably on my words.  Now, I had a little more confidence in myself.  Just maybe, I could make it through our next three stops.

We wandered through campus and stopped at Espresso Royal for caffeine and snacks.  I chose to sit outside and let nature inspire my ideas.  It didn’t.  Instead, I was fueled by my inner struggle at Espresso and formed a poem about the identities and self-doubt I juggle every day.  This time, I was excited to share.  I eagerly opened up my journal and thus myself, letting my group see the true me.  With two stops down and two to go, I knew I could make it through the process.

Stop number three was the Firehouse Grill.  We sat outside on rickety patio furniture, once again letting the writer seep out.  Although my confidence was now higher after sharing my poem, in order not to disappoint myself, I subconsciously set my expectations low.  I reverted back to my comfort zone, my reflective writing.  Only this time, the topic was fitness – my fondness, hatred, and obsession with it – mainly why I let it drive me like it does.  Again, I shared with my group.  Like an onion, I slowly, and with a little prodding, shed another layer of myself. One more stop.  There was no turning back now.

Our final location was the basement atrium in the English building.  Nestled at an old, dingy table, I chose to focus on the ever rotating men in my life.  Knowing this was a very personal level, I took a deep breath and shared it with my new confidants, letting another layer of myself show.

We returned to the Undergrad library to debrief and share as an entire group.  Thankfully, my small group had given me the confidence and assuredness to share with the class.  Now, I knew I could share this side of me with others, teachers and students alike.  And, more importantly, I knew I was a writer.

Thank you to the UIWP leaders and participants for helping me to shed the layers of myself and let the true me, the juggler, and yes, the writer, shine through.

Why do I like to exercise?  Why do I push myself past my comfort zone, past what I think is possible?  Because, I can.  I love the high I get when finishing a grueling workout.  My legs and arms are trembling, my chest heaves rapidly, trying to catch my breath, sweat slides down my face.  I did it.  For a moment, I feel good about myself.  I’m proud.  I know I overcame something that was not easy for me.  And now, I feel healthy, strong, alive, and ready to tackle my day.  Bring it on world; I have the muscle to take you down.

Expectations
motivating, peaceful
blissful…perfect
Do your best.
Look your best.
Be on time.
You’re bubbly.
You’re positive.
You’re easy-going.
Be a teacher.
Be a Mom.
Be a Wife.
Be a Friend.
Be a Daughter.
Be a Sister.
Be an Aunt.
Be a Writer.
Be a Model.
Be an athlete.

Reality
hustle, bustle
pressure….stress.
I try my best.
I look how I am
I’m late.
I’m crabby.
I’m irritated.
I’m a part-time teacher
with a full time job
I’m a mom,
but I don’t like to play.
I’m a wife,
but that comes last.
I’m a friend,
when I have time.
I’m a daughter,
for a once-a-week phone call.
I’m a sister,
on rare weekend visits.
I’m an aunt,
when I remember a Birthday.
I’m a writer,
because UIWP says so.
I’m a model,
with plummeting body-image.
I’m an athlete,
everyday.
When will I live up to the expectations?
When will reality be enough?

* This was written during our Writing Marathon and so, due to time constraints is not exactly finished.  Please excuse the abrupt ending….

Love stories.  From Cinderella to Kate and Charles, love stories have always captured the attention and awe of us all.  I know I am guilty of this.  The minute a movie or book takes on a romantic twist, I can’t help but feel entranced in the words.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple story about a new, teenage love, or a classic, complicated plot like Jane Eyre.  If there is a love and passion, I am a wrapped in the story.

I notice once I finish the story, I immediately feel the need to see or talk to my husband, Brian – probably in an attempt to take this magical emotion and bring it to my own life.  Unfortunately, most times Brian has not been engaged in the same story, so this desire to feel and show benevolence is far from his mind.  Frustrated, I’ll end my conversation with him and be quickly reminded of the differences in romantic, fictional love, and real, everyday love.

That’s not to say real, everyday love isn’t amazing in its own way.  In fact, it’s probably more remarkable than story love because it has gone through the test of time, stress, fights, and just reality.  Anyone who has been in a long-term, serious relationship understands this.

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