Monthly Archives: November 2010

:( Template

Ok, folks, I’m sad about the template. The one I had before this one, Press Row, was so much better! WordPress sort of forced this one on me because Press Row was discontinued. Never fear, I have some photos I’ve been wanting to use in the banner; now may be the time.

For anybody worrying about the Coburn Amendment to ban earmarks, from what I can tell, according to my CSPAN livestream, they’ve finished debate in the Senate tonight and seem to be postponing the vote until tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve got at least two posts in the hopper, just waiting for me to upload some photos to jazz them up a bit.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Turkey day. You know you’ve fully transitioned to adulthood when instead of wishing it could be Christmas all year, like my kids do, you wish it could be Thanksgiving all year. The food, especially the fellowship with friends and family. It all passes so quickly; I get a little grumpy when it’s all over.

Still and all, I got to see the new Harry Potter movie, finished two books! and how ’bout them Hogs?

Bye for now, y’all,


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I’ve been at the annual meeting for the National Writing Project over the last several days and have lots to report in upcoming posts, but right now, this is imperative: WRITING PROJECT EMERGENCY ALERT-CALL YOUR SENATORS IMMEDIATELY!! On Monday November 29, the Senate will vote on an amendment to ban all earmarks for 2011, 2012, 2013.  This amendment will ELIMINATE FUNDING FOR THE NATIONAL WRITING PROJECT, even though we are a national program which is authorized and accountable to the federal government (i.e. not a traditional earmark). Even Senators who traditionally support the writing project are under pressure to vote for this amendment!! We need you to call your Senator’s office this MONDAY November 22nd and tell them to OPPOSE  Senator Coburn’s amendment to ban all earmarks because it will defund the National Writing Project.  Spread the word on tweets, blogs, facebook and other social media.  Get your colleagues, friends and administrators to show their support of the NWP by calling their Senators as well.  Offices are tallying CALLS, so it is important to make calls instead of writing letters.  Time is of the essence.  Calls MUST be made this Monday. Go to to find the phone number of your senator’s office. Let your voice be heard NOW.   For More Detailed information, see below: URGENT –  Coburn Amendment on Earmarks – PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS IMMEDIATELY ! Dear All,   We need all teachers and site leaders to call their two Senators on Monday and Tuesday, November 22 and 23, to ask that they vote NO on the amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The Coburn amendment  would eliminate all funding for the NWP beginning with the FY11 budget through a moratorium on earmarks.  NWP is considered an earmark even though we are an authorized program in ESEA.   Please forward this email to your TCs and other supporters of your site, including principals, colleagues, and community members, and urge them to also make calls. The timing is crucial.  The vote on the Coburn Amendment is scheduled for Monday, November 29.   We need as many calls as possible.  Other national programs, including  Reading Is Fundamental (RIF),  Very Special Arts, Teach for America, and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, are all in the same situation.   Please contact if you have any questions.  We will be posting additional information to the NWP Works Ning and we will respond to all emails as quickly as possible.  Please also let us know about any responses to your calls!   THANK YOU on behalf of the entire NWP network.   Heather Foote and Kelsey Krausen   Heather Foote Policy Associate National Writing Project University of California 2105 Bancroft Way #1042 Berkeley, CA 94720-1042 Tel:         510-642-8816 Fax:         510-643-1226 Email: Web.

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Of Spearmint Leaves and Tootsie Rolls

My grandmother, Nana to me, Grandma to the rest of my cousins, died this past September.  She was 93 and had been suffering terribly from dementia in the past three years. She also had a wicked sweet tooth–spearmint leaves and tootsie rolls were a lifelong staple of her diet (my cousin, Christine, passed out the above at her funeral), along with the apple she cut up each day with a paring knife, when she still could.  Talk about embodying the old cliche–she almost never needed a doctor.

Remembering who she was for 90 of those years–90!!!–got me thinking about the role she played in my life, how it affected my writing and my teaching of writing.

The common theme of everyone’s remembrances was what a can-do person she was.  “You can do that,” she’d tell say, with utter conviction, when her children, her family,  her friends, her colleagues faced a challenge.  “Oh, I know you can do that.”

Anyone who writes will tell you that succeeding at writing–in whatever way you define that–is more a test of endurance than anything else.  In other words, far more talented writers than I gave up on this vocation long ago.  It’s really hard. It’s depressing.  Rejection and uncertainty are the name of the game.

But I’ve never given up.  I’ve never even considered it. And I think, in part, it’s because I had those words and her example.  My grandmother was perhaps one of the most positive people I have ever known (and where, I like to think, I get some of my own glass-half-full tendencies).  She never doubted my choices–or those of any of her other children or grandchildren.  She just assumed we could do it.  Whatever  “it” was.

This comes to play in my own career as a writing teacher and as a director of a writing project, working with teachers, many of whom were told they “could not write,” at some point in their lives. Sometimes I think “professional encourager” should be part of my job description; probably the best part of the work I do. Mind you, I’m no Pollyanna; I communicate to my students where and how they can do better. But sometimes, what they really need is permission. Permission to write. Permission to fail, even. And I’m all about the permission.

We have a tendency, in our society, to want to preserve the mystique of the artist by deciding who has permission to pursue that dream. As the story goes, for example, famous children’s illustrator James Marshall drew incessantly as a child until his second grade teacher looked at one of his drawings and proclaimed, “Jimmy, you’re no artist.”

That’s right. His second grade teacher.

Devastated, he did not pick up a drawing pencil again until he was twenty-eight years old. Between that time and when he died of AIDS at forty one, he authored and illustrated countless books and racked up awards. Maurice Sendak considered him an artistic peer.

A famous story, perhaps, but not an isolated one. Over the course of my career, if I had a dollar for each story I’d heard from someone who’d been told she “couldn’t write,” often in the most humiliating of ways, I’d have a nice nest egg by now.

I’d love to give those heartbreakers a good shake; I really would. But often, the damage was done long ago. All I can do is react with righteous indignation and the words that will begin them on their recovery.

“That’s ridiculous. Of course you can.”

What’s amazing, I think, about those four words, “You can do it,” is the way they live on. From my grandmother, to me, to my students and someday their students. . .

One more memory. Nana was an extremely generous soul; often pressing twenties into her grandchildren’s palms just as we were saying our goodbyes, but her abilities in the gift selection department left a lot to be desired. All us kids and grandkids have our own stories about the crazy gifts she picked out over the years (never mind the fact that she was also a procrastinator who was often,  quite literally throwing these gifts into boxes moments before the exchange started). I’ll never forget taking her Christmas shopping once at her favorite store–Sears– and discovering her gift selection philosophy when I hesitated over whether my cousin would like this or that sweater. “Oh just pick something,” she told me. “No one cares what it is, they just want to open something new.”

Yet she gave me one of the best gifts I ever got.

Those four words.

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